Aug 7 2012 4:00pm
Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: “Cause and Effect”

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: Cause and Effect“Cause and Effect”
Written by Brannon Braga
Directed by Jonathan Frakes
Season 5, Episode 18
Production episode 40275-218
Original air date: March 23, 1992
Stardate: 45652.1

Captain’s Log: The Enterprise blows up.

Fade to black...

After the credits, the Enterprise is, somehow, calmly exploring the Typhon Expanse, the first Starfleet vessel to explore that region. Riker is hosting a poker game that also includes Data, Worf, and Crusher. It’s a five-card stud game which quickly gets down to just Riker and Crusher. Riker tries to bluff Crusher into thinking he has a straight, but Crusher calls it and wins. Then she’s summoned to sickbay to treat La Forge, who suffered a dizzy spell. He’s got the symptoms of an inner-ear infection, but no actual inner-ear infection. As Crusher describes the treatment, she has an odd feeling that she’s had this conversation with La Forge before and given him that hypospray.

Later, Crusher goes to her quarters and tends to the plants she keeps in her cabin while having a drink. After setting the glass down on her nightstand, she goes to sleep—and then hears voices. She reaches to turn on the light, and knocks the glass over, breaking it.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: Cause and Effect

The next morning, after a meeting about the Typhon Expanse exploration, Crusher reports the voices she heard before going to bed, and apparently ten other people reported hearing the voices at the exact same time.

Worf interrupts the meeting from the bridge: they’re picking up a highly localized distortion of the space-time continuum. Ro reports that they didn’t pick it up until they were almost on top of it. Picard orders Ro to back off, but maneuvering thrusters aren’t functioning. Main power then goes down just as a ship emerges from the energy field on a collision course. Helm’s not responding and shields are down. Riker suggests decompressing the main shuttle bay to push the Enterprise back, while Data suggests using the tractor beam to push the other ship away. Picard takes Data’s suggestion, but while it keeps the other ship from a head-on collision, it does collide with the nacelle. This eventually leads to the destruction of the ship in exactly the same manner as we saw in the teaser, and the Enterprise goes boom.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: Cause and Effect

Fade to black...

The Enterprise is calmly exploring the Typhon Expanse. Crusher seems distracted during the poker game—and then Riker somehow knows that Crusher is going to call his bluff, so rather than raise, he folds. Crusher is then summoned to sickbay to help La Forge, and she asks if she’s had this conversation with La Forge—and La Forge has the same sense that he’s done this before. But there’s no record of La Forge ever having dizziness.

Crusher returns to her quarters to tend to her plants and have a before-bed drink. As she goes to sleep, she hears voices. Reaching to turn on the light, she knocks her glass over, breaking it.

She calls Picard and they meet in his ready room. He gives her some warm milk, and he mentions having a similar déjà vu feeling when reading a book earlier—but he assumed that he’d just read it before and had forgotten. To be sure, he has La Forge and Data run a shipwide diagnostic.

The next morning, they discuss the déjà vu in the morning meeting, but they haven’t found anything—though Crusher does say that ten other people reported the same voices she did.

Worf interrupts with the report that they’ve encountered a localized disruption of the space-time continuum. Power goes down and a ship comes through the field on a collision course. Riker suggests decompressing the shuttle to get out of its way, while Data suggests the tractor beam. Events play out the same way, and the Enterprise explodes in a fiery conflagration.

Fade to black...

The Enterprise is calmly exploring the Typhon Expanse. Worf and Crusher both mention having a sense of déjà vu (Worf calls it nIb’poH) during the poker game. Crusher predicts every card that Data’s about to deal, and Riker and Worf are able to do likewise. Data declares this to be highly improbable. Crusher then calls sickbay to ask if La Forge is there. Ogawa says he isn’t—and then La Forge walks in.

Crusher examines La Forge and then summons Picard to sickbay, asking if he’s been getting a sense of déjà vu, and he says yes, he was, while reading. Rather than give La Forge the usual treatments for his symptoms, she checks his VISOR, which is picking up distortions in the local dekyon field and translating them as visual impulses that give him headaches and dizziness. La Forge goes off to run a few scans, see if they can trace the problem. Crusher heads to her cabin, not even bothering to change into her bedclothes. She starts to tend to her plants, then all but throws the gardening tool down. She starts to take a drink, then puts it down—not on the nightstand, but on the desk far from the bed. After turning the lights off, she hears the voices, and immediately records them with her tricorder. She calls La Forge in engineering, who says that sensors picked up something, too. She heads out to join him, grabbing her lab coat—which knocks the glass over, breaking it.

The voices came through to Crusher’s quarters just as there was a dekyon field distortion. Data listens to Crusher’s recording and determines that the voices are those of the Enterprise crew. But the voices aren’t coming from any ship’s system.

La Forge, Data, and Crusher work all night, and they come up with a theory: they’re trapped in a temporal causality loop, where they keep re-living the same batch of events over and over again. The voices Crusher heard were echoes from previous trips through the loop. For all they know, they’ve been trapped there for years.

Data has analyzed the recording, and found three segments that are crucial: Worf reporting that there’s a localized disruption of the space-time continuum, Data reporting impact in thirty seconds, and Picard ordering the ship to be abandoned. La Forge theorizes that the combination of the collision and the disruption Worf mentioned started the loop.

The problem is they may not figure out how to avoid the collision until it’s too late, and once the loop starts, they won’t remember any of this except as vague déjà vuish feelings. So they need to send a message into the dekyon field that Data’s positronic brain will pick up on a subconscious level. It can only be a word or a few characters, and they don’t know how Data’s brain will interpret it, but it’s the best they can do.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: Cause and Effect

Crusher and La Forge open up Data’s head to make the adjustments. Just as that’s finished, they’re called to the bridge and red alert sounds. Events then play out the same way again, but this time, Data sends his virtual message in a bottle before the ship explodes.

Fade to black...

The Enterprise is calmly exploring the Typhon Expanse. Data deals the cards, with Worf and Crusher expressing the feeling of déjà vu. Crusher and Worf predict the cards that were going to be dealt—but this time, they’re all dealt threes. Then Data deals out the cards so that they all wind up with three of a kind.

Ogawa summons Crusher to sickbay to treat La Forge. They both remember treating him for these symptoms before, and she checks his VISOR, finding an odd phase shift.

Picard sits in his ready room, reading a book, and he frowns, flipping through the pages, realizing he’s read it all before. Crusher then summons him to sickbay and explains that they’ve found distortions in the local dekyon field that the VISOR is interpreting as visual afterimages. La Forge and Data start their scans, and when Data runs a level-two diagnostic on the warp subsystems, which all come up 3’s. That can’t be right, but Data’s been encountering that numeral a lot the last couple hours. Sensors pick up a dekyon field distortion. And then Crusher calls saying she heard voices; when she says she’ll be down, La Forge and Data hear the sound of glass breaking.

Cut to a meeting in the observation lounge, where Data plays the three bits of the recording Crusher made that are most critical. Data’s constant encountering of the number three is also an issue, and they’ve detected a dekyon field shift in Data’s positronic brain. La Forge says that if he wanted to send a message to the next iteration of the loop, that would be how he’d do it.

Ro interrupts with the message that they’ve encountered something. Again the distortion, again the loss of main power, and again Riker and Data’s suggestions. In each iteration of the loop, Riker has been standing right next to Data, where his three rank insignia pips are in Data’s peripheral vision. Data realizes that his suggestion won’t work and Riker’s suggestion should be tried instead. The shuttle bay decompression backs them off from the distortion and the other ship, and they get main power back. Picard asks Worf to check with a time beacon, and they learn that they’ve been stuck in this loop for 17.4 days.

Worf scans the other vessel, which is the U.S.S. Bozeman, a Soyuz-class ship—those ships haven’t been in service in ages. The Bozeman hails them, and Captain Morgan Bateson—wearing the uniforms we last saw in the TOS movie era—offers assistance. He also thinks it’s still 2278, and Picard has the lucky task of explaining to him exactly what just happened.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: Cause and Effect

Can’t We Just Reverse the Polarity?: A dekyon is a subatomic particle which is affected by temporal causality loop in ways that make it useful for the plot. Science!

There is No Honor in Being Pummeled: I find it highly amusing that distortions in the space-time continuum are apparently sufficiently common in the Star Trek universe that Worf can identify one after two seconds of sensor scans. He also engages in some amusing semi-banterish behavior with Data during the poker game, muttering “I hope so” after Data assures Riker that the cards are sufficiently randomized after he shuffles them (which they aren’t in the final loop), and with Data being semi-snarky at him as he deals (“No help for the Klingon”), to Worf’s annoyance.

If I Only Had a Brain...: Data’s the one who gets the subconscious message in the final loop, which is amusing, since he’s the only person on board who doesn’t get any sense of déjà vu.

No Sex, Please, We’re Starfleet: Picard and Crusher’s scene together in the ready room when he gives her warm milk, while she’s still wearing the pink ribbon in her hair she wore with her bedclothes, may be the single most adorable scene in the entire history of Star Trek.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: Cause and Effect

In the Driver’s Seat: Ro’s back, and she gets to say the same five lines over and over again.

I Believe I Said That: “All hands, abandon ship!”

The last complete sentence Picard ever utters for 17.4 days.

Welcome Aboard: The big guest star here is the one-minute cameo by Kelsey Grammer, best known as Frasier Crane on Cheers and Frasier, as Captain Morgan Bateson. Michelle Forbes and Patti Yasutake also show up in their recurring roles of Ro and Ogawa for what amount to glorified cameos.

Trivial Matters: The producers tried to get Kirstie Alley, Grammer’s longtime Cheers co-star, to reprise her role as Saavik from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, serving as Bateson’s first officer, but the schedules couldn’t be worked out, so a female extra was seen standing by Bateson’s side.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: Cause and Effect

Bateson has appeared extensively in the tie-in fiction. He was a major character in Ship of the Line by Diane Carey (in which the Bozeman inexplicably had an all-male bridge crew despite there being a woman standing next to Bateson in the episode), and also appeared in The Captain’s Daughter by Peter David (where Sulu turned down being Bateson’s first officer to help raise his daughter, which kept Sulu from being sent forward to the 24th century), the Department of Temporal Investigations novel Watching the Clock by Christopher L. Bennett (which details his crew’s assimilation into the 24th century), the short story “Ancient History” by Robert J. Mendenhall in Strange New Worlds VI (which gives Bateson and Scotty a history in the 23rd century that’s revisited by the two time-displaced men in the 24th), and Destiny: Lost Souls by David Mack (where he gets to blow up a Borg cube).

The Bozeman was named after writer Brannon Braga’s home town, and would be referenced again in “All Good Things...,” Star Trek Generations, and Star Trek: First Contact, all coauthored by Braga.

The original plan was to make the Bozeman a Constitution-class ship, but making it a modification of the Reliant model from Star Trek II was more in line with the show’s budget.

To make the destruction of the Enterprise more effective, they actually blew up a model of the ship rather than simply superimposing an explosion over an intact model.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: Cause and Effect

This episode has another mention of Picard’s aunt, Adele, and yet another of her cure-alls. In “Ensign Ro” it was ginger tea, this time it’s warm milk with nutmeg.

Make it So: “All hands, abandon ship!” Brannon Braga has come in for a lot of flak for his writing over the years, particularly his work on Voyager and Enterprise, so it’s easy to forget that he did some fine work on TNG, and this was his finest. Quite possibly the best use of the teaser-and-five-act structure you’ll ever see, this episode is also a perfecting melding of good writing and strong directing. One of the reasons why it works is due to Jonathan Frakes’s excellent filming of the episode. Not only is each repeated scene shot differently from its predecessors, but Frakes also uses fewer and fewer cuts and more long single shots as the episode goes on, which makes the repeated scenes go by much faster. It’s a tour-de-force of structured writing and clever directing.

Lots of little touches make it work, from the fact that Crusher can’t seem to avoid breaking the glass, to Picard silently flipping through the book that he’s already mentioned twice that he had déjà vu with, to seemingly innocent lines like Riker’s about Data stacking the deck having bigger meaning as the episode progresses, to the integration of the poker game into the plot for a change, to what has to be the best teaser in the history of Star Trek. I mean, c’mon, they blew up the Enterprise and killed everyone before the opening credits! That’s awesome!

This is an absolute triumph of craft from both Braga and Frakes, and just a fun episode, with the added bonus of Captain Frasier Crane at the end. I almost didn’t need to rewatch this one, as it’s one of my go-to episodes when I want to watch a Star Trek episode for the heck of it, and I have yet to tire of it.


Warp factor rating: 9

Keith R.A. DeCandido has the feeling that he’s written this bio before.

Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
1. Lisamarie
Yaaaaay :) I've been waiting and waiting to get to this one. This is actually the first Star Trek episode I remember seeing (we went to Canada for my 20th birthday - legal drinking age is 19 there - and that first night in the hotel room it was on...one of my good friends is a huge Trek fan so we watched it). I'm sure I've seen other episodes before that, but it's the first one that sticks in my mind.

It's a fun episode; I love how each iteration of events is a little different and you learn just a little bit more.

A few years ago my husband got the time travel DVD collection. About halfway through the episode I said, "I have the feeling I've seen this one before"...ha ha ha.

Also, we have the series on DVD...we found out after the fact our copy is a bootlegged copy. One of the 'bugs' is that on the DVD labels, Cause and Effect is on it twice (one of the episodes is incorrecty labelled)....the actual DVD is fine, it's just the label, but I still thought that was funny, all things considered.
2. scifisiren
This has always been one of my favorite episodes, and the reason I think I'm in a time loop upon any sense of deja vu. I agree about the scene between Crusher and Picard in the ready room, delightful. I always looked forward to the once or twice per season opportunity for Crusher to be one of the mains in an episode.
Joseph Newton
3. crzydroid
When I first saw this, I also remember thinking it was totally awesome if for no other reason than everyone on the ship was blown up.

So in the loop when they send the message back, after figuring out that they're in the loop, they have the meeting early instead of waiting until 0700. In the next loop, they figure out they're in a loop, but then they decide to wait until 0700 after all. Maybe because of Data's 3 thing?
Lee VanDyke
4. Cloric
I think this episode was also referenced in Q-Squared, although I may be wrong on the book. But it was a character from Starfleet expressing frustration over the incredible amount of time/space issues this ship runs into, and the need to define/name them on the fly. I'd be more specific, but I've yet to unpack most of my books after a move.

But, I have to agree. This has always been one of my favorites, and I'll stop what I'm doing to sit down and watch it anytime I see it on.
5. Codexus
This episode is my infallible cure for insomnia. I'm always asleep by the third or fourth loop.

Oh I like it very much but I have seen it many times and the repetition really does it for me. :D
David Stumme
6. grenadier
I've got to ask: what kept this from being a 10, Keith? There's really not an unkind word said about it in the review. I knew this one would score high, and the review was so glowing, I figured it would hit the rarely-seen Warp 10 score.
7. rowanblaze
I said it on Twitter, but this is just about my favorite episode in the series. There may a couple others that I like as much, but none come to mind. The combination of "time travel" (sort of) and the mystery of what is happening to the crew ship and crew are pitch perfect. I hadn't realized until this reading that the Bozeman is from a few years before the events of "The Wrath of Khan."
8. DrMaturin
Speaking of Kelsey Grammer he's excellent in the current Starz series Boss where he plays the mayor of Chicago. It's a great example of successful casting against type, since instead of playing a funny, whimsical character he plays a menacing sociopath, and to perfection.
9. Rootboy
This might be the first Star Trek episode I ever saw when I was a kid. Certainly the first one I remember seeing - the ship keeps blowing up, and only the red-headed doctor knows something's going on. It's still awesome!

I kinda feel like Braga's been trying to duplicate his success with this script for his whole career, with the constant new permutations of goofy sci-fi plots about temporal anomalies and "evolutionary" mutations.
Alyssa Tuma
10. AlyssaT
Right on -- for all the hate that Braga gets, I will always give him credit for his knack for the outre and establishing bizarre-feeling atmosphere. "Phantasms," another Braga-penned ep, and another spooky one, is probably in my personal top three. He's quite good with these eerie, Twilight Zoney storylines, particularly earlier on in his career.

Only drawback? It's obviously not quite as much fun on rewatch. I remember just being RIVETED the first time I saw it when the timeline would loop over again: What would be different this time? How were they going to figure it all out?
11. Brian Mac
Not long ago, I finally managed to get my ten-year-old interested enough to watch an episode of TNG, and given the monumental task of picking one episode out of all of them to serve as an introduction, I went with this one. It seemed like the best way to introduce the characters and their personalities, and the plot is representative to me of the sorts of things the TNG crew runs into all the time. As we watched the teaser, I knew he was hooked, and he was actively trying to figure out what was up by the second loop, which made me happy.

He liked it, but hasn't wanted to watch any more Trek as of yet. Too many other electronic diversions competing for his time.
Kristen Templet
12. SF_Fangirl
... they blew up the Enterprise and killed everyone before the opening credits! That’s awesome!

And that's why it's my favorite episode. I remember being shocked when the Enterprise blew up in the teaser. Great episode.
Keith DeCandido
13. krad
grenadier: with my usual caveat that the warp factor rating is the least important part of the rewatch -- I'd say what kept it from being a 10 is spelled out in the "Can't we just reverse the polarity?" section, to wit, it's basically a technobabble plot where it all hinges on made-up science with made-up science solutions to the made-up science problems. This was ameliorated somewhat by the fact that it wasn't just flip-the-frammistan-and-the-two-headed-veeblefester-will-work-now solution, but rather implanting the number 3 into Data's subconscious and hoping for the best. But still not quite the perfect episode that I thought, for example, "Q Who" or "Family" or "Reunion" was.

---Keith R.A. DeCandido
14. John R. Ellis
One of the all-time great cold openings of any show that ever had a teaser. Ever.

My teenage self was floored and completely glued to the set after that bit.
15. Svenn Diagram
I find it highly amusing that distortions in the space-time continuum are apparently sufficiently common in the Star Trek universe that Worf can identify one after two seconds of sensor scans.

Isn't warp speed a distortion in space-time? I think being able to detect such distortions would be de rigeur in a warp-capable ship.
Michael Burstein
16. mabfan
Keith, in this case, I think I completely agree with you about the episode.

I do have one funny story about it, though. A friend of ours tried to get his sister interested in Star Trek: The Next Generation, and when they turned it on, "Cause and Effect" happened to be the episode. She wasn't interested, but she tried Trek again a while later, turned on the TV...and found they were broadcasting "Cause and Effect." She decided this was probably the only episode of ST:TNG they ever made.

-- Michael A. Burstein
Rob Rater
17. Quasarmodo
This episode is great! Maybe the one thing that felt a tad bit off to me was Captain Frasier didn't seem to have any clue there was anything amiss, and they'd been stuck in the loop for years. The Enterprise was only in it for 17 days and they were all over it. Granted they had shit like Data and VISOR, but Crusher was the center of the episode and didn't have any kind of enhancements to help her pick up on the strange goings on.

Also, looking at the pic of Captain Frasier above, I would swear that female officer was Maura Tierney. :) IMDB doesn't agree, however.
Rob Rater
18. Quasarmodo
@16 I had a similar experience with TOS. We didn't have a tv when I was growing up, so watching episodes of Star Trek was few and far between. The first episode I saw was the one with the creature tunneling through rocks, and Dr. McCoy fixed its injury with plaster of paris. That was also the second episode I saw, as well as the third!
Jay Hash
Ah yes, C&E. So much fun, and so enticing the first time. I do agree it's one of the best episodes, and defintely among my top 10. The use of "3" as the cue to Data, and then the perfect framing of the shots when he finally realizes what its signifigance is, are extremely well done. So innocuous, yet still so very blatant.

It always interested me in how this one was filmed, too. I'll need to go back and read Nemecek's TNG Edpisode Compendium to see, but I always wondered if they took master shots of certain scenes then only did the secondary camera shots for different portions of the loop to preserve the exactness of the time loop (to stave off any different readings from the actors from loop to loop), or if all the actors got a copy of the dailies for one loop segment so that they could do them exactly the same for the next one. Probably is a combination of the two. If anything, it may be that this was one of the most quickly filmed episodes of TNG, and that the final mastery in this episode was in the editing bay.

As for Morgan Bateson, it was great reading his journal entries in the SNW story, but I found him rather insufferable in his potrayal in "Ship of the Line". Always seemed to me like a racist d-bag of a captain (at least where Klingons were concerned). How that makes him any different than Kirk, I can't tell you, but I just never liked him. The Octopus-like creature on the Bozeman didn't endear me to his crew any either...
20. Tesh
@16, @18 Tangentially, the first (and second) episode of Stargate SG-1 I saw was "Window of Opportunity". I was hooked. Something about these time loop stories really does allow for some great TV.
21. Jay Young
I first saw this the night it premiered and my initial thought was "That writer is working off some serious frustrations." I'll give this a Warp 10 with extra points for ingenuity.

The entire cast of Frasier were huge Trek fans and you've probably all seen the 30-year anniversary show with the Voyager parody with Gilpin, Leeves, Mahoney, Hyde-Pierce and your little dog too. It's hysterical.
Jack Flynn
22. JackofMidworld
Hmmm...Quasarmodo has a good point about Captain Frasier's crew never figuring it out. One thing that I have noticed? Without Data, the crew would have died a lot. Like, a lot-a lot. If I was going to guess, I'd say it was because they didn't have him or Jordy's visor to give them anything to focus on besides the deja vu.

(oh, and speaking of quantum anomolies, there's a TNG/Doctor Who comic-book crossover going on right now, for those who love universe-mash-ups as much as I do)
Jack Flynn
23. JackofMidworld
And just saw the note about SG1. Just remembering O'Niell sending golf balls into the stargate is making me laugh at my computer screen!
treebee72 _
24. treebee72
@16 mabfan - It's a Law of the Universe that whenever one decides to watch another episode of a show one has only seen once, it will always be the same episode one has already seen.
25. Woodrow/asim
This episode will live in my mind forever, because of how I saw it:

I was at college at the time, and the SciFi club I was a lead on showed TNG in our auditorium; big screen, booming speakers, the whole nine yards. I also, at the time, had a girlfriend at a nearby college, and since the PC lab was in the same building, we'd chat online before the episode.

This time, she and I chatted right up until the appointed hour, and I left to walk to the auditorium. I distinctly recall running into a friend who was also late, and we bemoaned the lack of alacrity in our attendance.

"But," I recall saying, "it's just the opener. We won't miss that much."

Naturally, that's when I opened the auditorium doors to the death throbs of the ENTERPRISE, on the aforementioned huge screen, loud as death.

I made something of an effort to attend on-time, from that point forward.
26. Teddard Snark
@10: It IS a Twilight Zone episode!


The breaking glass at bedtime is the most direct reference. The Zone ep creeped me out SO BAD as a kid. The Trek episode was just a lot of fun.
27. Cradok
I always figured the reason that the Bozeman's crew didn't seem to have been through a loop was... because they hadn't. I see it that Bozeman encountered an anomaly or wormhole, been pulled in, then emerged and crashed into Enterprise, and did it just the once, while in Tyken's Rift, the resulting explosion and whatever other weirdness in the Rift kicked just the Enterprise into the causality loop, and ended up with a couple of dozen iterations of the Enterprise crashing into the same Bozeman every time.

There is one thing that bugs me about the episode, though, and that's the instant dismissal of Worf's suggestion that they try turning around. Riker's rebuttal is grounded much more in the 'normal' type of time travel episode, where they have to worry about changing the timeline, but that's not relevant in this case, since it's an isolated stream, and they should be looking to do something they wouldn't have done the first time around, such as turning around and leaving for no good reason.
Keith DeCandido
28. krad
Quasarmodo: My guess would be that the Bozeman only was in the loop for the minute-and-a-half or so between when they came through the anomaly and when the Enterprise exploded, whereas the Enterprise was in the loop for something like 12 hours (the previous evening when the poker game happened to shortly after an 0700 morning meeting ended).

---Keith R.A. DeCandido
29. Christopher L. Bennett
Thanks for mentioning Watching the Clock, Keith. I did address the inconsistency being discussed here about why the Bozeman crew didn't sort it out themselves: I posited that they did have the same experience, piecing the situation together, but didn't have the resources to solve the problem since they didn't have an android crewmember or advanced enough sensors, so they eventually just gave up trying and went through many more loops with just a free-floating sense of hopelessness and resignation pervading the ever-repeating events.

And I deliberately included the Bozeman crew in WTC in order to give them a more accurate representation than the oddly error-prone one in Ship of the Line. Aside from the all-male bridge crew, that book also portrays the Typhon Expanse as a well-explored, settled portion of Federation space along the Klingon border, even though Picard says five times in the episode that it's never been explored before.

As for the episode, time-loop stories generally annoy me because of the repetition, and this one's no exception, but Frakes's directing does mollify it somewhat by making each loop different. I can quibble about some of the technical issues, though. The events "bleeding through" the loops are kind of a silly contrivance. And there's no way depressurizing the main shuttlebay could impart enough thrust to push a ship as massive as the E-D out of the way in time. Although the idea of Data being influenced by something subconsciously is an interesting twist, even if the message he has to decipher is pretty silly.

And yes, I agree completely with #27. Of course they should've just turned around! Riker's argument against turning around was nonsense. There was a completely simple solution to the problem and the episode just swept it aside without even bothering to contrive a decent rationalization. It's by far the laziest thing about the story.

People have mentioned The Twilight Zone, but the teaser of this episode has always reminded me more of The Outer Limits, which usually started each episode with a preview clip of an event from later in the episode. Of course here it was meant to be the same event repeating itself, but it feels similar. (Now it's commonplace to open an episode with a scene from the middle or end and then flash back to "X hours/days earlier," but at the time this was made, that hadn't become trendy yet, so TOL was my only referent for it.)

@15: You're right -- technically, a distortion in the spacetime continuum is called gravity. It's not that uncommon. Any concentration of mass or energy alters the spacetime geometry around it, and the particular type of geometry is called a metric. Things like warp bubbles, wormholes, and time warps are just very rare, extreme, and complicated metrics, but they're based on the same principle as the force that holds us in our chairs. So no, it shouldn't be that hard for starship sensors to recognize.
30. Celia
I dissent! I saw this when it first showed & while I remember it vividly, I also remember being really pissed off. They kill Worf one week and then blow up the ship a couple of weeks later ?!?! Totally messing with my head, and that's just lazy. Yes, it was reasonably well directed and paced. But still, I thought it was a HOLE in the season to have kill Worf/culture war propaganda/blow up the ship a bunch...blatant viewer manipulation with diddley for interesting or original ideas.
31. Sean O'Hara
This episode is great! Maybe the one thing that felt a tad bit off to me was Captain Frasier didn't seem to have any clue there was anything amiss, and they'd been stuck in the loop for years.
No, no, no. CLB made the same mistake in Watching the Clock. The Bozeman went through the loop the same number of times as the Enterprise.

The Bozeman was tooling along somewhere in the 23rd Century, detected a negative space wedgie and, when they went to investigate, flew into the 24th Century and crashed into the Enterprise. The explosion caused the negative space wedgie to , sending both ships backwards within their world lines, which for the Bozeman meant going back to the 23rd Century where they detect a negative space wedgie, etc.
32. Christopher L. Bennett
@31: Seriously? You're going to call it a "mistake" not to go along with your entirely speculative interpretation? Laddie, don't you think you should rephrase that?

Your interpretation doesn't appeal to me at all because it's needlessly complicated. You're requiring two different phenomena to explain it -- first a jump forward in time and then a repeating time loop that preserves both crews unchanging as even more time passes outside. It's redundant. And it's ad hoc, with no evidence in the episode to suggest it.

What the episode itself clearly sets up is a single phenomenon, a temporal causality loop, that causes anything trapped within it to repeat a single set of events while time passes normally outside. Geordi's dialogue stated that they could've been through the loop hundreds of times while "hours, days, maybe years" passed outside. Clearly Braga included those lines as the setup, with the payoff being the discovery of another ship that had been trapped in the same phenomenon for -- gasp! -- decades. That was the logical consequence of the premise of the causality loop, the "there but for the grace of God" revelation of what could've befallen the Enterprise crew if they hadn't figured out how to escape.
F Shelley
33. FSS
@29 and 32 - I don't care all that much about the issue (I'm a stupid Star Trek fan - I even like Voyager - and don't speak Klingon), but your explanation doesn't make too much sense, given Frasier's attitude when they finally cleanly exited the rift. If they had given up on survival, like you posit, wouldn't the other ship's captain's reaction be something like "Oh my God! Finally! We made it! Whew! Learn how to drive your spaceship you bunch of a-holes! Oh, a woman at the helm! That explains it!"
Joseph Newton
34. crzydroid
@27: I was thinking the same thing about Worf's suggestion when we were rewatching this. When the loop started, they would have had no reason to turn around.

@32: I think Geordi explicitly states that the loop was caused by the explosion. So it seems that the Bozeman would've only been looping 36 seconds for the same amount of loops as the Enterprise.

As for the tractor beam vs. the decompression, it seems like the best idea would've been to do both.
John Mann
35. jcmnyu
@31 and @32 Christopher L Bennett & Sean O'Hara

I think you are both wrong. (And I say that in the nicest possible way.) The Bozeman's loop was only a minute or two and it repeated exactly the same number of times as the Enterprise's. The first time the Bozeman appeared through the rift was the first time the Enterprise entered the Expanse. When the Bozeman came from makes no difference. So if the Enterprise's loop was about 12 hours, and it lasted for about 17 days, then there were about 34 loops. So, by my count, the Bozeman was in the loop for about an hour. And if they experienced the same things the Enterprise crew did, it was probably 15 minutes on normal, and 45 minutes of deja vu in 2 minute increments. Not nearly enough time to make conclusions or do anything about it. Or did I miss something?
Amir Noam
36. Amir
Another thing ignored is that the Enterprise is not isolated. When the crisis is over they are able to immediately contact a Federation time beacon and figure out that 17.4 days have passed. They could have done this at any point after figuring out they are in a loop.

Also, since time apparently passed normally for the rest of the universe, here's a simple solution to pass information to the next loop: Just communicate with a nearby starbase / communication beacon and have it relay messages back to the Enterprise on the next loop. Problem solved.
Amir Noam
37. Amir
Oh, and another thing regarding "Captain Frasier": Not only does he act as if he and his crew did not feel that anything special had happened, he seems particularly indifferent to seeing the 24th century style uniforms, let alone seeing a Klingon on board a Starfleet ship's bridge.

But I guess that Kelsey Grammer is just that cool.
38. Rich F
I thought this was a great episode, but it seemed there was one inconsistency that was never explained. In the penultimate loop the distortion followed by the collision and explosion happened hours after the briefing room scene. In the last loop the two scenes happened back to back.

To Michael Burstein: Your funny story reminded me of a similar funny story. At a Shore Leave a number of years ago Garrett Wang told the audience about the time he decided to try watching ST: TNG. Based on the episode he saw, he decided it was not worth continuing to watch. He did, however, give it a second chance some time later, and ended up turning on the exact same episode. That episode was "Code of Honor".
39. Sean O'Hara
@32: Your explanation does not fit the facts on screen. We know the Enterprise entered the loop due to the explosion in proximity to the temporal rift, so why would you suppose the Bozeman was in the loop for any other reason? What was causing them to reset before the Enterprise arrived for them to crash into?
40. Mike Kelm
Brilliant episode- the exploding the ship in the first 5 minutes opened my eyes that this wasn't going to be the typical episode.

But Amir @36 brings up a good point- if the Enterprise had sent a message out at some point during the loop, the starbase would have gotten it and gone "Hey why has the Enterprise sent us the exact same messsage every 12 hours for the last 4 days?" and probably have done something.

But to throw a monkey wrench into the whole thing, I presume this episode we are seeing the last 5 loops. At 12 hours per loop and 17.4 days of lost time, we're looking at at least 34 trips through the time frame, which means that the Bozeman and the Enterprise have crashed at least that many times.
Philippe D. Andrecheck
41. pda
Always loved this episode!
I'd give it a 10. Inner Light is my personal favourite and I'm glad they included that one on the Bluray teaser (they look amazing!).

I especially loved the ending with Cap'n Crane (anyone get the Road to Avonlea reference?)
Morgan Bateson and crew are also featured in the first book of Shatner's
"Mirror Universe" trilogy, "Spectre".
Rob Rater
42. Quasarmodo
@22 JackofMidworld

Without Data, the crew would have died a lot. Like, a lot-a lot.

Ironically, without Data they wouldn't have died at all, because without Data's alternative, Picard would've gone with Riker's suggestion to decompress the cargo bay.
43. scifisiren
@36, @40

I think being in a time loop puts you out-of-sync with normal time in a way that makes communication impossible with the outside. That's what happened in Stargate's "Window of Opportunity." The Tok'ra had been trying to contact them for months, but couldn't reach them while the base was looping.
Robbie C
44. leandar
A thought I had but it may require some clarity. Would I be correct in my remembering that the 23rd century dates were pretty well nailed down by this point? If not, then who cares? If they were, can you imagine the uproar from some of the fanboys about continuity if Saavik had been on the Bozeman? Here's what I mean: The Bozeman disappears in 2278 but Star Trek II doesn't take place till 2285 and Saavik is a Lieutenant just coming out of the Academy at that point. You know as well as I do there would be those complaining about her being most likely a commander on a starship that disappears seven years before her graduation from the Academy! lol Of course I know a simple rewrite of Bateson's line making him say something like "Of course I do, it's 2288'' or ''....2298...'' would clear that up, but on the one hand while it would have been so cool to see Kirstie Alley as Saavik on the Bozeman, at the same time, methinks it may have just been an unneccesary headache that was avoided thanks to scheduling conflicts. lol
Keith DeCandido
45. krad
Quoth Rich: "In the penultimate loop the distortion followed by the collision and explosion happened hours after the briefing room scene. In the last loop the two scenes happened back to back."

Actually, that was covered -- in the penultimate loop, Crusher apologized for not waiting unitl 0700 to start the meeting, meaning that in that loop (and that loop only), the 0700 staff meeting happened earlier.

---Keith R.A. DeCandido
Michael Burstein
46. mabfan
I'm amused to read the other stories people have posted about someone encountering the same episode the second time they try the show.

Not that it matters (and has anyone asked Brannon Braga what he thinks?) but in my humble opinion the Bozeman wasn't caught in the loop, just the Enterprise was.

Also, I recall a story that the reason they got Grammer to play Bateson was that he just happened to be filming in the studio next door. Does anyone know how he ended up with the role?

-- Michael A. Burstein
John Mann
47. jcmnyu
@39 Worf detects a distortion in the space time continum, the Bozeman appears from a rift. This is before the explosion. The Bozeman would have appeared in the 24th century regardless if the Enterprise had not been in the area. The explosion caused the Enterprise and the Bozeman to loop back and repeat the series of events again and again. We have no evidence of how far back the Bozeman went. My assumption was they went back to the point they emerged from the rift, but maybe they went back 12 hours as well. Regardless, they repeated the sequence the exact same number of times the Enterprise did. I don't see how this could be in dispute.
Alan Courchene
48. Majicou
I'm with KRAD, really. This is definitely one of the times that Braga's penchant for wacky, high-concept plots paid off.

An observation: Data has 3 rank pips on his collar, too. Of course, one of them is black/hollow, so maybe you could call that 2.5. I do get a kick out of the fact that Riker's habit of hunching over the helm and ops stations, which apparently they did just to keep Frakes's face in frame, helped to save the day.

It might be too tenuous a connection to mention, but this is the first mention of the Typhon Expanse, eventual meeting place of the Typhon Pact.

More recently, the anime The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya did an arc (taken from the light novels it was based on) called "Endless Eight," in which the protagonists are trapped in a loop about 8 days long for centuries. This played out over 8 half-hour episodes in eight successive weeks, with no more than the minor variations seen in the five acts of "Cause and Effect." To the creators' credit, though, they didn't reuse a single shot in the course of the arc, re-animating everything. The characters even (save one) wear different clothes in each iteration. Some called it the worst cop-out they'd ever seen; some thought it was brilliant; I just had to laugh and raise a glass to the sheer balls of it all.
49. Christopher L. Bennett
@33: You're forgetting, there's no conscious memory of the previous loop at the start of the next. The crew just starts acting out the same patterns until they start to realize it feels familiar, but they still don't remember that they're in a time loop and have to reconstruct that knowledge from scratch each time. Any awareness of anomaly is subconscious and has to capture their conscious attention before they begin to figure out for the umpteenth time that they're in a loop. So if enough subconscious hopelessness set in that they stopped trying, then they'd forget at the start of each loop and just wouldn't feel motivated to react to the deja vu they were feeling, because subconsciously they'd consider it futile to try.

@39: I see your point, and it's valid as far as it goes, but I think the phenomenon as presented onscreen is more ambiguous than that. I've explained my reasons why I think Braga intended for the Bozeman to have been trapped in the loop for 90 years. You've noted a legitimate inconsistency in the premise, and that's on Braga and the other staffers who failed to catch it. And your explanation is one possible way to resolve the inconsistency. I'm just not convinced it's the only one.

After all, we are talking about temporal phenomena here. Effects can precede causes. Just because the explosion created the time loop, that doesn't mean the time loop began at the moment of the explosion. If we're dealing with a rift in the space-time continuum, the explosion in 2368 could have caused a loop effect stretching back to 2278 or earlier -- much like the anti-time phenomenon in "All Good Things" propagating backward through time.

Honestly, if you'd pointed this out to me two years ago, I might've changed my mind and agreed with you, but since Watching the Clock is already in print, I'm kinda stuck with what I posited there about the Bozeman being in the loop. The best I can do is try to justify that.
50. jlpsquared
@ Cradock,

Actually, that is the second time in TNG that exact thing happened. "Time Squared" from season 2 (which is also AWESOME), had the exact same suggestion of turning around, which again, everyone just laughed at.....And yet both times, if they did, no issue!

I guess they gotta make a TV show.

But anyways, I agree with everyone, wonderful episode, the only flaw being the crappy season 5-7 soundtrack, which takes me out of literally every episode. Whenever I see this on re-runs, I try to imagine the creepy "time-squared" music, and the episode is a perfect 10!!!!!
Rob Rater
51. Quasarmodo
I thought Time Squared was awesome too, but I believe you and I are in the minority on that one.
52. Electone
The salvation of the utterly brutal 5th season of TNG.
53. General Vagueness
re: 35. jcmnyu, you're missing that physics doesn't always follow common sense (and actually I'm not following your sense either), and this is fake physics, so there's no telling how it "really" works
re: 36. Amir, why would you contact a time beacon? Why would it need to be contactable? It's a beacon, it just sits there, and it's a time beacon, so it tells time... that's it. It's plausible they'd be able to pick up a signal from a time beacon but not be able to reach a starbase or another ship. As for why they didn't check before, once they know they're in a loop, the exact date doesn't help them-- they could've used that to figure it out in the first place, but in each loop we saw where they figured it out they didn't need an outside reference.

Did everyone miss what Riker said? "For all we know turning around is what causes the explosion in the first place."

I would've thought someone would've touched on how the glass always breaking kind of calls to mind the idea of fate or destiny....

Any way you slice it though, this is one of my favorite episodes, not just of TNG, not just of Star Trek, but of anything ever to be shown on TV.
54. General Vagueness
I do have a nitpick though, or maybe just a thought: where was Guinan during all of this? Going by "Yesterday's Enterprise", she would've had it figured out in two, three loops tops, and then they could've had her on the bridge and she would've known what was wrong the next time.
55. Bob Ahrens
Firstly, KRAD, the woodchucks chuck ALL the wood they want... but what about the Lemur?

Second, I'm glad we are of the same mind on this one. This also is on a very short list of favorites, along side "Yesterday's Enterprise", "Tapestry" and "The Inner Light". None of these required a jazed trick to pull their collective keesters out of the fire...well, maybe "Enterprise" did...
It, too, is a go-to example of when serialized Sci-Fi works.
56. The Real Scott M
I absolutely LOVE this episode. One of my all-time favorites. Sometime after this episode, they had a phone-in contest to determine the fan favorite five episodes. I knew everyone would be voting for Best of Both Worlds, so I voted for this one.

@Quasarmodo, according to the technobabble conversation, it was the explosion of the Enterprise's warp core that cause the loop to occur, so I don't believe the Bozeman was caught in the loop for years; I think they were in it for the same 17 days the Enterprise was. They got caught in a rip in time, came into the future, and as they came through they destroyed the Enterprise (Way to go, Bateson -- nice way to make your entrance into Trek history), which initiated the loop. And as Keith pointed out, their loop only lasted for a minute or so.

The only thing I don't get is that the Enterprise is THE FREAKIN' FLAGSHIP OF THE FEDERATION. "We don't recognize your ship." Really? This is apparently between the timeframes of TMP and TWOK. I would expect more of a "There is no NCC-1701 D, captain, explain yourself!" or "Where is captain Spock?" or "What the hell are you wearing?" or something like that. Not, "Nice ship you got there -- what's your dilithium crystal efficiency?"

Oh, well. I'll forgive a little thing like that.
57. David Sim
Considering the funny noises that Beverly hears are made up of a thousand people, isn't the sound we hear a bit too quiet for that many people?
58. ohsnap
I like this one because they put the audience in the time loop puzzle with no explanation. When I first saw this I thought it was a TV broadcasting error. Really smart of the writers and director to present it that way...brilliant! It's like you are part of the script...you need to figure it out as well.

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