The Good: Wonderful idea, Good direction, Excellent acting
The Bad: Obviously repetitive, No real character development
The Basics: When the Enterprise is destroyed, an anomaly forces it back in time over and over again. An ambitious episode!
Jonathan Frakes seems to get the best directing jobs on Star Trek The Next Generation. Frakes was allowed to direct the episode where Data develops a daughter, the great episode where Worf meets his son and K'Ehleyr dies and now "Cause And Effect." "Cause And Effect" is an ambitious episode that is ideal for a director who wants to expand their talents.
When the Enterprise enters the Typhone Expanse, it finds the crew doing their usual things: playing cards, falling off ladders, pruning plants and reading books. Rather suddenly, the Enterprise encounters a temporal anomaly, a starship from the past comes through time and collides with the Enterprise, destroying it. The Enterprise, due to the nature of the anomaly, returns to the day before and the officers find themselves playing cards, falling off ladders, pruning plants and reading books once again. Each time the cycle begins again, the crew recalls being there a little bit better, but they are unable to discern how the Enterprise met its end . . . until it's too late.
Each act, then, contains much of the same dialog and actions as the act before it. Until Data and LaForge determine a way to send a message back through the loop, we're witness to essentially the same circumstances over and over again.
So what saves the episode is the direction. Every act, while the characters say and do the same things, so to keep the viewer hooked, the director changes the camera angles and emphasis in the scenes. Jonathan Frakes does a wonderful job of keeping the feel of the episode fresh throughout, not even repeating the destruction of the Enterprise the same way each time. It's extraordinary how he successfully changes the look each time to avoid making this episode stagnate.
And this is a pretty cool idea. That the Enterprise goes through the same events time after time, due to an accident is clever. How the officers come to realize it makes the episode intriguing.
Here is a piece that all of the actors contribute to. This is truly an ensemble piece. While Patrick Stewart has a rather minor role, he is able to play counselor to Dr. Crusher. Stewart manages to play the part well, convincing us of his compassion and empathy. Gates McFadden has a bit of airtime and she uses the camera's attention well. Here, she has a good deal of care in using her talents to create subtle facial expressions. McFadden rises to the occasion well, illustrating her competency well.
Frakes himself has a decent part and it's clever that the outcome to the episode is related to his character. In the episode's several poker scenes, Riker shines with his charisma. All around, the acting in this episode is a great example of how the entire cast can come together and work well with one another.
"Cause And Effect" is easy to enjoy if you're a fan of science fiction, but pretty difficult to keep interested in if you are not. Indeed, "Cause And Effect" is basically about how people react in what is a science fiction problem. This is a good example of how Star Trek The Next Generation managed to innovate without fancy special effects. Here, the writing and the directing are what sell an episode that has the same things happen over and over and over and over again.
[Knowing that VHS is essentially a dead medium, it's worth looking into Star Trek: The Next Generation - The Complete Fifth Season on DVD, which is also a better economical choice than buying the VHS. Read my review of the fifth season by clicking here!
For other Star Trek episode reviews, please check out my index page by clicking here!
© 2011, 2007, 2003 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.