Star Trek: Enterprise Rewatch

Star Trek: Enterprise Rewatch: “Desert Crossing”

“Desert Crossing”
Written by Rick Berman & Brannon Braga & André Bormanis
Directed by David Straiton
Season 1, Episode 24
Production episode 024
Original air date: May 8, 2002
Date: February 12, 2152

Captain’s star log. Archer’s packing for Risa is interrupted by a distress call. They rescue the ship in distress—a one-person craft piloted by a Torothon named Zobral. Zobral is extremely grateful for the repair work Tucker and his crew do, and offers Archer and Tucker a celebratory meal on Torotha. Archer is reluctant to delay their arrival on Risa, but Zobral makes it clear that he’d be really offended if Archer refused.

For some inexplicable reason, the captain goes along with this honorary feast that only includes Archer and Tucker, even though the entire crew is exhausted and needs shore leave. I mean, seriously, at least bring a few more people along instead of making them cool their heels on the ship! Zobral’s clan lives in a desert region, and Tucker is reluctant to go—his memories of desert training at Starfleet Academy aren’t pleasant ones—but Archer bullies him into it in much the same way Zobral bullied Archer.

They arrive on the planet and eat a lovely meal, and also are inveigled into participating in a game of Geskana (which bears at least a passing resemblance to lacrosse). Zobral also offers a gift of a tapestry, and when Archer demurs due to the tapestry’s size, Zobral instead presents him with a small Suliban sculpture.

On Enterprise, they are contacted by a Torothon chancellor, who informs T’Pol that Zobral is a terrorist, and has likely taken Archer and Tucker prisoner. T’Pol contacts Archer and speaks to him privately. Archer makes up an excuse for why he and Tucker have to leave, but Zobral sees through that and begs Archer to stay. They are rebels against an oppressive government that has promised them greater status and greater rights, but failed to deliver on those promises. All attempts at diplomacy have failed, and fighting back has proven necessary—at least, according to him. And Zobral heard tales from Suliban traders about the great Captain Archer and his daring rescue of thousands of Suliban prisoners.

Screenshot: CBS

Before Archer can even reply to that, some Torothon ships bombard the camp. Zobral leads Archer and Tucker to an underground bunker where they’ll be safe, in theory. In practice, the bunker half-collapses, and Archer and Tucker resurface to find the house atop the bunker leveled. There’s no sign of Zobral or his people.

They can’t risk taking the shuttlepod, as the Torothons will detect it, so they take some supplies and head out into the desert to find somewhere else to hide.

The Torothons are jamming communications, so T’Pol can’t reach Archer, and the Torothon chancellor has made it clear that any attempt to rescue them by Enterprise will be viewed as a hostile act.

Tucker does not handle wandering around the desert particularly well, and Archer has to work hard to keep him from lapsing into a coma, including playing the place-name game and trying to get him to name all the parts of a warp engine. (The very hungry Tucker replies with a list of the parts of a chicken.)

Zobral comes to Enterprise, exploiting a gap in the Torothon sensor grid. Reed patiently explains to him that the stories of the rescue of the Suliban prisoners are greatly exaggerated: they freed only eighty-nine prisoners, not thousands, and they didn’t fight off an army, they fought off a dozen prison guards whose hearts weren’t entirely in it.

Zobral does reluctantly agree to help search for Archer and Tucker. He joins the pair of them in the second shuttlepod to search, staying low to the ground to avoid detection by the Torothons.

Screenshot: CBS

A Torothon bomb goes off in the shelter Archer and Tucker have found. They escape before the structure is destroyed, but now are out in the open. However, the shuttle detects the weapons fire and they go to the rescue.

Tucker goes to sickbay, and Zobral prepares to return home. Archer explains that, even if he was the great warrior Zobral thought he was, that isn’t why Enterprise is out there.

The gazelle speech. Archer has to keep Tucker alive and live down his apparent new reputation.

I’ve been trained to tolerate offensive situations. T’Pol does the best she can when she’s in charge of Enterprise, but the Torothons jump immediately to the assumption that Starfleet is aiding Zobral, and nothing T’Pol does can convince them otherwise. However, she does guilt Zobral into helping find Archer and Tucker, since he was responsible for them being in trouble in the first place…

Florida Man. Florida Man Only Survives Desert Thanks To Friend Who Is Much Better At This Sort Of Thing.

Good boy, Porthos! At the top of the episode, Archer is packing for Risa. When the distress call comes in, Archer tells the pooch that his running on the beach will be delayed. Porthos is very forlorn at this news.

Trek-Enterprise-Desert-Crossing-

No sex, please, we’re Starfleet. The Gesanka game is mostly just there as an excuse for Scott Bakula and Connor Trinneer to take their shirts off.

More on this later… Archer hits on the notion of using the phase pistol to heat rocks, providing a heat source. This is seen as a standard practice in the twenty-third and twenty-fourth centuries (for example, in “The Naked Time“).

Sato and T’Pol discuss protocols for dealing with alien species, T’Pol makes a comment that Archer may need to develop some “directives” of his own. Like, maybe a prime one!

I’ve got faith…

“You’re not thinking about helping these people?”

“I was thinking about those Suliban prisoners. If we hadn’t helped them escape, we wouldn’t be in this situation.”

“T’Pol’s ears must be burning. Want your chief engineer’s advice?”

“What is it?”

“Walk away. They lured us down here under false pretenses, and now they’re asking us to help them fight a war? That’s a lot different than breaking a few innocent people out of prison…”

–Tucker and Archer discussing the episode’s main theme.

Screenshot: CBS

Welcome aboard. Charles Dennis, who previously played the snotty alien authority figure in TNG’s “Transfigurations,” plays a snotty alien authority figure here, too.

But the big guest is the great Clancy Brown as Zobral.

Trivial matters: This entire episode is the indirect result of Enterprise’s actions in “Detained“—or, more to the point, the story of their actions in that previous episode…

When asked by Zobral if he ever backed down from a fight, Archer replies with the events of “Silent Enemy.”

This is the first of ten episodes of Enterprise directed by Canadian director David Straiton.

When he’s playing the place-name game with Archer, Tucker insists that Xanadu isn’t a real place, though there is a landmass on Titan that is named Xanadu. That scene was originally written for “Fight or Flight,” but the scene was deleted, so it was recycled here.

Three sailors from the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN-65) visited the set during the filming of this episode. Aviation Electronics Technician 1st Class Robert S. Pickering, Aviation Electrician’s Mate 2nd Class Timothy J. Whittington, and Personnelman 3rd Class Sara Elizabeth Pizzo. They all served as background extras, specifically as members of Tucker’s engineering crew.

Screenshot: CBS

It’s been a long road… “It’s a dry heat.” This is one of the best episodes of the season so far, not because it’s a particularly great episode, but it does what it’s trying to do perfectly.

And it’s a very strong example of sticking to Enterprise’s mission statement of showing humanity’s first tentative steps out into the galaxy and having them slip on a few banana peels as they do so.

The whole thing starts because of what Archer decided to do in “Detained.” Now, despite T’Pol’s caution to him in that episode, what Archer did in “Detained” was absolutely the right thing to do. But even the right thing can have consequences. Zobral pretty obviously set himself up to be helped by Enterprise, deliberately damaging his ship so that Archer would come a-runnin’, and they’d be able to conscript the great warrior to fight for their cause.

What I especially like is that we don’t really know the whole story. Yes, Zobral’s claims that his people are oppressed are very convincing, but rhetoric isn’t evidence. Neither is what the chancellor tells T’Pol. The truth is, they don’t know enough about what’s going on to make any kind of informed decision about the politics and whose side they should be on, if any. And Tucker in particular is right in the bit I quoted in the “I’ve got faith…” section above: Zobral lost a lot of his moral high ground when he lured them there under false pretenses.

This is the second time they’ve dealt with the consequences of a previous episode’s actions, the previous being “Shadows of P’Jem” picking up on the events of “The Andorian Incident,” though I think this one handled it much better.

Plus, it had Clancy Brown. Nobody ever went wrong casting Brown and his distinctive, brilliant voice, and he nails the bombastic-yet-heartfelt role of Zobral here. In addition, the best-friend chemistry between Scott Bakula and Connor Trinneer remains quite strong.

Warp factor rating: 7

Keith R.A. DeCandido’s reviews of both the second-season finale of Star Trek: Picard and the premiere of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds will go up on this site on Thursday.

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