Star Trek: TNG Season 5 “The Inner Light” and “Time’s Arrow, Part I”

Welcome to your new home, where you will spend the rest of your life only to wake up and realize it's all a dream kind of.

Welcome to your new home, where you will spend the rest of your life only to wake up and realize it’s all a dream kind of.

I’m going through “Star Trek: The Next Generation” and reviewing every episode, complete with commentary and a grade from A-F. I’ve also included a score and comment from my wife, who has never seen the show before. There are SPOILERS for each episode below.

“The Inner Light”

Plot

A strange probe is found in the middle of space and when the Enterprise draws near, it seems to attack Picard. As the crew tries to figure out what happened to him, Picard wakes up in a completely different world, complete with a wife and a society in which he exists. Initially perturbed, he attempts for years (!) to figure out what happened, and slowly comes to integrate himself into the agrarian society. Meanwhile, only minutes are passing on the Enterprise as they track the probe’s flight path back to a system devoid of life–apparently a star went nova, burning out any life forms in the area. Picard in the other world grows old, has children and even a grandchild, and then is asked to come see a rocket launch. It turns out the rocket was launching the probe that has passed on the memories of the system’s people and society to Picard because they knew they would all be destroyed. Picard wakes up back on the Enterprise having lived a lifetime elsewhere.

Commentary

The sheer scope of the episode is astounding, as it tells the story of the culture and people in snippets that make one envious of the way they’ve organized society. Thinking about the episode makes it really tough to think that anyone other than Picard could have taken the overwhelming mental toll that living an entire life in minutes could take on him. Do the memories continue to haunt him forever? How real are they to him? How does he sort out the real from the complete other life he lived?

Patrick Stewart puts this episode on his shoulders like Samson put the city gate of Gaza on his back and carries it in the most epic possible way. The episode was absolutely sold by Stewart throughout, as viewers are sucked in by his performance. He never seems to fully give up the notion that his real life was indeed his real life, but he ultimately settles into his alien life–as any of us would.

The society created for the episode seems utopic, but not over-the-top. It is easy to see how Picard eventually could have felt comfortable settling in. The characters are all robust enough to make you care about them, even if you know they are all just one-offs. It’s just really well-done.

The final scene in which we see Picard get delivered the flute and begin to play with it–a nod to the fact that he has just experienced an entire lifetime of an alternate universe–was both hopeful and terribly sad. Perfection.

“The Inner Light” is, in my opinion, one of the best pieces of television out there. It is just absolutely phenomenal.

Grade: A+ 

Wife’s Grade and Comment: A- “It was a fairly touching but frankly bizarre way for the alien people to record their history.”

“Time’s Arrow, Part I”

Plot

Data’s head is discovered in a dig site on Earth–from hundreds of years prior to the “current” time in Star Trek. The crew discovers temporal distortions that lead them to believe some malevolent time travellers are going back in time on Earth. They try to protect Data but he is the only one capable of spying on the different time period and then inadvertently gets sent back to San Francisco in the 1800s. There he finds that Guinan is among the literary elite–but it is actually Guinan several hundred years ago so she isn’t cognizant of everything that is happening. As Data and the crew try to reunite, Mark Twain spies on them, thinking they are part of an alien plot.

Commentary

If I recall correctly, this two-parter is hated by many TNG fans. Frankly, I didn’t think it was awful. It was just ridden with plot holes and unexplained things. Well, plenty of things were attempted explanations but the answers to “why” and “how” questions provided were not very satisfactory. How does the crew so easily go back in time when before only Data could handle it?

And why is Mark Twain so annoying? I’m going to sidetrack here for a second and say that when I was young my family would visit my Grandma in Quincy, Illinois and cross the border to Hannibal, Missouri every year to visit the various Mark Twain tourist locations that were available. It was a great time that involved all kinds of fun with caves, sluicing for rocks, and literature. I fell in love with Twain and the lore around him on these trips. All of that said, I can honestly say that if he was this annoying in real life he was a real twit! Goodness, they did not really pull out any stops!

There is also a bit of difficult, in my opinion, with the overall plot. It just seems a bit strange that the aliens would pick the time they went back to out of all times in human history to eat humans. Maybe some of the weirdness will be cleared up in the next episode.

Grade: C+ “An intriguing concept with more holes than Swiss cheese.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: B+ “Great suspense and use of plot devices.”

Links

J.W. Wartick- Always Have a Reason– Check out my “main site” which talks about philosophy of religion, theology, and Christian apologetics (among other random topics). I love science fiction so that comes up integrated with theology fairly frequently as well. I’d love to have you follow there, too!

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

Star Trek: TNG– For more episode reviews, follow this site and also click this link to read more (scroll down as needed)! Drop me a comment to let me know what you thought!

SDG.

Star Trek: TNG Season 4 “The Mind’s Eye” and “In Theory”

"Computer, let's play a game." "Okay, Knock-Knock!" "Who's there?" "Romulan Warbird!" "Romulan... wha!?"

“Computer, let’s play a game.”
“Okay, Knock-Knock!”
“Who’s there?”
“Romulan Warbird!”
“Romulan… wha!?”

I’m going through “Star Trek: The Next Generation” and reviewing every episode, complete with commentary and a grade from A-F. I’ve also included a score and comment from my wife, who has never seen the show before. There are SPOILERS for each episode below.

“The Mind’s Eye”

Plot

Geordi La Forge is heading to a vacation and seminar when his shuttle is intercepted by Romulans and he is captured. They brainwash him and program him to perform whatever tasks they want. Meanwhile, a Klingon planet is experiencing a rebellion and it is suspected that the Federation is aiding the rebels. The Enterprise is dispatched with a Klingon ambassador to investigate. Much evidence points to the Federation being involved, and Geordi’s mind control also leads him to send more evidence, but the timeline is forced forward as the non-brain-controlled Geordi and crew push the investigation. Geordi is ordered to kill the Klingon governor, but some quick thinking by Data saves the day.

Commentary

I was blown away by this episode from the great opening getting to see Geordi at leisure and then getting kidnapped all the way through the great ending.

There are two primary things that make this a superb episode (namely, a Geordi-centric episode that uses the strength of his character and a very strong main plot), but it also gets all the details right. Those details include the ongoing investigation Data is doing into the strange emissions which makes his detective work at the end of the episode out to be part of that rather than a kind of deus ex machina ending, great use of secondary characters, continuity with the broader plot happening throughout the conflict with the Romulans, and good music.

The plot itself is excellent, as it both ties in with the storyline of the Romulan-Klingon-Federation timeline and helps expose the notion that the Federation-Klingon alliance is not exactly airtight. There is real tension here as viewers wonder whether another step towards alienation between the two governments might be taken. The focus on Geordi is a smart move as his character is quite lovable but also rarely gets treatment apart from a string of failed love interests.

I also need to comment on the ending. This is how you end an episode! The closing scene opens with a close-up of Geordi adamantly arguing with Deanna Troi: “But I remember!” as he points to his head. After he describes some of his memories, Troi takes him back to the shuttle and leads him into it by saying “The first thing you did when you saw the Romulan ship was…” [I paraphrased here] and he just completes the sentence, then realizes this conflicts with his other “memories.” It’s a revelatory moment for him and one which just ties the episode off with just enough closure and ambiguity to get viewers’ minds racing. It is also a great moment for Troi, as she demonstrates her capacity as counselor in the most convincing way yet.

“The Mind’s Eye” is just a phenomenal episode and one that deserves a place among the all-time greats.

Grade: A+ 

Wife’s Grade and Comment: A “It had a great premise and an excellent character-driven plot.”

“In Theory”

Plot

The Enterprise explores a Nebula which leads to some strange occurrences with dark matter. Meanwhile, Data and another officer, Jenna D’Sora enter into a relationship after D’Sora comes to realize that Data is “perfect” due to his thoughtfulness and kindness (and Data’s questioning the crew about whether it might be a good idea). As the strange occurrences increase, the Enterprise is caught in a struggle to escape–led out of the Nebula by Picard in a shuttle. D’Sora ultimately realizes that Data’s lack of emotions is a greater rift to cross than she realized. They break up, but the ship is safe.

Commentary

Here’s a strong episode that doesn’t quite do enough. The main plot about the Nebula is mostly a backdrop for the drama between Data and D’Sora. It’s a nice touch to have the two of them working on the Nebula so that it doesn’t seem totally like two episodes thrown together, but the relationship is the star of the episode.

Data’s interactions with D’Sora are suitably hilarious, with his comments ranging from unintentionally insightful to blatant howlers. It’s a great way to explore Data’s character on the level of human relationships, even if it is just a bit hard to believe that D’Sora would think such a relationship could work. My wife and I both laughed quite a bit in this one, and it is a pretty fun episode.

The best part about the episode, though, is the ending, which turns the episode on its head from being a kind of lighthearted romp into a serious look at Data’s continued struggles. Data’s response to the breakup is just to query whether the relationship is over and then say that he will delete the relevant file. After D’Sora leaves, Data holds spot and calmly pets him while he blows out the candle. It’s a totally bleak ending that shows just how much work Data has to do yet to realize his goal of becoming “human” in a more relevant sense. His lack of emotions means that on a fundamental level he cannot connect to (or even genuinely care about) humans, and–in an almost dark twist–doesn’t even register the problem that this is.

Fun side note: this was apparently the first episode directed by Patrick Stewart (Picard).

Grade: B+ “An intriguing look at Data’s ‘humanity’ with a suitably bleak ending.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: A- “The two plot issues were both interesting but didn’t work together.”

Links

J.W. Wartick- Always Have a Reason– Check out my “main site” which talks about philosophy of religion, theology, and Christian apologetics (among other random topics). I love science fiction so that comes up integrated with theology fairly frequently as well. I’d love to have you follow there, too!

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

Star Trek: TNG– For more episode reviews, follow this site and also click this link to read more (scroll down as needed)! Drop me a comment to let me know what you thought!

SDG.