Jammer's Review

Star Trek: The Next Generation

"The Inner Light"


Air date: 6/1/1992
Teleplay by Morgan Gendel and Peter Allan Fields
Story by Morgan Gendel
Directed by Peter Lauritson

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

There's an elegance and simplicity to "The Inner Light" that is hard to quantify but important to consider, because it's crucial to the effect of this classic TNG episode, which is a shining example of not only Star Trek but of science fiction. The story told here is actually quite straightforward, but the implications are hauntingly significant and affecting, and provide nothing less than a contemplation upon our own mortality — as individuals as well as, someday, inevitably, our entire civilization.

The best science-fiction stories are usually the simple ones that take an idea and consider how it affects us as people. TNG has a tendency to often be about problem-solving, and how to invent fictional tech solutions to solve fictional tech problems; in many cases the problem and solution are arbitrary concoctions of a writer trying to get from A to B. TNG became very good at this particular formula of sci-fi — to so much a degree that if you asked me to sum up what the essence of TNG was in a single phrase, my answer would be "problem solving." But a story like "I, Borg" or "The Inner Light" is more about the bigger questions behind far less arbitrary sci-fi machinations. It's about how the trappings of sci-fi can be used to tell stories about the essence of the human condition. Forget about cliffhangers: This episode could've been a wonderful season finale to this or any season of TNG.

The Enterprise encounters an automated probe that attaches a telepathic beam directly to Picard, who collapses on the bridge and goes into a state of unconsciousness. Picard awakens to find he is an everyman in a small village on a world called Kataan, where everyone knows him as Kamin. He believes he is still Picard, but his wife Eline (Margot Rose) tells him that he has just awoken from a long fever and must be delusional. He has a good friend named Batai (Richard Riehle). Gradually, Kamin resumes the life on Kataan that he doesn't remember. Back aboard the Enterprise, the crew attempts to disconnect Picard from the probe, but they fail.

Every time the narrative returns to Kataan, years have gone by — eventually decades. Kamin builds a life, has children and grandchildren, has long conversations with his wife, grows old and gray with her, and eventually watches her die in his arms. All the while, he can't shake his interest in the heavens, where he remembers, perhaps as a delusion, of having been a starship captain so long, long ago. Also quietly in the background, an ominous subplot slowly but surely develops, with talk about droughts that keep getting progressively worse, and whispers that something terrible may be on the horizon.

The secret of "The Inner Light" is that the world of Kataan has been gone for 1,000 years, destroyed by a supernova that its residents had no hope of escaping. The probe was their interactive time capsule meant to deliver the history of their world to one person, via the very specific experience of becoming one of them and living a life among them. Interestingly, we are given all the information necessary to solve this puzzle well before the story's true moment of epiphany where Kamin/Picard himself realizes the nature of his existence on Kataan after 30 years with them.

Fascinatingly, this has the effect of making Kamin's/Picard's epiphany more poignant rather than less. We realize what's happening to Kamin's world before it occurs, and it's that foreknowledge that makes both the value and the tragedy of Kamin's life all the more profound and heartbreaking. Here's a man — and a society — that knows the world is ending and that everything about their civilization is coming to its imminent and inevitable end, and it's only through the launching of a probe into space — with the hopes that it might, someday, just maybe, find someone else and teach them who they once were — that the world of Kataan is able to survive.

The wonderfully hopeful and heartbreaking, recursively paradoxical moment of epiphany comes at the end of the probe's program, where Kamin realizes that he, who once was Picard 30 years ago in a long-forgotten life, is the very person who will receive this message — because Kamin was Picard, and now Picard is Kamin. (Intriguingly irrelevant question: Was Kamin based on a real person on Kataan, or was his whole existence an invention for the purpose of the interactive program?)

"The Inner Light" isn't simply about that moment of Kamin's final realization, but about how all the moments up to that point have created a fully formed life full of joy, family, wisdom, sorrow, and ultimately the acceptance of one's mortality. It is, in short, a story of the human experience. It's a concept that's beautiful in the depth of its meaning, and yet astounding in the simplicity of its procedure. Of course, none of this would be possible without Patrick Stewart's fine performance. (I found some of the old-age makeup to be less than convincing at times, but never Stewart's ability to inhabit it.)

Key to the effect of all this is that after the program ends and Picard wakes up back on the bridge, the effect of the mere 25 minutes of being connected to the probe is as if Picard had literally lived those 30 years of memories (*), only just now returning to his long-forgotten, distant shadow of a former life. In the episode's coda, Riker visits Picard — still getting acclimated to life aboard the ship — and says the probe's program terminated after disconnecting from Picard. It was a message meant for an audience of one, who now is the sole carrier of the dead civilization's history. While functionally and logically I'd say that putting all of Kataan's eggs in one basket is an awfully risky way of preserving that history, I will also say that it's somehow the perfect emotional note for this story. Also, inside the probe is the flute that was Kamin's lifelong pastime, now a gift for Picard — who holds it dearly (Stewart is perfect in this wordless final scene) and then we see that he knows how to play it. Whoa.

"The Inner Light" is a brilliant and contemplative sci-fi elegy, and one of Trek's finest hours.

* The episodic nature of TNG proves here to be both a blessing and a curse. I would be remiss to point out that if, as is suggested, Picard really returns at the end of this hour exactly as if it's been half a lifetime since he last was himself, then he should be a fundamentally different person forever. Basically, everything before this episode took place more than 30 years ago from his perspective, and there should be psychological consequences to his life as Kamin.

But because TNG is episodic, none of this will matter by the next episode. That feels like a cheat, and I hesitate to suggest that maybe it should've been mentioned here that the effect of these artificial memories might fade more quickly than real ones, or become more dreamlike after the initial experience wears off, because that would rob "The Inner Light" of a lot of its power. I guess at a certain level, these are all fictional characters in a format of TV where most everything is erased by the next episode, we have to accept that, and that's all there is to it.

Previous episode: The Next Phase
Next episode: Time's Arrow, Part I

Season Index

112 comments on this review

grumpy_otter - Wed, May 11, 2011 - 7:43am (USA Central)
You've pretty much said it all--I just wanted to point out that it is nice that in "Lessons," we get a bit of a suggestion about how much this experience meant to Picard.

And if I write any more about this episode, I'll cry.
dan - Wed, May 11, 2011 - 9:06am (USA Central)
When Picard says "oh! its me!" "im the someone it finds!" It puts a lump in my throat. Also the scene at the end when he clutches the flute has me in tears everytime.
Flask - Wed, May 11, 2011 - 3:52pm (USA Central)
From a storytelling perspective, what got me about this episode was that it could not have functioned nearly as well without commercial interruptions. That's our clue -- each time we come back from commercial (or fadeout, in the case of DVD), Picard is 5 years older. This struck me as an amazing and original use of the "five act" structure to enhance a story. But even more powerful, the commercial breaks themselves are a part of the experience.
charlie - Wed, May 11, 2011 - 4:47pm (USA Central)
One of the many things I love about this episode is that it takes the then-chiche of having a main character (of a TV show) marry & then have him/her become a widow/widower by episode's end (Bonanza is probably the most notorious example of this)-and puts that cliche on its ear.
Picard doesn't have amnesia when he 'arrives' on Kataan (the first thing he does is call for the ship), but the fact that he tells Eline that he wants kids is a pretty good indication that he's fallen in love with her by that point.
With the exception of O'Brien, Picard became the only Trek character to enjoy married life for more than just a bit, & it just cost 25 minutes of his time.
This episode was such a brilliant way to get around that cliche. I thought that in 1992 & I think that now.
Nic - Wed, May 11, 2011 - 8:34pm (USA Central)
Ron Moore said:

I've always felt that the experience in "Inner Light" would've been the most profound experience in Picard's life and changed him irrevocably. However, that wasn't our intention when we were creating the episode. We were after a good hour of TV, and the larger implications of how this would really screw somebody up didn't hit home with us until later (that's sometimes a danger in TV – you're so focused on just getting the show produced every week that sometimes you suffer from the "can't see the forest for the trees" syndrome). We never intended the show to completely upend his character and force a radical change in the series, so we contented ourselves with a single follow-up in "Lessons".

The same thing happened with O'Brien in "Hard Time". My own personal way of getting around it is that since they weren't "real" memories, it didn't take as long to get back to their old lives.
Destructor - Wed, May 11, 2011 - 8:55pm (USA Central)
Great review for an amazing episode. Even reading the review and just *remembering* the episode made me tear up.

Regarding the speed at which Picard recovers, I think you'd be surprised at how quickly you'd recover from such an experience. It'd be like waking up from a dream. I think Stewart plays the 'strangeness' of waking up from the experience extremely well.
bigpale - Thu, May 12, 2011 - 12:00am (USA Central)
Easily in the top 5 of all Star Trek, and top 2 or 3 of TNG.

Amazing show.
Ian Whitcombe - Thu, May 12, 2011 - 1:32am (USA Central)
I've also had few problems with Picard's recovery. Think about it: For the premise to reach its desired emotional impact, the probe cannot be a mental rapist or leave its recipient incapacitated. For the emotions to be percieved in the proper context, both the artifical memories and the face memories must co-exist safely.

Besides, I think Picard's revelation when the probe lauches was meant to be his rehabilitaion.
Paul - Thu, May 12, 2011 - 6:38pm (USA Central)
Someone should've given Peter Allan Fields a medal or something. Just look at the episodes this guy was involved with: Inner Light, In The Pale Moonlight, Necessary Evil, The Circle, Crossover.

Those are among the Trek's all time classics. Why wasn't he used more?
Ian Whitcombe - Thu, May 12, 2011 - 8:33pm (USA Central)
Fields contract wasn't renewed for season three of DS9. There is a quote going around - it might be from Fields himself or from Michael Piller - that "the writing wasn't to par".

Now, at the time, this was deemed nonsensical. How could one of Trek's best writers be deemed below par by the staff? However, it is entirely possible that many of Fields best episodes were re-written by either Piller & Jeri Taylor on TNG or Piller & Behr & Robert Wolfe on DS9. None of this can be readily proven...all we know for sure is that Piller wrote the final draft for "Crossover" and Wolfe provided story beats for the mirror universe.

If I would have to guess, I'd say that the final drafts of "Inner Light", "Duet" and "Evil" are largely his final drafts. Maybe some work by Piller or Ron Moore on "Light", and maybe some help from Wolfe on the DS9 ones. Just a guess.

Also, I am curious who the hell we should blame for "Cost of Living"....
Paul - Thu, May 12, 2011 - 11:19pm (USA Central)
Well, for someone whose writing "isn't up to par", Fields somehow got involved with a whole bunch of classics. I don't really buy that explanation. Perhaps there was some kind of creative falling out?
karatasiospa - Fri, May 13, 2011 - 8:50am (USA Central)
This episode is simply a masterwork!
Grumpy - Fri, May 13, 2011 - 8:31pm (USA Central)
"Forget about cliffhangers: This episode could've been a wonderful season finale to this or any season of TNG."

Hadn't ever considered that before, but now that you mention it... recalling the speculation two years earlier about whether Stewart would return to TNG because of the events of BOBW, imagine how worked-up Trekkers would've gotten if this episode had sent them into the summer of '92 knowing that Picard's mind had been totally rewired.

And imagine their disappointment a few months later when this issue was ignored entirely. Although, if Moore's comment, quoted by Nic, is an indication, if "The Inner Light" had been the season finale, even accidentally, that would've given the writers more time to contemplate the enormity of what they had done to their leading man. They might've revamped Picard's character -- at least have him demonstrate some fondness for kids.
Elliott - Fri, May 13, 2011 - 8:40pm (USA Central)
I'm glad you made mention of Patrick Stewart's genius here, Jammer. The episode is extremely well written and I agree with everything you say (save the footnote complaints about "reset button"--please, if anyone can assimiliate those 30 years into his life, it's Picard). That said, without Patrick Stewart at the helm, such an ambitious story wouldn't work. There are only a couple of actors in the whole franchise's history who could I think rise to such a challenge: Patrick Stewart, Andrew J. Robinson, Kate Mulgrew and maybe Robert Picardo. That's about it.
Dimitris Kiminas - Sat, May 14, 2011 - 7:37am (USA Central)
The 'total reset' mechanism was the most irritating thing of TNG. And then you had Babylon 5, where a main character (Ivanova) broke a leg in an episode, and then in the next (unrelated) episode she was still using a walking aid, without the writers feeling the need to explain why she needed to use the walking aid! Thank god DS9 later copied that aspect of B5 and we at last saw some proper continuity in a ST series...
Paul - Sat, May 14, 2011 - 7:24pm (USA Central)

That thing with Ivanova, she really *did* break her leg. They had no choice but to keep showing it in future episodes.
Rachel - Sat, May 14, 2011 - 11:00pm (USA Central)
I enjoy your reviews so much, thanks for this!

I just saw that several people were discussing the writer, Peter Allan Fields, and I wanted to add my kudos. I first came across Fields when I was watching "The Man From UNCLE" - his name always seemed to be attached to the best and wittiest scripts. I believe he started his career on that series, which aired concurrently with the *original* Star Trek, so he was definitely a seasoned professional by this point. For giving us "The Inner Light," "Duet," and "Necessary Evil," he deserves a permanent place in the Trek pantheon. His IMDB profile lists no projects after he left DS9. Perhaps he simply retired? I hope he's enjoying his well-earned rest! :)

A lovely episode. Thanks again.
Patrick - Mon, May 16, 2011 - 12:59am (USA Central)
One of my favorite bits of Trek trivia is that Margot Rose who played Eline in this episode would play the Agrathi Warden of the VR prison in DS9's "Hard Time"--which used the same compressed memory idea.

Is it Trekkian blasphemy to say that's "Hard Time" is better paced and told told?
angel - Mon, May 16, 2011 - 2:01pm (USA Central)
Yes, it is blasphemy to say that because "The Inner Light" did it first.
And, lest anyone think I have TNG-bias, the same reasoning can be drawn for why "The Naked Time" is better than "The Naked Now" (despite the cute Data-Tasha hookup)
Jason - Wed, May 18, 2011 - 7:04pm (USA Central)
This is probably the best TNG episode of them all. In fact, it rivals anything from the best of BSG.
Sean - Thu, May 19, 2011 - 2:48pm (USA Central)
Honestly, I find this episode highly overrated. It just doesn't FEEL like a Star Trek episode. It barely has science fiction elements, it doesn't have exploration, etc. and its honestly boring and tepid. Allow the shrieks of rage to follow, but I'd easily rather watch "Threshold," "Spock's Brain," "A Night and Sickbay" than this. I've watched it once, and never cared to revisited. It's the most overrated Trek episode this side of "The Visitor," "Far Beyond the Stars," "Muse" or "Cogenitor."
Paul - Fri, May 20, 2011 - 5:16am (USA Central)
Wow, you *really* don't like character based episodes. Well, to each his own, I guess.
Nick P. - Sun, May 22, 2011 - 1:16pm (USA Central)
Although I do generally agree with Sean on character driven episodes tedious and extremely pointless on a sci-fi premise (this goes for books even more so), i thought here it was done brilliantly. I gotta agree with everyone here on the last scene where Picard clutches the flute as being an instant tear-jerking scene.

In fact, if you listen to "the inner light suite" I cry almost every time I hear that haunting tune.

One thought, I always felt it might have been a little better if they never cut back to the Enterprise, I felt it was unnessary dramatically, cut down the mystery and tension, and implied Picard was not actually "Living" the memories, just being donwloaded them.. But, still easy 4 star and probably the best episode of Star Trek, maybe even better than "city on the edge of Forever".
Lewis Van Atta - Tue, May 24, 2011 - 2:01am (USA Central)
Interesting comparison with "City on the Edge of Forever"...by the same token, that experience should have had a HUGE effect on Capt. Kirk as well, which is implied by his reaction at the very end when they "successfully" return through the Guardian, having paid an awful price for that success.

I also tend to think "Inner Light" works so well because the episode's structure takes the viewer right along for the ride with Picard: the viewer has the same information he does, which makes the final WHAM! at the end even more poetic and poignant. Sort of like a bittersweet, yet still hopeful version of a Twilight Zone episode.
Weiss - Wed, May 25, 2011 - 11:11am (USA Central)
I think Garibaldi also had a season 3 episdoe (severed dreams?) where he broke his leg during a fight scene and they showed it in the next episode.

i think ivanova was in s2 with the drazi.

didnt Picard play the flute again in a later episode?
Stef - Wed, Jun 1, 2011 - 10:40am (USA Central)
@ Sean:
"Far Beyond the Stars," "Muse" or "Cogenitor."

I too hate those 'classic' episodes. I find Far Beyond the Stars offensively bad with their "White = bad, black = good" message, and the sexual discrimination at the beginning just plain ignored while trying to preach tolerance.

But "The Visitor" is a masterpiece, and Threshold is bad (not as bad as people make out). But Spock's Bloody Brain!?!?!? Seriously? McCoy connecting the 'nerve' that controls Spock's left arm etc?

Anyway, The Inner Light.

I loved this episode at the time, haven't seen it in years. I generally prefer the twisty/weird/time travel episodes and I am an action-whore, so this was a gentle change of pace for me.

My belief is that Picard's memories were a simulation, for the simple reason that the Kamin was Picard. Would Worf had settled in like that if he had been standing on that spot on bridge as the probe struck?

No, he would have lead the village in a revolt against the rulers of the planet and seized control. Actually, I'd have liked to have seen that episode.

There must be a fan fiction or one of those awful alternate universe stories about that surely?

Sure the simulation steered Picard down a path (Flute and launching the rockets), but Worf would never have been steered down the same path.

As an aside, there is one of the later books, with Picard fighting the Borg yet again, where he raises his past life to his new wife Beverley, and he finally grieves for his lost son, daughter and grandchild. Best part in an otherwise poor book.
Michael - Mon, Jun 6, 2011 - 4:21am (USA Central)
I cannot believe that someone thinks the inner light is boring and too slow. I... wow. People are so disappointing, always.
Jason - Tue, Jun 14, 2011 - 9:39am (USA Central)
After seeing "Inception", the concept of waking up from a 30 year dream takes on a whole new meaning.
Leif - Sun, Jun 26, 2011 - 6:04pm (USA Central)
I just wanted to say how much I appreciate and enjoy your reviews. They have been a part of my life for over 10 years now since I first discovered your site while searching the web for Voyager reviews. This seemed like a fitting entry to post this on.
Fanner - Mon, Jul 11, 2011 - 6:19pm (USA Central)
I have always felt that this episode has been SLIGHTLY over-rated. It is still, to me, a very, very, very good episode.

I have several reasons why I think Inner Light is SLIGHTLY overrated but my biggest would be this:

* The episodic nature of TNG proves here to be both a blessing and a curse. I would be remiss to point out that if, as is suggested, Picard really returns at the end of this hour exactly as if it's been half a lifetime since he last was himself, then he should be a fundamentally different person forever. Basically, everything before this episode took place more than 30 years ago from his perspective, and there should be psychological consequences to his life as Kamin.*

I don't know if that paragragh is Jammer's own, or from another critique (I only wonder because of the different font) but if it IS Jammer's, then he states a HUGE reason for me only being insanely in love with this episode rather than super insanely in love with this episode.

I disagree slightly with the notion that episodic series which feature many ''stand alone'' episodes can not show lasting consequences without bogging down into an overall mytharc and sacrificing the stand alone aspect.

The Moffat Reboot of The Doctor (not Davies', but Moffat's the past season and a half) is a master at this. EVERY episode shows or mentions (even if its brief) a consequence to actions in the prior episode even in the ''stand alones.'' Moffat has the most deft touch at this admittedly tricky to balance problem that I have ever seen.

I also have to say that, as I have recently begunmy first TNG re-watch in a LONG time, that there is MUCH more ''continuity'' and arc than I remembered which inspires me to give it big props. It is NOT quite as mostly stand alone as I had seemed to remember from long ago and that makes me happy.
laurence k - Tue, Aug 9, 2011 - 8:49pm (USA Central)
I've always felt that Picard would have insisted on going that one light-year to Kataan and finding whatever trace was left of the world he had just left. It is possible that stone could have survived the nova in some recognizable form. I imagine Kamin standing before those stone steps where he had played the flute while having a late night with Batai. As it sinks in on Kamin that the world of Kataan truly is gone forever, we hear that beautiful song one more time.

Picard would have felt driven, first, to reconnect with whatever was left of Kataan, and, second, would have felt compelled, like the Ancient Mariner, to tell the story of Kataan in order to remain faithful to Eline's last wish and final testament.

In subsequent TNG episodes, we should have at least seen evidence of Kataanian door decorations appear in Picard's quarters, for example.
laurence k - Tue, Aug 9, 2011 - 9:01pm (USA Central)
Part of the subtlety of this incredible episode comes from the seeming ability of what must be computer-generated characters to be aware of their fate. For example, when Picard is first transferred to Eline from Ryker, she says, "well, Finally!" This comment seems appropriate not only for Eline, the character in the computerized "life story" of Kamin, but also for Eline, the character-in-charge of the computer program itself. After all, "she" had been waiting a thousand years by the time Picard finally showed up.

Similarly, when Kamin agrees to build the nursery, and Eline hugs him, we see in her face great sorrow as well as joy, as though she knew that the only children Kamin could ever have with her would be virtual ones.

This episode outdoes "The Sixth Sense" in requiring the audience to watch it over and over to get all the clues, and reinterpret the perspectives of the characters. I would love to know whether such was the explicit intention of the director. Margot Rose certainly seems to understand intuitively that her character works on two levels.
laurence k - Sat, Aug 13, 2011 - 10:17am (USA Central)
Yet another level on which this masterpiece works is on the level of gender. Picard, on the bridge, seems to have escaped the pull of the feminine principle. As it always does, that principle asserts itself powerfully in the form of the probe. Eline pulls Picard away from his purely male and single-minded focus on his role as captain, and forces him to experience children and to pay attention to her. "I thought I couldn't live with children," Picard says in the season of Eline's triumph. "Now I don't see how I could live without them."

The astonishing thing about this dramatic work of art is the economy with which it establishes at least three different and independent levels that all interact and are all going on simultaneously.

pviateur - Thu, Aug 25, 2011 - 1:27pm (USA Central)
Poor Picard! First he gets assimilated by the Borg and now is forced to live someone else's lifetime! By all rights, Startfleet should remove this captain whose mind must be hopelessly confused!

The question is: what good does it do the extinct race to be remembered at all? They're all gone. Whatever anyone remembers about them will not matter one bit to them. Their desperate, pitiful plan could only have been dreamed up by a society with no belief in God.
Nick P. - Thu, Aug 25, 2011 - 2:13pm (USA Central)

I was almost digging your against the grain comment until the last line, than you lost me.

1st, I don't think it was ever stated the Society was Atheist, I remember one scene that was quite contradicting that very premise.

2nd, I am not sure that what you are saying has any Earth historical relevance, as their have been many societies that have been utterly destroyed by other societies, often times by societies that believe in the same god.

Now, I am certainly not in the "religion is evil - Bill Maher" camp, but I think the idea that the more religious a society is, the more enlightened and long lasting is an extreme stretch.
Jammer - Thu, Aug 25, 2011 - 5:50pm (USA Central)
pviateur said: "The question is: what good does it do the extinct race to be remembered at all? They're all gone. Whatever anyone remembers about them will not matter one bit to them. Their desperate, pitiful plan could only have been dreamed up by a society with no belief in God."

Really? You don't identify or at least understand the idea of wanting to be remembered when you're gone? To pass on the knowledge of what you once were to someone else -- so that the ideas might live on beyond you? Now imagine that extended to an entire society about to be destroyed.

I don't think belief in God has anything to do with it. It gets to the very nature of our own human need to have a purpose in life, to say that we were here, that we lived, and that we leave something behind when we die. Children. Writings. History. A legacy. Something.

I for one hope that if we learned the entire human race was going to be wiped off the planet a year from now and there was nothing we could do about it, that we would do something to preserve the knowledge of what we were, what we accomplished as a society over thousands of years ... for someone. In the real non-sci-fi world where it's probably impossible there's any way that such a message could end up in the hands of another society, that's pretty depressing, yes. But on Star Trek (and it's not clear that the people of Kataan even knew this) you can pass that along to the stars, and other societies off your planet. It's something. It's solace. Or hope. I for one do not think it's pitiful when the alternative is guaranteed oblivion.

Even if you believe in God and an afterlife that awaits you after death, don't you want someone to remember you in this lifetime? If only for a while?
Elliott - Thu, Aug 25, 2011 - 6:01pm (USA Central)
pviateur asked "What good does it do the extinct race to be remembered at all?"

The answer is indeed nothing. That's not the point. It did PICARD good. An incredible good that will disseminate to others he meets and influences. That's the nature of society, of legacy and is the hope which defines our existence.

Without taking a stance for or against religion, that attitude he seems to be promoting--the abjuration of legacy or interest in a world which outlives oneself--is a prominent feature in the godless creed of Buddhists. The desire for legacy and a kind of immortality through works is a defining feature of Christianised western philosophy.
jesse - Tue, Aug 30, 2011 - 2:04am (USA Central)
has anyone else wondered how or why Geordi called the planet Kataan when he plotted the trajectory of the probe to its origin? how'd the charts of the uncharted system with a planet dead for a thousand years know? I know this is too critical but I've had this bugging me
Jeff O'Connor - Sun, Sep 4, 2011 - 3:36pm (USA Central)

I... do not believe that was the statement made in "Far Beyond The Stars"... at all.


What everyone else said.
Jay - Sun, Sep 25, 2011 - 7:17pm (USA Central)
I found it myopic that the probe seems to have shut down after afflicting Picard. So this civilization transfers this existance into just one person (and offers up just one flute), and then that's it - the probe deactivates. So instead of Kataan dying with its nova, now it will just die again with Picard. It's also hard to believe that it would have taken all this time between the nova and the Ent-D finding it for that one person to encounthr the probe.
Nathan - Thu, Sep 29, 2011 - 8:33pm (USA Central)
"has anyone else wondered how or why Geordi called the planet Kataan when he plotted the trajectory of the probe to its origin?"

Perhaps a neighboring species had visited pre-nova and supplied data, including the planet's name, to the Federation.

Or perhaps the probe got the Federation name of the planet from the computer when it got the English language files.
p - Tue, Oct 11, 2011 - 9:46pm (USA Central)
Can't believe it has been almost 20 years since I first watched this. Watched it with my 8 yr old tonight. Instantly remembered it as a masterclass in story writing and acting. With very little action it had my 8 yr old raptured and blinkless for the whole episode. And to think that it was created over a decade before he was born.
Captain Tripps - Tue, Oct 25, 2011 - 11:10am (USA Central)
"It's also hard to believe that it would have taken all this time between the nova and the Ent-D finding it for that one person to encounthr the probe. "

Theoretically speaking it should have never been found, floating alone in space. That's like finding a needle in a galaxy-sized haystack...

A good question I don't really want to ask is, where did they get the technology to create such a vivid simulation? They have electricity, or at least electric lights (no powerlines, but they could be buried, using batteries/generators, or transferred wirelessly) but we don't see the com device the wife describes, which seems to be centralized for each village like old timey telegraphs, or anything resembling TV/computers.

Presumably, because the probe is using Federation Standard to communicate with Picard, it used the name of the planet he would understand, vs one the natives would have. Which begs even more questions, best ignored in light of how good this episode is.
PaulW - Tue, Oct 25, 2011 - 5:00pm (USA Central)
I think Picard's character did change after this episode. I think it changed a lot over the course of the series, actually.

Picard, in seasons one and two, was less gregarious, more formal and generally less interesting. A lot's made in "All Good Things" about Picard finally breaking down the wall between himself and the senior staff, but I think that had slowly been happening for years (the relationship with Crusher, his friendship with Wesley, his role in Klingon stuff with Worf and his de facto mentoring of Data).

I think "The Inner Light" was one of the episodes that changed Picard. Arguably, it should have affected him more, but I think it still kinda works as part of the evolution of the captain of the Enterprise -- which really goes all the way to "Generations."

Picard's reaction to his brother's and nephew's deaths seemed really odd when I first saw it, but I think incidents like "The Inner Light" (and other episodes like "The Perfect Mate" and "Lessons") changed the guy. The loss of his real family probably hit Picard harder in the first movie than it would have in the early days of TNG. He valued family and people more after his years on the Enterprise.

I don't think TNG has aged particularly well in some respects, and I think some of its characters really look one-dimensional in retrospect. Riker, in particular, seemed to regress during the series. Troi was terrible, and Geordi and Crusher were very stagnant.

But Picard and Data (and Worf, until the ridiculous Troi pairing in season 7) evolved a lot over the course of the series. In the end, those two were what TNG was about. Q said it in the finale -- the adventure is to explore the nature of existence. And Picard and Data's exploration still make TNG a very good show.

I view "The Inner Light" like I view "The Offspring." I thought the episodes could have changed Picard and Data more than they did, but I think they were part of both characters' evolutions.
TH - Fri, Oct 28, 2011 - 2:42pm (USA Central)
I believe I watched this episode when it first aired (or shortly thereafter) when I was about 9 years old. I can tell you that I don't think I liked it very much. I was too young to comprehend exactly what was going on, I didn't know the characters that well yet (I had only started watching partway through TNG) and I thought all the character-based stuff was boring and nothing was happening. (as some commenters here did). I later rewatched the show and came to appreciate the significance of what actually had happened, and how it had touched Picard and came to consider this one of the best of TNG.
Chris - Mon, Oct 31, 2011 - 9:26am (USA Central)
Superb and affecting with an absolute acting masterclass from Patrick Stewart. He said himself that it was the most challenging piece of acting he had to do in the entire seven seasons. I believe his son on Kataan was played by his son in real life.
Ben - Sun, Nov 13, 2011 - 11:57pm (USA Central)
Where does everyone get the "30 years" number from? I just watched this MASTERFUL episode, and it seems to me a lot more than 30 years have passed. There is one scene where the wife says she's been looking through the telescope for 30 years with the daughter. So I figure Picard built the telescope when the daughter was about 10, and we know Picard arrived there about 5 years before the daughter was born, so that's 45 years right there. And that wasn't the last/oldest scene either. It think probably another 15 years or so went by before the final scene, so I'm counting 60 years, not 30. Make sense?
Dude - Tue, Jan 3, 2012 - 11:30am (USA Central)
I sometimes get my DVD set out just for this episode, it's probably one of my fav Trek and hard to not love.
Elliot Wilson - Tue, Jan 17, 2012 - 12:10pm (USA Central)

What grips me the most is how very easily it could apply to our own civilization, however, our society has grown so large that if we were to learn the sun was going nova, there would chaos and widespread panic. Some might say the main theme is about survival, but to me, the theme is about endings, how all things must pass, and how, even in the darkest hour, there is a hope for new life. Truly a beautiful episode. I loved it. A well earned four stars, my friend.
William B - Wed, Jan 18, 2012 - 6:24pm (USA Central)
Wonderful review. On the footnote, I agree with PaulW's statement that there are subtle changes in Picard as a result of this episode, though I think it's more that a wide collection of experiences changed him, and this episode could be removed from his development (and some changes made to Lessons, obviously) without fundamentally changing his evolution of the course of the series.

That said -- and this is somewhat implied by your saying the show's episodic nature is both a "blessing and a curse" -- the show's light continuity is a bit of a trade-off. As Ron Moore suggests in the quote above, the writers didn't want to upend the series; they just wanted to tell a story. So had they realized that this would have, realistically, upended Picard's life at the early stages of writing the episode, the episode might not have been written; or it might have been written with a reset button even more clearly built into the episode; or it might, incredibly, have been written around a guest character who could be permanently changed by the experience without worrying about Picard. By contrast, as wonderful as this episode is, the story benefit -- to the series -- to have a probe randomly show up and change the character's life for the rest of the series seems somewhat thin to me. It's true that in real life we are sometimes altered by major incidents that we have no control over, but most of the best work of serial television is about incidents that happen upon us gradually, that are the result at least in part of our own choices. The Best of Both Worlds, which was set up by Q Who? and so follows up from not only that episode but the premise of Q's interactions with the humans in Encounter at Farpoint, would obviously have benefited from a follow-up, and I think the task of following up on it would not have deterred the writers from wiring it. But The Inner Light is *such* a self-contained story, which doesn't follow directly from anything the series has set up. It is important for Picard, and the story gains its strength because we *know* Picard and know how much he'd resist submitting to this life, and how much he'd lose in his life that he'd never get back. But...it's hard to imagine this episode existing, as it does, in a series that had a deeper respect for the way experiences like this transform you, without sacrificing some of its poignancy.
Procyon - Mon, Jan 30, 2012 - 12:50pm (USA Central)
I think I like this episode as much as anyone else.

Unfortunately, there is something I feel detracts from enjoying it too much. Namely that I don't believe for a second that an entire civilization is doomed (more like a tiny colony), and there is nothing distinctive about its culture that would signify a loss for the intergalactic community.

Of course this goes for most civilizations encountered in Star Trek.
Procyon - Mon, Jan 30, 2012 - 12:58pm (USA Central)
*interstellar community
mario - Mon, Feb 13, 2012 - 5:32pm (USA Central)
Agree on the 4 stars. Almost a perfect piece of great TV storytelling. Allthough to me, it would have been even perfecterer if they didn't show the Enterprise until the end and if the last scene on the planet would have been Kaman dying...
Keiren - Tue, Apr 17, 2012 - 4:32am (USA Central)
Brilliant episode. Why need to follow it up again or change Picard? Just enjoy the great story, everybody gets to dream about what they think the effects will be, and it causes conversation, rather than being given them by a writer...
ndasmoe - Tue, May 8, 2012 - 9:46pm (USA Central)
probe -> virtual reality -> holodeck.;)
Jay - Sun, May 27, 2012 - 7:14pm (USA Central)
"Theoretically speaking it should have never been found, floating alone in space. That's like finding a needle in a galaxy-sized haystack..."

I would think it must have had some sort of beacon on it to attract attention, otherwise the entire reasoning for the planet launching the probe becomes moot.
DaughterMoon - Thu, Jun 7, 2012 - 11:56pm (USA Central)
Excellent review of the episode! I watched "Inner Light" last night for the umpteenth time and cried like a baby the last 10 minutes. Perhaps I've reached a stage in my life where I can appreciate the nuances of the story better, but it really hit me. Even reading your review has choked me up! Really, one of the best TNG episodes.

Happy to have stumbled upon this site. Looking forward to browsing through more reviews :)
Tim - Sun, Jun 10, 2012 - 7:36am (USA Central)
Have to echo the majority of comments above - really good and emotional episode. The acting great right from the start when Picard collapses; some actors are really bad at such a thing!
John - Thu, Jul 12, 2012 - 10:04am (USA Central)
Of course I love this episode. Good review Jammer.


I would echo the earlier statement that the alien culture could have been made more interesting and Kamin's family and friends less cliched and corny.

Also, does anyone else have an issue with all Kamin's loved ones appearing to him at the end? To me it cheapens it a little and makes Picard seem more manipulated.

There are other logical issues raised by others but I don't really think they're the point.
Racker - Sun, Jul 15, 2012 - 12:19am (USA Central)
I thought this episode was excellent. The only thing that really bothered me (and I know I'm nerding hard here), is that I don't think a civilization that is incapable of space travel, and has apparently just built their 'first missile' would be capable of launching such an advanced probe, capable of moving at a very high speed.

Beyond that I thought the episode was great, especially Stewart's acting.
Nebula Nox - Mon, Aug 13, 2012 - 12:18pm (USA Central)
Love this episode! (Two decades before the hottest summer ever in the US.) Anyway, I thought the goal of those on Kataan was perfect. No one can expect to live forever, but most want to be remembered - if just by one person.
Jay - Mon, Sep 10, 2012 - 3:23pm (USA Central)
@ Racker

Yeah, and I was also bothered by the notion that this civilization, clearly less advanced than the Federation, somehow had this technology to...incapacitate...Picard, that Federation technology was helpless against. Of course, the "reason" was to further the plot, but it was still troubling...
Patrick - Sun, Oct 7, 2012 - 9:16pm (USA Central)
If anyone ever wants to see how far TNG progressed from a campy 80s carry-over from TOS to a sophisticated 90s science fiction-based drama watch season 2's "Shades of Grey" and "The Inner Light" back-to-back. They have a similar premise (believe it or not): an Enterprise crewmember has been attacked by an alien element and are experiencing things in their mind. But, that, as we know, is where the similarity ends.

Take the "Shades of Grey"/"The Inner Light" challenge and see if your head doesn't explode at the thought that those two episodes belong to the same series.
Will - Tue, Oct 23, 2012 - 8:16pm (USA Central)
Patrick Stewart's acting was what really made this episode glorious. Every single moment of screentime, he did it fucking perfectly. It's godlike to watch. Waking up in the world of Kataan, he really behaves as you'd expect. The moment when he discovers the truth at the end has already been spoken of to a great degree, but I always appreciate the performance he did waking up. Just the way he utters "What O_O" when he opens his eyes and finds himself on the bridge of the Enterprise.
Glenn - Fri, Oct 26, 2012 - 12:49am (USA Central)
@Racker and @Jay -- The seeming incongruity of the society's level of technology and the sophistication of the memory probe scratched at me the whole time, too.
Chris - Sun, Dec 2, 2012 - 9:34pm (USA Central)
button-operated doors in adobe buildings and a village with, apparently, a community phone...pre-warp (and apparently pre-industrial) society that can create a probe with mental manipulation powers like this...crazy tech mix going on here.
The Sisko - Tue, Dec 4, 2012 - 12:55pm (USA Central)
I feel like this episode deserves an extra half star. It's not fair to compare it to any other 4-star show.
CeeBee - Sat, Dec 22, 2012 - 7:11pm (USA Central)
Weird, the ethics in outer space.

I remember the episode from Voyager where cruel aliens planted their version of a conflicted into the heads of casual passers-by, giving them PTSD. The maniac called Captain Janeway then ordered to restore the monument so that others could be traumatized as well. But that was psycho Janeway.

In this installment some hillbillies think it's interesting to remember their culture by mind raping someone from a starship unlucky enough to zip by.
Highly questionable ethics, if you ask me. I wouldn't take kind to people forcing me into memories I never experienced, never had before and never asked for. Thirty years of torture. Unfathomable. Good these people are extinct so they cannot screw up others anymore.

Great episode if it comes to character development, lousy ethics, as so often in Star Trek. (Only to call into mind the creepy racist, authoritarian and scientifically deeply flawed "Prime Directive".)
Brian Brenner - Sat, Dec 29, 2012 - 4:38pm (USA Central)
This was the best TNG episode, I think the best Star Trek episode of all the series. I didn't see it mentioned in the review or commentary but I think it received a Hugo Award that year. It is an episode I can go back and watch many times, and I still feel sad and hopeful at the end when the Captain plays the flute. The best science fiction creates realistic future or alien worlds which challenge the understanding of our own world and circumstances. The Inner Light, in its simple, compelling way, challenges us to think about our own plight and mortality. It is a beautiful, intense hour of story-telling.
Mahoney - Thu, Jan 10, 2013 - 3:34pm (USA Central)
Not afraid to admit I cry everytime I see this episode. Not bawling like a baby....just a tear down the cheek. Best episode of the entire run.
Joe - Sat, Jan 19, 2013 - 7:52am (USA Central)
@John When you try to relate yourself to others, do you relate every single detail of everything, warts and all? Or do you just try to cover the important points, maybe while making yourself look a little better than you actually do in the process?

I think that Kataanian probe was _deliberately_ created as an idealized representation of their life... a "Photoshopped" representation, if you will. I think that's what results in them appearing "cliched and corny" as you put it.
Jack - Tue, Feb 5, 2013 - 2:20pm (USA Central)
As well intentioned as the residents of this planet may have been, the nature of this probe's effect on its victim is nothing short of a violation. Voyager's "Memorial" would do something similar, writ larger.
grumpy_otter - Mon, Mar 18, 2013 - 5:02pm (USA Central)
I just watched this again for the umpteenth time and cried like a baby from Eline's death to the end.

In my family, we do not believe in an afterlife, so we honor our loved ones in memory. My children have been taught the crazy cusswords their grandpa said; I memorialize my brother and sister on facebook on the anniversaries of their deaths; and I try to share family memories as I can.

So I wonder--if you knew you were about to die forever, like the people of this world, what memory of you would you want to be continued? What virtual memory of you would you send to people 1000 years in the future?

I saved a man's life once--he stopped breathing and his heart stopped and I turned into a harsh-order-barking dictator, telling everyone what to do. I was at work, where I was a peon, and started barking orders at my managers on what to do.

I then performed CPR and the man began breathing again, and his heart started up.

I wouldn't mind if that was the memory of me that lasted.

But then there was the time when I danced naked with Jimmy Page. I wouldn't mind that one either.

What would yours be?

Jeffrey Jakucyk - Wed, Mar 27, 2013 - 8:33pm (USA Central)
The only thing that kinda irked me about this episode (aside from the long-term ramifications for Picard, which have been discussed to death already) is the way the resurrected Eline says "my darling" at the very end. The way she smirks while saying it is really creepy, and I always read it as a sort of "haha it was all fake, you're not really my darling at all!" insincere and sarcastic jab. It's still a brilliant hour of TV, one of the greatest moments in TNG, Trek, and science fiction in general.
T'Paul - Sat, Jun 15, 2013 - 6:49pm (USA Central)
While this is definitely watchable, I can't say it totally captivates me.

It's nice to see Picard mellowing, and interesting to see him grow in his new community without overpowering it. His relationships with his wife, kids, grandkids are also interesting and engaging, especially since his character grows in "new" ways that we might not have expected based on our previous experience with him.

But for me there was an ingredient missing... the planet story was a bit bland, as was the planet setting, I don't know, maybe over two episodes with a little more at stake. I just felt we were floating through.

I also agree with the comment above that it would have been nice for Picard to try and find the remnants of the planet.

There's just a little more that could have been done with all aspects of the story that warrant more than a single episode.

But still, it was reasonable enough, but not among my list of top episodes.
dipads - Sun, Jun 23, 2013 - 6:24pm (USA Central)
Jennifer Nash, who plays Meribor, the daughter of Kamin (Picard) in this episode, has a real-life younger brother named Marcus Nash. Incidentally, he also appeared in a ST-TNG episode playing a young Jean Luc Picard. One called Tapestry.
BTW, another great episode involving a flute.
Adara - Wed, Jul 17, 2013 - 11:54pm (USA Central)
This episode is a masterpiece, and a great character episode for Picard. However, I agree with an above commenter who stated that the effects of the probe are unethical. I sure as hell wouldn't want to wake up in another life and have to live it until the end. "Hard Time" addresses the issue as it truly is - torture. I know Picard wasn't beaten and starved, but he was still imprisoned in his mind. What if the probe had found someone less cool-headed and unwilling to accept their surroundings? Another person might have panicked. Maybe gone insane. What if the person had attempted suicide and failed, and had to live the rest of that life as a vegetable? Calling the ethics "questionable" is an understatement.
mephyve - Fri, Jul 26, 2013 - 10:07am (USA Central)
This is not only my all time favorite Star Trek episode, It is the greatest thing I have ever seen depicted on film. I give it 10 srars.
Even though I found the scenes with the crew as intrusive as the beam did, they were brief and relatively minor, which is probably why I didn't remember them.
The pacing and time it took for Picard to accept his new life was handled realistically given his character. It wouldn't have taken me five years to give in to a woman like that though.
I could warch this show 100 times and it would pack the same emotional punch.
Very well done!!!
Marshal - Thu, Aug 29, 2013 - 2:19pm (USA Central)
Best episode ever! I'm crying.
Mark - Thu, Sep 12, 2013 - 5:47am (USA Central)
Emmy award material! Patrick Stewart should have won an Emmy for his performance here. And don't forget the wonderful music by Jay Chattaway. The orchestral suite he composed around the flute theme is such a beautiful and moving piece of music.
The Inner Light has it all: a great story, great acting, a great score and above all: a very touching ending. That silent moment when Picard holds that flute - it still brings me to tears.
Latex Zebra - Sat, Nov 9, 2013 - 5:01am (USA Central)
Shockingly... Had never seen this before until last night.

Amazing episode. Can't really add much more, just wanted to add that I loved it.
The end is lump in the throat stuff.
Adam - Sat, Jan 11, 2014 - 8:22am (USA Central)
This is a beautiful episode, and one of the highlights of the entire Trek franchise. That final scene with Picard silently staring out into the void of space, playing his flute is just wonderful stuff. Brings a tear to your eye
James - Thu, Jan 23, 2014 - 12:27am (USA Central)
I'll repeat what almost everyone here has said, this is one of the best episodes of the whole Star Trek franchise. True, there are some technical holes in the plot, but that's true of most any sci-fi story.

I think the reason Picard seems unchanged from this incident is simple. It's episodic television. The episodes need to stand on their own for syndication, two-parters notwithstanding. They don't always get rebroadcast in the same order as originally produced, so I think it just helps if there isn't much baggage carried over several shows. Dr. Who tried that back in the '70's, the whole 'Key to Time' season with shows all referencing back. It gets tedious and tiresome. It didn't work out too well.

Comparison to City on the Edge of Forever was also made. I think it's appropriate. These two episodes have a lot in common. They both are non-tech stories that don't take place on the ship (at least not consciously in the case of Inner Light). They are also both very human centered stories. Despite having great story telling devices (the Guardian and the probe), they both are purely about the people and their relationships. The heart of both is love, sacrifice and death. There are no laser battles, space car chases or other devices that appealed to me when I was 9.

It also occurs to me, these elements are also what made STII: Wrath of Khan so good. Whenever Star Trek focuses on people and their interactions and how they grow and learn, good stories usually result. When the franchise gets caught up in technobabble and two dimensional bad guys, usually the result is disappointing, like Spock's Brain. Or the last couple TNG movies. Or STV : The Final Frontier.

This same pattern kept getting played out over and over during the whole course of Star Trek's life. I don't understand why the brains behind the franchise never seemed to recognize that. Good stories about people (not just the humans) are the heart of all the good episodes. As much criticism as the early period for TNG often takes, one of the best episodes of the whole series is found in the second season, early on. The Measure of a Man is one of TNG's best, and it's not about Data's being an android. The techy stuff is just what it should be, gloss. The real story is about Data as a person, and his right to live and be.

By the way, there's a reason the season two finale Shades of Gray is an utter piece of land fill. There was a writer's strike and the only thing the production crew could do at the time was to slap together a clip show. Too bad. Season two showed TNG really starting to find its own footing, no longer regurgitating TOS material. And the characters were beginning to take shape, except for poor Dr.Pulaski who mysteriously disappeared over summer hiatus.
Trekker - Fri, Mar 21, 2014 - 7:11pm (USA Central)
It's a great episode and amazingly simple.

I don't need to defend this point as others have done so a hundred times over.

10/10 - A perfect episode of what Star Trek can be as a story platform on the human condition.
Buck - Sat, May 17, 2014 - 6:33pm (USA Central)
Surprised no one mentioned this -- the only disappointing part of this episode for me occurs years later at the end of "Generations."

You'll remember that Picard and Riker are rummaging through the wreck of the Enterprise-D. I think everyone forgot about this episode, because there's absolutely NO WAY Picard leaves that vessel forever without his Kataanian flute. Easy to pack out as well, as opposed to a big book or a big ceramic head ...
Lucky - Sun, May 18, 2014 - 4:18am (USA Central)
I just watched this for the first time a few minutes ago. Let me just say I've never been a Star Trek fan, and I just happened to tune in while doing some work. This episode really blew me away and I just had to google it to see what others thought about it. Turns out it touched most folks the same way. Brilliant stuff.
Stephanie Pettigrew - Mon, Jul 7, 2014 - 5:35pm (USA Central)
I find this episode heartbreaking. Floods of tears. When he realizes "oh, it's me" and the fact that when his wife appears he is transfixed and almost ignores everything and just repeats her name... Such a cruel gift... An entire life, children and grandchildren, wife and friends lost,,, not sure anyone could recover from it,,, and him clutching the flute at the end, as if to try to anchor himself just kills me...
Lewikee - Fri, Jul 11, 2014 - 10:47am (USA Central)
Firstly, I love this episode and I choke up every time at the end. By the way, Picard's acting is key to this episode. It's such good acting that I could even ignore the bad old-age makeup. So I have some responses to issues brought up in this thread (almost all of them interesting!).

In regards to the ethics of the probe:
I rationalize that aspect as the probe doing what life does to everyone of us. We didn't ask to live and yet here we are, whether we like it or not. Then we deal with it as best we can. I think the probe is as unethical as life itself. We all got hit with the "like it or not, live a life" directive. Picard just got hit with it twice.

In regards to why the civilization would choose to be remembered by a single person:
I think that's one of the best aspects of the premise. The point is that the best way to know a people is to live with them, and as them. Any less specific method of being remembered would have led to a watered-down version of their legacy. They wanted to be really known. There's the issue of quantity vs. quality. Do you want to be vaguely remembered by a lot of people, or deeply and emotionally remembered by a single person?

In regards to him searching for remains of Kataan after his experience:
I am glad that didn't happen. The experience is much more meaningful if Picard knows that the probe, the flute, and his memories are all that remain. He will cherish the experience all the more, and won't have to go on what could only be a disappointing search for additional mementos that won't evoke who these people truly were.

In regards to the disparity between the apparent lack of technological advancement of the civilization and the sophistication of the probe:
Yeah I think that's a valid issue. The episode is good enough to let me suspend disbelief in that respect.

In regards to the Kataan culture not being interesting enough:
I agree that they are not all that interesting, but I like it better that way. They are a culture that wants to be remembered, much like we do as individuals. Most of us are not all that interesting, but that doesn't stop us from wanting to be understood and appreciated, especially by those close to us. I view the episode not as "ancient civilization is so interesting it needs to be remembered" but "ancient civilization wants to be remembered, much like humans do."
SkepticalMI - Thu, Jul 17, 2014 - 10:02pm (USA Central)
It could only work once. I don't think you could ever make another episode like this and make it work, because it's just such a weird concept, and yet such a inspiring concept, that any attempt to have another episode like it would feel hollow instead. And if you did have similar styles of episodes, this episode would lose its special flavor, and the flaws surrounding such an idea would actually have to be addressed.

People have talked about them here, but a recap: how would an agrarian society be able to produce such an amazing piece of technology as the probe? Was this a complete violation of Picard? Why would the probe self destruct after only one experience? And shouldn't this have changed Picard's life more?

All good points. But really, this is one of those episodes that deserves a giant heaping of willing suspension of disbelief. The important thing about this episode is the idea and the sense of wonder about it. It's something to experience, not analyze. Again, this sort of thing could only work once. Too much suspension of disbelief and things become silly. But I can accept it here.

Besides, BoBW is another episode that should have changed Picard more than it did (although TNG did a better job of following up on that one), and no one minds that it still happened. Its the curse of the episodic format. We have to accept such things so that we can enjoy these stories.

In any case, even ignoring that for a moment, it still is more than just a good experience or a good idea. I was worried coming into this episode that I would appreciate it more than I would like it, given that I already knew the plot and its special place in the annals of Trek. But watching it again, it was still a joy to see. You feel for Kamin's wife, who has her husband stolen from her yet still waits patiently for him to accept his life. You watch Picard's transformation, still retaining his core personality but losing his sense of self. And then the slow buildup of dread, watching how the characters react as the situation with the sun gets worse and worse. Even knowing how the story goes, it was still emotional. Still impactful. A once in a lifetime episode.
213karaokejoe - Mon, Jul 28, 2014 - 11:45am (USA Central)
Love this episode even though I avoid it when I see it on our list of recordings. Always makes me cry; probably tied for water works with the episode where Data creates his daughter.

"Remember, put your shoes away"
"I promise"

"Now we live in you; tell them of us, my darling"
Yanks - Mon, Jul 28, 2014 - 12:28pm (USA Central)

What an interesting, emotional and historic Star Trek episode.

Couple times during this one I get all choked up, it doesn't matter how many times I've seen this episode.

"PICARD: I'd like to ask your permission to build something.
ELINE: Kamin, you've built your telescope, your laboratory. You don't need my permission for something new.
PICARD: In this case, I think I do.
ELINE: What is it?
PICARD: A nursery.
ELINE: Really? Really?
PICARD: Unless, of course, if you would prefer a porch. It would certainly be easier to build. I could make a start on it right away.

"RIKER: We were able to open the probe and examine it. Apparently, whatever had locked onto you must have been self terminating. It's not functioning any longer. We found this inside.
(Riker hands him a box and leaves. Inside it is a penny whistle with a tassel. Picard clutches it to his chest for a moment, then plays his Skye Boat song variation on it)"

(snif, snif)

But this episode, while playing with our emotions, does it in such a way that should make us cringe.

Involuntary mind rape is fully accepted in the Star Trek universe. Picard was RAPED!! ...and for what? So some race that couldn't figure out how to get off their rock could be remembered?

It all seems very selfish to me.

#1. The Kataanian’s as race believe that force-feeding this program "down someone's mind" is acceptable? Really, the risk never occurred to them? Hoe selfish is this probe?

#2. We TREK fans love this episode and it doesn't seem to matter that Picard was almost killed, because we liked the story. Selfish once again.

Robert Hill - Thu, Sep 18, 2014 - 10:55am (USA Central)
Not to be a party-pooper here or anything, but the success of this episode lies largely with the acting ability of Patrick Stewart.

It was a good piece of melodrama in itself, but take Stewart out of it and replace him with any other member of the crew and it just wouldn't be quite so captivating.

I agree that the 30+ years of memories passing by in a real time of 25 minutes, and with that the memories of a life aboard a star ship that live within, was effective and certainly captures the imagination, but I can't help but feel there is a little too much love for cheese here on this board if everybody is tearing up at the mere mention of this episode.

I just watched The Wind That Shakes The Barely earlier today! Now that has the power to elicit tears in me! The Inner Light? Not so much.

Like I said, it's a good episode elevated by Stewart, but it is not a masterpiece of sci-fi/melodrama at all!
Robert - Thu, Sep 18, 2014 - 11:02am (USA Central)
I would watch Patrick Stewart read the phone book.
Illuin - Sat, Oct 18, 2014 - 12:39pm (USA Central)
If anyone needs proof of how great this episode is...... it's been 22 fucking years and it is still generating this level of emotion in people. Not to mention, it does not look remotely dated, even now..... over two decades later. Masterpiece.... not just for Star Trek, for ANY TV show, movie, theater, etc.
Latex Zebra - Sun, Oct 19, 2014 - 3:03pm (USA Central)
If anyone deserved two lives then it was Picard. One as a starship Captain. The other as a family man.

He lived the dream man.
Del_Duio - Tue, Nov 4, 2014 - 11:16am (USA Central)
"If anyone needs proof of how great this episode is...... it's been 22 fucking years and it is still generating this level of emotion in people. Not to mention, it does not look remotely dated, even now..... over two decades later. Masterpiece.... not just for Star Trek, for ANY TV show, movie, theater, etc. " - Illuin

Couldn't have said it any better myself, so I won't try. LOVE LOVE this episode, by far one of the best hours Trek has ever done.
trekstar - Sun, Nov 23, 2014 - 8:45pm (USA Central)
My favorite episodes of St:TNG are "Yesterday's Enterprise", and this one. Thanks to Netflix, i think I've watched them both a hundred times each. There's something I've pondered while watching this one. The probe literally "brainwashes" Picard. They don't let him keep his identity. There is no 'hi Picard, this is our world, live amongst us and no time will pass in your world', instead it is, 'you are NOT Picard, you never were picard, your name is Kamen and your other world is a hallucination brought on by a fever.' I'm just wondering why they decided to do it this way...possibly to make him really "feel" like he was a part of their world and not just an outsider. Yet at the end...he is forcibly brainwashed in reverse by ostracizing him. We made you become one of us but you aren't. This family..these kids..grandkids you thought were yours are not real so now we end this "dream" and your family and life go "poof"! Bwahahaha! Lol i guess I've watched this show way too many times.
Nic - Mon, Nov 24, 2014 - 9:39pm (USA Central)
I'm thinking of using this episode to introduce Star Trek to my girlfriend. I'm sure she'd like it, but perhaps it's not the best introduction to the universe, seeing as most of it is set outside the usual confines.

Anyone have any thoughts?
Robert - Tue, Nov 25, 2014 - 6:26am (USA Central)
@Nick - I agree, while an excellent episode it's just great sci-fi, not great Trek. A good intro episode would be one not too far into the series (to avoid total shock if you decide to go back and do a full re-watch... the old stuff is barely the same show).

Personal suggestion would be Measure of a Man or Q Who, both from Season 2... whichever you think she'd respond to better.
Andy's Friend - Tue, Nov 25, 2014 - 8:52am (USA Central)

That's a question I guess many of us have asked many times :)

In the end, of course, it all depends on the person you want to present it to. But while I agree of course with Robert that "The Measure of a Man" and "Q Who?" are outstanding episodes, they both benefit much from having seen the series till then. You cannot really understand, or rather, feel Data's situation in the former episode if you haven't seen a number of episodes with Data, and come to understand him and his nature. Much the same way, you can only know how desperate the situation of the Enterprise is, and how special an episode "Q Who?" is, if you've seen Picard & Co. handle a number of perious situations with relative ease before. You need to truly know how huge Picard is to see just how humbled he is here.

In my opinion, those two episodes are just too good to be shown to a Trek virgin. It's a shame to pull out the big guns to one who cannot fully appreciate them; you enjoy them much more if you know a bit more about TNG.

I would recommend "11001001". It's Season 1, it introduces the holodeck (to one who has never seen Trek before), it is very much Star Trek, and let's face it, it's pretty good sci-fi, and with great sound effects for the era.

After that, I'd suggest either any one of the better Season 1 episodes ― "We'll Always Have Paris" might be a good idea if she's a romantic at heart, while still having great sci-fi elements (I'll never forget the lift scene: pure magic when I first saw it all those years ago!) ― or "Time Squared", a great episode you can always watch out of continuity. It depends on the person.

Good luck, and have fun! :)
Robert - Tue, Nov 25, 2014 - 9:54am (USA Central)
@Andy's Friend - 11001001 is a great episode, but I'm not sure I would have started watching the show from it. I actually DID start watching from Q Who.

There's just so much high quality TV out there today that I think you need to knock her socks off with what the series CAN be. And it can be better than 11001001.

I don't know if I put any S1 episodes in "knock her socks off" level of good. Although I see Andy's Friend's point about Measure of a Man specifically, I still think it's a compelling courtroom drama, but you may not feel for Data without a season and a half prior.

Maybe "Who Watches The Watchers?" It needs less backstory (from Data and or Q) and it's pretty outstanding. Any thoughts?
Elliott - Tue, Nov 25, 2014 - 10:28am (USA Central)
Who Watches the Watchers and The Survivors are my go-to TNG introduction episodes.
Robert - Tue, Nov 25, 2014 - 10:38am (USA Central)
I started my wife on DS9, so when we watched TNG we just went straight from the beginning. She liked seeing Worf and O'Brien at Farpoint. I warned her that if she got bored we would start skipping the clunkers though.
Grumpy - Tue, Nov 25, 2014 - 12:40pm (USA Central)
For a first-time TNG viewer, the narration in "Data's Day" serves as an orientation to all the characters. If the goal is not sizzling salesmanship, that is.
Nic - Wed, Nov 26, 2014 - 10:32pm (USA Central)
Wow, thanks for all the comments everyone, I did not expect so much feedback. All of your suggestions are good, especially "Data's Day".

That being said, I ended up going with "The Inner Light" anyway, but I warned her that it wasn't a typical episode. At one point she asked if this was the best episode of the series, so I guess that's a good sign.
Del_Duio - Thu, Dec 11, 2014 - 1:04pm (USA Central)
@ Andy's Friend:

"I would recommend "11001001". It's Season 1, it introduces the holodeck (to one who has never seen Trek before), it is very much Star Trek, and let's face it, it's pretty good sci-fi, and with great sound effects for the era."

Not only that, it helps the later episode "Future Imprefect" make sense in that it introduces Minuet.
DLPB - Sun, Jan 4, 2015 - 2:58pm (USA Central)
A strong contender for the best TNG (or other) Trek episode (although, I think I prefer Yesterday's Enterprise and Chain of Command). It can't be a coincidence that the episodes I find best are the ones that use treknobabble least. And let's face it, this episode could have been done in any genre.

It's a self contained tale of one doomed planet's desire to be remembered. What a lovely idea that is. I can forgive them for assaulting Picard (haha) because the ends justify the means. Making someone live the life of a lost civilization is original and clever. The episode is brilliantly executed and evokes the exact emotional response it was designed to do, without any phoniness.

As with most great stories, you have to watch it to really understand it, because words don't really give you the feeling of it. And the thought and feeling you get from this kind of story is precisely what matters.

I also liked that they did not do a reset switch with this. The flute(?) plays a role in future episodes and Picard clearly never forgets about his experience. That was nice to see.
spindles - Wed, Jan 7, 2015 - 3:46am (USA Central)
Little did they know at the time that Patrick Stewart in old makeup would look exactly the same.
edmundspenser - Wed, Jan 14, 2015 - 2:47am (USA Central)
I just watched this episode for the first time. For me it was better than 99% of TNG episodes. It's my new favorite along with any episode featuring Q or the Borg. I'm looking forward to watching season 6 and 7. These are moments I'll never live again; watching TNG for the first time.
Shannon - Sun, Feb 1, 2015 - 10:43pm (USA Central)
Hands down one of the top 5 episodes of all the Star Trek franchises. This episode had me on the edge of my seat from start to finish, and when Picard started playing the flute at the end, my eyes welled up. Just doesn't get much better than that.
Troy - Mon, Jul 13, 2015 - 9:22am (USA Central)
I love this episode. Other comments asked why would a civilization send a probe? Picard answered the question in the episode, "can't something of this world be saved?" Tommorrow the New Horizons probe is going to make its closest approach to Pluto after which it will leave the solar system. I take great satisfaction that even after the sun swells to a red giant destroying the Earth my name on a DVD on the probe will endure essentially forever.
Watching the writer commendary on the BluRay was very interesting. The original story had Picard, Riker, and Troi all taken in by the probe. Wow can't see that working at all... And the writer had to lobby hard for the flute. That haunting music Picard learns to play, how wonderful. Other posters have suggested that it would be more traumatic. Picard always had in the back of his mind who he was, coupled with the reveal and the well acted despite the terrible makeup "it's me!". It was more akin to awaking from a very lucid dream.
Also I like the BluRay extras: Patrick Stewart's son in the episode and this was his favorite episode. Also the story of them finding the flute in a warehouse and its subsequent auction price in the $40,000 range.
oddmusic - Mon, Jul 27, 2015 - 6:50pm (USA Central)
Alright, I guess I'm going to be a contrarion on this one.

Now just to be clear I don't like this episode. I don't dislike it.

I think I love this episode and I hate it at the same time.

I love Picard's bits. They started off a little hard to get into, but once it got going, it was one of the best character pieces that Trek has ever done. I think the bits on the ship were pretty solid.

Unfortunately I worked out what was going on about halfway through this episode, and from that moment on my brain went into overdrive asking one question over and over again: "WHY!?"

(For the record, I'm not going to go too in depth on the ethics of this episode, but yeah I'm not exactly thrilled with them. Even if your opinion is that the probe is not mind raping them, the probe still makes the person it latches onto think they're crazy, then gives them a life on a dying planet with a family, only to reveal that it wasn't real at all so the family you thought you had was fake. That's…cruel. That's really cruel).

Why would this be the method chosen by the people on the planet to preserve their culture – a noble goal to be sure? They clearly have very advanced computer technology to store all that data – essentially a holodeck program in your head – so why not just store a bunch of information on a computer. If you really think it's important that the aliens who may not even speak your language experience your planet, create it as a computer program or – here's a thought – ask the recipient of your mind program for their consent to experience your culture BEFORE making them live a life on your planet so you don't have to spend time convincing them that their former life wasn't real.

That's the basics of it. To be clear this was all stuff that was going through my head while I was watching the episode, and that probably hurt my experience of it. And to be clear, I don't think this is a bad episode. I just can't justify, for myself, the explanation for what was going on.

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