Picard’s Tailor Shop: A Comparison of Exiles
On Chateau Picard, Admiral Jean-Luc Picard (retired) navigates his time as though lost, recovering, living out his days with bitterness under the surface that is inlaced with dignity. As Picard comes to accept that the galaxy is calling to him to reignite his sense of purpose, he comments, “Sitting here all these years. […] I haven’t been living. I’ve been waiting to die.” (“Remembrance” 2020). In a very real sense, on Chateau Picard, our Captain is living out an exile. An exile from Starfleet. An exile from the stars.
Starfleet, he felt, had betrayed him and had betrayed its mission. Picard resigned to protest the technocratic changes that have enveloped the service. This left him abandoned, according to his universal and worldly perspective. Just as Garak sought out a solitude of protection on Deep Space Nine, Picard returned to his family vineyard a shell of the man he was. His ambition tossed. His participation departed. His memories only that, past memories without the will of presence to discover new fissures in spacetime that animate the senses of wellbeing in life.
Picard summarizes Dahi’s purpose for seeking him out, with a hint of self-destain, stating, “She came here to find safety. Like you, Zhaban. Like me.” Safety. Picard was never a man to be satisfied with the simplicity of a safe life. This exile, though different from Garak’s exile which was not self-imposed, tells the viewer a great deal about the person Picard is outside of his Campbell-like hero’s journey. So, too, Garak’s initial time on DS9 is a waning away from the business of being in the center of the climax of the ruse of the day. Picard, Captain of the flagship Enterprise, was a leader first to respond. Garak, understudy and protege of Enabran Tain who was the head of the Obsidian Order, was involved in all matters “for Cardassia” only to find himself composed not to a vineyard, but a tailor shop pretending to be content with his satisfied customers’s reviews on Yelp.
Garak was not content. His solitude and discomfort living as an only Cardassian in a bright, cold place drove him to become a drug addict (“The Wire” 1994). He blew up his own shop to encourage an investigation that would allow him to get involved again in Cardassian affairs (“Improbable Cause” 1995). Not once, but twice he left his domain of exile in search of Tain – who imposed this exile – just to be assured that Tain was safe (“In Purgatory’s Shadow” 1997). No, Garak was not content to remain a tailor. When the Dominion War offered him more opportunities to unite his efforts with Starfleet he accepted the terms of any condition which might bring about an end to his exile.
For Picard, he is awakened out of the domestic duties of his inner tailor shop. Dahj and the realization that his personal past is not yet past, but continues to exist in contention drives him to resurface from dormant digressions of solitude and comfort. Picard, like Garak, finds himself – rediscovers his purpose – alongside the alertness of removing himself, willingly, from the platitudes of familiar exile and domestic restraint.
With new purpose comes an arrival. For Garak, it was the (ending of the) Dominion War that brought him home. For Picard, his reason to return to sterile space is the urgency of a sense of required completion for a past that has yet to settle away from dreams.