181[ENT] Jammer's Review: "The Crossing"
- Apr 9, 2003Warning: This review contains significant spoilers. If you haven't seen the
episode yet, beware.
In brief: Early promise that quickly gives way to an overbaked stew of
Plot description: Upon encountering an alien vessel, the Enterprise crew
must determine the motives of its non-corporeal inhabitants, which can take
control of human bodies.
Enterprise: "The Crossing"
Airdate: 4/2/2003 (USA)
Teleplay by Rick Berman & Brannon Braga
Story by Rick Berman & Brannon Braga & Andre Bormanis
Directed by David Livingston
Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan
Rating out of 4: **
"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
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
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.
Copyright 2003 Jamahl Epsicokhan. All rights reserved.
Unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this article is prohibited.
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Jamahl Epsicokhan - jammer@...