It was 27 years ago that the Next Generation episode “Cause and Effect” first aired and Kelsey Grammer’s Captain Morgan Bateson entered our lives.
Airing for the first time 27 years ago this month during Star Trek: The Next Generation‘s fifth season, “Cause and Effect” is a very fondly remembered episode of the series. It features a unique twist on the old time travel plot device and is written by Brannon Braga and directed by Commander Riker himself, Jonathan Frakes.
In “Cause and Effect” the crew of the Enterprise is caught in a time loop that sees the ship and all hands killed when they collide with the USS Bozeman as it exits a spatial anomaly. “Cause and Effect” replays the same sequence over and over, ending with the destruction of the ship until Data figures out a way to bring it get the crew out of the loop.
It is a tribute to Frakes’ directing skills that despite “Cause and Effect” essentially repeating the same events, the episode is always engaging and incredibly entertaining. I mean, fans still talk about that teaser before the opening credits roll that sees the Enterprise completely destroyed in a huge ball of fire.
But perhaps the greatest element of “Cause and Effect” was the fact it gave the Star Trek universe the character of Captain Morgan Bateson.
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Played by Kelsey Grammer of Cheers and Frasier fame, Bateson has less than a dozen lines in “Cause and Effect” but for some reason, Star Trek fandom latched onto his character. In the years after the episode aired, Grammer’s Bateson became one of the most fondly remembered guest appearances in the history of the show.
Grammer was a longtime Trek fan who jumped at the chance to do a guest appearance on The Next Generation when he was asked. The only thing that could have made it better was if the producers had been able to follow through on their plan to have Kirstie Alley in a cameo role as Lieutenant Saavik. Not only would that have thrilled Trek Nation, but Cheers fans as well would have loved the nod to their show as well.
Even today, you ask any Star Trek fan worth their communicator and they can tell you all about Captain Bateson and the USS Bozeman. The character appeared in the Star Trek Customizable Card Game and has been featured in a number of Trek novels. Most notably Bateson is the lead character in the novel Ship of the Line by Dianne Carey which tells the story of the construction and first voyage of the Enterprise-E.
I always thought it was a shame that Grammer didn’t return to play the character again at some point. It would have been awesome to see Bateson in action with the crew of the Enterprise in any of the films.
Maybe all us Bateson fans will get lucky and he will appear in Star Trek: Picard. Weirder things have happened.