By Morgan Gendel
I don’t know where you’ll be tonight but I know what I’ll be doing: taking “The Inner Light” out for its 21st birthday. We’ll toss back a few and reminisce and I’ll say things like, “Damn, time flies” and “The Inner Light” will probably say, “How do you think I feel; my episode felt like it took 50 years!”
Then we’ll both sober up and I’ll say, “Inner Light,” you’re the favorite of all my children because you come to the house regularly – usually via BBC America – and everyone I meet seems to love you so so so very much.” Then I’ll get all sloppy and “Inner Light” will look at his/her watch and make some excuse and just beam the hell out of there.
I can speak now, jokingly or otherwise, about my closeness to this singular episode of television, one of like 200 that I’ve written or produced. But it wasn’t always so. Star Trek: The Next Generation, unlike TOS, was a syndicated show, meaning that it was sold to individual station groups as opposed to one network. Two decades ago syndication signified a slight diminishment in cache.
The distinction seems laughable today, when my daughters watch most of their favorite shows on a laptop – or phone. But suffice to say, my agent at the time was not pushing for me to write for TNG, not when a writer-producer job at NBC’s Law & Order awaited.
Who could have ever predicted, not just the love of all things genre but specifically, the adoration for this one episode of television? The result is, I’ve given more thought to the creation of “The Inner Light” than I have to any other single item you find on my IMDB listing. This won’t come as a surprise, but I don’t ever stay up til two ayem pondering why and how I came up with that “Unfinished Business” episode of Hunter I wrote back in the day.
So, why “The Inner Light”? Why does this episode stand out?
The answer – to the extent I know it – demonstrates the collaborative nature of TV production, particularly in its writing phase. My entry point into this story was not, as fans often assume, Picard’s tale of The Road Not Taken – giving the almighty starship captain a taste of hearth and home.
I had something different in mind. Prior to my TV writing career, before my brief stint as a network suit (it didn’t fit well; I felt more like a mock turtleneck), before even my years as a reporter at the Los Angeles Times, I was an advertising copywriter. The initial idea for “IL” fell into that wheelhouse. While looking out my toddler daughter’s window (she’s a college graduate now) I saw the Fuji blimp beckoning me to buy one brand of film over another. I began imagining its 24th century counterpart, beaming bespoke experiences into a potential buyer’s brain that would be indistinguishable from actual memories.
That’s right, it was all about a TV commercial from another galaxy that got blown off course – much as I guess my initial pitch had.
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Starship MineTNGArmageddon GameThe PassengerDeep Space NineLaw & OrderSpider-ManThe Dresden FilesV.I.P.Hellana,deeper meaningtime he spends at Trek and sci-fi conventions meeting with fans