Jammer's Review

Star Trek: The Next Generation

"Cause and Effect"


Air date: 3/23/1992
Written by Brannon Braga
Directed by Jonathan Frakes

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

A starship emerges from a mysterious void. It's on a collision course with the Enterprise, which is dead in space because of power disruption. The crew has only a few seconds to make a decision on how to avoid the collision. They try to deflect the other ship with a tractor beam, but the ship hits one of the Enterprise's warp nacelles. A cascading catastrophe results in a core breach that destroys the ship.

And then, after the commercial break, repeat.

"Cause and Effect" is like the Groundhog Day of Star Trek (it aired a year before Groundhog Day itself was released), and its one of my favorite TNG sci-fi mysteries. It's a time-loop story featuring subtle nuance in its details, intriguing clues, and foreboding atmosphere. It utilizes the characters sensibly. And it also has the Enterprise blowing up four times. How awesome is that? (Sure, the Enterprise exploding should've been more spectacular, but with 1992 visual effects whaddaya gonna do?)

This is the sort of lightning-in-a-bottle sci-fi high concept that Brannon Braga would try to recapture again and again on TNG, Voyager, and Enterprise. It would eventually become his reputation (often not in a good way), though I think that reputation may be somewhat unfair. It's reminiscent of second season's "Time Squared" in that it depicts a time loop, but it goes one step further in showing the time loop as played out over multiple iterations, where the crew becomes slightly more aware of the loop as the story progresses.

Lots of nice details pull together to create some memorable atmosphere. The poker game, for example, begins as innocuous off-hours recreation, but by the end, as the players are able to predict the cards, it becomes downright eerie. (Data has the line of the night regarding these predictions: "This is highly improbable.") Geordi shows up in sickbay, and Crusher has deja vu. People throughout the ship hear strange whispers at night; what might they be?

And in my favorite little detail, Crusher cannot seem to escape the fate of breaking the glass in her quarters, even when she has a premonition that she's going to break it and tries to take action to avoid it. This detail hints at the notion that perhaps the Enterprise itself cannot escape the fate of its own destruction (though obviously it ultimately will).

Scratch that — my favorite detail is that once the crew discovers what is happening and that they can send a very short message (no more than a single word) from one iteration of the loop to the next in order to warn themselves of the disaster, Data sends the number "3" to his future self and then the 3's show up all over the ship in places he subconsciously planted them — including stacked in the poker hand he deals. Neat. (The 3 refers to the rank insignia on Riker's collar, allowing Data to realize Riker's suggested course of action may be the correct one to avoid the crash.) "Cause and Effect" has no deep significance or important message. It's simply an ingeniously conceived, well executed sci-fi yarn, where the truth is in the details.

Previous episode: The Outcast
Next episode: The First Duty

Season Index

59 comments on this review

Latex Zebra - Wed, May 11, 2011 - 2:50am (USA Central)
What can you say. This episode deserves every plaudit it receives. Not sure if this is the first Sci Fi to employ the use of time loops. It has set the bar so high that I can't think of anything that has eclipsed it yet.
grumpy_otter - Wed, May 11, 2011 - 6:47am (USA Central)
This is fun! So far we disagree on all the new reviews!

This one is okay on first viewing, but after you know the payoff, then whatever. It's not horrible on repeat viewings, but certainly not one I'd sit and watch happily numerous times.

But what really angers me about the episode is the suggestion that the crew of the Bozeman is so utterly clueless that they have no idea that anything is even wrong. The brilliant Enterprise crew figure something is wrong in a matter of days--the Bozeman has been in the loop for DECADES and think everything is hunky dory. Obviously, the Bozeman doesn't have Data to solve the problem, but they should have been aware something was not right.

When the Enterprise contacted them their first communication should have been "Something is very wrong with our ship!"
Jeff - Wed, May 11, 2011 - 9:10am (USA Central)
First, thanks for your great reviews Jammer! You are very precise with vocabulary and do not waste words. These reviews made me break out those dusty TNG discs.

I also agree with both posters above regarding this episode. It was brilliant and new when first aired, and it deserves to be remembered fondly. However, you can really only bring it out every 5 years or so, due to the wash-rinse-repeat nature of the plot. Altho I never got tired of Patrick Stewart bellowing out "ALL HANDS ABANDON SHIP!" in that rich voice of his.

Finally, this is one of Jonathan Frakes early directing jobs (fourth?) and you can really start to see how gifted he is at directing. I remember that one long, tracking shot from high above the conference table in one of the later loops. You don't see the faces of the crew as they discuss the problem, and it only adds to the eerie tone. Subtle directing from Frakes, and you can see why he was later picked to direct 'First Contact' and is now a skilled, seasoned director.
Brendan - Wed, May 11, 2011 - 3:38pm (USA Central)
I thought the whole set up for the "3" message didn't make sense anyway, Riker suggested something with mere seconds to spare, then Data spends another 5 seconds explaining a different option, by which time it's too late. It wasn't a matter of which choice was correct, it was a matter of reaction time.
Destructor - Wed, May 11, 2011 - 8:30pm (USA Central)
Also important to mention that when the Bozeman shows up it's only Frasier Crane playing the Captain! Hells yeah!
bigpale - Wed, May 11, 2011 - 11:47pm (USA Central)
I loved this episode, and it's probably Braga's best. Unfortunately it was all down hill from here for him.
enniofan - Wed, May 11, 2011 - 11:54pm (USA Central)
Fantastic episode, with one HELL of an opening teaser.
Ian Whitcombe - Thu, May 12, 2011 - 1:39am (USA Central)
Bigpale, I'd argue that he still had "Frame of Mind", "Parallels" and "Projections" in him (at least for his solo credits), but yeah even saying that every other one of his scripts will be crap from "Imaginary Friend" to "These Are The Voyages".
Paul - Thu, May 12, 2011 - 11:14pm (USA Central)
My reaction to this episode is exactly as Jammer's. It's a pretty inconsequential episode as such things go, but it's just so damn skillfully executed. Everything clicks -- directing, acting, the whole eerie atmosphere. One of my favourite sci-fi TNG episodes.

One thing always bothered me a bit though(just a nitpick really). Data's "sign" he sent to himself is a bit ambiguous, wouldn't you agree? Riker and Data both have three pips on the collar. Why did he conclude that the threes pointed to Riker?
R.D. - Fri, May 13, 2011 - 8:19am (USA Central)
The fact that Data also has 3 pips on his collar bothered me too at first, although soon I realized it's really "2 and a half." In the lieutenant commander insignia the show uses, there's two bright pips and one black pip. So maybe the "3" was for Riker's 3 bright pips?
Grumpy - Fri, May 13, 2011 - 7:49pm (USA Central)
This is my official favorite TNG episode, if only because at the time it aired, I was doing a play that contained multiple repetitions of certain scenes. So I could imagine how the actors had to accentuate the subtleties of each iteration.

This episode would be perfect except for Braga's mistake of assuming this is a time loop situation. It isn't. They're not "trapped" for 17 days; at least, we never see them "escape." More sensible to think that Enterprise is caught in some kind of time-current, the same one that snagged Bozeman, and that luckily they were only 17 days away from the endpoint. (Or, more sensibly still, omit the "17 days" detail.) To put it another way, our heroes only lived through the situation one time -- the final iteration -- but they benefited from hearing information transmitted from parallel iterations, information which amplified itself each time until it could not be ignored.

My otter counterpart raises a fair point about Bozeman's blase attitude. However, there's no indication that Bozeman received the same echoes from parallel iterations. They don't even explode; in every iteration other than the last, their reaction would've been "Whoa! We hit something and it blew up! And now our clothes are out of style!"
Elliott - Fri, May 13, 2011 - 7:50pm (USA Central)
While there's nothing wrong with episode and I agree with everything you say, I have a hard time awarding a show with no depth a 4-rating. If this were any ol' sci-fi, fine, but not Star Trek. 3 stars is the max for a show that's all gloss.
Grumpy - Fri, May 13, 2011 - 11:03pm (USA Central)
Fair point, Elliott. The extra "push over the cliff" to the maximum rating is usually achieved by a grace note of mythological depth or character revelation. But in some cases, a story can arrive there by brute force of entertainment. "The Trouble With Tribbles" did it with humor, for example.

While serious issues and moral dilemmas are nowhere to be found in "Cause and Effect," the episode has stuck with me.

Also, I award it extra points for making Dr. Crusher the POV character. That alone is going beyond the obvious.
Paul - Sat, May 14, 2011 - 7:20pm (USA Central)
Yeah, I can see Elliott's point. While it is one my favourite "sci-fi gimmicky" episodes, it doesn't have anything else going for it except, as Grumpy put it, brute force of entertainment. But hey, 3.5 or 4 stars, it's still one hell of an episode.
grumpy_otter - Sun, May 15, 2011 - 7:33pm (USA Central)
Just rewatched it.

I had forgotten one thing about it that made it fun:

"No help for the Klingon"

But other than that, since I knew the payoff, I was pretty bored. It was a problem-solving episode with no character development. As Jammer would say, this one had a "reset button" embedded in it. And there was no, as Grumpy said, "grace note of mythological depth or character revelation."

Grumpy: I really appreciate your idea that they weren't "trapped" and the posit about why the Bozeman wouldn't be alerted--fair points! (and lol at "otter counterpart!")

I stand by my initial reaction--yes, this is a very good episode of TNG--but only the first time you see it.

But I like Deanna--what do I know? :-)
Latex Zebra - Wed, May 18, 2011 - 6:53am (USA Central)
People complaining about the but saying that the first time they saw it that it was brilliant.
That is all that matters then. The reviews are for how good the episode was, not how they stand up to multiple viewing... I would assume.
grumpy_otter - Wed, May 18, 2011 - 9:55am (USA Central)
@Latex Zebra

For me, the "multiple viewings" argument is simply the difference between "good" and "great." This is, indeed, a good episode, but in order to be great, I feel it would need to be just as enjoyable on repeat viewings.

anthem47 - Sun, May 22, 2011 - 9:36am (USA Central)
@ grumpy_otter
That was my first thought too, but years later I watched it again and I started to think the Bozeman was only in the loop for 17 days as well. They fall into some sort of time slip, go forward in time decades, then hit the Enterprise and repeat that for 17 days. Or to put it another way, the Enterprise and the Bozeman have to go through an equal amount of iterations, or else what was the Bozeman hitting before the Enterprise came along?

But I can replace that mindbender with another one...the story implies there's some kind of bubble around the area that's rewinding, since they get time stamps from an outpost nearby, so the rest of the universe kept on going as normal. What would happen if someone came across this situation? Presumably they could change the course of events and stop the loop?
JP - Wed, May 25, 2011 - 4:54pm (USA Central)
How do we know there was anybody on the Bozeman? For all we know the ship may be on auto pilot. We don't know what the condition of her crew was.
Lron - Mon, May 30, 2011 - 5:49pm (USA Central)
JP, because Kelsey Grammer and the rest of the Frasier crew show up in Kirk-era garb on the view-screen at the end.
Stef - Wed, Jun 1, 2011 - 9:26am (USA Central)
One of my favorite episodes.

A bunch of us at work watched 4 episodes back to back one night when this came out. The next day we all had Beverly Crusher's little song in our heads. Even thinking about that episodes brings up the sing she hums to herself as she goes to bed.

I also love the spooky camera work on the final run through as Beverly is too paranoid to go to bed normally.
Dirge - Mon, Jun 13, 2011 - 1:24pm (USA Central)
Maybe some of you don't enjoy it as much on a second veiwing because you have already seen it 5 times after the fist viewing.

I always liked this episode and thought it was rather clever.
Phil - Tue, Jun 21, 2011 - 3:52am (USA Central)
Spot on! That bugged me the first time I watched this ep and every time since. Neither Riker's nor Data's suggestion is incorrect - they're just implemented belatedly. In fact, why wouldn't you decompress the shuttle bay AND alter the Bozeman's trajectory with a tractor beam? Moving both ships in different directions would surely be more effective.

That said I thought Frakes did a masterful job as director - besides having to shoot variations on the same scenes in every act, he was making a bottle show so he had only the regular cast and the regular sets to work with and he still managed to make every scene different and interesting.
grumpy_otter - Tue, Jun 21, 2011 - 4:00pm (USA Central)
I love the opportunity to bat these issues back and forth.

After some soul searching--I realized I am not as jazzed about this episode as others because I really hate Beverly Crusher. (yes, more than Wesley) She is my least favorite character on ALL the ST series that I have seen, and any episode that features her has to really rise above to overcome the hatred.

For me, the minute I saw her in her nightie with a bow in her hair, the episode was irredeemable.

Fanner - Mon, Jul 11, 2011 - 3:14pm (USA Central)
Arguably my favorite alltime non-myth arc episode.

I even forgive the absurdity that Riker's (a normal HUMAN being solution would be more correct than DATA'S (a SCIENCE android capable of seven million calculations per second lol)

Also, I can't remember if it is this one or not, but I think this is the one where I think all throughout, Gates just looks beyond lovely.
pviateur - Thu, Aug 18, 2011 - 1:35pm (USA Central)
One of this season's better episodes except for the Bozeman showing up and not knowing anything was wrong. The geniuses on the Enterprise solve the riddle in 17 days so the Bozeman must have been crewed by a bunch of dummies (no offense ladies, but judging from the bridge personnel, the captain was the only male aboard) not to have even suspected something was wrong after decades at least if not 200 years as I thought I heard someone say!
TH - Thu, Sep 8, 2011 - 9:34pm (USA Central)
My only major qualm with this episode was the choice of '3' as the message. I understand the message had to be short, and also apparently confusing enough that the audience would not understand the clue on its own and Data would have to explain it both to them and the crew, but I would think he could have been clearer. "Riker" instead of "3" to indicate riker's idea; or "Shuttlebay" or "decompress"... or how about even "retreat" "reverse" or "180" to get the ship out of the situation in the first place - after all, Data couldn't know whether Riker's suggestion would work either.

Finally, I'm a bit confused as to why the final time loop did NOT involve Data again wearing the armband just in case they failed and had to send another message. I figure that idea would have popped up in the final time loop as well. But none of that really takes away from the greatness of this episode. 4 stars.

PS: regarding the solution: 1) I figure that Data ought to have been able to calculate whether the tractor beam or decompression would have a greater avoidance effect before he suggested the beam. 2) I'd expect the generic "tractor beam" suggestion to move the other ship from Riker, and the seemingly unconventional "decompress the shuttle bay" suggestion from Data - it's not something the crew normally does. 3) Why not try both?
Jay - Sun, Sep 25, 2011 - 6:48pm (USA Central)
A decent episode, though hardly 4 stars...maybe 3 (ha..see what I did there?). And I found the notion that Data could somehow "cause" the cards in the poker game to deal in the fashion they did to be utterly ridiculous.
Captain Tripps - Thu, Oct 13, 2011 - 4:39pm (USA Central)
Jay - that is alluded to earlier when they joke about Data stacking the deck while he's shuffling at Warp speed. He can place the cards in any order he wishes, at any time, he simply doesn't as a matter of course (he also probably knows where every card is while he's dealing, but I imagine he sequesters that information from himself - kind of like playing poker against a computer, the computer knows all the cards, but it's programmed to act as if it doesn't). In the final game, his message was acting on his subconscious processes, hence all the iterations of the number 3 across the ship. Data was responsible for those as well.

This one was a lot of fun. I took it that he Bozeman had catapulted ahead in time, not that it was stuck in a loop for 100 years. It joined the loop at the same time as the Enterprise. Might even have been the proximity of another ship and it's warp field to the temporal whatever that brought the Bozeman forth at that particular moment.
Jay - Sat, Oct 15, 2011 - 11:01pm (USA Central)
@ Tripps

I guess I missed that...I suppose that works.

Another thing that didn't sit well was that the Enterprise crew was having intense deja vu after what was only 17 days in the loop, but the Bozeman crew seemed absolutely clueless after a century. If the deja vu moments the Enterprise crew had in two and a half weeks were extrapolated to the Bozeman,I'd think they'd have been driven into madness after that long.
Chris - Tue, Oct 25, 2011 - 3:33pm (USA Central)
I agree that the Bozeman can't have been going through the loop for 100 years, as there was nothing for it to hit until the Enterprise showed up.



'the Bozeman must have been crewed by a bunch of dummies (no offense ladies, but judging from the bridge personnel, the captain was the only male aboard)'

If you look over Frasier's right shoulder it's clear that the officer at the back is no lady.

Jay - Fri, Nov 4, 2011 - 12:20pm (USA Central)
Chris makes another good point...it was the impact that triggered the reset each time for the Enterprise, so what triggered the Bozeman's reset for the 100 years before the Enterprise came along.

Way too much of a mess here to rate 4 stars. Four stars is saved for episodes that have a good story, follow logically, and correctly follow any canon that they happen to reference.
conroy - Mon, Nov 14, 2011 - 8:19pm (USA Central)
Why only the two choices? Is the Enterprise so limited that they couldn't use the tractor beam AND decompress the main shuttle bay simultaneously to prevent the collision?

I always thought it would be an interesting twist, if they had showed Data taking Riker's suggestion and the Bozeman still collides with the Enterprise, to show that they were both wrong, and the correct solution was to do both actions. But, time was limited so there was only so much the writers could do in a hour.
kuebel - Thu, Dec 1, 2011 - 3:10pm (USA Central)
I always thought that the Bozeman didn't have any deja vues because the time she repeated was too short. There isn't much happening between leaving the rift and colliding with the Enterprise
bash - Mon, Mar 19, 2012 - 12:32pm (USA Central)
I have no idea why people say this episode has no rewatch value, given how much fun detail and atmosphere there is here. If just knowing what happens is enough to be off-putting, then why rewatch anything at all?

And while it's a bottle episode, it's one of the best in a franchise who's most memorable episodes tend to be the bottle episodes. If you're going to reduce it's score just for that, you're going to have to also ding a lot of the greatest episodes of Trek.

Frankly, the only serious logical flaw here is that the Bozeman is sucked into the future at the end just for a cameo. Otherwise it could be rationalized that they were in the time-loop just as long as the Enterprise, and we could wonder about what they had tried and who they were. But it's still a time-paradox episode and those are never really convincing anyway, so this seems like a minor infraction to me.

As for the message, it makes perfect sense. If data chose something else, it might be misinterpreted. Something like "three" was vague right up until the end, just when Data needed it to solve the mystery. It's also possible that he had to send it as a "command to himself", and not just as a simple word. Maybe what he really sent was the command to "do things in threes", and sending a more complex command or program to himself was impractical given the situation, even for something like "retreat" or "shuttle".. maybe he'd wind up taking a shuttle out or doing something even weirder..
Golfboy - Sun, Jul 1, 2012 - 12:11am (USA Central)
One of the most interesting things to me about this episode is, not only does the rift cause the Enterprise to be destroyed, it's also the only thing that "saves" the ship (by creating the causality loop).

Used to be my favorite episode, still in the top 5 for me :-)
Zuriel Seven - Wed, Aug 15, 2012 - 2:03pm (USA Central)
It's interesting: as many times as I watch this episode, I still notice things I've never seen before: Beverly's pink hairpiece while she's sitting in Picard's ready room (when you see it, you will... well... never miss seeing it again), Ensign Ro's shorter haircut, Data's hat, and Geordi's lack of beard (from the previous episode).
Zuriel Seven - Wed, Aug 15, 2012 - 2:09pm (USA Central)
I'd love to see an episode where the crew ends up in one of these for about 80 or 90 years... then the show is forced to continue in the "future" after the ship fails to return to "their" time.
Rosario - Thu, Nov 8, 2012 - 11:25am (USA Central)
I don't buy into the deja-vu at all but I suppose with Data around you never know. Otherwise, I've never seen such a wonderful portrayal of an Infinity Loop.
Cail Corishev - Wed, Dec 26, 2012 - 10:50pm (USA Central)
This may have been my favorite episode of the entire series when I watched them first-run back in the day, and I still enjoy it now. It's the rare time travel show that doesn't feel like a complete Reset Button at the end, because they are learning throughout and don't lose all their memories and start over from scratch at the end.

So I can nitpick it with love. I won't repeat what others have said, but: you've got 35 seconds before a collision, and you spend 30 of them on a round-table discussion of your options? As someone else said, either solution probably would have worked if they'd hurried a little.

One nacelle gets damaged, and the entire ship blows up in a matter of seconds? Why? Apparently it caused every system across the entire ship to crash and burn, including the systems that are designed to be independent from the others so they can handle safety measures like ejecting the warp core. So much for all those "secondary backups."

Also, why Beverly? Why was she (and nine other people on the ship) so sensitive to the voices when no one else was? You'd think Deanna would be the one to sense them, but was she even in the episode? Was it just McFadden's turn in the spotlight?

Data's choice of '3' may be justified thus: a number could be transmitted as a single byte of data. Geordi said the message couldn't be very long, "maybe a single word." Maybe Data decided to play it safe by sending a one-byte message, since a word like "Riker" or "shuttle" would be several bytes, perhaps too large.
CeeBee - Tue, Jan 1, 2013 - 8:21pm (USA Central)
I love this episode because it true shows a science fiction worthy idea.

I don't exactly understand why a ship from the past had to bump into them; it's an unnecessary complication. Let a big rock emerge from the "spatial distortion", or so.

And I don't understand why they only can relay a "simple message, a few characters at most" from one time loop to the other when Beverly is able to hear complete conversations of thousands of people.
Simply shout "Commander Riker was right with his suggestion!" prior to destruction and listen to it in the next loop. After all, they could hear "abandon ship", so that shout would certainly be heard.

And of course they could have done both: decompress a shuttle bay and push with the tractor beam.

Nitpicks, nevertheless. A very nice idea converted into a very nice episode. The poker scenes are great.

And humorous. "No help for the Klingon there" :)
navamske - Tue, Feb 26, 2013 - 11:12pm (USA Central)
Did anyone besides me notice that at the very end of the episode, after Picard's conversation with Frasier and we see the Bozeman traveling in space as the credits start to roll, you can hear the first few notes of the TOS theme? I thought that was a nice touch, if perhaps a little too obvious. (Star Trek for the irony-impaired.)

Incidentally, several years later Patrick Stewart guest-starred on "Frasier." I hoped they would find a way to work in a subtle allusion to this episode, but no.
Grumpy - Mon, Mar 25, 2013 - 7:31pm (USA Central)
Like Cail Corashev, I can nitpick it with love. Earlier I said the only imperfection was Braga's fuzzy grasp of the premise, but there are some other flaws.

TH: "I'm a bit confused as to why the final time loop did NOT involve Data again..."

...As if they knew the episode was almost over! In the next-to-last iteration, the senior staff explicitly meets earlier than usual, to allow time to buid the dekion emitter. But in Act 5, the crisis develops as quickly as in Act 4, yet the staff still meets just before the anomaly appears. Oops! Another blooper in Act 5 has Picard in his gray shirt & jacket when, during the previous iteration, he was wearing his normal uniform (specifically, when he visited sickbay). Not much reason for the timelines to have diverged by that point. (Or is there??)

Also, the editing in the first half is choppy, with some awkwardly-framed close-ups as Frakes tries to vary the coverage. Frakes' performance is also noticeably distracted, understandably. Another flaw is the pitiful sidelining of Troi, who basically repeats one line ("We have to get out of here. Now.") purely to reinforce her role as Dr. Obvious.

And Spiner mispronounces "graviton polarimeter." Minus a half-star!

I've reconsidered what I said about the "grace note." A story can be enjoyable as a well-told example of "How're they gonna solve this one??" In this case, by escaping from the trap, our heroes reveal how they are clever, resourceful, and determined, just like a good Sherlock Holmes or Batman tale. Granted, such stories are improved with added psychological or philosophical depth. "Cause and Effect" hints in that direction with the implied question: would knowing the future allow us to change it? The same question was given weightier consideration during the 5th season in "A Matter of Time" and "Time's Arrow." Plus, this episode is, at its core, a retread of "Time Squared." Perhaps this episode deserves credit for treating the debate from "Time Squared" as settled and avoided repeating it. There was plenty of other repetition going on already!
240ups - Tue, Jul 9, 2013 - 12:25pm (USA Central)
Sorry, just watched episode again after 20 years, and then found this discussion.
They could have got out of the loop within the 3rd loop. Its safe to assume that the first run through the expanse had no Deja Vu. They even hinted to that being "A good thing" (Crusher) in third loop pass. Everything with Deja Vu attached Equals Destruction of Enterprise. There would have been no perceived need to go backwards on the first run through the loop. So Since Deja Vu is introduced on the consecutive passes than stop what you would normally do and do the opposite. Go backwards and see if anyone feels like they had done it before. Wrong call on Picard. It's not second guessing. Caution instinct suggests stopping and retreating.
Jack - Wed, Jul 17, 2013 - 11:24pm (USA Central)
It's possible that Data's idea might have worked too...in the time it took Data to make his suggestion after Riker made his, the other vessel's distance form the Enterprise fell by at least half. If Data had given his idea first it might have had time to work too.

It's also rather goofy that, distances being equal, decompression would work faster than a tractor beam anyways.
mephyve - Wed, Jul 24, 2013 - 5:54pm (USA Central)
Now this is what I watch Star trek for. Pure sci fi cotton candy. Time distortions, alternate universes, what ifs and what's out there. This episode lifted season five off the soso track that it had been on. 5 stars plus.
mephyve - Wed, Jul 24, 2013 - 6:12pm (USA Central)
Having read the comments, I must that i watched this episode 3 times on the day it first aired and knowing the payoff took absolutely nothing away from my enjoyment. Even today I was filled with excitement when I realised what episode this was. Let's face it, even at the first airing we all knew they were going to get out of the loop. The excitement for me was not in finding out how they were going to resolve the issue, it's just the fact that this was such a great idea.
By the way, I also watch groundhog day every chance I get. Cool is cool no matter how many times you see it.
Jeff Bedard - Sat, Aug 3, 2013 - 10:21am (USA Central)
I've often thought that the dialog in "Time Squared" and "Cause and Effect" regarding the nature of their situation and what to do about it is exactly the same. I've never watched the episodes back to back to see if this is true. But they sure sound similar.
Chris - Sun, Aug 18, 2013 - 4:23pm (USA Central)
Season 5 is so good and this is one of my favourites from it. Makes you feel a little crazy yourself towards the end!
Jack - Sat, Nov 16, 2013 - 8:32pm (USA Central)
@ myself

I guess I should have read all the comments before writing mine...Brendan has already found the error that rather destroys the whole episode.
Patrick D - Fri, Dec 20, 2013 - 6:06pm (USA Central)

Weird bit of trivia: all the episodes that you gave the 4-star ratings of season 5 got audio commentaries on the TNG season 5 Blu ray.

Weird, no?
Jons - Fri, Jan 3, 2014 - 3:04pm (USA Central)
I found the episode a bit boring except for the end, which was really tragic...

As for the "Why didn't the Bozeman crew understand blabla" - as another reviewer explains, I think it can only work if they've been in there for only 17 days as well. Besides that, even in 8 years - it's very possible that without Data, the Enterprise crew would never have been able to overcome the time loop. The Bozeman being 80 years out of date and without a Data, it's very likely they wouldn't have been able to do anything, might have realized it, tried something, then forgot again etc etc..
FlyingSquirrel - Fri, Jul 18, 2014 - 1:18pm (USA Central)
I'm fully willing to suspend disbelief with an episode as entertaining and creatively weird as this one, but I have to say that the sci-fi elements seem almost entirely "fi" with almost zero "sci" unless I missed or misunderstood a piece of exposition somewhere.

The big sticking point is the ship's chronometer being off by 17 days, which seems to suggest that instead of returning to the same point in space AND TIME, the Enterprise is returning to the same point in space but with the "erasure" of time limited to the Enterprise and its crew (and the Bozeman, I guess).


(1) Does Starfleet have even less ability to monitor where their ships are than, say, modern-day air traffic control does over commercial airliners? Wouldn't someone notice that the Enterprise briefly blinked off the radar and then suddenly returned to their location from several days earlier? If so, why don't they contact the Enterprise or send another ship to see what's going on?

(2) The possibility of time travel and time distortions has to be fairly well-known among Starfleet by now. I would think that at some point, all Starfleet vessels would be set for regular automatic checks for any misalignment between the ship's chronometer and whatever external sources are used to verify the correct date and time, with the computer set to alert all the senior officers if anything doesn't look right.

(3) The crew are able to sort-of-remember the events of the previous cycle and even capture audio recordings of the "echoes"...why, exactly? This seems more like the realm of ghosts and psychic connections than a phenomenon that would arise from a spacetime anomaly.

Or have I just misunderstood how the spacetime anomalies in this episode are supposed to work?
NCC-1701-Z - Wed, Sep 17, 2014 - 4:06pm (USA Central)
I love how in each iteration, Beverly's glass breaks every single time no matter what she does.

Classic episode, especially with Picard shouting "ALL HANDS ABANDON SHIP!" over and over again. 4 popcorns.
DLPB - Sun, Jan 4, 2015 - 12:10pm (USA Central)
This is one of my favourites. Let's get the plot hole out of the way: A real time loop would not allow for any different action to be taken. The plot device used in this episode is there because it HAS to be there for the episode to work. For that, it can be forgiven. Sometimes, even a great fictional piece needs a cop out. A good writer uses it sparingly and only when necessary- like here.

So no, I won't be deducting any points for that. If the plot hole impacted on the story, or was used in a cop-out fashion because the writing was lazy, I'd be here to complain. You bet your ass, I would.

But no. This episode is very entertaining and has had numerous viewings from me. The idea of repeating time is not an original one, but the execution and how the story unfolds is what makes it what it is. Small things matter, like Beverley knocking over a glass and then feeling like someone has walked over her grave (well acted too). Later we see that same event unfold from the other side of the conversation with Geordi. These things make tales like this believable, and they make us part of the story. So many people fail to see how using subtle ideas such as this make a huge difference.

Much of the episode revolves around how, or if (yes, we know they will :P ), the crew will break free of the loop, but it doesn't get boring. Watching the crew having to come to terms with things in each loop and race against time to stop destruction makes for great TV. It's also an episode that, on the whole, uses good science. Or, at the least, believable science. There is the odd smattering of babble, but nothing that breaks the bond between yourself and the characters. It works.

Everything in this episode is pretty much top notch and it's little wonder it rates in a lot of people's top 10. Mine included.
Robert - Sun, Jan 4, 2015 - 2:10pm (USA Central)
Maybe tomorrow I'll write a scathing review of a generally well received episode just to reward you for writing this :)

Happy New Year!
DLPB - Sun, Jan 4, 2015 - 2:44pm (USA Central)
;) and you!
CPUFP - Sun, Feb 15, 2015 - 5:43am (USA Central)
Some nitpicking:

If the reason for the time-"loop" (for lack of a better word) was a "highly localized distortion of the space-time continuum", and time kept on moving normally outside the distortion (which is established when they receive the star date from the nearest UFP outpost), then why does the loop always start with the Enterprise in considerable distance from the "time bubble"?

On a more substantial note, I thought it was a big missed opportunity to have the Sojus class ship appear only briefly in the end for a small Kelsey Grammer cameo. Yes, we had met Starfleet officers from that time period before (in "Yesterday's Enterprise"), and it is established that Picard is not interested in meeting people from the past (see "The Neutral Zone" and "A Matter of Time"), but shouldn't the arrival of a fully manned ship from 80 years ago be a bigger sensation than what we see here?
Brian S. - Wed, Feb 18, 2015 - 6:41pm (USA Central)
"One of this season's better episodes except for the Bozeman showing up and not knowing anything was wrong. The geniuses on the Enterprise solve the riddle in 17 days so the Bozeman must have been crewed by a bunch of dummies"


This entire episode can be summed up in one paraphrased quote from Futurama's Professor Farnsworth:

"Oh no! Data's stuck in an infinite loop, and Frasier's an idiot!"

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