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.