Here we go again! – Top 5 TV Time Loop Episodes
It may be a well used TV trope but you gotta love a good time loop episode. Much of the love for them is routed being able to free our beloved characters from their ‘typical’ behaviour and take a few more risks, tell some hard truths, be hella funny and sometimes learn an important lesson. Let’s take a look at some of the best time loop episodes from our favourite shows.
Just to be on the safe side let’s throw in a SPOILER WARNING.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer- Life Serial
Buffy needs a job, unfortunately the not so super villains, The Trio, aka Jonathan, Andrew and Warren, decide to have a competition and test the slayers abilities. Buffy gets stuck trying to retrieve a live mummy hand for a customer. Her many attempts become progressively more slapstick and always end with her killing the hand losing the sale. The spell is finally broken when she tells the customer she’ll order it in. Whilst it is only a portion of the episode dedicated to Jonathan’s time loop spell, it is so much fun that it rightly deserves a place on this list.
Supernatural – Mystery Spot
One Tuesday morning Sam Winchester wakes to Heat of the Moment by Asia, finds his brother already up , they head for breakfast, Dean orders the Tuesday special Pig ‘n a Poke with a side of bacon and the two continue with their day discussing the case involving a disappearance at the local Mystery Spot. As evening comes the two break into the tourist trap and the own kills Dean, dead. Queue ‘Heat of the moment’ and the day begins again for Sam. As the loop continues over and over Dean dies in increasingly hilarious ways including, choking when he deviates from the Pig ‘n a Poke, having a desk dropped on him and funny tasting tacos. Each time the Winchesters try to change something but Dean always cops it.
Eventually Sam figures out it’s the Trickster, whom informs Sam he is just proving that Sam can’t save his brother. A finger snap later it’s Wednesday and this is where things get dark. Dean is killed and next we see a dark montage of Sam continuing to live as a loner, hunting, fixing his own wounds, ignoring Bobby and becoming a cold emotionally dead shell. Whilst everything turns out fine in the end, this episode’s appeal is it’s journey from laugh out loud moments to emotionally heartbreaking in just 45 minutes, securing it’s place on this list.
Stargate SG-1 – Window of Opportunity
A firm fan favourite Window of Opportunity sees Colonel O’Neill and Teal’c trapped in a ten hour time loop after being hit by lightening on while on a mission. With Daniel Jackson and Sam Carter having no memory of the loop it falls to O’Neill and Teal’c to solve this problem and break the loop. Jackson needs to translate the ancient writings but there isn’t enough time before it starts over again. O’Neill and Teal’c must learn from Jackson each loop and pass this knowledge back to Jackson who then has to teach them the next bit, so on and so forth. In one particular loop Daniel makes a passing comment about events having no real consequence which brings forth a montage of O’Neill and particularly Teal’c behaving outrageously, including, playing golf through the wormhole, O’Neill taking up pottery and becoming quite adept. But the moment that made it for the fans was when Colonel O’Neill resigns his post a kisses Sam Carter just seconds before the loop resets – something fans of SG-1 had been longing for. After 3 months in the loop it all gets resolved with a little pull on the heart strings as O’Neill recalls his own experience of his son’s death to persuade the scientist to shut down the time machine before the loop starts again. All in all one of the best episodes in 10 years of SG-1.
Star Trek: The Next Generation – Cause and Effect
Opening the episode with the destruction of the Enterprise made for an strong start in an all round excellent episode. Queue Stardate 45652.1, Riker, Worf, Crusher, Geordie and Data are all playing poker. As the day plays out it’s Crusher who begins it get a sense of deja vu, she’s sure she has already treated Geordie for his dizzyness. In the following loops the other characters all begin to sense they have done this all before and they are able to actually predict the outcome of the card game, they figure out the whole ship is trapped in a time loop or, as they name it, a temporal causality loop. Resolving to send a message to themselves in the next loop they do some jiggery pokery with Data.
Beginning the time loop again and things have changed, actions that Data is involved in begin to relate to the number 3, coming up again and again. In the crucial last seconds before the Enterprise collides with the other ship, both Data and Riker make suggestions what action they should take, in this final loop Data realises the 3 refers to pips on Riker’s uniform and takes that course of action rather than his own, breaking the loop they have been stuck in for 17 days. Their actions not only save themselves but also the USS Bozeman that has been missing for 80 years. The great thing about this episode is the dramatic opening followed by some real goose-bump inducing moments. There is no consequence free larking about as often associated with time loops, this is about the group of officers trying to save the lives of everyone on board.
The Librarians – Point of Salvation
This choice is probably a little left field but I’ve chosen it because there is a little twist to the normal time loop trope. The Librarians has only had two seasons and there does not seem to be that much fandom support out there. It’s a fun show, if you enjoyed Warehouse 13 you should definitely check it out. It is never too serious or intense but Point of Salvation changed things a little.
With the team of four are trapped in a loop, Ezekiel is the only one the remembers the previous loops. This episode begins to play out as a nice normal time loop, every time someone dies it resets, so often in fact that Ezekiel forgets how long he has been watching his friends die. It begins to take it’s toll on him and the normally care-free character becomes emotionally worn and frustrated, despairing at witnessing his friends deaths again. In a fit of rage he destroys a crate with a crow bar and comes to the realisation that they are not trapped in a time loop but a video game, returning to a save point each time. He demonstrates this to his friends by shooting Jake in the leg and then giving him a med-kit which instantly fixes him. From here things begin to be a little more fun as they progress and eventually it all ends well.
However, there is a little sting in how this episode ends. Ezekiel goes through a lot of personal development proving himself to be a hero and leader but it finishes with him having no memory of it, it feels like a life changing lesson was taken away from him. Frustrating as this is, we must acknowledge that remembering would probably mean a lot of therapy. Luckily, his colleagues know what he did and there is a little look on his face at the end suggesting something of the experience has stayed with him. I’ve chosen to share this scene with you as a particularly good moment when Eve realises the the just exactly how hard this has been on him and tells Ezekiel a little story.