Mark Watches ‘The Next Generation’: S05E25 – The Inner Light

In the twenty-fifth and penultimate episode of the fifth season of The Next Generation, HELP ME. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch The Next Generation.

WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO ME???

When The Next Generation gets bold and exciting, it proves to me why the show lasted as long as it did and why it’s so beloved. Yes, there are plenty of episodes in these seven seasons that aren’t that great, and I’m sure I’ll get to see more of them in seasons six and seven. But when this show is good? IT’S SO GOOD IT HURTS.

I know I’ve said this a lot, but this truly is one of those stories where I don’t know what the fuck to write. This episode is heartbreaking and haunting, and I think that there’s no way to think about this without acknowledging how FUCKED UP Picard is going to be forever. How could he not? Throughout “The Inner Light,” he lives a complete life. He has a wife, two children, and grandchildren. He celebrates births and he mourns the death of his best friend and his wife, all while his planet slowly dies from a supernova. And that’s important to acknowledge: this is now his life. He spends over forty years as Kamin. FORTY YEARS FLASHES BY IN TWENTY-FIVE MINUTES.

That’s disturbing, but the details are what ruin me. The show drops us and Picard into this… what? Vision? Alternate universe? We don’t know what’s going on until the end of the episode, so we’re just as confused as Picard is when everyone onscreen keeps calling him Kamin. It’s not the first time that we’ve been dealt such a bewildering premise, but this is the first time that the show has taken a story like this so goddamn far. I kept expecting Picard to be pulled back. I kept expecting there to be an easy solution to this glimpse of another life. I kept expecting it to not matter. That’s what these non-serialized stories do! That’s how episodic television works.

But Picard becomes Kamin in this episode. He spends decades learning of life on Kataan and always glimpsing up to the heavens. It takes him years to settle down and accept his world, and that first cut to five years later was so horribly jarring because HOW THE FUCK DID FIVE YEARS PASS??? And as Picard chooses to accept his Kamin identity more and more, the life he had as a starship captain begins to fade away. We see bits of it, such as when Kamin argues that the village needs a condenser to generate water. But Picard becomes this man so completely that by the time his children age and his wife passes, it’s impossible to ignore the significance of this event.

I think it was smart of the show to focus so heavily on Picard and to only include brief moments with the rest of the crew. It allows us to immerse ourselves in Kataan, so when Picard is finally pulled out of it all, it hurts. The people of Kataan were so aware of their own imminent destruction that they created a probe to preserve the memory of the culture. Indeed, no one on the Enterprise knew much of anything about this part of space, and that means that for centuries, no one remembered Kataan. While Picard is absolutely a perfect candidate, I can’t help but feel sad about what he went through. No one will remember these people or their culture better than him because he lived it. He lived it, he watched his loved ones die, and he is all that’s left of it all.

I don’t know if we’ll ever see another reference to this, since the show is picky about its serialization. But at least at the conclusion of “The Inner Light,” we get an acknowledgment that Picard has to readjust to being Picard now. That’ll take some time, I’m sure, but I also have to wonder. Will he be haunted by all of this?

The video for “The Inner Light” can be downloaded here for $0.99.

Mark Links Stuff

I am now on Patreon!!! MANY SURPRISES ARE IN STORE FOR YOU IF YOU SUPPORT ME.
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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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