Sunday, June 25, 2006

The Story

On their way to report on a magnetic wave survey, the Enterprise encounters a probe of unfamiliar design that suddenly emits a nucleonic beam that knocks Captain Picard to the floor, apparently unconscious. He awakens in a strange room, wearing strange clothes, and being attended to by a strange woman, who tells him he is home.

Her name is Eline, and she insists he is Kamin, her husband, who has been ill with a high fever. Picard leaves the house and finds himself in a village square. He sees someone dedicating the planting of a tree as an “affirmation of life” during a long drought. This man is Batai, who claims to be his (Kamin’s) friend. He learns he is in the village of Ressik on a planet he’s never heard of, called Kataan.

He continues to reconnoiter, realizing he is not a prisoner of these people, but there is nowhere to go. At nightfall he returns, exhausted, to the only place he knows--the house where he woke up, and to Eline. She remains convinced he is Kamin. When he says with morbid humor that he supposes his hunger proves this isn’t a dream, she asks incredulously, “You think that this-- your life-- is a dream? “

She gives him soup, which he tastes gingerly. “This is delicious,” he says. Eline, a handsome woman in her thirties or forties, beams and says softly with delight, “You always say that.” In a look and a few words she had communicated fully her good heart, her love for Kamin, and the warmth of their relationship.

Picard gently probes for answers. He learns that Kataan is not a spacefaring planet, that Kamin is an ironweaver but prefers playing the flute. Eline shows it to him. “When did I learn to play it?” Picard asks, meaning Kamin. “I’m afraid you never did, dear,” Eline says. “You do keep trying.”

On the Enterprise, Data says that a narrow beam is now focused on the supine Captain. Picard’s vital signs are strong, and Doctor Crusher advises that the beam not be disrupted until she can figure out what it’s doing. Riker wants to identify the source of the probe.

But when we return to Kataan, five years have passed. Eline is losing patience with Kamin/Picard and his recollections of another life on a starship. “It was real,” he insists. “As real as this is. You can’t expect me to forget the lifetime I spent there.” “Yes, I can,” she says.

As real as this is—so Picard has accepted the reality of his life on Kataan, and has responded to Eline’s love. He is clearly torn by her need to have him be fully in this life, and for them to begin a family.

He also has become part of the community, and befitting his Picard personality, he has studied this planet’s drought problem and will now push for a solution. He goes with Batai to the town square to meet the regional Administrator, who is curious about the tree flourishing in the midst of drought. Batai explains that everyone contributes part of their water rations to keep it alive, as a symbol of hope. Kamin tells the administrator that their crops will die without more water, and asks for an atmospheric condenser to be built. The Administrator says it is a large undertaking, but he will take the idea to the central government. Picard/Kamin knows nothing will come of it, and tells Batai they should plan to build their own.

Later that day, hy proposes to Eline that he build a nursery. So he commits to starting a family. He has left Picard behind (even though the melody he has just been playing on his flute is Frere Jacques, which Picard sang with a group of stranded children in an earlier fifth season episode, “Disaster.”) He is Kamin now.

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