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[ENT] Jammer's Review: "The Crossing"

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  • Jamahl Epsicokhan
    Warning: 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
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 9 8:43 PM
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      Warning: 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
      routine silliness.

      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
      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.

      -----
      Copyright 2003 Jamahl Epsicokhan. All rights reserved.
      Unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this article is prohibited.

      Star Trek: Hypertext - http://www.st-hypertext.com/
      Jamahl Epsicokhan - jammer@...
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