(written from a Production point of view)
An alien probe controls and disables Captain Picard, who wakes up as "Kamin," a resident of the planet Kataan. While the crew of the Enterprise tries to jar the probe's influence, "Kamin" lives through the final, dying decades of his homeworld in the span of approximately twenty minutes in the form of an interactive "ancestor simulation".
- "Captain's log, Stardate 45944.1. Following a magnetic wave survey of the Parvenium system, we have detected an object which we cannot immediately identify."
As the USS Enterprise-D encounters an unknown space probe; it emits a low level nucleonic beam at Captain Jean-Luc Picard. Picard faints, and Commander Riker catches him, assuring the captain that he is safe. Medical assistance is summoned. Captain Picard soon awakens with a strange woman tending to him and calling him "Kamin".
Picard quickly learns that he is not on a holodeck simulation; in fact, he is no longer on the Enterprise, and nobody has even heard of the Enterprise. Going outside, he meets a councilman, Batai, who knows him and seems to be a friend. He confusingly explains to him, when Picard presses him, that the woman is his wife Eline, the community is named Ressik, and the planet is Kataan. He leaves Batai to walk around, convincing himself it's not a dream.
He arrives back "home" at night to a worried Eline, and discovers more about this "new" existence. He is an iron weaver who enjoys playing his flute, which he has never been able to master. Picard also learns that the world has never made contact with any alien species. Eline tries to convince him to come to bed, but then Picard sees her necklace, a miniature of the probe. She says Kamin gave it to her.
Dr. Beverly Crusher arrives with Ogawa and Martinez and discovers Picard is undergoing tremendous neurological activity – his neurotransmitter levels are off the scale. It seems the alien probe has locked itself onto Picard. Dr. Crusher advises Riker against destroying the probe as the captain may be injured, so they wait.
Meanwhile, five years have passed on Kataan, and "Kamin" has become integrated into his new society, though has not let go of his past life. He suggests to the visiting administrator that atmospheric condensers are needed to survive the extended drought they are currently experiencing. His ideas are rejected, but Batai notes that it is the first time Kamin has spoken as a member of the community in years. Later that evening, Batai and Kamin sit outside while Kamin plays "Frère Jacques" on his flute. After Eline asks Batai to leave for his home, she and Kamin begin to plan for a family, starting with the construction of a nursery.
Back on the Enterprise, Geordi La Forge has launched a probe to follow the alien probe's ion trail back to its source. Data has determined a method of disrupting the beam, and they make plans to implement Data's idea and cut the connection to Picard.
Once again, several years have passed on Kataan. Kamin and Eline are in the middle of a "naming ceremony" for their second child, named Batai (after their late friend, who had passed a year before). Right after the ceremony, as the reception begins, Kamin suddenly collapses. On the Enterprise, Ogawa finds Picard is suffering somatophysical failure with the connection cut. Dr. Crusher tries in vain to save Picard with delactovine and cardiac induction, but he needs the beam back. Data reestablishes it, thereby stabilizing Picard's condition.
Ten years have passed on Kataan, and Kamin, together with his adult daughter Meribor, have found that the soil in their yard is simply dead. The sun's radiation has sterilized the dirt making it incapable of supporting life, a process that is implied to be wiping out all plant life on the planet. Kamin jokingly tells her that he should have filled her mind with trivial things instead of devoting so much time to scientific study of things she can't change. He mentions Dannick, a man who is in love with her. Meribor ominously says she should marry him sooner rather than later, and Kamin agrees that she should live for the present.
La Forge has managed to trace the alien probe's path back to the unmapped Kataan star system in the Silarian sector. It contains no habitable planets as the star went nova approximately one thousand years earlier.
Many more years have passed on Kataan, and Kamin is visibly elderly and now on the council himself. Using his telescope, he has discovered that the drought will continue indefinitely, and the planet may be doomed. Eline comes and encourages Batai to tell him he wants to concentrate on his music instead of school. Kamin is startled, but ultimately accepts his decision, musing after he leaves that there may not be much time to follow any dream.
The next day, he argues with the government administrator, who tells him in confidence that the government scientists had come to the same conclusion two years earlier. Kamin pleads with him that an evacuation, even of a handful of people, must be attempted, but the pained administrator points out to Kamin that they simply do not have the technological capability for spaceflight of that magnitude, having only recently started launching unmanned missiles into orbit. Reluctantly, the administrator shares with Kamin that there is an effort underway to save "some" piece of the Kataan civilization, though he will reveal no more about it. Kamin's son Batai arrives and informs him that something is wrong with his wife Eline, and the pair rush home. Shortly afterward, Eline dies a natural death, and Kamin grieves.
Years later, a very elderly Kamin is playing with his grandchild, Meribor's son, Kamie. He laments that his grandson deserves a long and full life, but like the rest of their world, he will not survive. Kamin reluctantly goes along with the pair to join everyone in the community to view "the launching", which only he seems not to know about. Kamin asks, "What is it they're launching?"
His daughter, Meribor: "You know about it, father. You've already seen it."
"Seen it? What are you talking about? I haven't seen any missile."
Batai: "Yes, you have, old friend. Don't you remember?"
Kamin turns to see his old friend, Batai, but in the prime of his life. Batai explains, "You saw it just before you came here. We hoped our probe would encounter someone in the future – someone who could be a teacher, someone who could tell the others about us."
"Oh… oh, it's me… isn't it? I'm the someone. I'm the one it finds. That's what this launching is – a probe that finds me in the future!"
"Yes, my love…"
Stunned, Kamin turns and sees Eline, glowing in youthful beauty, with the rest of his family. She says, "The rest of us have been gone a thousand years. If you remember what we were – and how we lived – then we'll have found life again."
As the missile launches…
"Now we live in you. Tell them of us… my darling…'"
Picard regains consciousness on the bridge of the Enterprise as the alien probe breaks contact by ceasing its beam. After the initial disorientation, he discovers that he has lived decades in the course of twenty to twenty-five real-time minutes. Riker orders the probe brought into a shuttlebay with a tractor beam on board the ship for further study. As Picard approaches the entrance to the turbolift to accompany Dr. Crusher to sickbay, he instinctively raises his right hand to touch the door mechanism he remembers from Ressik.
Later in his quarters, as Picard attempts to adjust back into his real life, Riker reports that the probe has completely shut down as it was clearly designed to do. He then delivers to Picard a small box found inside the alien probe. Picard opens the box to find the flute which he still vividly remembers from his life as Kamin. Riker leaves and Picard, full of emotion, plays the tune he had played at his "son's" naming ceremony.
"Computer, freeze program. Computer, end program!"
- - Picard, as he finds himself as Kamin with his wife Eline tending to him
"Are you in charge here?!"
"I want to be returned to my ship immediately!"
"What… ship is that?"
- - Picard as Kamin when he first meets Batai
"You think that this… your life is a dream?"
"This is not my life! I know that much."
- - Eline and Picard as Kamin
"You've been dreaming about that starship of yours again, haven't you?"
- - Eline, five years after Kamin's 'recovery'
"I'm not brooding. I'm immersed in my music!… I find that it helps me to think, but the real surprise is that I enjoy it so much."
"No, the real surprise is that you may actually be improving!"
- - Picard as Kamin (playing the flute) and Batai
"I always believed that I didn't need children to complete my life. Now, I couldn't imagine life without them."
- - Picard as Kamin, when he becomes a father to Meribor and Batai
"Go carefully, Batai"
- - Eline, as Batai leaves her home
"Seize the time, Meribor – live now! Make now always the most precious time. Now will never come again."
- - Picard, as Kamin, to his daughter Meribor
"Remember… put your shoes away."
- - Eline's last words to Kamin on her deathbed
"Now we live in you. Tell them of us… my darling."
- - Eline
Story and script
- During the fouth season, Michael Piller came up with the idea of Picard experiencing an unlived life. While the writing staff were supportive of the concept, none of them were able to make it work. Joe Menosky recalled, "Brannon Braga and I worked out at least a half dozen concepts ourselves – and they all failed." (Star Trek: The Next Generation 365, p. 263)
- The idea was resurrected when Morgan Gendel pitched a story about a probe that beamed an interactive scenario into the brain of the crew. Gendel's story originally featured an anti-war message. "My thought was what if some civilization had been through some terrible war and didn't want others to repeat it. Picard and Riker are hit with the probe and find themselves on a planet with storm troopers coming. They have to finish the story and get back to the Enterprise. It seemed entirely real to them while they were there and they had to escape these marching soldiers and a war which was leading up to a nuclear holocaust. Meanwhile, aboard the ship, they're in comas." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 247)
- The themes of cultural memory and passing down traditions in the wake of societal destruction were influenced by Gendel's Jewish upbringing and the experience of Holocaust survivors. (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 248)
- The writing staff were intrigued by the alternate reality premise. Menosky and Braga agreed that it finally provided a vehicle for Piller's idea. Along with Ronald D. Moore, they provided feedback and suggestions to Gendel, inviting him to re-pitch several times. The story morphed into a community that had been destroyed in a war who wanted to pass their story through the probe, with Picard as the central character experiencing the life on the planet. (Star Trek: The Next Generation 365, p. 263; Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 247)
- Following this development, the staff arranged a meeting between Gendel, Piller, and the rest of the writing staff. Menosky recalled, "[A]fter the pitch, Ron, Brannon, and I jumped in like it was the first time we'd heard it. 'Isn't that GREAT!' 'This is it!' 'Fantastic!' Michael just sat there and let us rave for a bit. And then he said, 'I love it.'" According to Menosky, Piller only learned of the amount of effort the junior writers had put into the pitch many years later. (Star Trek: The Next Generation 365, p. 263)
- Piller invited Gendel to prepare a five-page prose outline. The outline still had major differences from the finished episode. Gendel remembered, "I still had the anti-genocide thing in my mind. I had an idea that this technologically advanced culture is about to be inducted into the Federation and everybody wonders how they became so technologically sophisticated so fast. You find out they did it on the backs of these people they wiped out, the Kataan, whose technology they stole. Meanwhile, Picard is experiencing this other life." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 247)
- Piller disagreed with having so much focus on the ship plot, emphasizing that the story should be about Picard. He also proposed that Picard should marry, have children and grow old. Originally, this would have included Picard first meeting his eventual wife and courting her, but this was compressed. (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 247)
- After Gendel prepared the script, it was assigned to Peter Allan Fields to revise, due to time constraints from the approaching end of the season. According to Menosky, Piller subsequently provided a "substantial" uncredited further rewrite on the dialogue. (Star Trek: The Next Generation 365, p. 263; Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 248)
- Gendel revealed that the episode's title is an in-joke. "'The Inner Light' was the B-side of 'Lady Madonna.' I thought it would be fun to give every Star Trek episode I wrote a title that's from a different, obscure Beatles song. I wanted to call "Starship Mine" 'Revolution,' but they had already used "Evolution". It was a little joke between me and me." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 248)
- In a deleted scene at the beginning of the script, Picard discusses Fleet Admiral Gustafson, to whom he is to give a report of their magnetic wave survey in the Parvenium sector when the Enterprise arrives at Starbase 218. Picard recalls seeing a production of Wagner's Ring cycle with Gustafson the last time they met. 
- In a cut scene, it is revealed that the soup Eline prepared for Kamin, very much to his delight, is called "kenomay".
- While attending a production staff meeting during the making of this episode, Rick Sternbach drew on his script preliminary designs for Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – Deep Space 9 itself. ("Deep Space Nine: A Bold Beginning", DS9 Season 1 DVD special features)
- Jay Chattaway composed the music for this episode, including the Ressikan flute solo played by Kamin and Picard. Chattaway later expanded this piece into a six-minute orchestral suite for The Best of Star Trek, Volume One. The Ressikan melody played by Kamin has similarities to the Scottish tune "Skye Boat Song", also known as "Speed Bonny Boat". (citation needed • edit) Part of the Ressikan melody played by Kamin’s son Batai is used as part of the theme tune for Star Trek: Picard.
Cast and characters
- Marina Sirtis (Deanna Troi) does not appear in this episode.
- Patrick Stewart's son, Daniel Stewart, portrayed Kamin's son, Batai, during his life on Kataan. The younger Stewart had previously auditioned for other roles on Star Trek: The Next Generation. (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion, 2nd ed., p. 204)
- Stewart remembered, "I'm having the earliest makeup call of any actor in the history of Star Trek. My makeup call on Monday was 1:00 am, my set call was 7:00 am. So I left home round about midnight." ("Departmental Briefing Year Five" ("Production"), TNG Season 5 DVD special feature)
- In another interview, Stewart recalled, "The most affecting sequence was the one scene where I was with the actress who was playing my wife, late one warm evening, sitting on a bench outside. I remember looking at her and thinking, 'This is what it feels like to be elderly: sitting on a bench with someone you know so well, and this is what lies ahead.' That was the one time I had a sense of, God willing, what was waiting for me." (Star Trek: The Next Generation 365, p. 264)
- Not only did Kamin and his family receive old age make-up, many of the villagers seen over the years were aged to give a consistent look.
Sets and props
- Only a few scenes were filmed on the regular sets. The bridge and Picard's quarters are the only parts of the Enterprise-D that are seen.
- Most of the exterior scenes of the Ressik community were filmed indoors, on Paramount Stage 16. The only location shooting was for Picard's hiking trip. This was filmed at Bronson Canyon in Griffith Park. (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion, 2nd ed., p. 204) The scene was complimented with a matte painting created by Visual Effects Producer Dan Curry. (Star Trek: The Magazine Volume 1, Issue 3, p. 19)
- Picard's flute appears in a deleted scene from Star Trek Nemesis, during which Picard and Data discuss the crew going their own ways.
- Picard's telescope appears to be a Dobsonian reflector, a design popular among home telescope builders.
- According to Jay Chattaway, the Ressikan flute was chosen for its photogenic ability because a typical flute is held in front of the actor's face. His composition for the Ressikan flute became one of the most requested pieces in the Paramount Pictures library. ("Departmental Briefing Year Five" ("Music"), TNG Season 5 DVD special feature)
- A humanoid statue seen in Kamin's building is a large replica of a marble Cycladic idol.
- Ronald D. Moore commented, "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". (AOL chat, 1997)
- Before still accepting his identity as Kamin, Picard is practicing on the flute the melody of "Frère Jacques", a French song he sang while climbing the turbolift with the children in "Disaster".
- Kamin pleads with Meribor to "make now always the most precious time. Now will never come again." Picard later echos those words to Commander Riker following the destruction of the USS Enterprise-D in Star Trek Generations.
- Patrick Stewart nominated this episode as the greatest acting challenge he faced in the seven years of The Next Generation. ("Mission Overview Year Five" ("The Inner Light"), TNG Season 5 DVD special feature)
- Peter Lauritson named this episode as definitely one of the favorite Star Trek episodes. ("Departmental Briefing Year Five" ("Production"), TNG Season 5 DVD special feature)
- Michael Westmore noted that "The Inner Light" was a show Patrick [Stewart] should have won an Emmy for." ("Departmental Briefing Year Five" ("Production"), TNG Season 5 DVD special feature)
- Entertainment Weekly ranked this episode #3 on their list of "The Top 10 Episodes" to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Star Trek: The Next Generation. 
- Michael Piller named this episode (along with "The Measure Of A Man" and "The Offspring") as one of his favorite TNG episodes, "because they had remarkable emotional impacts. And they genuinely explored the Human condition, which this franchise does better than any other when it does it well." (AOL chat, 1997)
- The book Star Trek 101, by Terry J. Erdmann and Paula M. Block, lists this episode as one of the "Ten Essential Episodes" from Star Trek: The Next Generation.
- This episode was featured in the Star Trek: The Next Generation Viewers Choice Marathon.
- In the TNG Season 5 DVD collection, the menu for this episode features the flute solo.
- Morgan Gendel pitched a sequel which was never produced. The story, called "The Outer Light," was adapted as a comic on Trekmovie.com.
- Writer Peter Allan Fields praised Patrick Stewart's performance. He commented, "I understand Patrick enjoyed playing it very much, and it was a delight to be able to write it." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 248) However, Fields saved his highest praise for guest actress Margot Rose. "She was absolutely superb, no ifs, ands or buts! I was grateful to have written something that an actress of that caliber had brought to life. She was excellent. I had never seen her before. I saw dailies, so I saw aspects of her performance that, unfortunately, the audience never got to see because the show ran long. They had to take out seven minutes." (The Official Star Trek: The Next Generation Magazine issue 21, p. 25)
- Michael Chabon describes "The Inner Light", along with DS9: "Far Beyond the Stars" as "two of my favorite episodes of television, period." 
- A mission report for this episode by John Sayers was published in The Official Star Trek: The Next Generation Magazine issue 21, pp. 58-60.
- This episode won the 1993 Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation. It's the third of four Star Trek episodes to win the award and was the first television episode to win since the original Star Trek. The others are "The Menagerie, Part I" and "The Menagerie, Part II" (with both parts combined), "The City on the Edge of Forever", and "All Good Things...".
- This episode was nominated for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Individual Achievement in Makeup for a Series.
- The episode was one of three selected for inclusion in the Star Trek: The Next Generation - The Next Level sampler disc intended as a preview of the remastering process for The Next Generation.
- The background for Picard's hike was recreated digitally by Max Gabl, staying as close to the original matte painting created by Dan Curry as possible. Gabl explained, "I think most of them are total recreations. Because the planets we're looking at from the original [TNG] series are very low-res and blurry. There's no way to put more detail into those, so it's basically all recreation. Mike Okuda tells us exactly what we need in there, and it's just back and forth – playing it and seeing what the details are going to look like and then I put them in, compare with the old, [Mike will] look at it, I'll make the changes and that's how it goes." 
Video and DVD releases
- Original UK VHS release (two-episode tapes, CIC Video): Volume 63, 15 March 1993
- As part of the UK VHS collection Star Trek: The Next Generation - 10th Anniversary Collector's Edition under the "Picard" section, 29 September 1997
- UK re-release (three-episode tapes, Paramount Home Entertainment): Volume 5.8, 23 December 2002
- As part of the TNG Season 5 DVD collection
- As part of both Region 1 and 2 releases of the Star Trek: The Next Generation - Jean-Luc Picard Collection
- As part of the Star Trek: Fan Collective - Alternate Realities collection
- As part of The Best of Star Trek: The Next Generation, Volume 2 DVD collection
- As part of the Star Trek: The Next Generation - The Next Level Blu-ray collection
Links and references
- LeVar Burton as Lt. Cmdr. Geordi La Forge
- Michael Dorn as Lt. Worf
- Gates McFadden as Dr. Beverly Crusher
- Brent Spiner as Lt. Commander Data
- Margot Rose as Eline
- Richard Riehle as Batai
- Scott Jaeck as Administrator
- Jennifer Nash as Meribor
- Patti Yasutake as Alyssa Ogawa
- Michael Braveheart as Martinez
- Tracee Lee Cocco as Jae
- Amber Connally as young Meribor
- William Harwood as Kamie
- Christie Haydon as command division ensign
- Michael Moorehead as science division ensign
- Joyce Robinson as Gates
- Logan White as infant Batai
- Unknown performers as
- David Keith Anderson – stand-in for LeVar Burton
- Tim McCormack – stand-in for Brent Spiner
- Lorine Mendell – stand-in for Gates McFadden
- Richard Sarstedt – stand-in for Jonathan Frakes
- Dennis Tracy – stand-in for Patrick Stewart
- James Washington – stand-in for Michael Dorn
ability; administrator; alarmist; alloy; anaerobic bacteria; atmospheric condenser; blood pressure; botany; cardiac induction; cc; ceramic alloy; cortical stimulator; crop failure; crystalline emiristol; Dannick; deflector shield; delactovine; dream; drought; Federation; fever; fibrogenic activity; "Frère Jacques"; heart; holodeck; hospital; iron weaver; isocortex; Kamin; Kataan; Kataan native; Kataan probe; Kataan star system; magnetic wave survey; mathematics; missile; music; naming ceremony; neurotransmitter; Northern province; nova; nucleonic beam; nursery; paricium; Parvenium system; porch; probe; pulse; radioactive; Ressik; Ressikan flute; Shuttlebay 2; Silarian sector; skin protector; somatophysical failure; soup; sun; Starbase 218; star chart; Starfleet; synaptic response; talgonite; telescope; thruster; tree; vegetable stew; voice-transit conductor; water; weather pattern; year
- "The Inner Light" at StarTrek.com, the official Star Trek website
- "The Inner Light" at Memory Beta, the wiki for licensed Star Trek works
- "The Inner Light" at Wikipedia
- "The Inner Light" at MissionLogPodcast.com, a Roddenberry Star Trek podcast
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