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WARNING: The following post contains critical spoiler information for this week's TNG episode, "Cause and Effect". Those not wishing to know the details in advance are advised to remain clear.

Good evening. Tonight on "It's the Mind", we examine the phenomenon of deja vu; that strange feeling we sometimes get that we've lived through something before; that what has just happened has already happened sometime before, tonight, on "It's the Mind"...

Good evening. Tonight on "It's the Mind", we...

Wait. Hold it. Did that.

Ohhhh boy. This is gonna be an intriguing one to summarize, I must say. Damned good show, too. So, let's get underway...

Disaster has struck. Casualties are mounting. The starboard nacelle has taken a direct impact and is leaking drive plasma. Geordi attempts to shut down the warp core as Riker orders the crew to the escape pods. The shutdown is unsuccessful, and the ejection mechanism for the core is not off-line. Picard gives his final orders. "All hands abandon ship!  Repeat, ALL HANDS
ABAN--"  And the Enterprise goes up in a fiery explosion.

Stardate 45652.1. The Enterprise is entering and beginning to chart the unexplored Typhon expanse. At a poker game that evening, Bev manages to call Riker's bluff and win handily. When asked how she knew, she says it was just a feeling. She's then called to sickbay to assist Geordi, who's been feeling dizzy and disoriented. The symptoms are those of an ear infection, but
there's no apparent physical cause. She suggests it's overwork and prescribes him something for the dizziness--and then suddenly has the feeling that they've had that conversation before, despite Geordi's insistence that he's never had those symptoms before. Later, when Bev goes to bed, she hears incomprehensible voices just after turning off the light. She turns the light on (breaking a glass on her nightstand in the process)--and then hears nothing.  

The following morning, as strategies for charting the Expanse are discussed, Bev reports the previous night's voices. Nothing anomalous appeared on the sensors then, however, and Troi sensed nothing odd--but ten other people reported the same voices. Picard makes a note to have the sensor logs checked later--but then Worf calls, with news of something very close off the starboard bow. It's a very localized distortion of the space/time continuum. Picard orders Ro (at the helm) to slowly back off--but then thrusters suddenly don't respond. The distortion fluctuates--and the Enterprise systems go down. The distortion field builds up power--and another ship suddenly comes barrelling through the rift heading right for them. Thrusters don't respond, shields are down, and hailing them brings no response. Riker suggests depressurizing the main shuttle bay to move them out of the way, and Data suggests using the tractor beam to push the other ship out of the way. Picard orders the latter--and while the ship avoids a head-on collision, it
scrapes the Enterprise's starboard nacelle.

Disaster has struck. Casualties are mounting. The starboard nacelle has taken a direct impact and is leaking drive plasma. Geordi attempts to shut down the warp core as Riker orders the crew to the escape pods. The shutdown is unsuccessful, and the ejection mechanism for the core is not off-line. Picard gives his final orders. "All hands abandon ship! Repeat, ALL HANDS ABAN--"  And the Enterprise goes up in a fiery explosion.

Stardate 45652.1. The Enterprise is entering and beginning to chart the unexplored Typhon expanse. At a poker game that evening, Riker begins to run a bluff--but then realizes Bev will call it and quits while he's ahead. When asked how he knew she would call, he says that he just had a feeling; and Bev says she had the same feeling. She's called to sickbay to help Geordi, and
this time *both* of them have a sense of deja vu about their conversation. A check of the medical logs, however, shows no sign of Geordi ever having had these symptoms. "Must be deja vu."  "Both of us?  About the same thing?" Disturbed, Beverly goes to bed--and again hears voices. She turns on the light, breaking the glass in the process--and the voices are gone. She goes
to talk to Picard in his ready room.  He suggests that it's probably just insomnia, but says he'll have Geordi and Data run a diagnostic to make sure everything's all right.

The next morning, Geordi and Data report they've come up empty--but again, ten other people reported the same voices. Suddenly, Worf calls with news of the space/time distortion. Picard orders Ro (at the helm) to slowly back off--but then thrusters suddenly don't respond. The distortion fluctuates-- and the Enterprise systems go down. The distortion field builds up power--
and another ship suddenly comes barrelling through the rift, heading right for them. Thrusters don't respond, shields are down, and hailing them brings no response. Riker suggests depressurizing the main shuttle bay to move them out of the way, and Data suggests using the tractor beam to push the other ship out of the way. Picard orders the latter--and while the ship avoids a head-on collision, it scrapes the Enterprise's starboard nacelle.

Disaster has struck. Casualties are mounting. The starboard nacelle has taken a direct impact and is leaking drive plasma. Geordi attempts to shut down the warp core as Riker orders the crew to the escape pods. The shutdown is unsuccessful, and the ejection mechanism for the core is not off-line. Picard gives his final orders. "All hands abandon ship!  Repeat, ALL HANDS ABAN--"  And the Enterprise goes up in a fiery explosion.

Stardate 45652.1. The Enterprise is entering and beginning to chart the unexplored Typhon expanse. At the poker game, Worf is the first to announce a sense of deja vu, but everyone aside from Data feels it. First Beverly, then Worf, and then Riker in turn announce the cards Data is about to deal. Bev calls sickbay to ask about Geordi about five seconds before he comes in. Later, Picard enters sickbay to hear her report. This time, Bev's feeling that a regular analysis wouldn't work was so strong that she tried an optical diagnostic, and she discovered a phase shift in the response of Geordi's VISOR, in effect giving little afterimages of nonexistent things. She
checked further and found evidence of tiny distortions in the surrounding decyon field. Geordi goes to check the warp-field coils and to do a localized subspace scan.

That night, Beverly moves her glass far from her nighttable before going to bed. When she hears the voices, she records as much as possible with her tricorder, then turns on the light and calls Geordi. Upon hearing that he and Data just picked up something on their scan, she runs down to join them--and knocks the glass over with her lab coat en route. Geordi and Data hear the recording, and confirm that it's both real and voice output. Data tries to differentiate the voices himself, and discovers that it's approximately a thousand voices, belonging to the Enterprise crew--them.

At a conference very early the next morning (it simply couldn't wait until 0700, the time of the conference on previous iterations), Geordi presents his hypothesis. He believes they've somehow been caught in a temporal feedback loop, where they're repeating their actions and events over and over. They could have been in it for hours, days, or years. Data plays the three significant voice recordings he gathered from Bev's tape (which appear to be from previous loops): in turn, they are "...a highly localized distortion of the space-time continuum...", "...collision course, impact in 36 seconds...", and "All hands abandon ship! Repeat, ALL HANDS ABAN--"  Geordi theorizes that the explosion of a starship so close to a distortion such as this might have caused the loop in the first place--and thus, by avoiding the collision might avoid the loop. While reversing course is ruled out as an option, all precautions are ordered. Geordi then points out that they may not figure out where they went wrong until it's too late, and that the crucial thing is to make sure the next loop doesn't start back at square one. The best way to do this appears to be to make a deliberate decyon emission which will be received by Data's brain, "subc  But it'll have to be short--no more than a word, probably; and there's also no way to gauge exactly how Data will perceive it.  

Regardless, the emitter and receiver are set up--and Bev and Geordi note they feel no sense of deja vu in this case, which might be a good sign. Then, they're called to the bridge by Worf; the distortion has just been found, and Riker wonders aloud how they might have handled it the last time. Picard orders Ro (at the helm) to slowly back off--but then thrusters suddenly don't respond. The distortion fluctuates--and the Enterprise systems go down. The distortion field builds up power--and another ship suddenly comes barrelling through the rift, heading right for them. Thrusters don't respond, shields are down, and hailing them brings no response. Riker suggests depressurizing the main shuttle bay to move them out of the way, and Data suggests using the tractor beam to push the other ship out of the way. Picard orders the latter--and while the ship avoids a head-on collision, it scrapes the Enterprise's starboard nacelle.

Disaster has struck. Casualties are mounting. The starboard nacelle has taken a direct impact and is leaking drive plasma. Geordi attempts to shut down the warp core as Riker orders the crew to the escape pods. The shutdown is unsuccessful, and the ejection mechanism for the core is not off-line. Picard gives his final orders. "All hands abandon ship! Repeat, ALL HANDS ABAN--"  And the Enterprise goes up in a fiery explosion--but not before Data hurriedly makes a decyon transmission...

Stardate 45652.1. The Enterprise is entering and beginning to chart the unexplored Typhon expanse. At the poker game, all but Data feel a sense of deja vu; and Beverly again reads off the cards she believes Data will deal.As Data deals, however, the hand is *different*. All four hands get a 3, and then all get three of a kind. All are at a loss to know what it means, and Beverly goes off to answer the call from sickbay. She helps Geordi, and again decides to try an optical diagnostic, discovering the phase shift (discovered last time around to be afterimages in time). Again, Picard is informed, and Geordi goes to check the coils and subspace scans.

This time, however, as Geordi and Data run the diagnostic, the monitors are filled with the number 3. They are puzzled, but then pick up the decyon fluctuation just as Beverly calls from her quarters. She comes down to see how they're doing; and they hear a glass breaking from her quarters... At the conference later that morning, the same conclusions are reached as in the last loop, but the number 3 is met with puzzlement. Geordi and Troi believe it may well be a message from the previous loop, but neither can figure out what it might mean. They decide to run a level-3 diagnostic on all systems--but then Ro calls about the distortion and all head to the bridge. While wondering what they did the last time around, Picard orders Ro (at the helm) to slowly back off--but then thrusters suddenly don't respond. The distortion fluctuates--and the Enterprise systems go down. The distortion field builds up power--and another ship suddenly comes barrelling through the rift, heading right for them. Thrusters don't respond, shields are down, and hailing them brings no response. Riker suggests depressurizing the main shuttle bay to move them out of the way, and Data suggests using the tractor beam to push the other ship out of the way. Picard orders the latter--but as Worf implements it, Data finds himself facing Riker's rank insignia--with THREE pips. He immediately concludes that the tractor beam will not work and also depressurizes the bay. The impact pushes them back slightly; and the two ships miss each other entirely.

As power comes back up and Data explains his reasoning (apparently he subconsciously arranged the deck in the poker game to come up all threes, along with all the occurrences on the monitors), Worf checks a timebase beacon and finds they've been trapped in the loop for 17.4 days. The other ship hails, and is identified as the USS Bozeman, a Federation ship--but of a
class not used in over 80 years. Picard talks to Captain Bateson and suggests that they too were caught in a temporal loop. Bateson dismisses the idea as absurd, but when asked the year, responds immediately that it's 2278. "Perhaps you should beam aboard our ship," suggests Picard. "There's something we need to discuss..."

Wheeeew. That was not easy (although it let me have fun with cutting and pasting on this editor :-) ). Now, onwards to commentary.

Good evening. Tonight, on "It's the Mind", we...[STOP THAT!]

Those familiar with the seeming pattern of "when Tim writes a synop that long, he must have liked the show a lot" will find no counterexamples here. Loved it to pieces. Let's see what I can say that's more concrete, though.

This has got to be a hellish kind of episode for both the actors involved and the director. It's obnoxious enough having to do N takes for the same scene; when many of the scenes THEMSELVES repeat, it's that much worse. It takes a lot of work to make the scenes different enough that the audience is still involved, and not simply saying "oh, hell, it's this scene again."  And amazingly enough, it worked this time. Most of the parallels were played up in a suitably creepy fashion that we were stifling chills rather than yawns; and that's always nice.  :-)

I think the above is mostly a function of the director and actors playing the scenes, but there is a certain element of writing involved in setting up the parallels as well; you have to make sure you don't repeat those things which are stable enough to be boring.  (One example that they could have done would have involved Bev's going to bed; while the latter half of the scene is absolutely necessary, if they'd shown another 60-second clip of her humming while clipping flowers, I doubt it would've worked very well.) Again, those choices were made quite well.  (I'm not entirely surprised at this; the writing/directing team of Brannon Braga and Jonathan Frakes has produced one other show in tandem, namely "Reunion"--and "Reunion"'s one of my favorites. So I did go in with a bit of a bias.  Even so, Frakes is now 4/4 on directing stints, IMHO, and Braga is certainly over .500.)

Some things in particular that seemed to work really well were the following:

--Bev's glass breaking every night. Even when she moves the glass, she somehow ends up breaking it later. I don't know exactly what did it, but something about the next-to-last time it broke (the first one where she moved it) really sent chills up my spine. Brr. Talk about fate...

--The continuing poker game. First of all, the banter was generally very well put together; between "It's the way your left eyebrow raises when you're bluffing, Commander--oh, just kidding" and "Yeah, [Worf remembers this as having happened before], of course, last Tuesday night", the friendships flowed that much more smoothly and subtly. Secondly, I got a real sense of unreality from the first time they all managed to recite the cards coming up. Beverly was sure of herself, yet wondering what the hell was happening; Worf's voice came almost literally out of the dark [while his eyes are usually shadowed to some extent, this time they were in pitch black shadow and invisible], and Riker sounded not quite himself. Very eerie.

--The teaser. Probably the shortest teaser on record (a scant 46 seconds), there was nothing superfluous about this baby. It got your attention and it kept it there; you can bet very few people saw that teaser and then said "oh, how dull". (They probably said "what the hell is going on?  It's only the BEGINNING of the show and the ship blew up? I'm confuuuuuuused!" We did.  
:-) )  

The only slightly weak point, really, was in the ending. It was still a bit too rushed for my blood.  While I realize that the discussion between the two ships was not the point of the story (any more than the actual negotiations with the Legaran were in "Sarek"), I do feel a little cheated at not having seen a little bit more of the Bozeman. (And given the time period the ship came from, I would expect just a wee bit of surprise at Picard claiming his ship is the *Enterprise*, mmm?)  It's a minor point; the object of the show was having the crew figure out the loop and manage to break it, and in that they did a beautiful job. But another minute might have been nice.

I'm not really sure what else I can say. The show's difficult to summarize, and must've been difficult to assemble in a workable way, but my feelings on it are pretty simple. It's the return of TNG's "Twilight Zone"-esque style of shows, a la "Remember Me", "Night Terrors", and "Identity Crisis"--and iven both Bev's prominence and the nature of the problem, the first of the three seems the closest analogue. I loved RM, and this is no different.

A few short takes, I guess:

--As long as I was on the topic of sincere friendships earlier, I should also mention the Picard/Bev conversation in his ready room. While Riker and Troi's friendly conversations will occasionally veer into seeming very forced (the one about Soren in "The Outcast" comes to mind as a very recent example), the friendship between these two characters seems to flow very naturally. Nowhere was it said here that these two are good friends, and harbor a few interests beyond friendship; and nowhere did it need to be. The scripting was suitably subtle, and both Stewart and McFadden can handle it. Let's see more of this!

--During the last break, we were all trying to figure out what Data was going to send to the next loop. The best thing we could come up with was probably "bay". I still think it might have been a little clearer that way, but Data was presumably looking for something as easy as possible to put in his subconscious. "Three" is a nice general word in that regard, and led to some nice eerie scenes, but I'm not quite sure I'd have used it even so. I'm not sure.

--Despite the repetition of events, the effects budget here can't have been cheap; none of the explosion shots were the same. Oy, what a costly show...

--The music was fairly typical: unmemorable, but also unintrusive. I'll take it.

--2278? If TNG really started "78 years after" ST4 as suggested in it early press reports, then the Bozeman comes from about eight years prior to said film, and thus between the first and second film. Interesting; I wonder if there was any particular reason to choose that year.  

That ought to about do it. Good, good piece of work; after three shows ranging from reasonable-but-no-big-deal ("Power Play") to depressingly unsatisfying ("The Outcast"), it's good to get back to high-quality stuff.   Nice work.

So, the numbers:

Good evening. Tonight, on "It's the Mind", we--[would someone PLEASE stop him?]

Plot: 9. I don't quite think "3" was a perfect choice of things to bring back, and the ending was a wee bit rushed, but I can't complain much, really.
Plot Handling:  10.  Nicely, nicely done--incredibly eerie.
Characterization:  10.  I couldn't find a thing to complain about at all, and lots of things to like.

TOTAL: 10. Very nice; let's see more like this!

NEXT WEEK: (another delayed review, but besides that...)

Wes is on trial for an Academy mishap, and seems determined to take the fall. Why is he hiding the truth?  

Tim Lynch (Cornell's first Astronomy B.A.; one of many Caltech grad students)
BITNET:  tlynch@citjuliet
INTERNET:  tly...@juliet.caltech.edu
UUCP:  ...!ucbvax!tlynch%juliet.caltech....@hamlet.caltech.edu
"I have this terrible feeling of deja vu."
                --Monty Python's Flying Circus
--
Copyright 1992, Timothy W. Lynch.  All rights reserved, but feel free to ask...

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