Lion of the Blogosphere

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.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

February 18, 2017 at 8:39 am

Posted in Television

22 Responses

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  1. I agree that an experience like that would be incredibly psychologically damaging. You wouldn’t be over that by the next episode. Easy to test too. Just imagine someone middle aged with a family that suddenly your wife, kids and life, not only don’t exist, but never existed. It would knock normal people for a loop.

    But Star Trek doesn’t have much in the way of family formation going on in the Federation. That seems to be what other races do. Hardly anyone in Starfleet seems to have a family.

    Mike Street Station

    February 18, 2017 at 9:07 am

    • But while he was living his alternate life, he still had memories of his life as Captain Picard in his own timeframe. Going back confirmed his original suspicion — he was Captain Picard somehow transported into an alternate reality. He probably would still remember all of it, and though still shocking it would make sense to him.

      “Why doesn’t he find a nice wife and settle down on an agrarian planet and have a more fulfilling life?”

      Alternate-Picard still had the same drive real Picard did. As fulfilling as he ultimate found his life with his new, very restricting circumstances, every step of the way he probably would have chosen to be a Starship Captain if that opportunity existed. His happy, fulfilling family life was the result of restricted choices and diminished freedom.

      chairman

      February 18, 2017 at 6:01 pm

  2. I’m going to have to binge watch all of these Star Trek franchise things one day. This will be my go to encyclopedia as to how to approach this important task. In addition to standing up for the right stuff in a non-hate filled way, Lion, you help to exercise my sorely challenged popular culture muscles.

    Thank you for your service, sir!

    gothamette

    February 18, 2017 at 11:27 am

  3. Again which makes DS9 so great. We do see some families. Mostly Disney style (where one parent is dead or missing). I made the personal assumption that Starfleet represented the warrior-monks of the Federation. Who have subsumed their normal biological drives into missionary service to the ideals of the Federation. (or they are representative of the outer party if you take the dark Federation hypothesis 😉 ) Capt. Picard and his crew have has much relation to normal humans of the future as the officers of a Soviet ballistic missile submarine did to ordinary Soviets. To be fair to TNG as a TV show they probably didn’t/couldn’t coordinate writing to call back to the previous episode immediately. We take that for granted in TV writing today. If I remember correctly there were effects to Picard (besides remembering how to play the flute) that were used in the last two seasons.

    John Parker (@JParkerKC)

    February 18, 2017 at 11:43 am

  4. The stupid and misbehaved Klingons are our modern day NAMs-lower tier White liberals (for the upper Klingon rank n file).

    JS

    February 18, 2017 at 12:59 pm

  5. How can you say it’s the best episode of the series, when you haven’t watched the rest of the series?

    Hermes

    February 18, 2017 at 1:04 pm

    • (1) I watched the majority of the series when it was in first run
      (2) I recently re-watched the first two seasons in their entirety, and most of the third season.
      (3) Based on various fan writings, I know there’s nothing else like this episode in TNG, although there were a few like it in DS9.

      Lion of the Blogosphere

      February 18, 2017 at 1:09 pm

      • Inner Light is good but Cause and Effect is the best episode. Also season 5.

        Dain

        February 18, 2017 at 1:20 pm

  6. I second Dain’s recommendation of “Cause and Effect.” “Yesterday’s Enterprise” and “Ship in a Bottle” are also great, the latter presaging Inception.

    Hermes

    February 18, 2017 at 3:46 pm

  7. “The Inner Light” is indeed one of the best of the series. I wouldn’t say the best; there are a lot of contenders for that title. “The Best of Both Worlds” (both parts) probably takes it.

    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.

    Life in Starfleet in general. I’ve wondered the same thing. This dilemma for Picard was a theme in Star Trek: Generations.

    In a way, they sort of follow-up on this theme from “The Inner Light” in the episode that is its sequel, “Lessons”.

    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.

    Yes.

    JayMan

    February 18, 2017 at 4:08 pm

    • ““The Inner Light” is indeed one of the best of the series. I wouldn’t say the best; there are a lot of contenders for that title. “The Best of Both Worlds” (both parts) probably takes it.”

      I disagree, I thought the Borg were poorly done, the way they “adapt” to phasers makes no sense, they were super-powerful indestructible until, at the last minute, they figure out how to give them a command that makes them self-destruct their ship.

      Lion of the Blogosphere

      February 18, 2017 at 5:09 pm

      • I thought the Borg were poorly done, the way they “adapt” to phasers makes no sense, they were super-powerful indestructible until, at the last minute, they figure out how to give them a command that makes them self-destruct their ship.

        It made perfect sense.

        They were able to access the auto-destruct command because Picard was still connected to the collective mind.

        The Undiscovered Jew

        February 18, 2017 at 6:09 pm

      • How the Borg adapted to the Federation’s defenses was also logical, almost realistic. Every kind of attack the Enterprise found to be somewhat effective against the Borg ship was ineffective in the next engagement.

        The Undiscovered Jew

        February 18, 2017 at 6:13 pm

      • I wouldn’t confuse consistency with logic or realism.

        Lion of the Blogosphere

        February 18, 2017 at 6:15 pm

      • I wouldn’t confuse consistency with logic or realism.

        Consistency is a characteristic of logic and realism.

        The Lion is wrong.

        The Undiscovered Jew

        February 18, 2017 at 6:17 pm

  8. Picard has no psyche at all. You can torture this guy and he won’t break. You can Borg him up and download the Assimilation program and after some magical cloning of missing body parts he’s fine. He was stabbed through the heart and they just put an artificial heart in there. Q actually visits him after he dies, and that doesn’t trouble hi either. Picard is more like a robot than Data is really. Why that guy has known the hot Dr. Beverly and are still just friends is beyond parody. Some say its because he hasn’t found the Captain Kirk amazingly real toupee. Maybe losing his heart and being Borged has made Picard into a robotoid?

    Joshua Sinistar

    February 18, 2017 at 4:10 pm

    • Picard is country French. They’re all like that.

      Robert

      February 19, 2017 at 9:45 am

      • Robert: – Good point. They are. They also have no problem – if they are male – waiting until their 50s or 60s to start fathering children. Good for them, I guess. That is key to understanding the rather Shakespearean take on space captaincy one finds in STNG. Not that most of the episodes are not aesthetic disasters. … but some episodes are very good, particularly if one every once in a while keeps in mind that “Picard is country French, ” and other important contextual facts. By contrast, the Kirk story line with his “son” in the early movies was a non-credible story line. STNG in that respect was better than Original Star Trek. The funny thing about Trek is that there are hundreds of story lines, and every once in a while a random story line actually makes sense (Picard as country French is one; there are lots of other obvious ones – the least obvious one, that I can think of at this moment, is a very touching one, even though almost nobody cares — it is the clear disappointment Doctor Muppet Mom has in little Wesley no matter how well he performs. Not great art, of course, but not a complete waste of time, either; the lives of the losers in this world are, after all, worth thinking about. God loves us all, even whichever poor sap is more like Wesley Crusher than any one else out of the billions of people who live on this earth.) Picard, every moment of his life, expects to have thousands of descendants. The role should have been played by Ralph Richardson, but one can’t have everything. Robert: you had the cool short comment. Thanks. I hope my longer comment was not a waste of time.

        howitzer daniel

        February 19, 2017 at 5:19 pm

  9. Enough with Star Trek. Girls has just kicked off its 5th (and, thankfully, last) season. The characters and real-life selves are as repulsive as ever. Your blog audience awaits your updated critique of this cultural abomination.

    Daniel

    February 18, 2017 at 4:18 pm

  10. The final scene where Riker brings Picard the flute from the probe and Picard begins to play it may be the finest scene in the series. Patrick Stewart managed to convey a profound sorrow and sense of loss into a scene with almost no dialogue.

    A very good sixth season episode to watch is the 2 parter Chain of Command.

    jew613

    February 18, 2017 at 10:38 pm

  11. […] This post unwittingly explains why the Star Trek universe is vastly superior to the Star Wars univer…. One of the most fondly remembered episodes actually escapes the regular Star Trek universe and becomes a mini contained drama of a man coming to grips with the limits of his abilities and his (and his planet’s) mortality. […]

  12. Only Kirk’s space bachelor life makes sense, the touchy feely Picard and his “committee” on the bridge is kind of lame. Kirk is like a real Navy captain, Picard is like a USAF colonel…

    TBOU

    February 23, 2017 at 3:18 pm


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