The fifteenth episode of “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” entitled “Tapestry,” tells the story of what might have happened if Jean-Luc Picard made one different choice at a very pivotal moment in his life. The episode brought him back to his Starfleet Academy days to relive the moment when he chose to pick a fight with a group of Nausicaans and consequently got stabbed through the heart.
The episode was a character study of Picard. It revealed sides of him that no Trekker imagined were there. Simultaneously, it examined the larger issue of how each choice a person makes impacts the direction of their life. According to StarTrek.com, “Tapestry” is “consistently ranked one of the best episodes of TNG.”
The original pitch for the episode was quite different from the episode that made it to screen, though. Originally, the episode was pitched as a science fiction retelling of “A Christmas Carol.”
The Dickensian Pitch
According to the “Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion,” a writer named James Mooring pitched the idea of Picard’s near-death experience setting up an encounter with the fan-favorite TNG trickster, Q. During this encounter, Q would take Picard back through time to review his life, much like the spirits did for Ebeneezer Scrooge in the Charles Dickens novel “A Christmas Carol.”
Ronald D. Moore, one of the staff writers for TNG, told the authors of “Captains’ Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages” that he and a few other writers started working on a script based on the pitch. In their script, Q would take Picard back to three specific, pivotal moments in his life including an event from his childhood in France, the time he was stabbed by the Nausicaans, and the death of Jack Crusher, Beverly Crusher’s former husband. Like Scrooge’s trip through time, the goal of bringing Picard back to these moments was to provide him the opportunity to learn from the mistakes he made in each of these situations.
How the Script Turned Into Tapestry
Obviously, this first concept isn’t even close to what made it onto the screen. Moore told the authors of “Captains’ Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages” that Michael Piller, the lead writer and a producer on the show, didn’t like the idea of going back to multiple moments in time. He thought it would be more impactful to go back to a single moment and illustrate why that moment was so important to Picard’s journey.
Moore said that he went back through his script, looking for the moment that seemed to reveal the most about Picard. He landed on the Nausicaans stabbing. He explained:
“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?”
So, Moore set out to craft the narrative of how the incident changed Picard. The writing team also decided to add the alternate timeline so they could demonstrate what Picard’s life would have been like if he made a different choice.
Though the final product barely resembles the original pitch. The remnants of the “A Christmas Carol” retelling are still evident in “Tapestry.”
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