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Recap: Star Trek - The Next Generation S5E18: Cause and Effect
Series: Star Trek: The Next Generation
Episode: Season 5, Episode 18
Title: Cause And Effect
Previous: The Outcast
Next: The First Duty
Recapper: Scooter007

We begin this episode In Medias Res, with the Enterprise's engines on fire and the ship out of control. The bridge crew is frantically trying to steady the ship long enough to launch the lifeboats as Picard orders all hands to abandon ship. And just as the audience is thinking "Like You Would Really Do It", they really do it: the Enterprise vanishes in a huge space explosion.

Act I seems to be a How We Got Here, as we're re-introduced to the Enterprise entering an unexplored sector. We first look in on Riker, Data, Worf and Crusher engaging in their regular poker game. After much banter (and a win for Crusher, who calls Riker's bluff), Crusher is called to sickbay to help LaForge deal with a major dizzy spell — but she experiences a bit of deja vu whilst treating him. Later that night, in her quarters, Crusher hears what seem to be a mass of disembodied voices and, in switching on the light, breaks a glass she'd left on the night stand.

Crusher reports her experiences to the rest of the senior staff, but is interrupted when sensors detect a Negative Space Wedgie nearby. As the bridge crew attempt to deal with the situation, the ship begins losing power and is unable to move — just as a starship emerges from the Space Wedgie on a direct collision course. With no power to the engines, Riker (standing at Data's side for no apparent reason) suggests decompressing the main shuttlebay to provide the necessary thrust to get out of the way, while Data counter-suggests using the tractor beam to push the other ship aside. Picard goes with Data's plan, which is not entirely successful; the other ship is deflected, but not by enough, and smashes the Enterprise's warp nacelle. This quickly causes a series of catastrophes and the events of the teaser play out before us again and the Enterprise is destroyed.

Act II re-re-introduces us to the Enterprise entering an unexplored sector; it's at this point that savvy viewers will recognise the "Groundhog Day" Loop at play. Again we visit Riker, Data, Worf and Crusher playing poker, with much familiar banter. Crusher is about to win when Riker folds, realizing that she is going to call his bluff. Crusher is called to sickbay to help LaForge deal with a major dizzy spell — and again experiences deja vu; only this time, LaForge feels it as well. Later that night Crusher again hears voices in her quarters and quickly calls the captain — breaking that glass once again.

The next morning Crusher reports her experience, relating that others aboard ship have also heard the voices. But before they can investigate, sensors detect a Negative Space Wedgie nearby. As the bridge crew attempt to deal with the situation, a starship emerges from the Wedgie on a direct collision course. As before, Riker stands at Data's station and suggests decompressing the shuttlebay while Data votes for a tractor beam. Picard sides with Data, the collision occurs and the Enterprise blows up real good.

Act III, the Enterprise enters an unexplored sector. By this time, even the characters are starting to catch on, after a fashion; at their poker game, Worf recognizes their banter; and then he, Riker and Crusher correctly call out the hand Data is dealing even before he deals it.

Data: "This is highly improbable."

In anticipation, Crusher calls sickbay asking after LaForge, only to be told he just walked in. This time, Crusher is examining LaForge's VISOR under Picard's supervision as they all discuss their recent deja vu episodes. Crusher finds that some Techno Babble is affecting the VISOR, causing his dizziness.

Later that night, Crusher is ready for the disembodied voices; when they occur, she records them (she also moves the glass away from the light switch so she won't knock it over) and calls down to LaForge that she has something to report. He in turn tells her that another instance of that same Techno Babble just happened. As she rushes out to meet him, she knocks the glass off the table, breaking it yet again. In Engineering, LaForge and Data analyze Crusher's recording and discover that the voices belong to the crew of the Enterprise.

The next morning, Crusher and LaForge fill the others in on what they think is going on: a Negative Space Wedgie is going to entrap the Enterprise in a "Groundhog Day" Loop. They listen to parts of the recording which suggest the severity of the encounter's outcome, while trying to think of a way out. The problem is (unlike most instances of this trope) that if/when the Loop "loops", they all lose their memories of the previous loop, except for feelings of deja vu. LaForge suggests re-wiring Data's Applied Phlebotinum to mirror the previously established Techno Babble so that, if/when the Loop "loops", he can send a message into the next loop — albeit an extremely short one, one word at most, which will show up only as a sort of post-hypnotic suggestion so Data won't know initially what it means. The plan is carried out, and no one feels like they've tried this before, which is a good sign. Red Alert! Negative Space Wedgie! Ship on collision course! The tractor beam doesn't work! Enterprise explodes! Only this time Data manages to activate the Techno Babble message at the last second.

Back in that unexplored sector, back to the poker game. Worf experiences deja vu and Crusher attempts to predict the hand that Data is about to deal. Instead, he deals all 3s; then, three of a kind to each. Crusher is called to sickbay to help LaForge deal with a dizzy spell; she inspects his VISOR on a hunch and finds that it is being affected by Techno Babble. In Engineering, Data runs a diagnostic on ship's systems, and the results come up all 3s. They get a call from Crusher, telling them she's just recorded a mass of disembodied voices in her quarters — and they hear a glass shatter.

The next morning, they are reporting their findings: they seem to be stuck in a "Groundhog Day" Loop caused by an as-yet-unencountered Negative Space Wedgie. The Techno Babble which has been giving LaForge dizzy spells is also related to the Loop, and may be behind all the occurrences of the number 3 Data (and apparently the entire crew, it turns out) has been seeing. It is revealed that Data has been re-wired to accept the Techno Babble, which seems to be a way to send short messages from one Loop into the next. As they ponder over what this could mean, they are called to the bridge to deal with a Negative Space Wedgie.

As before, the ship is without power and unable to move as another ship emerges from the Wedgie. Riker (standing at Data's side for no apparent reason) suggests decompressing the shuttlebay but Data counter-suggests using the tractor beam to push the other ship clear. Picard sides with Data, but Data suddenly has a Eureka Moment and goes with Riker's plan instead; the main shuttlebay decompresses, pushing the Enterprise clear and allowing the other ship to pass safely. The Negative Space Wedgie vanishes, power is restored and the Enterprise crew greet the crew of the U.S.S. Bozeman (commanded by none other than Captain Frasier Crane), which was either stuck in the Loop for some 90 years or got teleported by the rift 90 years into the future. Data explains his Eureka Moment: glancing at Riker, Data noted the number of rank pins on his collar (3) and deduced that the various phantom 3s referred to Riker, indicating that Riker's plan would be the successful one. Good thing he didn't think it referred to himself, since he is 3rd in command of the ship behind Riker and Picard.

Tropes featured:

  • Abandon Ship: Picard calls for it, but the Enterprise explodes before anyone can get off.
  • Arc Number: Invoked. As stated above, Data manages to send a message to himself in the last loop, which turns out to be the number 3. At that loop's briefing, Data states that "To date, we have encountered two-thousand and eighty-five conspicuous references to the number 3." That would actually make two-thousand and eighty-six references, since 2,085 is a multiple of 3!
  • Captain Morgan Pose: Riker's habit of leaning on Data's console actually helps save the Enterprise, reminding Data about Riker's plan.
  • Card Sharp: In the last time loop, Data unconsciously stacks the deck so that he deals everyone a single 3 followed by three of a kind.
  • Failsafe Failure: The warp-core ejection system. As usual.
  • "Groundhog Day" Loop: Pre-dating the Trope Namer by over a year.
  • Hearing Voices: Caused by timelines bleeding over.
  • In Medias Res: How the episode begins. When the Enterprise is first destroyed, viewers are led to believe that what happens next is How We Got Here, until it's revealed that the ship is trapped in a time-loop. That means that the first time the Enterprise is shown blowing up isn't necessarily the first time it was destroyed!
  • Killed Mid-Sentence: Picard, when he gives the order to abandon ship.
  • Magic Countdown: The last red alert scene, where Data looks around to notice Riker's rank pin, plays out significantly longer than in previous rounds.
  • Negative Space Wedgie: The cloud causing the Temporal Paradox.
  • Oh, Crap: The look on the crew's face when they hear the recording of Picard screaming to abandon ship.
  • Ripple-Effect-Proof Memory: Crew members experience deja vu moments which turn out to be vestiges of previous time loops.
  • Self-Fulfilling Prophecy: Lampshaded, defied, averted, played straight, and thoroughly deconstructed.
  • Space Is Noisy: The Enterprise explodes with a loud noise.
  • Starts with Their Funeral: The episode starts with the Enterprise getting blown up, then seemingly cuts back to show the events leading up to the explosion. It's a subversion: the Enterprise is caught in a time loop, and the crew is actually reliving the events, with slight variations each time, until they find a way out.
  • Take a Third Option: Averted. There doesn't seem to be a reason they couldn't have both decompressed the main shuttle bay and used the tractor beam on the other ship, but nobody thinks to try this, possibly because they have so little time to think anything through.
  • Wham Line: Picard's "All hands, abandon ship!" - which gets cut off.
  • What Year Is This?: Inverted. Picard asks Bateson what year he thinks he's in, with Bateson assuming it's still 2278.
  • You Can't Fight Fate: Dr Crusher very deliberately tries to avoid breaking her glass in the next loop but just ends up breaking it another way.

Star Trek The Next Generation S 5 E 17 The OutcastRecap/Star Trek: The Next GenerationStar Trek The Next Generation S 5 E 19 The First Duty

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