Monday, September 26, 2022

Enterprise, Season 2: The Crossing

Enterprise, Season 2
"The Crossing"
April 2, 2003
43 of 97 aired
43 of 97 produced


Enterprise is swallowed by a giant alien spaceship, and the non-corporeal inhabitants of that ship start taking over the bodies of the Enterprise crew.

Trip zonks out on some Old Toby, the finest pipe-weed in the Southfarthing.


Kevin: The possession episode is a classic Trek story. I won't spend time citing examples because there are just too many. The flavor of this story feels very TOS to me, and it's a fertile one. There's the gap between the understanding of the crew and the wisp that should be a fun jumping off point for a story. I think this episode is ultimately a misfire though. The best way I can describe it is that the dials are not correctly calibrated. The first problem is that we don't really spend any time getting a sense of what the wisps are like normally. They don't even get their own name, just adopting the description the crew gives them. There's a fun idea in there that could have been teased out. Why would a non-corporeal species even need a name? That could have been the jumping off point to try to bridge that gap. Instead, it just keeps them opaque. They don't seem to have their own culture or values, beyond kind of academically discussing human habits. 

Matthew: What completely baffled me is that these non-corporeal beings 1. have a spaceship; and 2. can't be exposed to open space. Whaaa? How did they get to Enterprise, then, on the numerous occasions they went EVA to join with crew members? What is "open space," anyway? A particular form of radiation? A vacuum? Or is it any location in our normal universe? If this were part of some lie that moves that plot (e.g. TNG "Power Play"), that would be one thing. But the story presents these ideas at face value. As far as whether the episode explored ideas well enough, I was annoyed that we got idyllic descriptions of Trip visiting girlfriends, Earth locales, childhood memories, and that we didn't get to see any of this. This story framework is a perfect opportunity to deepen characters with flashback, as well as to render the aliens participating or observing these memories. Why not sell us the viewers on the experience, to underscore why it might be tempting? I will also just briefly reiterate my objection to minds existing outside of bodies, but the ship has sailed on that one.

Kevin: The next issue is that the reveal comes too early. They don't even make a play at the idea of respecting the crew's autonomy. We know they aren't going to give the crew back pretty much in act one. I'm not saying that sudden but inevitable betrayal is a better story; it's certainly not an original one. But here again, the gap could have spurred a more interesting exploration. What is bodily autonomy and consent to a non-corporeal creature. They did a good job of setting up a truly alien alien and then didn't exploration the obvious follow-up questions.

Matthew: I agree the plot twist came a bit quickly, and the solution would have been to experience things through the crew's eyes for longer. Drawing out the mystery could have allowed more time for explanation, as well. I did like the callback to "Catwalk," though - when they went up there I was like "why are there bunk beds still installed? But then hey, the used them, and using standing sets again in rational ways always pleases me.

Kevin: My final and largest problem is the solution. Archer destroying the ship is almost world-breaking. The Crystalline Entity swallowed whole worlds, and we got the ethical debate of the right to exist and comparisons to whales in "Silicon Avatar." Even Power Play, a fun action story but a not super deep episode, sends the prisoners back rather than kill them. They apparently will die without corporeal bodies because their ship is breaking down. I'll set aside why a non-corporeal being needs a ship, but the bigger problem is that the obvious Trek story is the crew feeling compelled to help, even in light of their previous actions, and someone advising caution given that behavior. This episode is basically primed for a debate between Phlox on the side of 'all life has a right to exist' and T'Pol on the side of 'the needs of the many." Instead, we just blow up the ship. 

Matthew: The fact that they didn't offer to help irked me as well. As far as destroying the ship, that did seem relatively organic (the wisps seemed implacably determined to violate the Enterprise and its crew, and did not seem amenable to any negotiation), but it needed the "I hate to do this" line. As with many scripts, it seems like there were one or two missing rounds of editing by a caretaker of the franchise. I used to think that caretaker was Berman, but now it seems like it must have been Piller, Moore, or Taylor.


Kevin: There are fun moments to be had, and I think they are all in the acting. The possessed crew members exploring humanity and physicality was well done, and everyone seemed to have fun playing the transitions. It's not Shakespeare, but everyone did a good job. I didn't like the tone on the bridge at the end. T'Pol and Archer aren't even playing it as a regretful decision. They're playing it as Bruce Willis kicking Alan Rickman off Nakatomi Plaza.

Matthew: Yeah, and he usually does seem constipated with regret of some kind.  Anyhow, the two actors who got the most to do were Dominic Keating and Connor Trinneer. Keating was really creepy when he was leering at female crew members, and I wanted to blow a whistle or something when he was in T'Pol's quarters. Trinneer tried to sell the experience of being with the whisps, and if we had just been given a scene in their realm (yes, I know it costs money) the story could have worked much better.

Production Values

Kevin: This wasn't a great episode on this front. I liked the attempt at the cavernous shuttle bay on the ship, but the color and shape just made it really flat against the background. The wisps themselves were fine, but not more than that. We've been doing wisps of light as powerful beings on Trek for decades, so I don't think there's anything special left there.

Matthew: The mega ship design was fine enough, but indeed the quality of the lighting in the CGI was just not there. It was very mid-grade video game quality. The episode was really a bottle show with one or two alien ship effects. I did enjoy the views we got of various Enterprise sets.


Kevin: This was a 3 until the end. Blowing up the ship and the way it was staged just really got under my skin. It was a fine but unremarkable episode up to that, where the worst you could say is that it was cribbing other, better stories. But then they killed a bunch of sentient beings that as far as I can tell were taking desperate actions out of desperate circumstances with no acknowledgement of the moral complications of those facts. This exact story on Discovery would trigger a homily on how real Star Trek is dead. I'm not saying you can't have Archer successfully make the argument that they are too powerful to help, but that's not the story they told. The story they told gets a 2 from me.

Matthew:  Well, I've given episodes of Discovery and Picard 3's for baseline entertainment value despite problems of portraying the world ethos of Star Trek. The conclusion of this episode was a misstep to be sure, but that misstep is a rare one in the context of a show that generally "gets it." I think the basics of possession and trying to avoid it were entertaining, but with that said, I have too many unanswered questions to go with a 3 here, and thus I agree with the 2 for a total of 4.


  1. I usually watch this one when it comes up. But it may be because it largely slips my mind. It's a pretty forgettable episode. As you point out, the aliens have no real culture or history, and we don't get any strong crew developments.

    1. Yeah, I'm sort of losing patience for "this setup would have allowed for great character development, but they did action scenes instead."