Lynch's Enterprise Episode Review
WARNING: Noncorporeal spoilers for ENT's "The Crossing" are
coming up fast.
In brief: It starts off well, but ends up in a bit of a muddle.
Enterprise Season 2, Episode 18
Teleplay by Rick Berman & Brannon Braga
Story by Rick Berman & Brannon Braga and Andre Bormanis
Directed by David Livingston
Brief summary: The Enterprise meets a species of "wispy"
noncorporeal life-forms and hear promises that may be too good to
About this time last season, there was an episode entitled "Vox
That episode, while suffering from horrible pacing early on, did a
fairly good job creating a species our heroes would find convincingly
alien, and gave the audience a taste of that sense of wonder near the
"The Crossing" is almost that episode in reverse. There's some nice
sense-of-wonder alienness early on, but it then degenerates into
formula "can we save the ship in time?" creepiness, sluggish pacing,
and a far-too-sudden ending. All else being equal, I'd rather have had
a second "Vox Sola," thanks all the same.
One thing _Enterprise_ has done more and more recently is to toss
the viewer into the action as quickly as possible: "Canamar" did it
when the first few seconds of the episode had us viewing an
abandoned shuttle, "Future Tense" did it with the future-ship drifting
into view, and "The Crossing" does it with the Enterprise already
fleeing pursuit. No one on board knows anything of substance about
the pursuing ship, and neither do we -- except that it's big, fast,
has opened its docking bay wide enough to swallow the Enterprise
whole. Reed barely has time for a strangled "what the hell is that?"
before the Enterprise is swallowed up and the teaser ends. It's one of
the better teasers of the season.
Once inside, both engines and weapons stop working just like that,
and Archer decides to do some exploring in a shuttlepod with Trip
and Reed along for the ride. One could quibble that the two people
who can *least* be spared from their posts at the moment are the
chief engineer and the chief weapons officer, but it's not really a
particularly big deal. Upon landing, they discover that the
hostile atmosphere has now changed to a nitrogen-oxygen mix at a
palatable temperature: clearly someone wants them comfortable. And
despite the fact that they've picked up no life signs, the smoky
like wisps flitting about the top of the captor ship certainly seem to
have signs of intelligence.
During all this investigating, one of those wisps zips right
Trip's helmet, and we see a differently-colored wisp exit. Trip begins
looking around very strangely, almost as if in a daze ... until the
wisps switch places again, at which point Trip seems like himself
again, only convinced he was simultaneously on the ceiling of the
ship and back in Florida swimming with an old girlfriend.
At this point, any Trek fan who's been watching for any time
to this series is thinking "okay, energy beings", and I imagine we
were supposed to. As routine as it is to us, however, it's new to
Archer and company, and that shows, at least to some extent. There's
a bit of pedestrian dialogue as they figure all this out, but the
characters' eyes are widening (metaphorically) fairly often here, and
think that's a good thing.
Trip can't stop talking about how remarkable his experience was,
everyone else, while understanding, is also a bit unnerved and
concerned that Trip might be falling prey to a serious hallucination.
On top of this, Enterprise is still dead in the water, and Archer and
T'Pol have a polite disagreement about whether their captors are
hostile or not.
Ere long, Trip is once again visited by a wisp, and proceeds to
subordinate like a superior officer, leave Engineering, and head to
mess hall. (The subordinate in question is Rostov, whom we've seen
before, most notably in "Vox Sola," which only reinforced the
parallels I was feeling with that episode.) Archer, T'Pol and Reed
Trip there, but quickly realize that the person claiming to be Charles
Tucker III is anything but.
"Trip", or rather the being inhabiting him, gently tells Archer
Trip's experiencing existence at the moment as a noncorporeal being,
able to experience things he'd never have the chance to otherwise.
"He," in the meantime, gets to experience what it must have been like
for his ancestors -- food, gender, and other facets of corporeal
existence. He offers this same "crossing" to the rest of the crew, and
when Archer insists on the return of his ship and his crewman,
delivers both in short order. Enterprise is released (although engines
and weapons are still down), and Trip is returned, enthusiastic about
the whens and wheres he's experienced and eager to convince others
Up until this point, I was buying into the episode quite handily.
the idea of energy beings is awfully old hat for Trek, but the idea
it'd be this new for the crew is a new one and an intriguing one --
I thought the various temptations for the crew had the potential to be
very interesting as well. (I mean, let's face it, the
body gambit was done by Sargon et al. back in TOS, but there wasn't
much appeal on the human side there -- you get to live life in a giant
ping-pong ball. No thanks. :-)
Unfortunately, not long after this the episode chooses one of the
original and less entertaining ways to proceed. Phlox reports that one
of the entities tried (and failed) to merge with him, and Reed has a
run-in with one as well. In what's got to be one of the goofier chase
sequences of all time, Reed flees from this wisp of smoke in terror,
and is then taken over.
Yep, you guessed it -- it's full-on body-snatchers time from here
out. There's nothing wrong with that -- particularly given the state
the country and of the world right now, it should be easy to put
together something to play off people's paranoia about the unknown.
Trek's done some nice work with that motif in the past -- DS9's
"Whispers" comes to mind as a near-perfect example (though it
helped that it used O'Brien, the classic everyman).
Unfortunately, here that atmosphere was mostly blunted, for several
reasons. First, the creatures' actions once they take someone over
were just depressingly mundane. What does faux-Reed do, for
instance? He leers over a woman in the turbolift, then goes to T'Pol's
quarters and asks her to take off her clothes, reminding her that
the most attractive woman on board. Apart from a quick "like hell she
is -- both of the women you passed a scene ago were lots cuter," my
main reaction here was "ah -- of course, it all comes down to sexual
dominance. What else does this show *ever* do in times like these?"
There were easy ways to set something like this up -- for example,
since Reed's got a certain attraction to T'Pol himself, if we'd seen
the entities acted on their host's own nascent longings that'd make
some sense. (It'd still be the usual "no, we want you to look at
dammit" beating over the head, but at least it'd be better grounded.)
The second is that frankly, no one ever seems all *that* worried
except on rare occasions. Yes, once Archer sends out security teams
Travis does wonder how we know *they're* okay, and yes, Hoshi
gets to be a bit concerned -- but there really weren't any "I don't
who to trust and am going nuts" moments that an approach like this
really invites. Probably the closest one came when Archer talks to
Hoshi, only to find that she's been turned -- but even then he just
becomes his usual shake-people-around-to-show-anger self, not
especially unnerved or panicked.
That said, Berman and Braga also went out of their way to have the
characters react somewhat intelligently to the whole problem. Archer
almost immediately puts Phlox and T'Pol to work finding a way to tell
whether someone's been compromised or not, and the instant Travis
accidentally discovers that the catwalk appears to be shielded from
these entities, he orders command functions transferred there and
evacuates the intact population to the catwalk. (Fortunately, the warp
engines are still offline, so there's no danger there.)
After that, since the entities have little to no way of getting at
episode turns into a waiting game, where our heroes have to find a
way of reclaiming their people and getting away safely. (Impulse
engines are ready, so they can leave whenever, but Archer's not
prepared to leave his people behind.) T'Pol, reasoning that they need
to know the aliens' intentions, proposes to leave the catwalk and
one to "attack" her. She argues to Archer that her own mental
discipline should allow her to resist -- and insists that he trust her
judgment. As much as I'd have liked it if she'd referenced the fact
in "Fusion" she *did* resist the mental intrusion of another, and thus
has a little bit of evidence for her faith, this worked well enough.
(Archer could also have thrown "yes, well, you didn't think they were
hostile" in her face as a way of questioning that same judgment, but
Sure enough, T'Pol's idea pans out, and she quickly finds that
entities are all about to die when their ship breaks up -- and that
they're trying to save at least 82 of them by taking over this crew
instead. Archer, suspecting that they couldn't survive in a dead host,
decides to flood the ship with carbon dioxide and cause respiratory
failure in the affected crew. More or less medically insane, but okay,
That brings us to the last act of the show, which I think made two
grave mistakes, mostly by focusing too much on some things and not
enough on others. Since Phlox, who's immune, is the only one who
can walk through the main section of the ship freely, we get to spend
at least half the act having Archer and T'Pol walk him through
Starship Ventilation 101, where he has to open panels, pull levers,
turn valves under their direction. All very useful, I suppose, but it
slowed the episode down to a crawl (and no, the "yank on the panel
harder" bit was not overly successful comic relief). And, just to
in an issue that's time-critical, it turns out that Trip was taken
second time sometime before he went into the catwalk with the others,
and he escapes and assaults Phlox, trying to stop him from carrying
out his mission. As such, we get a lengthy struggle about "gasp! will
he turn the valve or won't he?", which was basically just silly rather
than suspenseful. (It was only made sillier by the revelation that in
the 22nd century, carbon dioxide isn't colorless and odorless, but
thick and *misty*!)
Now, I'm perfectly willing to believe that Trip was taken over a
time as a failsafe, but I have a fair amount of difficulty believing
one noticed, especially since *anyone* with an ounce of brains in that
situation is going to test everyone right after heading in as a safety
check. There was a nice moment of menace or two, primarily the shot
with Trip standing in the background listening as Archer talks to
Phlox, but it felt like a substantial reach. (How much better if Trip
were simply so affected by what he'd experienced that he were
throwing his lot in with them *willingly*, or if they'd left some sort
of posthypnotic command that let him be himself and yet follow their
Much more of an issue, however, is that the focus on every last
of their escape utterly ducks the ramifications of Archer's actions.
We discover that the aliens are doing this as an act of self-
preservation, and when Archer destroys the ship it's very possible
he's flat-out committing genocide at that moment. Is it possible to
claim self-defense? Sure -- but the choice to end the episode about
ten seconds after the ship's destroyed means there's no chance for
soul-searching. We have no idea whether, for example, Archer feels
remotely guilty about having to kill hundreds of sentient beings at a
stroke, or whether T'Pol feels any attempt should have been made to
repair the aliens' ship first. There's a decided moral callousness
this particular episode -- I don't think it's intentional, but it
doesn't sit well in light of the "don't be so quick to judge just
they're different" theme we got fifteen minutes in.
There are some individual moments that stand out as fairly
-- faux-Hoshi's lure of Phlox into her quarters for an attack worked
fairly well, for instance, and the quiet scene in the mess hall where
Phlox and T'Pol surreptitiously pick out two compromised people.
Overall, however, "The Crossing" shifts focus so many times that it
winds up something of a mess.
-- The critters, by their own claims, "live in subspace." I thought
left ideas like that behind back with TNG and Voyager. (What with
the "Schisms" aliens and other races as well, subspace is getting
-- As goofy as Reed's "run away from the wisp" scene was, I
definitely liked the fact that he initially spotted it in a
not sure why -- it just worked well visually.
-- I liked faux-Rostov's "I have no idea how to do that" when Trip
asks him about priming the pumps. He just seemed so unconcerned.
-- So did Trip just leave the catwalk permanently set up as a
command location? I seem to recall that back in "The Catwalk,"
setting everything up took hours if not longer. Leaving it set up but
inactive is a fairly good idea, so I'm perfectly happy to believe it
done -- but it would be nice for things like that to get mentioned
in a while.
-- How exactly do the real Reed, Hoshi, etc. know to return?
I think that about does it. I enjoyed "The Crossing" more than I
"Canamar," mostly because it at least had some ambitions early on,
but I'm still waiting for a real winner. Here's hoping one comes along
So, to sum up:
Writing: Good sense-of-wonder stuff at the beginning, but then it
Directing: Some directors do "creepy" pretty well -- alas, this week
David Livingston wasn't one of them.
Acting: Occasional moments, but fairly middle-of-the-road.
OVERALL: 5.5, based mostly on the first 15-20 minutes. Somewhat
okay, but far from wonderful.
Archer faces a Klingon tribunal.
Tim Lynch (Castilleja School, Science Department)
"You claim to be an explorer, Captain -- open your mind to new
Copyright 2003, Timothy W. Lynch. All rights reserved, but feel free
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