Tuesday, July 23, 2013

One Of The More Original Possession Episodes Initially, “The Crossing” Becomes Painfully Familiar!

The Good: Decent concept, Good special effects, Moments of performance
The Bad: Creates some pretty huge continuity problems for the franchise.
The Basics: “The Crossing” is a straightforward possession episode that introduces an incorporeal life form to Enterprise!

In the Star Trek franchise, like so many science fiction shows and series’ fall back on the tried and true plot of a possession episode. There is nothing inherently wrong with possession episodes, but more often than not, they follow a predictable pattern, especially with the reversals that come when people who are not previously possessed become taken over. “The Crossing” is the first major, crew wide, possession episode of Enterprise and while it starts as a potentially creative and compelling episode, it quickly degenerates into something unfortunately familiar.

Before the episode makes its intent completely clear, the show appears like it might be a very pure Star Trek episode working to present an exploration episode that is strongly science fiction. Star Trek did plenty of possession episodes, like “Wolf In The Fold” (reviewed here!) and “Metamorphosis” (reviewed here!). “The Crossing” initially seems like it might be shaking up the familiar formula by presenting characters more like those from “Return To Tomorrow” (reviewed here!) who actually might want to simply explore, but the show mortgages that in favor of the familiar and creepy.

The Enterprise is cruising through space when it encounters a massive vessel that is traveling at warp, without emitting a warp signature. The Enterprise is taken into the other vessel and they are unable to scan outside the ship or creature to understand if they are still at warp. The ship’s engines go offline and when Archer, Reed, and Tucker leave the ship to walk around the life form, Tucker is penetrated by a glowing light and he believes he was in Florida for the duration of its contact with him. Soon, the alien lights are infiltrating the ship and Tucker is possessed by one again. Almost instantly, though, other members of the Engineering crew realize something is wrong with Tucker. Tucker goes to the dining hall where he begins to binge and he seems amazed by very common foods.

Tucker reveals that he is actually an alien inhabiting the body of Trip. When Tucker is returned to his body, he describes an incredible experience of being elsewhere. While Tucker works to get the ship back online, T’Pol tries to convince Archer that the incorporeal life forms might just have been honest when they said they were explorers. But when Phlox is concerned that one of the energy life forms tried to penetrate him and Reed is inhabited, Archer’s worst fears are realized. As the crew is possessed by the life forms, T’Pol, Archer and Phlox work to resist the aliens.

“The Crossing” is hampered more by situational and directoral predictability than anything else. So, for example, David Livingston frames and reveals the possessed Sato in the most obvious possible way and Linda Park telegraphs the reveal with a dead-eyed expression that guts the moment of even the pretense of surprise. Moreover, once the episode takes a turn toward the formulaic possession plot, it turns surprisingly horrifically away from being Star Trek.

The writing in “The Crossing” does not make the aliens into a clear villain, which is fine especially at the beginning of the episode. When Trip encounters the life forms, he has a seemingly benign experience and actually is pretty excited by the first contact. It is only Archer’s perspective that this alien race is a menace to the ship that shifts the demeanor and nature of the first contact. That makes the aliens seem far less villainous and more like Archer is an ass. It is only after Archer rejects the benign advance of the aliens that they react in a sinister way.

At that moment in the episode, “The Crossing” transforms from something that could be smart and cerebral into a pretty typical and surprisingly lowbrow. Trip describes something akin to an out-of-body experience that is entirely pleasant to him; Archer responds by demanding the aliens leave and out come the phase pistols and lots of running, jumping, and ridiculousness.

Equally problematic are the episode’s effects as a mechanic for the possession. When the aliens possess a human, there is no indication of their (for lack of a better term) soul. And yet, before any of the aliens leave their human hosts, an energy creature is seen entering before another energy creature exits. So, scenes like Sato becoming possessed while on the bridge make no rational sense; there should have been the light discharge from the alien arriving and Sato’s “spirit” leaving. It makes no sense for there to be an exiting spirit only when the host is reclaimed by its innate personality.

Such minutiae end up not mattering; the episode sinks fast into the mundane and the mechanics become less problematic than the broad strokes. “The Crossing” is one of those great episodes to point to that illustrates that Star Trek was left in the hands of people who had nothing new to say and little care for treading where the franchise, indeed almost all science fiction, had already gone before.

The three biggest gaffes in “The Crossing:”
3. If the Enterprise encountered a giant living ship, how is it still a novelty 100 and 200 years later? How is it that this alien race is never seen again if it is so close to the core of the Federation?,
2. If the NX-01 Enterprise encountered an incorporeal life form, how is it a novelty for the NCC-1701 Enterprise? Moreover, how have they not developed sensors to detect just such life forms?!,
1. Despite their methods, the aliens in “The Crossing” are just trying to survive. The resolution to the episode (spoiler alert!) makes Archer into anything but a StarFleet captain. In fact, he’s guilty of homicide, if not outright genocide. This is not entertaining to watch.

[Knowing that single episodes are an inefficient way to get episodes, it's worth looking into Star Trek: Enterprise - The Complete Second Season on DVD or Blu-Ray, which is also a better economical choice than buying individual episodes. Read my review of the sophmore season here!


For other Star Trek episode and movie reviews, please visit my Star Trek Review Index Page!

© 2013 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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