After encountering an alien probe, Picard wakes up as "Kamin," a resident of the planet Kataan.
- "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 Jean-Luc Picard. Picard faints, but soon awakens with a strange woman calling him "Kamin". He soon 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.
Over the next few days, Picard discovers many new facts about his "new" existence. His name is Kamin, and he has a friend named Batai. The woman he first meets is his wife Eline, and he is an ironweaver who enjoys playing his flute. Finally, Picard learns that he now lives in the community of Ressik on the planet Kataan.
Back on the Enterprise, Riker calls sickbay for help, as Picard falls into a coma. Beverly Crusher arrives and discovers Picard is undergoing tremendous neurological activity. It seems the alien probe has locked itself onto Picard. Dr. Crusher decides against destroying the probe in that the Captain may be injured, so they wait.
Five years have passed on Kataan, and we notice that "Kamin" has become integrated into his new society. 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, Kamin and Eline plan for a family.
Back on the Enterprise, 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.
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 (for their late friend). Right after the ceremony, Kamin suddenly collapses. On the Enterprise, Dr. Crusher tries in vain to stabilize Picard. Data reestablishes the beam, thereby stabilizing Picard's condition.
Ten years have passed on Kataan, and Kamin, together with his adult daughter Meribor, have found that the soil is simply dead. The drought has gone on too long.
Many more years have passed on Kataan, and Kamin is visibly old. Using his telescope, he has discovered that the drought will continue indefinitely, and the planet may be doomed. He argues with the administrator, who tells him in confidence that the government scientists came to the same conclusion several years earlier, and there is an effort underway to save "some" piece of the civilization. Later, Eline dies a natural death, and Kamin grieves.
Years later, an extremely old Kamin is going to view "the launching". Kamin asks, "What is it they're launching?"
His daughter, Meribor: "You know 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. After the initial disorientation, he discovers that he has lived an entire lifetime in the course of 20 real-time minutes. Riker orders the probe loaded onboard the ship for further study.
Later, Riker delivers to Picard a small box found inside the alien probe. Picard opens it to find the flute which he still vividly remembers from his life as Kamin. Once Riker leaves, he plays the tune he had played at his "son's" naming ceremony.
"Seize the time, Meribor - live now! Make now always the most precious time. Now will never come again."
- - Picard, as Kamin, to his daughter.
"Now we live in you. Tell them of us... my darling."
- - Eline
Behind the scenes
- In a cut scene, it is revealed that the soup Eline prepared for Kamin, very much to his delight, is called "kenomay".
- 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 that is available on "The Best of Star Trek: 30th Anniversary Special" soundtrack CD. The Ressikan melody has similarities to the Scottish tune 'Skye Boat Song', also known as 'Speed Bonny Boat'.
- 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". 
- 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.
- 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.
- Deanna Troi does not appear in this episode.
- Patrick Stewart's son, Daniel Stewart, portrays Kamin's son, Batai, during his life on Kataan.
- Not only did Kamin and his family receive old-age make-up, also many of the villagers seen over the years were aged to give a consistent look.
- "Kamin" is German and Russian for "fireplace" and Swedish for "stove". Whether this has a deeper meaning or is just coincidence is not certain.
- Incidentally, "Kataan" is Hebrew for "small" (קטן)
- In the final scene when Picard is inspecting the flute it is clearly visible that there is no hole for the air to blow through.
- Kamin pleads with Merribor to "make now always the most precious time. Now will never come again." Picard would later echo those words to Commander Riker following his experience with Dr. Tolian Soran in Star Trek Generations.
- 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 amongst home telescope builders.
Awards and honors
- This episode won the 1993 Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation.
- This episode was nominated for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Individual Achievement in Makeup for a Series.
- This episode was featured in the Star Trek: The Next Generation Viewers Choice Marathon.
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.
Links and References
- Margot Rose as Eline
- Richard Riehle as Batai
- Scott Jaeck as Ressik Administrator
- Jennifer Nash as Meribor
- Patti Yasutake as Alyssa Ogawa
- Daniel Stewart as Young Batai
- Michael Braveheart as Martinez
- Tracee Lee Cocco as Jae
- Joyce Robinson as Gates
administrator; anaerobic bacteria; atmospheric condenser; blood pressure; botany; cardiac induction; cc; ceramic alloy; cerebrum; cortical stimulator; crystalline emiristol; Dannick; deflector shield; delactovine; dream; Federation; fever; fibrogenic activity; Frère Jacques; holodeck; hospital; iron weaver; isocortex; Kamin; Kataan; Kataan probe; Kataan star system; magnetic wave survey; mathematics; missile; music; naming ceremony; neurotransmitter; Northern province; nova; nucleonic beam; paricium; Parvenium system; probe; radioactive; Ressik; Ressikan flute; Shuttlebay 2; Silarian sector; skin protector; somatophysical failure; soup; sun; star chart; Starfleet; synaptic response; talgonite; telescope; thruster; tree; vegetable stew; voice-transit conductor; water
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