Star Trek: TNG S05E25 “The Inner Light”
Before giving up on Star Trek, I watched this episode from season 5 of The Next Generation, “The Inner Light,” because it’s regarded as the best episode of the entire series.
And I agree, best episode of the series. But there were some nitpicks. At first I felt guilty for nitpicking at such a great episode, but then it hit me that the reason it was such a great episode is because for about 25 to 30 minutes, it left Star Trek and became a self-contained story about a guy who has amnesia/delusion who comes to accept his situation and has a rich and fulfilling life as husband, then father, then grandfather, while all the time, in the background, the planet they live on is doomed because the sun is going to go supernova.
Because Picard’s life is portrayed as so fulfilling, it makes you wonder whether his career as starship captain bachelor makes any sense. Why doesn’t he find a nice wife and settle down on an agrarian planet and have a more fulfilling life? Oh, the answer is because they tell us that self-actualization comes from having a successful career, and not from stuff people did in the 1950s “Leave it to Beaver” era before they knew about what we were really supposed to do with our lives.
The bad parts of the episode were the usual Star Trek crap.
Captain Picard’s mind is taken over, against his will, by an alien probe, which almost kills him. And at the end of the episode, no one seems angry about that? This reminds me of the space rape episode which I’ve previously blogged about. Captain Picard is mind raped.
It then occurred to me that the morality driving Star Trek tends to put Starfleet and humans in the place of privileged whites, while most alien species, especially Klingons, are seen as victimized minorities whose actions are always excused. Thus Picard routinely puts up with Klingon crap that would get a stern and condescending moral lecture if it came from any white human male from the Federation of Planets.
While spending decades (perhaps 40 years) living another life and suddenly finding yourself back where you were 40 years ago would be beyond overwhelming for any normal person, Picard is back to normal Picard the next episode as if this episode didn’t happen at all.
The technology makes no sense. Only technology more sophisticated than what Starfleet has could manufacture a space probe that can find an alien spaceship, and then take over the mind of the captain and make him believe he has lived a life for 40 years. But the planet of Kataan is shown to have technology that’s more like the 19th century; there doesn’t seem to be any sort of mass communication, or computers, or even cars, although they do have electricity and doors that automatically slide open: it should be pointed out that doors which automatically slide open seems futuristic because it reminds you of the Enterprise, but the technology to make a door slide open when you push a button existed in the 20th century. (There was a door like that in an office of a company I used to work for, and I thought of it as the Star Trek door, and I’m pretty sure that’s how everyone else perceived it.)
I’m not even going to bother to go into the issue of why everyone speaks English, because without universal English (except for Klingons, the only alien species that has its own language), there wouldn’t be much exploration of “strange new worlds” and “new civilizations.” And don’t try to tell me about the mysterious “universal translator” which doesn’t seem to work for Klingons who get to speak their own language.