Overview – The Enterprise encounters a mysterious probe from a distant star system. Without warning, the probe forms a psychic connection to Picard, who finds himself on an unfamiliar planet living the life of a man he never knew. As Picard lives this life and learns of the culture and the people of the planet, the crew of the Enterprise try to break the connection. As they attempt to study where the probe came from, they discover that system from which the probe came has long been destroyed by the star of that system going nova one thousand years ago.
Score: 9/10 – This is a fan favourite that showcases science fiction at its greatest. There are no strange looking aliens or epic space battles, but instead the episode is driven by a powerful story and excellent acting on the part of Patrick Stewart. I believe that the magic of this episode is that it shows that Star Trek can be powerful without blowing you away with action, special effects, or an epic struggle against a powerful adversary. Indeed, this episode, on paper, may not appear to be anything special, and yet I remember after seeing it for the first time that I was moved. This episode shows that simple things, when done well, can be just as inspiring and moving. I have heard a few people say that this episode is slow and boring, but those voices are rare. Star Trek does not have to be exciting and action-packed to be beautiful. And if I can add my voice to the chorus of a quarter century, the fact that Patrick Stewart did not get an Emmy nomination for this episode is a sad shame. He was brilliant in it, walking the line of Captain Picard transitioning into Kamin, his Ressikan persona. The ending, of course, is near perfection with Picard showing that he has retained much from his past life.
Relevance – 3 points. The impact of this episode is followed up in the next season with a good episode called “Lessons”, where Picard finally shares with someone how his experience has affected him. We also score a point for Picard’s use of the Ressikan flute in future episodes, namely the afore mentioned “Lessons” as well as “Fistful of Datas”. It is wonderful that this new aspect of Picard is carried forward. I am also scoring a point for Picard playing “Frere Jacques” as he learned to play his flute. If you recall, this was the song he sung to the three kids that he was stuck in the turbolift with in an earlier fifth season episode “Disaster”.
Continuity – 3 points. Universe and story continuity both get a check here. Of most significance, character continuity gets a big check here. I found that as Picard first encountered and then slowly embraced his new life, he went through the roles appropriately. Transitioning from a skeptic who was trying to escape to a man who accepted where he was and eventually almost forgetting his past life. Everything is as we would expect from Picard.
Character Development – 2 points. This episode is all about Picard. We get to see him grow in ways that we would not have expected at the beginning of the series. We see him learn music and have a family. This episode does a lot to develop his character in a way that was less violent than what we saw with “The Best of Both Worlds”. Of course, with so much focus on Jean-Luc Picard, there was little time to devote to other characters. Troi herself is absent from the episode, so there was little to say to further push anyone else along. That is one of the few short comings of this sort of episode, but it does not diminish much from the strength of this story.
Social Commentary – 3 points. Preserving one’s culture or society. I think this is something that all people can identify with. The Ressikan people went to great lengths to preserve the memory of their history and culture once they knew that their world was doomed. In addition to this, we learn how important it is to learn of and to teach of past cultures to help us learn and grow.
Cool Stuff – 2 points. I definitely have to score a point for casting Patrick Stewart’s own son Daniel as his character’s son. It is very cool to see father and son on the screen together as father and son. I also score a point for the Ressikan flute. It will go on to become a significant part of Picard’s character. Plus, the song that Picard creates for the naming of his son is an amazing piece of music. If you get a chance to hear the orchestral arrangement of this song, it is one of the greatest musical scores in all of Star Trek.
Rank – Admiral (22 points). A great tale of humanity and a refreshing tale. It is a simple yet also intricate tapestry of a touching story delivered with strong acting. There is little doubt as to why this episode is on so many Top 10 lists.
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