Sunday, June 25, 2006

On the Enterprise, Data has discovered a way to disrupt the beam. Crusher is opposed, but Riker decides to go ahead.

On the planet, seven more years have passed. With his daughter playing nearby, Kamin is presiding over the naming ceremony of his infant son by playing his flute. The melody he plays becomes the theme for the episode, and probably the best known and most fondly remembered piece of music (apart from the opening theme) in any Next Generation episode.

Kamin seems completely in this life, but as he gazes at his son (named Batai, after his friend who has died) he says words that could have come from Picard: “I’d always thought I didn’t need children to complete my life. Now I can’t imagine life without them.”

But suddenly Kamin crumples to the floor, as Picard’s life begins to ebb on the Enteprise when the beam is disrupted. Data restores it, Picard returns to normal, and Kamin’s life resumes.

On the planet, Kamin’s now-sixteen year old daughter Meribor is discussing the results of her soil samples with a now visibly older Kamin. She has concluded what he already knows: There is no bacterial life in the soil. Their planet is dying. “It saddens me to see you bear the burden of knowing things…things you can’t change,” he says. She decides that she should marry the boy who has been pursuing her “sooner rather than later.” Kamin responds with passion: “Seize the time, Meribor. Live now. Make now always the most precious time. Now will never come again.”

The Enterprise has traced the probe to its origin, to a planetary system where all life was destroyed a thousand years before, when its sun went nova.

More years pass on the planet. Kamin’s son Batai becomes a young man and wants to pursue music. Kamin blusters a bit because Batai keeps changing his mind about what he wants, but can’t deny him whatever joy he can find. “Who knows how much time he’ll have to follow any dream?”

Kamin makes one last attempt to get the now aged Administrator to listen to his findings but their scientists already know the planet is doomed, and there’s nothing they can do. Their technology is too limited for space travel. Kamin suggests sending genetic samples into space to at least preserve something of Kataan. The Administrator admits there is a plan in the works. But their conversation is interrupted by young Batai---Elise is dying. She and Kamin have a brief conversation, full of the love and domestic details of a long partnership. As a single tear escapes from the corner of her eye, she dies, and Kamin’s head bows in grief.

More years have passed. Kamin is playing with his grandson, Meribor’s child. As Meribor and Bataii try to coax Kamin into coming with them to the town square to watch the launching of a missile, Kamin confesses that seeing his grandson breaks his heart. “He deserves a rich, full life, and he’s not going to get one.”

But Kamin goes with them, and in his obstreperous old man way, demands to know what they are launching. “You know about it, father,” Meribor says, “you’ve already seen it.” It’s a probe sent out to find someone in the future who will learn about the lives on Kataan and preserve those memories.

Now in the terminally hot sun and the haze of advanced age Kamin suddenly realizes what his long-ago starship dreams were all about. “It’s me, isn’t it? I’m the someone. I’m the one it finds…That’s what this launching is—a probe that finds me, in the future.”

His friend Batai and his wife Elise, both restored to their youth as when he first saw them, explain to him the intentions of the probe. As Kamin sees the woman he loved, Picard hears her say that they have all been dead for a thousand years. “If you remember what we were, and how we lived…then we’ll have found life again… Now we live in you. Tell them of us, my darling…”

Kamin watches the rocket ascend, as Picard begins to stir on the bridge of the Enterprise. He learns that he has been unconscious for twenty-five minutes. He has lived more than thirty years of another life.

Later in his quarters, Riker tells him they have taken the probe into the shuttle bay, no longer functioning. But inside it they found a small box, which Riker gives to Picard, and quietly leaves. Inside is the Ressikan flute. Picard holds it to his heart as he takes it to face his windows into space, and begins to play the melody he composed for Kamin’s infant son’s naming ceremony.

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