Throwback Thursday: Next Generation’s The Inner Light (Season 5, Ep 25)
We’re back to the world of Star Trek: Next Generation for a review of their fifth season, 25th episode, the Inner Light and oh boy, it’s a trip.
We’re back for another edition of Star Trek: Next Generation and if you thought the last review was something, oh boy, are we in for a treat today. We start right off with the world’s oldest Tommy Pickles cos-player in Jean-Luc Picard rocking his favorite Shawn Hunter jacket. Shawn Hunter or Space-Fonzy.
Maybe Space Fonzy is better.
Picard gets brain zapped by a space satellite and then he awakens on a mysterious planet named Kataan where he’s married, has a best friend he doesn’t remember and is all about playing the flute. It sounds like most people’s bachelor’s party in Las Vegas.
Though guess what, there’s a big dramatic reveal. A big dramatic reveal that isn’t dramatic. Picard isn’t really on Kataan, he’s still on the Enterprise. Do you mean that he’s not some guy Kamen from Kataan after all? WHAT? Shocked. Picard is now stuck in a computer simulation and is married. He falls in love with a program. A fictional character. Great, Picard has a waifu.
The episode plays as more of a slice-of-life story where we see Picard living his life. On top of that, Picard’s wife wants a baby. He’s 66 to start the episode (roughly). By the time she starts asking for a kid, he’s 71. Just let him get his AARP card and retire.
After the first time jump to his 71st birthday, we’re advancing another five years. Picard is now 76 and is still obsessed with the flute. Which an alien planet not only has but accurately named.
Picard’s new best friend Batai gets to die off-screen and let’s be honest, he’s getting off light. We’re at his son’s naming ceremony and he’s gone full Doc Brown. He has a heart attack because Dr. Crusher severed the beam between Picard and the satellite. That was their only plan. Turn off the alien technology. When is that going to be added to the manual? Never turn off the alien technology.
He recovered and now pushing 90 after another jump. He looks like Billy Crystal in the Princess Bride. He’s not having fun storming the castle because the planet is dying. Another time jump and now Picard is now over 100. He looks and sounds like the creepy neighbor in Family Guy.
The planet is bone-town and is going to die. After a final conversation with his now-dead-wife and dead best friend, they reveal that this whole thing was a simulation meant to share their culture with someone. The episode implies that Picard’s conscious may have actually time-traveled but that’s never definitively stated. This was a simulation at best. A video game. Picard reaches the end of the game. The Princess is saved, Dr. Wiley has been defeated and Picard is now awake.
The ’90s never had it so good.
Acting: While there was a great guest spot from Richard Riehle, none of the other guest performances were that strong. Patrick Stewart carried most scenes but he rarely had any dialogue or scenes that showcased his talents.
Writing: The entire episode was built and designed to show the dramatic effects of the satellite, and while that would cause anyone to doubt their sanity, it didn’t make for the most riveting of scripts.
Design: The planet Kataan and the inhabitants don’t really stand out, looking like a dozen other humanoid species we met in Star Trek.
Special Effects: There weren’t really any. They used a lot of practical effects, and the rare moments you did see something CGI in nature, they kept it so small and in the background, you couldn’t really see it. That’s actually very effective.
Enjoyability: Not even close to being a fun episode. The idea of Picard aging 25 years in 25 minutes is a novel idea, but it isn’t exactly well executed. There’s little in the way of Next Generation cast members, mostly only getting a scene or two. What should have been the backbone of the episode, Picard dealing with the emotional fallout of his time on Kataan was rendered to two brief closing scenes.
Overall: 15/25 (60%)
A solid, if not tepid episode.