STLV17: ‘Inner Light’ Panel Reveals How TNG’s Greatest Episode Needed Last-Minute Rescue

To celebrate the 25th anniversary of the beloved Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “The Inner Light”, Creation held a special panel on Saturday afternoon of Star Trek Las Vegas. Sir Patrick Stewart, Margot Rose (Eline), and writer Morgan Gendel were on stage.

The Inner Light

Stewart on working with son Daniel

Daniel Stewart, who played Kamin’s son Batai, was originally scheduled to join his father on the panel but had just started a run with the Royal National Theatre in London. His dad spoke about his son’s experiences on the episode:

He was very nervous I remember, this was his very first time on camera.

I just remember how nervous he was about it all. I still think even to this day, he’s not too pleased with the work that he did in that show, but it’s fine, it’s absolutely fine [work].

Daniel Stewart as Batai in “The Inner Light”

An unusual and rewarding script

Stewart tried to sum up the story as simply as possible:

Initially I was simply Picard, I’d been zapped and then I came round, and I was in a strange place that meant nothing to me at all, but I was Captain Picard.

This was the most interesting part of the script to work on, very gradually the memories of his other life disappear, not completely though, there was always an element of him there, and he completely committed himself to living a totally other life.

This, of course, brought on some acting challenges, playing a character within a character:

[The challenge] was how to blend the new experiences and the new person that he was becoming, with Jean-Luc, and how much of Jean-Luc could we hold over, into the scene – after scene, that would still be authentic to the man that he’d been.

There was a very powerful and emotional scene at the end, when he learnt the truth of what he had been experiencing., and what had happened to him. One of the great moments of in the seven years of the series, one that I know I felt very emotional about performing.

It was an unusual episode, stepping outside of the more standard format for a TNG episode.

There were only a handful of episodes in which I was spending most of my time with other characters, other than the [Enterprise] crew, and that made a huge difference, the cast of “Inner Light,” was so immersed in what they did, so truthful in their interpretations of the characters, the acting skills were outstanding, certainly from you [looks to Margot Rose], and it was invigorating to have that experience. “Captain’s Holiday” was another one.

The acting process: Inside Sir Patrick’s Studio

The discussion turned to the craft of acting, making for a kind of Inside the Actors Studio portion of the panel with Patrick Stewart talking in detail about getting outside of the bridge and acting alongside people other than the main cast.

It was quite rare to find an episode which challenged us as actors. We all had them at different times, don’t get me wrong, this wasn’t an isolated incident; on the contrary we had a great writers’ room who were continually coming up with original things, but rarely for Picard. So, I was absolutely caught up in this world, because it was giving me acting challenges that were not customary on Next Generation.

When asked about how he prepared for the final act, and the reveal that Kamin’s life was simulated and Picard was indeed the “real” person, Stewart explained that “Moments like that simply have to be lived, and not technically prepared for.”

He went on to explain how he finds motivation for situations that he’s never personally been in:

We have something in our professional called ‘sense memory,’ for actors … no experience is ever wasted.

[Sense memory] gives you an impulse of a feeling, of what it felt like when you were having an experience, and you use the feeling in the dramatic reconstruction, so you can blend all kinds of experiences to make a new one in an acting situation, and that’s very much what I remember doing in those moments.

I have certain triggers that I can pull for certain emotions, and they act and work instantly, if I am emotional and moved and tearful, I have one trigger I pull and I’m right there with the emotions filling my body and my mind, and it’s valuable to actors to have these assets that you can draw on from time to time. It’s one of the most interesting aspects of what we do.

“We have a problem”

One piece of behind-the-scenes information that came to light during the panel is that the episode’s director Peter Lauritson (who was the post-production producer for TNG) was trying his hand at directing, and it apparently didn’t go so well.  Patrick Stewart recounted:

One of things that isn’t too well known about this episode, is that the director of this episode hadn’t directed anything before, and he was very insecure, terrific man great at what he actually did, his other job. At lunchtime on our first day the director of photography [Marvin Rush] took me aside and said, “We have a problem. Here’s what I propose, I think we’re going to have run this episode pretty much ourselves, so here’s what I suggest: I will direct the cameras, you direct the actors.” A difficult situation to be in, but I found myself in the company of actors whom I could express myself freely to and talk about the work that we were doing… it was one of the most authentic and rewarding experiences that I had.

Margot Rose chimed in:

The original director was grateful for the help, you and Marvin [Rush], you were so gracious, there was no pushing aside or hostility or resentment, it was just “we need to help.”

Margot Rose had auditioned for TNG six times

Margot Rose and Patrick Stewart on a panel for "The Inner Light" at Star Trek Las Vegas 2017

Margot Rose and Patrick Stewart on a panel for “The Inner Light” at Star Trek Las Vegas 2017

Margot Rose had auditioned for Next Generation six times starting back in 1990 (including trying out for the season 4 episode “First Contact”), when she finally got “The Inner Light.” She found “it was the best TV role that I ever got to do.”

Rose and Stewart has an immediate connection and chemistry as actors:

…a stroke of luck or fate or whatever to get it and and to get it in spades they way I felt it with this lovely gentleman, and from that everything could blossom.

Rose was asked if she was given (or created for herself) a backstory to Eline and her life with Kamin.

We didn’t have a backstory… I never approached it from any other place than this is my present, this is my husband, this is the only reality I had as an actor.

Rose touched on her acting process as well:

I strive to simply be present, and not have too many preconceived things about what I want to do, and just take it from the moment, and that’s so much of what I got to do, and that I think we were lucky enough to do that in the episode.

Inspired by the Fujifilm blimp

Morgan Gendel talking about writing "The Inner Light" at Star Trek Las Vegas 2017

Morgan Gendel talking about writing “The Inner Light” at Star Trek Las Vegas 2017

Morgan Gendel was a freelance writer who pitched ideas to the producers a number of times until they liked one of them. Gendel recounted how he had pitched to Michael Piller without really having a proper story yet, so he went back and started to form the ideas afterwards.

I looked out and saw the Fuji blimp go by. This thing looked very futuristic to me and I thought, what would that be in a couple hundred years? And I thought it would be some kind of advertising or communications satellite that beamed whole memories into people’s minds.

While brainstorming how to show the change Picard goes through, Gendel came up with the flute as way to show the viewers that Picard/Kamin was a changed person:

He had to become a village everyman, transition from being this very commanding presence as a captain to being a guy who actually has time to just sit around and work on playing the flute, and his greatest successes end up being as a husband and father.

Gendel also said that jumping forward in time between acts (commercial breaks): “is what gives you the feeling that he’s changing and yet retaining Picard… every time you came back his children are older, it keeps growing with each act.”

 


For more on “The Inner Light” read our recent interview with Morgan Gendel

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What We Left Behind Team Gives Details On DS9 Doc

Karl Urban talks Star Trek 4, Beyond, Judge Dredd and More

Marina Sirtis Says Paramount Threatened To Replace Her With Jeri Ryan In Star Trek Nemesis

Star Trek Film Academy At Original Series Set Tour Announcement

Patrick Stewart Talks About Gene Roddenberry Opposing His Casting As Picard And More

Denise Crosby talks about her plan for ‘Trekkies 3’

Full videos from ‘Discovery’ actors and writers panels

Star Trek Online announces LeVar Burton to reprise his role as Geordi LaForge for game

Panel: Details and covers for first ‘Star Trek: Discovery’ novel and comic revealed

Interview: Sam Vartholomeos and Wilson Cruz

Interview: Mary Chieffo And Kenneth Mitchell

Panel: Actors Discuss Different Klingon Houses In ‘Star Trek: Discovery’ + First Image of Kol Revealed 

Panel: Writers Talk Technobabble, Timelines And How ‘Star Trek: Discovery’ Is Telling Our War Story

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20 Comments on "STLV17: ‘Inner Light’ Panel Reveals How TNG’s Greatest Episode Needed Last-Minute Rescue"

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I give credit where credit is due. I had no use for 90% of TNG, but this episode really showed the potential…sadly,an unrealized potential, but the potential was there. It was creative and imaginative, beautifully written and the acting was on the money. A true high-mark for the series.

I agree about the show being a high mark for the series. It could have easily turned into a joke with the premise alone. Patrick Stewart and Co. took it to such a great place that it’s hard to boil down the episode in a few words….I think the best part though is the internal exploration that Picard goes on. His experiences as Kamin allows both him and the audience the oppurtunity to see Picard as a family man with all of the ups and downs that it provides. And in the end when it is over one can believe that the best parts of Kamin will be something that he will carry with him.

Ouch.

90%?

Yes, I agree, shallow and pedantic.

Hands-down the best episode of TNG, and a high water mark for the Star Trek franchise.

For sure. In some ways thematically reminiscent of Arthur C. Clarke’ classic short story “The Star” (and actually superior in many ways to its ’80s Twilght Zone adaptation), this is just a wonderful, moving story on every level, very off-format for TNG and yet fitting comfortably into its kinder and gentler ethos. In terms of emotional punch, for the spinoffs only DS9’s “The Visitor” is comparable.

I’m not gonna look up what season it was because I want to talk off the cuff but it felt like a season five or later where they finally got to experiment a bit.

The show got exponentially better as it went on IMHO

Don’t know why people consider this to be TNG’s finest hour. I always found Yesterday’s Enterprise the best of the series. The Inner Light just bored me. Guess I am more into action than talking heads.

I think of Yesterday’s Enterprise as the best “Star Trek” episode of TNG–Klingons, time travel, another Enterprise, two crews, pride in the ship’s name, the history of the Federation hanging in the balance. It’s a story that could only be told in Trek. It’s the best of “standard Trek” storytelling.

I think of The Inner Light as the best “experimental” episode of TNG, and one of my favorite hours of science-fiction TV ever. Nothing about the ship, crew, Federation… Just Picard and this fascinating little cultural exchange idea. It’s a story that could be removed from Trek entirely and still stand as a science-fiction story. It’s the best “science fiction” episode of TNG.

Both are wonderful high points for Star Trek! :)

Like “City on the Edge of Forever” and “The Doomsday Machine”. Both have sci fi elements, but City is a very personal story (Kirk), while Doomsday is all about Starfleet’s missions and command responsibility, the Enterprise, the chain of command, the crew and Federation.

@Kev-1 – Exactly! Good examples. It’s like X-file, in a way, with their mythology episodes and their standalone stories. A classic mythology story like Anazasi and a freaky standalone like Home are both examples of X-Files at its best.

@Alec — what are you talking about? There’s one brief action scene in YE at the end, the rest of it is nothing but talking heads!!

Darmok is my favorite

Yes! Yes! Darmok! ;)

I feel yesterday’s enterprise was the best in the vein of Nicholas Meyers stuff like the wrath of Kahn or the undiscovered country…

This was the best of that represented the other side of the coin to me …

Interesting how we’re finding out more about directors who didn’t do much directing. Just read about how TOMBSTONE director (himself a replacement) didn’t do much except action bits, that Kurt Russell directed the actors (confirmed by Val Kilmer, saying Russell is absolutely responsible for the film’s good parts, often at his own character’s expense.) I absolutely adore TOMBSTONE — everything EXCEPT Russell’s performance, in fact — and have often dreamed of how good it would be with ANYBODY else in the lead, but I guess we wouldn’t have gotten the quality movie if somebody else had been there. Movie might not have been completed. Then again the director Russell had fired might have made it good in a different way.

@kmart — I know and have worked with Peter personally, and I never knew he directed that episode. But I don’t find that story hard to believe. I’m sorry it has to be told about him frankly. Of course TV is full of first time directors due to the DGA process. I’ve seen 2nd ADs and editors thrust into directing who had no business doing it other than they were sleeping with the producers, or otherwise held something over their heads. The experience with the cast in some cases was less than successful. But here’s the interesting part — first time directors are supposed to be supervised. If Peter didn’t work out, it shouldn’t have been left up to the DP and actors to solve the problem. A more experienced mentor should have stepped in (I’ve even seen the show runner overstep to get what he wanted in an important episode), so there’s likely more to this “story” that Stewart is revising in his telling …

This is Star Trek! Just an amazing episode. Richly told story. How TNG didn’t get nominated more often for best TV drama is beyond me.

Matt Wright (and anyone who helped) –

Beside make me kick myself in the ass for not going to this convention and going to this panel ….

You really summed it up nicely and made me feel like I was there and I really appreciate this well-crafted article.

Thank you SO much!
(Off to read your other stuff. Oooh Kirk’s death!) ;)

Very interesting.

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