In the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode The Inner Light, the probe used to connect to Picard's mind seemed relatively advanced (at least more so than what we have now). Riker said the device used to create the illusion to Picard had "self terminated". He then presented Picard with the box containing the flute.

Was there anything else stored in the probe, and if not, why wasn't there? It would seem sensible to include at least one encyclopedia or something of significance that wouldn't weigh too much. Something that could be shared by more than one person. Also why did the machine self terminate, as other people could have had the same experience (like reusing a hologram)?

Also, I may be wrong, but I sort of got the impression Picard did not tell anyone of his experience. Is this true? Did Picard record the lost civilization or did he not mention it?

  • It would seem sensible to include at least one encyclopedia - I believe that Picard's experience was much more than an encyclopedia Jan 26, 2017 at 10:22
  • @EdmundDantes I mean in addition.
    – Celeritas
    Jan 26, 2017 at 10:24
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    "I sort of got the impression Picard did not tell anyone of his experience". I doubt this - almost all the experiences in the show are logged and written up after the episode ends. Picard definitely tells at least one other person
    – DavidS
    Jan 26, 2017 at 10:26
  • @DavidS: Not only that, it was the express wish of the builders. In fact, the last words Picard/Kamin heard in his life on Kataan were: "Now we live in you. Tell them of us, my darling." Seeing how deeply this experience must have moved him (based upon the repeated appearances of the flute later on), I would argue it would border on being out-of-character for Picard to deny the Kataanians this one of all their wishes. Nov 13, 2017 at 20:37

2 Answers 2


The fact that no encyclopedia was included was itself a statement by the probe builders. The encyclopedia, while vast, would contain only a dry recitation of facts, recounting history that is now irrelevant, recapitulating science and mathematics that could be rediscovered by anyone, anywhere. By omitting the encyclopedia the probe builders forced any future probe finder to concentrate on what remained. What they wanted was for someone to know what it felt like to live in the probe builders' culture, and for that someone to be able to act as a firsthand witness to others. Love, work, loss, renewal, community, the quotidian business of living as a social being--- this is what the probe builders valued.

The probe rendered itself non-functional to keep Picard's experience unique. To replicate something is to cheapen it. If you have questions about what the probe builder's culture was like, you must talk to Picard. And you need to do it soon, because Picard will not live forever.

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    I don't think this explanation quite fits with what is said in the episode. From the dialogue, it seems that the point of launching the probe was so the people of Kataan would not be forgotten. Limiting such an experience to just one recipient is, however, a good way to ensure exactly that - as you write, Picard will not live forever. And while anyone (well, actually, probably not just anyone, to start with) can talk to Picard, relying on "telling (and distorting?) the story" is not convincing as a method to truly "remember what we were, and how we lived" for a long time. Nov 13, 2017 at 20:34

If anything else was recovered from the probe after they brought it aboard, it wasn't mentioned in the episode. It is likely that there wasn't anything else, though. The whole point of the probe was that it preserved the memories of Kamin, and the flute, and sent them up into space. In addition, adding any extra weight to the craft would have been avoided wherever possible, so as to make it more likely to succeed. Have you ever picked up an encyclopaedia? They're not light.

"Self-Terminate" means that after it was done, it turned itself off. That doesn't mean it can't be turned back on and used again by somebody else, so it's likely that the probe will simply be sent back to Starfleet and analysed thoroughly after a brief examination on the Enterprise.

Picard didn't go into any depth regarding his experiences, how could you relay every detail of somebody else's life like that? It will have been noted in his Captain's Log, however, so there will be a record of it. While this doesn't actually happen in the episode, it's standard Starfleet protocol, so Picard will have done it off-screen.

So, in short:

  • We don't know for sure that there was anything else, but there probably wasn't.
  • It can and most likely will be used again.
  • Picard didn't tell anyone, but there'll almost certainly be a record of Kataan.
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    The weight of the storage device needed to hold the contents of an encyclopedia would be dwarfed by the weight of the storage device needed to hold the experiences downloaded into Picard. Especially if Kamin had access to an encyclopedia in the simulation. Jan 26, 2017 at 19:09

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