Star Trek: Enterprise: The Crossing   Rewatch 
May 27, 2019 2:22 AM - Season 2, Episode 18 - Subscribe

Enterprise meets Starfleet's first incorporeal aliens.

Memory Alpha is pretty wispy itself, this time:

Background information
> This is the first appearance of Crewman Michael Rostov since "Two Days and Two Nights", in the first season of Enterprise. This episode also marks the final appearance of Rostov on the series, although he is later mentioned in the third season episodes "The Forgotten" and "E²".
> The fact that the secondary bridge was left in the catwalk after the episode "The Catwalk" may demonstrate the original Starfleet concept of a battle bridge or Auxiliary Control Center.
> This episode was nominated for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Special Visual Effects for a Series.
> This episode marks the first chronological appearance of a non-corporeal lifeform.

Memorable quotes
"I understand how you may be frightened by all this. Losing your substance, existing as perceptive energy. But you'll be grateful once you've made the crossing, I promise you."
"We're kind of fond of our substance!"
- Wisp-alien in Hoshi Sato's body and Archer

"I've reached the access tube, captain."
"Good. Now pull off the panel."
(Phlox strains to remove the panel.)
"It's not coming off."
"It'll come off. You just need to use a little muscle."
(He tries again, grunting, but the panel still won't come off.)
"I've used every muscle I've got – it won't budge."
"Try using your foot for leverage."
(Phlox tries one more time and the panel comes off, sending him tumbling backwards with the panel in his hands.)
"Good suggestion."
- Phlox and Archer

This Week In:
* Pointless STO Comparisons: Though incorporeal alien jerkass entities (or IAJE) are a staple of Trek canon, they are dissatisfying to fight and are therefore almost entirely absent from the MMO. (Q is the big exception: he’s behind all the holiday events, meaning that attacks by animated snowmen are a yearly event in the war-torn 25th century Federation.)
* Vulcans Are Superior: T’Pol invokes this trope deliberately, claiming Vulcans have stronger minds. She follows up on it successfully, though not easily.
* Non-Catastrophic Equipment Failures: Phlox has an awful lot of trouble with the panels in the climax.
* Aliens Outclass Enterprise: The aliens explicitly compare humans to their ancestors. Though they were lying about their motivations, this much seems plausible given their superior tech.

Poster’s Log:
As mentioned above, IAJEs are a cliche in the Trek ‘verse. Kirk and the gang encountered them repeatedly, incuding discovering that Jack the Ripper was actually one of them. TNG leaned on this hard too, ranging from Q to less powerful ones like the Paxans. DS9 narrowed their playing field considerably, but IAJEs drove a bunch of the plot in the form of the Prophets and the Pagh Wraiths. VOY didn’t touch this as much, but these encounters are still routine.

ENT pretty much had to go here. It also made sense that ENT, depicting the first humans to have to deal with this shit, would have absolutely no idea what to do. Some of what happened was all right. Decisions I agree with included but are not limited to:

- Using Phlox for a lot of the action.
- Trip’s initial body switch was pretty effective. (I even laughed at the alien repeating ‘wisp’ over and over when it liked the word.)
- Going back to ‘the catwalk is extra shielded’ was a decent bit of internal continuity.
- The aliens and their ship looked pretty good.

I have three big problems with the proceedings though:
* Reed’s skeevy creeper scene.

I’m not going to go over anything Reed said specifically because no just no. What I will say is that it was not merely gross, but nonsensical: creeping out the crew undercut the IAJE’s basic argument of ‘trust us meatbags, we’ll totally return your bodies in mint condition, we just want to try the buffet.’

The whole thing should’ve been skipped on every level, not just for the stinging misogyny on display.

* Nobody was paranoid.

Bodysnatcher plots revolve around paranoia. If there are doppelgangers or puppetmasters or demonic possessions or whatever, everybody should be on guard. Hardly anybody in the episode assumed weird behavior might be the aliens controlling someone, making me wonder if the writers are bad at object permanence, or if we're supposed to assume Archer simply did not inform the crew about what was happening. (I favor the 'object permanence' one since even T'Pol doesn't deduce it quickly when Reed enters her quarters.)

* Archer was suspicious too fast.

Archer really should’ve been curious about those guys even if he was afraid. Honestly, he should’ve been curious about those guys even while he was trying to kill them. I mean, empirical evidence of ‘corporeal beings can convert themselves into pure energy and possibly live forever’ has enormous philosophical implications that are completely glossed over here. That's a tough one for my willing suspension of disbelief. (Similar revelations were game-changing in the competing Stargate franchise in this era, a view I found much more plausible.)

T’Pol argues in favor of at least entertaining the possibility they’re on the level, and that would've been good for the story. Finding out the IAJEs were creeps should’ve unfolded over a slightly longer timeframe to add some dramatic tension and, frankly, reduce the show’s reflexive xenophobia. Archer’s log mentions something about “I hope I don’t mistrust them just because they’re so different,” but it’s clear he does, and that shouldn’t have been borne out.

One thing that might have improved the script was sticking to Trip’s formula for the aliens for a little bit: Trip’s IAJE appealed to their sense of exploration and tried to depict itself as being fundamentally like them, which was a very sensible tactic. They should’ve stuck with that longer, then maybe had the crew catch the aliens doing something suspicious after all and switched over to Hoshi's creepy menacing behavior afterward.

IMO, this episode could have been great if not for these glaring issues. The SFX really were good, and the opening act was very impressive.
posted by mordax (15 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I was really hoping that this episode was going to lean into the idea that Archer is maybe not the best explorer. It could have been one of those episodes where the crew gets experience with just how different alien life can be, and open up some minds and ideas to what it means to encounter new life and new civilizations. Once it became clear the aliens were hostile, I was at least hoping for the Trek-type ending of the situation being resolved with the crew offering assistance for the problem the aliens had instead of blowing them up.

Anyways, there was potential here, but it got squandered. The stuff with Reed was cringe-worthy. And I was left to wonder why the aliens didn't do a mass takeover, of all of the crew at once, instead of piece-meal.

I did like them exploring the fact that Phlox and T'Pol might respond differently to this type of alien body-snatching, and making use of those differences.
posted by nubs at 8:27 AM on May 27, 2019 [1 favorite]

Star Trek: Enterprise: Archer is maybe not the best explorer.

(I'm now picturing an opening credits sequence where the crew of the NX-01 are fucking up, set to the exact same theme song: that scene where Reed gets a spike through his leg, Reed and Trip getting rolled, shuttles crashing, etc.)
posted by mordax at 10:08 AM on May 27, 2019 [5 favorites]

(I'm now picturing an opening credits sequence where the crew of the NX-01 are fucking up, set to the exact same theme song: that scene where Reed gets a spike through his leg, Reed and Trip getting rolled, shuttles crashing, etc.)

Final scene of final episode is Crewman Rostov closing down his future version of powerpoint and saying to a lecture hall full of cadets:

"As you can see, space exploration is dangerous. For the remainder of this course, I will be talking to you about the various protocols and rules that Starfleet has developed, based on the experiences of Enterprise and the debriefings that I and the other survivors were able to give."
posted by nubs at 10:20 AM on May 27, 2019 [3 favorites]

IAJE is a fine acronym and I shall endeavor to use it from now on. They do indeed have a long history in Trek; occasionally they can be benevolent (IABE?), as with Zefram Cochrane's Companion in "Metamorphosis", they usually either predate directly on corporeal beings, as with Jack the Ripper/Redjac in "Wolf in the Fold" and the hate-vampire in "Day of the Dove", or will sometimes decide that their own survival is more important than that of the corporeal beings that they discover. Still, there's some room to do some interesting things with the concept; as you noted, they should have been more paranoid, as this essentially became a body-snatcher episode, and one way that the writers could have gone with this is to make the fact that the possessed crewmembers didn't have the memories of the real crew more of a standardized test; can you tell me something about yourself or your job? And follow that with some of the possessed trying to fake it by reading their personal logs, and maybe blurting out something that the real crew wouldn't have wanted made public.

Also agree about noping possessed-Reed's skeevy creeper scene. It's just a reminder that B&B try to retroactively heterosexualize Reed by having him act out the worst sort of heterosexual behavior, even if in this case it's due to the IAJE. By contrast, Trip's trying the entire buffet reminds me a lot of Tom Paris doing something similar in VOY's "Vis á Vis", another bodysnatcher episode. Also, too, I really liked the design of the alien ship.
posted by Halloween Jack at 10:46 AM on May 27, 2019 [1 favorite]

A thing that bugged me about the intro: the alien ship swallows the Enterprise, then Archer, Reed and Trip take the shuttle down to the floor of the interior, where it lands, and they get out and walk around a bit.

Meantime, the Enterprise is hanging in the space above them.

So, what's the gravity doing?
posted by zadcat at 6:57 PM on May 27, 2019 [2 favorites]

Watching it again I'm reminded of another quibble: when Archer and T'Pol are instructing Phlox remotely on adjusting the gas valves, they say "three o'clock position" and "nine o'clock position" although there's no sign of analog clocks on the ship and Phlox, as a Denobulan, wouldn't have the cultural reference to be familiar with the meaning.

(Yes, I'm a hoot at movie watching parties, too.)
posted by zadcat at 8:05 PM on May 27, 2019 [3 favorites]

And follow that with some of the possessed trying to fake it by reading their personal logs, and maybe blurting out something that the real crew wouldn't have wanted made public.

Hah. Now that? That would've been fun.

It's just a reminder that B&B try to retroactively heterosexualize Reed by having him act out the worst sort of heterosexual behavior

Yeah, this also is a good point, and even more depressing after a little thought because it gets back to 'how do we make a better world if we can't even imagine one?' The idea people would still need to be closeted in the future is... blergh.

Plus, I was torn about 'does this need a CW?' (I opted for not mostly because T'Pol herself never appeared to be agitated, but it was close given the language.)

So, what's the gravity doing?

I'd assume they had some kind of force/tractor docking system, as this isn't their first time abducting people.

(Yes, I'm a hoot at movie watching parties, too.)

Then truly, you have found your people here. Post long, and prosper.
posted by mordax at 8:43 PM on May 27, 2019 [2 favorites]

This episode was pretty forgettable, so I don't have much to say about it other than that I like the image of a huge ship swallowing up Enterprise.

But I do want to say that I'm super excited to talk about Klingons next week. Judgment marks a kind of turning point for the second season in my mind. The show picks up after this point. Other than a couple of real duds (like the Mayweather episode, ugh), I think the rest of the episodes are at least sufficiently interesting to inspire some good conversation.
posted by painquale at 10:02 PM on May 27, 2019 [1 favorite]

Well, hang on. Creepers exist. And the alien in Reed was positively restrained in his approach to T'Pol.

We know sentient beings will make passes, is it now considered wrong to show this? Given this, T'Pol handles herself outstandingly well – doesn't panic, speaks calmly, calls for help. At no point does the Reed alien do anything besides talk. We even know from the original Trek that Vulcans can be attractive to humans (was Christine Chapel "creeping" on Spock?) and that, in some cases, it could be mutual (Sarek and Amanda and, arguably, T'Pol and Trip).

Was Reed established to be gay, later? I don't get "retroactively heterosexualize" Reed. He was established in previous episodes to be highly repressed generally but also to find T'Pol attractive. If it's fan headcanon to assume Reed is gay, that's one thing, but you can't impose that in your demands on the actual show.
posted by zadcat at 8:22 AM on June 23, 2019

Was Reed established to be gay, later? I don't get "retroactively heterosexualize" Reed.

It's the writers who tried to retroactively heterosexualize him. There was lots of fan speculation early on in the show's run that Reed was gay, but that wasn't what the writers intended so they started giving him lines that asserted his heterosexuality. Those made him more aggressively sexual than Star Trek normally is and they seemed false given the presumed intent of the writers. So, the creeper vibe stuck to him. In this context, the aliens using Reed instead of another crew member to mack on T'Pol does not feel like an accident.

The writers eventually relented, and although Reed never explicitly comes out, there are some unambiguous winks and nods in seasons 3 and 4 to him being gay. They're usually played for comedy. Because of all this, Reed ends up being a hugely inconsistent character. Any consistent reading of him - being straight or gay or repressed or whatever - requires ignoring certain scenes and imposing headcanon demands on the show.
posted by painquale at 11:04 AM on June 23, 2019 [1 favorite]

Fans may have wanted Reed to be gay but he was not given a gay persona or habits, as far as I can recall. I also don't remember him doing anything aggressive. There's some stuff in Shuttlepod One, when he and Trip share the bottle of booze, and he admits out loud that he finds T'Pol attractive, and then when the wisp alien inhabits him it seems he still does. He and Trip are both intent on picking up women in the silly episode set on Risa. I believe I've seen all the episodes at least once and I don't recall anything more aggressive than this.

Yes, the writers could've written Reed better and one of the reasons for his repressed character could've been that he was gay, but it seems to me the writers thought it was because that he was British from a cold, stiff-upper-lip family.
posted by zadcat at 8:02 AM on June 24, 2019

And the alien in Reed was positively restrained in his approach to T'Pol.

We know sentient beings will make passes, is it now considered wrong to show this?

For me, it's the fact that the show has a near-certain set of constants around this: Tripp will get in trouble, somehow, over alien sexuality and T'Pol will be the one that gets hit on, either by a crew member or a guest, and sometimes quite uncomfortably. It's old, tired, and predictable at this point, plus I think there are plenty of ways to make this alien takeover creepy and threatening without the need for sexualization. If the writers do want to go this way, change it up - have someone hit on Reed. Or Hoshi. Or Mayweather. Or Phlox. I don't care what gender mix gets used. It would really push my comfort meter around questions of consent, but it could even be made clear that two of the crew who were taken over at one point got together.

As far as Reed being gay, I can only shrug - my initial read on him was as someone more asexual than anything, but then it felt like they started working hard to make sure we knew he was hetero. Frankly, having him asexual/gay/bi would make him a more interesting character.
posted by nubs at 8:32 AM on June 24, 2019

Most of the references to Reed being gay are admittedly fourth-wall-breaking jokes that rely on the audience knowing about the rumors. The look that Hoshi and Mayweather give each other when future-Reed's fate is revealed in . A truly funny edit in the kitchen of the final episode. The way that Reed's relationship with Hayes is juxtaposed against T’Pol’s relationship with Trip in Harbinger. There's definitely authorial intent behind these nods; it's open to interpretation whether the writers are hinting that Malcolm is gay or whether they're just slyly acknowledging fan reception.
posted by painquale at 9:08 AM on June 24, 2019

I came up with "retroactively heterosexualize" largely on account of DS9, which had at least two friendships (Garak/Bashir, Kira/Jadzia) that had tremendous interpersonal chemistry, much more so than any of the heterosexual relationships that the various characters were shoehorned into, with the possible exception of Jadzia and Worf, and Jadzia had by that point been established as bi/pansexual. Especially regrettable was that the show took pains to establish Kira's mirror-universe counterpart, the Intendant, to be pansexual and voraciously sexual, even making a not-so-subtle pass at prime universe Kira. Later, the Intendant would reveal a relationship with mirror-Ezri, who in the prime universe was Dax's next host (and who likewise had great chemistry with Kira). So, on the show there was one legitimately LGBT character (Jadzia) and a lot of teasing of mirror-universe pairs, strictly female, of course. VOY had zero (although there was another tease when Kes was possessed by the mind of a male alien) and ENT has nobody that I can remember, although at least they acknowledge that there can be more than one gender (that discussion should drop today).

Anyway, yes, it's all very subjective and refuted by canon, although that's really germane to the point, I think--that it was pointedly refuted by canon.
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:30 AM on June 24, 2019

Kinda unintentionally dark comedy about how creepy alien!Reed could get before other people assumed it wasn't really him.

Seems bad we only get to hear Trip's decorporealized fantasies.
posted by fleacircus at 4:28 AM on October 31, 2019

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