An oral history of Star Trek: The Next Generation’s iconic episode 'The Inner Light'


Originally published at:


The interview says that it took a long time for this beautiful story to be regarded as one of the finest episodes of STNG, but I remember being blown away by it after the first airing and all of my fellow Trek geeks raving about it the following week. I’d be curious how other old (oh, so old) BBers remember it.


Made me cry when it first aired, and has done so every friggin’ time since. It may well be one of the best television episodes of any show ever.


Yeah, it was immediately my fave episode. The only Star Trek episode that made me blubber. I’m kinda tearing up just reading about it again. Thanks a lot, @CarolineSiede!


”In my pitch, the Enterprise comes across a ship that’s in the same shape as the probe, so they know it’s something familiar,” Gendel told us. “And in that ship are a bunch of people in suspended animation. What had happened was the scientists from Kataan who created the probe, they kind of had to play the parts in that simulation they made. In other words, his wife Eline, who was played wonderfully by Margot Rose, she’s actually a real person. These scientists had to keep it in a small group that their planet was dying.”

Personally I’m glad that this sequel episode never got produced, because that sounds awful. Part of the beauty of “Inner Light” was that there was no saving this species — no time warp or clones or suspended animation — just a peaceful culture gracefully accepting extinction and leaving behind nothing but memories and a musical instrument.


Dang it, I never did get around to reading that graphic-novel sequel. It used to be at , but it looks like the domain is kaput.

I am a little surprised that the idea of the sequel was there from the beginning (as opposed to something quietly cooked up years later in view of the original episode’s popularity).


Infirst saw this episode as a rerun in the late 90s. I immediately knew it was something very very good.


I haven’t checked to see if it is all there, but it appears to be on Wayback Machine.

ETA: @Jorpho has pointed out below that there are two pages missing in Chapter 8, but has found a different link that is complete.


This episode makes me think of Black Mirror’s San Junipero episode. In both cases, at least IMO, they are the best episodes of the series, but they are both big departures from the typical themes of their respective shows.


I so totally agree. It was brilliant and moving and brought tears to my eyes as well. When Piccard, as the old man sees the rocket launch and his long-deceased friends are like, “but you’ve seen this before”… Just lovely. Especially the final scene, where his old flute was found in the probe and given to him - and alone in his cabin, Piccard plays the tune he wrote from that other life…


At the head of the list of “shows that made me cry,” was this episode of Homicide.


Its one of the best episodes but not my favorite.

  1. The Measure of a Man
  2. Darmok
  3. Devil’s Due
  4. Cause and Effect
  5. The First Duty & Lower Decks
  6. The Inner Light

I think it is telling though that Patrick Stewart said there was only one item he kept when the show’s production ended…the flute from The Inner Light.


ITA, a sequel would’ve ruined the poignancy of this episode.


I always did like that the flute became canon and we saw Picard play it several times after.


The only problem I had with the episode was that (like most TV shows) things went basically back to normal for Picard by the next episode. Here he’s suddenly lived out an entire lifetime and has become the sole living being entrusted with the memory of an entire civilization, but it almost never comes up again even though their last dying wish was for him to share their story. Oh well.


The flute is seen again prominently in Lessons (S6E19). I think Picard explains away one of the Ressikan songs he’s playing as an old folk tune. I like to imagine that he speaks about Ressikan culture at one of the archaeology conferences they occasionally alluded too. We see the flute (but no discussion of the Ressikans) in a few other eps, that don’t quickly come to mind.


I agree, but Star Trek TNG never really had much of a seasonal story arc beyond a few things leading into various season finales. It really is a brilliant episode. And, yeah, Picard’s voice breaking at “oh, it’s me” gets me every single time.


It seems that I’m the only person here who doesn’t like this episode. But then, most of the people who don’t like this episode probably won’t click on this link. This may be a good piece of drama but it has zero to do with why I watched Star Trek:TNG. I watched this episode once when it first came out and I’ll never get that hour back. The George Harrison song is awful, too, but at least it only lasts 2 minutes 36 seconds.


I could imagine a more interesting sequel where someone reverse-engineers the technology in the probe and uses it as a weapon, either for good or ill. One shot to the enemy commander’s ship and they instantly experience a whole lifetime in their opponent’s shoes, leading to instant understanding and empathy. Or they experience a false, manufactured memory of a lifetime of torture, if the people using the weapon are complete monsters.


What about “The Offspring”, wherein Data creates Lal.

Just curious.