In the TNG episode Tapestry, we learn through the alternate timeline provided by Q that Picard becomes an assistant astrophysics officer. Why would this be though? Wouldn't Picard become a historian like we see those who infrequently pop up in several TOS episodes, as that's his passion?

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    Speculation: He didn't get to be what he really wanted to be, even to the extent of being an historian or archaeologist rather than an astrophysicist. There's little doubt that he was intelligent enough to do either job. – Keith Thompson Apr 6 '14 at 1:11

It's not made clear whether Picard would really have ended up as an Astrophysics officer had he avoided taking risks in his life or whether Q has simply chosen to place him into that role in order to hammer. his. point. home.

There's a quote in Voyager regarding the abilities of the other Q known as Quinn;

CHAKOTAY: How about Stellar Cartography?

JANEWAY: We could shut down Stellar Cartography with all the knowledge he'd bring to the job

My personal theory is that given that the average Q knows everything about astrophysics, Q may well have simply chosen a profession for Picard that he personally considers to be utterly worthless.

Regardless, the decision to leave Starfleet and become a professional historian or archaeologist would still require him to take risks. It's made clear in quite a few Trek episodes that alien archaeology regularly results in uncovering dangerous artefacts so it's unlikely that a fully risk-averse Picard would have gone down that route.

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    There is one little flaw in your logic in the last paragraph. Just being on the Enterprise at all is a pretty big risk. Look at all the times parts of the ship get blown up (or at least fired on)! How many times was the ship entirely destroyed in alternate timelines? 4? 5? I think this fact lends more credence to the notion that Q is trying to convey a point; by being on the Enterprise, he can see himself alongside his crewmates and just how unrealized his potential is. – jpmc26 Jan 14 '15 at 8:26
  • As I said, it's more likely that Q chose that path for him, not that it's one he would necessarily have chosen for himself. Within the series, Picard has never shown any special affinity for Astrophysics. – Valorum Jan 14 '15 at 9:03

Q wanted to highlight that due to Picard taking these risks (early in his life), he got to be as successful as he is. If that would not be in his character, he would have ended being quite unsuccessful in his life. Which, as in the example Q makes, would be assistant astrophysicist with no real chance of promotion.

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