My relationship with Star Trek: The Next Generation consists of a years long habit of picking and choosing random episodes to play in the background while I work. I’ve seen them all many hundreds of times, but the only one I consistently skip is The Inner Light, the Season 5 drama club original that is always inexplicably on everyone’s ‘Best of’ TNG lists.
If you don’t remember, The Inner Light is the episode where Captain Picard is knocked out by a rogue probe, learns to play the flute and invents sunscreen. He also learns the history of an extinct race of average white humanoids in hippie-casual attire, while living the life of another man. These people had enough technology to build a brainwashing probe. Why couldn’t they fix the problem with the sun? Why bother with this mind-altering shit? You people are boring as fuck and you should be thanking your sun for wiping you out!
Character driven episodes can be great as evidenced by Lower Decks or Data’s Day, but where these succeed in creating compelling studies of their subjects, The Inner Light fails to make me feel any connection to character or species. Picard turns into a dad and the action centers around him watching his friends and family grow old and die.
I would rather spend an hour with any other race. Give me some Bolians, Nausicaans or even some nonsense spewing Tamarians. Anyone is better than these Kataanians- even the name of their stupid planet feels like mouth mush. I would rather watch Sub-Rosa.
The only thing that can explain why this episode is so popular is that people like high drama in their Star Trek. Here’s an article calling it the greatest episode ever, for fuck’s sake! I, for one, do not and cannot condemn this abomination strongly enough and would encourage you to take a second look before recommending it to friends.