“Cause and Effect” is the 18th episode of the fifth season of the American science fiction television series Star Trek: The Next Generation, the 118th overall. It was originally released on 23 March 1992, in broadcast syndication.
It was written by Brannon Braga, who sought to write an unusual type of time travel related plot, and directed by cast member Jonathan Frakes.
Set in the 24th century, the series follows the adventures of the Starfleet crew of the Federation starship Enterprise-D. In this episode, the Enterprise is caught in a time loop which results in the destruction of the ship and the loss of all hands after a collision with the USS Bozeman. As events re-occur, they begin to feel a sense of déjà vu and upon investigating, realise their predicament. Lt. Commander Data (Brent Spiner) realises how to pass a brief message to himself in the next loop, which allows him to save the ship from destruction.
Cheers actor Kelsey Grammer was offered the role of Captain Morgan Bateson and accepted. Due to scheduling conflicts, Kirstie Alley was unable to reprise her Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan role as Lt. Saavik. Plans for the USS Bozeman were changed due to the budget, which resulted in a modification to the USS Reliant model created for The Wrath of Khan and the use of the movie-era Enterprise bridge. “Cause and Effect” received Nielsen ratings of 13.0 percent, making it the sixth most watched episode of the season. Critics praised the episode, specifically Braga’s writing, Frakes’s direction, and the opening sequence in which the Enterprise is destroyed.
he viewer is shown through the episode that Enterprise is caught in a time loop (referred to in-universe as a “temporal causality loop”). The loop begins with the senior members of the crew playing poker and continues for about a day when they discover a spatial anomaly. While studying the anomaly, a ship suddenly emerges from it, and though Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) takes Lt. Commander Data’s (Brent Spiner) advice over Commander William T. Riker’s (Jonathan Frakes) for avoiding a collision, the new ship clips the warp nacelle, causing a critical failure and the destruction of the Enterprise moments later, at which point the loop restarts.
Initially, crew members are unaware of the loop. However, Dr. Beverly Crusher (Gates McFadden) begins to hear noises before she goes to bed following the poker game. Having a sense of déjà vu during the poker game and able to predict the cards Data will deal during a subsequent loop, Crusher takes a tricorder with her to her room, records the voices, and later analyses them to discover they are the panicked commands and broadcasts of the crew. The senior staff work out that they are stuck in the loop; the voices they are hearing are those of themselves from the previous loop just prior to the destruction of the ship. They evaluate the voices to determine that the loop is restarted due to the collision of the two ships but do not know how to avoid that collision in the first place. Data suggests that his positronic brain can be used to send a short message to himself in the next loop which may help them to avoid the collision. When they arrive at the anomaly, and after the collision, Data sends the message.
On the following loop, Crusher again has a feeling of déjà vu during the poker game, but when Data deals the next hand, all the cards are threes, followed by a hand where all players have three of a kind. The number 3 begins appearing throughout other parts of the ship’s operations while, again, they determine they are stuck in a time loop. When they reach the anomaly and the ship appears from it, Data suddenly realises that the 3 stands for the number of command pips on Riker’s uniform, and executes Riker’s option instead of his own. This allows Enterprise to safely clear the oncoming ship. The anomaly disappears and the time loop ends, and the crew realises they have been trapped in the loop for over 17 days, while the other ship, the USS Bozeman, has been missing for over 90 years. Picard welcomes the Bozeman’s crew to the 24th century.
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Production & Filming Details
- Director(s): Jonathan Frakes.
- Writer(s): Brannon Braga.
- Release Date: 16 March 1992.
- Running Time: 45 minutes.
- Country: US.
- Language: English.