'Star Trek: Picard': An episode from 'The Next Generation' could define what happens next in the series
What makes 'The Inner Light' significant is that it is the first time we see Picard as a family man
Spoiler alert for Season 5 Episode 25 — 'The Inner Light'
Alex Kurtzman, the executive producer for 'Star Trek: Picard', said that the show was meant to be welcoming to newcomers, and not require that they watch all of 'Star Trek: The Next Generation' before watching this show. However, there are a few episodes that he considers essential viewing for fans determined to find significance in past episodes, he added.
Two of these mentions have already revealed their significance. 'I, Borg' and 'The Best of Both Worlds' Parts 1 and 2 are all crucial episodes dealing with the Borg. Right from the first reveal of the Romulan-owned defunct Borg cube, 'Star Trek: Picard' has made it obvious that the Borg will play a crucial part in its unfolding story. Although it is still not quite clear in what manner.
Even more unclear is how Kurtzman's third recommendation comes into play. "'The Inner Light' is very significant," Kurtzman told CBR, without elaborating as to why or how. With that in mind, it's worth taking a look at one of the most iconic episodes of 'Star Trek: The Next Generation'.
'The Inner Light' sees Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) attacked by a signal that makes him live out 40 years in a simulation of the planet Kataan.
Picard wakes up as "Kamin" on this dying planet, and while he tries to find a way back to his Starfleet life at first, he finds that Kataan has not yet mastered space travel technology. Picard makes a life for himself on Kataan, in the village of Ressik, accepting his life as Kamin.
As Kamin, he starts a family, fathering two children with his wife Eline (Margot Rose). He spends his days as Ressik's resident scientist, trying to find a way to save the dying planet with the limited technology it has on hand. Most memorably, as Kamin, he also learns to play the flute.
After a long, fulfilling life on Ressik, Picard learns that he was in a simulation and that he was made to spend a lifetime on Kataan to be able to tell the rest of the world what life there was like. The people of Kataan were unable to save themselves, so they passed on the memories of their culture and way of life to the first person who could act as a teacher. Kataan was itself wiped out by a sun that went nova, over a millennium ago.
Picard retained his memories of his life as Kamin, and the probe that had simulated Kamin's life for Picard contained a Ressikian flute. The ability to play the flute also remained with Picard, and he ends the episode with a flute solo in memory of the civilization that had died out so long ago. The Ressikian flute could be seen in Picard's lodgings for the rest of the series, and Picard never forgot how to play it.
There have been no overt references to those 40 years of Kamin's life on 'Star Trek: Picard', although it has been theorized that parts of Picard's flute solo can be heard in the opening theme.
What makes 'The Inner Light' significant, however, is that it is the first time we see Picard as a family man. We see him as a husband, a father and an active member of the local community. As Eline pointed out, in all of Picard's adventures, he never found anyone who loved him the way she loved him as Kamin.
Picard's life as Kamin is a far cry from the life he led, post-Starfleet, on Earth. After quitting Starfleet, he led a largely solitary existence, cut off from most of the world.
On the vineyard, he only really has his Romulan attendants and his pitbull, Number One, for company. He never started a family, fell in love, or became an active part of the community around him. Memories of that life are still with him, however. He has rarely talked about his life on Kataan, and never once on 'Star Trek: Picard' — meaning that he has effectively failed to keep the memory of the people of Kataan alive anywhere but in his own head.
The show has been examining Picard's failures and those he let down. If 'The Inner Light' is a significant episode from Picard's past, then it's likely that Picard will be talking about Kataan soon, in very important ways.
The next episode of 'Star Trek: Picard' airs February 20, on CBS All Access.