Written by Morgan Gendel and Peter Allan Fields
Directed by Peter Lauritson
When Star Trek: The Next Generation was first announced and I looked at the cast list, with the exception of LeVar Burton, the rest were unknown to me. In the years since then, I have learned about what a wonderful actor Patrick Stewart was on the stage prior to his tenure as the Captain of the Enterprise-D, Jean-Luc Picard. The Inner Light is an episode he should have won an Emmy for.
The Enterprise is on a survey mission when it encounters a mysterious and unfamiliar probe. The probe emits a particle stream that penetrates the shields and affects Captain Picard. He collapses on the bridge.
When he awakens, he is in a mysterious place with a woman calling him Kamin.
It is really a simple story. To keep a recording of their culture alive, the probe causes Picard to live the life of a man on the planet Kataan in the community of Ressig. This episode contains snippets of various intervals of the life that Picard experiences while he is under the probe’s influence. It’s a terrific acting piece for Patrick Stewart as he lives the life of a man quite different from Captain Picard. Kamin is married to Eline (portrayed by Margot Rose), who is steadfast and loyal to him, despite the seemingly eccentric behavior he exhibits.
On the Enterprise, the Captain seems to have been injured somehow by the probe and is unconscious. The crew is trying to figure out how they can sever the attachment the probe seems to have to Picard. At one point, they do try, causing both the Captain and Kamin to experience symptoms similar to a heart attack.
In his mind, he is living this man’s entire life. He still feels like Captain Picard in many ways. Kamin wants to contact his ship, he is uncomfortable in certain situations the same way Picard is, he has retained the knowledge he had as Picard. In many ways, this is Picard experiencing the life he could have had if he had chosen to instead of committing himself to Starfleet and duty. Eventually, Picard/Kamin has a daughter and son with Eline. The daughter takes after his scientific tendencies and comes to the conclusion like Kamin that their planet is dying.
On the ship, the crew locates the probe’s origin. The star system of its origin is one in which the sun went nova a thousand years before.
When Picard finally regains consciousness on the Enterprise, he learns he was out for only 20-25 minutes, although to him it was a good part of a lifetime. He also retains the ability to play the flute as Kamin did.
As I said before, that Patrick Stewart was not at least nominated for an Emmy for his portrayal in this episode is ludicrous. His talent during this is apparent, as it became in the years following Star Trek: The Next Generation when I saw him in a one-man performance of A Christmas Carol. He carries this episode completely and does so in a manner that blends his reality on the Enterprise with the life he is being forced to live through the probe.
Acting opposite him, Margot Rose holds her own quite well. She’s guest-starred on numerous television shows, so her face might seem familiar. There seems to be chemistry between her and Patrick Stewart, making their relationship believable. While it is awkward at first for the Captain, because he still feels he is Picard somehow brought somewhere he was not meant to be, eventually, he does seem to truly love the woman and enjoy his life. That it is his suggestion they start a family together, not hers, is no small jump for Picard. It has been established quite a bit through the run of Star Trek: The Next Generation that Picard is very uncomfortable around children. Eline seems to have a transforming effect on him, and these two actors make it believable.
Patrick Stewart’s real-life son portrays Kamin’s son, Batai. It’s interesting to see the father and son together and be reminded that Patrick Stewart, unlike Captain Picard, is a man with a family. There is a typical father/son scene here where they try to work through that Batai is not about to choose the life path his father expects him to. That is where the difference in Picard becomes most apparent – his reaction to the news is much different than something I would have expected from Captain Picard, but not from Kamin.
This is a terrific episode that was intended only as filler but has become one of the most endearing ones to Star Trek fans. It’s very easy for anyone who’s not a fan of the series to tune in and just appreciate the fine acting present in the show. I’ll forever lament the inability of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences to get past its bias against science-fiction.
Previous episode in the series (link): Star Trek: The Next Generation – The Next Phase
Next episode in the series (link): Star Trek: The Next Generation – Time’s Arrow Part I