Star Trek: The Next Generation was one of the first western television shows I recalled watching. As a kid, I didn’t understand why people were dressed up in primary colour uniforms or what they talked about, but it all sounded very interesting and important. As my English comprehension skills improved, it grew to become one of my favourite shows and provided my first exposure to science fiction.
Many people who dismiss science fiction tend to think it begins and ends with rocketships and warp drives, along with the implication that to escape from the real world is essentially a childish impulse. But many of the best sci-fi stories are able to utilize the metaphors of the genre as unique vehicles to deliver insight into the human condition:
“Science fiction is metaphor. What sets it apart from older forms of fiction seems to be its use of new metaphors, drawn from certain great dominants of our contemporary life – science, all the sciences, and technology, and the relativistic and the historical outlook, among them.”
(Introduction to the Left Hand of Darkness, by Ursula K. Le Guin)
The Inner Light, one of the most critically acclaimed episodes of the Trek franchise, weaves ideas of nature, culture, and self into a haunting narrative that has profound implications for both the protagonist of the story and the viewers of the show. It is a wonderful and accessible hour of television, exemplifying the type of thought-provoking story the genre is capable of conveying.