Star Trek: Enterprise: Desert Crossing   Rewatch 
January 14, 2019 12:20 PM - Season 1, Episode 24 - Subscribe

Archer and Tucker are forced to end a game of Geskana early due to a misunderstanding.

Memory Alpha is a little light on details here, but does mention some special guest stars.

Background information:
Production history
> The final draft script of this episode was issued on 6 March 2002.

Production
> This episode's production period included 7 March 2002, which was the date on which the sailors from the Navy vessel Enterprise visited the set. During a break from filming on that day, the three visitors presented a plaque to Executive Producers Rick Berman and Brannon Braga, to thank them for their support and for having invited the officers from the ship to act as extras. The trio of guests also posed for photographs with regular cast members Scott Bakula and Connor Trinneer. (Star Trek: Communicator issue 138, p. 84)

Cast and characters
> John Billingsley (Phlox) does not appear in this episode. This is the first episode in which he does not appear.
> Charles Dennis (Trellit) previously played Sunad, a Zalkonian, in TNG: "Transfigurations".
> Three visiting sailors from the USS Enterprise (CVN-65) (namely, Robert S. Pickering, Sara Elizabeth Pizzo, and Timothy J. Whittington) made cameos in this episode, as engineering officers aboard the starship Enterprise. (Star Trek: Communicator issue 138, p. 84)

Continuity
> Hoshi Sato and T'Pol have a conversation that foreshadows the Prime Directive.
> Although Tucker claims that Xanadu is not a real place while playing Geography, on Titan (a moon of Saturn), an Australia-sized area – notable for being highly reflective – is actually named Xanadu. This site may have been renamed by the 22nd century. It is also possible that Trip was not aware of its existence. There is also a historical site in China that has two names, one Shangdu, the other Xanadu.
> This episode makes references to Star Trek: First Contact as well as to the earlier season one Enterprise outings "Silent Enemy" and "Detained".
> The dialogue in the scene wherein Archer and Tucker play Geography was transferred, almost verbatim, from a deleted scene that had initially intended to be included in "Fight or Flight". In the earlier version of the scene, Archer and Mayweather play the game using many of the same locations cited here and arguing over the validity of Xanadu, just as Tucker and Archer do in this episode.
> The chair that Trellit sits in was reused from the briefing room of Star Trek: Voyager's resident Intrepid-class starship, the USS Voyager.

Reception and aftermath
> In the lead-up to the premiere airing of this episode, Rick Berman called it "undoubtedly one of the best episodes we've done." (Star Trek: Communicator issue 139, p. 11)
> The unofficial reference book Beyond the Final Frontier (p. 369) comments about this installment, "An interesting episode, because unlike a lot of Star Trek, it doesn't judge Zobral – at the end of the episode, he may be a terrorist, he may not be."

Memorable quotes
"Desert, sir? The heat, the dry air? You know how it sucks the life out of me."
- Tucker expresses reluctance to join Archer in the desert

"It's hotter than Hell out there. 41 degrees!"
"It's a dry heat."
- Tucker and Archer

"What are these, uh, little chunks?"
"The essence of the male. Chopped and seasoned."
- Trip Tucker and Zobral

"Please, I wouldn't be a very good host if I allowed you to get killed!"
- Zobral trying to usher Archer and Tucker into a basement when the Torothans begin their attack

"The warp reactor. Break it down for me."
"What?"
"What are the eight major components?"
"You got to be kidding me!"
"Name them… that's an order!"
"Well… there's the drumsticks… thighs… wings… you got anything to eat around here?"
- Archer and a heat-stroked Tucker

This Week In:
* Pointless STO Comparisons: This episode has a lot of plot elements in common with the mission Coliseum, where the player is forced to survive overnight in an alien desert with an ill companion and limited resources.
* Vulcans Are Superior: Vulcan High Command already has protocols for diplomatic contact.
* Non-Catastrophic Equipment Failures: The transporter is useless this time, but they do bother to address the issue, citing interference.
* Aliens Outclass Enterprise: Another week it seems to be averted. No mention of overwhelming firepower on either side, and the plot makes it seem like everybody is roughly technologically par.

Poster’s Log:
As ever, I do have some notes. However, this was a pretty good episode overall, IMO. Specifics:

* It’s That Guy!
I always like seeing Clancy Brown, and it helps that Zobral is such a boisterous presence. Watching him offer Archer and Tucker a dish made out of ‘the essence of the male’ and insist he was ‘easily offended’ was pretty great.

* The discussion of the Prime Directive is as facile as ever.
I used to complain about discussions of the Prime Directive in VOY pretty much every time they came up, but I think ENT is even worse. They keep making ‘oblique’ references to it that someone must have thought were clever, but... gah.
HOSHI: It seems to me that we're going to run into similar problems. We get invited to dinner, and before you know it we're accused of taking sides in a war.
T'POL: Contacting new worlds always involves unexpected risks. The High Command has very specific protocols regarding planetary conflicts. Eventually, Captain Archer will have to create some directives of his own.
That was very frustrating. This was too:
T'POL: What you told him was correct. Decisions to get involved in the conflicts of other worlds should be left to governments, and not starship captains.
ARCHER: I know. The irony is, I have the feeling his cause is worth fighting for.
This exchange is correct, but this being Star Trek, there won’t be any followup, and the episode itself highlights this with the talk of the Suliban: we know nobody’s checked up on them since the escape. No aid offered, no idea where they went, just... nothing. It's annoying to know that this'll be the same.

* The resolution is pretty good for Trek despite the aforementioned problems.
In particular, I like that T’Pol appealed to Zobrol’s sense of honor to get him to help instead of threatening him:
ZOBRAL: I don't have time. My men are waiting for me.
REED: Then they'll have to wait a little longer. You're the one that got our people stranded down there.
ZOBRAL: They are not my responsibility!
T'POL: You're mistaken. The Torothans believe we've joined your cause. If Captain Archer and Commander Tucker are apprehended, they'll undoubtedly be treated as members of your clan. They'll become victims of the same oppression you've been fighting all these years. You should feel as responsible for those two men as you do for your own.
That was a very Trek moment: 'talk stuff out, and people will be reasonable.' I appreciated seeing it.

I also agree with the Memory Alpha notes that it was refreshing to have the story not take a side about who was right. Is Zobral a terrorist? A freedom fighter? It’s disappointing that we’ll never know more, but it’s good the show didn’t leap to any easy answers about it.

* A lot of story elements did click for me.
Archer and Tucker in the desert worked pretty well for me, from them trying to play Geskana to them trying to survive on their own. Dinner with Zobral was perfect.

I also liked the continuity: the idea that people are telling stories about Enterprise and Archer in particular on the basis of prior episodes, and that those stories are pretty wrong, is a fun one.

Overall, good effort. This is the kind of story I was hoping for when ENT was announced.
posted by mordax (7 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
This one's funny to me, because half the time I was genuinely absorbed in a way that ENT had not yet succeeded at very much—the dinner scene, the run up to the climax. The conflict's basis and development is simple but effective, and while it all feels pretty Trek, it DOESN'T feel like a warmed-over TNG episode; somehow, it has a distinctly ENT-ish feel, which as a Trek FF vet helped keep me attentive.

And the other half of the time I was murmuring "Yeah, okay, let's get on with it"—like during the Geskana Beefcake sequence (but at least it wasn't decon gel) and the scene we've seen a million times in every other thing of Archer and Trip crawling through the desert and go on without me, I'm done for and no dammit you're gonna LIVE etc.

I also was pulled out of this one very frequently because Clancy Brown does the voice of Mr. Krabs on Spongebob and he chose to do a similar voice for this character.

This episode has a lot of plot elements in common with the mission Coliseum, where the player is forced to survive overnight in an alien desert with an ill companion and limited resources.

Hah, yeah. That was a good one!
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 12:51 PM on January 14 [3 favorites]


This episode had me as soon as I heard Clancy Brown, who yes does Mr. Krabs, but I will forever think of him as The Kurgan from Highlander ("nuns...no sense of humour").

It could have moved faster, it could have explored a little deeper what happens when, after you've been warned off by the planetary government you go in anyways and shoot at their troops, but this was solid Trek. As Kurt Vonnegut would say "Somebody gets into trouble, then gets out of it again. People love that story. They never get tired of it."

"Contacting new worlds always involves unexpected risks. The High Command has very specific protocols regarding planetary conflicts. Eventually, Captain Archer will have to create some directives of his own."

How about the Vulcans come down off their mountain and share what protocols they have? It might be helpful! The first one should maybe be something about mentioning that the captain of a Starfleet vessel represents their planet but they should not assume the same about everyone they meet. Anyways, come on, we've run into the difficulties of first contact situations before on the show, why isn't there anything being developed yet? And why should Archer do this - shouldn't Starfleet?

This exchange is correct, but this being Star Trek, there won’t be any followup, and the episode itself highlights this with the talk of the Suliban: we know nobody’s checked up on them since the escape. No aid offered, no idea where they went, just... nothing. It's annoying to know that this'll be the same.

This is a grand old Trek tradition, and in some ways I'm grateful for it because it is the absence of follow-up that lets Space Seed grow into Wrath of Khan. Here, to have acknowledgement that their past actions lead to consequences for Enterprise is great, but to not extend that even a sentence further to wonder about the Suliban and note that they are only one ship and they can't followup everything...well, just look at me talk like I should be in the writer's room.

I don't want to gripe too much because I feel like they've strung together 3 pretty solid episodes, so take my comments as small ways I wish the show would improve right now. Hearing Clancy Brown's voice just made the episode for me.
posted by nubs at 1:19 PM on January 14 [4 favorites]


I liked it as well, although I've got one serious gripe with the episode (and with similar ones). But the good stuff first: yep, it handled the question of who's-in-the-right-here well, which is to say, they didn't assume that they could tell who they should be backing (if anyone) going on a couple of calls and an evening spent savoring animal-testicle stew and playing space lacrosse. This is a good connection back to the Bajoran resistance movement as described in DS9, and how, even though which side was right was never really questioned, some of Kira's tactics were, occasionally. And they actually gave us a little bit of continuity, which might (or, rather, could) have significant consequences down the road; besides maybe encouraging other resistance movements to contact them, their helping the Suliban prisoners might also put a dent in the Cabal's plans. (Not sure if this actually plays out.) There's also a bit of survival realism in Archer boiling the water before drinking it.

BUT... that brings up my problem with the episode, which is, once again, the shuttlepods not having any sort of decent survival gear on board. I mean, having a sort of survival kit/bug-out bag that they could have grabbed quickly as they were evacuating the settlement would have made a world of difference, and depending on the conditions out in the desert, they still could have had a rough time out there. (A space blanket--heh heh--would have allowed them to move at night and stay out of the heat of day, but unless it had a "camouflage" side, it would have been easily spotted by the patrols searching for them.) I guess that even some minimal prep for survival situations would have robbed the writers of the chance for some "you go on without me/like hell I wll" cliches. (In fairness, the shuttle in DS9's "The Ascent" is hardly better prepared, with only one cold-weather suit for two people, although in counter-fairness I think that some of the gear may have been destroyed in the crash.) It's not a huge problem, but it might have been better (albeit probably a lot more expensive to film) if they'd had the shuttlepod destroyed before they could grab the bag, and that be the reason for roughing it extra hard.
posted by Halloween Jack at 2:46 PM on January 14 [3 favorites]


Ut, forgot to mention my favorite Clancy Brown role: he does VA for Alec Ryder in Mass Effect: Andromeda. Alec Ryder is the dad of the Ryder twins, one of whom is your player character and the other of whom eventually becomes an NPC. One of the neat features of the game is that the face customization choices that you make for your player character affect how Alec looks. Brown also does voice logs that you unlock throughout the game to find out the sort of strange bedfellows and secret agreements that Alec had to make in order to get the Andromeda Initiative (the project to colonize the Andromeda Galaxy) off the ground, and why it's being done, which ties into the overarching plot of the original game trilogy.
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:16 PM on January 14 [2 favorites]


This one's funny to me, because half the time I was genuinely absorbed in a way that ENT had not yet succeeded at very much—the dinner scene, the run up to the climax. The conflict's basis and development is simple but effective, and while it all feels pretty Trek, it DOESN'T feel like a warmed-over TNG episode; somehow, it has a distinctly ENT-ish feel, which as a Trek FF vet helped keep me attentive.

Yeah. I feel like it actually generated some atmosphere for a change.

How about the Vulcans come down off their mountain and share what protocols they have?

Honestly, I assume they *have*. Note that the ship has most or all of the Vulcan database of local space and they never even look at it until after a crisis has occurred. All the first contact stuff is probably right in, like, Chapter Three and nobody from Earth has even read it yet.

BUT... that brings up my problem with the episode, which is, once again, the shuttlepods not having any sort of decent survival gear on board.

Yep. I wasn't expecting it after learning the shuttles don't come with EV suits in Shuttlepod One, but this is a point that's worth bringing up here too, so thanks. (In the DS9 episode, I did assume the rest of it was lost in the crash. They could've just had the shuttle hit by mortar fire in this episode to get the same effect.)

Also, re: Clancy Brown - it'd be hard for me to pick a favorite. He's always fun. That said, I think I was most surprised to see him as DCAU's longest running Lex Luthor.
posted by mordax at 11:15 AM on January 15 [1 favorite]


Honestly, I assume they *have*. Note that the ship has most or all of the Vulcan database of local space and they never even look at it until after a crisis has occurred. All the first contact stuff is probably right in, like, Chapter Three and nobody from Earth has even read it yet.

Maybe that's my problem; if I was on that ship and had access to that database, it would be what I spent all my time reading. I can't understand why the characters on the show never do.

But I also figure that the Vulcans as currently depicted wouldn't let the opportunity pass for a conversation in which they get to point out that they have developed the protocols & shared them, and that the humans didn't do their homework of reading them and doing some thinking about how these might apply.
posted by nubs at 3:28 PM on January 15 [2 favorites]


OT Trek reference in the news: too cute not to post
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:24 PM on January 18


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