February 3, 2011

4 Favorite Time Loop Episodes

The time loop is a failsafe plot device.  It's good for a laugh, it involves time bending by magic or science, and you just never know how the characters will figure out how to break it.  Okay, maybe you do.  It doesn't stop it from being entertaining.  My favorite is when the characters that are aware of the time loop have to convince the unaware characters about said time loop.  It's predictable and fantastic; I don't think it gets much better.  In honor of Groundhog Day, the epitome of time loop antics, here are four of my favorite time loop episodes.

Stargate: SG-1 - Window of Opportunity
This sixth season episode has Colonel Jack O'Neill (two l's) and Teal'c repeating the same six-ten hour window over and over and... you get the idea.  The rest of the team is unaware of the loop so it's left to them to figure it out.  Meaning, they have to figure out to concisely summarize what's going on so that Major Carter and Dr. Jackson can break the loop.  It's all caused by Ancient technology.  At least some of the footage was unscripted because director Peter DeLuise was trying to make sure they had enough to fill 40 minutes.  The humorous episode became a fan favorite.  Continuous loops get boring after a while, so Jack and Teal'c find ways to fill the repeating time.  I mean, how often do you get to see them golfing through the Stargate?

Buffy the Vampire Slayer - Life Serial
The mastermind trio of Jonathan, Warren, and Andrew decide to test Buffy's skills.  It's the sixth season, and Buffy's graduated high school.  She's trying to figure out what to do next.  While she try's out various jobs, the team cast spells on her.  One of the spells speeds up time, another one summons a demon, and the last one puts Buffy in a time loop.  And of course the time loop coincides with her job at the magic shop.  She has to deal with a cursed mummy hand repeatedly.

Star Trek: The Next Generaton - Cause and Effect
The entire Enterprise gets stuck in a loop in this fifth season episode.  I'm pretty amazed they waited that long to pull this trick out.  Each loop results in a collision with another ship; the crash destroys the Enterprise.  Though the crew experiences déjà vu, it takes them a few times through to realize that something odd is going on.  After 17 days of repeating the loop, the crew figures out the answer.  They use Data's programming to get information to them in the next loop, and eventually they avoid hitting the other ship.  It turns out to be a Federation ship that has been missing for a long time.

Supernatural - Mystery Spot
Did you ever think you could get tired of hearing Asia's "Heat of the Moment?" If not, watch this third season episode of Supernatural. You'll be over it after just a few time loops. Sam and Dean are both stuck reliving the same day, but only Sam is aware of it. The loop ends when Dean dies, and it starts all over. Sam has to watch it at least a hundred times. It sounds heavy, and it is - but there are some funny moments too. A demi-god is responsible for pulling the strings. Boredom contributed to his puppeteering, but he was also trying to teach Sam a valuable lesson.


  1. I LOVE that Stargate episode, and I really liked that Supernatural one, too. I haven't gotten far enough in Buffy yet, though; I can't wait!

  2. Great choices, but I remember the Star Trek one as the clue being really weird, like the beeps they kept hearing was supposed to signify the number rank pips Data wore and from that they were supposed to infer that meant to listen to Data... and I remember thinking: Why not Morse code...?

  3. In "cause and effect" it was the widespread recurrence of the number 3 that Data had sent himself from a previous loop that made him realize that it referred to the number of pips on Riker's uniform. He then realized that he should open the bay doors to push the Enterprise away from the other ship instead of/in addition to using the tractor beam.

    There was some technical limitation that restricted the length of the message Data could send. That's how they closed door on something like Morse Code.

  4. One cool thing about the SG1 episode is that O'Neill actually mentions Groundhog Day.

  5. It is one of my favorite SG-1 episodes! Eventually, I want to go through and re-watch all of those.

    The Star Trek one was a bit weird... but it worked. :)


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