Episode #125: The Inner Light

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Episode #125: The Inner Light

Post  BoG on Tue Jul 13, 2010 6:08 pm

THE INNER LIGHT (5th season; episode #125)
Directed by Peter Lauritson; written by Morgan Gendel

This is another episode I've grown to appreciate more as the years went by. When I was younger - about 20 years younger - I found it to be a bit boring. My favorite episodes back then involved a lot of action in outer space; this episode was all about Picard growing older on some drought-stricken quiet planet. But, I find the story to have a sublime quality about it now and it touches on several poignant (and primary) facets of the human condition. This episode is quite unlike just about any other episode in the 7-year run of the series. In the plot, the Enterprise comes upon some probe which shoots an invisible beam at Picard; he conks out and awakens in the home of a woman named Eline, in the middle of a small, pleasant settlement. Eline turns out to be his wife and he is named Kamin in this reality. Picard resists all this, of course, on his first day there; he thinks it's some kind of dream or trick or trap or plot against him and/or the Federation.
But, this dream doesn't go away: Picard/Kamin becomes acquainted with his best friend Batai and with the community of Ressik. The planet's name is Kataan, one he is unfamiliar with, but there appears to be a drought going on, causing crop failure. The days turn into years; 5 years later, Picard finally leaves his old life behind, fully embracing his new life as Kamin, husband and soon-to-be-father, a full-time member of the nice community which nonetheless begins to suffer under the lack of water. Kamin still possesses his old knowledge as a former 24th-century captain and advises the building of water condensers to help but this doesn't go anywhere.

More years pass; Kamin & Eline welcome a baby boy to their household and already have a young daughter. The audience, however, is made aware that the Enterprise bridge crew have not been standing idly by after Picard collapsed; they attempt to sever the beam connecting him to the probe, but are unsuccessful (this may be a weakness to the episode; I would've preferred the story stayed with Picard throughout the episode). The crew also learn that the probe originates from a system where the star went nova a millennium ago.
Kamin/Picard grows old; his children become adults and have children of their own, so Kamin becomes a grandfather. But, the future looks bleak for his grandchild; he has determined (along with his scientist-minded daughter) that the planet is dying. His wife dies and, finally, the very elderly Kamin witnesses the launch of a special rocket - this would be the probe he encounters as Picard. This has all been a method by which a dead civilization determined to preserve the memory of their existence in the mind of an alien from another society - it turned out to be Picard.
I've often wondered about our own ability and drive to save, to preserve, to collect - how will our civilization be recalled and what will actually survive for future civilizations to find? Is it possible that our lives are just what this episode suggests - that when our lives end, we will wake up and find out that only a very short time has passed in some other reality? Picard finally wakes up on the bridge of the Enterprise and finds out that only 25 minutes have passed since the probe put him to sleep. But, here's the kicker: for Picard, about 35 years have passed.

That's a mind-blowing concept to ponder but it also makes a perfect kind of sense. Haven't we all, if we're 45 or 50 or 60 years old, looked back on our lives and felt at times that it all went by very quickly? Couldn't we look back on our lives and spend a mere 25 minutes thinking about the past 30 or 35 years? The story also addresses the sad reality of loss in our lives; we may have a lot at some point, but it will all  slip away eventually - we all lose our family, our friends; there's nothing to be done about it except to hang on and appreciate what we have in the moment.
The episode also captured a familiar yet slightly alien atmosphere of the community here, drawing us in to experience it with Picard. Finally, in the denouement, the story briefly addresses the wild realization that Picard has been away from his position of Enterprise captain for many years. By rights, it will take him some time to get accustomed to the role of captain again (even though, again, for us and the rest of the crew, less than an hour has gone by). One might consider that Starfleet Command would be leery in handing the reins of the ship over to him if they knew how long he had been away from such experience. BoG's Score: 8.5 out of 10
TNG Trivia: Picard learned to play the flute while living the life of Kamin. This prop, sold in the 2006 Trek auction, was first estimated to fetch bids of several hundred dollars and then over a thousand; but, it ended up selling for $40,000.  Shocked  Patrick Stewart's real son played his son when Picard was living as Kamin. This episode won the 1993 Hugo Award.

Last edited by BoG on Mon Aug 09, 2010 10:19 pm; edited 1 time in total
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