After a mysterious accident, Picard wakes up living the life of another person on a faraway planet.
An unsophisticated alien probe assumes a relative position, holding steady with the U.S.S. Enterprise, and releases a nucleonic particle stream that penetrates the ship's shields. Focusing solely on Picard, the beam knocks him unconscious. When he wakes up, Picard finds himself in unfamiliar surroundings, being cared for by an attractive woman. The woman, Eline, tells him his name is "Kamin," and he is her husband of three years. She also tells him that he has been sick and must be experiencing a memory loss. Picard soon learns that he lives on the planet Kataan, where he works as a simple iron weaver. His confusion is compounded when he notices that Eline wears an exact replica of the alien probe as jewelry. She tells Picard he gave her the necklace as a gift.
On the Enterprise, the crew is unable to revive Picard. Realizing the particle emission that has attached itself to him may control his life, they are afraid to destroy the beam. Only a few moments have passed, but on Kataan, it is already five years later, and Picard is settling into his life. He comes up with a solution to the drought that is destroying the planet, but his advanced ideas are laughed at by leaders of the primitive society. However, his life is not without its pleasures. Picard kisses Eline, an act that causes his pulse to rise back on the Enterprise. Worf insists they must destroy the beam since their Captain is under attack.
They do so, and Picard's pulse drops dramatically. On Kataan, where seven more years have passed, he falls to the floor. Acting quickly, the crew restores the beam. Back on Kataan, another 12 years have passed, and Picard has two children. The drought continues to worsen, and Picard's teenage daughter realizes their planet is doomed. At the same time, Geordi and Data are able to chart the probe's radiation to Kataan, a planet that was destroyed in a supernova explosion over a thousand years ago.
On Kataan, the years continue to fly by. Picard continues his quest to get something done about the drought, but his suggestions fall on deaf ears. Later, Eline dies, as does Picard's best friend Batai, and his first grandchild is born.
The elapsed time on the Enterprise is still only a few minutes. However, Beverly becomes alarmed when she realizes that Picard's metabolic rates match those of an 80-year-old man. In fact, Picard is actually 85 years old on Kataan, where the drought has almost completely destroyed the planet. His children and grandchild convince the unwilling old man to accompany them to a missile launching - an event they are all very excited about. Picard doesn't understand the point, knowing the missile will do nothing to save the planet or its people. However, as the missile takes off, his family, with the help of Eline's spirit, explain to Picard that they are launching a probe into the future to find a person who will bring them immortality by telling others about their planet after it is destroyed. Picard realizes the missile is actually the probe that brought him to Kataan over 30 years ago. As this happens, he wakes up aboard the Enterprise and is amazed to learn he has only been unconscious for 25 minutes, in which time he lived a third of a lifetime.
By The LED Museum on 07 Sep 2007 22:15:10 This is, by far, the best episode in the entire Star Trek franchise - even beating out "The Best of Both Worlds I" and "Thine Own Self". The fact that Picard lives much of a lifetime on Kataan in just 20 or 25 minutes is no less than fantastic, and it's done well enough that you almost forget that he's captain of good 'ol NCC-1701D. I agree wholeheartedly with Dark Materia on this one: if you don't find this episode to your liking, there's probably something very, very wrong with you.
By Blackdahlia on 18 Aug 2007 22:58:29 My favorite episode of all time. It's more than just the seeking out new life mission. When Picard cradles the flute to his chest at the end, you can feel the loss and desire for his "lost" life on Kataan. Margot Rose is really convincing in her performance as Picard's wife; her death never fails to move me. I think this episode for Picard, was the equivalent of soul bearing for Leonard Nimoy in Amok Time.
By raidon on 16 Aug 2006 01:15:28 This episode never fails to move me... mightly. That Picard has encapsulated an entire existence deep within his being... now further out of reach than when it existed in the probe. It resonates with some mystical, mythical sense I have that so many lives, possible lives exist unexpressed within each of us and yet we live, for better or worse, only one. So much possibilty and so much entropic loss. Rick D.
By MITDGreenb on 22 Jan 2006 05:34:44 Remarkable. Remarkable storyline. Remarkable acting. Remarkable themes. The best on TNG, hands down.
By Dark Materia on 14 Dec 2002 08:43:30 A science-fiction masterpiece. Picard lives a lifetime in the space of 25 minutes, and it's done so convincingly that the viewer almost forgets what is really going on. Patrick Steward acts his pants off in the role of Kamin. Fantastic. If this show doesn't make you feel good, there's no hope for you.