Star Trek: The Next Generation

"The Inner Light"

4 stars

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

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178 comments on this review

Wed, May 11, 2011, 7:43am (UTC -5)
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.
Wed, May 11, 2011, 9:06am (UTC -5)
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.
Wed, May 11, 2011, 3:52pm (UTC -5)
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.
Wed, May 11, 2011, 4:47pm (UTC -5)
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.
Wed, May 11, 2011, 8:34pm (UTC -5)
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.
Wed, May 11, 2011, 8:55pm (UTC -5)
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.
Thu, May 12, 2011, 12:00am (UTC -5)
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 (UTC -5)
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.
Thu, May 12, 2011, 6:38pm (UTC -5)
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 (UTC -5)
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"....
Thu, May 12, 2011, 11:19pm (UTC -5)
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?
Fri, May 13, 2011, 8:50am (UTC -5)
This episode is simply a masterwork!
Fri, May 13, 2011, 8:31pm (UTC -5)
"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.
Fri, May 13, 2011, 8:40pm (UTC -5)
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 (UTC -5)
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...
Sat, May 14, 2011, 7:24pm (UTC -5)

That thing with Ivanova, she really *did* break her leg. They had no choice but to keep showing it in future episodes.
Sat, May 14, 2011, 11:00pm (UTC -5)
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.
Mon, May 16, 2011, 12:59am (UTC -5)
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?
Mon, May 16, 2011, 2:01pm (UTC -5)
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)
Wed, May 18, 2011, 7:04pm (UTC -5)
This is probably the best TNG episode of them all. In fact, it rivals anything from the best of BSG.
Thu, May 19, 2011, 2:48pm (UTC -5)
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."
Fri, May 20, 2011, 5:16am (UTC -5)
Wow, you *really* don't like character based episodes. Well, to each his own, I guess.
Nick P.
Sun, May 22, 2011, 1:16pm (UTC -5)
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 (UTC -5)
Interesting comparison with "City on the Edge of Forever" 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.
Wed, May 25, 2011, 11:11am (UTC -5)
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?
Wed, Jun 1, 2011, 10:40am (UTC -5)
@ 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.
Mon, Jun 6, 2011, 4:21am (UTC -5)
I cannot believe that someone thinks the inner light is boring and too slow. I... wow. People are so disappointing, always.
Tue, Jun 14, 2011, 9:39am (UTC -5)
After seeing "Inception", the concept of waking up from a 30 year dream takes on a whole new meaning.
Sun, Jun 26, 2011, 6:04pm (UTC -5)
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.
Mon, Jul 11, 2011, 6:19pm (UTC -5)
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 (UTC -5)
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 (UTC -5)
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 (UTC -5)
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.
Thu, Aug 25, 2011, 1:27pm (UTC -5)
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 (UTC -5)

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.
Thu, Aug 25, 2011, 5:50pm (UTC -5)
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?
Thu, Aug 25, 2011, 6:01pm (UTC -5)
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.
Tue, Aug 30, 2011, 2:04am (UTC -5)
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 (UTC -5)

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


What everyone else said.
Sun, Sep 25, 2011, 7:17pm (UTC -5)
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.
Thu, Sep 29, 2011, 8:33pm (UTC -5)
"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.
Tue, Oct 11, 2011, 9:46pm (UTC -5)
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 (UTC -5)
"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.
Tue, Oct 25, 2011, 5:00pm (UTC -5)
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.
Fri, Oct 28, 2011, 2:42pm (UTC -5)
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.
Mon, Oct 31, 2011, 9:26am (UTC -5)
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.
Sun, Nov 13, 2011, 11:57pm (UTC -5)
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?
Tue, Jan 3, 2012, 11:30am (UTC -5)
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 (UTC -5)
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 (UTC -5)
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.'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.
Mon, Jan 30, 2012, 12:50pm (UTC -5)
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.
Mon, Jan 30, 2012, 12:58pm (UTC -5)
*interstellar community
Mon, Feb 13, 2012, 5:32pm (UTC -5)
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...
Tue, Apr 17, 2012, 4:32am (UTC -5)
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...
Tue, May 8, 2012, 9:46pm (UTC -5)
probe -> virtual reality -> holodeck.;)
Sun, May 27, 2012, 7:14pm (UTC -5)
"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.
Thu, Jun 7, 2012, 11:56pm (UTC -5)
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 :)
Sun, Jun 10, 2012, 7:36am (UTC -5)
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!
Thu, Jul 12, 2012, 10:04am (UTC -5)
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.
Sun, Jul 15, 2012, 12:19am (UTC -5)
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 (UTC -5)
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.
Mon, Sep 10, 2012, 3:23pm (UTC -5)
@ 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...
Sun, Oct 7, 2012, 9:16pm (UTC -5)
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.
Tue, Oct 23, 2012, 8:16pm (UTC -5)
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.
Fri, Oct 26, 2012, 12:49am (UTC -5)
@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.
Sun, Dec 2, 2012, 9:34pm (UTC -5)
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 (UTC -5)
I feel like this episode deserves an extra half star. It's not fair to compare it to any other 4-star show.
Sat, Dec 22, 2012, 7:11pm (UTC -5)
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 (UTC -5)
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.
Thu, Jan 10, 2013, 3:34pm (UTC -5)
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.
Sat, Jan 19, 2013, 7:52am (UTC -5)
@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.
Tue, Feb 5, 2013, 2:20pm (UTC -5)
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.
Mon, Mar 18, 2013, 5:02pm (UTC -5)
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 (UTC -5)
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.
Sat, Jun 15, 2013, 6:49pm (UTC -5)
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.
Sun, Jun 23, 2013, 6:24pm (UTC -5)
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.
Wed, Jul 17, 2013, 11:54pm (UTC -5)
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.
Fri, Jul 26, 2013, 10:07am (UTC -5)
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!!!
Thu, Aug 29, 2013, 2:19pm (UTC -5)
Best episode ever! I'm crying.
Thu, Sep 12, 2013, 5:47am (UTC -5)
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 (UTC -5)
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.
Sat, Jan 11, 2014, 8:22am (UTC -5)
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
Thu, Jan 23, 2014, 12:27am (UTC -5)
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.
Fri, Mar 21, 2014, 7:11pm (UTC -5)
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.
Sat, May 17, 2014, 6:33pm (UTC -5)
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 ...
Sun, May 18, 2014, 4:18am (UTC -5)
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 (UTC -5)
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...
Fri, Jul 11, 2014, 10:47am (UTC -5)
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."
Thu, Jul 17, 2014, 10:02pm (UTC -5)
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.
Mon, Jul 28, 2014, 11:45am (UTC -5)
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"
Mon, Jul 28, 2014, 12:28pm (UTC -5)

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 (UTC -5)
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!
Thu, Sep 18, 2014, 11:02am (UTC -5)
I would watch Patrick Stewart read the phone book.
Sat, Oct 18, 2014, 12:39pm (UTC -5)
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 (UTC -5)
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.
Tue, Nov 4, 2014, 11:16am (UTC -5)
"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.
Sun, Nov 23, 2014, 8:45pm (UTC -5)
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.
Mon, Nov 24, 2014, 9:39pm (UTC -5)
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?
Tue, Nov 25, 2014, 6:26am (UTC -5)
@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 (UTC -5)

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! :)
Tue, Nov 25, 2014, 9:54am (UTC -5)
@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?
Tue, Nov 25, 2014, 10:28am (UTC -5)
Who Watches the Watchers and The Survivors are my go-to TNG introduction episodes.
Tue, Nov 25, 2014, 10:38am (UTC -5)
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.
Tue, Nov 25, 2014, 12:40pm (UTC -5)
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.
Wed, Nov 26, 2014, 10:32pm (UTC -5)
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.
Thu, Dec 11, 2014, 1:04pm (UTC -5)
@ 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.
Sun, Jan 4, 2015, 2:58pm (UTC -5)
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.
Wed, Jan 7, 2015, 3:46am (UTC -5)
Little did they know at the time that Patrick Stewart in old makeup would look exactly the same.
Wed, Jan 14, 2015, 2:47am (UTC -5)
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.
Sun, Feb 1, 2015, 10:43pm (UTC -5)
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.
Mon, Jul 13, 2015, 9:22am (UTC -5)
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.
Mon, Jul 27, 2015, 6:50pm (UTC -5)
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.
Sat, Aug 29, 2015, 9:02am (UTC -5)
****Disclaimer - I honestly thought about not posting this review and have spent several days now debating with myself whether or not to do so. I thought about just skipping it outright or simply posting my score and hoping it would slip by unnoticed because I'm probably go to stir up some ruckus with this one. But, since one of the main messages of Star Trek has always been about being tolerant of others even if you don't agree with them, I've decided to go ahead and post it. So, here goes nothing.****

Well, ladies and gentlemen, we come to it at last - the show-stopper. I tend to run against the grain with a lot of episodes around here (especially well-loved episodes). I thought that "The City on the Edge of Forever" was over-rated. I thought that "Yesterday's Enterprise" was also over-rated. I stirred up some controversy with my thoughts on "Who Watches the Watchers?" and "First Contact." I even thought that "The Best of Both Worlds" was slightly over-rated. And I doubt it's going to be any different here with "The Inner Light." So, strap your seat-belts on, we're going in.

Is "The Inner Light" the single best episode of the entire Trek franchise? Is it the single best episode of TNG? Is it the best episode of Season Five of TNG? Is it even 10 out of 10 worthy? I can honestly answer each one of those questions with a resounding "absolutely not!" This, folks, is undoubtedly the single most over-rated episode of Trek I have ever seen. In some cases, I would go so far as to say that it is the single most over-rated "anything" I've ever seen. That's because, and I'm not joking or using hyperbole here, I have actually encountered people who have said that "The Inner Light" is hands-down the most poignant, moving, touching, heart-warming and emotionally satisfying piece of fiction they have ever consumed. Give me a break! Is it good? I can answer question with a "yes." But to listen to so many people, you would think that it doesn't just deserve a 10 out of 10 but an infinity to the infinity power out of 10. It's not that good. Sorry.

So, let's just get to the overall problem I have with "The Inner Light," shall we? The fact of the matter is that what the Kataanians do to Picard here is evil, pure and simple. Let me be as clear as I possibly can about this - they violated him, in about the worst way imaginable. What happens to Picard here is the exact same thing that happens later to O'Brien in the DS9 episode "Hard Time." But, at least that episode was willing to take the time to explore the emotional implications of what happened to the character. And yes, I know that in "Hard Time" O'Brien was forced to endure a lifetime of unpleasant memories while Picard here got to experience rather pleasant ones. But, that's a difference of degree, not of kind. They both still had a lifetime of experiences literally forced upon them against their wills. Who the FUCK did the Kataanians think they were to do that to another person? If this was the only way they could think to save their civilization, then I'm just going to say it - maybe their civilization wasn't worth saving! They apparently had the option of doing something like preserving genetic samples, or setting up a library or launching a traditional time capsule. Instead, they actively choose to go with the option that involved the mind-rape of an innocent bystander. And I don't use that term (mind-rape) lightly here. If we're going to accept what was done to Troi, Crusher and Riker in "Violations" as a form of rape, then what the hell else am I supposed to call this?! The fact that they provided Picard with a pleasing setting for his rape doesn't negate the fact that it is still rape! And the episode never addresses this issue. Not once! We're just supposed to accept what happened, think of it as moving beyond belief and then move on.

Now, let's get to a second huge problem I have - the fact that "The Inner Light" is so damn schmaltzy. Jesus Christ, apparently the show-runners decided to cover up the fact that Picard is being thoroughly violated by making the story as sickeningly, sugary sweet as possible. It's like they thought "if we just crank up the sweetness factor to a factor of about 1000 it will distract everyone from the subtext." God Almighty, this story is so damn sugary that I feel like I need an insulin injection! If I had to come up with a single word to describe this episode with, that word would undoubtedly be "schmaltz."

Now, with all that said, there's a much more practical problem I have with this story. Jammer is willing to skim over it in his review, but I'm going to focus on it because I think it is a rather significant plot element - the method the Kataanians used to preserve their culture/civilization. Leaving aside all the subtext and rather barbaric implications of the method, I'm still left thinking "talk about putting all of your eggs in one basket!". What exactly was their plan for the long-term here? They implant a lifetime of memories into a passing alien's mind and.... then what? Okay, so the Kataanian civilization now exists in one person's memory, but what happens when that person dies. Given that at it's heart this story is ultimately about mortality I really don't think the Kataanians were planning very far ahead. All they achieve is a momentary remembrance in the grand scheme of things. Once Picard eventually dies, their civilization dies with him. If I haven't lost you or you're not angry with me yet, prepare yourselves, because that is probably about to happen. If the Kataanians were really serious about preserving their culture and civilization in an actually tangible way, they should have done something similar to what the aliens in the future episode "Masks" did - create a moving library that actually materially recreates elements of their world. That's right, I'm going there. In at least one way, the much derided "Masks" does a better job than "The Inner Light." Also, talk about lucky that the probe managed to find a Human on a Federation ship to do this to. Just imagine if it was a Klingon, or a Romulan, or (God forbid) a Cardassian ship that stumbled onto the probe. It would have been destroyed the moment it locked onto any member of the crew, let alone the captain. Then the Kataanians would really have been up the creek without a paddle.

Finally, one last problem I have with the episode - the coda. I'm sorry, but I do not find the scene with Picard playing the flute in his quarters touching in any way whatsoever. Not. At. All. You know what the scene strikes me as? I strikes me as a man who has been so completely and thoroughly abused that he has come to identify with his abusers in a way. I'm probably going to lose anybody who stayed through the "Masks" comparison - but ,essentially, when he starts playing that flute and the episode fades to black he's basically displaying Stockholm Syndrome. The Kataanians have so thoroughly indoctrinated him that he now misses the mind-rape. And, once again, the episode doesn't focus on this and instead expects the audience to think it's sweet. It's not! To me, that damn flute is nothing but a symbol of Picard's torture and I simply don't understand why so many people both think the scene is touching and why so many people are so attached to the actual flute. (I mean, I've said it before and I'll say it again, to each their own, but I simply cannot wrap my mind around it.) The actual prop of the flute even once sold at auction for close to $50,000. WHY?!! Even Brannon Braga and Patrick Stewart himself have been known to laugh at that, through probably for different reasons than I would.

Okay, so I did say that I thought that the episode was good, so what did I like about it. Well, I can only point to one thing that I thought was good - the acting, because it seriously is top notch. Patrick Stewart, even though he was given some rather disturbing and not very well-thought-through material to work with here really knocks it out of the park. I really don't think much else needs to be said about that because it's one area that everyone agrees on that I'm more than willing to go along with. I also really liked the dynamics back on the Enterprise bridge. Not so much with the Kataanian characters (that's where the schmaltz comes in). I really liked that there was something of a tension with Riker and Worf on one side and Crusher on the other. All three had the same goal in mind - protecting Picard - but they had vastly different ways of going about it. And Frakes, Dorn and McFadden handled that tension rather nice I thought. I suppose I can also like the fact that the show-runners were trying to tell a story about the acceptance of mortality. If they had just turned the sugar quotient down by a factor of about 1000% it could have been much better.

So, there it all is - my thoughts on the most over-rated Trek (not just TNG) episode ever. If anybody is still reading this, this is the moment when you probably come to hate me, but....

William B
Sat, Aug 29, 2015, 10:04am (UTC -5)
@Luke, I don't hate you for your mixed review of a favourite episode, so rest easy on that score :)

There is more to say, but I tend to view the morality of the Kataan probe on a similar level to the way I view the morality of Q in "Q Who" or "Tapestry" -- under normal circumstances, *AND PERHAPS EVEN IN THESE CIRCUMSTANCES*, I would describe what is done here as wrong. However, the message that is communicated is extremely important, and Q/the Kataan people are not themselves Picard-like figures we should necessarily admire.

I very much agree with a point made by Lewikee earlier:

'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.'

It is likely different for theists for whom life is a divine decision, but for me and many others simply *being here* is a fact that we have not had control over. Bringing a person into this world is a guarantee that they will suffer, at some point or another, and the people can hardly be asked permission before they are born. The hope is that their life will ultimately have more joys than sorrows, and that they will exit their lives having been glad they lived it.

O'Brien's lifetime in "Hard Time" was *specifically* designed to torture and break him. Picard's here is something different. And, yes, much of the goal of the Kataan civilization is the stated goal -- to preserve something of their culture, for someone in the future. AND YET -- it also imparts to Picard (and vicariously, the audience) something even greater. What is special about Kataan, for me, is not that they lived, but that they died, and Picard is given a chance to see into a dead civilization, and live through that death and still continue his life. He has seen his whole civilization die, and returns to his own world with fresh eyes. The probe would be less ethically dubious if it got his permission, but the full-immersion is what makes the probe's experience a kind of second life, including death.

I am glad that this episode happened, and thus I am "glad" the probe did what it did to Picard, just as Picard himself is on some level happy that the experience happened, but it is a particular kind of happy, of the kind of someone who nears the end of their life and realizes that they are glad to have lived, but are not sure that they would have chosen to do so. That the Kataan people have no *right* is plain, but then I rather think that of all parents. The "arrogance" of the Kataan people is that they have something to share with their probe, and on the balance I would say that this is justified; they are not imposing torture but the experience of what it is like for an individual lifetime and for a civilization to meet its end. It is an incredible gift, one which is also painful and unwanted.
William B
Sat, Aug 29, 2015, 10:20am (UTC -5)
To be clear, I think the Kataan arrogance is justified in that they DO have something worthwhile to communicate, and Picard ultimately would not trade this experience away. That is not me condoning the decision to launch the probe itself, about which I find myself ambivalent, an ambivalence I think the episode's elegiatic tone absolutely encourages.
Sat, Aug 29, 2015, 1:21pm (UTC -5)
"The probe would be less ethically dubious if it got his permission..."

You know, that's something I never considered but now that I think about it, it would have eliminated so many of the problems I have with the episode. If the writers had re-worked the script so that Picard agreed to it instead of having it forced on him, I would find the story much more moving. Instead of having the probe simply lock onto whoever it encounters, it instead comes with an automated greeting - something along the lines of "we offer you a chance to experience our world as it was, come aboard our probe for further instructions if you're interested." Picard then decides that any archaeologist worth his salt would never refuse such an opportunity and so beams over with Crusher (to monitor him during the "procedure") and Worf (for possible protection).

That would solve the problem of the mind-rape. It could also solve the problem I have with the coda. Instead of Picard's playing of the flute being disturbing (or bittersweet as the show-runners intended) it's now something more triumphant and I could buy his deep connection to it since it wouldn't be burdened by the bad subtext. Also, a simple line toward the end about it being possible for others to now experience the same "procedure" would solve the problem of "all your eggs in one basket." There would still be the problem of the over-the-top schmaltz. But, it would be a drastic improvement none-the-less because I do agree that the Kataanians do have something worthwhile to impart - it's just the method of delivery that really kills it for me.

I don't think you're comparison with Q in "Q Who?" and "Tapestry" quite works, however. Q indeed forced some experiences on them in "Q Who?" but he didn't make them live entire lives as Borg drones. And in "Tapestry," he didn't force Picard to live another life with his new altered past. Q was trying to teach a lesson in both instances, just like the Kataanians are trying to do, but his methods don't strike me as quite as morally reprehensible as theirs do.
William B
Sat, Aug 29, 2015, 1:39pm (UTC -5)
I mean, Tapestry maybe, but eighteen people die in Q Who. Maybe a quick death is preferable to a lifetime positive experience, but I very much don't personally think that's true in this case.
Sat, Aug 29, 2015, 2:29pm (UTC -5)
Good point. I'll admit that I forgot about those people who die in "Q Who?". Given the choice between death and a lifetime forced on you, I'd gladly chose the lifetime of experience. Still, Q wasn't directly responsible for those deaths. Indirectly, he was absolutely responsible. But he, himself, didn't pull the trigger, so to speak; the Borg did. All he did was set the stage. To hold him accountable, we'd also have to hold Picard accountable since he also helped set the stage by refusing to follow Guinan's advice of "get out of Dodge as quickly as possible." In fact, to be honest, we don't even know what exactly happened to those people. They could be dead or they could have been assimilated; we just don't know. The episode itself, if I'm remembering correctly, only says they are "missing." And, I don't think that "Q Who?" expects the audience to think that Q is unquestionably the good guy like we're expected to think the Kataanians are. He's not presented as clearly a bad guy but not as clearly the good guy either.
William B
Sat, Aug 29, 2015, 7:40pm (UTC -5)
I'm not so sure that we are expected to think the Kataanian probe-makers are unquestionably good guys. Despite Eline being the voice of the probe's purpose at the end of the simulation, Eline, Meribor, Batai etc. seemingly had no involvement in the probe's construction, and so the parts of Kataan that Picard-as-Kamin comes to love are not necessarily the same part of the civilization that decided on the probe itself. The guy who says that they do have a plan is the commissioner fellow that Kamin has a somewhat chilly, distant relationship with. The Enterprise crew spend their whole time trying to stop what the probe is doing and just disagree on how. Riker gives Picard information at the end, but does not comment on it. Picard is *not* objective, but even he does not state that he approves of the probe. Picard-as-Kamin states that he understands, Eline et al. explain the probe's purpose, and that ends. There is no dialogue where Riker states that he now understands of the probe's purpose and that he approves of it, and is sorry for having tried to stop it. There is no dialogue where Picard explains to Riker the probe's meaning and its importance and why that justifies what it did to him. The crew's suspicion of the probe is never repudiated by their changing their behaviour, and Picard makes no steps to comment on it to the crew on screen. TNG's talkiness is sometimes overstated, but most episodes end with some sort of debrief where the position of the episode's protagonist and perhaps opposing opinions are reiterated. It is not that I think that the episode is presenting arguments *against* the Kataan probe. There are ways the episode argues in favour of it indirectly -- by having Picard-as-Kamin insist on the need for some way to save the civilization, for example, and of course by the fact that Picard *does* feel an attachment to Kataan and Ressik via the flute. But I don't take his emotional reaction purely as *approval* or as some statement on the goodness of the probe manufacturers.

Rather, I think Picard is humbled, dazed and moved by what has happened to him and has not the emotional context to evaluate the actions of a whole civilization which was dying -- nor does he feel the need to. Maybe that would come eventually, and I have no doubt that Picard has had something happen to him that is bigger than his ability to handle -- which means that the Stockholm Syndrome experience of loving his tormentors is a possible interpretation. But this strikes me as a particularly non-didactic episode of this show. This is how a planet responds to its destruction; this is what happens to Picard; this is how he feels. Responses to this obviously vary. The episode may manipulate in terms of getting the audience to *feel* what Picard feels, but that is distinct from a moral approval of the planet's last message into the darkness, which is left almost entirely unexamined, neither approved nor condemned but simply let to be as an imaginative experiment. Whether the lack of debate over the justness of what the Kataan probe does is a serious flaw in this episode or the result of this episode's focus being understandably elsewhere is a point about which people can disagree, though I am pretty firmly in the camp that the episode's focus being elsewhere is very much justified.
William B
Sat, Aug 29, 2015, 7:47pm (UTC -5)
Ah, okay, I just realized one flaw in my first paragraph -- the family (sans Eline and Batai Sr.) were going to "the launching" excitedly and so presumably knew what was being launched. So, okay, that part of my argument is not so solid -- Kamin's family, within the probe's simulated universe, presumably approved of the probe. But the way in which Kamin's family are "good people" is personal, local -- rather than on a larger scale of the Kataan civilization. I think the episode encourages a rosy picture of Kamin's-family-as-community rather than Kataanians-as-probe-makers, is my point.
Mon, Sep 7, 2015, 5:34pm (UTC -5)

Very interesting post. A couple points that I posted about some time ago.

I was however moved by the flute scene at the end. My problems with this episode were with the aliens, not Picard's experience.
Diamond Dave
Sun, Sep 27, 2015, 2:36pm (UTC -5)
The point of the episode is to do nothing more than tell the story of a people dead a thousand years. It's simple, it's to the point, it needs (and gets) no adornment and it lives on the power of its performances. "I always believed that I didn't need children to complete my life. Now, I couldn't imagine life without them" does reflect a tragedy of sorts relevant to Picard's life. And if you're not tearing up when he clutches the flute to his chest at the end, you should be asking if you're dead inside.

"Oh! It's me..." indeed. Wonderful, wonderful episode. 4 stars.
Dave S
Thu, Oct 1, 2015, 12:34pm (UTC -5)
What gets me every time and makes me tear up is after Will leaves Picard's quarters. Jean-Luc takes the flute out of the case, the sole tangible token he has or ever will have that the "life" he lived on Kataan was REAL (i.e. not just some kind of hallucination), and he clutches it to his breast with both hands as if it's the dearest object in the universe. Wow. (And it was so thoughtful of the Kataanians to leave him SOME tangible object from his "life" there. Without it, he might perhaps eventually begin to wonder if it were all just a dream.)
The Great Danton
Thu, Jan 7, 2016, 9:41pm (UTC -5)
This is my favorite episode of the series. It made me think of the space probes Voyager 1 and 2. The acting is great and I like it it's an all Picard episode.

In thousands of years, after humans are long gone (after killing each other or overpopulation), those two probes will be the only proof that we ever existed.

I can imagine an alien civilization trying the decipher the contents of the disc with messages the probes carry with them.
Thu, Feb 4, 2016, 10:10pm (UTC -5)
This is a moving and thoughtful episode in all the ways previous (and frankly better) reviewers above me have stated. Taken at face value, it does deliver a very moving story.

*sigh* However, coming back to it now after...geez has it been over 2 decades?...I find myself, sadly, agreeing with and sympathizing with virtually everything Luke had to say about this. I can't not think about the violation that's occurring here, even though I know it's not the way to approach this deep, soulful episode.

I really find myself disagreeing with the premise that a dead race can just steal someone else's life, hijack it, for their own ends. There had to have been a better way.

Of course it's about the journey Picard takes, the endearing moments, illuminations, and riches of emotion and joy he's given as he lives Kamen's life. I get that. (as an aside, I suppose if a slavering drooling 3 armed, 2 headed spacefaring lizard-species found the probe the appearence of the Kataan-um-ites? would have changed to match? Or is this coincidentally yet another genetically perfect match for humanity lost amongst the stars. I'm sure his daughter would have been equally as fetching with two heads and scaly skin to the right Kamen).

Anyway, I kept putting myself in Picard's shoes. As soon as he saw the necklace around his 'wife's neck, I would have lost my *bleep*. It would be full on Kirk-mode. "The game's over, you hear me! (shouted out loud to presumed invisible overseers). I'm not playing whatever it is you want me to play." A fistfight with the village elders would surely have ensued.

Being forced to live a life you know is not yours...I just can't reconcile that in my head. Especially when you know it's an alien species, a wife who's not your wife, a cultural history that's entirely not your own. There has to be a better way. If Picard had lost his mind and gone on a killing spree would the 'simulation' have ended? It seems to rely entirely on his going along with the charade in order to 'work'.

But all that's just my knee-jerk reaction now, after years have passed and maybe some kind of jaded cynicism has set in. It's unquestionably a thoughtful, touching, well conceived and well executed episode for what it's trying to say. You just have to ignore the profound injustice of it all.

I try to tell myself that he 'lived' his life literally in the same way we, as the viewers, saw it. In bite sized pieces and giant leaps forwards in time. With 'memories' of his life and children growing up sort of taken for granted. Basically the way Inception describes dreams: You always start in the middle of the action or sequence, you never really know or care how you got there. Picard just skipped ahead and his subconscious just went with the flow. Now my hair is different, ok. Now I have kids, fine. Now I have grandkids, seems reasonable. The probe and his subconcious act to 'fill in the blanks' with false memories and emotions to provide continuity.

That's what I tell myself to try and make it all feel less...horrific. But I know deep down that's not what happened, so my misplaced anger over what's happening wins out. He really did have to life 30 some odd years as a different person, then 'wake up' and try to put his long forgotten life back together...Now an old soul in a younger man's body. The Picard both he and WE knew was taken from us and in the span of 30 minutes replaced by someone else. He was forced to 'grow up' in a way I didn't really want him to. But that's on me I guess...not the writers of the story, or the Kataanoids.

3.5 / 4 stars taking the episode at face value, which I'm prepared to do (I'm not huge on the numerous cheery family/musical sequences either I guess, though less put off then Luke in that regard).. But I can never watch it again and feel emotionally drawn to it the way it want's me to be...or the way I was when I first saw it as a younger man. My brain recognizes the depth of meaning, emotion and heart present as he picks up the flute and starts playing at the end. But my heart can't go along for the ride any more. That's entirely my loss I guess. More is the pity.

(Would like to have seen how the 'killing spree' version of Kamen played out though)
Sun, Jun 5, 2016, 4:19am (UTC -5)

"The question is: what good does it do the extinct race to be remembered at all?"

Humans will become an extinct race. Nothing lasts forever. Not even us.

Why wouldn't you want to be remembered ?
Suicide Q
Sun, Jun 26, 2016, 1:56am (UTC -5)
I saw it a few times when younger and yes I cried. Now I find it very BORING.
Thu, Sep 8, 2016, 4:17pm (UTC -5)
Just as memory of our sleep dreams do not radically affect us, Picard could move on without any major trauma..... EXCELLENT episode !!!
Wed, Oct 12, 2016, 9:55am (UTC -5)
To get it out of the way: yes, an absolutely great episode.

So lets talk about this planet's technology. For the story to work, you need i) the ability to create dream-like or VR-like simulations in someone's head, indistinguishable from reality, compressing a span years into real-life minutes, and ii) an inability to colonize other planets or communicate with alien peoples. Can I believe a civilization exists with this odd-seeming combination of technological advancement? Sure, why not? But do I believe the world that we see has the ability to create (i)? No, not at all.

I think the writers could have been more thoughtful and creative in their world-building. If this tech is the crown jewel of the civilization, where's the evidence of everything it builds upon? Computers? Medicine? Art? Communication? What are the social implications? Wouldn't some people rather live in a simulation than real life? Especially when real life is so depressing? And especially when you can live a thousand lifetimes before your own life prematurely ends? Would this be a useful education tool, perhaps a way to quickly develop the expertise needed to get off of or preserve the planet, a singularity in their technological development? (And I have to ask: what happens if Picard tries out the simulation tech while living in a simulation, a la Inception? How many layers deep can his brain handle?)

Of course none of this is the point. But even in the background, it would have been nice to acknowledge some of these implications.
Sun, Nov 13, 2016, 10:19am (UTC -5)
I thought it was a nice touch that as he approached the turbolift near the end, Picard raised his right hand to operate the Kataan door mechanism, as he had been doing for the past thirty years.
Wed, Jan 25, 2017, 1:26pm (UTC -5)
What an effective and thoughtful gift the flute was. It served as a tangible reminder of the experience and a consolation to the unavoidable loneliness that it was sure to cause to Kamin.
Andy in VA
Wed, Mar 15, 2017, 7:12pm (UTC -5)
This is a beautifully told tale.

For me, the most wrenching scene was Eline's death.

Here is Kamin, formerly Picard, losing the one person who has been by his side for the entirety of his journey from starship captain to iron weaver. He surrendered to her. He made a life with her. Nobody knew him as well, or understood his journey, as well as she did (even more then he knew). And then she's gone, her last words being the achingly domestic injunction, "put your shoes away."

That repetitive facet, his bad habit -- so un-Jean Luc Picard-ian -- her sweetly irritated reminders, is one of those little details that give this episode its depth and in that depth its power.

This was a great story. This is still a great story.

Doubters and debaters, willingly suspend your disbelief. Don't get caught up in the technobabble of "could that really happen?" Pull on too many of those strings and you'll unravel the whole tapestry that is Star Trek.

This is an extraordinary tale about human lives. Embrace it.
Fri, Apr 7, 2017, 1:49am (UTC -5)
I'll say what so many here have almost-but-not-actually come out and said:

The Inner Light is the single greatest Star Trek episode of all time.

Not ballsy enough for you? Try this on for size: The Inner Light is better than City On The Edge Of Forever.

I LOVE LOVE LOVE L O V E City On The Edge Of Forever. It is a freaking masterpiece. But have you ever met or heard of someone who says "I wept like a baby when I watched City On The Edge Of Forever"?

City On The Edge Of Forever ends as a largely negative experience for the main characters ("Let's get the hell out of here") while The Inner Light leaves us with a sense of joy ("Now we live in you") albeit a bittersweet sense.

The Inner Light is an unbridled celebration of Star Trek that simultaneously transcends Star Trek.

(P.S. Thanks Jammer - I've enjoyed your reviews of these episodes immensely, Just found your site a few days ago)
Mon, Apr 10, 2017, 4:37am (UTC -5)
The "probe" as the choice of plot explanation invited all kinds of overthinking. Maybe the planet should have been rich in crystals that gave off unusual tachyon emissions or something wishywashy enough to be obvious nonsense. But somehow that wouldn't be right. The fact that it makes no sense is disorienting to us as it is to Picard, and it works for the story. The "anomaly of the week" would have telegraphed the ending a little too clearly and the show would seem more ridden with cliches than it actually is. The probe was an act of faith and desperation, it's simplicity works as such. I like not knowing how it was done, it misses the point to ask anyway. Good "message in a bottle" show that works on a Twlight Zone level.
Jason R.
Mon, Apr 10, 2017, 5:53am (UTC -5)
One thing I was thinking about in retrospect was whether or not the probe builders gave Picard an idealized picture of their civilization, manipulated him with a rosy family life - basically a fantasy. You think about stories like The Matrix and The Truman Show or even Generations with the Nexus, about simulated realities and people struggling to find truth even in circumstances where the fantasy may be pleasant and truth may be painful.

So was Picard bamboozled by a fantasy? Wouldn't a man like him have struggled to escape rather than live a life he must have known (deep down) was fraudulent? Did Picard swallow the blue pill?

I don't have the answer, but my sense is that the probe could only have worked the way it did on a man like Picard - without significant family, (seeing Robert once every 20 yrs doesn't count!) without children, really bereft of deep human connection in his life. The probe gave Picard something he never knew he needed or wanted, but that he was starving for.
Fri, May 5, 2017, 1:45pm (UTC -5)

I don't think it was an idealized picture. In fact, one of the things I was really impressed by in the characterization is how the "Administrator" is sort of a typical politician, making nice talk about how it's good to get input from citizens--but Picard sees through it. But this politician doesn't have some secret sinister agenda, and he's not really evil. He's just something in between, a realistic character you rarely see on TV and especially not on a Trek show.

Aside from the subtle writing and strong acting that make this such a great episode (which I can't believe I never saw until just today), there's another factor (or group of factors) making this above and beyond the usual level of quality. That's the costume and especially set design. We've seen plenty of alien planets before, and they are often pretty much the same. When they are different, it's not generally in a convincing, "lived in" way. But so much thought was put into all the little details of this world, from the way the door opening button looked to the architecture.

I especially liked the little set of steps next to the doorway, that Kamin (and at another point his friend) sat on. I've not seen those before, although maybe they are inspired by something in the Mediterranean? A perfect touch, in any case. Without those little details, without that "lived-in" feeling of the sets and costumes, the strong writing and acting would not carry the same impact.
Sat, May 6, 2017, 1:04am (UTC -5)
Sorry for the consecutive posts, but the above was written after just reading the review and the first few and last few comments. Now I've read all the comments on this review, and have some responses to share:

@Nick P: "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"

Good point, I think you may be right. Although it did add a sci-fi element that wouldn't be there otherwise. Hard to say.

@laurence k: "In subsequent TNG episodes, we should have at least seen evidence of Kataanian door decorations appear in Picard's quarters, for example."

Great point.

"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 raises multiple questions. Were the other characters (NPCs, if you will) sentient, like the Doctor in Voyager? And if so, did they "know" they were playing parts in a simulation, or did they think they were really living on Kataan a thousand years ago? Obviously we saw them give a reveal at the very end, but I thought that might have only been activated at that point.

I also liked your points about gender.

@Jammer: "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 absolutely agree (in fact, this is one of my preoccupations: I've thought of having a law firm periodically send letters or videos to my descendants, every few decades). But I'm an atheist, so I can't necessarily contradict the point made there. I can kinda see how if you thought you'd all be in Heaven or whatever, this urge would be a lot weaker.

@CeeBee: "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."

As someone noted upthread, it's more like fifty years, or more. Anyway, as long as that extra life was happy, I'd be grateful for having so many years added to my life.

@Joe: "I think that Kataanian probe was _deliberately_ created as an idealized representation of their life... a 'Photoshopped' representation, if you will."

I don't quite see it, because of the way the Administrator was shown to be, not a villain, but kind of an insincere politician type.

@Lewikee: "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."

Oh wow, that is profound. I hadn't thought of it that way, but you are really onto something there! Very philosophical, and very cool.

@milk73: "I try to tell myself that he 'lived' his life literally in the same way we, as the viewers, saw it. In bite sized pieces and giant leaps forwards in time. With 'memories' of his life and children growing up sort of taken for granted. Basically the way Inception describes dreams: You always start in the middle of the action or sequence, you never really know or care how you got there. Picard just skipped ahead and his subconscious just went with the flow. Now my hair is different, ok. Now I have kids, fine. Now I have grandkids, seems reasonable. The probe and his subconcious act to 'fill in the blanks' with false memories and emotions to provide continuity."

That's a very intriguing possibility. It would also make it much more reasonable to imagine fitting that much into under a half hour of real time.
Sat, May 6, 2017, 11:39pm (UTC -5)
Hello Everyone!


Wow. What a very thought-out response. I hope to see more of your thoughts in the future....

Heh, my thought was how could he start to do the day-to-day he'd done before, after being in another 'world' for perhaps 30 to 50 years.

If I came back after living another life for 30+ or so years in my mind, and went back to what I'd been doing before, would I still remember everything? I think back 30 years, and I remember Mike, who worked for the Post Office and couldn't stop smoking two packs of Camels a day, perhaps a few co-workers, some of the police officers, the quarterback who liked Copenhagen, the clerk I really liked but couldn't tell her because I was the Manager, how to make coffee. But ask me to run that register again in a heartbeat? Nope. Remember everyone who worked under me? Nope, no clue. How to run the phone? heheh. Faces would be familiar, and I would have things come back to me... but be a Starship Captain in a few minutes? Nope. Not possible.

I'd be very nearly clueless trying to get back to that day when I was a manager of a convenience store near that big university, who knew everything about it then, but would be clueless now because I'd not done it for so long. Heh, and I think it is a Nail Salon now...

Just some random thoughts...

Take care Everyone... RT
Sun, May 7, 2017, 3:17am (UTC -5)

Thanks! I have made several comments on Voyager reviews over the past few years, but I've only just started to branch out to TNG due to it being the focus of the "TV Book Club" on the Appointment TV podcast:

(You'll also find comments from me on most of the episodes above this one on that list, and soon on the ones below it.)

I also only just learned this weekend how to use an RSS browser extension so I can know when someone comments below one of mine, which will help me engage more in a conversation rather than just throwing my thoughts out into the void for those who arrive later to see. :)

I think you make a great point about whether Picard was prepared to resume command. In reality, shouldn't Riker and Dr. Crusher have questioned this, and maybe held some kind of hearing with Starfleet? If they weren't so dedicated to the reset button, it could have been cool to see them take another episode on this, perhaps concluding with a montage of Picard going back to Starfleet Academy for a crash refresher course.

I had a similar thought about Captain Bateson in "Cause and Effect", although not at the time I watched it--it was after I read some Wiki stuff about what happened to that crew later in the continuity. Bateson was apparently given immediate(?) command of a 24th century starship, even though he had just come from the 23rd century, 90 years earlier. Wouldn't that be like a Navy captain from 1927 being given command of a ship today? What would he make of all the satellite navigation, etc. Even more than Picard, that strikes me as requiring a trip back to Starfleet to say the least.

But I should probably take that question over to that episode's comment thread...
Mon, Jun 12, 2017, 9:58pm (UTC -5)
I agree with the post above that this episode is "slightly overrated".

This is still a good episode, worth at least 3.0 stars or maybe 3.5 stars. My main problem with this story is the implausibility. Granted, a certain amount of artistic license has to be allowed. However, I agree with the previous comments that it is doubtful an alien race with 1950s space level technology would have such advanced computer technology. (I suppose this is possible, but very unlikely.) It is true that different fields of technology may advance at different rates, but usually technology in various fields will be at the same approximate level.

In Jammer's review of "Conundrum", he rightly points out that is doubtful that an alien race as advanced as "Commander MacDuff's" would be so far behind in weapons technology. Yet here, he makes no comment regarding the incongruity of this alien race having extremely advanced computer technology, while having only 1950s space technology.
Wed, Jul 12, 2017, 12:55pm (UTC -5)
Conundrum was insanely over the top though. Macduff was able to seize control of the Enterprise and its computer, alter its data, give everybody (INCLUDING Data!) amnesia, yet the enemy he's attempting to destroy is over 100 years behind the Enterprise in weapons technology?

Ridiculous, but still a fun episode.

In The Inner Light, yes, their technology seems primitive, but there is no reason to believe all humanoid species would progress technologically at the same rate... Perhaps the Kataanians understood minds/memories/spirits way better than humans and thus mind VR was early tech for them.

Also, they may be more advanced than they appear, similar to how the Ba'ku were far more technologically advanced than they appeared to be.
William Hatcher
Wed, Jul 12, 2017, 12:58pm (UTC -5)
About technological progress, seems likely they Betazoids would have progressed quite differently than Earth, for example.
Mon, Jul 17, 2017, 2:47pm (UTC -5)
I know I'm being a stickler, but what makes TNG's "reset button" even more of a problem here is that if we go by the stardates, Time's Arrow, Part I takes place merely ONE WEEK after The Inner Light. The typical passage of time between episodes was 3-4 weeks, which would make it a little easier to buy that Picard had settled back into his real life by the next episode. The writers thankfully began to correct this issue in Deep Space Nine.

We all love Picard, but the episodic nature of TNG made it harder to relate to him or any of the other characters. However, I'm glad they did finally revisit this in Lessons, which had the added bonus of arguably being the best depiction of a romance in Star Trek history, and I think Picard's life as Kamin made easier for him to pursue a relationship with another crew member. :-)
Sat, Aug 5, 2017, 5:46am (UTC -5)
Fully prepared to be mocked and/or hated but I have just never, ever "got" this episode; it just bores me. Am I the only one?
Sat, Aug 5, 2017, 8:51pm (UTC -5)
Well, I love it - but I have always been surprised, actually, that it is so widely adored. It is a sentimental love story rather than the usual sci-fi adventure that I assume most ST fans tune in for.

I think it's loved mostly because Picard is loved by fans. PS made him a strong and believable - and lonely - character. It's a well-crafted episode and the emotional notes are really beautifully sold by the actors - but really, it's my longstanding affection for Picard that makes me tear up over first his love, and then his loss, of home and family.

I think that the same episode transposed into one of the other ST series, featuring Sisko or Janeway for example, would not have been such a hit with fans.

No mockery here.
Mon, Sep 4, 2017, 6:57pm (UTC -5)
In the coda, Eline tells Picard that they've "been dead a thousand years". How did they know how much time passed between when the civilization ended and when the Enterprise found their probe? And what's a year? It woudl have to be a Kataanian year, because they'd have no idea how long a terrestrial year is.
Tue, Oct 3, 2017, 6:23pm (UTC -5)
Yes, "The Inner Light" is a TNG masterpiece -- have seen it being mentioned as such and I'm in full agreement. It's such a clever, compelling episode that wraps up so well. I've often seen this episode ranked among TNG's best and it would be in my top 5 for sure.

Initially Picard/Kamin is being abrupt about where he is etc. but then in the next act, it's 5 years later and with a more mellow attitude, you start to wonder what he's learning about his situation. Maybe that's the point of the episode, you think.

But there's so much here. The talk about living in the now, but also realizing maybe he's the only person who could save the civilization. But then you realize, it's not about actually saving the civilization and that it's about keeping alive the memories of the civilization.

But Picard also has the memories of living a full life that he could not lead since he didn't get married, have kids, have grand-kids etc. There were plenty of scenes of Picard just doing normal things, but given what he's normally doing on the Enterprise, it's just enjoyable to see. I guess I'm saying I could watch Picard do just about anything and I wouldn't be bored.

The ending scene when Riker gives Picard the flute that was in the probe is fantastic. Just Picard playing the flute after 30 years of memories playing it -- just a wonderful ending.

If I have one gripe, it would be a very minor one in that the people of Kataan really don't seem to have the capability to build such a probe with that kind of a program. But this episode is like DS9's "The Visitor" -- don't worry about how, just watch the story and be moved. The probe found the right man for the job.

A strong 4 stars for "The Inner Light" -- it did not disappoint after all the hype I had read about the episode. Picard's acting is spot on -- he goes through a number of emotions here. Kamin's wife struck the right tone and was well acted -- and they even got Stewart's real son in here. This is a terrific example of sci-fi used to tell a story everybody can enjoy about life in general.
Sat, Oct 14, 2017, 3:24am (UTC -5)
I usually nitpick Star Trek. How did they do that? Why did that happen? That makes no sense! Mindrape! etc.

Certainly I could do that with this episode as well, as many others above me have already done. But for this episode...I don't care.

It grabbed hold of me from the moment Picard collapsed on the bridge until the final credits. I think it's the best Star Trek episode of all the series. That is the mark of a good episode, that despite it's flaws (which they all have, including this one), it forces you to disregard them, because it's such a compelling story. That's what makes Star Trek so magical sometimes. You forget that it's a science fiction show.

There is no better episode for doing all of that than this one.

4 stars.
Mon, Oct 16, 2017, 10:50pm (UTC -5)
My favourite episode. Cry every time.
Tue, Nov 14, 2017, 3:17pm (UTC -5)
My favorite bit that hasn't been mentioned -
"We're umm ... we're umm ... ... we're married." [Immediately buries his face in the soup.]

"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."

Well ... Avery Brooks watched Jake Sisko outage him and become an old man.
Tue, Nov 14, 2017, 3:27pm (UTC -5)
Another small but bang-on part is the "administrator" deafly listening to Batai's explanation of their tree and then hollowly saying, "Perhaps I shall recommend a symbolic tree in all my communities." Man, if he didn't sound like any politician you've ever endured!
Thu, Nov 16, 2017, 4:45am (UTC -5)
@Buck: Yes, I love that character. So uniquely realistic!

I may have a solution to the issue of the disparity in technology. What if Kataan actually spent something like a thousand years or more slowly dying, all the while advancing technology with a focus on preserving a memory of their civilization? But they designed the effect to sort of elide that and show the change from the full flower of their civilization to the dark days at the end within one lifetime. Otherwise, they might have had to choose either showing Picard a lifetime from before things got very bad, or one in which it was bad all the way through.
Mon, Dec 25, 2017, 10:42pm (UTC -5)
Hello Everyone!

Oh, just a sudden thought: They had this program that was designed to put a *hopefully* humanoid alien sentient being into this setting so they could see what life was like there. They must not have run the scenario past any politicians, because I could not see them allowing a true depiction of said politician. :)

He'd be bringing flowers and candy to everyone he saw...

Have a Great Day and I hope all had some sort of Merry Christmas and eventual Happy New Year!

Mon, Dec 25, 2017, 11:55pm (UTC -5)
Hello Everyone (again)!


Heh, I didn't look at your post when I'd made my last comment, and should have, but maybe it's for the best today, not mixing things...

I agree that would be a plausible explanation. It seems to take a while for things to change on a planet, even this one. If we did this, we might sanitize it a bit (remove some wars and whatnot), and compress the time.

I like that thought, and will keep it in mind the next time I view it. :)

Take care Everyone... RT
Sat, Jan 6, 2018, 1:12am (UTC -5)
@RandomThoughts: Thanks! I was pleased with that little theory of mine, so I'm glad to hear someone else got something out of it. :)
Dan Bolger
Mon, Mar 12, 2018, 6:10pm (UTC -5)
An absolutely magnificent episode. Possibly the very best of any of the seven seasons worth. The flute scene at the end where Picard is in his quarters after his alternate life, both abstract and real, was so well acted and brilliantly written. A real highlight of star trek.
Dr Lazarus
Sat, Apr 7, 2018, 5:50pm (UTC -5)
For those who wondered how this civilization was able to construct an advanced probe and launch it, just recall what the Administrator said to Kamin near the end. They had already knew the drought was real and was going to doom the planet.

The village that Kamin lived was just a small rural community. The smart scientist types and the high technology was in the big city. That's where Eline his wife, told Kamin he would have to go if he wanted to send a message. That's where the rocket and probe was designed, built, and launched. Had Kamin gone there, he would had felt more normal among other egg heads, and would had stayed to figure things out. In fact I'm sure he did when he traveled there to try to contact the Enterprise. Not sure why he stayed and lived his life in that sleepy town.

I still wipe a tear even after watching this episode upteen times, but one thing bothers me. You see playing music was the most important thing to Kamin and his son, but neither really knew how to play that flute. While Kamin played it with such soul and feeling, he wasn't much better then I was in the 5th grade playing Mary had a Little Lamb on the black plastic flutes we were given in school. I would have liked to have heard some trills and triplets. Some real playing.

I played trumpet in the grade school band, and this girl played the silver flute. She played much better than Kamin when she was in Junior High. I thought she was pretty good until I went to high school. There was this guy who played flute in the jazz band, and that guy could blow! He could play the funky solo's of all the hits songs back in the late 70's. After 30-40 years of playing, Kamin should had seriously been plowing that flute. That would had made it more realistic for me, rather than the simple folk tunes he played. Picard never seemed to get much better either. I guess there was no music instructors, books on tape, or Youtube on the Enterprise.

Still one of the best TNG episodes I've seen.
Cody B
Sun, May 27, 2018, 1:18am (UTC -5)
Why can’t they all be like this? Can’t say I loved the explanation at the end (was he literally Picard, or an ancestor of Picard?) but other than that this was just top notch. Season five really delivered at the end with I Borg, The Next Phase and The Inner Light. After a mostly underwhelming season they go out with a bang
Tue, Jul 3, 2018, 5:48pm (UTC -5)
Wow. I'm rewatching after not seeing TNG since it first aired. This ep was memorable enough that I remembered it - the basics anyhow.

I was surprised to read all the controversy.

My thoughts:

Great ep. Beautifully done in all particulars. Stewart is absolutely at his best. Amazing.

I don't think the choice of Picard was random. I had the impression the probe was able to be picky. It may have passed on other opportunities, who knows, but I don't think it zeroed in on Picard because he happened to be standing in that spot.

I also suspect there was some sort of failsafe, should the choice prove untenable. If the person was suffering, unable to adapt our enjoy, he could be released.

I also assume the experience was tailored to some extent, to the wishes - conscious and subconscious -- of the chosen one.

So I don't see this as a horrible mind rape, but rather as an abduction in the hope of giving someone the great gift of sharing their world. It worked because Picard wanted it. I don't think it would have worked otherwise.

That Picard greatly loved and enjoyed his life on Kataan is made clear. This is no coincidence. This isn't luck. This is part of the plan.

Yes, there are the usual sci-fi issues that require some suspension of disbelief, but nothing unusual there.

Anyhow, I've no moral problem with this. The feel of it, the clues in the dialog, all tell me that in many ways Picard shaped his own experience, and he remained there because he wanted to stay.

Stewart's acting during the reveal is absolute perfection.

That's enough for now.

And William B, you don't happen to be the same William B that I used to discuss Buffy eps with, are you?
William B
Tue, Jul 3, 2018, 7:50pm (UTC -5)
@Springy, I've been exposed. It is me :)
Wed, Jul 4, 2018, 12:41am (UTC -5)
@William B, ah! How about that! Hello! :)
Fri, Sep 7, 2018, 2:36am (UTC -5)
Couldn't they at least have put a pillow under Picard's head while he laid there on the floor of the bridge?
Sun, Sep 16, 2018, 2:44am (UTC -5)
3 stars

I like this episode. I enjoy this episode. It’s another solid season 5 episode but I don’t see it as the classic or masterpiece a lot of folks do. To get 3.5 or 4 stars I think an episode really needs to not waste a single scene and be top notch from teaser to closing scene

The stuff on the ship felt like filler and reminded me a lot of similar shipboard scenes from Darmok. Those felt like 2.5 star stuff

The Katan scenes were much better and what I want in my TNG episodes. I found all the guest characters very likable and by the end of the episode I was attached to them so much so it really was poignant when his wife dies and when we realize all these folks have been dead for centuries

I also enjoyed the music featured. The set design for the village and the flavor the cinematography gave to the katan scenes. Definite bonus.

The scene in the final act that reveals everything to Picard was very well done. Not only was it poignant but the presentation had a odd surreal vibe and weight to it. The reference to a missile launch, thevway everyone has a certain resignation heading off to the ceremony, picard’s continuous unawareness of such a momentous event, the whole village there, the noticeable increased brightness of the daylight All lent a poignancy to what was coming. You just knew something profound and life shattering was going to be revealed. The appearance of his long dead friend Batai then his wife restored to her youthful appearance as the fog of confusion slowly gave way to clarity and understanding made for a powerful
Scene. A true highlight! Then the shot of apocard looking upward at the sight of the probe he will encounter was a memorable and at same time surreal scene. Very well done

The other strong scene was the final one of Picard in his quarters. Riker brings a mysterious item
That was contained in the probe. And it turns out to be the flute. Perfection. And the way Picard grips it tight to his chest was a powerful moment.

Those two key scenes really help deliver the loss and sadness to this dying-dead- civilization and planet and more intimately the people Picard-and the audience- came to know and care about within the hour

The guest stars were all great in their roles!

A very solid hour

One of the effects of TNG’s standalone nature is the sense of going on these adventures and meeting all these different races and people and you may never seeing them again but them becoming memorable parts of the adventure you’re on.
Lee McLean
Wed, Sep 19, 2018, 7:41am (UTC -5)
For me, this is the most overrated episode of Trek ever. There is almost no sc-fi in it. the narrative is hardly compelling (if this was a TV series itself, it wouldn't survive a single episode), but most of all, the premise is totally absurd. These aliens are able to figure out how to create this mind probe, but they aren't able to figure out how to save themselves? Come on! It just doesn't make any sense at all: it would have been far easier for them to build ships to take them to another planet than to invent the technology required for the mind probe. A boring episode, and a dumb episode too.
Wed, Sep 19, 2018, 7:55am (UTC -5)
@Lee McLean

“Come on! It just doesn't make any sense at all: it would have been far easier for them to build ships to take them to another planet than to invent the technology required for the mind probe.”

Are you implying that if you have advanced neurological technology you should automatically have advanced astronautical technology? These sciences are hardly related, and it’s an alien culture anyway so there’s no reason to think their scientific advances will evolve in the same pattern as ours. And that’s still assuming we ourselves will be capable of leaving Earth and colonizing other planets.
Wed, Sep 19, 2018, 7:04pm (UTC -5)
I adore the episode but it's a fair criticism. The culture as depicted in the episode doesn't have the level of technology needed to create something which is essentially magic (and impractical to boot). For me, a huge amount of the episode's strength is its ending. We all want our lives to have had meaning, we all want to see our loved ones again when we die and discover that our life had some kind of purpose, was part of some grand plan. That's what this episode taps into spiritually and the source of its power.

I think this is 4 stars, but for me The Visitor is better (more sophisticated script, better guest cast, and more solid throughout - the depiction of Kamin's life on the planet is quite hokey and schmaltzy, and the limitations of the set never gives us the feel that this is a real society. Thine Own Self is a lesser episode but I think it did a better job in terms of the set design and communicating an authentic village community feel.)
Wed, Sep 19, 2018, 7:24pm (UTC -5)
Yeah, sorry, I don’t think it’s fair at all. In our time, for example, we have pocket computers that would baffle and astonish the characters on TNG with their clunky PADDs because our society currently values greatly computer progress and its applications. Yet our governments have all but given up on space programs which leaves a huge gap between our space exploration and what Roddenberry had in mind. That’s just one example of how technology can progress one way and not the other. It’s not difficult to imagine Kataan, like us, valued other things above space travel.
Ari Paul
Sat, Sep 22, 2018, 12:41am (UTC -5)
@ Chrome

Well said, and astute.
Rafael, the Esper
Thu, Nov 22, 2018, 1:25pm (UTC -5)
An interesting consequence of the kataans having this kind of technology is being able to offer to anyone a life experience in just 25 minutes. So before the civilization collapsed, they could have lived for centuries!
Fri, Dec 7, 2018, 5:03am (UTC -5)
It's hard for me to truly separate some very specific gripes I have with this episode from the rather poignant emotional story of it all. For one, I agree that it is a bit immersion breaking that they have the technology for a mind probe but not at least the most primitive form of a spaceship. Secondly, that they would consider a mind probe to be the most effective way of proving the existence of their civilization. It's a terrible thing, almost torture, to have someone live an entirely different life and strip that away from them. They couldn't just have some sort of artifact that contained information about the planet's history and people?

I find Junji Ito's exploration of the concept far more believable even if it might be less engaging. Especially since Ito explores the concept of year long 'dreams' as horror and not honored remembrance.
Thu, Jan 3, 2019, 3:48pm (UTC -5)
The incongruity of the differing levels of technology are forgivable because the story is so powerful and emotive.
This is surely one of the ,if not the best TNG episodes.
I think it must be one that everyone tends to remember just like The Other Side of the Sky fills that slot certainly for me in DS9 and City on the Edge of Forever in TOS

Bravo TNG.
dan macstar
Sun, Feb 3, 2019, 7:12am (UTC -5)
The only thing that gets me about this superb episode, is how did it affect Picard afterwards? When he woke up "back" on the enterprise after all those years, did he have the whole lifetime of memories from his mental time there...or did he just live through/remember the snippets that WE saw? Surely he would have been tremendous traumatised, confused and scarred from a full life in "that time".......his time there shouldve been mentioned in further episodes.

As said though what a terrific piece of TV, no alien rubber masks, no wars, just good tv. Margot Rose's speech at the end.. "now we live in you, tell them of us, my darling" is highly emotional and moving. One last thing....this couldve been a 2 parter or a feature film, im sure.
Sat, Apr 13, 2019, 9:43am (UTC -5)
@Dan: The more I mull it, the more I think it probably was just snippets. I don’t think Picard actually experienced every mundane moment of every hour of 20,000 or so days on Katan.
Fri, Apr 26, 2019, 5:15pm (UTC -5)

Here`s to all lost civilizations. That song always haunts me. I overuse the word iconic when I probably mean something else. This is an episode that is one of the best of Star Trek and of any TV. What a beautiful story!

I am not going to nitpick on the technology, I haven`t read the reviews above yet and wonder if there are some on the technology of the probe. But I have an observation on one small matter: they made Picard`s skin resemble Dr Noonien Soong`s skin as Picard aged. He looked about 85 when his daughter was about 25, pre kids of her own. Then later once she had kids, he was down on the floor playing with them despite being somewhat tentative five minutes later walking out to watch the probe. I guess it is possible he didn't suffer sore or stiff joints and could get down on the floor and later walked slowly due to other reasons (also hunched over a bit). It is a bit of geriatric mismatch in my humble opinion and only a small obsrvation to show how wonderful the episode really was.
Lizzy DataLover
Wed, May 22, 2019, 2:54pm (UTC -5)
I'm just gonna come out and say it, I never loved this episode as much as everyone else seems to. Don't get me wrong, I understand the appeal and it is a good episode, I was just never a huge Picard fan. But mostly the problem for me was that there's this plot hole type thing which has always bothered me. Allow me to explain:

When Captain Picard wakes up from his journey, everyone tells him what happened and he explains what he experienced and all is well correct? But my problem is... how in the world does he still remember these people?? I know they're his friends and they've served together for a while now, but remember, he spent 30 years on that planet. I know it hasn't actually been that long, but for him it has. He's just woken up from a literal lifetime of experiences and he's like "oh hey everybody, it's nice to see you all again. Welp, I'm off to play my new flute." When he really should have been like "oh, where am I? *gasp* Beverly? Beverly Crusher is it really you? You're just as beautiful as all those years ago. *gasp* NUMBER ONE! it's been so long! Such a good officer.. *gasp* DATA! my old friend! You're even more human than I remember." *looks around for a good ten minutes absorbing everything* "I'm finally home.." Seriously this was just odd to me. I mean come on dude it's been 30 YEARS and he acts like he just woke up from a freaking nap! *which he did, but again, he doesn't know that.* It would be like trying to remember all your old high school friends from back in the day. He'd have the whole nostalgia feelin' going on. I don't know. This has just always bothered me. You'd think Starfleet would at least have him go thru some tests or something to make sure he still remembers what everything is and what it does. But this is just my honest opinion.

All in all a good episode and I don't mean to stomp on it, I just hate plot holes as much as every other true fan. Please forgive. :)

Also I read Luke's comments from years ago and I have to sort of agree with some of the things he said. It really would have better if they had just asked Picard if he wanted to experience that life. But whatever. And I didn't read all the other comments *coz there are a lot* but if someone has already addressed the issue I brought up earlier then I'll be sure to ponder their thoughts. Thank you for not hating me. ^-^
Peter G.
Wed, May 22, 2019, 3:07pm (UTC -5)
@ Lizzy DataLover,

Your objection about the 30 year gap has occurred to me before, and the way I've decided to understand the story is that Picard was zapped with 30 years of memories all at once, and the way the episode play we're shown the memories chronologically as if Picard himself is remembering them as quickly as he can. If you think of it like The Matrix the episode makes a lot more sense, and Picard's time lying on the deck is the upload time of the data. If 30 years really have passed from his perspective, in actual flow of time, then it would certainly be strange that he even remembers his command codes or how to operate all the ship's systems. But if it felt like he lived a whole lifetime in just an instant he'd presumably be overwhelmed by all the new memories, but his actual post and duties would also still be fresh to him.

At least, this is the head canon I choose to go with because otherwise we get into Uhura-syndrom from The Changeling where he would need massive retraining and refreshers that are certainly never alluded to. It's a high concept episode so I'll take the literal premise with a grain of salt, knowing it's just a chance for us to see Picard get the life he knew he was never going to have.
Lizzy DataLover
Wed, May 22, 2019, 3:29pm (UTC -5)
@Peter G.

Thank you for your thoughts I believe they have given me a better perspective on the matter. I just always thought it was like he had literally just experienced a thirty year gap from his regular life and would have a hard time readjusting to the Enterprise. And then I thought about all the future episodes where someone mentions a past event from a previous season and laughed to myself, thinking (as Picard) "oh, you mean the Farpoint mission? Oh sure! It's been three decades, but I definitely have a very clear memory of that day." But your explanation makes more sense.
Thu, Jun 20, 2019, 6:32am (UTC -5)
Oh, my giddy aunt - the Skye Boat song!

I was actually looking up the origin of that expression (giddy aunt), and the first page I landed on had a photo of Patrick Troughton as the Second Dr Who, playing his recorder. Troughton was still the Doctor when I first saw Dr Who, so I should have remembered this...

So the flute has tassles hanging off it, just like Picard's flute...

I can't be the first person who's noticed this - but amazingly I didn't find any webpages making a connection between ST, Picard, Dr Who, Troughton, flutes and/or recorders.

So I was going to suggest you search for images of 'troughton' and 'recorder' - but nevermind, because THIS came up straight away

and nobody even made the connection even on that page!

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