Star Trek: The Next Generation – Season 5, Episode 25 – “The Inner Light” – Remembering a People

Star Trek The Inner Light

“Seize the time, Meribor – live now! Make now always the most precious time. Now will never come again.”

– Captain Jean-Luc Picard

We continue “Trek Requests” with “The Inner Light,” hands down one of the best stories to come out of “Star Trek” and “Star Trek: The Next Generation” that really highlights the high concept sci. fi. ideas that the show could bring and explore while giving us the chance to explore an entire new culture and civilization as well as the man of Jean-Luc Picard.

“The Inner Light” was directed by Peter Lauritson with the teleplay and story by Morgan Gendel and Peter Allan Fields as the other co-writer of the teleplay.

The story involves the Enterprise-D investigating a probe that is following them that sends Captain Picard into sleep. When Picard awakens he finds himself as the man Kamin in the community of Ressik on the planet of Kataan. From here he seeks to figure out the nature of the state he is in and if it is real, while his crew tries to get him out of the state that was brought about by a beam from the probe.

The Pros: First Contact – When Picard wakes up as Kamin he is fully Picard. The first thing he does is ask computer to “End Program.” He later goes outside and he questions everything. He does this for 5 years before finally accepting the reality of the life he’s living at Kamin is real but in doing so he gets all the information he can first such as when he asks Batai who he is, the planet and the town they are in. It’s powerful and shows why Picard is the diplomat and one of the smartest of the captains. He works to understand wherever he is so that first contact can go well.

The Life of Kamin – Kamin’s life is a full one. He is a scientist who inspires his daughter to become a scientist, and a musician who plays the flute who inspires his son to play the flute. In both cases they are studying the ongoing drought on their world and what to do about the water supply. He is politically connected as his friend Batai is on the city council, and his youngest son he names after Batai and he is a fighter. He stands up to the Administrator about the dying of their planet and learns they’ve known for the last 2 years. After his full life with his family and wife in which he is around for the death of his friend Batai and his wife Eline he is a grandfather and his story comes to an end as the rocket is launched which was the probe that shared the story of these people with whoever would discover it.

Picard and Kamin – Was Kamin fully like Picard in that the fever had made him believe he was in a Starship? Was Kamin a musician or was it Picard’s embracing of the flute to get used to living a life another that was key? The issues of identity are never fully resolved though we know Kamin had a family as they tell Picard to remember them at the end when he watches the probe launch into space. This is part of what makes the episode so good. Picard lived a full life that was both his and the life of another that gave him the glimpse into the world of a civilization that died 1000 years ago.

Politics of Water – In this episode the planet Kataan is dying but those in power in denial over it, even though we learn years later that they knew all along that the heating of the planet was causing water problems. This was a great showing and not telling in regards to Global Warming as we see this same denial today by those who profit from not changing the status quo. Change is hard even if the status quo is difficult with water being rationed (Like in California currently). This was one of the great moments in the episode where the trials of an alien species mirrored our own and were ones that we could relate to.

The Crew of the Enterprise-D – The crew is very involved at the beginning with Geordi, Worf, Data and Riker having lines about the probe before Riker catches Picard before he falls. We later see them stop the beam and reestablish it when Picard begins to die. Beverly is on the bridge during this time trying to help resuscitate Picard but to no avail. The scenes are powerful on the bridge since the crew is powerless and can’t do anything while their captain is going through an experience they have never dealt with before and know nothing about.

Remembrance – A huge theme of this episode is Remembrance, which is what we see when Kamin’s family talks to Picard at the end. The probe was sent out so their people would not be forgotten as the civilization knew it would be dead by the time the probe reached anyone. From this though they found hope in being remembered and did it by sharing Kamin’s life and the memories of their people. The experience is so powerful that Picard learns how to play the flute while there and when he returns and receives the flute in the probe plays a song to remember the life he lived with the people who are no more.

The Message – There were quite a few messages in this. Not ignoring a problem until it becomes impossible to deal with (the heating of the planet and water usage in the case of the Kataan), and the importance of remembering the past and those who have gone, cause even though no civilization and culture are perfect we can still take the good from the past and apply the lessons from it to the future.

This episode is everything that is great about “Star Trek.” It’s a meditative episode with Captain Picard living the life of another people and culture and from that experience coming to love and remember them. It’s an experience only he receives and it defines him in a way as to express himself through music and be left speechless before the crew. This profound discovery of new and new civilization (even if the civilization has long been dead) is part of why I am a Trekkie. The aliens of “Star Trek” when they are written right teach us more about ourselves and reveal our own shortcomings and strengths and with it give us the ability to empathize better, as Picard did when he became a part of a people before the probe breaks contact…and also that as long as people remember those who have been lost, they have life again in our hearts and minds.

Final Score: 10 / 10. Perfect “Star Trek: The Next Generation” episode.

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Star Trek: The Original Series – Season 1, Episode 19 – “Arena” – The Dilemmas of War and Power of Mercy

Star Trek Arena

   “Arena” is the first of a few “Star Trek” episodes I’ll be reviewing this week. On Facebook I did some “Trek Requests” and this was the episode requested for “The Original Series.” The other two episodes will from “The Next Generation” and “Deep Space Nine.” I’ll save which ones they are until I review them. Suffice to say “Arena” was very enjoyable though it still has the same problems I noticed when I first watched the episode as a young child.

    The episode was directed by Joseph Pevney with the teleplay by Gene L. Coon and story by Fredric Brown.

    The story involves the crew of the Enterprise arriving on the outpost Cestus III which is under attack from the Gorn. A dying survivor tells them how they were attacked leading Kirk to pursue the Gorn ship until they are stopped by the Metrons who transport Kirk and the Gorn Captain to the Arena where they can face each other using the resources on the planet so the conflict between the two ships will no longer be happening in Metron space. From here the story unfolds as Kirk must MacGyver his way out the situation and learn what bigger purpose he it being put up to by the Metrons.

The Pros: Cestus III – Cestus III is a warzone. We see that chemical weapons were used on Federation troops and the Outpost is a wasteland we also hear about the slaughter of women and children but due to the nature of the episode we aren’t able to confirm it. It is war and like war there is a fog. Luckily through quick thinking by Kirk, he and Spock are able to fight back though the red shirt is killed. It’s a very strong start to the episode and shows just what is at stake and what motivates Kirk in his desire to stop and destroy the Gorn vessel.

Sulu – Sulu is in charge of the Enterprise at one point when Kirk and Spock go down to Cestus III and he does a great job protecting their ship and keeping the Gorn at bay until Kirk and Spock are able to be beamed back aboard again. Sulu was eventually made Captain for a reason, the guy is great in a crisis.

Spock – Spock not being emotional is good as he points out that Kirk doesn’t know what happened or why they became under attack, what he misses is that the enemy has never communicated with them at all. Spock is implied to be right though on not destroying the vessel when it is found that the Outpost might have been placed in Gorn Territory and that it will be a situation for diplomats to handle.

McCoy – McCoy sees the consequences of fighting the Gorn too and makes an appeal to civilization to the Metrons to stop the fighting of Kirk and the Gorn Captain. They are ignored but when they are shown the fight the Gorn Captain says the Outpost was in their territory which changes McCoy over to Spock’s perspective of not attacking first.

Captain Kirk – Captain Kirk shows what he is famous for in this episode (no he doesn’t sleep with the Gorn) he MacGyvers a makeshift gun that defeats the enemy Gorn Captain after he’s exhausted all other traps against the Gorn…and after he shows Mercy which impresses the Metrons who appear to him and which later leads to a Kirk Speech where he tells Spock that in 1000 years maybe they will be an enlightened species, so they’ve got a little time. Kirk’s humor, passion, anger (the destruction of the outpost) and compassion (sparing the Gorn Captain) are on display here and show why he is one of the most popular Captains in “Star Trek.”

The Gorn Captain – The Gorn Captain has a great design and he is clearly alien. For him mercy is giving Kirk a quick death and any intrusion into their territory warrants a threat. The Captain is strong and powerful and is only stopped by a diamond fired from a gun. It’s a shame the Gorn weren’t used more as they have a great design and are one of the more intriguing lesser used species in “Star Trek” along with the Tholians.

The Message – The message is that mercy is important when you’ve defeated your enemy and to not leap to conclusions in war. The message is kind of wrong in regards to the outpost though as we never see the Gorn communicate with the Enterprise and to reason with another to understand a person you have to talk to them. The Gorn do not talk to the Federation as far as we can see until the Metrons force their captain onto the planet. Also, if there were women and children slaughtered on Cestus III than the Gorn involved were evil. There is nothing that can justify the killing of innocents and that is where mercy can be missed, as we have no guarantees the Gorn wouldn’t do it again elsewhere. The core message of not rushing to judgement is important though as the Outpost wouldn’t have been built if the Federation had known it was Gorn space (assuming the Gorn are telling the truth, just like have to assume the Federation soldier was telling the truth about women and children being slaughtered…we don’t know fully yet in either case).

Okay: The Metrons – Another God Species trying to teach the “lesser” species a lesson about compassion towards one another and mercy. I really don’t like the transcended species trope as it simplifies the issues and in most cases the folks like the Metrons stand by while real life atrocities are going on so all their talk of Enlightenment usually doesn’t mean much in regards to their actions outside those who enter their sphere. Still, one of the earliest uses of this trope so I’m putting them down as okay and not a con.

The Cons: Pacing – The episode is really slow. It starts out strong when Kirk and Spock are on Cestus III under fire but most of the action on the Enterprise is passive watching of either the Gorn ship or of the Gorn Captain and Kirk fighting on the planet. This episode should have been 35 minutes ideally or given us more character moments like when Kirk and Spock were discussing the attack and what might have lead to it and what must be done. Those were the strongest moments in the episode outside of Kirk’s ingenuity.

  This is classic “Star Trek” and well worth watching, even though it isn’t my favorite episode and I do take issue with the Metrons approach to life, the pacing and that the Gorn are just presented as bad guys if we only take how they react to Kirk and what happened on the outpost. There was the potential for much more complexity this episode than we got, though I really like the idea and watching Kirk MacGyver his way out of a situation is always fun to watch…and the horror of Cestus III really raises the stakes in the episode and kept me interested even with how slow the episode felt at times.

8 / 10. Solidly good.