For the majority of Star Trek the Next Generation fans, “The Inner Light” is one of the all-time greats. I have, as I have looked around the Net, found some detractors, but even they admit they know they are in the minority on this episode. In many ways, this is the sort of story Star Trek has always told so well.
Jimmy and I just finished it. What do we think?
“The Inner Light”
Picard lives an entire other life on another world.
jimmy: So that probe has been out in space 1,000 years and this is the first people it’s encountered?
tomk: You don’t wanna know what happened when it met Klingon or Ferengi ships.
jimmy: That was my next question…did it encounter other ships and just waited until it found the right person in Picard? How would it even know who was the right person?
tomk: Part of Trek is they are exploring the unknown. Space is a big place. Lots of it is empty. The star exploded a millennium ago. It probably is possible the Enterprise was the first to find it, especially if it was in Federation space.
jimmy: I suppose…but 1,000 years?
I know it’s only a fraction of the time that Watson has been pure evil, but it’s still a long time.
tomk: Space is a big place. The probe might have been knocked off course by all kinds of things, like the destruction of the planet Melmac by Galactus, or the war between Cybertron and Gobottron.
jimmy: …did you make up Gobottron?
jimmy: I know about Gobots, didn’t know the planet name.
tomk: Well, now you know.
jimmy: What’s the other half?
tomk: Lots of lasers and explosions.
tomk: But none of that in this episode.
jimmy: That’s kind of a segue to my next observation. So this population seems to have very little technology outside of push button door openers. Picard suggests making condensers and they know what he’s talking about, but say it is too big an undertaking. Not much seems to change in the 50 years or whatever that Picard lives there. They can’t find a way to survive the drought, but they manage to cobble together and fire a rocket…that houses a probe that can take over someone’s mind and make them think they’ve lived their entire life on the now destroyed planet. The technical knowledge of these people seems to be all over the place.
tomk: They sunk all their research into the Occulus.
jimmy: They should have sunk it into getting people on board that rocket.
tomk: They barely had the ability to get beyond their solar system.
jimmy: Says you.
tomk: Not with people. That probe only had enough space for a thousand year old flute that didn’t fall apart as soon as Picard blew into it.
jimmy: “Sir, I believe I’ve solved the problem of getting everyone on the rocket!”
“What about the flute?”
“Well, we’ll need to leave that behind.”
“Cryogenically freezing that flute to last 1,000 years is our top priority. Now get back to work!”
tomk: Priorities, man.
jimmy: Anyway, I just found some of it all silly. But yes, I get that it is a classic episode.
tomk: You get it? Do you? Do you really?
tomk: Good. Have a cookie.
There is a commentary on the Blu-Ray for this one. I should watch that…
tomk: Probably after you finish Trek After Hours for that amnesia episode.
jimmy: That should be any day now.
tomk: You’ll be back in a jiffy.
tomk: I’ll just leave out a plate of cookies for your return. And maybe a bag of chips and a root beer float.
Huh. I wonder if Jimmy is living out another person’s life on an alien world right now. He’s been gone a while.
jimmy: Sorry. I encountered an alien probe on my way back and I lived out the last 50 years of my life in a Watson free utopia.
tomk: Did you learn to play a musical instrument of some kind?
jimmy: Yes. The bodhran.
tomk: You should put on a show in the Gabbing Geek lobby.
jimmy: Maybe I will, Tom. Maybe I will.
tomk: And did you have a disappointing son who just wanted to play the harmonica or something?
jimmy: Yes. But I told him I was proud of him and he could do what he wanted with his life even though I just wanted to slap him.
tomk: Was he played by Patrick Stewart’s son?
jimmy: No. Was that Stewart’s son in the show?
jimmy: Interesting. I didn’t know that.
tomk: Now you do.
And Picard’s daughter? Not Patrick Stewart’s daughter.
jimmy: I figured.
It’s interesting though that after this experience, having essentially raise to children, Picard is still Picard when it comes to kids moving forward.
tomk: That’s because on that other world, he wasn’t Picard. He was Kamin. Barry Kamin.
jimmy: He was still Picard. Barry Picard.
tomk: Imagine if that probe took someone else. Worf would have made a poor Kamin.
jimmy: Riker would have had 15 kids. Geordi would have been divorced.
tomk: Geordi would have gotten into it with the whole thing being like a holodeck in his mind.
jimmy: What about Data? Wouldn’t it make more sense for the probe to beam all it’s contents to the living computer that never forgets?
tomk: You think these people figured out how to use a USB port to download into Data?
jimmy: Probably easier than beaming into Picard’s brain.
tomk: And yet, they did it.
jimmy: Funny isn’t it. They couldn’t do other things To save their planet, but invent this tech that no one else has to take over someone’s mind.
tomk: And somehow it didn’t select a woman or an alien that looked nothing like the residents and make everything weird.
tomk: That said, I know they were probably contractually obligated to include the rest of the cast, but if they hadn’t kept cutting to the others, we might have assumed it wasn’t some weird dream or something.
jimmy: Good point. Would it have been more effective if the entire show was just Picard as Kamin? Would probably need to lose the opening bit with the probe too or it would be too obvious. Maybe start where Picard wakes up?
tomk: I would think so.
If anything, aside from the Kamin heart attack when Beverly tried something, nothing happening on the bridge seemed to affect much of anything.
jimmy: Right. And there was no mystery that this was all going on in Picard’s head.
Like the mystery of Picard’s hat.
tomk: Like this one I got for you?
jimmy: That is a nice hat, but I was thinking about the magically appearing and disappearing one from early in the episode when Picard climbs the hill to survey the town.
tomk: So, continuity mistake or proof it wasn’t real?
tomk: I think you just earned a pizza, Jimmy.
jimmy: Nice. I’m starving.
I know it took “years”, but do you think everyone would eventually settle in and live their life as the K-man?
tomk: Probably why it had to be Picard. That and Patrick Stewart is amazing.
jimmy: For sure. I don’t see Worf ever settling in.
tomk: He probably wouldn’t have taken to astronomy either.
And don’t ask what happens when his son wants to be a musician.
jimmy: He’s hard on him but eventually let’s him do what he wants?
tomk: He’s less capable at hiding his disappointment.
jimmy: That’s true.
tomk: Like that time Watson stole your pizza five minutes ago.
jimmy: I was pretty disappointed and it showed.
tomk: I will say, I like the way Picard treats things this episode. First he thinks he’s a captive. Then he assumes he’s in a weird situation and the people are probably harmless. Then he assumes his actual life was maybe a dream or something. And finally he just seems to accept he’s Kamin.
jimmy: With the time jumps it is hard to tell when he transitions from one to the other. At 5 years he seems settled in, but is still scanning the stars for the Enterprise.
tomk: He’s lucky his wife is so understanding, especially after he started a nursery.
jimmy: She was programmed to be understanding.
tomk: Or she knew the truth the whole time.
jimmy: Well, “she” wasn’t real.
tomk: Wasn’t she? Are you saying holograms can’t be people?
jimmy: Sorry, Doc.
I don’t think they were “real”, living their lives as holograms or projections or whatever they were. They could interact with Picard, but I would think that was all part of the simulation. Including their eventual reveal at the end.
tomk: Well, yeah. The point was to make sure their culture survived.
jimmy: Using tech far more advanced than anything they seemed capable of…according to the simulation anyway.
tomk: You weren’t privy to their R&D budget. Kamin was a flute-playing gardener.
jimmy: hey probably would have been better off putting a single child in the rocket with all their knowledge and sending him off prior to the planet being destroyed.
tomk: You’re asking a lot of some kid, putting a codex of some kind with him.
jimmy: He’s a super kid.
tomk: Also, dead for a thousand years because they forget to invent life support and navigation.
jimmy: Good points. Even if he survived and somehow grew into an adult, he’d be long dead by the time Picard happened by.
tomk: But they did get a whole episode named after a George Harrison song.
jimmy: “Got My Mind Set On You”?
tomk: Um, no.
jimmy: That’s no Queen.
tomk: You’re right. Have a replacement pizza.
jimmy: There’s a slice missing?
tomk: Alien probe.
jimmy: I never knew a probe could eat pizza.
tomk: The pizza is living the life of a calzone
jimmy: The high life!
tomk: Did you learn something about your own life on a long dead world, Jimmy?
jimmy: Bring comfortable underwear.
tomk: Done and done. And I mean done.
tomk: Anything else to add about the Inner Light that doesn’t make you question that society’s technology?
jimmy: Does Picard ever play the flute or mention them ever again?
tomk: I believe he does continue to flute away.
jimmy: I guess there’s only one way to find out.
tomk: Check Wikipedia?
jimmy: Ok, two ways.
tomk: Ask Patrick Stewart?
jimmy: You think he remembers that?
tomk: He might still have that flute.
jimmy: He might.
tomk: He might even offer lessons if you ask nicely enough.
jimmy: That would be awesome. Assuming that was him actually playing.
tomk: I suppose next you’re going to say Jonathan Frakes can’t play the trombone or Brent Spiner can’t play whatever instrument Data pulls out next.
tomk: Or that Michael Dorn can’t really fight with a bat’leth and Marina Sirtis isn’t completely incapable of realizing how people feel by looking at them.
Well, it may not matter. It might be time for a season ending cliffhanger.
jimmy: A cliffhanger eh?
tomk: If that sort of thing interests you.
tomk: I guess that’s a “yes”.
tomk: Ok, then…time for some time travel.