Why does everybody like the Star Trek TNG episode "The Inner Light" so much? I've always found it one of most disturbing and least enjoyable episodes of the entire series.
As far as I'm concerned, mind rape is mind rape. Therefore, in my opinion, Picard's experience with the Kataan probe is comparable to his assimilation by the Borg. Yes, the Kataanites had an understandable, even sympathetic, motive; yes, overall the probe dealt much more gently with him than the Borg did; and yes, the Kataanites always intended the "abduction" to be temporary. Nevertheless, in both cases Picard was forcibly taken away from the bridge of the Enterprise against his will--bodily by the Borg, mentally by the Kataan probe--lost his identity, and was manipulated into playing a certain role, turned into a pawn used to achieve the aliens' objectives. Arguably, the Kataan probe was more successful at assimilating him in that, eventually, he willingly gave up his true identity and accepted the reality of the world with which he was presented. In other words, in that instance resistance really WAS futile.
So why the deep and abiding affection for this episode? I'm interested to hear your thoughts, but here is my opinion ... It's the song.
It is a beautiful song, and it would be pointless to deny it. As much as I don't like the episode itself, I can't help but love the beautiful, haunting, bittersweet melody created for it. Often, our opinion of music is subject to the associations that we form with it. That is, we like songs that remind us of good memories and dislike songs that remind us of bad memories. In this case, however, I think the opposite is true: I think the general opinion of this weird and creepy episode is influenced by its association with this deceptively simple, unpretentiously lovely little piece of music.