Plot Synopsis: An alien probe connects with and disables Captain Picard, who wakes up as “Kamin,” a resident of the planet Kataan.
Plot A and B Analysis: The teaser is brief, but it’s all we need. The Enterprise happens upon an unknown probe, which emits a tethering beam that knocks out Picard. He wakes up in a strange house and in strange clothes to find a strange woman greeting him. Plot A is about Picard’s life on Kataan, plot B is the Enterprise crew trying to figure out what to do. Picard begins thinking he is some sort of prisoner, or part of some kind of simulation, but as years and decades pass he makes a life for himself in the town of Ressik. Picard ages, friends and family die, the crew are unsuccessful in “un-tethering” him from the probe’s beam. This episode builds into something amazing. It’s the story of Picard having an experience unlike any other, living another life that immeasurably enriches his own, and makes us glad we were a part of it.
Favorite Scenes: I could simply write the transcript of this episode, but I’ll try to narrow it down to the highlights. I do like the moment in the teaser when Picard is first hit with the beam and Riker catches him. Realizing that five years have passed in the first 15 minutes of the episode is so startling, I love that. There’s a great twist in the 29th minute when we learn the sun of the Kataan system went nova and destroyed all life 1000 years ago. Whoa! The scene where Eline dies is just heart-breaking. The big reveal that begins in the 38th minute is terrific, and Eline’s plea: “Now we live in you. Tell them of us. My darling.” The most powerful scene to me is the last one, with Picard back on his ship, in his quarters, playing his flute. There’s a quote that Picard says to his daughter that I’ve thought about all these years:
Picard: Seize the time, Meribor. Live now. Make now always the most precious time. Now will never come again.
Use of Cast/Characters: Marina Sirtis had this episode off. This is the most quintessential Picard episode, and virtually the entire 44 minutes is dedicated to my favorite character’s development, deeply revealing his humanity. This episode may do more for Picard than any other single episode, giving him the most profound experience of his life–and that’s saying something. Patrick’s performance is outstanding, and frankly he should have won an Emmy for it. Riker has a couple of good moments, but not much else. Beverly, Data, Worf, Geordi, they all have only a line or two each. Margot Rose plays Eline and delivers one of the greatest performances by a guest star ever, it’s just impeccable. Her love and concern for him is so palpable and real that we believe Picard would stay with her and make life for himself. Richard Riehle, who plays Batai, also does a very good job. He also plays a great part in the film Office Space.
Blu Ray Version: There are five deleted scenes totaling seven minutes. The first happens in the teaser; it has Picard telling a mildly funny story about sitting through 12 hours of opera with an admiral. Missable. The second scene takes place right after he appears in his home in Ressik, and he gets up and asks Eline where his uniform is and identifies himself. It could’ve been left in. The third is the first cut back to the Enterprise, with Riker giving a couple of orders. It should have been in the episode, fits right in and it’s brief. The fourth one is just Crusher talking about Picard’s metabolic rate. Boring. The last is right when his daughter is taking him out to the launching, saying her son will get a full life. Eh, it’s a bit much.
Nitpicks: At 8:20 there is a minor blooper. Look at Picard’s left hand while he’s looking at Ressik. He is holding a hat, which he did not have the moment before or after. Didn’t notice it before? Neither had I.
Overall Impression: This is the episode I’ve been waiting to review since I first began writing reviews. As far as I’m concerned this is the pinnacle, the greatest one-hour TNG story ever told, certainly my favorite in the history of Star Trek. I remember I just broke down and wept at the end. I was 17, and it hit me harder than any episode of television ever had. This is such a personal episode, giving my favorite character something he will never have: his own family. The ending is so powerful it’s difficult to put into words what we feel after being with him over the 30+ years he experienced, as he plays the flute on the Enterprise that is now so familiar to him. I happily grant this episode the once-only rating of 5.5 out of 5 stars.
Behind the Scenes/Trivia: Picard’s son, Batai, is actually his real-life son, Daniel Stewart. By the end of the episode Patrick had a massive amount of makeup on, nearly 16 pounds. He had to be in the makeup artist’s chair by 1 am in order to be ready at 7! The lights had to be incredibly bright to simulate the effect that the sun was having toward the end. He was pretty irritable during that part of the shooting as a result, which probably informed his crotchety performance. Patrick has named this his favorite episode, and his greatest acting challenge in his time on TNG.
Entertainment Weekly named this episode one of the “top 10 episodes” of TNG, and it’s named one of the 10 essential episodes in the Star Trek 101 book. It won the 1993 Hugo Award for best dramatic presentation. Only four Star Trek episodes have received a Hugo: two from TOS, this one, and All Good Things… It was also nominated for an Emmy for makeup. Not bad for a story that one of the writers had to pitch five times before it got accepted! The co-writer of this episode also wrote the stellar DS9 episode In the Pale Moonlight.
According to the director, the first day of shooting was when they shot the probe “connecting” with Picard. He wanted to have Picard slouching against his chair so he could get the camera behind him, but Patrick just shook his head and said, “No…I don’t think so.” He said he tried to explain what he wanted to do, and Patrick wasn’t buying it. They talked, and agreed it would be pulled forward on the bridge and Riker would catch and hold him as he went down. To me, this way of doing it worked on a more personal level, with his first officer catching him. More than any other officer, the executive officer’s duty is to his captain. I’ve always liked that moment.
Missable/Unmissable? Absolutely unmissable. This is the greatest one-hour Star Trek story ever, IMO. The next one isn’t, but it’s not so bad.
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