Star Trek: The Next Generation

Season 5 Episode 25

The Inner Light

Aired Unknown Jun 01, 1992 on CBS

Episode Fan Reviews (27)

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out of 10
373 votes
  • Emotionally touching and exceptionally well written

    This is one of my favorite episodes. Picard does an amazing job. The writing and acting and passion this brings out is amazing. I LOVE this episode. Others have posted some of the awesome qualities of this episode which I won't reiterate. This is a touching episode...
  • Clever title indeed

    The Inner Light perfectly describes not only Captain Picard's inner light but the illumination of the human psyche. The aching love Eline cascades on a seemingly reluctant husband(kamen) is almost hard to watch. The aging progression was perfectly spaced and timed, as the unique bond between them grows at every stop. Margot Rose's depiction as the devoted wife was brilliant - as was Stewart's grumpy complement. The connection at the end with the aged Stewart and the recurrence of his 2 biggest admirers from the past was startling, if a little confusing. In the end, the sad reflection of a beautiful life lived, (in 25 minutes!) whilst playing the remnant recorder from that life, is heart wrenching. TNG's pinnacle episode.
  • Appreciated for the wrong reasons

    I loved Patrick Stewart's performance in this episode. I think he did a fantastic job but I think the supporting cast is largely responsible for his standout performance. They prepared the emotional framework central to the plot. Huge thumbs up to the writers for engineering such a perfect vehicle for a story in this genre.
  • Good episode, but very implausible

    Great acting, very moving episode, and well done ending. A few problems really stick out though (forgiven because of the excellent reasons mentioned above). If this civilization is not advanced beyond sending the unmanned rocket, just how the heck do they create this probe that not only penetrates the Enterprise shields; Crusher can't figure out a way with 23rd century medical technology how to disconnect it from Picard. Not to mention they have Picard live an entire life in 25 minutes. I suppose maybe these people put all their effort into researching this type of technology, but it is still a glaring plot mistake IMHO. Still, I really enjoyed this episode and you feel bad for those people, and Picard at the end.
  • To experience several decades of an alternate lifetime - a generation - in 30 seconds!

    While the average rating is 9.4, quite high, there are some reviewers that feel it might be over-rated relative to some other standout episodes. This might be true for those reviewers who have their own "fav" episodes. But - for me - this is standout because it is a (fairly) unique approach, and certainly for ST TNG, to some classic Sci-Fi concepts like the alternate-reality/universe, time-compression, memory-implant, etc..

    The fact that it is quite well-acted (perhaps an understatement) and told within the confines of the 38-minute (1-hour) format makes it even more of an achievement IMFAO (In My F* Arrogant Opinion, as opposed to Laughing My F* A* Off)... darn the folks that thought lowercase 'L' and uppercase "I" (eye) should use an identical symbol in virtually every font. ;-) L != I but l == I ??? Crazy... darn that ADD of mine also. Apologies for a non-review review, but I'd only echo much of the praise from previous reviews anyway - as I said, it's classic for it's atypical presentation (for TNG) and it's new approach to some classic Sci-Fi concepts... I'll leave 0.5 off my rating for posterity. It's still my fav, or is at least tied with ... ;-)
  • An excellent and unique part of Star Trek: The Next Generation....

    .... "The Inner Light" is great character piece for Patrick Stewart/Jean-Luc Picard and is subsequently one of the strongest episodes of the entire TNG series. Picard, despite having his memory of the Enterprise fully intact, suddenly finds himself on a different planet and with a different life and a family.

    I will put myself out on a limb however, and honestly say that I do find "The Inner Light" to be a slightly overrated episode.

    "The Inner Light" is very well written, acted and fairly well shot - however, I would not place it at the very top of the series. Watching Picard live out a full life as a husband, father and statesman opens the door for Patrick Stewart to shine and is very satisfying to the audience to see Picard being able to live a life he would sometimes regret not pursuing. "The Inner Light" is a high quality TNG episode because the Jean-Luc Picard character is such a great character and Patrick Stewart is so good playing that character; but it is not the most re-watchable episode simply because it is so emotionally heavy and feels so unlike the brand of sci-fi that Star Trek usually delivers.

    I am supposed to give "The Inner Light" nothing but praise - and it deserves much praise - but I will take a number of TNG episodes ahead of it, regardless of how good it in fact is.
  • A Must See

    Named after a Beatles B side, this is without a doubt one of the greatest Star Trek episodes of all time and perhaps the pinnacle of the franchise on television. The episode has no villains, no conflict, no shocking plot twist, and no technobabble; just Picard in a "Quantum Leap" style plot learning to play a flute and adapting to an adopted culture. Stewart (with the guest stars, all engaging in their own right, serving as his supporting cast) plays Picard's gradual acceptance and appreciation for the new situation so powerfully that we as viewers can't help but develop the same feelings as the Captain, leaving us as moved and transformed as Picard himself by the end. Truly a must see for everyone, Star Trek fan or not, this episode should have won Patrick Stewart an Emmy. (It did win the 1993 Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, ending a dry spell for the franchise that went back to 1968. It was the third of four Star Trek episodes to win the award.)
  • Picard gets ZAPPED by a probe which brain-washes him to believe he's a citizen on an alien world... Wackiness Ensues!!!

    Well written and nicely acted... this episode does stand-out among the series, but isn't really anything special imo... I mean, it's touching and all, but basically a filler episode... doesn't have any bearing on the rest of the episodes, I don't think Picard even mentions it again, despite being such a pivotal experience in his life... much like some of the other good episodes of this series, the lack of follow-up on it kinda irritates me... I mean, they have a strong story which could fundamentally change a major character... but by time the next episode rolls around, everything is back to normal...
  • Beautifully conceived, beautifully written, beautifully acted.

    Despite developing some arcs and continuity, TNG was largely a static show. Characters didn't change much once their identities were settled early on, and what happened to them in one episode did not affect them in later ones. The two main exceptions were Worf and Picard. Picard, in particular, was subjected to some events that impacted his life so drastically that the writers simply couldn't pretend they never happened.

    Thus it's interesting that near the end of TNG's 5th season, the producers chose to include a trilogy that collectively offer a very rich study of Picard's character. "The Perfect Mate" explored Picard's lonely life and his desire for a relationship, setting up "The Inner Light". "I, Borg" provided emotional closure for his shattering experience with the Borg, clearing the way for another life-changing event. And "The Inner Light" completes the trilogy.

    Picard's experience with the dying civilization of Kataan is so richly portrayed that we find it completely convincing. Picard's inner life seems as real to us as to him; as Kataan heads toward its doom, we become sad, despite the fact that we have never heard of it before. It almost feels like this episode could have stretched out over 90 minutes and more of Kataan's story could have been told, but the 45 minute span forces a discipline that keeps the episode running perfectly the whole way through. The ending of the episode - first, his reunions with the ones he loved on Kataan, then the return to the Enterprise, and finally the flute scene - is full of emotional power. It's not surprising that other reviewers mention shedding a tear. Patrick Stewart gives an exceptional performance, but the supporting cast offers a great assist. The woman playing Eline did a superb job in the role.

    Essential viewing.
  • Enterprise encounters and alien probe and Picard falls unconscious. He wakes up in a different life, married to a woman he's never met. This world is dying. Picard comes to accept his new life and tries to save his new world.

    One of the finest and most touching episodes of the series. Patrick Stewart shows what a fine actor he is. During the episode the viewer is left to wonder what is going on, if this is all in Picard's mind or if it is really happening. We see Picard go through stages of disbelief to final acceptance. He comes to love his new wife and world and learns to play a flute like instrument. In his golden years, Picard loses his wife and witnesses the launch of a probe into space. The ending is quite touching in that it turns out the probe installed a sort of program in Picard's mind. The purpose was to let other civilizations know that this world and it's people had existed and were now gone. Absolutely beautiful.
  • The perfect Picard-featured episode.

    This is a phenomenal episode. The plot never drags, the sci-fi elements are interesting, and Patrick Stewart gives a great performance.

    The time jumps were my favorite part of the episode. It was amazing to me to see someone like Captain Picard say "let's build a nursery." Someone who dislikes children so much, and yet, after five years in his own head, he's been persuaded to have children with a women he had previously never known.

    The depth of emotion from Picard here is terrific. He knows the sun is dying, and the planet along with it. His grandson, who he's playing with, won't live long past his current age. I teared up at the end when Picard plays the flute in his quarters, and I hardly ever cry at TV.

    Looking at the long-term effects from this episode, it seems like this would have even more of an effect on Picard than "The Best of Both Worlds." He lived an entire life with a family he grew to love and cherish, only to have that taken away, and to re-enter his life on the Enterprise. For most men that would constitute some serious post-traumatic stress disorder; but Picard is made of sterner stuff than most men.

    Definitely one of the best I've seen, and I can see why it was put on the Star Trek Viewer's Choice Marathon before the series finale.
  • Picard lives out another life

    Awesome non-action oriented episode. Every part of it is top quality. Picards acting really takes you the long lost time and race.

    The plot focuses on telling of a race that died out long ago when their sun went supernova. The elegant methods used is to have Picard play out the main character who was responsible for the effort to get the probe (encounterted) into space to teach a traveller of their existance.

    The storyworld is rich in detail using an efficient set of locations and a group of convincing actors/characters. The problems of the doomed race are played out over the middle and end acts in a truly sympathetic way that really makes you appreciate their personal and soceital plight!

    In a strange way, the whole drama and climax is underplayed yet leaves you feeling full of insight into the way they handle their impending fate and the bravery that carries them there!

    Awesome story, brilliantly played out with a real subtle knock out ending.
  • One of the two best episodes of all time, of any television series.

    This episode is one of the two best of all of science fiction television, both of them from Star Trek TNG. (The other is "The Survivors").

    These episodes epitomise why science fiction is the best of all fictions, of all storytelling: The best stories are about people, and science fiction allows us to explore people in any imaginable situation, thereby providing the highest levels of insight into the human condition.

    This episode is a triumph for the writers, Peter Allan Fields and Morgan Gendel.

    In this episode, we see the importance of the gift of every day of our lives.

    Picard is given a gift of an entire lifetime of experience, from the perspective of a doomed civilisation. Even though only 25 minutes passes on Enterprise, he lives and breathes in their world, and in their love and humanity, for, perhaps, 50 - 60 years, and comes to know and understand who and what they were; a gentle, loving and intelligent people.

    Other than this lifetime of memories, the only trace of their lost civilisation is the flute he learned to play on their world, which symbolises the fleeting nature of life; a tiny crack between two great voids.

  • Star Trek at its best- a touching, powerful and almost overwhelming episode.

    This episode does everything right from the first line and the main plot is one of the best the writers of any Star Trek series have ever envisaged. Living a life in a heartbeat, to understand another existence and appreciate a different outlook on life are central themes. Watching Picard in a happy family is a rare pleasure too and deep down we relate to how this is what he has always yearned for. In a way, going back to the Star Trek universe is almost disappointing as Picard becomes something more. Patrick Stewart acts so superbly in this episode that I can only think of one finer example. Watch this whether a fan of the genre or not since it really isn't about space, science or technology but about lives, emotions and what it is to be alive.
  • Words are hard to describe it, so it is best to watch this touching episode, the favorite Star Trek episode for many fans.

    The Inner Light is one of the finest TV series episodes ever. And for many Star Trek fans, it actually is the best ever.
    What distinguishes this episode is the brilliant script. I cannot go into a lot of detail without spoiling it for those who have not seen it, so all I can say is that it is centered around Jean-Luc Picard and that it holds the "story of a lifetime".
    Without Patrick Stewart, of course, this gem of a script would not have the same impact. I recommend this to everyone who wants to be introduced to the best of the Star Trek Universe, but not as the first TNG episode: it is better to be already familiar with the Captain to get the full experience of the Inner Light.
  • One of the best sci-fi episodes period. Of any series.

    Inner light is one of those defining episodes which you save for a rainy day. It’s the kind you pull out of your pocket when people are questioning your ability, and you want to knock their socks of so hard that they would have trouble walking for a month afterwards. This episode was so tragic, creative, and insightful it is hard to put into words. The entire theme, the pacing, the emotion of the episode is of high quality, more than you would think would go into a single episode of a sci-fi show. It had one of those Movie Magnitudes about it, a Great Novel vibe to it. It’s still hard for me to believe how Picard was able to recover from this incident, and still have the resolve to be a captain. How he had kids, but they never existed in relativity. Everyone he knew dies and yet he wakes up and is told that only a few seconds have past. Simply amazing, it’s hard to put into words.
  • An amazing example of Star Trek at it's best. This episode provokes an emotional response to the memory of a long dead civilisation, and captures the viewers attention throughout.

    This episode doesn't follow the usual pattern of Sci-Fi television series, with either some sort of spacial phenomenon, time travel, or of a conflict, as was the usual pattern for later series, most notably Voyager. Instead, the viewers are treated to a rather unique episode in a series that produced many great episodes.

    To start with, we find the Enterprise encountering a probe sent out into space, and makes contact with Picard; rendering him unconcious. When Picard wakes up he finds himself on a mysterious planet that is alien to him, with an unfamiliar woman (Eline) looking over him. Quickly thinking this as some sort of trick, Picard questions the woman as to what planet it is, after initially believing it to be on a holodeck. Kamen, as Picard is called by the people, discovers Eline is his wife, and they are on a planet called Kataan. During this time, he tries to find out if the species has a means of contacting the Enterprise by questioning his "wife" about communication abilities, or intersteller travel; but to his dismay they have barely the technical level to launch rockets.

    Meanwhilst, on the Enterprise, Beverly is examining Picard and finds his neurotransmiter production is off the scale, and is being caused by a particle emission from the probe they encountered. It is generally agreed that the probe should not be destroyed as they do not know what it may do to their afflicted Captain.

    Back on Kataan five years have now passed, and Kamen is gradually becoming part of the community, though he still clings to the stars. His friend Batai, the village leader, takes Kamen to see the administrator, and he proposes water condensers to help save the people from the worsening drought that has befallen the planet. Though the adminstrator does not believe such a project can be sustained, and leaves. Back at Kamen's home, he sits with Batai and plays the flute, better now than when he first tried a few years back. When Batai leaves he sits and talks to his wife, offering to build a nursery.

    Back on the Enterprise, Riker and Geordi find that the probe used a solid propulsion system, and sends their own probe to trace the trail back to where it came from. Data suggests that he might be able to block the beam, and all, except Crusher, decide it best to proceed with this plan.

    Kamen and Eline are celebrating the naming of their second child, a son named Batai, named after the now deceased Batai. Shortly after the ceremony Kamen bends over in pain and collapses.

    Picard's lifesigns are quickly fading, and the only way for him to survive rests on re-establishing the beams contact with him, which fortunately works, and Picard quickly responds with his blood pressure stabalising.

    More years have passed, and Kamen is sitting with his daughter, who has become a keen scientist like her father. Their conclusions find from soil samples that their planet is dying, and know that there might not be long, and so his daughter decides to marry sooner rather than later, and should cease the time they have left.

    Telemetry from the probe, shows the probe has come from an unmapped system with 6 planets, though all life in that system had been extinct for approximately 1000 years.

    Yet more time has passed, and Kamen and Eline are now old. Gazing through his telescope, he discusses their sons interests, and how some sort of focus was needed. Kamen, calls his son out, and he comes running out holding a flute like his fathers (this young Batai is played by his real life son). They discuss Batai's plans to become a musician; eventually Kamen gives in and agrees that his son should do what he feels is right. The following morning he goes to see the administrator, to tell him of his predictions about what will befall the planets future. The adminstrator doesn't believe the people should know or their would be panic, and admits that his own scientists have known for a couple of months what was going to happen. Batai rushes to his father, and tells Kamen that he must follow him back to see Eline immediately. When he arrives he finds the doctor leaving, and that his wife is ill. Her last words is to tell Kamen to remember to put his shoes a way, then she passes away as a tear rolls down her cheek, and Kamen cluthing her hand.

    Once again, many years pass, and we see Kamen playing with his grandson in his dining room. Interrupting them, his daughter walks in to tell them that it is time for the rocket launch. Confused, not knowing anything about a launch, Kamen agrees to come outside to watch. Once there, he is visted by his old friend Batai, telling him he has seen the rocket before, that he saw it just before he arrived in the village, and that the probe was to find someone who could teach others about their civilisation and that Kamen was the one they encountered. Eline appears and tells him that the rest of them have been gone for a thousand years, but if he remembers them, that they will have found life again. Kamen stands, and turns in time to see the probe being launched, ready for him to encounter in a thousand years time.

    Picard wakes up from his comatose state, and starts to realise that he's back on the Enterprise, and that the years he remembers on Kataan were just a dream. The probe ceases to function, and Riker has it brought into the cargo bay to be examined. A while later, in Picards quarters, Riker visits him, leaving him a box that they found on the probe. Inside is a flute, Picard takes it out, and begins to play.
  • The Enterprise encounters a mysterious probe, which hits Picard with an energy beam. He immediately finds himself on a planet with a different identity. Despite his reluctance to accept this as reality, he eventually makes a life and family for himself.

    This is truly an awesome episode. The first time you watch it, you have no idea what's going on. Although I anticipated the surprise ending, that didn't make it any less special. Upon subsequent watchings, you start looking out for things you missed, but it's not less heartwarming a tale.
  • A very poignant episode indeed...

    A very poignant episode…

    Where to begin…? This episode was the highest point of ST-TNG. Such amazing acting by Patrick Stewart, such raw emotions, the plea of a civilization long-dead… all of this comes together to make this episode the classic that it is.

    More than a few moments stand out… Amongst which I would rate the end of the episode... when Picard receives the flute in his room… and holds it close to him, remembering the life he has lived, the friends he had, the family he nurtured, the world he came to accept as his own… The pain, was just so evident on his visage. Another one, when he plays for an audience... his contemplative mood as he plays the flute... the lovely rendition of frère Jacques.

    The Music in this episode stands out and rates (IMO) as amongst the best in the series, right up there with “Lessons”.

    In conclusion, even though I watched this episode when I was 12, I could not help but be moved by it. Now, older, I have come to adore this episode, as the finest in the genre. Kudos.
  • A fantastic episode that really furthers the character of Jean-Luc Picard.

    When I first saw this episode a few years ago when I was just getting into Star Trek, I knew with absolute certainty that there was something special about the series.

    A great standalone episode that really adds to the depth of Picard as a character is a real credit to the writers. The idea of giving him a chance to live a complete life in a matter of minutes was absolutely genius. A probe launched by a now extinct society allowed for somebody to share the story with future generations to ensure that their existence wasn't forgotten.

    Previously, Picard was a man that never had desires to have a family of his own, to have the experience of being a father. Living the life of Kamin gave him a new outlook and made him realize that his previous opinions were not as negative as he thought they would be.

    If you haven't seen this episode of Star Trek or aren't a strong fan of the series, you really should take the time to see it. You need not know anything about the character to appreciate the episode.
  • Universal, for anyone who has a heart.

    I have watched every episode of TNG and all the other series, and while I'll say this isn't the best episode in terms of storytelling and writing (though it is among the best material), it is the most heartwarming and emotion. To date it is the only episode that makes my family cry (including myself). You will come out a better person after watching this episode more than once, and thank yourself for doing so. It's TNG in it's finest.
  • One of TV's finest moment. StarTrek TNG has never been better. A lifetime in a moment. Heartbreaking and touching.

    One of TV's finest moment. StarTrek TNG has never been better. A lifetime in a moment.

    A strange flying object in space is found. An unidentified radiation penetrates the shields, and captain Picard drops down in a heavy sleep.

    When he wakes up, he is somewhere else. A distant planet of which he never heard. He has a wife, who he doesn't know. He knows only one thing, the life onboard the Enterprise. Struggling to find his path in the new world makes time go by. He soon accepts his destiny and becomes one in the community. His loving wife cares for him, and together with his friends he lives on, with a flute in his hand.

    Time goes by even more. Soon he becomes a father to a lovely daughter, who loves and respects his father and follows his steps and a son who is as stubbern as Picard himself. Picard also finds many hobbies to fill up his life, one of them which reveals terrible news. The planet is dying.
    Picard insists on that the leaders of the world should take measures to prevent meaningless death. One day, when playing with his grandson, Picard is taken out to watch a missile launch, containing the strange flying object.

    The truth is explained to him. What better way to tell about your people than to let someone experience a lifetime with you, in just a few minutes. One of the most touching and smart episodes of TV ever. Makes you think of the possibilities in the future, and also the emptyness that leaves you behind. The thought of living pass all your friends and family. The survivor.

    Only one thing is true with this episode. And that is the power within neverending Love.
  • One of the finest stories I have seen on TV...

    Picard falls into a mind trap that is actually an extinct race's final attempt to acknowledge its existence.

    I rarely rate any episodes in the high "9s", and overall, I think that ST:TNG was a mixed bag of over-heavy messages and thought-provoking episodes. Other examples of good episodes from this series such as "Yesterday's Enterprise" and "All Good Things" are well done but don't stand up to "Inner Light", one of the best one-hour dramas I have ever seen on television in the last 40 years.

    The story is well-paced and deceptive, it begins with Picard seemingly abducted and setting up an expectation of "how does he get himself out of this annoying situation?" As he lives an entire "life" of another human being, the characters he interacts with and the situations he finds himself embroiled in are well-drawn and realistic. Even the "planet's" technology is a nice blend of some advances and some traditional and more primitive community rituals. Many remark on how this episode shows another side to Picard, how he could grow in an environment of having a family and a long, satisfying life. What strikes me as even more powerful is the sadness of the fate of a planet and a race, knowing they are going to die and hoping like many individals to just leave a memory of their existence, triumphs, and failures...the expression of this through having another person actually experience it in their mind is very powerful.

    The Star Trek franchise often hit upon elements of tragedy and pathos -- in my opinion, the "Inner Light" is its best example of combining science fiction and its implications on the human condition.
  • A alien probe scans the “Enterprise” at the same time Picard falls to the floor. Picard is now in a strange place. Well, the good thing in this strange place he has a wife. Picard demands he be returned to his ship.

    A alien probe scans the “Enterprise” at the same time Picard falls to the floor. Picard is now in a strange place. Well, the good thing in this strange place he has a wife. Picard demands he be returned to his ship. His so called-wife thinks he has lost it. Meanwhile Beverly Crusher is inspecting Picard’s body. He is still alive and vital signs are normal. He is showing high activity in the part of the brain that controls dreams. Picard is living this other life out. While on the “Enterprise” he has not aged. I highly recommend this episode.
  • This episode is one of TNG's most sensational story lines in its enter series. Every show has an exceptional episode per season/entire series and this was it. The episode is about a long since dead civilization seen through the mind/eyes of Capt. Picard.

    This episode is one of TNG's most sensational story lines in its enter series. Every show has an exceptional episode per season/entire series and this was it. The episode is about a long since dead civilization seen through the mind/eyes of Capt. Picard. A satellite constructed by this dead civilization connects with Capt. Picard and allows him to live the life of one of its inhabitants. He marries, has two kids, and eventually grandchildren. All throughout his 'stay', the Capt. tries to warn the populates about how the planet was endanger of being burned to a crisp by the sun and they couldn't survive forever like this. However, even his friend didn't believe him and, therefore, he was forced to work on the problem on his own. Throught his 'stay', he learned how to play a flute. In the end, Capt. Picard witnesses the launce of the satellite that zapped him and then he wakes up in the arms of Dr. Crusher. When the Enterprise disassembles the satellite, they find the flute--strange, isn't it--and the episode ends with Capt. Picard playing the flute and looking out into the vastness of space through his window. This is--or one of-- the episode(s) that defines TNG. This is an episode that i would never get bored of watching. Go TNG!!
  • This is the one Star Trek episode I will ALWAYS stop what I am doing to watch.

    There really isn't anything to add to what so many others have already said about this episode. After so many years of seeing Patrick Stewart as Captain Picard, it is easy to forget what a versatile actor he is. This episode takes him deeper into the character of Picard than almost any other episode, and enables him to experience a "reality" and a depth of emotion that most fans wished for him, but knew he could never have as a Starfleet Captain. You are almost sorry for him when he is returned to the present.

    "The Inner Light" is a breathtaking example of the writing and acting that made Next Generation the best of the Star Trek series.
  • Capt Picard encounters a probe from a cililization that was destroyed over a thousand years before and somehow this probe is able to connect with him and transports him back to experience what it was like and be able to enlighten others to exactly what it

    I believe that this is my favorite episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. The concept is first class and the writing is right on the money. I am not ashamed to say that I shed a few tears at the end. Would love to see that flute up for bid on eBay