Mark Watches ‘Enterprise’: S01E24 – Desert Crossing

In the twenty-fourth episode of the first season of Enterprise, I was very thirst during all of this. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Star Trek

This isn’t a bad episode, but I think it not be for me. That’s ultimately the only conclusion that I can make because the parts of “Desert Crossing” should work as a whole, but I never felt truly satisfied by this story. I think it might be an issue of structure, as the story introduces a moral conundrum and then has the two main characters dealing with it running away from said conundrum. It then focuses on them running away, and the solution to their problem is more circumstance than purpose.

Which isn’t a terrible choice, mind you, because “Desert Crossing” is more realistic about this reality and the survival sequences than most other shows would be. It’s realistic that Archer and his crew would gain a reputation after freeing the Suliban prison camp, and it’s realistic that they’d find themselves in a situation in which they’d be asked to assist in a political situation like this one. That situation, however, isn’t really explored. All we learn from Zobral is that there was a caste system of sorts in this world, and the Torathans signed a treaty to abolish it, though it didn’t abolish any of the systemic features of oppression. It was just an empty promise. But we don’t see what the cities look like; we don’t know how this oppression manifested aside from those robes that Zobral’s people wore. (Did the opposition force even have a name? How were people denoted as different in this society? I initially assumed it was the face tattoos/markings, which, for the record, seemed directly ripped off of Maori culture, but Councilor Trelit had them as well. So… why?) It’s a very basic dynamic that was employed here, so I assumed that as we progressed through this episode, we’d learn if Zobral was telling the truth or if Trelit was.

Instead, after Zobral’s compound is bombed by Trelit’s state forces, Archer and Tucker… run. They just run away. Note that this happens after they get water from the shuttlepod. THIS IS, FOR THE RECORD, A VEHICLE IN WHICH THEY CAN COVER VAST DISTANCES IN RELATIVELY LITTLE TIME AND WHICH WOULD PROTECT THEM FROM THE HEAT. I swear to you all, I have thought this over repeatedly since finishing “Desert Crossing,” and it makes absolutely no fucking sense. WHY DIDN’T THEY ESCAPE IN THE SHUTTLEPOD??? I didn’t expect them to try and leave the planet; that difficulty was established. But why not just fly somewhere? Surely that would be better than walking 30 km in the desert?

I suspect the writers wanted to utilize that snippet of backstory of Tucker’s and Archer’s survival training in Australia. Thus, they constructed an episode about this desert crossing. Which, again, isn’t a bad thing! Look, it just so happens that this next book I’m writing required me to do a LOT of research about desert environments and how humans can survive them, soooooooooo… this isn’t that bad? You’ve got Tucker’s escalation from heat exhaustion to heat stroke, the delirium, that moment he’s convinced he’s freezing despite the heat… and trust me, it can get so much worse than this. I do feel bad for Tucker, who nearly froze to death earlier this season in “Shuttlepod One,” only to nearly bake to death in this episode. CAN HE PLEASE GET A BREAK ON RISA.

I think it took me writing this out to realize why it didn’t all feel as striking as it should have. It’s not connected. These are all pieces, all fragments of a story that are linked together with tenuous threads, and it never feels like a single piece. That is what it’s missing. Which is a shame, because those pieces had a lot of potential!

The video for “Desert Crossing” can be downloaded here for $0.99.

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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