Star Trek does Groundhogs Day! The Next Generation Episode: Cause and Effect

klingon worf and dr crusher from star trek

A Dr. Crusher episode that actually works. We should assume she’s sensitive to time problems because her son Wesley becomes a Time Lord. That’s my head cannon and I’m sticking with it.

What’s strange is that this episode of Star Trek: the Next Generation does a Groundhog Day theme a year before Bill Murray’s Groundhog Day movie comes into play. While there are a lot of GHD plots in various genre and film and TV shows, I think Star Trek’s might be first. Did they get the idea from Star Trek? A lot of movies ran with this repeating-loop-in-time concept since then, including Run Lola Run, Edge of Tomorrow, and Happy Death Day 1 and 2. Many popular genre TV episodes also gave it a whirl, including Xena: Warrior Princess, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Farscape, and The X-Files. The wonderful new Netflix show Russian Doll works entirely with this theme.

While getting ready to watch Star Trek: Picard, I placed this episode as a must-see. It’s a top-notch episode depicting The Next Generation cast at the top of their game.

If nothing else, the outstanding cold open of the Enterprise D blowing up is worth the price of admission alone! I even remember where I was the night it premiered. And it completely blew my mind. (Five times.)

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kelsey grammar in the bozeman from star trek

A man out of time. Poor Frazier.

Episode Review: Star Trek: Cause and Effect (With Spoilers)

  • ALL HANDS ABANDON SHIP! ALL HANDS… What an amazing moment when this came out live, back in the day! Finding out the Enterprise was lost in time for by 17 days was seriously intense. But the Soyuz-class Bozeman situation was even more frightening. (Note: the woman standing behind the Captain was intended to be Lt. Saavik from Star Trek The Original Series. Too bad that didn’t happen. Would have been way cool.)
  • Crusher. Why is she so time-loop-sensitive, when Guinan was shown to actually have this skill in-universe? Well, Dr. Crusher is the mother of someone who has a natural facility with space/time… ie – Wesley in the three ‘Traveler-based’ episodes: Where No One Has Gone Before, Remember Me, and Journey’s End.  So maybe it runs in the family. Also, it was interesting how Crusher’s wine glass broke in every incarnation of Cause and Affect. Are some small, random things intended to happen in every timeline?
  • What is a Ground Hog Day episode, really?  When the same story repeats itself and the viewer (and hero) doesn’t know why. We’ve got a lot of movies and TV episodes where this anomaly works as an amazing storytelling device. It rarely fails. The Star Trek Next Generation Cause and Effect episode proves this is a great framework for an ensemble piece. Also, the senior bridge staff play poker here. That’s a big deal by the end of the series (ie: All Good Things).

  • Ensign Ro is in this! We can’t argue with any Ro Laren episodes, not even “Rascals”. Ro turned down the DS9 role of Kira Nerys and Voyager’s Lt. Torres. What a bummer. At least we got her as Admiral Cain in Ron Moore’s reimagined Battlestar Galactica.
  • The Bozeman. While Kelsey Grammer in his Captain’s role doesn’t appear again outside of tie-in novels, the Bozeman is referenced again in The Next Generation episodes/movies All Good Things, Star Trek Generations, and First Contact. Busy ship! (It’s also interesting that Lt. Tuvok from Star Trek Voyager was originally intended to have served aboard The Bozeman, along with Lt. Saavik.)
  • If you pay enough attention, each iteration of the time loop is filmed a little differently than the last. Great work from the cast and crew.
  • The sounds of the crew talking over each other each night in Crusher’s quarters is creepy and well done. I was as scared as Beverly when this came out. And while it has some plot issues (why is this possible?), it works as a storytelling shortcut.
  • Watching the episode again, I’m impressed with how many times the story loops around without getting boring or too repetitive.
  • Riker’s habit of slouching over the Ops Station saves the day. Who knew?

Episode Grade: A+

Every year around February 2 I pick a Groundhog Day show and feature it on RunPee.com. It’s my favorite weird holiday. Pick one of these shows each year  and make a party out of it, like we do!

20 Groundhog Day Type Movies – The Ultimate Repeating Day Film List

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