The time loop is a fail-safe 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. I’ve rounded up five of my favorite time loop episodes for your enjoyment.
First up: 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.
Check out four more after the break.
Supernatural‘s “Mystery Spot” is fabulous. 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.
I love Stargate: SG-1‘s “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?
I can’t leave out Star Trek: The Next Generation‘s “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.
Finally, Xena’s “Been There, Done That” is classic time loop fun. Xena experiences the repeat day and she can only escape the repetition if she stops two feuding families from fighting. It’s a Montague/Capulet sort of blood feud, and she just has to fix it. Easy. Cupid is behind all of it, promising one of the lovers that he would save them by repeating the day over and over until a hero arrives. It has all the usual funny Xena, Gabrielle, and Joxer banter and not surprisingly, the lady warrior saves the day.
Tell us about your favorites in the comments!