After being attacked on an away mission, Picard dies and meets Q in the afterlife who offers him the chance to change a crucial moment in his history and prevent the mistakes he made in his youth.
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 biobed, she asks how he was injured. Riker tells her that they were attacked by the Lenarians outside a conference room. Dr. Crusher quickly deduces that Captain Picard has essentially had a heart attack, due to his artificial heart. She, along with other doctors, tries to save the captain, though it seems that they are unable to. Picard suddenly find himself in a white void of dazzling brilliance 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." 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.
Picard is greeted with a slap in the face by a woman. She is one of two dates that Picard set up and she found out a while back, that he is waiting for his first assignment at Starbase Earhart with his two closest friends, Cortan "Corey" Zweller and Marta Batanides. Q appears in the room after Corey and Marta have left. Q explains it is two days before the fight with the Nausicaan, which Picard must choose to stop the fight or not. Picard is adamant not to change the timeline and choose not to interfere. Furious, Q states that nothing Picard will do here will change the timeline. Satisfied, Picard accepts Q's terms and goes along in stopping the fight. By this time Picard realized that he is late for another date at the bar with an older woman named Penny.
Later in the bar, Picard and Penny are seen talking to each other. Picard in his usual stiffness states that he just wants out. Penny, on the other hand wants Picard to make his advances. We learn from this exchange that Penny is from Rigel, her last name is Muroc and she likes men in uniform. After the conversion Penny goes in for a kiss but Picard meekly retreats from her advances. After the kiss, Picard goes on telling Penny that she is a "handsome woman" and he gets a drink splashed in his face for his comments. Q looks on as the bartender observing the conversation and Corey playing dom-jot.
Picard goes over to Marta who is watching Cory play a game of dom-jot. Marta asked what happened to his date and Picard tells her that she had to leave. At the same time you see Corey winning the game with one of the stations aliens. after some time Corey wins the match and picks up his gambling tokens from the table. Marta states that Corey should give up Starfleet and play dom-jot professionally. Corey goes on saying that it was mostly math skills that helped him win that game. One of the Nausicaans interrupts the conversation and challenges Corey to a game.
Corey accepts the challenge and the game starts. Throughout the game the Nausicaan dominates Corey and wins. After the game the three friends go back to their quarters to discuss why Corey lost so badly. Corey realized that the only way the Nausicaan won was by using a device that controls the balls. He also wants to get even by rigging the table so the device will backfire. Picard by this point tries to dissuade him in going through with the plan. Corey agrees with Picard's reason and walks out. Marta noticed that usually Picard plans the revenge. Picard counters by saying that we are officers now and not cadets any longer. Picard and Marta are almost about to kiss when Q interrupts them as he delivering Flowers to Picard. Marta comments that the flowers are from another of Picard's conquests and she leaves. Q and Picard talk about Marta being friends with her. Q notices that Picard regrets not having a romantic relationship with Marta, and he points that out to Picard. Q also points out that Corey is still going through with his plan anyway. Picard leaves to confront Corey about what he is doing.
Picard goes to see Corey at the Bonestell Facility. Corey is under the table rigging it so he can win against the Nausicaan. Corey bumps his head when he thought Picard was the gaming foreman checking up on the tables. Corey is happy to see Picard and asks him to help rig the table. Picard on the other hand is trying to stop him from making a big mistake. Corey states that Picard is acting like his mother and he should go away if he is not going to help. Picard threatens Corey to stop or he will tell the gaming foreman about what he as done and two walk off.
Picard goes to to talks to Marta in her room. They both talk about the Corey's rashness. Picard goes on saying that Corey will stay friends years after this incident and hopes by stopping won't jeopardize that friendship. The conversations then switches to how much Picard's personality changed after graduation. Marta thinks that his new personality is "attractive." This causes both to reveal their feelings for each other and they start to kiss and make out.
The next morning Picard wakes up to a soft caress on his earlobe and turns in bed to Marta. He is shocked to see it isn't Marta at all, but Q, who begins taunting him about his relationship with Marta. Later, the three friends go to the bar for one last big night out before they get shipped off to their first assignments. During this time, the same three Nausicaans that were there before taunt Cory about the game of Dom-Jot they'd played. Cory gets angry and tries to fight the Nausicaan, but Picard stops him before any real blows are exchanged, thus changing the timeline. In the original timeline, Picard helped Corey in the fight, and wound up getting stabbed in the heart. Now he makes the decision to walk away from the fight, protecting his heart but betraying his two friends. After the fight, Q states that Picard has changed history; he has alienated his friends, but he is alive, and with his real heart.
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 superior. Worf then asks him what is he doing on the bridge. Picard, disoriented asks what is going on. Worf then looks at the PADD that he as holding and tells Picard that the PADD is for Lieutenant Commander La Forge. Picard then ask who is the captain of the ship and Worf replies it is Thomas Halloway. Picard goes to sickbay to talk with Dr. Crusher about his situation. When he enters sickbay he finds Q in a 20th century doctor's uniform and speaking in a German accent. Q states that is what happened to Picard's timeline per their agreement, after he stopped the fight with the Nausicaans. Picard, in disbelief, goes to Ten Forward to get a second opinion from Commander Riker and Counselor Troi. Picard soon discovers that he wont be promoted any time soon because he "just doesn't take risks" and "doesn't stand out."
Picard then asks them if he is a good officer for command. They both agree that he is too timid and has never completed any big goals that he has attempted. La Forge then summons Picard to deliver a report for which he has been waiting. Dejected by all this, Picard goes off to deliver the report and calls to Q from a turbolift about the situation.
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 afterward that the near-death experience was merely another test by Q, whether it was merely an illusion or if Q really did send him back in time (but they do not speculate that the injury itself was Q's work). 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," the tapestry of 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 sophomore year at the Academy as the Enterprise continues on its way.
"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
"I had no idea you were such a cad. I'm impressed."
- - Q to Picard
"Penny for your thoughts"
- - Q to Picard, after Picard gets the drink thrown in his face by Penny.
"...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.)
"Flowers! Is there a John Luck Pickerd here?"
- - Q
"Well, let's see... You've managed to get slapped by one woman, get a drink thrown in your face by another and alienate your two best friends. Doing pretty well so far. The only thing left to avoid is being stabbed through the heart."
- - Q, on the changes Picard has made
"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
"Your performance records have always been good. You're thorough... dedicated..."
"Steady, reliable... punctual."
- - Troi and Riker evaluating Lieutenant Picard and coming up short
"If you want to get ahead, you have to take chances...stand out the crowd, get noticed!"
- - Riker to Lieutenant Picard
"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
- - 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. 
- First UK airdate: 18 October 1995
- 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).
- Q appeared the previous week on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine's ("Q-Less").
- 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 enthusiastic 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 a bridge officer on the USS Enterprise-E under Captain Thomas Halloway, as a "final parting gift" by Riker before he left for the USS Titan, where another timeline shows that Picard also became 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 Lt. Cmdr. Geordi La Forge (voice)
- Michael Dorn as Lieutenant Worf
- Gates McFadden as Dr. Beverly Crusher
- Marina Sirtis as Counselor Deanna Troi
- Brent Spiner as Lt. Commander Data
- Ned Vaughn as Cortan Zweller
- J.C. Brandy as Marta Batanides
- Clint Carmichael as Nausicaan
- Rae Norman as Penny Muroc
- David Keith Anderson as Armstrong
- Michael Braveheart as Martinez
- Cameron as Kellogg
- Tracee Lee Cocco as
- Nick Dimitri as Nausicaan
- Inez Edwards as science division officer
- Holiday Freeman as command division officer
- Christie Haydon as command division ensign
- Rad Milo as civilian
- Tom Morga as Nausicaan
- Keith Rayve as command division ensign
- Unknown performers as
- John Nowak as stunt double for Patrick Stewart
- Lynn Salvatori as stunt double for J.C. Brandy
- Unknown stunt performer as stunt double for Ned Vaughn
- Carl David Burks - stand-in for Brent Spiner
- Michael Echols - stand-in for Michael Dorn
- Nora Leonhardt - stand-in for Marina Sirtis
- Lorine Mendell - stand-in for Gates McFadden
- Richard Sarstedt - stand-in for Jonathan Frakes
- Dennis Tracy - stand-in for Patrick Stewart
- Guy Vardaman - stand-in for John de Lancie
Ajax, USS; B-2 Spirit; Bonestell Recreation Facility; compressed teryon beam; cordrazine; cortical stimulator; deep space assignment; dom-jot; Earhart, Starbase; Federation; guramba; Halloway, Thomas; inaprovaline; isocortex; Lenarians; lieutenant junior grade; magna-spanner; Milika III; Morikin VII; Narth; Nausicaan; Nausicaan sword; penny; Rigel; Selar; Starfleet Academy; stethoscope; teryon; turbolift
|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"|
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