“…before we find out, our money’s always spent”. Yep, you know the song. Chances are you also know the film. Yes, that famous film where Bill Murray lives again and again and again. Groundhog Day! Well, the concept has not just been one for films, but also a slight trope in TV as well.
There have been many, many Tuesdays. Supernatural fans are well acquainted with this fact of the series, after the season three episode “Mystery Spot”. Season three is a strange season of Supernatural, as it was cut short by the 2007-08 writers’ strike. The inclusion of this particular episode, which neatly fits in the Groundhog Day/Time Loop trope, was key to helping get forward critical characterisation for this short season.
See, in season three, Dean has only a year left to live and Sam is desperate to try and save Dean from the demonic pact that will eventually kill him. But this particular episode of the season has nothing to do with demons. Instead it centres around a town with a weird curiosities museum. What Sam finds, as they investigate the museum, is that he is reliving the same Tuesday, again and again, with Dean ending up dead before the end of each iteration.
The classic hallmarks of a Groundhog Day episode are all here: waking up to the same song being played on the radio each morning (“Heat of the Moment” by Asia), Dean ordering the exact same thing at breakfast and Sam becoming very knowledge about what will happen in each moment of the day. The episode is both funny and tragic at the same time.
What the show does differently though is that this episode is not about trying to do things in an order to shift what is happening, instead the emphasis is on Sam trying to come to terms with what awaits Dean.
Then I remembered an episode of Star Trek. It was called ‘Cause and Effect’ and I can remember being rather fond of it. In a nutshell the Enterprise is trapped in a time loop – with the crew reliving the previous day. A day, which seems to always end with the destruction of the Enterprise!
I remember thinking how cleverly the episode was written. To begin with you only had Dr Crusher sensing a little Déjà vu, with others getting the same familiar feeling after the day had repeated itself several times. I know it had something to do with time, yet the way the story slowly unfolded you kept guessing as to why they were trapped – right until the crew had worked it out.
Then it was a rush to the finish – would the escape the loop or not. It kept you guessing right till the end. A quality episode from a wonderful TV show – one that should be revisited again and again…
Oh, you don’t remember? Or maybe you didn’t realise. It’s no surprise because this episode of Season 4 (1991) actually pre-dates Groundhog Day (1993).
There’s a smeg-load that goes on in this episode, with Holly being given an IQ of 12000 and a lifespan of minutes. The power on Red Dwarf goes out. Lister blocking up a white hole with a large planet.
This is all absolutely ridiculous, but it makes for one of the more interesting episodes of Red Dwarf. In the middle of which there is a Groundhog Day scene due to the time spewing forth from the white hole.
In the scene comes Cat asking “What is it?” about 5 or 6 times before Kryten explains. A fantastic episode from a series that has been fairly hit and miss – but mostly hit.
So there’s just three Groundhog Day episodes this time around, but there are plenty more out there. From Buffy S6 Ep5 “Life Serial” or Andromeda S3 Ep12 “The Dark Backward”. What’s your favourite Groundhog Day episode? Let us know in the comments below or on Facebook or Twitter.