Star Trek: Enterprise

"The Crossing"

**

Air date: 4/2/2003
Teleplay by Rick Berman & Brannon Braga
Directed by David Livingston

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"You claim to be an explorer, captain. Open your mind to new possibilities." — Alien entity through Trip, explaining what the makers of this series refuse to make possible

In brief: Early promise that quickly gives way to an overbaked stew of routine silliness.

Here's an episode that begins as epic, great-looking sci-fi, and continues through its first act as a story hinting at developing an interesting look at a truly different type of life form (for the crew, although not for Trek viewers) as well as looking back at human existence from their viewpoint. Promising material. But then it becomes a downhill slide, with a hostile invasion-of-the-body-snatchers plot that takes over, and eventually we end up just recycling lame-brained Trek cliches and assorted oddities.

"The Crossing" is another Enterprise failure, one that starts with the promise of awe but then quickly takes the path of routine rehashes. About the awe factor: Let's start with that first act. It's a winner. The Enterprise is swallowed up by a huge ship that promptly reconfigures its internal atmosphere to suit our crew's breathing needs (although why this is necessary is not clear, since our explorers never get out of their EVA suits once leaving the Enterprise). The ship's interior is a huge open room with cold, metallic surfaces and complex designs. Visually, this is great stuff — the sort of grand sights we imagine when we think of visual science fiction. Kudos to the CGI designers and the FX wizards who make this an eye-pleasing and convincing scene.

While he's down here on the floor of the big room of this impressive vessel, an entity that resembles a cloud of gas and light permeates Trip's EVA suit and enters his head. It then leaves, apparently taking Trip's consciousness right out of his body and replacing it with a different, alien consciousness. After a moment, it returns Trip's mind to him. For Trip, the experience is beyond description; he literally left his body and existed without corporeal form.

That is an intriguing sci-fi concept that has possibilities. Indeed, the episode even hints at some philosophical discussion when the entity again enters Trip's body and then speaks through him, telling Archer in a curious and wondrous tone, "You're very interesting — trapped in bodies that need maintenance." It takes pleasure in the simple experience of sampling a dozen items from the mess hall's menu. "You eat ... food," it exclaims.

But the thing about sci-fi concepts is that after you have a concept you need to do something with it. The approach of the makers of Enterprise, however, is to reduce a grand idea to the most mundane and cliche-ridden alien-takeover premise possible. The Trip-alien says to Archer: "You claim to be an explorer, captain. Open your mind to new possibilities." I was nodding in agreement at this point, wondering why Archer couldn't see the opportunity here to learn something new rather than constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop. But the thing is, of course there's another shoe to drop; Archer knows better than anyone that he is on a show called Enterprise, which is usually about fending off tangible threats instead of exploring new realms, whether physical or philosophical.

On TNG, this concept probably would have been used to develop some sort of understanding about human nature or other realms of existence (I'm reminded of the leap of imagination in a seemingly but not actually threatening episode like "The Nth Degree"). But on Enterprise it's a plot device to bring about obvious action that we've seen time and time again. What we have here is the most potentially interesting sci-fi concept this season employed merely to propel a ship-takeover plot. Why bother?

Once this plot is set into motion, the crew is quick to discover that these alien entities want control of their bodies for selfish reasons. There's a sequence where an alien takes control of Lt. Reed and then embarks on a corporeal mission whose main priority is apparently getting laid. He engages in odd conversation with a female crewman on the turbolift ("You are female," he observes helpfully). When that encounter doesn't pan out he shows up at T'Pol's quarters, leading to a shameless and completely goofy scene that lies somewhere between laughable and tacky, pandering to those in the audience who want nothing more than to see Jolene Blalock's Hot Bod [TM]. We've got T'Pol in tight underwear as the camera pushes her breasts through the plane of our television screens. The Reed-alien makes campy sexual overtures by way of the kind of bad dialog that makes you laugh in disbelief. Talk about limited imagination: Non-corporeal beings take human form not to gain insight or understanding, but to get into someone's pants.

Meanwhile, more crew members have their bodies snatched and Archer faces a complete takeover of his ship. He starts locking affected crew members in their quarters. Then Mayweather discovers that the alien entities can't pass through the shielding in the catwalk, so Archer has the entire crew reassigned to the catwalk, a plot idea that feels awfully redundant considering that in December we had a whole show called "The Catwalk" where the crew took refuge up there.

There's also use of T'Pol's special Vulcan mental disciplines, which makes it possible for her to be inhabited by one of the alien entities without being controlled by it. This permits her to learn the aliens' true motives for taking over the ship, which is that their own ship is ceasing to function, which means they will die if they don't take control of a new ship.

The crew's solution to the predicament is another one of those protracted mechanical tasks where nothing dramatic is happening on the screen and it feels more like a way to fill time. Phlox figures out a way to knock out all the infected crew members and drive out the alien entities. This involves him exposing the crew to a mixture of gas that he rigs up by rearranging things behind a panel in an obscure corner of the ship, while Archer has to talk him through which levers to pull and which valves to open. This is narrative quicksand. It's arbitrary prop manipulation captured on film — the "Minefield" bomb-dissection approach to filmmaking without the benefit of that show's character development. And the walk-through dialog is bafflingly extraneous. After Archer tells Phlox to remove a panel, Phlox then asks him what to do with it. Archer says to do whatever he wants with it — like set it on the floor. And I'm asking myself, is this exchange even necessary in the slightest?

I also was confused as to where the affected crew members' conscious minds went when the aliens were in their bodies. It's established that they are removed. Were they just floating around the ship? And when the entities were driven out, just what would motivate them to return the crew's minds to them? Such details are not really worth questioning, I suppose, but the plot is on arbitrary, shaky ground and thus comes off as unconvincing.

There are a couple scenes that work. As I've said, the early parts with Trip are worthwhile. And later on, I thought the Hoshi-alien's disturbingly calm call for help for her "broken leg" was eerily depicted; a close-up on Hoshi effectively conveys some subdued, suspicious menace. But more often the show is lost in muted half-hearted performances, like T'Pol's "trust me" appeal to Archer on risking herself to confront the entities — a scene that, as acted, completely lacks conviction.

I also was less than thrilled by the ending that blows up the alien ship and all the non-corporeal life forms. Given the level of the threat, I don't blame Archer for this course of action. But there's something depressing about the whole idea that the episode begins with such higher-minded would-be intentions, only to turn it into a lowbrow alien conspiracy and end with them being categorically destroyed. It's a cynical and unmoving arc.

I'm thinking that Enterprise needs to show us something new, reinvigorate itself with some energy and purpose, or return to its characters. This stretch of the season has been a string of unrelenting mediocrity that the creators would be well-advised to break themselves free of at once. Of course, I'm sure they're telling themselves that. Or at least I hope so. I hope they don't actually think "The Crossing" is exciting television.

Next week: Enterprise borrows the courtroom scene from Star Trek VI to give Archer a taste of justice, Klingon style.

Previous episode: Canamar
Next episode: Judgment

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20 comments on this review

RussS
Mon, Nov 8, 2010, 6:34am (UTC -5)
So the enterprise blows up another ship full of life forms. Great. Makes me proud to be human.

The non-corporeal aliens were trying to save themselves, nothing more. It is below the morality of the Enterprise to destroy a ship fuoll of people who are just trying to live. They weren't evil.

A better story would have showed how Archer helped them survive.
Darren
Sun, Jul 31, 2011, 10:24pm (UTC -5)
Couldn't agree more with the review, except I would have given it one star. I had such high hopes coming out of the first act. Once it was resolved as a lame exorcism, aliens-try-to-commandeer-the-ship episode, I audibly groaned. We've seen this numerous times on TOS, TNG and probably DS9 and Voyager if I think about it.

It could have gone to so many interesting places. What if the aliens were generally well-intentioned, and Archer (who's so reflexively paranoid and over-reactive at this point, it's become a joke) had agreed to carefully managed crossings for the sake of exploration? What if a few of the crew had enjoyed being non-corporeal (instead of just taking trips down memory lane -- a real failure in creativity and inspiration on the part of the writers here), and had wanted to switch places permanently with their non-corporeal partner?

Ambiguity, complexity... a difficult ethical decision. What we get instead are the dregs of better episodes in a universe that grows less interesting by the day. There were also numerous plot holes and inconsistencies (e.g. how did the NC beings get to Enterprise when it was dead in space if they couldn't survive in space?) that were just plain sloppy. Sigh...
Cloudane
Sat, May 26, 2012, 6:58pm (UTC -5)
Couldn't agree more with the review.

Started out great! It was like a Final Fantasy scene, camera high, watching our people stroll through a surreal landscape with some pyreflies. This apparently hungry ship was just a group of pyreflies looking for bodies to inhibit and share some experiences - how lovely! How full of nice Trekkian potential, they likes of which we haven't seen for some time!

Then they wasted it and just turned into more action crap.

And then they blew the ship up, murdering them all. Disgusting. Far from Trekkian. Cynical. Horrible.

1/4.
Captain Jim
Mon, Aug 20, 2012, 11:11pm (UTC -5)
I guess I'll have to be the one dissenting voice here. I enjoyed this episode quite a bit - actually, a lot more than I expected to. It was certainly a welcome change of pace from the usual aliens of the week, who look just like us except for some facial prosthetics. I liked the uncertainly about their intentions, the sense of helplessness on the crew's part and the sense of foreboding.

I also must disagree with those who had a problem with Enterprise destroying their ship. Sure, they were "only trying to save themselves," but at someone else's expense. Don't forget, they attacked Enterprise, not the other way around. As far as I'm concerned, this was a simple matter of self-defense.

Three stars.
CeeBee
Sat, Oct 13, 2012, 5:14pm (UTC -5)
It seems that evolving is bad. You become non-corporeal and have to miss all that food and sex. That's about it.

And what about Trip riding along Hopalong Cassidy being so real in his perception? Why can't they make whoopie in that fantasy world and being less frustrated than an infiltrated Reed? If it's so real, why do they have to pursue sex with a Vulcan lady if they can dream up every male or female stunner in that "virtual real" world of theirs?

That T'Pol uses the ship like it's one giant catwalk. Do all Vulcan females walk and prostrate funny?

I also wonder what they thought about being corporeal again when they entered a guy on duty not able to go to the toilet or a damsel having her period. Just saying.
Arachnea
Mon, Feb 11, 2013, 4:14am (UTC -5)
I usually like to be the devil's advocate, but I couldn't agree more with the review and the comments. It started so well and I so wanted Archer to be wrong ! I mean, he's the least likable - Sisko included, and that's saying a lot from me - captain of the whole franchise. Even the cheesy Kirk had more sense than Archer.
So, when he's being so hostile instead of trying to communicate (in a nutshell, initiating a diplomatic first contact), it made me angry and once again, he didn't listen to T'Pol.

What made me more angry was the writers turning a potentially wonderful story about the first non-corporeal beings Starfleet encounters to another hostile alien. To add more offense, Archer destroys them all.
mark
Mon, Feb 18, 2013, 9:37pm (UTC -5)
Kirk would have driven the aliens out of the crew's bodies, but then he would have found a way to work with them to fix their ship, rather than blowing it up.

Kirk is always right. As for this ep, I give it 2.5 stars, the extra half star being for the scene where Hoshi attacks Phlox--it was actually disturbing.
Patrick
Sun, Apr 7, 2013, 7:01pm (UTC -5)
I just watched this episode for the first time and found it to be like TNG's "Power Play" without the...power play. There's no tense threat...nor sustained wonderment. There's no work to resolve things peaceably nor any curiosity on behalf of our intrepid "explorers".

I own Star Trek Enterprise on DVD (for completist purposes). This episode is one of the reasons why its the only Trek series I, a rabid Trekkie, have had a hard time sitting through...and haven't watched all the episodes.
Charles
Mon, May 20, 2013, 8:47am (UTC -5)
The the crossing showed so much promise but only left me with heart break at it's failure...
Nancy
Sun, Sep 15, 2013, 6:40am (UTC -5)
I was very surprised - and disappointed - that they blew up the ship at the end. I understand that this isn't TNG, but it doesn't seem in the spirit of Star Trek in general. I know Archer was acting in self defense and preventing them from taking over other species, but why couldn't the writers think of another way?
Moonie
Sat, Feb 8, 2014, 4:56pm (UTC -5)
Wow, how utterly disappointing. Agree with Jammer, the opening scenes with that huge ship swallowing the Enterprise, were quite promising. And then it just went downhills. At the end, I was waiting for the conclusion - you know, actually communicating with the lifeforms, trying to find a way to save them, which is what both Kirk and Picard would have done - and then they just blew the whole ship up. Wow.
Ken
Sun, Mar 16, 2014, 12:21pm (UTC -5)
My instincts tell me this episode would have been a lot more enjoyable if it didn't involve yet another alien crew taking over the ship. If the show had instead focused on first contact with a non-corporeal species, and created some more inventive form of conflict or character development instead, it would have been a much more enjoyable show. As is, it's predictable drivel.

At least nobody was acting immature and childish in this episode, so that's something I guess. You can never to be sure when the next time that mature adults will be acting on screen in Season 2.
Rossana
Sat, Jan 24, 2015, 1:14pm (UTC -5)
My problem with the episode was only the ending. Why couldn't Archer just negotiate with the aliens and offer them to come in Enterprise and if they agree not to possess any crew member without a concrete agreement including length of time and alerting the crew of not commissioning the crew member to real work while the exchange was happening... Enterprise would then take the noncorporeal lifeforms to a planet where they could live in peace.

I think the way they destroyed 300+ lifeforms without trying to negotiate with them was inconsistent with their value system.
Deborah
Wed, Mar 25, 2015, 9:55pm (UTC -5)
OK, even I have to admit that Archer--whom I generally like--is too immediately hostile in this episode. It doesn't get more excitingly sci fi than an encounter with an alien species that was at one time corporeal. Definitely a missed opportunity.
Alston49
Thu, Apr 2, 2015, 12:49am (UTC -5)
Ah, another species destroyed by the self-righteous Enterprise crew as they speed along their merrily way. At this point in time they are most definitely more trouble than they're worth to the galaxy. It's a wonder Starfleet ever flourished the way they did. Kinda wish Q would have appeared in this and put humanity on trial at this point, but the guilty verdict would've been a foregone conclusion. "Rapid progress". Whatever.
eastwest101
Mon, Apr 13, 2015, 3:11am (UTC -5)
Totally agree with the crown on this one - a fantastic looking opening with heaps of promise but my hopes were dashed at the end....
W Smith
Sun, May 17, 2015, 2:29pm (UTC -5)
Surprised this got 2 stars, it's more like 1 star, after the damning review. Started out with promise, then just got boring full of cliches, and then ended with the surprise of killing all the aliens. I guess it would have been further cliche to have solved the problem for the aliens, but blowing them all up felt quite "un-Trek" in philosophy. I also kept wondering why a non-corporeal lifeform would travel in a corporeal ship. That didn't make any sense, but then the episode was just bad anyway.
Diamond Dave
Sat, Apr 16, 2016, 3:52pm (UTC -5)
Opening comes on something like The Spy Who Loved Me, and the ending is a bit of a worry a week after Archer fights like mad to save a murderer, but in between there's some nice stuff.

Early on it does indeed conjure a nice feeling of wonder, and some of the character performances are OK (although I prefer Tucker's chilled wonderment to Malcolm's predatory sex offender). At least it tried to offer something different, even if we ended up in another run of the mill actioner.

That said, we did see Phlox headbutt Tucker, and in a vac suit no less. Gotta be worth something... 2.5 stars.
dipads
Tue, Jun 14, 2016, 7:50pm (UTC -5)
Trip has been showcased as the protagonist in all but a few episodes this season. He has been the producers number one choice to the detriment of Travis and others. I have nothing against Trip but please let one of the other main characters highlight an episode for a change. As for the non-corporeal beings, I wonder if they happen to be of the same race as those on TOS "Day of the Dove".
Yanks
Thu, Jul 28, 2016, 12:53pm (UTC -5)
Yeah, this one has always been blah.

I also think Archer was too quick to the "mad Archer" side.

It's not a bad ep, but nothing special

2.5 stars.

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