Wed
Sep 5 2012 1:10pm

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: “The Inner Light”

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: The Inner Light“The Inner Light”
Written by Morgan Gendel and Peter Allan Fields
Directed by Peter Lauritson
Season 5, Episode 25
Production episode 40275-225
Original air date: June 1, 1992
Stardate: 45944.1

Captain’s Log: The Enterprise has found a probe of fairly unsophisticated design, which immediately changes course to move alongside the Enterprise. The probe emits a beam, and Picard collapses. Riker catches him, and tells him he’s got him—but then Riker is replaced by a woman, and the bridge is replaced by a home. The woman calls him “Kamin,” and Picard demands to know what this place is. He tries saying, “Computer, end program,” looks for a combadge that isn’t there, tries to contact the Enterprise, all to no avail. The woman assures him that this is his home, and that he’s obviously still feverish. He’s been sick for days, and she doesn’t want him to push himself.

However, he insists on going outside. The sun is shining very brightly, and Picard sees children playing and then observes a ceremony where a man plants a sapling as a symbol of life in defiance of the drought. The man recognizes Picard as “Kamin,” and is glad he’s feeling better. This time, Picard plays along with the fever-took-his-memory theory and questions the man, who is the council leader, Batai, and an old friend of Kamin’s. Picard learns that the woman at the house is Kamin’s wife, Eline, who insisted on caring for Kamin herself rather than checking him into a hospital. He’s in the village of Ressik on the planet Kataan. Picard doesn’t recognize the planet name, and he tells Batai that he’s going to take a walk to try to “refamiliarize” himself with his surroundings. He hikes up a big hill, which gives him a view of Ressik.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: The Inner Light

By evening, he works his way back to the house he woke up in. Eline was worried sick—she had people out looking for him. She asks if he’s hungry, and he testily answers that he’s hungry, thirsty, and exhausted—which, if nothing else, proves this isn’t a dream. Eline is obviously hurt by his insistence that he doesn’t belong here, that this isn’t his life, but she fetches him some soup. Picard is rather surprised at how good the soup is.

She indulges him by letting him ask questions. They’ve been married for three years, and he’s an iron-weaver who plays a flute—though Picard’s attempts to play the latter could charitably be called poor. When Eline tries to get him to come to bed, he notices the charm she wears on a necklace, which looks exactly like the probe.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: The Inner Light

Cut back to the Enterprise, where only a moment has passed. Riker calls sickbay. Crusher rushes to the bridge—the captain’s mostly healthy, except for the whole being-unconscious thing, but his neurotransmitter activity is severely elevated. The beam from the probe is going directly to Picard. Worf suggests destroying the probe, but Crusher advises against it. The Enterprise backs off slowly, and the probe moves alongside it, as if it’s tethered.

On Kataan, five years have passed. Both Eline and Picard—or, rather, Kamin—have let their hair grow. Kamin is using a telescope that he’s built and Eline teases him about trying to find his starship, though he insists he’s just charting the course of the sun to try to explain the drought. Kamin also insists that his memories of the Enterprise are as real to him as his life in Ressik is now. Eline wants him to let go—she wants to know when she no longer has to share her husband with the memories of another life.

An administrator is making his monthly visit, and he asks Batai how the sapling they planted five years ago is still thriving when crops all over Kataan are dying. Batai explains that its symbolic importance has led to the Ressikans giving over some of their water rations to keep the tree alive. Batai discusses methods of reclaiming their water supply, and Kamin suggests building atmospheric condensers, but the administrator fobs them both off as alarmists. Batai is impressed that Kamin actually has spoken as a member of the community for the first time in five years. Kamin also wishes to talk with Batai about building their own atmospheric condensers.

That night, after demonstrating that he’s playing the flute much better after five years of practice, Kamin admits that he has been a terrible husband, giving Eline nothing while she’s given him so much. He asks her permission to build a nursery.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: The Inner Light

Back on the Enterprise, La Forge has found a way to track the probe’s origin, while Data has determined a possible method of severing the beam. Crusher’s ambivalent about trying it, but Riker isn’t willing to let the thing continue to drill into Picard. Worf agrees, saying that the probe is attacking the captain.

We jump forward a few more years on Kataan. Kamin and Eline have a daughter, Meribor, and we observe as they have the naming ceremony for their newborn son, whom they name Batai after Kamin’s friend, who died a year earlier. Kamin says that he used to think he didn’t need children in his life, but now he can’t imagine life without him.

Then he collapses. Data’s attempt to sever the beam causes Picard to have a seizure. Crusher and Ogawa work to save him, but he doesn’t stabilize until Data reestablishes the beam. La Forge has traced the probe to a system called Kataan. The sun went nova a thousand years earlier, wiping out all life in that system.

Back on Kataan, Meribor is grown, and has become a scientist like her father. She and her father discuss the reality that the soil on Kataan is dead from intense solar radiation. Meanwhile, Batai embraces music, to the point of leaving school to pursue it—he plays the flute even better than his father does.

Kamin speaks to the administrator, insisting that the planet is dying. The administrator, however, is still, thirty years later, insisting that such talk is alarmist and will only cause trouble. Finally, the administrator admits that the government came to the same conclusion as Kamin two years earlier—but they were hardly about to announce it to the public. They also have a plan in place, but it’s classified, and he can’t tell Kamin any more than that.

Before the conversation can continue, Eline collapses and Kamin runs home in time to be with her as she dies.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: The Inner Light

More time passes. An elderly Kamin is playing with his grandson when Meribor comes in to invite him to come see the launch. At this point, the sun’s damage is beyond simply killing soil—people don’t go outside for long periods of time, and everyone wears hats when they do. Fashions have changed to clothes that cover almost every inch.

Kamin grumpily wonders what this launch is, and Meribor says he’s already seen it. Batai appears as he was three decades earlier, as does Eline—they explain that the launch is of a probe that they hope will find someone who can tell the universe about Kataan. It found Jean-Luc Picard, and brought him to live the life of Kamin of Ressik. Through Picard, they will live again.

Kamin watches as the probe launches...and then Picard wakes up on the bridge of the Enterprise. The beam has shut off and the probe has gone inactive. Picard realizes that he’s back in the life he took so long to forget. Riker tells him he’s only been unconscious for twenty-five minutes. Crusher escorts him to sickbay, and he smiles, realizing that he’s back home.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: The Inner Light

But he’s not smiling later we see him in his quarters, refamiliarizing himself with being Jean-Luc Picard again. Riker had Worf bring the probe on board, but it’s wholly inactive. They found a box inside it, which Riker brings to Picard: it has a Ressikan flute.

Riker leaves Picard alone, and he clutches the flute, and then starts playing the same song he played at Batai’s naming ceremony.

Can’t We Just Reverse the Polarity?: The Kataan probe can penetrate shields, and ties itself to Picard’s life signs, to the point where every attempt to sever it causes Picard harm. But when its program is done, it’s rendered inert. Kataan was just at the beginnings of space travel when their sun started to make the place uninhabitable, so the probe was the best they could do in terms of allowing the people to live on.

No Sex Please,We're Starfleet: Picard resists acting in any way like Eline's husband at first, but to Eline's credit, she never gives up, and always stands by Kamin no matter how crazy he seems. It takes Picard five years to finally accept that he is her husband, and she his wife, and he talks about starting a family. The relationship between Kamin and Eline is the episode's spine.

I Believe I Said That: “You’ve been brooding behind that flute all evening.”

“I’m not brooding, I’m immersed in my music.”

“Music...”

“I find that it helps me to think. But the real surprise is I enjoy it so much.”

“No, the real surprise is that you may actually be improving.”

Batai making fun of his friend Kamin.

Welcome Aboard: Margot Rose is charming as Eline, and Jennifer Nash does well, and looks like Rose’s daughter, as Meribor. Veteran character actor Richard Riehle does a fine job as Batai, while Batai’s namesake, Kamin’s son, is played by Daniel Stewart, the son of Sir Patrick Stewart, which wins some kind of most-appropriate-casting-ever award. Also of note is the administrator played by Scott Jaeck, who will return to play the ill-fated Lt. Commander Cavit, Captain Janeway’s original first officer on Voyager.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: The Inner Light

Trivial Matters: Picard’s new ability to play the Ressikan flute will be seen again in “A Fistful of Datas” and “Lessons.” The flute also appeared in a deleted scene between Picard and Data in Star Trek Nemesis. One of the songs he plays on it is “Frère Jacques,” which he also led a singalong of as a morale-booster in “Disaster.”

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: The Inner Light

Oh, and for all that it’s called a “flute,” the instrument is, in truth, a tin whistle with a fringe on it. Sir Patrick Stewart’s fingering in no way matches what’s being played, and indeed his fingers only change position when notes change sometimes.

Morgan Gendel pitched a sequel called “The Outer Light,” which was never produced but, in collaboration with Andre Duza and Don Ellis Aguillo, he is producing a comic book version, which is currently being serialized online. Gendel also wrote an article for this very website about five issues raised by the episode, that is very much worth a read.

Picard’s living Kamin’s life came into play in your humble rewatcher’s comic book miniseries Perchance to Dream.

This episode won the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, the third Star Trek episode to do so (the original series episodes “The Menagerie” and “City on the Edge of Forever” also won), and the first of two TNG episodes to receive the award (the next would be the finale “All Good Things...”). Director Peter Lauritson accepted the award at ConFrancisco in 1993, and your humble rewatcher was in the audience.

Beyond the Hugo, this is one of TNG’s most acclaimed episodes. It’s listed as one of the ten essential TNG episodes in Star Trek 101 by Terry J. Erdmann & Paula M. Block, Entertainment Weekly ranked it third in their list of top ten TNG episodes in 2007, and Michael Piller, Patrick Stewart, Peter Lauritson, and Michael Westmore have singled it out as one of the show’s best in various interviews and such.

The DVD menu for this episode plays the flute music Picard played for Batai’s naming ceremony and again at the end. The music is a bit from “Scottish Fantasy” by Max Bruch, recomposed by Jay Chattaway.

Make it So: “Remember to put your shoes away.” One of the finest episodes of any version of Star Trek ever produced, this is a delightful story, a unique take on the Enterprise’s mission to seek out new life and new civilizations. One wonders if Kamin was an actual person, or if the Kataan people created a fictional character that lived in Ressik to represent their people. (For what it’s worth, Gendel’s sequel story goes with the latter, though Eline is based on a real person.)

So much praise has been deservedly heaped on this episode that it seems almost pointless to add to it, so I want to mention one thing that isn’t discussed as often (at least not where I’ve seen it), and that’s the episode’s embrace of the importance of storytelling. We’ll see this again in “Birthright” next season—the foundation of civilized culture is the stories that it tells, and in the end the whole point of the probe making Picard live the life of Kamin is so that he can then go forth and tell the story to other people. I love the fact that the Kataan people thought that the best way for their civilization to be saved was, not to evacuate and hope to find another world or send genetic samples into space (both suggested by Kamin in the episode), but instead for someone to simply tell their story.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: The Inner Light

If the episode has a flaw, it’s the same problem “First Contact” had, in that these alleged aliens are a little too human (down to having handshakes as a greeting), though one could perhaps chalk that up to the probe adjusting to be familiar to the species who found it. At least, one hopes, since if they were found by, say, Klingons or Horta, it might’ve been problematic....

Overall, though, a magnificent episode. Michael Westmore said on the DVD extras for the TNG set that on any other show, Sir Patrick Stewart would have won an Emmy for his performance (hell, if TNG was on the air now, when mainstream television is far more accepting of genre, he would’ve won in a walk), and it’s absolutely true. Kamin is a fascinating blend of the man the probe said he was and the Jean-Luc Picard we’ve seen for five years.

 

Warp factor rating: 10


Keith R.A. DeCandido is exhausted from Dragon*Con, so it took about three times as long to do this rewatch as normal, hence its late posting. Should be back up to speed on Friday. Probably.

67 comments
Keith DeCandido
1. krad
I added a "No Sex Please, We're Starfleet" bit, which I stupidly forgot about. Blame the same post-Dragon*Con fog that led to this being posted a day late....

---Keith R.A. DeCandido
Michael Burstein
2. mabfan
Only a 10? This episode goes up to 11!

-- Michael A. Burstein
Mike Kelm
3. Mike Kelm
Simply an amazing episode which let Patrick Stewart shine. The idea of what if I could live another life is a reoccurring theme in fiction, but this was brilliantly done. I love the twist that KRAD pointed out- that the society chose to memorialize itself by allowing one person to know about them and spread the word. It wasn't a history of the world, or a universal encyclopedia- just a common man's experience on the planet. It's a very interesting way to "save" oneself- sort of like a time capsule you can immerse yourself in.

Also, this shows a side of Picard that was drawn out more in Generations and further in the post movie fiction: Picard as father and family man. The character development from Captain ill at ease with children to family man is well done and subtle. This episode in particular helps Picard see a side of himself that he was missing.
Keith DeCandido
4. krad
If an episode gets a warp factor rating of 11, it turns into a salamander....

---Keith R.A. DeCandido
Mike Kelm
5. Don3Comp
One could see this episode as a precursor to season 7's "Masks," in which a long-gone civilization's culture is re-created, and an artifact is left behind after the simulation is over. (As a musician, of course, I love that in "Inner Light," it was a musical artifact that was left behind. Thanks for the trivia about the dvd menu music!)

A nicely intimate, moving story that allows the audience to breathe before the cliffhanger.
Paul Weimer
6. PrinceJvstin
One of the best episodes in any of the Star Trek series.
Michael Burstein
7. mabfan
Keith: Ah. Yes. Well, we wouldn't want this episode to turn into a salamander, would we?

I'm glad you linked to Gendel's previous article about this episode. He confronts the dichotomy of technology head-on, and I replied as follows:

"I like your new explanation. But I was never bothered by the technology dichotomy because the story was just so good. Had the episode been weaker, this would have been a nit to pick, yes. As it stands, though, the quality of the episode outweighs the objections."

Yes, it's difficult to see how this race could have created a device that beams the scenario into Picard's mind. But I prefer to assume that there is a rational explanation; I just don't need it to enjoy the story.

-- Michael A. Burstein
Mike Kelm
8. catterpillarboy
If the Kataan probe were found by a Cardassian, would there be arguments that 'There are FOUR inner lights!' and not five? Apologies but my mind mashed up a couple of Picard centric episodes there for a second or two...
Mike Kelm
9. Jarvisimo
Unfortunately, I don't think Patrick Stewart would walk home with the Emmy: the field is just too competitive these days, sadly (there should be more than one winner?). I mean, Jon Hamm did not win for Mad Men's 'The Suitcase' (2010), nor indeed has he won any emmies: because of Bryan Cranston and, in 2010, the excellent if underrated Kyle Chandler.

But a beautiful episode, one that Christopher referenced in his examination of Picard's paternity anxieties in his Greater than the Sum.
Mike Kelm
10. tbor54
Do my eyes deceive me or is this the first episode for which the screencaps above are from the remastered blu-rays?
Mike Kelm
11. Jarvisimo
One thing that makes this episode somewhat sadder or lesser is that it is never followed up on: it is wonderful that people do in web comics or in novels, but really, how psychologically distraught is Picard/Kamin at the episode's end? How much is Picard Kamin and not Picard, or how much is he a new person after decades of experience?

Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
12. Lisamarie
I think my favorite thing about this episode is the chance to see Picard in another life, and to see him learn about family, community, etc - in a way that he has not been able to. Of course he is ultimately a captain at heart, but it's nice to see other ways of living a 'fufilled' life.

I always did wonder if any of the people were 'real', or fictional, or if the depiction of Ressik is real at all - for all we know it's like somebody beaming us into a sitcom to show us what wholesome American culture is like (which I think is brought up in the Gendel post as well).

Even though the whole point is about storytelling and keeping their memories alive...I always find myself wishing they COULD do something more substantial. Unfortunately, Picard remembering them doesn't help them any...dead is dead, regardless of whether or not you 'live in somebody's heart'. Sorry, I guess that's really un-sentimental. It's good that they are able to accept their ultimate demise but still want their civilization to be remembered and perhaps ultimately teach people something, I just wish they could have done more than that.
Christopher Bennett
13. ChristopherLBennett
It always did bug me that the Kataanians didn't seem advanced enough to launch a probe like that. Never occurred to me that what we saw might've been a fiction representing the era that they felt best represented them, or a composite of people and events from their history. I suppose it does make more sense that way, though it maybe undermines the impact of what Picard/Kamin lives through with these people if they weren't real people, or at least didn't actually experience these things.

The other thing that bugs me is how little follow-through there was. Picard should've had as hard a time readjusting after this as he did after being liberated from the Borg. He'd lived nearly as long as Kamin as he had as Picard by that point, and upon awakening, his Starfleet life should've been a distant memory. And it should've had a much more lasting and profound impact on Picard's whole personality from that point on. In Greater Than the Sum, I tried to explain why it didn't, something to do with the fact that his real memories were still very recent and strong in his brain and so they kind of took precedence over the virtual ones. But still, it's disappointing that they didn't follow through on this the way they did on BOBW. Yeah, we eventually got a partial follow-through in "Lessons," but that was mainly about the dang flute.

(And yes, this is really me, even though my name is entered a little differently. I finally realized I could save myself some effort by registering to the site, but a registered username can't have spaces or punctuation.)
Mike Kelm
14. Ser Tom
A truly stellar episode to be sure.

@11 and @13 - I remember after seeing this episode for the first time thinking that Picard must need some serious therapy to keep his head on straight. Between the Borg and now a whole other lifetime's worth of memories, it's a wonder he doesn't end up in the fetal position in a corner somewhere muttering to himself. I rather like Mr. Bennet's rationale that the Kamin memories would probably be shunted to long-term, or at least less immediate recesses of his mind. If I recall correctly, we do see some softening of Picard toward children after this, or at least his discomfort is not as evident or made an issue of.
Mike Kelm
15. DianeB
Oh, gosh, I adored this episode. Picard got to live the life he'd denied himself by being a Starfleet captain. Thanks, Krad, for giving this a warp factor 10 rating.
Keith DeCandido
16. krad
Ser Tom: I followed up on how mentally screwed-up Picard must be between this episode, "Sarek," and "The Best of Both Worlds" in my comic book Perchance to Dream. IDW recently reprinted it in the trade paperback Enemy Unseen.

---Keith R.A. DeCandido
Lee VanDyke
17. Cloric
This episode definately ranks in my Top 10, maybe my Top 5. I also have the happy chance to have a recorder player as a partner, and it was through him that I learned that this episode, along with "Lessons" and (to a lesser extent) "A Fistful of Datas" are popular with the music community just as much as with hard core Trekkies.

LOL @ 11 = Salamanders... classic.
Heidi Breton
18. AnemoneFlynn
I loved this episode. And I agree, the fact that the Kataan people chose to preserve their story when they were going to lose everything is very thought-provoking.
NICKOLAS POLISKEY
19. jlpsquared
Marvelous episode. Easy 10. I remember when I first watched this (I was 11) and thinking it started kind of slow and boring, but by the end, 11 year old me was crying over the tragedy. And Tragedy this is. This is the episode where we realize the entire TNG is really the "Tragedy of Picard", you realize that he WANTS to be a family man. He is BETTER as a Captain, but he wants the family. And he realized it here.

Further, on comment I never see people mention is the tragedy of how Picard treats these people. It is never stated, but strongly implied, that he never really told anyone about the Katanians. Frankly, I think that makes this episode even better. It is a true tragedy in every sense of the word.

Every comment is how this episode is moving and beautiful, and it is, but think of what transpires. A whole civilization is destroyed and their last hope is Picard, who tells no one. They die with Picard. Again, it is his own personal grief and that is what makes it such a strong episode.
Alyssa Tuma
20. AlyssaT
Such a beautiful, bittersweet episode. I agree that it's a bit annoying they don't do more follow-up and follow-through about the aftermath of Picard's experience, but in a way that makes the whole thing seem even more poignant and dreamlike, like a short, wonderful little sci-fi movie unto itself.

In the rewatch comments for "The Perfect Mate" I mentioned my frustration that they were positioning Famke Janssen as Picard's great lost love. To me (and I know that not everyone agrees), she was simply projecting back what Picard wanted her to be. I found their connection to be utterly UN-intriguing. But here we were truly treated to a touching and realistic relationship between Kamin and Eline. And a glimpse into what Picard missed out on by choosing the path he did in life.

On a less corny note, did anyone else notice Kamin's startling resemblance to Larry David with that hairdo?
Keith DeCandido
21. krad
Quoth jlpsquared: "It is never stated, but strongly implied, that he never really told anyone about the Katanians."

Uhm, where do you see that implied? At all? We don't see every moment of every day of these people's lives. It's quite likely that Picard's next several personal logs were talking about Kataan and his life as Kamin. Hell, he probably made a full report to Starfleet about it.

Also, your theory doesn't denote tragedy to me, it denotes Picard being an utter bastard. The whole point of the exercise was for him to then tell the universe about Kataan -- do you really think Jean-Luc Picard is so much of an asshole that he would then go and not tell anyone about them when they expressly asked him to?

---Keith R.A. DeCandido
Mike Kelm
22. Scavenger
I've always assumed that Picard would write some kind of paper on the
Katanians, since it would appeal to his archeology interests, while the probe itself would be turned over to Starfleet anthropologists who'd study the data and stuff contained within (it went inert, not self-destructed).

******************************************************************

My one quibble with this episode, and it's not fair to it, is the number of "Inner Lights" that following Trek series would attempt over and over and over again, never with as much success.
NICKOLAS POLISKEY
23. jlpsquared
@Krad,

I am not claiming to know, but I always thought Picard and nella's discussion of the ressikan flute in "lessons" implied that she was the first person he had ever told about that experience. I really didn't want to make Picard out to be a dick, I got the impression, that much like BOBW, the experience was so intensly personel that he just never felt comfortable discussing what happened, but he "planned to" at some point. Now, maybe that was the first time the flute was ever discussed with another soul, but I definetly got the impression that was the first time he had opened up about the whole affair.

I gotta be honest with you guys, Picard not discussing the kataanians was a major character point for me, and I don't know if my impression of him will be quite the same if you are correct and he held his flute for a few seconds and than wrote a starfleet time bestseller, I am attracted to the Tragic aspect of the Jean Luc Picard character :(

I would be willing to bet I am not the only one here who got the impression he never told anyone, at least in any meaningful way the kataanians intended.
Mike Kelm
25. DaveMB
I led a Unitarian Universalist summer worship service a couple of months ago in which the Wikipedia summary of "The Inner Light" was one of my "texts". Links to my sermon and other material from the service can be found at http://people.cs.umass.edu/~barring/uu/service12/.
Christopher Bennett
26. ChristopherLBennett
@23: I can certainly see Picard giving a scholarly or officerly report about what he learned of the Kataanian people while still keeping the more personal aspects of the experience, like the flute, private. He could've mentioned that a popular Ressikan musical instrument was a small flute analogous to a tin whistle, and that it clearly had cultural significance to the Kataanian people because it was the one item they chose to preserve, but not include anything about the personal experience of learning to play it and what the music meant to him emotionally. After all, you're supposed to keep such subjective observations out of a scholarly paper.
F Shelley
27. FSS
Re: the flute. I gotta be honest. I always assumed it was a small recorder.

And I would think Picard would be foolish to report his experiences too hastily. A personal log, sure, but not an official report. His experience could be used to deem him mentally unfit for duty. After all, he has an extra 50 or so years of memories in his head. What if he's brainwashed? What if he learned bad habits? Etc, etc. if i had an extra lifetime of memories from another culture jammed in my head in a half hour, i would want to record as mich as i could for me first, then let the experience sink in for a while before i tried to make any sort of official report...
Mike Kelm
28. wollem
@krad

Give it an 11. Then, send the salamander to the Academy and ship it out with Ms. Duane's Ensign Rock. They'll be BFFs. :)
Mike Kelm
29. Greenygal
Picard fell unconscious on the bridge, in front of a number of witnesses, and remained that way for half an hour while an alien probe did something that affected his brain. Keeping things quiet was not an option. He could have bought some time by making a personal report to Crusher and Riker and asking them to keep it confidential until he was a little more settled, but an official report would have had to be made, and delaying it too long would just make people suspicious.
Keith DeCandido
30. krad
FSS: Nope -- wrong shape for a recorder.

---Keith R.A. DeCandido, who's been playing the recorder since the age of six
Mike Kelm
31. Peter R.
I always thought that having Picard give a monologue at the end, right after he woke up, would have been completely unnecessary and would have added nothing to the already compelling story. It ends on the perfect note– Picard was clearly shaken, deep in thought about what had happened, and likely wasn't ready yet to say very much to anyone. I have no doubt that at some point, he filled in Riker and Crusher and filed an extensive report of some kind.

Altogether a great, great episode.
Mike Kelm
32. Rootboy
The only flaw in the episode for me is the scenes cutting back to the bridge. Picard's story is so powerful that cutting back is just unneccesary and distracting.
Keith DeCandido
33. krad
Rootboy: Except the cut-backs to the Enterprise serve two very important functions: 1) to add a sense of jeopardy to the proceedings and 2) to make for easy transitions for the time-jumps. It's much easier to cut ahead five years on Kataan if you cut away to the bridge for a bit.

---Keith R.A. DeCandido
Mike Kelm
34. RobinM
This is one of my all time favorite STNG episodes. Picard got to live the road not taken; the life he didn't choose. I always assumed he told many people about his experiences with the probe that was the point of launching it, and Picard would have been obligated to share his story. The music and the instrument would have been a more private personal gift.
Phil Parsons
35. Yakko
@20AlyssaT - Haha! Now you've got me thinking about how this story would play out if it were an episode of "Curb Your Enthusiasm"! I can just see a wizened old Larry at the probe launch after a virtual lifetime of pissing off the entire village. All the Kataanians are yelling and cursing him as the main theme plays into credits...
Mike Kelm
36. XenaCatolica
Re: the culture's technology. This never bothered me, because it's a stupid trope that planets have homogenous levels of technology. When the moon landing happened, what was the technology of Uzbekistan? Saudi Arabia? MuTang? All quite different! Since there are still remote tribes today who're not in contact and more or less in the stone age, it's always seemed silly to me to think other space-faring worlds would be technologically homogenous. Picard's village was just in a backwater, by accident or as a Utopian colony.
NICKOLAS POLISKEY
37. jlpsquared
XenaCatolica,

You make a great point there. I live in a suburb of Washington DC. If some alien visited here, they would probably never suspect we are capable of Spaceflight, and biting political internet and TV ads!!!!

That being said, if I had sensors of any kind I would probably go to the big cities (at least the western ones) before I check out the burbs.
Jack Flynn
38. JackofMidworld
I love "what if" episodes (which I may've mentioned before) and this one's no exception.

I'd also say that Picard playing his flute was the perfect monologue.
NICKOLAS POLISKEY
39. jlpsquared
Oh, and lets not forget that this culture was trying to show the best of their culture, they wouldn't put him in a war-torn area, or an area with civbil strife, high crime, etc.... A nice Georgetown, Malibu, or eastern connecticutt.

As to the point of Picard telling anybody, look, obviously he had to report. and I have no doubt the universe "knows" about the Kataanians in a physical sense that they are an extinct race. But that is not what they wanted. They wanted him to talk about "THEM" personally, that way they will never be forgotten. That is what there is zero evidence of him actually doing, except with babe of the week almost a year later for 3 minutes. Picard is too personal a person to go into their culture pseronally. And that is why I think what I say is correct, "they" as a people will die with Picard (and Nella).
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
40. Lisamarie
@20AlyssaT - YES, that was driving me crazy when I was watching the episode, haha.

It's possible Picard made up a kind of posthumous report so that when he died the more personal elements of the story would come out - because I agree he does tend to be a reticent person. I do think he would have at least made a generic report about the civilization, given his interest in archeology and lost civilizations though.

Or maybe it is just going to take him some time to process all of it which is why it takes him awhile to discuss the flute. At any rate, what we see on the show is not the end all be all of the Star Trek characters since I'm sure there is room for a lot to be happening 'off camera'. There is no evidence that he told people but there is no evidence that he NEVER tells anybody, EVER, in his entire life, either - that's why people write books, to fill in the gaps :)
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
41. Lisamarie
Oh, one thing that did nag at me was the fact that Kamin is doing things like building telescopes, labs, etc. Did the 'real' Kamin (if there was one) ever do such a thing? Because if not, he's basically changing history, and there is no way to know how Eline, Battai, etc (if those are real people) would react to these things that never actually happened. So whatever it is Picard sees is not really 'real' Was there really a Meribor and Battai, and was Meribor really a scientist? You know? I was never sure how 'real' the society Picard views is supposed to be.

Or maybe the program was somehow built to subtly interact with whatever decisions Picard makes and still steer it towards what 'really' happened in most other circumstances. Would it have been possible, I wonder, for Picard to decide that he simply did NOT want children and never have them? What if it had zapped somebody like Worf? Or does part of the program put that desire into him, and appreciation of that kind of life. And if so, is that permanetly altering somebody's personality, and is that ethical?

Perhaps one should not think about this episode too hard ;)
NICKOLAS POLISKEY
42. jlpsquared
@Lisamarie,

I am of the opinion that all the people existed, but that the day to day operation was up to Picard. He had children 5 years after he arrived, because the real Kamin had children at the point and the program needed to put that in there. I don't think Picard was "living" on that planet in any real sense.

One more point I gotta get off my chest abuot Picard telling people. Do any of you really think the last best hope of these people was to be a "generic log entry"? I doubt it. I am guessing as a people their hope, not plan BTW, but hope, was that whoever went through this would start archeological digs, write papers, books, maybe even go on speaking tours. That is what I would do. As wonderful as the episode was, Picard was in some sense the wrong person to have this happen to. barely a year after his experience with the Borg, he is not going to be doing tons of public speaking about personal issues.

@Krad #33,
I don't think the jumps back to the Enterprise were necessary either, since the commercial breaks themselves do the job better.
Mike Kelm
43. Scavenger
@42 And given what we know about Starfleet and the Federation, it's undoutable that whatever archeological efforts can be done would be done (the star went nova...I'd assume taking the planet with it). The probe has whatever data is in it, still.

Frankly, it's entirely possible that the Federation Museum of Archeology and Antropology has a "Live the life of a
Ressikan exhibit" where people get the full probe experience.
Mike Kelm
44. Scavenger
And I think the Enterprise is necessiary.
One of the problems I have with other Inner Light attempts (and I'm looking at you Far Beyond the Stars), is that they're not about the characters. They're about the actors playing other parts, which is all well and good as a dramatic exercise, but has nothing to do with the series.

This isn't about Patrick Stewart playing Kamen. This is about Jean Luc Piccard living another life. The Enterprise scenes touch back to that
Aaron Fuegi
45. aarondf
To my mind, the best episode of any Star Trek series ever and one of the top pieces of episodic television I have ever seen. Just brilliantly done. The stuff on the ship is pretty uninteresting but the elements on the planet and at the end are just incredibly done. Love all the performances, especially Picard, Eline, and the original Batai. And so glad that unlike SO MANY Trek episodes, the producers did not hit the reset button after this one and instead had it have a significant effect on Picard going forward, including the flute references later. I was extremely happy when this won the Hugo.
Christopher Hatton
46. Xopher
This is my favorite TNG episode bar none. (Yes, the finale was the best time-travel story on TV until "Blink," but this still beats it in my book.) I cried at the end when Picard takes up the flute and plays it, alone. I don't believe it's possible he kept that story to himself. He mourned those thousand-years-dead people; he would want them to have what they wanted, which is for their story to be told.

Clearly the "story" the probe was telling Picard's brain was interactive with Picard's mind. It's a sophisticated GM AI! The characters are created in advance, many based on real people; the GM knows who the "player character" is supposed to be in the scenario; the GM can deal with almost anything the "player" decides to do.

Given the brain-beaming technology in the probe, an AI as good as, say, me at running such a scenario isn't hard to believe. Nor is it hard to believe that it would scan for a pattern that matched the "character" as closely as possible, which would lessen the chance of the "PC" going beyond what the GM AI can handle, and also make the "player" more likely to settle into the role and live the life. So Picard was selected as the most Kamin-like person on the Enterprise.

Patrick Stewart showed his acting chops here. I remember being furious that neither he nor Brent Spiner ever won an Emmy for their spectacular acting on this series.

And yes, a pennywhistle is a kind of flute. The word 'flute', while commonly used to mean the transverse (sideways) flute, is also a generic term for all the instruments that make their sound by blowing air across a hole. In the transverse flute, the hole is exposed on the outside of the instrument, and the player must aim the airstream with hir lips; with the block flute, the hole is angled to the interior of the instrument, so the player only has to blow in the mouthpiece, and the block takes care of focusing the airstream.

Which is all to say: yes, it's a pennywhistle, but a pennywhistle is a kind of flute.

I went to look at The Outer Light, which I hadn't been previously aware of. I'd love to read it, but the interface is so poor that I can't deal with it. Would a "Next" button be too much to ask for? I'm just not willing to click one of those little tiny page links every time I want to go to the next page. Or am I missing something?
Mike Kelm
47. Bob Ahrens
I've been waiting for this rewatch Keith, and all I can add is "Bravo!"
On a related note, between the Borg, ," Family", this episode and "Tapestry", I really can't fathom why Jean- Luc hasn't been fitted for a white dinner jacket with REALLY LONG SLEEVES! Poor guy must be so short-circuited between the ears that even Freud would run for the hills.
Mike Kelm
48. FellKnight
@23 I also always felt that Picard was emotionally devastated by the events he had experienced, and did not talk about it to anybody. I could see a Captain's Log entry to Starfleet with the basics, but not the details. I love the "Tragedy of Picard", as you put it. I cannot even begin to imagine how difficult it would be to feel like you had lost every single living being you had known for 50 years, and the planet to boot.

My favourite Trek episode of any series, bar none. This is episodic televised sci-fi at its very finest.
Mike Kelm
49. Gardner Dozois
This was the single best episode not only of TNG but of any of the STAR TREK series, in my opinion. It's only rivaled for me by the episode where Picard goes home to see his brother, another episode featuring a strong, subtle performance by Patrick Stewart. Those episodes showed what level of quality could be reached by a weekly TV SF show--a level, alas, that was rarely matched by STAR TREK again, in any of its forms.
Rob Rater
50. Quasarmodo
About the only bad thing I can think of to associate with this episode is that krad posted his rewatch a day late. A black mark that will stain it from this day forward! ;)
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
51. Lisamarie
Xopher -
"Nor is it hard to believe that it would scan for a pattern that matched the "character" as closely as possible, which would lessen the chance of the "PC" going beyond what the GM AI can handle, and also make the "player" more likely to settle into the role and live the life."

Hah, I was wondering the same thing myself :)
Mike Kelm
52. Oldwizard
re:36. XenaCatolica
I thought so as well and it never bothered me much, about how they could create the probe while Kamin/Picard lived in that small village. It was just not the captitol/main science scenter! :)

I have many favorites over the Star Trek series, so to name it as my ultimate favorite would be hard, but it is on my top 5 list.

Also a small note on Picard pre- probe days. His devestation at his return to the real world and with the memories of two lives it must have been horrible. I think he must have been a bit shaky in private for a while, even if he is Captain Picard, the paragon of the federation and would show nothing of this in public. Troi proably helped him through it. :)
Incidentally, just such a dilemma is placed on poor Miles Edward O'Brien in DS9 (my fav character on that show) when he is (falsely) accused of a crime and inprinted with XX years of prison life memories as a punishment. The episode then show how he struggles to be reintegrated into a society he never really left. How his (very realistic) memory of serving time make him a different person. Granted, it was his memories in a sens, O'Brien's memory of that time, not another persons. But still, TNG should have had a follow up episode of that sort, like they did with Family after the Locutus incident in Best of... Just saying.

The Oldwizard cometh
Joseph Newton
53. crzydroid
@46, Xopher: I, too, wish that "The Outer Light" has forward and back buttons. That was the reason I couldn't get through it either. They need to seriously add that.

The other concern with the technology homogeneity is not necessarily because of different pockets of technology on the planet, but the coincident advances of technology in different areas. Technological advancement is driven by the needs and desires of a society, and sometimes discoveries in one area can bleed over into another area. Another factor, I suppose, could be the availability of resources. For example, the people of Kataan may have cared a great deal more about brain interface technologies than about space flight. Consider the aliens from "Conundrum" as another example. They apparently have memory-wipe technology, but they don't have weapons or shields as advanced as the Federation.

Anyway, I would hope that for Picard, these memories become more like strong dreamlike memories when he is awake, or else it is a tragedy indeed. He does seem to adjust to being Jean-Luc Picard fairly quickly again. But otherwise, he sort of did lose his whole family. Granted, he was pretty old, so it could be like he was the one dying--except for the fact that he wakes up and lives his life over again. For Picard, it's like he grew old and had these children, and now they're gone. If he ever got a family in the Picard-continuity, they would be a different family. I guess it would be pretty similar to if you for some reason lived beyond a normal lifespan while everyone around you was still dying...you just live another lifetime over again.

There's also the added complication of the reality of it all--did he really lose his children and grandson, or his wife? In that comic book, he sees the person whose image was used to create Eline, and she's married to someone else. But was that really his wife? Did she just look like someone who was his wife? And for that matter, was the "real" Eline his wife? There are two issues here: 1) Was Eline real? and 2)Was she Picard's wife as much as Kamin's? If Eline was never a real person, and his children were all just in his head (like his Nexus children) did he really lose his family? Or if Eline and the whole lot had actually once existed, how much are they Picard's? Let's say there is some man, Kamin, in our own past, and he had a wife and a family. For some reason, your conciousness travels back in time and occupies his body, and the experience is such that you feel like you are making the decisions. Then you travel back to your own body. Were you really married to that dude's wife? Or was he married to her (Assume that this dude lived with his own conciousness and not yours 1,000 years ago)? Were you both married to her? Did you really father Kamin's children? They've been dead a thousand years before you were born.

I hope it was a little less real to him than his Picard reality.

Anyway, as for the question of whether or not they were, or were based on real people--who knows? In any case, I don't know that the program was controlling his actions...in the beginning, he certainly acts like Jean-Luc Picard...surveying the village, trying to get questions answered, looking for the Enterprise. Later, he starts to accept that reality, and perhaps he is acting just as Picard would and did in accepting the reality of another life and another set of responsibilities.

As for telling people about it...I don't know HOW personal he would've gotten, but I think he would definitely make some anthropological speech detailing the lives and customs of the people. He would make the speech seem somewhat "personal" without making it personal. That just seems to be who he is. Also, when he realizes that he was the person the probe finds in the future...I feel like that moment speaks volumes.
Joseph Newton
54. crzydroid
Also, did anyone else notice that there appear to be two versions of his flute theme at different points in the show, with the first three notes slightly different?
Mike Kelm
55. dgold
I've always thought that the interludes back at the ship were essential to the success of this episode. Without them, we'd have had Picard stolen from the Enterprise, forced to live this life, then a horrible Deus Ex reveal right at the end "ha ha! It was all a dream".

As it is, we know this isn't real so the reveal has meaning, real personal meaning for Picard.
Christopher Bennett
57. ChristopherLBennett
@33: The third reason for the cuts back to the Enterprise was so that the regular cast would have something to do. Theoretically they're all supposed to be in every episode. Although DS9 would often do episodes focused on just 2 or 3 characters and just have the other regulars show up for one otherwise unnecessary scene.

@54: When you say there were different versions of the "Inner Light" theme "at different points in the show," do you mean within this episode, or between this episode and "Lessons"? Because as I recall, Dennis McCarthy's arrangement of the tune for that episode does change the first three notes from Jay Chattaway's version here.
JAMES MCCLELLAN
58. ZEXXES
I have never commented here. Nor have I followed the re-watching and commentary within this forum. I simply wanted to let my love of this show and in particular this episode.

Of all of the episodes in all of the Star Trek universe, this is the only one I remember in totality. It moved me in ways that are still prevalent in my life to this day.

In my opinion it wasn't just one of the great episodes. It was THE great episode.

Why? Because it didn't try to push a boundary or introduce some hot new or old theory. It wasn't trying to be scientifically correct. It was simply telling a story. One that just happened to have science fictional overtones.

When will you ever see such a story told again. And if such is to be again, can it ever be with such high caliber?

I don't know. Don't care either, except to have a want to see it if it should ever come to be. Which is doubtful. Our society's decline has invaded our entertainment as well as our corrupted government.

Ahh well! I've said my piece.


Z
Joseph Newton
59. crzydroid
@57: I may be thinking between here and lessons, but I thought within the show too. For example, I thought that when he played at Batai's naming ceremony, and when he played at the very end, the intro was different.
Nonny Morgan
60. Nonny
Sorta random but --

I grew up in the 90s watching the various Star Trek series (save Enterprise, which I got about three episodes into before deciding it was Not My Cuppa). This was one of the episodes that was always played on the semi-frequent marathons, and I did Not Get It as a child/teen.

It's definitely one I've come to appreciate a lot more as I've gotten older. I haven't watched it in years. I should get around to that again.
Mike Kelm
61. swlrsenn
Damn episode is hard to watch, even reading about it makes it hard to keep dry eyes. The conveyance of emotion is really great. The toughest part of the episode for me is the feelings Kamin had going on when looking at his grandchild so full of life and knowing that the child would never get a chance to live a full life. I couldn't imagine that feeling.
Christopher Hatton
62. Xopher
swlrsenn, people who are young adults now may very well experience it. I hope not.
Mike Kelm
63. NullNix
I don't think this is quite such a tragedy as some have been indicating. We have proof that the people of Kataan got some information out -- either by launching more probes, or by making their probe self-replicating, so that even though each probe deactivates when triggered (turning itself into a static repository of information about the civilization, with a living person who has lived it), there could be lots of probes.

Why? One line, perhaps a slip, perhaps a severe misuse of Translation Convention -- Geordi names Kataan from the Starfleet stellar cartography database, and he uses the *same* name for it as Picard has *already heard* in simulation. Unless the probe is hacking into the ship's computer and adding a new name for a star system (unlikely, why would they bother), the only explanation that fits is that some other race has been contacted by a similar probe at some point in the past, and by a chain of whispers the name and location of the Kataanian system has found its way into Starfleet's database, probably flagged as of uncertain veracity or something like that, but still there.

So even if Picard never tells anyone, that's OK. Someone before was contacted, and told -- and there are more sublight probes creeping away from Kataan, more civilizations in bottles waiting to be found.
Christopher Hatton
64. Xopher
NullNix, that would be true in a universe that didn't have a Universal Translator, or where the UT operated by any kind of rational rules. As it is, they all speak English and use the name Kataan; maybe that's the English-speaking name for the system.
NICKOLAS POLISKEY
65. jlpsquared
NullNix, that is an interesting point, but when I say tragedy, I mean specifically Picard, not the Kataanian people. As in the Greek Tragedy style.
Mike Kelm
67. lorq
I wonder if the writers were inspired by John Crowley's novel "Engine Summer," which has a similar premise.

I certainly agree with others here that this episode is magical -- a really extraordinary spike in quality. But something else that should be mentioned is that the episode *looks* beautiful. The production design of Kataan feels very well-thought out and textured. One gets the impression that everyone connected with the episode knew they had a winner and put in their best effort.
Mike Kelm
68. Nandros
So I'm the only one here who noticed a subtle hint on how adwanced the technology in the village was when Picard/Kamin first went outside ?
A hint: look at the door it opens with a "sweep button" and has a panel quite similiar to federation has on the enterprise, being an electrician that popped immediately to me as something that requires sophisticated servos, sensors and other things to work reliably as a door without a handle! :)
So the village may look very rustic (they might even had been luddites of sorts) but basic technology was evidently very close or even slightly beyond what we had in the 20th century.
Mike Kelm
70. LtCmdrAmart
The final scene in Picard's quarters will forever remain one of the most emotionally powerful and beautifully poetic scenes captured on the small screen. It transcends science fiction and the human condition.

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