Star Trek: The Next Generation

“Cause and Effect”

4 stars.

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

Review Text

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

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191 comments on this post

    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.

    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!"

    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.

    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.

    Also important to mention that when the Bozeman shows up it's only Frasier Crane playing the Captain! Hells yeah!

    I loved this episode, and it's probably Braga's best. Unfortunately it was all down hill from here for him.

    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".

    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?

    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?

    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!"

    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.

    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.

    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.

    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? :-)

    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.

    @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.

    @ 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?

    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.

    JP, because Kelsey Grammer and the rest of the Frasier crew show up in Kirk-era garb on the view-screen at the end.

    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.

    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.

    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.

    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.

    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.

    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!

    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?

    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.

    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.

    @ 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.

    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.

    Chris makes another good 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.

    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.

    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

    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..

    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 :-)

    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).

    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.

    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.

    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.

    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" :)

    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.

    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!

    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.

    It's possible that Data's idea might have worked 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.

    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.

    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.

    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.

    Season 5 is so good and this is one of my favourites from it. Makes you feel a little crazy yourself towards the end!

    @ 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.


    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?

    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..

    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?

    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.

    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.

    Maybe tomorrow I'll write a scathing review of a generally well received episode just to reward you for writing this :)

    Happy New Year!

    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?

    "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!"

    Great episode!

    The only minor quibble I did not see mentioned yet in the comments is with the Bozeman. Captain Kelsey Gramer has been stuck in the loop for over 70 years, and the uniforms he and his bridge crew are wearing are the ones worn around the time of first few Star Trek films (based on TOS). Makes sense so far... Yet when Picard identifies himself and his ship, the Bozeman's response is, "The Enterprise? I've never heard of that ship." Really? Was not the Enterprise the flagship of the Constellation class even then? His response should have been, "You're the Enterprise? I've never heard of you, Capt. Picard. What happened to Kirk?" Otherwise a fun and well-executed episode.

    Totally agree Peter that would have been the perfect time to link the past with the future especially when it comes to the Enterprise. I also heard that they wanted Kirstie Alley to return as her Vulcan character (her spot was probably where the woman stood being Grammer) but they couldn't come to a financial agreement. That would have been a great blast from the past!

    I love this episode. Destruction of the Enterprise multiple times, fantastic! Patrick Stewart's "abandon ship!" is so intense, so believable, the icing on a very delicious cake.
    Rewatching it after about 20+ years was a delight, even though I knew the 3 pips reveal (which I also love). Yes the plot has some issues, like how would deja vu manifest itself? Doesn't matter really, since Trek always needs a bit of suspension of disbelief.
    I thought Gates McFadden was very cute in pink hair band. She usually does nothing for me, but I thought she looked hot in that.

    I honestly think it's pretty clear why Data chose "3" as the message instead of a word, but in order to understand it, you have to think like Data.

    First, and most importantly, he needed to pick a message that he could readily subconsciously insert into his day before the collision. This is why a number like "3" was preferable to a word like "Riker" - he needed something that could apply in multiple situations (e.g. the card game, the sensor readings, etc.) and that would be noticeable to others beside himself (i.e. him dealing threes at the game as opposed to him wondering why he keeps thinking about Riker, lol) in order to establish a clear motif and ensure that the message wouldn't be passed off as coincidence.

    Second, Data realized that in order for the message to be effective, it would preferably *not* be understood until the final, critical moment. Why? Because the message would only work to prevent a collision if the events immediately leading up to the collision remained more-or-less the same. Suppose, for instance, that the message had been "Riker" and that the crew had realized this. How might that have affected Riker's decision-making, and therefore the order of events? Perhaps he would have second-guessed himself and provided he wrong solution in this loop. In short, when Data was programming the message, knowing that he could single-handedly avoid the collision in the next loop using Riker's suggestion *so long as the scenario played out essentially the same,* he realized the clue need only be something that he would understand, and even then only at the critical moment. In fact, it was preferable that it remain a complete mystery to everyone else until he explained himself after the fact.

    Fortunately for the crew, Data could think this fast even when he was about to be destroyed in a horrible explosion. :p

    Wow, it looks like a lot of people, Jammer included, are willing to be much more generous to this episode than I am. Is "Cause and Effect" a nice high-concept sci-fi story? Yes, it is that. Is it well executed? Well, fairly so, yes. Does that make it 4 star or 10 out of 10 worthy? Well, too each their own, but I'm sorry, I can't rate it anywhere near that high. The highest I would be willing to rate it is a 8 out of 10 and that's before I consider the problems it has.

    First and foremost among the episodes, admittedly, few problems is the complete and utter misuse of Kelsey Grammer as a guest star. What was the point of this? The role of the Bozeman captain could have literally been played by anybody, even just some guy they plucked off the street for an afternoon of shooting. To call this a glorified cameo is even stretching it! Here's a little anecdote that sums up this problem perfectly.... When I was a kid I remember one of my friend's mom wasn't a fan of Star Trek but was a HUGE fan of Kelsey Grammer from his role as Dr. Frasier Crane. When she heard that he would guest star in "Cause and Effect" she decided to give it a shot and see if TNG was all it was creaked up to be. When all was said and done, her only response was "what the hell was that; why did I just waste my time for less than a minute of a cameo?!". I find it hard to disagree with her. The fact that it's Kelsey Grammer all of the sudden for no particular reason ends up being nothing but a distraction.

    Also, from that same scene with Grammer, I've heard from the scuttlebutt that it was originally intended for the woman standing next to him to be Saavik. All I can is - thank God that idea fell apart! If Grammer had little more than a glorified cameo, what would Kirstie Alley or Robin Curtis have had? A chance to just stand there for two seconds?! But at least they saved themselves from a huge continuity error by not having Saavik appear. Since the Bozeman first got caught in the loop in 2278 (a full 4 years before "The Wrath of Khan"), Saavik couldn't have been on board.

    The second problem is that "Cause and Effect" doesn't seem to understand the concept of "show don't tell." Instead, we get "show AND tell." In one scene, we get Picard telling us how he had deja-vu while reading. Later we see him actually getting that deja-vu while reading. In one scene we hear how LaForge detects a distortion. Later, we actually see him and Data detect it. I know this was "the point" of the episode, but (again) I'm sorry, it just doesn't work for me. I'm not going to say it makes the episode monotonous (because I don't think it ultimately does), but it comes awfully close to it.

    Third, the "subplot" of Crusher breaking the glass. What were the writers trying to do here? It seems like they were trying to say that the characters were fated to repeat the loop endlessly, despite their best efforts. Well, if that the case, having them escape the loop destroys that idea. It's a well executed idea while it lasts and it adds a nice sense of brooding atmosphere to the episode. But ultimately, I think it was either unnecessary (unless you think there was some mysterious force deliberately making Crusher break the glass - which I don't think is the case) or downright harmful to the overall story.

    Overall, "Cause and Effect" is a nice little diversion of an episode that could have been better with a few minor changes.


    i like how they used different camera angles every time. they didn't reuse shots at all. they say that here too it seems. i like the background info on this site.

    I loved it, even if the effects shots of the ship exploding are really cheesy and dated now. Only two things kind of bothered me about this episode. One was the line from Geordi at the end saying something along the lines of "Data you must have picked up a message from the last loop" and acting surprised even though they already figured out that they had used data to send a message earlier.

    The other thing was the reaction by Captain Frasier to almost colliding with a futuristic looking vessel, and then not even reacting when he was told it was the Enterprise. He seemed really bored actually, and what was with that shoulder slump? Surely the name Enterprise was quite well known to him and he would have realized that something really strange was going on.

    WyldRykers, during the meeting, they weren't 100% sure that Data was the cause of all of the 3's. All they knew was there were a bunch of unexplained 3's, and that there was some modulation in Data's subprocessors. They did guess that the number 3 was a message from themselves, but they didn't know how the message was actually received from the previous loop.

    Separate question: In this episode, the Enterprise explodes 4 times - teaser, act 1, 2, 4. At the end of act 2, the explosion is different than the other 3 explosions. In the other 3 explosions, the Enterprise turns and then explodes. But in act 2, the Enterprise flies straight forward into the explosion. Anyone know why that explosion is different?

    A 45 second pre-credit sequence resulting in the fiery destruction of the Enterprise? Bring it on!

    This is a very well conceived episode. The iterations never get boring given the different ways they are shot and constructed. And it establishes a nicely eerie atmosphere early on. As a self contained show with no wider consequences, it's about as good as it gets.

    And it's got Kelsey Grammer. 3.5 stars.

    The message Data sends to himself is "3" because if he sent himself "1" it would be too obvious to the viewer. "1" would clearly mean 1st officer (Riker) or even the first suggestion made when Picard asks for suggestions. Either interpretation tells them to decompress the shuttle bay over using the tractor beam. They wanted the meaning of the number to be a mystery to increase interest, so that it's not obvious how the episode ends until it actually ends.

    This episode is also one of my favorites. I have one major problem with the premise: Given that the temporal causality loop was ultimately cause by the collision of the Enterprise and the Bozeman, wouldn't it then follow that there each ship would have been in the loop the same number of times? In other words, how is it that the Enterprise was caught for 17 days and the Bozeman for 90 years? And how did the two ships meet up in the first place?


    It's a little confusing so bear with me. The temporal anomaly occurs regardless of the two ships and acts as a sort of time portal. The collision within the anomaly causes their time to repeat. So, both ships were stuck in the loop for 17 days. When they broke the loop, the Bozeman was in the 24th century because it actually jumped 90 years from entering the temporal anomaly.

    Thanks, Chrome, for a at least a plausible theory -- considering it's all made-up science. I've been puzzling over this since I first saw it over 20 years ago. Your explanation works better than anything I've been able to come up with in that time.

    Hello Everyone

    I'm not going to quibble over the why's and whatnot of the episode. When it first aired, it was an instant favorite of mine, period.

    No, my problem is how the episode was spoiled for me. It seems that for many of you, when you first saw it, you had no idea what was happening and you had to figure it out. Not for me. And the entity that spoiled it for me was not a friend, relative, or enemy. It was spoiled by... Star Trek the Next Generation...

    The week before this aired, the teaser at the end of the previous episode said:

    "The Enterprise is Caught in a TIIiime Loop!"

    They started the teaser off with that, showing the Enterprise spinning around and blowing up! I was pissed, literally shaking my fist at the sky in my best imitation of John Cleese. The fun of figuring out the episode was ruined. I ended up showing it to many multiples of folks, so I could at least see their reactions and leech their feelings a little bit. But I was cheated.

    I never again, for any Star Trek series, watched the teaser for the next episode. Ever. I'd mute it or fast forward through it while looking away (or both).

    I can let go of many things that have happened to me over the years, but whenever I think of that, it still ticks me off just a little bit, nearly 26 years later...

    Regards... RT

    P.S.: Actualy... more than a little bit...

    I just wanted to say I agree with Jammer's 4 star rating for this episode. It's original story, the acting was good, it's engaging, has a fantastic opening scene, and has good production values.

    I loved the recording where Picard is near shouting, "All hands abandon ship!". His timing is not too good for the crew, with having only a few seconds before he ship explodes anyways.

    This is also one of the few times we get to see Beverly's quarters. Nearly all of the regular casts' quarters are shown multiple times, except perhaps La Forge's.

    I also like that most of the story is from Beverly's point of view. For the sake of the story, it could have been anyone I suppose, but she usually doesn't get many lines when it's an ensemble episode. Thus making it from her point of view is a change of pace.

    Great episode, and if anything, it explains why people see the same number over and over again during the day. It's all Data's fault.

    Oh God, what if somebody from the future is trying to tell us something pertaining to 47!!!

    I actually enjoy this episode but there is one MAJOR flaw in the plot that bugs me every time I watch it.

    When the senior officers have first been briefed on the existence of the causality loop, they think of how to avoid it. Worf suggests that the Enterprise reverse course. Riker counters that reversing course may have caused the collision and Worf's idea is quashed.

    Here is the problem with that, the change in course was prompted only by the knowledge of the existence of the causality loop. It could not have been suggested before the very first explosion and therefore it is impossible for the loop to be caused by reversing course. Therefore the simple and most rational course of action would be to reverse course, but no one other than Worf realizes this.

    That's a good observation, Jacob!

    I haven't thought of your solution to the problem, but I have one of my own. If the crew are not sure what caused the loop and are therefore unwilling to change course, why not simply cast dice, metaphorically speaking? Change course to one picked by a random number generator. Chances that the ship runs into the anomaly *again* are practically nil.

    Just watched the show on a BBC marathon and it is still one of my favorites. I won’t complain about the fact that it isn't exactly scientifically accurate because it is SCIENCE FICTION. To complain about a television show not being real enough is quite ludicrous. There is no such thing as a reality TV show. Once the cameras are there, the acting begins.

    So many comments to debate

    Bozeman crew – Why didn’t they know, if they were in the loop so long, who’s to say their side of the loop was as short as the Enterprise’s on that side of the loop. Time could have been different, after all it is SCIENCE FICTION, we do know there are pockets of space where time moves at a different rate. Or any number of “scientific explanations”. I do not remember hearing them saying the collision created the time loop, so why would they have to be in the loop for the same amount of time. When the Bozeman reached the end of the loop it just started over with or without the collision. Geordi said they collided and got caught in a time loop. They were already in the time loop when he made that comment. The fact that the Enterprise keeps going back to the card game leads me to believe that is where the time loop originated in that part of space. The Bozeman entrance into the time loop may have been 10000 more light years away. Also the Bozeman doesn’t have the same technology, or even Geordi’s visor or a brain like Data or even a comparable ship’s computer to help so it’s quite possible they would not have experience the same quick Deja vu feeling or a way to find an answer.

    I agree with the comments of Picard’s bellowing “All hands on deck”, the urgency in his voice is phenomenal. I like the desperation in his voice even when he asks for suggestions.

    Data responding to the “3” slowly, well it is a TV show; they are drawing out the ending. If we are to expect Data to react in Data speed, he would have reacted before he even suggested opening the bay doors because he would have been calculating possible solutions at all times and cancelled out his own idea before Ryker suggested his own idea and approached him to see the insignia on his collar. Then he would have to explain why he followed Ryker’s idea before Ryker had a chance to express it

    The glass breaking, Beverly could have subconsciously been breaking the glass because she always felt something wrong and wanted to “wake up”

    Of course Data could shuffle the cards and how they could be dealt in a specific order; he is a computer and can easily keep track of a minimal 52 card sequence.

    Why was Beverly sensitive before the others, because she is Wesley’s mom and Wesley obviously had a special power and could sense things out of space and time, the traveler did want him from the beginning?

    Why aren’t people always wearing the same thing nor have same hair? The ship was caught in a time loop; it didn’t say people could change their ideas of what to wear during these time loop. All events in time didn’t always repeat themselves or they would have never been able to escape. The brain did still form new memories and connections because of new but repeated moments. They could dress differently because they felt like they wore that outfit just recently

    Of course Starfleet isn’t able to see all ships on a “radar”, they even said at the beginning an unexplored area of space. The enterprise may have been months away from the nearest outpost or shift

    When you are writing fiction it is easy to create different and possible scenarios. I could go on and on because simply, I love to debate, but so much scientific nitpicking of a great episode. But if you watch Star Trek for the science then I would guess you also read the bible for some truth

    "I do not remember hearing them saying the collision created the time loop, so why would they have to be in the loop for the same amount of time."

    In the loop where Geordi figures out what happened, he explains that an explosion from the Enterprise colliding with something in a temporal distortion causes the loop. Thus, both the Bozeman and the Enterprise need to be at the distortion to collide and make the loop.

    Finally decided to post a comment on this excellent website, since I'm picking and choosing episodes to watch on blu-ray with the help of Jammer's reviews.

    My only minor nitpick with this episode is the missed opportunity that is the ending with the Bozeman. I believe it was covered in a novel in the EU, but it's really compelling to think about what would happen with the Bozeman and its crew after the fact. It almost feels like it could have provided a chance to make a two-parter, with the second episode being completely different from the first, dealing with the politics and ethics of bringing an old, obsolete ship and her crew into the modern age.

    Just a thought.

    Data also has 3 rank pips, but I guess he couldn't see his own. I like that Riker had the right idea and not Data. I hope Riker rubbed it in to Picard and Data.

    @Nicholas Ryan

    If you look closely Data's third pip is hollow, indicating Lieutenant Commander, so he probably would understand three pips to indicate Commander rank (i.e. Riker). I too liked that Riker had the right idea; Data's idea sounded clean on its face, but in a pinch Riker's method is the more effective one. Perhaps this is thanks to Riker's piloting experience?

    Great episode and one of my favorites. One little nick pick: When they're discussing what to do about the time loop and Geordi suggests reversing course, he's overruled and they decide to act as everything is normal.

    But that would have been what they were doing the FIRST time into the loop! They should have said: "well, let's do something completely unpredictable. Reverse course. Set course for Earth. Stop dead in space and have a ship-wide barn dance.

    This is one of my favourite tng eps. Everything works -- there's no sense of padding, clunky dialogue, aliens/guest actor of the week with obvious cartoonish ulterior motives, or any terrible b or c plots tacked on. For once, little is dumbed down for the audience to make sure they "get it." I've never been a fan of Dr. Crusher but she's great in this (as well as another fave of mine "Remember Me."

    I remember cheering each time the ship blew up the first time I saw it, because I was so pissed off about the previous episode "The Outcast."

    I'd probably rate this one a 3.5, though I can easily see how some would give it a 4. For me, I just found it a bit too hard to swallow that the crew could remember such distinct details (let alone anything!) from previous loops. It goes against the very idea of a time loop, where everything is completely reset (including memories) at the end. I also agree with other comments above that too much time was taken by Data explaining his tractor beam idea. I groaned every time he turned around to talk to the captain, while in the background we see the other ship literally seconds away!

    DLPB says: "Let's get the plot hole out of the way: A real time loop would not allow for any different action to be taken."

    I suspect this is false. The universe contains randomness at its deepest level. Why wouldn't that randomness factor into each iteration of the time loop?

    I've read that closed timelike curves give classical computers the same computing power as quantum computers through "randomized advice." How could this be the case if each loop had to repeat the exact same calculation exactly the same way with exactly the same input and output?

    In any case, if such a thing exists as a CTC or a time loop for macroscopic objects, its physics aren't understood. We certainly can't go around making such claims with any certainty.

    Good thing Riker always feels the need to straddle/perch himself practically on the back of Data's chair every single time, or Data wouldn't have figured out his own clue. After about the second or third scene with the Ent blowing up I started to wonder how Ro would react to Riker trying that whole straddle/perch thing on HER chair. Presumably more uncomfortably than Data does. (Seriously, what's with the way Riker's always standing and sitting, did a venereal disease rob him off all ability to sit and stand like a normal human being?)

    Hello Everyone!


    I saw Mr. Frakes at a Trek convention one time, and he had mentioned (might have been in answer to a question) that he was told to stand and walk that way early on. Something to do with him being taller than some of the other actors. So he always leans forward when he's walking, like he's about to break into a run, but doesn't. I always found it weird they asked him to do that. Oh, he also told us he had to wear a small hairpiece, to cover the bald spot that was slowly getting bigger as the years went on. :)

    Now for sitting, I'd never really noticed. But he does seem to often sit leaning forward instead of sitting back.

    Anyway, just thought I'd add my comment to the pile. :)

    Regards... RT

    What bothered me about this episode is that if you were going to send a number to represent riker why the hell wouldn't it be "1" He's been "Number one" since season one..

    Otherwise, fantastic episode.


    Thanks for the info, I never knew it was a command from on high.

    Whatever the reasoning, it did make for a hilarious character quirk. He did things like straddling over the back of a chair to sit on it instead of going around to sit on it, there's a post out there somewhere mentioning how it's a good thing Riker never wore the man-skirt background characters wore in the early seasons when he tried that. I've also noticed he really leaned over to the side when in meetings, his hand touching or almost touching the hand of the person beside him, like he wanted to hold their hand (usually Data or Troi). He just moves and positions himself oddly in general, I'm curious as to why they told him to do that. Then again I've noticed that in a lot of scenes characters will be pressed right up against each other even when there's plenty of room for them to spread out, like when there are two people on the lift. Either the concept of personal space has changed radically on the 24th century, or they're all trying to fit into the shot. ;) (My sister jokingly says it's because being in space makes them feel so small and lonely they need the physical contact to feel safe.)

    I never noticed the patch, that's an interesting tidbit. Now if we could only get confirmation on Kirk's girdle. :)

    All very interesting. And then of course there's the unusual way he sits down in chairs.

    I suppose huddling together to fit in a shot would be more of an instinct in classic 4:3 aspect TV than it would be in today's 16:9 (or wider) ratios.

    Back to the episode: after reading the comment thread for "Inner Light" and noting @RandomThought's valid point about whether Picard would really be ready to immediately return to duty, I had a similar thought about Captain Bateson in this episode.

    I was curious about what happened to that crew later in the continuity, and according to stuff on Wikipedia (or maybe Memory Alpha), Bateson was apparently given immediate(?) command of a 24th century starship, even though he had just come from the 23rd century, 90 years earlier. Wouldn't that be like a Navy captain from 1927 being given command of a ship today? What would he make of all the satellite navigation, etc.? Even more than Picard in "Inner Light", that strikes me as at the very least requiring a trip back to Starfleet for at least an abbreviated education. I don't know if they kept his whole crew together, but can you imagine being a 24th century person assigned to serve under Bateson, and being nervous about whether he'd even understand the technology, not to mention the current state of diplomatic affairs? Yikes.

    { 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? }

    Plus, Data is 3rd in command of the ship.

    But I figure since he created the message, he would know himself and know what "3' would mean to himself.


    The number 1 would be hard for Data to replicate during the poker scene. Way too much nitpicking here.

    As I see it the Bozeman and the Enterprise had to be stuck in the loop for the same number of iterations. Suppose at the time of the explosion they're both destroyed and the loop is thus repeated-- the Enterprise is launched back some number of days (say ~4, the stated 17 day chronometer difference divided by the number of iterations we see) to when it first entered the looping area of space. There isn't necessarily the requirement that the Bozeman only spent 4 days before it encountered the spacial anomaly which causes the collision. For the crew of the Bozeman, they could be repeating a section of time spanning a year+ (the 3 weeks since they left port thing couldn't bound the start, in this case). Consequently, it would be more difficult for them to detect the instances of deja-vu because of the extended time period, and would cause them to become more and more out of sync with the "proper timeline," inflating the chronometer difference to 80 years while the Enterprise's is only 17 days. There are other explanations too, but I see this as one possible way to reconcile the conundrum the Bozeman's presence introduces.


    Nothing suggests the Bozeman was stuck in the timeloop any longer than the Enterprise. Besides which, they're time traveling from a different era a la "Yesterday's Enterprise", so the time they spent looping is irrelevant.

    Really clever and pure sci-fi episode, something rarely seen and therefore great to see. It's funny because I mostly associate Braga with some of the worse developments in the Trek cannon (screwing up ENT mainly) but full credit to him for coming up with this gem.

    The eery feeling is so well created when Crusher -- who is really the main character here and is very well acted -- begins to have the realizations that she's been here / done that. I thought it was also very clever with the symbolism of always knocking off the glass and it shattering -- just to mean that no matter what the crew did, the ship kept getting destroyed.

    It does seem odd to me that Riker's suggestion isn't initially followed. Why isn't it? Data makes the tractor beam suggestion and so Picard tells Worf to go with it? Is it just because Data says it after Riker?

    In terms of drawbacks, the technobabble for what kind of field they were in, the phase shifts in Geordi's visor -- didn't "make sense" to me in that I'm not clear on how it factors into the solution.

    And why can Data only pass back to himself the number 3 instead of a more elaborate message? But then the viewer is just taken aback as Crusher calls out the cards she expects to see and Data deals all 3s. Great stuff here.

    What I also wonder is what time loop the Bozeman (and captain Frasier Crane) was experiencing for decades before the Enterprise enters 17 days prior and begins crashing into it.

    A strong 3.5 stars for "Cause and Effect" -- excellent execution, creative idea. Only some very minor questions is what I am left with. Nothing consequential comes from the episode but that's perfectly fine -- this is a great hour of pure sci-fi and McFadden carries the episode really well.

    4 stars

    Another great TNG sci-fi mystery by the master of these sorts of tales. I knew whenever I saw Brannon Braga’s name on an episode I was going to be impressed and in for treat

    The teaser was shocking with the Enterprise In middle of a devastating emergency onboard culminating in the shock of the ship itself exploding

    Then very oddly enough the episode starts the first act with everything seemingly fine and ordinary with a routine weekly poker game. That had me scratching my head asking to myself if I had missed something

    Then the eerie cacophony of whispers in Dr Crusher’s quarters. Further hints something is amiss. Then the temporal anomaly as we realize we are seeing the events that led to the ship’s destruction in the teaser. Cut to commercial

    After the break back to poker game. I thought originally my local tv station had messed up the feed and was replaying the first act again. But then I realized it was the same scene and was intentional. I must say it was a very Bold idea creatively to go an episode with a plot about repeating the same events over and over and structurally crafting the episode that way.

    I also loved the way the episode teased the mystery of what was happening. Yes the audience saw the explosion in teaser then even though we had glimmers of sort of what was occurring but still not fully how the repetition was being triggered or how the whispers and other off occurrences played into everything.

    Then things inally come together when Beverly in latest cycle of repetition was prepared to grab her tricorder and record the voices. Also the moment she set her glass in a different spot hoping to avoid breaking it again only to shatter it with her lab coat suggested perhaps it was their fate to die again and again

    The fourth act was engrossing and the explanation for what was going on was nothing short of brilliant coupled with the earlier reveal that the voices weren’t some ominous otherworldly voices but the crew’s voices—something LOST would borrow

    Tng was great at explaining things effectively to the audience— making something complex very understandable and along with the very effective use of diagrams. I loved the idea that the ship’s destruction in proximity to a temporary anomaly was throwing the crew back in time leading to them repeating the events over and over and over again. Even more ominous was Geordi’s musings that they could have been reliving this time fragment for years!!!

    I also was very, very impressed by Brannon’s choices to help clue the crew in on what was happening so they wouldn’t go on being oblivious to their predicament. I love the notion of giving Deja vu an in-universe grounder scientific basis with the dekion field. I just thought that was so cool. I also liked the afterimages in the dekion field being processed by Geordi’s visor then the echoes containing key phrases that indicated a disaster on board the ship.

    And it was smart thinking to anticipate that even realizing what was going on that they may not be able in this cycle to prevent the disaster—so they planned to send a message to themselves into the next loop. And the idea of a subconscious message to Data was very fun

    That left the final act about what message Dara sent. I was totally expecting like before Beverly nailing the cards Data was dealing so was absolutely floored when her predictions weren’t as they had been previously. A new mystery arose. Then 3 in diagnostic. What did 3 have to do with the disaster???? When it turned out to be the number of pips in Rikers collar I had to hand to Brannon it was brilliant. That’s something a fan would think up and to see Brannon pull that idea and incorporate it into the episode was spectacular. And it allowed to work in the 3 in several clever ways—again the reappearing number game was something else Lost did

    I also liked very much that the crew were in the loop for 17.4 Days—maybe not disconcerting as years—but still a relatively lengthy time to unnerve anyone. And I was perfectly okay with the short shrift the Bozeman story got

    "... the 3's show up all over the ship...."

    There should be no apostrophe there. People think you put an apostrophe between an acronym, or a number, and an "s" placed to indicate a plural. They are wrong. DVDs. '80s. 3s.

    Gabe, putting an apostrophe after a single character to form a plural is an accepted, and arguably preferred, exception to the rule you are talking about. Google "apostrophe after single character."

    Well of course, Frasier Crane would cause this kind of situation. I wonder if Daphne did some stupid thing to cause the time loop.

    Jammer's right: that is the one time when it's okay to use an apostrophe with a non-possesive plural.

    My favorite TNG episode of all time. One thing I only realized with the latest viewing is that almost the entire episode is from Crusher's point of view. I believe the only scenes where she's not present occur during the final timeline with Geordi and Data getting some screen time alone, and a bit of Picard reading in his quarters.

    If no Starfleet vessel had explored that region before, what was the Bozeman doing there?


    "Gabe, putting an apostrophe after a single character to form a plural is an accepted, and arguably preferred, exception to the rule you are talking about. Google 'apostrophe after single character'."

    The fact that you can find something with Google proves nothing.

    I always figure the Bozeman didn't loop, it just got time-jumped 80ish years ahead, collided with Enterprise, and only then did it get reset the same way Enterprise did.

    The episode was great, although the final time through the loop, the Bozeman must be imitating Sir Launcelot from Monty Python & the Holy Grail, because suddenly Data has like half a minute to figure out what the "3" means when he had only a few seconds before.

    Worf's "reverse course" suggestion was the best one.

    Its dismissal as "what if that's what causes this whole thing?" was as absurd as any of the "logic" we'd see later from Bashir on DS9 episodes as reason why ideas couldn't be tried, like the one when Molly was lost.

    When I was 15, I wrote out a list of my favorite Next Generation episodes. The top three were:

    1. Cause and Effect
    2. Frame of Mind
    3. Timescape

    Clearly, I loved having my mind warped by Brannon Braga when I was a youngster. Though my tastes have evolved since I've entered adulthood (now I tend to gravitate toward Ronald D. Moore's stories of high drama and political intrigue), this episode is still in my top 3. It's just pure, nutty science fiction, and I love watching the characters gradually put the pieces together each subsequent trip through the loop.

    I began watching Next Generation regularly halfway through the third season, at the tender age of seven, but it was this episode that solidified my TNG fandom - from the moment the ship blew up in the teaser. Thank you, Mr. Braga!

    @Adrian Martin

    Timescape is wonderful. It's a gem! It's just so creative and beautifully directed. It has such great ambiance and tone and it's the perfect blend of adventure, wacky sci-fi ideas, humor and character.

    it's certainly one of my top ten favorite episodes.

    @Ari Paul

    You won't get any argument from me. Timescape is still in my Top 10 as well. :-)

    When Picard claimed to be an amateur archaeologist, he went around blowing up old ships.

    Now they find one, and he leaves it alone, because he doesn't care about that stuff anymore.

    I am afraid I cannot join in with the praise for this episode.
    Sending a warning to yourselves is dealt with in a superior way in the sf novel Thrice Upon a Time by J P Hogan but ok one cannot match a novel in a tv episode.

    The biggest problem for me is that there is maybe 30 minutes of story here and we go through the time loop ploddingly several times .
    Credit is due for using different camera angles as the crew begin to have that uneasy deja vue feeling and there is a good turn by the main cast but this is a narrow concept that would take up about a quarter of an episode of the faster moving stuff we are used to these days.

    For why the Bozeman was not able to figure it out, I would say that the danger of being in that situation is whether your loop stabilizes or not. There are mathematical or computational systems that are very similar. Because of the allowance of information being sent back through the loop (without which the loop would be infinite), at first things would be chaotic with some varying amount of change happening with each iteration of the loop. But over time, I think the tendency would be for things to balance out. Eventually, all the variation would flatten, and the loop would stabilize and become indefinite. If that happens before you've managed to avoid it, then you're stuck. The only way out is to figure it out before it stabilizes.

    Cause and Effect is a great episode and I love it.

    BUT!! There's one huge problem I have with this episode. The problem is that this episode of TNG ends right at the most interesting part. All of the time loop shenanigans were great and the story they told with them landed pretty well; but this needed to be a two-part episode, the debrief between Picard and Dr. Crane would have been compelling and emotional.

    You could have had a "fish out of water" type of episode as the second half, with the Enterprise crew helping the distraught crew of the Bozeman come to terms with the fact that everyone they know and love are dead, the world has changed dramatically, and Klingons are now accepted in polite society.

    Great episode but a huge missed opportunity.

    Data message was ultimately somewhat unnecessary.

    In every iteration through the loop, the crew was already changing their behavior and decisions based on the effects of "Deja-Vu".

    If they had been stuck long enough, they would have, even if inadvertently, made a "butterfly effect" decision that would have let them escape.

    Notice during the meetings where they discuss the possibility of reversing course to avoid the disaster. The first time it is Picard who says reversing course could be what causes the disaster. The next iteration, it is Riker who says this.

    Eventually there could have been an iteration where they actually reversed course, or an iteration where Geordi finally fell off the catwalk and damaged the ship's engines forcing them to stop and avoid the disaster altogether.

    8.5/10 I enjoy the Groundhog Day type plot. I thought they solved it awfully quickly though with technobabble but I guess with one hour that`s what happens. The clue of 3 was a little too convenient but I guess if you can only send one bit, you are limited. Wait! it should have been a 2 for Number 2 and that would still be two bits.

    We could be stuck inva million year time loop and not even know it.😂.

    I actually am a little surprised to see so many people agreeing with my own opinion that this is one of my favorite episodes.

    It's my personal favorite because I happen to have temporal lobe epilepsy, which gives me deja vu episodes.

    Picard: "We can't afford to 2nd guess ourselves now. We'll proceed as normal and respond to events as they arise."

    Me: "Are you f'n nuts Picard? Switch things up because you already know that doing the usual thing is what gets you killed. Program a series of random course corrections into the computer. Geeez mon!"

    Things that annoy me:

    In the opening Poker game, Worf commits two major infractions. When he folds, he turns over his hole card revealing its contents to the other players. Then, he comments "(Riker) does not have a straight."

    Huge infraction. Other players are not allowed to comment on the probable contents of other player's hand. For example, Worf might be saying, "He doesn't have a straight because I have the card he needs." That is called "tampering" and will get you kicked out of any legitimate poker game.

    A time anomaly story with a strong Twilight Zone flavour would normally be right up my street, but I was left feeling a little unsatisfied by this one. I liked it, I was entertained, but actually I enjoyed some of the preceding episodes more.

    Time travel / loop stories never withstand close scrutiny, of course. But this one does have a huge flaw in my view. How can the crew possibly "remember" events that haven't happened yet? If they are actually caught in a "time loop" then there should be no way for memories to filter through. And by the same token, if things play out a little differently from one iteration to the next, then it's not a time loop. It's not the same "time".

    Similarly - if things are slightly different in each loop, then the same things won't keep happening exactly the same way. Data won't shuffle the cards in precisely the same order. And so on. Chaos theory, and all that.

    Also - the idea of an android giving himself a subliminal suggestion is a bit over-elaborate. It makes for a fun plot device but surely some sort of brief message like "evacuate the cargo bay!" would be more practical.

    Why do drinks glasses break so easily in the 24th century?

    It's odd that a location as vague as "20,000 kilometers off the starboard bow" should be used in Starfleet parlance, especially in three-dimensional space. And when the ship does emerge, no-one seems to notice the obvious - that it's a Federation vessel.

    Great to see Frasier turn up at the end. But we're asked to believe that the USS Bozeman has been looping around time for 90 years. Wouldn't their crew's deja vu make every single second of their existence utterly predictable by then? Beverley's able to predict a poker hand after looping round for a matter of days! Surely they'd have figured it out within a year or two at the most.

    Anyway it shouldn't be hard for them to return to their old time; Kirk used to travel back in time routinely.

    A mildly enjoyable episode. It reminded me of the old Guy Pearce film 'Memento'. I liked it, but it's not one of the best fifth series stories by a long way.

    No no no no no! The Bozeman has NOT been looping for 90 years. I don't see why this is so hard to understand. They've been looping for the same 17 days as the Enterprise, it's just that their loop ALSO includes being thrown into the 24th century. When the loop resets they're back in 2278, they get sucked into the temporal anomaly and are thrown into the 24th century, they hit the Enterprise (maybe they blow up too off screen?), and are then thrown back to 2278 to start their day over again. It's also possible that the Bozeman's time in the loop is only the minute or two after they exit the anomaly, so they wouldn't have enough time to feel deja vu.

    As to not being a time loop, it's really more of a time bubble. Since they've been looping, the rest of the universe is going about its merry way. That's why they're 17.4 days behind on their chronometer after they check a time beacon. It's like the time anomalies in We'll Always Have Paris, with discrete pockets of space where time is doing odd things, but not the whole universe. So I think that's the reason for the deja vu, the echos of each iteration are coming from outside the bubble, from the rest of the universe, such as it is. That may explain the audio better than the actual deja vu, but this is a universe with telepaths and transporters and FTL travel so there's weird brainy brain technobabble as well.

    Regarding chaos theory in each loop, yes, but the point here is that DATA is the only one who could shuffle the cards the same every time since he's a "perfect" android and would actually be capable of that. I wouldn't expect a human to be able to do that unless perhaps the loop started immediately when they were shuffling the cards such that no variation had time to creep in yet. After all, it takes some time for the differences to manifest, and we see that they do manifest eventually, like whether Beverly calls sickbay before Geordi comes in, or if they call a staff meeting in the middle of the night, or whatever.

    SFDebris talked about the idea of the subliminal message, and it makes sense. It had to be a message that Data would be able to interpret AT THE CORRECT TIME without also affecting the events leading up to that critical moment. If his message was just "Riker" he'd have stalked him around the ship the whole time. Or the "evacuate shuttle bay" message would come way too early for it to be useful. It's that chaos theory again, those actions earlier on in the loop could put Riker (or whatever) in the wrong place at the wrong time for the critical decision.

    @ Jeffrey Jakucyk,

    "As to not being a time loop, it's really more of a time bubble. Since they've been looping, the rest of the universe is going about its merry way. That's why they're 17.4 days behind on their chronometer after they check a time beacon. It's like the time anomalies in We'll Always Have Paris, with discrete pockets of space where time is doing odd things, but not the whole universe. So I think that's the reason for the deja vu, the echos of each iteration are coming from outside the bubble, from the rest of the universe, such as it is. That may explain the audio better than the actual deja vu, but this is a universe with telepaths and transporters and FTL travel so there's weird brainy brain technobabble as well."

    Excellent explanation. I have to admit I never thought much about the mechanics in this episode before, but this seems like the most reasonable explanation - to the extent that probably Braga didn't even go this far in his reasoning. Based on his track record it was a high concept 'timey-wimey' episode more about atmosphere than science, so it's probably a small miracle that you could come up with a technical explanation of what was going on.

    If we're going to think of the event as completely localized (a time bubble), then it would probably also be reasonable to assume that it was the anomaly itself tethering both ships to its location through time. If we want to be really pedantic we might ask why it should care whether they blow up or not, to reset if they do and to stop and dissipate if they avoid the collision. Maybe the collision itself provides the energy it requires to restart the sequence, or that some element in the ships (such as antimatter) interacting with it creates a weird result.

    That being said there is one possible explanation similar to what you say, but the inverse: once you assert that the entire universe is not resetting, but only the local area around the anomaly, then there are two options for how data is being transmitted to continued iteration: One is that it's feedback echoing back from *outside* the anomaly, but the other is that it's feedback echoing around *inside* the anomaly. Given that I doubt Starfleet received telemetry and records of the Enterprise being destroyed 17 odd times and then of it coming out yet again unscathed, it would seem that from the universe's outside perspective what probably happened is that the Enterprise was never destroyed, and that the Bozeman came out at one moment and was there to stay. I think, narratively, this is sort of what it looks like to me. And I *think* that would mean that the echoes were localized within the anomaly, like a little private system, rather than going out beyond its boundary and then bouncing back in,

    "...probably Braga didn't even go this far in his reasoning. Based on his track record it was a high concept 'timey-wimey' episode more about atmosphere than science, so it's probably a small miracle that you could come up with a technical explanation of what was going on."

    Indeed, this is Braga's achilles heel. He made a name for himself with this kind of stuff on TNG, but just kept going back to the same well over and over on Voyager to the point that his flaws really started to show through. It's just luck that we're able to cobble together some technobabble in-universe explanation after the fact, because I suspect you're right, he didn't think it through all the way. The timey-wimey, all just a dream/hallucination/simulation/implanted memory/telepathic stuff gives him an out for everything that doesn't make sense, but many times he still manages to screw up the wrapper around the situation that interfaces with the real world. SFDebris does a good job explaining all this in his review of Projections on Voyager.

    "Maybe the collision itself provides the energy it requires to restart the sequence, or that some element in the ships (such as antimatter) interacting with it creates a weird result." Makes sense, there's been no shortage of anomalies caused by ship explosions and battles. At first I was getting ready to say the explosion may not mark the end of the loop, just the end of what we see of it. For all we know the Bozeman could keep puttering along for minutes, hours, or days after the Enterprise blows up and then they're just thrown back to the beginning at some random point. After all, the loop starts at a totally random point in the poker game, with no indication that they encountered anything at that moment either. The distortion doesn't show up until the very end after all. However, that doesn't really work if avoiding the explosion throws them out of the loop.

    Another possibility is that maybe there are TWO anomalies at play here. One is the time loop, which is completely invisible, and the other is the (highly localized) distortion (in the spacetime continuum) that throws the Bozeman ahead in time. As if the loop anomaly captured the distortion and folded it into its time game. Then when the Enterprise doesn't explode they just wandered out of it, and for all we know it could still be there looping while the distortion has nothing from the last century to suck forward in time. Hmm. That's delving so deep into speculation on an imagined phenomenon that we come back to "Braga just wanted to do his repeating loop story and can't someone else just make it seem plausible enough to hang the rest of the plot on?"

    I like the idea that the echos and deja vu could be bouncing around inside the anomaly. If the crew was stuck in it for a lot longer there would be such a buildup of information that they would be going nuts, practically reading each others minds. That could very well guarantee that they'd find a way out of it one way or another given enough iterations, even without Data. How this would look to an observer from outside is getting into special relativity and theoretical physics which is beyond my ability to postulate, at least at this time of the night :-P

    Spectacular episode... but let’s get real— the Galaxy Class starship was absolutely an explosion waiting to happen ;)

    Just rewatched this episode after several years & loved it. Again.

    I agree with the suggestion *way* upthread that either Riker's or Data's suggestion could have worked, if implemented early enough. And that in the last iteration, Data spent way too long to change his mind and use Riker's idea for it to have helped.

    I don't think the "17.4 days lost" makes any sense. The writers wanted to give us an idea of how many times Enterprise went through loop, but the last iteration should have taken place during the same day as the first.

    A more minor annoyance to me, that I didn't see mentioned above: in the original poker game, they pass through several rounds of dealing, betting, and the reveal, after which Beverly gets a call from sick bay about Laforge showing up. In the second (perhaps third?) iteration, Beverly notes the odd familiarity of the cards/dialogue, early on ... and then gets a call from sick bay about Laforge showing up. This is a good couple of minutes earlier than the first time around, so why did Laforge show up earlier?

    Absolutely loved this episode. One of my top 3 as well. I was getting more and more excited as I kept getting closer to this episode watching Season 5 haha.

    @Jeffrey Jakucyk - GREAT explanation about how its more of a loop bubble than a true loop.

    I've discovered something interesting about this episode. I still consider it one of TNG's best eps, but its rewatch value is not that great. As in, it's an intriguing mystery that draws you in the first time you watch it, but after the second time it feels kind of dull and repetitive. Compare this to "Darmok", "Best of Both Worlds", "Measure of a Man" where I can watch them again and again in a relatively short timeframe with no issue. For this episode to feel *fresh* again per se, I have to go a looooong time between rewatches.

    On a side note, I love how no matter what happens Dr. Crusher breaks the glass every single loop. I guess some things really can't cheat fate.

    Beany: The Enterprise and Bozeman weren't traveling back in time relative to the outside universe, just inside their own loops. To the rest of the universe, 17.4 days had passed.

    It is interesting to ponder if somebody outside the loop could interact with the ships or not. Really with Braga's high concept thrillers, it's best not to think too much about the details.

    After all, the Enterprise checks a time beacon to determine how much time has passed. I tend to think the ship would be doing that automatically all the time, and it seems likely there would be communications traffic between the ship and Starfleet all the time.

    The chilling thing is the Bozeman seems to have been in a much longer loop. The Enterprise one lasted a few hours each loop. The Bozeman doesn't seem to have any clue there is a problem. Their loop was apparently several weeks long.

    One of my favorites. It helps to have originally watched it when it first aired, which was totally a WTF experience from the opening sequence. The direction by Jonathan Frakes is outstanding. There are enough differences and surprises in each of the time sequences to keep it from getting dull, much like Groundhog Day. Picard's "All hands abandon ship!" is chilling, especially in the "echo" version. Great performances from all actors, and I think Gates McFadden particularly good here. Even Geordi is less cloying than usual.

    The poker scenes are quite funny to start with, and then become increasingly tense and fraught as the layers of deja vu get thicker. Beverly breaking her glass, slightly differently each time, is also masterful.

    The idea of Data having some sort of subconscious, and being able to communicate with that subconscious, is a bit of a stretch, but if we can buy each iteration of the time loop leaving some residue behind (which seems plausible), then perhaps it's possible for Data to be able to pick up a message that he designs uniquely for himself.

    Re: Brendan's point from 10 (!) years ago that "It wasn't a matter of which choice was correct, it was a matter of reaction time," that's a very fair point, but it doesn't ruin the episode for me because, after all, the right choice had to be made even WITH the delay. Yes, we can assume that an immediate decision to decompress the shuttle bay OR use the tractor beam would have salvaged the situation, but from Data's perspective the message only became clear after Picard asked for suggestions.

    I think we can also assume that Data wasn't certain that decompression would absolutely work (even a computer can't account for weight/speed/trajectory and other variables, some unknown, in the blink of an eye), but he DID know that his own suggestion wouldn't work. I'm okay with that.

    I do agree with MMM's comment that Data had waaay longer on the final time loop to implement the decompression -- there's a very long closeup on him as he figures it out. I suppose that was for dramatic effect but it is annoying. Maybe it's better to think of it as being in slow motion...

    Final thought -- this might be a unique instance of an episode that was actually enhanced by having 3-minute commercial breaks every 10 minutes. I remember that my teenage anticipation was only heightened by those breaks.

    Four stars, easy.

    PICARD: Run a ship-wide diagnostic. We’ll discuss it tomorrow at…

    “Put your little hand in mine, there ain’t no hill or mountain we can’t climb
    I got you babe”

    Ah, the episode that inspired Groundhog Day! As long as you don’t examine the slightly preposterous premise too closely, this is one of the best Star Trek episodes ever. I love it! Especially the use of different camera angles when a scene is repeated to give it a fresh look.

    There’s not much more to say. 4 stars easily.

    I do think this is a 4-star episode , and I love it. However, there is a major flaw in the logic which leads to two plot holes.

    Before coming onto those though, there's one thing needs saying: it is NOT a time loop! It's a "space-time event" loop. The recurrences are taking place in real time, so the characters are physiologically aging as the loops occur. If this wasn't so, there could be no déjà-vu, nor any brief snatches of voices from earlier loops, nor a subatomic memory inserted in Data's brain. In a genuine time loop, none of this could be true as the characters would simply go back in time and live the identical events all over again.

    Both plot holes involve the Bozeman.

    1. It's no great stretch of the imagination that the Enterprise crew are all 17.4 days older in real time when they break out of the loop. So are the materials the chronometers are made of, even though they're showing the wrong time. However, the same logic means the crew of the Bozeman are physiologically more than 100 years old, and therefore dead!!!

    2. The Bozeman's loop involves them meeting the Enterprise right at the end ... but only the final 17 days. Before that, the Enterprise hasn't been there, caught in a loop. So the very first time the Enterprise meets the Bozeman that would be enough of an anomaly to break the Bozeman out of its loop - and thus break the Enterprise out of theirs. The Bozeman's loop hasn't involved The Enterprise for nearly all of the time.

    It's still 4 stars though, even so...

    The problem with any time travel story is that it starts to fall apart once you start picking at the loose threads. E.g. If Marty McFly really disrupted his parents meeting, shouldn’t he immediately cease to exist before he can fix the problem? It’s a paradox at best so we try to accept the rules as set by the writers in the hopes we’re entertained in exchange.


    “2. The Bozeman's loop involves them meeting the Enterprise right at the end ... but only the final 17 days. Before that, the Enterprise hasn't been there, caught in a loop. So the very first time the Enterprise meets the Bozeman that would be enough of an anomaly to break the Bozeman out of its loop - and thus break the Enterprise out of theirs. The Bozeman's loop hasn't involved The Enterprise for nearly all of the time.”

    The solution to this to imagine a two-way time portal in space. One end is the Bozeman’s century, the other the Enterprise’s. As you explained, each ship enters their side of the vicinity of the portal from different centuries with the Bozeman entering the portal itself first and traversing into the 24th century. The loop itself only begins after the collision, and then lasts the seventeen days.

    Of course one can argue that it’s an amazing coincidence that the Enterprise just happened to be in the perfect location in space just as the Bozeman made its first time jump. Yet however unlikely, the premise of the episode is predicted on this rare circumstance.

    At least that’s the explanation I find to make the most sense.


    "The solution to this to imagine a two-way time portal in space. One end is the Bozeman’s century, the other the Enterprise’s. As you explained, each ship enters their side of the vicinity of the portal from different centuries with the Bozeman entering the portal itself first and traversing into the 24th century. The loop itself only begins after the collision, and then lasts the seventeen days. "

    Ok, that's a good scenario. But then you've got a separate time travel story involving the Bozeman FIRST travelling a century forward, THEN getting stuck in a loop with the Enterprise. There's no explanation for that, and surely the Bozeman would consciously experience the journey through time before they encountered the loop? But as you say, start unpicking the threads and you get into a real headache!


    I don't see why the characters would age, when everything else is reset almost completely: Clocks are reset to their original readings. Objects are reset to their original positions. People are reset to their original locations...

    IOW even though the process can't be a perfect time loop, it certainly approximates the effects of one. The deja vu and other residues are rare exceptions to an otherwise perfect reset. So I wouldn't expect the characters to age from loop to loop at all.

    As for whether the Bozeman looped for 17 days or a full century:

    We don't know for sure.

    One needs to be very careful when applying our everyday intuition of linear time to the looping process in this episode. For example, it might seem "obvious" - at first glance - to assume that both the Bozeman and the Enterprise looped the same number of times. But is this assumption justified in a scenario where time is twisted to a near-perfect circle? Maybe not.

    At any rate, logical or not, I think that a 90-year loop would be a better interpretation from a storytelling perspective. Otherwise, what would be the point of having the Bozeman arrive from 2278?


    “ I don't see why the characters would age”

    Except, they do! The deja vu, the voices, the signal implanted in Data’s brain - none of those could exist unless there were ‘earlier’ versions of themselves. It’s like re-shooting a scene in a movie - each take is the same lines spoken by the same actors wearing the same costumes, but there’s a subtle difference each take. It SEEMS to be the same time period each take, but actually real time is advancing normally. (I’m only using this as a metaphor, btw).

    "The deja vu, the voices, the signal implanted in Data’s brain - none of those could exist unless there were ‘earlier’ versions of themselves."

    Agreed, but what does this have to do with aging?

    These 'earlier' versions do not precede the 'later' versions in an ordinary temporal sense. The quotation marks you've put around the word 'earlier' is evidence enough for that. So why would assume that these 'earlier' versions are physically younger?

    "It’s like re-shooting a scene in a movie - each take is the same lines spoken by the same actors wearing the same costumes, but there’s a subtle difference each take."

    Great analogy.

    When you film the same scene twice, do the characters age between takes? If I film - say - Harry Potter's 11th birthday twice, is Harry any older in the second take? Of-course not. He is exactly 11 in both takes.

    Granted, the actor playing Harry would be older in the second take, but that's irrelevant. From an IN-UNIVERSE STANDPOINT, time is completely reset at the beginning of each take.

    Now, let's take this example to an extreme:

    Suppose that 90 years from now, somebody decides to remake the Harry Potter films. Once again we get to the scene of Harry's 11th birthday. How old is Harry now?

    "It SEEMS to be the same time period each take, but actually real time is advancing normally."

    It doesn't matter if time is "really" reset or it's "just an illusion".

    What matters is the effect of the looping process on physical objects.

    Take Beverly's glass, for example. Every loop she breaks it. Then, when the next loop starts, the glass is miraculously whole again. Similarly, if I took a big brush and decided to paint Engineering yellow, the paint would vanish when the next loop starts.

    So why would biological aging, which is just another physical process of wear and tear, be any different?


    "When you film the same scene twice, do the characters age between takes? If I film - say - Harry Potter's 11th birthday twice, is Harry any older in the second take? Of-course not. He is exactly 11 in both takes. "

    Yes, absolutely - the character Harry Potter remains the same age in every take. However, the actor playing Harry is that much older in each new take.

    The question is, should we regard the Enterprise crew within the 'event loop' as the characters or the actors, or perhaps both simultaneously? Maybe we cannot judge whether they age biologically. I guess in one sense they don't; like the glass, they are recreated anew as each loop begins. But experientially, i.e. in the sense of their synaptic memory functions, they do age otherwise there could be no deja-vu; when Beverly predicts each card before it's dealt, it's because there is something in her memory that has recorded the fact. In other words, her memory holds the record of each loop but has been mostly 'wiped' each time ... but not completely! Her memory is older than she is even if her body hasn't aged physiologically.

    "But experientially, i.e. in the sense of their synaptic memory functions, they do age otherwise there could be no deja-vu; when Beverly predicts each card before it's dealt, it's because there is something in her memory that has recorded the fact. In other words, her memory holds the record of each loop but has been mostly 'wiped' each time ... but not completely! Her memory is older than she is even if her body hasn't aged physiologically."

    It can't be memory, because the same process allowing people to know what's going to happen is what makes Data able to send an electronic signal causing the occurrences of the number 3. And Data certainly can't affect memories through an electronic signal.

    The conceit of the episode appears to be that although the ship resets precisely in time after each explosion, the space-time phenomenon they're in is a closed system and has some leaking of information that floats around the distortion, and gets picked up by the ship and crew sort of like picking up a radio signal. It's 'memory' in the sense that they can acquire information from what came before, but not memory in the sense that they already possess it in their minds and remember it. The feeling of deja vu is therefore real deja vu (accurate foreknowledge of what's to come) rather than perceived deja vu (recognizing a familiar scene, or your cognition and perception having a delay effect).

    From the local point of view of the Bozeman, they experienced the few hours or days of their loop only once, and therefore are exactly the same age as when they first entered the distortion. From an *outside* frame of reference they have been gone a long time; both can be simultaneously accurate (as we know from relativity).

    An an analogy, you can think of Tapestry (which we were just discussing in the other thread), were Picard came from the future, relived a few days of his youth, which affected his decisions and led to a new timeline; and then he regretted it, went back, and chose to get stabbed again; and this choice implied all of that alternate-timeline knowledge had 'really happened.' From the frame of reference of the TV viewer, the entire episode of Tapestry 'happened', and older Picard had some experiences that go outside the normal space-time chronology. From the frame of reference of younger Picard, no extra time was added to his life, nor memories added to his mind, even though *information from a time loop* taking up zero time from his frame of reference affected the outcome of a present event (being stabbed).

    Uh, maybe my previous post should include a SPOILER warning...Jammer, care to insert one before the last paragraph? I guess the idea that Tidd may be on a first viewing. (sorry)

    @Tidd go back to my comment from Wed, Sep 9, 2020 and the couple of posts after that to explain the Bozeman and other aspects of the loop/bubble.

    @ Jeffrey Jakucyk

    I didn’t read that far back, but now I have! I am impressed by your reasoning about the Bozeman’s loop: being thrown forward in time is part of their loop, makes perfect sense.

    @Peter G

    Yes, the leakage of information being part of the closed loop does make a kind of sense in that it explains what would otherwise be a plot hole. I doubt this was part of the writers’ thinking though, so kudos to you!

    "I doubt this was part of the writers’ thinking though, so kudos to you!"

    I very much doubt Braga ever considered the logic of his high-concept stories. He was in a sense more suited for The Outer Limits or something than Trek, which always attempts to make logical sense out of its own premises. Give him control of an entire show, and reap the reward...

    I'm pretty sure the writers' thinking on this didn't go any further than "We want to do the 'time loop' trope". Information leakage of some kind is always part of the trope, because otherwise you have no story.

    At any rate, I totally dig Peter's explanation! The episode tells us outright that the outside world keeps going forward while the Enterprise is looping, so his idea is both natural and logical. Kudos indeed!

    I'm not entirely sure that there is an outside world in Cause and Effect.

    What I love about this episode is its intimacy....the poker game, Beverly in her quarters...all of it is pure ritual. The genius of the episode is that it shows how even a broken glass is inexorable outcome of living in a ritual, and it will break on cue unless the repetitive sequence of that ritual comes into question.

    How much of our own lives is ritual? A lot, I think, and this ritual makes us comfortable with the flow of time and allows us, I suggest, to experience time (and our lives) without dismay. What is deja vu? Might it be the rare occurrence when the structure of the repetition becomes apparent to the mind. We say afterward, 'this was not the first time I have done or felt something'. It is disturbing to notice it and to me it is the awareness of repetition that makes it so.

    And this is what the crew eventually feels as well.... they (like ourselves) like to believe that they are thinking beings, who are in control of destiny (driving the bus) . It is terribly disturbing to discover that they have been plugged in to a predesigned scenario...their actions are no longer independent, free, or original. Time has ordained what is done next and how it will all end up.

    Cause and Effect is the episode I think of most when TNG is mentioned; it's a favorite precisely because it asks each of us when we will ever break with ritual and change the pattern of our days.

    This has always been one of my favorites and I was happy when I finally reached it in the "re-watch, not allowed to skip any episodes" I'm doing.

    I can't add much here except when Frasier says "your vessel is not familiar to us" it doesn't mean they've never heard of the Enterprise. He means they don't recognize that particular galaxy class ship model. How could they? It is from their future.

    Also, given there was a small grammar discussion, I'll add my two cents as I like grammar. I'll caveat this by stating I don't expect grammar of anyone to be perfect in this forum. It can take a lot of time to proof and re-proof. (Hey, I'm a lawyer but this ain't no legal agreement.) It is okay to use an apostrophe after a single letter if it would cause confusion not to use it. This does not include numbers. So i's is okay (otherwise it would be is) but 3's is not. 3s is not confusing. Here is my source, which is respectable enough:

    "Also, given there was a small grammar discussion, I'll add my two cents as I like grammar."

    I like his performance too, but the guest star's name is spelled *Grammer*.


    It's an incredible feat to take a deliberately unsympathetic character introduced purely to interfere with the series' central relationship and then make him a popular breakout character. I think on "Frasier" he sometimes rested on his laurels.

    When he cut his hair on Frasier the show started to slowly go downhill. Never seen cheers. It is not possible to stream it in the third world country called Germany.

    @Booming that's too bad. Cheers is still good. I prefer the early "Diane" years to the "Rebecca" years but I really like all of it. Maybe someday you'll get to watch it.

    @William B it's so true. Grammer was able to do so much with the material he was given. I will never forget the scene where he runs around the bar holding scissors yelling "I'm running with scissors" to show his rebellious side. I wish Cheers was still on Netflix.

    "I'M RUNNING WITH SCISSORS!" is an absolute classic.

    I love the episode where Frasier and Lilith throw a dinner party where they invite Sam and Diane.

    FRASIER: I've got "I, Claudius" on tape!
    SAM: Oh I love gladiator movies.

    This is also a go-to TNG episode to watch whenever, for me and I agree it deserves 4 stars. Just one thing seemed unlikely, and that's Captain Bateman's reaction to Picard identifying his ship as the Enterprise. Here is a very different, more advanced version of the Enterprise from 2278...yet Bateman doesn't blink. I would think he would respond with something more like doubt or surprise at a much larger Federation ship of the same name. And wouldn't ship-ship transponders identify the ships to each other electronically?

    After watching Cause and Effect, I began to wonder if humans from the future ever tried sending ourselves warnings from the future about serious mistakes we've made. If so, we're clearly not noticing them.

    I love this episode, even with Beverly showing up with pink ribbons in her hair while in her uniform.

    Seriously, I love the way Beverly happens to be the one, for reasons unknown, whose mind most sharply seems to recall the past experiences. It made me think that whatever gifts Wesley had they came through her (don't me get started on the horrible granny episode).

    The whole thing is creepy and so well executed. One of the absolute best of Season 5.

    Love the episode, though Picard's notion that 'we can't afford to start second guessing ourselves' or similar, disturbs me. He has just heard himself say "All hands abandon ship" ....wouldn't he want to be a little less passive about developing a strategy of avoidance?

    There is a basic logical lapse there. The first time through, the crew wouldn't have known to second guess themselves, so doing something different is bound to lead to a different outcome.

    Once there is an awareness of being in a repetitive loop, it behooves the commander to decide on something other than inaction, since the whole "we can't afford to second guess ourselves" strategy is just too plain obvious. The way out may lie in adopting progressively less logical / less obvious solutions. Eccentricity may be the key to successful adaptation.

    While Data's message was needed as a plot-point for the audience, it was actually not necessary to escape the loop.

    The Deja-Vu experiences were changing the crews' behavior each time through the loop.

    Any number of random decisions could have allowed them to escape, all that was needed was anything that would cause the ship to slow down the tiniest amount so that they missed being in that exact wrong spot were they had seconds to avoid the collision

    Picard could have eventually ordered the ship to reverse course, or even to slow down as a precaution. If the speed was reduced, the Bozeman would have emerged long before the Enterprise arrived. Geordi could have decided to run some diagnostic that required systems to be taken offline, or he could have fallen off the catwalk into the warp core which would probably have shut the engines down.

    With the way the crew decisions were changing with each iteration, escape from the loop may have been inevitable.

    Also the cluelessness of the Bozeman could be explained if their loop was much shorter than the Enterprise's. The Entreprise loop seemed to be a day, but if the Boozeman was experience the same minute over and over, they would not have had time to notice the Deja-Vu or react to it.

    It occurred to me that every time a character said they shouldn't "second guess" themselves in a time travel plot, the correct answer was *always* to second guess themselves lol.

    "There is a basic logical lapse there. The first time through, the crew wouldn't have known to second guess themselves, so doing something different is bound to lead to a different outcome."

    That's an excellent point. I guess it didn't occur to the crew. I've watched this a bunch of times and never thought of that ;)

    Watching it now, another thing occurred to me. I always wondered why Data didn't deal the "correct" cards that Beverly predicted, which would seem to give a stronger message.

    However, it's correct that he doesn't because HE isn't experiencing the deja vu.

    One thing that still bugs me is nurse Ogawa looks creeped out when Geordi walks into sickbay while Beverly is talking to her about him. Ogawa has no reason to suspect anything weird. For all she knows, Beverly asked Geordi to go there or whatever.


    The "decompress the shuttle bay" notion seems to come from nowhere. Also, it's rather hard to believe venting that amount of air would move the massive 1701-D one iota.

    Also, when they were considering how to send information to the next loop, why didn't anybody even suggest that Data start yelling the information since they know they are picking up audio?

    To all those pointing out this plot hole: what was the Bozeman colliding within the 80 years before the Enterprise came along..... The answer is, the Enterprise! Once you eliminate linear time, anything is possible. Both ships entered a space where time acts independently of the rest of the universe. To the outside universe, sure, the Bozeman entered decades earlier, but once in that space, linear logic no longer applies. I don't see any reason why the Enterprise could not have collided with the Bozeman only 4 or 5 times while the Bozeman was colliding with the Enterprise thousands of times. Or maybe they also only collided four or five times, once they entered the space with its own rules of time. Maybe somehow the Enterprise anchored the era into which both ships emerged after the time loop ended. It would have been an interesting two parter if somehow the Bozeman had been the anchor and the Enterprise emerged 80 years earlier.

    I've always loved this episode. It deeply creeped me out when I was 10 and first saw it. I don't really have anything to add to overall analysis and appreciation of the episode, but there is one nitpick that always bugs me that I haven't seen mentioned.

    So the Enterprise loses main power, propulsion is down, shields are off-line, even the bridge is on emergency lights, but somehow the tractor beam still works? Is the tractor beam really so critical that it would have its own separate power supply? And why wouldn't whatever affected main power affect that source too? But somehow neither Data or Picard even question whether the tractor beam will work. That always niggles at me.

    I'm just a minute or so in and have a distinct feeling I'm going to like this one.

    Right out of the gate though, I have to say, how on earth is it possible that they construct an interstellar spaceship that has no basic failsafe mechanisms?!?!?! Surely a R.O.M. chip can be set up on the warp core so that, in case of impending breach of said core, it can be jettisoned without having to rely on a crew member to manually issue that command utilizing the entire computer system, which--predictably--is almost certainly heavily damaged hence unresponsive!

    I mean, we'd figured this out even by the time Star Trek was airing with circuit breakers! If the system senses a short circuit or power overload, the switch in your breaker box cuts out automatically!

    I'm quite happy, I guess, that it's doctora Bev experiencing the spooky stuff. Usually it falls on D. Troi to be hearing voices and grimacing and letting out shrieks. We seem to have been spared that here and the episode is so, so much the better for it!

    The forehead-helm-chick's new hairdo is ATROCIOUS. Who did she upset that they did her like that!?! They uglified her hideously!

    Anyway, excellent episode. Definitely four stars!

    No way is this a four star episode....two and a half stars at best.

    I remember back when I was in 6th grade I would always try to stay up for another hour before going to bed on school nights. It just so happend that my mom was watching Star Trek during that time frame. It had to have been 1993 which is when TNG was finishing season 7. I think the first hour was a new episode and the 2nd hour was a rerun.

    Anyways, at first I didn't want to like Star Trek. I was about 12 years old and thought Star trek looked boring. I was into other things like sports. However, I remember being amazed at how good these shows actually were. This is one of those episodes I remember that always stood out.

    I agree with the folks who said there hasn't been anything that has topped this, as far as a time loop episodes go, ever since.

    This is a brilliant episode and in my top 5 for best ever TNG shows. But...there were some quirks that bothered me. The reaction time of the crew in reaction to the Bozeman was painfully slow. The crew took their time to chat about different solutions while the Bozeman rammed right into them. Also the Bozeman was coming directly AT them. The main shuttle bay is behind the ship...wouldn't that just push the Enterprise INTO the Bozeman? Data should have done both (tractor beam AND decompress main shuttle bay) ASAP without waiting for approval from Picard.

    Very good episode, and alot of great points in the comments.

    1. I agree with those who say they could have done both, but the one major flaw I feel is how decompressing a shuttlebay would be a strong enough force to move such a large ship. Moreover, if the shuttlebay is exactly at the back, how would that change its direction? Wouldn't it just push the ship foward even faster? Also, when they activated the tractor beam, it seems to pull the ship, not push it, but I would think that the tractor beam is much more powerful than the force of air decompression, so it would make more sense for that to be the successful option.

    2. Just a quick pointer about data stacking the deck, if someone simply gives him the deck of cards and Data doesn't know their arrangement, he would have no way of knowing their arrangement after shuffling.

    3. The deja vu was an interesting component. Although that is necessary for the crew to ultimately discover what's going in, it suggests that human consciousness has some way of transcending the normal flow of time, otherwise one would assume all of your neural patterns and brain waves would be reset as well. If everything resets, one shouldn't have any memories of the loops, but they progressively gained them each time.

    4. My main criticism is going to be as others suggested, how helpless and crippled the Enterprise becomes instantly and all systems failing simultaneously, just from being near a temporal distortion. Did the thrusters not work either? That would be the more obvious course of action than anything with the shuttle bay. But I would have thought the tractor beam would be far more powerful than it was. Further, if simple thrusters were disabled, why would the tractor beam work? They could have done a slightly better job with the plot once coming across the distortion.

    5. The whole idea of 3 can go either way. Maybe data didn't have time to program the word Riker or Bay, and figured he would turn to see the rank insignia at the last second, but I agree it would have made more sense to suggest something that could be implemented way ahead of time, such as "Reverse" or "180" or "Go Back". But there would be simply no reason why a decompression of a space the size of a large aircraft would effectively move a 5,000+ ton starship or whatever. They should have had them do something like divert emergency power to thrusters or do a cold start/pre-ignite the fuel or some other technobabble that could have made more sense.

    6. I loved the creepy vibe that the characters would start to get with the deja vu, but I would have thought that the voices for example, would have gotten louder/more intense each time because of more loops being recorded..etc. Also, as someone mentioned, why couldn't they ha e gathered more data from the initial recording to determine exactly what happened at the collision? Someone could have just shouted "decompress shuttlebay" or "reverse course" and by the same logic, they could have notified themselves that the voices were from previous loops, via the voices themselves. The Captain could have also ordered the ship to come to dead stop instead of either reversing course, or continuing forward. It's also funny how none of the crew on the bridge realized that they were saying exactly the same things they said in the recording by loop #3 or 4.

    6. Finally, one major question I would have is if that other ship was caught in the loop for 80 years, wouldn't there have been some record of that vessel going missing, or never returning home. It would have been nice if they had included a phrase such as "The Bozeman! That's the ship that was never found again!" or something to that effect. Why wouldn't they send other ships to the last known coordinates, and why wouldn't they also end up getting caught in the time loop.

    Nonetheless, very good episode, 3.5 stars out of 4 for me, but I can't resist nitpicking all the time paradox ones!

    Thought I'd replied to this thread before.

    This is obviously indisputably a great episode - a real classic - but its one downside is that it's a slog to watch again because it's so (necessarily) repetitive.

    Definitely the best example of a classic Trek episode that you get the most out of the very first time you watch it, but diminishing returns thereafter.

    Well obviously since you are also watching the same scene 5 times per watch, that effect is multiplied lol

    I also forgot to mention, the part with data hitting soo many buttons just to decompress the shuttlebay. Why did they make the consoles so complicated? If a human were to be at the console, simple commands like that would take forever. (And this is besides the whole comedy of all the buttons and display screens not having any names or numbers anywhere and nothing changing at all after hitting them). Although personally I find the Original series controls even funnier. Like you want to overload the impulse engines? Just push the first and last lever! Better be sure to keep the kids away from the panels lol.

    Speaking of the controls, it's hilarious how they are able to precisely hit the correct buttons when the ship is being slammed around. Like in the same scenes where, say, they just got hit with a torpedo, causing Riker to flop across the bridge, LA Forge can use the engineering station Like it's your average thursday.

    In the UK, when this was broadcast on BBC Two, apparently people called in to complain they’re must be a problem with the tape!😂

    An intriguing episode. I enjoyed Mr. Data’s card commentary during the initial game as well.

    “This is Captain Jean Luc Picard of the Federation Starship Enterprise. May we be of assistance?”

    “Good morning Jean Luc! This is Captain Morgan Bateson, NCC 1, 9, 4, 1. I’m listening…”

    From the beginning I had one problem with this episode, and I've never seen anyone else mention it. For a message to their future selves, why didn't they write a note on a piece of paper?? It could have been more than one word.

    In the meeting, they hypothesise that it's the explosion which causes the loop. So I don't think Bozeman etc can have been there for 80 years.
    I agree with previous commentators - Bozeman has been experiencing some other time fluctuation/leap caused by the rift and has only been in the loop for 17 days. They don't have Data or Geordi's VISOR to help them figure out what's been happening and they may not hear the voices. Picard's style of leadership is also very open to input from the rest of the crew. If Bozeman is a less approachable captain, people might well have been experiencing weird deja vu but not telling him about it. So all he's experienced is an uneasy sense that he's done this before - and he's probably not going to mention that to a strange ship he's just nearly crashed into.

    Okay, let me get this straight. So "The Outcast," which is one of the best episodes in the series, one of those standout defining moments tackling a serious ethical issue and is rather timeless in how its pro-gay rights message has aged well--that gets a measly 2 stars. But this boring episode gets 4 stars? Get out of here!

    You'd think with a title like "Cause and Effect," there'd be some cool time travel stuff going on, but just like in the TOS, the time travel episodes in Star Trek tend to be disappointing to me. Perhaps I gave this one higher expectations because the video game level of the same name in Titanfall 2 left such a memorable impact.

    Anyway, the episode itself consists of the same handful 3 or 4 series of events over and over and over. This just makes for boring television, frankly. I mean, even the director must have figured this is going to bore audiences, because the last time he had to do the same scenes but from different camera angles or another character's perspective, just to not completely lose the viewer's interest. Predictably, the crew remember a few odd details here and there from previous loops till eventually they can solve the enigma and break the loop. Just a matter of repetition till we get there.

    They should have called this episode "Deja Vu," although I get the feeling there's already a TNG episode of that name. Heh, I'm getting deja vu about the name "Deja Vu" in an episode entirely about Deja Vu (and whatever it was Worf calls it).

    My time travel-loving brain was salivating more at the thought of how the crew of the past (almost TOS era sets/uniforms, a nice touch there!) would react to discovering they're in the future. That would've made for a far more exciting and fun plot, but alas the episode ends there before the fun can begin.

    Although few episodes of television can brag that their teasers begin with, "And then they all died, happily never after!" after the opening credits it becomes pretty obvious fairly on what direction the episode is going to take, and it is just a disappointingly slow and drawn out process till we get there.

    Furthermore, there's an inherent plot hole with these sorts of "time loop" stories, both here and generally in sci-fi. If you're stuck in a time loop, how do you get out of it? You can't magically have some outside property any different from what you had the first time. How is it that the crew started getting these deja vu memories in the first place? That's never explained. They explain what the visor hallucinations and the voices are, but they don't explain the more important why they are.

    The ending too was just ridiculous. I mean, really, the number three? That is so vague (any one word would be) it could have been interpreted an infinite number of ways. And how is Riker #3 anyway? He's always referred to by Picard as #1, since he is First Officer. Or if we go by rank, well then he's second in command, right? So that would make him two. How is he three? Furthermore, they programmed the "three" into Data well before the collision event, so there's no way they could have even intended for the three to be interpreted that way. That Data came to that conclusion was totally blind luck, like trying to decipher meaning from the abstract message of a Fortune Cookie or a religious parable. Although in fairness, if he was wrong, it's not like there would be anything to lose. Just Game Over and reload the last checkpoint, right?

    It does seem more than a little odd too that the Enterprise somehow figure out the solution and break the loop after just over a fortnight, which means maybe 7 iterations of the loop? While meanwhile the other ship was stuck in the loop for 80 years! How were they even in the loop that long? It only resets when the ships crash, and the Enterprise was obviously not there the majority of those 80 years. And if not crashing breaks the loop, well wouldn't they have not been in the loop in the first place?

    Honestly, despite my enthusiasm for all things time travel, this episode feels dragged out, repetitive and dull; is fairly predictable early on; and has some unexplained holes that don't quite make sense. Not the worst episode in the series, but far from the best either. Pretty average.

    P.S. Thanks, internet! I would have never realized that not-Jim Kirk in this episode was actually Frasier! I totally didn't recognize him under the beard, but now I can't unsee it. That's a nice bit of trivia!

    Just to clarify, the "three" refers to the three rank pips on Riker's uniform. Data says this outright: "I speculated that three might refer to the number of rank insignia on Commander Riker's uniform," thus cluing himself that Riker's suggestion course of action is the correct one. It's less like a Fortune Cookie and more like a quickly jotted note he left for himself.

    I sure hope no one happened to be in the shuttlebay when the split second decision to vent it was made...

    This is the cutest, most attractive Beverly has looked in any episode.

    The poker scenes on TNG crack me up. First of all, there is no money or currency that exists in the world of Star Trek. There's nothing at stake in these gambling card games...yet Riker expects nobody to call out his obvious and ridiculous over the top bluffs. Riker plays poker like a one trick pony who only wins because he plays against amateurs!

    "The poker scenes on TNG crack me up. First of all, there is no money or currency that exists in the world of Star Trek. There's nothing at stake in these gambling card games.."

    The loser has to get into a Maylon suit and scrub the antimatter reaction chamber like an old chimney sweep. Watch out for those anti protons, they sure sting.

    I've seen Monopoly games get pretty heated, despite the lack of real money....

    There's a lot of things that make this episode great, but it has a special place in my heart for showing a world where you can wake up all your friends in the middle of the night saying you heard voices while drinking and pruning your plants and they'll all drop everything to help you without judgment.

    That's the real magic of Star Trek.

    @Jason R.

    "Watch out for those anti protons, they sure sting."

    Auntie Protons might be a relative of Captain Proton's.

    rewatching all these years after seeing them a kid (inspired by RLM reviews) - and i really do appreciate how in TNG, people report issues in meetings, calmly discuss them, notice something odd - and then tell people who should be informed, and go about solving the problem like the top officers in starfleet would

    no crying, whispering, needless drama, etc, etc

    an exercise to the reader as to what series i recently had to stop watching

    FlyingSquirrel said: Does Starfleet have even less ability to monitor where their ships are than, say, modern-day air traffic control does over commercial airliners?

    One has to chuckle at this comment made less than three months after the infamous disappearance of the commercial airliner MH370. Space is much larger!

    @Matt @JasonR @TopHat I don't believe in gambling. That said, while I personally am not a card player (I'm a chess player myself) a lot of my friends like to play poker. They just use chips, and at the end of the game the game is over-there's no chores or anything one must do if they lose.

    It's possible to have a friendly game without the spirit of competition, or the spirit of materialism creeping in.

    I'm also not a very active person (so sports aren't my thing), but a lot of times when my friends get together for a ball game, they don't even keep score. The activity itself is reward enough. Even when I play chess, I like the mental exercise, not the fact that I beat or was beaten. That said, I find games more enjoyable when people's skill level are close. You don't want to play a chess game against someone that is at such a different skill level that you either don't have to try, or that leaves you wondering what happened. Same with ball games, and I'm sure it is the same with card games

    I saw this when it first aired on the TeeVee (you know, the boob toob) and I honestly thought Channel 20 messed up their playback after the main title commercial break when it repeated what I had just seen and the crew was going about their business as usual.

    I still like it.

    This remains one of the best episodes of Trek, not just TNG. There are a few DS9 bangers that are more thematically bold, a few TNG high points that equal it, but this is what I think of when I think of TNG. The combination of production value, performance quality, and high-concept sci-fi story is rarely as well done as this.

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