Subtitle this one: TV Time Loop Day Part Drei: This Time It’s Less Interesting.
Seriously though, after two previous times doing this (here and here), the structure is rather obvious. You got your central plot with the protagonist and then various side bits put there just so they can solve other stuff (like Phil’s good deeds but less… important). For example… actually I’m not sure any of these episode involved solving other stuff, but there were things obviously there to prove the loop was happening; in Smallville, for example, Clark knows to whom the flowers are being delivered and tells Chloe to prove it—it’s a girl who works so hard Chloe says she can’t have had a date in years, so Clark isn’t just guessing.
It is interesting in these episodes that characters have to deal with the deaths of people close to them, sometimes the deaths of several people, depending on what resumption they’re on. Phil deals with his own death, of course, and O’Reilly’s death, but some of these episodes involve the death of series regulars—SPOILERS AHEAD—and in the case of Smallville a death that survived beyond the episode.
Anyway, on with the shows. Once again, seven episodes, each from a different series. Today’s shows were:
- The Outer Limits - “Déjà Vu”
- The Dead Zone - “Déjà Voodoo”
- Haven - “Audrey Parker’s Day Off”
- Xena: Warrior Princess - “Been There, Done That”
- Seven Days - “Déjà Vu All Over Again”
- Farscape - “Back and Back and Back to the Future”
- Smallville - “Reckoning”
”Déjà Vu” (the The Outer Limits episode) involves an experiment in teleportation that goes wrong, creating a time loop. The main guy—able to recognize the loop because of some pseudoscience explanation involving an electrical arc hitting him just at the teleportation experiment explodes—even calls it a “time loop.” The loop only lasts a few iterations, each one shorter than the one before, as the loop collapses and the implicit destruction of all reality approaches. Like the Lois & Clark episode I watched on the second TV Time Loop Day, Mark (played by Kevin Nealon) is able to bring another character with him on one of the loops—well, that isn’t quite how it happened in Lois & Clark but close enough—and so they are able to work together to figure out why the experiment is going wrong. Long story short, it turns out to not be sabotage per se but a deliberate attempt to weaponize teleportation.
Like all episodes of The Outer Limits, this one opens and closes with some “meaningful” narration:
We exist in time. Moving forever forward through moments in our lives. Moments that which, once experienced, can never be relived, or can they?
Of note: this had a time loop caused by science, like 12:01 P.M. and 12:01, or Stargate SG-1’s “Window of Opportunity” or either of the Fringe episodes I’ve watched for Time Loop Days.
I’d probably seen that episode of The Outer Limits when it was on originally because I used to watch that show, but I didn’t remember it. I did remember the time loop episode of The Dead Zone, though. At least vaguely. “Déjà Voodoo” doesn’t set up any crime at its start, unlike how I remember a lot of The Dead Zone’s episode going; instead, Johnny’s vision if of he and a stranger he’s bumped into at a bar kissing later that night. Ultimately, he follows her, and gets her to the location in his vision, and they kiss, and only then does something bad come into play. An apparent mugging ends in her death. And, then, jump back to the bar because the whole thing was an extended vision for Johnny. Next time through, he tries to save her but she still ends up dead, and so does he (actually, he might have been getting shot as the first iteration transitioned into the next also). Things get complicated as Johnny tries to figure out who wants this woman dead while still trying to save her.
Because this episode is not setting up a long-term love interest for Johnny, this episode has a bit of a downbeat ending; while Johnny manages to save the woman’s life and figure out who is trying to kill her, in the final iteration he barely even interacts with her.
Of note: technically, there is no “time loop” here. Rather, Johnny has a series of visions nested within one longer vision. And, there is really no explanation why this particular vision would work any differently than usual, except we get to see Johnny hook up with another woman (other than his ex who is now married to the local Sheriff, that is) and have nothing really come of it.
Haven’s “Audrey Parker’s Day Off” reminds me of what I liked and disliked about Haven. Individual episodes work well enough, but the premise of the show limits itself so that it’s a bit like Cabot Cove where you have got to wonder why people even live there anymore with all the death and mayhem going on. Hell, both towns are in Maine; maybe Haven is just Cabot Cove plus the supernatural. Still, there’s some nice stuff going on in the time loop here in that Audrey has to deal with first the death of a child, then when she keeps that from happening, the death of Duke (series regular Eric Balfour) instead. Then, when she keeps that from happening, Nathan (series regular Lucas Bryant) dies instead. Then, she keeps that from happening and her boyfriend (Jason Priestly) dies instead. Ultimately, she finds out who is responsible—if you’ve never seen the show, there are these things called “The Troubles” that makes paranormal things happen to various townspeople—a guy with OCD whose guilt over a) not being there for his daughter and b) being indirectly responsible for his daughter dying on that first day of the loop caused time to repeat around him. Audrey, as usual, is immune to “The Troubles” so she can recognize the loop and work to stop it.
Of note: Nathan, upon hearing about the time loop, tells Audrey that she’s living in his “second favorite Bill Murray movie.” Since the show is filmed in Canada and the actor here is Canadian, I can only assume his favorite Bill Murray movie is Meatballs. Also, like in Eureka’s “I Do Over” Audrey is able to be injured in one iteration of the loop and still have the injury in the next.
I never watched Xena: Warrior Princess regularly, maybe only ever even saw a couple whole episodes, but you don’t need to know much about the series to get into “Been There, Done That.” I didn’t quite know who Joxer was, but could tell it was a big deal when he died early in the episode. I did know there was a lot of “shipping” Xena and Gabrielle and those shippers must have loved when Gabrielle fell asleep on Xena’s chest grieving over Joxer’s death. Anyway, day repeats, and there are some amusing iterations, like when Joxer suggests maybe the cause is the rooster that wakes Xena each morning so the next morning she kills the rooster.
Ultimately, it’s a… whatever the opposite of a curse is, from Cupid, helping out some star-crossed lovers, the female of which has taken poison and will die by tomorrow—the “curse” means tomorrow will never come until a warrior arrives to fix everything. Problem is, girl takes poison just after sunrise, and across town from the barn where Xena et al have spent the night. This leads to an amusing, albeit unbelievable, bit involving Xena’s signature weapon, her Chakram, being thrown across town, caroming off walls, knocking a guy’s hat off so he doesn’t walk in front of a wagon—I guess one of these shows did involve a side event being solved—and eventually breaking the bottle of poison so the girl cannot drink it.
Seven Days has a frantic way about it. “Déjà Vu All Over Again” suffers a little because of this. To raise the stakes, Parker’s Backstep puts him, as far as he knows it, within an hour of Talmadge’s (series regular Alan Scarfe) death. They’ve got a seven day window to figure out what happened to him and end up with no useful leads. It’s a cheap conceit to add tension, but it works somewhat. More problematic for me, since I watched this series regularly when it was on, was that I don’t think Parker’s “Time Burps” existed outside of this episode. Basically, all of his time travel has led to moments of déjà vu (and a hankering for fried chicken), and he sort of manipulates one of these time burps into repeating the Backstep (I once wrote an essay about how the basic time travel of this show didn’t make sense, so that lack of understandable explanation here is par for the course).
Of note: as the loop repeats, Parker actually has less use for explaining what’s going on to the other regulars and mostly just goes it alone. It’s the opposite structure of many time loop episodes in that, narrowing its focus rather than widening it.
Also, Parker has an interesting conversation about experiencing seven day loops on a regular basis and how it can be annoying to know what people are going to say before they say it sometimes.
Farscape’s “Back and Back and Back to the Future” finds its time loop in a fragment of a black hole, but I’m not sure there’s any particular reason that Crichton is the only one to experience the looping. Of course it isn’t quite looping going on at first so much as Crichton getting premonitory flashes. It becomes whole loops later. This is a fairly standard Farscape episode. There are many better ones.
An amusing exchange:
Zhaan: He says he is experiencing the future.
Aeryn: The future? He can barely function in the present.
While watching this episode again, I didn’t see it as all that important an episode (hence just calling it “fairly standard”). Executive Producer Brian Henson apparently thought differently. He’s quoted on the Farscape wikia, saying:
Farscape started exploring darker themes. Even the love scenes here are a little creepy. We were feeling our way into a visceral and twisted tone that would become signature territory for the series, making this episode one of the most important of season 1.
Of course, he’s talking about the sexual bits in this episode and maybe some of the violence. And, I was looking at it today for the time loop. The viewpoint certainly affects the interpretation.
This TV Time Loop Day ended with Smallville’s “Reckoning.” The episode isn’t really about a time “loop” exactly but merely a single repetition of one day, because apparently Kryptonians have the technology for that, but you can only use it once—the premise is actually kinda lame if you put any thought to it. The setup: Clark finally tells Lana his secret and proposes marriage. That night, as Clark’s adoptive father wins the election for senate, Lana goes to see Lex Luthor (who just lost to Jonathan Kent; I’m guessing the campaigning lasted a while in the lead up to this episode) and he knows she knows Clark’s secret (which is a weird intuitive jump), then Lex drives after Lana as she leaves and inadvertently causes her death by car accident. Within the episode, Clark inexplicably goes to the Fortress of Solitude and questions the voice there—I know it’s his father’s voice, but this episode gives no explanation as to why Clark is directing his ire here—as to why he took Lana from him. The Wikipedia entry for the episode explains, Clark was resurrected by Jor-El in a previous episode and promised there would be a price. So, Clark makes a new deal to save Lana and is told there will be a price, some line about the universe balancing things out. And, Clark is sent back to the previous morning, proceeds to not tell Lana his secret, she breaks up with him, ends up with Lex that night anyway and nearly gets killed again if Clark weren’t there to stop the bus that hit her before.
That balance comes when Jonathan Kent meanwhile gets into a fight (another thing not readily explained within the episode) with Lionel Luther. The fight gets fairly physical and I guess it was too much for Jonathan’s heart (I really hope the show had set up his having a bad heart or there really is not “balance” here but just Jor-El being a dick) as he ends up getting outside just as Martha and Clark arrive home, and he collapses and dies. Long before the series got to this 100th episode, I’d stopped watching, but I would guess that for regular viewers, Jonathan’s death would have been more dramatic, but he actually isn’t in much of the episode as it is.
Of note: when Clark tells Chloe about the time loop, she asks him if he flew around the Earth and spun it backward on its axis, one of the possible explanations for what Superman did in Superman II.
Today’s reason to repeat a day forever: to edit these time loop episode together into one 24-hour long mega-episode… except then I’d never get to watch it. So, gotta do the editing beforehand, then just watch the mega-episode all day every day as the time loop repeats. Because real life is boring.