Where Do You Go When the Earth Won’t Have You?

There is a small grouping of Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes that lingers in my mind from the early 1990s.  One story was about Jean-Luc Picard living one of his many alternate lives on a planet with his wife and child.  The planet is under extreme stress, as the ozone layer is becoming thinner and thinner.  Everyone living on this planet wears long sleeves and pants, as well as sunscreen and hats at all times.  It is phenomenally hot, and much time is spent between Picard and his child working on coaxing life from crops they have planted.

The planet is on shut-down, but the change was so gradual that one gets the impression that generations of people have lived exactly the same way, unable to expose their bare skin to the sun and the outdoors.  Food supplies are entirely altered, and water, not oil, is the most valuable commodity.  One of the most striking things in the story is how extreme the environment seems, and yet how adapted to it the people are.  Suiting up to go outside at all times of day and in all seasons is just normal life to them.

It broke my heart to see this episode 20 years ago, because I have always had the sense that the Star Trek franchise gets it right.  No, not everything of course, but there is a genius in the science fiction that predicted mobile phones and robots, new levels of travel to deep space, race and gender connections and disconnections, and the rise of artificial intelligence in our daily lives.

It’s one thing to look back and see that something was spot-on in hindsight, but quite another to see the future.

I don’t know what I will see for sure this weekend at Saint Stephen’s Dream, A Space Opera, but I am anticipating something rather amazing.  My new friend Doug Imbrogno is the kind of man to do something entirely new that smashes expectations and creates new cultural conversations and tools.

I’ll be at the Bloggerazzi table in Third Eye Caberet Saturday night.  No doubt, there will be an operatic follow-up post next week!

6 thoughts on “Where Do You Go When the Earth Won’t Have You?

  1. The Inner Light, Season 5, Episode 25, June 1, 1992. I googled all of that, but I hope that for a split second you thought maybe I knew that by memory ;).

    This is my favorite episode of them all. I remember watching it with my family when it first aired. In our home Friday evenings were ALWAYS reserved for watching the newest episode of STTNG. I agree with you: Star Trek got a lot of things right. You know, I think most of all it got right what it means to be human. I can think of few shows that so directly addressed that question. Each episode was an explicit exploration of what it meant to be human (or sentient, let’s say). And the writers were so EARNEST in their efforts to grapple with this question and the further questions it spawned.

    I loved the whole concept of The Inner Light–the primitive probe pulling Picard into a simulation of an alien world on the verge of destruction, all so that the inhabitants of that world could tell their story and broadcast to the universe that they, too, existed; the very idea of Picard living a rich and full life in thirty real-time minutes; when the probe released him and he woke up, that look on his face that said, “You can never understand the lessons I just learned and the beauty I witnessed.” I loved the tragic truth that he could not communicate his experience, but I loved even more that that was the point… Only by living a full life among the people of the dying planet, loving them, becoming one of them, could Picard or anyone understand who they were. It’s tragic and beautiful to think that on scales large and small we’re all that complicated and unique.

    Thanks, Elizabeth. I can’t BELIEVE that episode is nearly 20 years old. I felt so old and wise when I watched it. I was twelve!!!! But I WAS almost a teenager, which, as everyone knows, is when each of us knows it all. 😉

    • Thank you so much for looking up the episode! Now I can go back and watch it again, which will be great.

      20 years, ah yes….that really puts it in perspective. I was in a different world. But the memories are good. STTNG was one of my favorite rituals back then. I miss it.

  2. Pingback: Aware, with a Sly Smile – Thoughts on the Space Opera | Esse Diem

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