[It’s going to be an uphill battle for young Picard, who hasn’t yet acquired mad flute.skills.]
It’s time for the ULTIMATE THROWDOWN!!! This episode of the Powerwolf Mailbag features the winner-take-all battle between the two best starship captains in history: Old Jean-Luc Picard and Young Jean-Luc Picard!! Who will win in the ultimate battle royale between experience vs vigor?
I’ve always been a huge fan of Star Trek, and especially Next Generation. It did so many great things, especially for an era when TV had to work as standalone episodes. One of my favorite things about STNG, beyond the wonderful sense of optimism, is how it managed to have great episodes with completely different tones. Two of the episodes I love best are Rascals, the playful episode where a group of characters turn into children, and Inner Light, the touching look at remembrance and life. My question for you is this: which episode do you prefer, and beyond that, which do you think makes for better and/or more entertaining TV?
Smells fine to me,
[Spoilers follow for the mentioned episodes]
For those not familiar with the mentioned episodes: Inner Light (a S5 episode aired in ’92) features a storyline where Picard is brainjacked by a passing probe. He subsequently lives out an entire lifetime in the shoes of an iron worker named Kamin, one of the last living members of a doomed civilization. The experience, it turns out, is designed as a method for passing on a deep historical understanding of the extinct civilization to anyone who finds the probe. In Rascals (a S6 episode also aired in ’92), a transporter mishap reduces Picard and friends to the age of 12, though all their memories and skills remain intact. Soon thereafter, they foil a Ferengi raid on the Enterprise, using their enemies’ overconfidence against them. (Fun fact: the episode was directed by Leonard Nimoy’s son!)
I agree with you that both of these episodes are fantastic examples of the genre and television format, and I love the difference in tonal extremes that the show is able to reach while still maintaining stylistic consistency. I think the only disappointing factor of either of these episodes is that the creators only had an hour to play with ideas that could have supported a lot more exploration.
But let’s get down to brass tacks here. Only one episode can win this head-to-head. It’s unusual for me to rate two narratives against each other that are so essentially identical in directorial style, budget, cast, etc. Not that each episode doesn’t have its standout features. (I thought the child actors in Rascals aped their adult counterparts exceptionally well.) But for the sake of simplicity, when we compare the two, the differences I judge mostly come from the script.
Both episodes do a great job at showing that Picard is a badass, regardless of his age or station. And both episodes meaningfully discuss the struggle of having one’s identity suddenly called into question due to circumstance. I think this is an important equalizer between the two. While Inner Light has a more serious tone, and heavier thematic elements, I don’t think it’s necessarily any “deeper” than Rascals. In some ways. I think Rascals is thematically stronger because of the contrast at play. Picard’s old life and old crew are staring him in the face, but now feel weird about taking commands from him. I also like that Rascals plays with the standard cast of characters. Not only do they have the benefit of already being more developed than the Inner Light supporting cast, the concept gives their team all new, often amusing dynamics (e.g. “Daddy Riker”). The setup also allows for growth of the crew as a whole, in addition to Picard’s personal growth.
I also can’t help but feel that, between the two, Inner Light was hurt more by the time restrictions inherent to the show’s format. It follows Picard through an entire lifetime and introduces entirely new characters and relationships that mostly play out offscreen. While it’s not wrong for a science fiction show to focus on really cool science fiction ideas, I tend to be more interested in the human aspects that the genre brings to the table. I feel like Inner Light was forced to leave a lot of great potential character building off the plate because its concept was so big.
As for which episode I find personally more entertaining? Rascals, hands down. Despite rumors to the contrary, thematic depth and maturity never have to come at the expense of humor. Life is funny! The human experience is weird, wild, and unpredictable. My favorite stories are ones that I never know what to expect next from. Rascals magnificently blends humor and tragedy, often in the same breath. Throw in some action, suspense, sci-fi weirdness, and great character interactions, and you’ve got yourself a pretty damn perfect television episode!
So folks, what do you think? Did The Powerwolf underestimate the benefits of Old Picard’s flautist skills? Let us know in the forums, and be sure to send in your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org for the next episode of the Powerwolf Mailbag!