Wednesday, March 16, 2016

The Next Generation 5x18 "Cause and Effect"

rating: ****

the story: Time keeps repeating itself as the ship is destroyed, until the crew figures out how to prevent it from happening.

similar to: "Year of Hell" (Voyager), "Future Tense" (Enterprise)

my thoughts: Star Trek is many things.  One of them is a receptacle of classic science fiction tropes, sometimes so thoroughly embraced that they not only become Star Trek tropes as well, but fodder for some truly classic material.  Such is the case with "Cause and Effect."

The idea of the repeating day is old hat in modern movie culture, whether you think of Groundhog Day, Source Code, or Edge of Tomorrow (all excellent films, by the way; see also: the TV series Day Break).  At its heart it's a time travel story, which is definitely a Star Trek trope, well-worn.  But "Cause and Effect" takes its basic plot from the kind of storytelling the franchise, and Next Generation itself, loves equally, which is a crisis that forces the crew to mobilize its best minds to figure out what the heck is happening.

So in the end, it boils down to whether you listen to Riker, or listen to Data.  The answer is one of the pleasant surprises of the episode.  Everything and everyone fires on all cylinders to pull it off, and because, in the fine recent tradition of "Conundrum," the story trusts itself enough to avoid unnecessary shenanigans (many an episode is spoiled by such things), we avoid one of the worst Star Trek tropes, other Starfleet ships as cannon fodder, and end up with the best surprise of all when we meet the captain of the other ship caught in the same dilemma, who turns out to be Kelsey Grammer, in one of the better franchise cameos ever.

That's a classic.

criteria analysis: franchise - series - character - essential (all criteria met)

notable guest-stars:
Kelsey Grammer
Michelle Forbes (Ro Laren)
Patti Yasutake (Ogawa)

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