Top Ten Star Trek: The Next Generation Episodes #8
The Inner Light is a celebrated episode, and gives us a taste of home and community all in one quiet episode. It is moving and delicate, like a fairy tale in the middle of a Star Trek episode. When the Enterprise encounters a probe, Captain Picard is whisked away to his lifelong adventure, where he grows with other people and learns their values.
This is yet another Picard focused episode like Chain of Command, except it has even less from the regular supporting cast. New guest stars try to fill their shoes and they all do a fine job, especially Margot Rose as Eiline and Richard Riehle as Batai. They have some good pieces of dialogue, and Patrick Stewart complements them all well. I wonder if the regular cast got a day off. We’ll never know.
Captain Picard lives a lifetime as another man, when an alien probe forcefeeds him the memories of a dead planet. He comes out of this experience pretty well actually, and the series just moves on, barely even touching on this moving episode again. This is a shame, because this story could have been character developing in some way, but that doesn’t happen. Ronald Moore once addressed this question, and chalked it up to the demands of a quickly produced, weekly TV show. In other words, this situation probably should have changed Captain Picard more dramatically. This is the only complaint I have about it, because it is great otherwise.
As Picard walks around, a beautiful matte painting illustrates the countryside, as he walks above the city. This painting was dumped, kicked to the curbside in 2012 for a digital representation. I really hate this kind of tampering, but upon second viewing, I could hardly tell the difference. This time the team did a good job. This time.
Patrick Stewart’s son Daniel Stewart plays Picard’s son in his alternate life. He is a television and stage actor, training himself on Shakespeare like his father. He doesn’t have much to do in this episode, and is a little wooden, but his performance is alright, I guess.
This is one of the essential Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes. It was written by Morgan Gendel, and you can see how much effort and care he put into the script. He won a Hugo award for this episode, and he deserves it. He raises serious issues about life and memory, which are understated and not directly in your face. A whole civilization was destroyed, but they were able to live on through Captain Picard, and through this celebrated episode, which is as good as it gets.