the story: Is Picard dead? And is Q waiting there in his afterlife? God help us all!
similar to: Yeah, I think this one's pretty unique.
my thoughts: Arguably the best Q episode, and arguably the best Picard episode (seriously, this sixth season had some really good material), "Tapestry" is the uniquely Star Trek answer to It's a Wonderful Life, in which Picard is granted a second chance at a crucial moment in his life, only to discover things really couldn't have worked out better for him, and that even his mistakes were crucial in making it all happen. It's a profound statement on the human condition, maybe one most easily appreciated by fans, but if ever there was a continuity statement made in this franchise, this was the mother of them.
As touched on in the second season's "Samaritan Snare," the young Picard was a lot more like Kirk than his present incarnation would indicate. What makes this so interesting is that Picard was literally created to be the opposite of Kirk, cool and calculating where the other was famously brash and impulsive. What's more, by the time Next Generation debuted, we'd already seen the later career of the aging Kirk, and knew that he never turned into Picard. So what was the difference? Well, he learned a costly lesson in a youthful bar fight, and paid with his heart, so that ever after he would have to depend on an artificial one, that could sometimes prove less than dependable. It's not so much that he shrank back from his early self, but that he started to look at the world differently, began to think about his actions before making them.
Yet, had he done so without learning the lesson, in his youth, Picard would never have become the brilliant officer and commanding officer we came to know and love. And it's not that his lowly position in that alternate reality, where Riker diagnoses his career as spoiled potential, is a sad one, even pointless, but that he would never have blossomed, never learned the value of taking risks. Because even the older Picard takes risks, just not the way Kirk did it.
Really, it's fascinating character analysis, and at the same time, it shows how he can interact with Q on equal footing, which no other episode ever dared to present, not even the time Q was briefly human. They always made a delightful odd couple, but Q actively helping Picard makes such a difference (see how the effect is nearly duplicated, pointedly, in the final episode, "All Good Things...," Q's next appearance (after a flurry of them this season, including the episode of Deep Space Nine broadcast a week earlier, "Q-Less," his only appearance in that series, and "True Q").
It provides some wonderful comedic moments, as Q needles Picard at every opportunity, playful jabs like butchering the pronunciation of his name, or even the opening conceit of making Picard think this really is the afterlife (provoking Picard to his best barb: "The universe is not so badly designed."), which for argument's sake is clearly not. (Right?)
It's also fun seeing Picard in a Kirk's-crew movie era uniform (we'd also get to see Voyager's Tuvok in one, thanks to "Flashback"). Remember that the young Picard pictured in Star Trek Nemesis (as depicted by Tom Hardy, presumably at a time Picard was merely shaving his head bald) sports that, too, and realize Shinzon wasn't so far off the mark. I mean, that whole movie makes much more sense when you remember "Tapestry." It actually takes on greater resonance, and poignancy.
criteria analysis: franchise - series - character - essential (all criteria met)
John de Lancie