After being attacked on an away mission, Picard dies and meets Q in the afterlife. Q offers Picard the chance to change a crucial moment in his history, prevent mistakes he made in life, but Picard learns that those mistakes are what made him who he is.
In sickbay Dr. Crusher orders the stasis units to be brought online and tells one of the unnamed doctors that Dr. Selar can use ward 3 for the ambulatory patients while she attends to the away team in the main area of sickbay. The away team, consisting of Commander Riker, Worf, and three unnamed officers are transported in. After Worf lays Picard on the diagnosis bed, she asks how he was injured. Riker tells her that they were attacked by the Lanerians outside a conference room. Dr. Crusher quickly deduces that Captain Picard has essentially had a heart attack, though he also has other internal injuries. She, along with other doctors, tries to save the captain, though it seems that they are unable to. The scene fades to white and Picard is shown walking, and seemingly uninjured, except for the large burn from the weapon that he was attacked with. After looking around with confusion for a few seconds, Picard sees a shining figure dressed in white holding out its hand. Picard walks towards the figure, who then holds out his hand. After Picard shakes hands with the figure, he is pulled into focus and turns out to be Q, who greets him "Welcome to the afterlife, Jean-Luc. You're dead."
Picard pulls his hand sharply out of Q's and asks what happened, to which Q replies "I told you. You're dead, this is the afterlife, and I'm God." Picard laughs in disbelief, but Q goes on to say that he had died approximately five minutes earlier. Picard still refuses to believe Q, on the basis of saying "I refuse to believe the afterlife is run by you. The universe isn't so badly designed." Suddenly, Picard's father appears and starts lecturing him, and then he hears all the people that had died because of things he did or failed to do. Picard refuses to respond to any of the people he hears, not wanting to play into Q's hand, though Q says he is doing this for Picard. Q then asks Picard if he has any regrets from his life, but Picard tells him that his only regret is "dying and finding you here" ("you" referring to Q). In response, Q makes Picard's artificial heart appear in his hand. He asks why Picard needed it, and the story begins to play out, showing Picard as an ensign, fighting a Nausicaan, then getting stabbed through the heart and laughing. Picard admits that he did regret some things from earlier in his life. Q claps his hands, and Picard is suddenly in what looks like a hotel room or other living quarters of some kind.
He is waiting for his first assignment at Starbase Earhart with his two closest friends, Corey and Marta. It is 2 days before the fight with the Nausicaan, which he must try to avoid. In the meantime, he has a date at the bar with a woman named Penny.
After a Nausicaan cheats Corey in a game of dom-jot, a game that Corey is apparently incredibly good at, he vows revenge, while Picard and Marta risk their friendship with kissing and sleeping together.
In the original timeline, Picard helped Corey in the fight, and wound up getting stabbed in the heart. Now, however, he makes the decision to walk away from the fight, protecting his heart but betraying his two friends. Picard is then returned to the present, where, much to his surprise, his life is incredibly different: he is an assistant astrophysics officer on board the USS Enterprise-D, a mere junior lieutenant with Worf as his immediate commander. The ship is captained by Thomas Halloway.
Q returns and explains that, although the injury nearly killed Picard, it also helped him realize how fragile life is, and thus made him more willing to take risks and make his mark on the universe. Picard asks him to let him reverse the changes he made, deciding that it would be better to die in the present with a satisfying life behind him rather than to continue living life as an average, dreary man. Q returns Picard back to the Bonestell Facility, moments before the fight with the Nausicaans, now three of them. One of the Nausicaans insults Picard, and the fight begins. As Picard is run through by one of the Nausicaans, he begins to laugh, knowing history has been set right, and is shown again in the present, lying on the biobed he was placed on after his injury, laughing as he comes to, his bionic heart reactivated.
Picard and Riker speculate afterwards that the near-death experience was merely another test by Q, but does not speculate whether or not the injury was Q's work. But Picard states that whatever it was, he needs to thank Q for showing him how important his decisions in life were - he's not proud of many things he did in his youth, but when he pulled on this "loose thread", his whole life came apart. Riker wishes he could have known this young, cocky officer who went toe-to-toe with a massive Nausicaan, and Picard assures him that the stabbing was not his first unpleasant encounter with them, beginning the story from his sophmore year at the Academy as the Enterprise continues on its way.
- Please obey copyright policy; do not copy material from other sources without permission.
"Welcome to the afterlife, Jean-Luc. You're dead."
- - Q to Picard
"Q, what is going on?"
"I told you. You're dead, this is the afterlife, and I'm God."
"You are not God!"
"Blasphemy! You're lucky I don't cast you out or smite you or something."
- - Picard and Q
"I refuse to believe that the afterlife is run by you; the universe is not so badly designed."
- - Picard, to Q
"My only regret is dying and finding you here."
- - Picard, to Q
"Change them? You mean change the past? Q, even if you have been able to bring me back in time somehow, surely you must realize that any alteration in this timeline will have a profound impact on the future."
"Please! Spare me your egotistical musings on your pivotal role in history. Nothing you do here will cause the Federation to collapse or galaxies to explode. To be blunt, you're not that important."
- - Picard and Q
"You will go on with your life with a real heart."
"Then I won't die."
"Of course you'll die! It'll just be at a later time."
"What if I don't avoid the fight? What if I won't make the changes?"
"Then you die on the table, and we spend eternity together."
"I'm glad you think so."
- - Q and Picard
"...It's a beautiful story. It gets you right here, doesn't it?"
- - Q, pointing generally at his heart and mocking sympathy.
- (A pun on the fact that the story Picard tells ends with Jean-Luc being stabbed in the heart.)
"I had no idea you were such a cad. I'm impressed."
- - Q to Picard
"Flowers! Is there a John Luck Pickerd here?"
- - Q
"Vell, vell, vell. Vhat seems to be de trouble, Leutnant Picard?"
- - Q, speaking as a German doctor
"...You should be happy! You have a real heart beating in your chest, and you get to live out the rest of your life in safety - running tests, making analyses, and carrying reports to your superiors."
- - Q to Lieutenant Picard, explaining how dreary Picard's life has become without his near-death experience
"They won't teach you this at the Academy - but, if you want to get ahead, you have to take chances...stand out the crowd, get noticed!"
- - Riker to Lieutenant Picard
"Your performance reports have always been good. You're thorough... dedicated..."
"Steady, reliable... punctual."
- - Troi and Riker evaluating Lieutenant Picard and coming up short
"You having a good laugh now, Q? Does it amuse you to think of me living out the rest of my life as a dreary man in a tedious job?"
- - Picard, speaking alone, addressing Q
"I gave you something most mortals never experience - a second chance at life - and now all you can do is COMPLAIN!?"
"I can't live out my days as that person! That man is bereft of passion......and IMAGINATION! That is not who I am!"
- - Q and Picard
"The Jean-Luc Picard you wanted to be, the one who did NOT fight the Nausicaan, had quite a different career from the one you remember. That Picard never had a brush with death, never came face to face with his own mortality, never realized how fragile life is, or how important each moment must be. So his life never came into focus. He drifted through much of his career, with no plan or agenda...going from one assignment to the next, never seizing the opportunities that presented themselves. He never led the away-team on Milika III to save the ambassador, or take charge of the Stargazer's bridge when its captain was killed. And no one ever offered him a command. He learned to play it safe...and he never, EVER got noticed by ANYONE."
"You're right, Q. You gave me the chance to change, and I took the opportunity. But I admit now - it was a mistake!"
"Are you asking me for something, Jean-Luc?"
"Give me a chance, to put things back the way they were before."
"Before, you died in sickbay. Is that what you want?"
"I would rather die as the man I was...than live the life I just saw."
(Q nods approvingly.)
- - Q and Picard
"Coward! Like all Starfleet! You talk and you talk, but you have no guramba."
"What did you say?"
"I said, you...are a COWARD!"
"That's what I thought you said."
- - Picard's and the Nausicaan's last words before the big fight
"There are many parts of my youth that I'm not proud of... there were loose threads... untidy parts of me that I would like to remove. But when I pulled on one of those threads... it had unraveled the tapestry of my life."
- - Picard to Riker
"I was just trying to imagine a hell-bent for leather, young officer insulting a Nausicaan twice his size. I wish I would have had a chance to know that Jean-Luc Picard."
- - Riker to Picard
Story and production
- The episode was initially conceived to have a much broader scope. Entitled "A Q Carol", it involved Q leading Picard through several "mistakes" in the captain's life, in the style of Ebenezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol. In addition to the stabbing, Picard was to relive a childhood event in France and an event on the USS Stargazer, which would have possibly involved Jack Crusher's death. However, Michael Piller was not entirely pleased with the premise. Ronald D. Moore explained, "He thought it was pointless. Here are some scenes from your life basically. It didn't have the right resonance so I went back and tried to focus in on one incident to make it a little more meaningful." (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion, Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages)
- Moore chose the stabbing incident as it had always intrigued him. "It was an interesting little story about him. That story, to me, said a lot about Picard's character – that he was a different guy in those days. Then he changed. Why did he change? What would be the difference in the young womanizing, hard-drinking, hard-fighting Jean-Luc Picard and the guy that we know today?" (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages)
- However, the basic origins of the story were not as clear. None of the staff could remember the source of the basic "near-death white light" premise. It was only after the episode aired that the producers received a letter from James Mooring, who had initially pitched the idea. The staff were quick to rectify the situation. Jeri Taylor recalled, "I talked to him, Ron talked to him, and they paid him. He was very happy. All he wanted was acknowledgment of this, and we apologized profusely. I hope it restored his faith in our integrity, because we would never do anything like that intentionally." (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion)
- Portraying the "afterlife" created some technical problems. With de Lancie in a white robe on a white background, director of photography Jonathan West and producer Merri Howard were concerned that Q would appear merely as a floating head. Both actors were aware of the difficulties in the shot, and de Lancie felt that it made his performance in the scene somewhat more subdued than normal. Moore, however, noted that this low key result was perfect for this more serious than usual Q episode. (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages)
- The morning-after scene between Marta and Picard was cut significantly. In the script, Marta gives a speech about the first day at the Academy. Cut references include "Scobee Hall", where an Admiral Silona gave a welcome speech to the cadets, noting that one in three cadets wouldn't make it through the four-year course. The script including the cut lines can be viewed here. Actress J.C. Brandy, who played Batanides, was actually pleased with the cut, as she felt the speech as scripted was too self-pitying and as such not fitting with her character. Ultimately, it was redundant, as Brandy noted. "It said the same thing that the scene showed in one minute." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages)
- Moore revealed that at one point, the Enterprise captain in Picard's future was to have been Edward Jellico. (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion)
- Penny Muroc was named for an older woman that Moore had once dated. (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion)
- LeVar Burton (Geordi La Forge) does not appear on screen but has one brief voiceover line. However, a scene present in the script but not in the episode featured La Forge and "Lieutenant Picard" in engineering, suggesting Picard is treated somewhat like Barclay by Geordi. 
- The Bonestell Recreation Facility on Starbase Earhart was named after artist and matte painter Chesley Bonestell.
- Among the costumes and items from this episode which were sold off on the It's A Wrap! sale and auction on eBay is a Nausicaan knife. 
- Picard told Wesley Crusher the story of fighting with the Nausicaans and getting stabbed through the heart in the season 2 episode "Samaritan Snare". He said that, looking down at the knife, he "actually laughed out loud", which he took as a strange thing to do. When Q and Picard reviewed the incident at the beginning of the episode we see that he, indeed, did laugh after he was stabbed. This episode adds a twist to the laugh, as Picard may be laughing because he knows his life will turn out the way it is meant to.
- This episode marks the first on-screen appearance of the Nausicaans.
- Besides TNG's pilot episode ("Encounter at Farpoint") and series finale ("All Good Things..."), this is the only Q episode of The Next Generation that does not have "Q" in the title (Star Trek: Voyager's "Death Wish" is the only other episode in Star Trek to feature this).
- The exact nature of time travel used in this episode is intentionally left ambiguous in light of the full spectrum of Q's powers and the incident that brought about the chain of events in the first place. As observed by Picard himself, Q's powers and ability to create isolated realms of existence introduce the possibility that time travel is not involved at all, or the whole experience could merely be a hallucination in which case Picard never even met Q at all in the episode.
- In one scene at the Bonestell Recreation Facility, both a Selay and an Antican can be seen in the crowd. These races were first seen back in the season one episode "Lonely Among Us", and were deadly enemies. A script note for the same scene warned against using the Ferengi before their discovery. 
- Q's statement of "It gets ya right here doesn't it?" mirrors an identical line in TOS: "The Changeling".
- In the brief scene where Picard is seen as an ensign as he originally appeared, he is not bald. However, in Star Trek Nemesis he is seen in a photograph as bald nonetheless - and as he was wearing the NCO uniform at the time, this is presumably before the fight with the Nausicaans.
- This is one of only five TNG episodes that doesn't have a stardate. The others are TNG: "Symbiosis", "First Contact", "Liaisons", "Sub Rosa".
- Entertainment Weekly ranked this episode #4 on their list of "The Top 10 Episodes" to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Star Trek: The Next Generation. 
- The book Star Trek 101, by Terry J. Erdmann and Paula M. Block, lists this episode as one of the "Ten Essential Episodes" from Star Trek: The Next Generation.
- John de Lancie remarked, "I thought it was a terrific script...There was a speech at the end where I talk about what he would have been, which I thought was a tip-top speech. I just thought that show from beginning to end was terrific." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages)
- Michael Piller was not as enthused about the show. "I wasn't much a fan of that show. I thought it was a wonderful premise, I loved the pitch of Picard dying and having the white light experience and reaching out to the hand and it's Q. It's your worst nightmare come true. I found that from the beginning my greatest fear was that it would be It's a Wonderful Life. When a series gets tired, they do It's a Wonderful Life. I don't think we ever solved my problems with it in terms of getting a fresh slant. I felt that it was one of those Christmas-type episodes where the direction and the performance were sort of flat. Some of the scenes seemed to be very talky to me. It did not have the power and the impact on me that it seems to have had on other people. I'm delighted that it was a meaningful experience for a lot of people and made them think about their own lives because that's what Star Trek is trying to do. They should accept themselves rather than wish they had done something else." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages)
- Ronald D. Moore remarked, "I loved "Tapestry" and while Michael and I had several arguments over it, he was the Exec Producer and could've simply forced me to do it differently. To his credit, Michael let me do the show pretty much as I wanted to. I still think it's one of the best things I wrote and one of TNG's finest episodes.". (AOL chat, 1997)
- As René Echevarria noted, some fans misinterpreted the message the show was sending. "We've gotten some flack about it. People felt it glorified violence and that it basically says Picard tries to go back and not do the violent thing and solve things by reason and it makes him bland and not captain material. We got big, big letters from people saying this is awful and goes against everything Star Trek stands for. I think the point the show made was more subtle than that, and I think they lost sight of it." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages)
The novel Q&A shows a timeline where Lieutenant Picard, after being told by Riker and Troi that he needed to step up and be noticed, did just that and by the time of 2380, had risen to Lieutenant Commander and was first officer of the Enterprise-E under Captain Wesley Crusher.
The novel Q-Squared also references the events of this episode. When Q tells Picard he owes him, Picard asks how, and Q then puts one hand over his heart and flaps his fingers while making a "thump, thump, thump" sound and Picard instantly knows what Q was referring to. When he asks if it really happened, Q's answer is "yes and no" and he says it's the best answer he could provide and that Picard wouldn't understand any answer beyond that.
Video and DVD releases
- UK VHS release (two-episode tapes, CIC Video): Volume 71, 18 October 1993.
- As part of the UK VHS collection Star Trek: The Next Generation - Q Continuum: 5 December 1994.
- As part of the TNG Season 6 DVD collection.
- As part of the Star Trek: Fan Collective - Q collection.
- As part of the Star Trek: The Next Generation - Jean-Luc Picard Collection.
- As part of The Best of Star Trek: The Next Generation, Volume 2 DVD collection.
Links and references
- LeVar Burton as Lieutenant Commander Geordi La Forge
- Michael Dorn as Lieutenant Worf
- Gates McFadden as Doctor Beverly Crusher
- Marina Sirtis as Counselor Deanna Troi
- Brent Spiner as Lieutenant Commander Data
- John de Lancie as Q
- Ned Vaughn as Cortin Zweller
- J.C. Brandy as Marta Batanides
- Clint Carmichael as a Nausicaan
- Rae Norman as Penny Muroc
- Clive Church as Maurice Picard
- Marcus Nash as Young Jean-Luc Picard
- David Keith Anderson as Armstrong
- Michael Braveheart as Martinez
- Cameron as Kellogg
- Tracee Lee Cocco as Jae
- Nick Dimitri as a Nausicaan
- Holiday Freeman as a command division officer
- Christie Haydon as a command division ensign
- Tom Morga as a Nausicaan
- Keith Rayve as a command division officer
- Unknown performer as
- Lynn Salvatori as stunt double for J.C. Brandy
- Unknown stunt performer as stunt double for Ned Vaughn
Ajax, USS; B-2 Spirit; Bonestell Recreation Facility; compressed teryon beam; dom-jot; Earhart, Starbase; guramba; Halloway, Thomas; inaprovaline; isocortex; Lenarians; lieutenant junior grade; magna-spanner; Milika III; Morikin VII; Narth; Nausicaan; Nausicaan sword; penny; Rigel; Selar; stethoscope; teryon
|TNG: "Encounter at Farpoint" • "Hide and Q" • "Q Who" • "Deja Q" • "Qpid" • "True Q" • "Tapestry" • "All Good Things..."|
|DS9: "Q-Less"||VOY: "Death Wish" • "The Q and the Grey" • "Q2"|
| Previous episode:|
"Face of the Enemy"
| Star Trek: The Next Generation|
| Next episode:|
"Birthright, Part I"