After repairing the starship of a stranded traveller, Archer and Trip are invited to enjoy some hospitality on his desert home world. But during their visit, Enterprise learns that the captain’s host may actually be a wanted terrorist.
Enterprise has hardly set the bar high for itself this season – my viewing companion currently describes it as ‘inoffensive’. Even so, Desert Crossing manages to be one of the show’s poorer efforts.
The episode begins with a second failed attempt to make it to Risa – come on, let the crew take their shore leave already. Yes, they finally make it in the next episode, but what was the point of teasing us with it for two episodes before that?
Anyway, this time around, Archer instead ends up helping a man named Zobral, who must rank as one of the most poorly acted Star Trek characters since we had to put up with the wooden Vedek Bareil. It’s hard to tell if Zobral is just the victim or bad acting and bad direction, or if he is actually aiming to be an incredibly racist stereotype of an Arabic tribesman.
Whatever the case, we spend the first twenty minutes of the episode waiting for the other shoe to drop – just why is Zobral being so nice? Is he going to sell Archer and Trip into slavery for losing a sports match? Will he rob them of their innocence? Just what is going on?
Eventually, it is revealed that Archer’s actions in freeing the Suliban in Detained have been embellished by rumour, and that Zobral thinks the captain is an amazing freedom fighter who will help win equality for his people. Meanwhile, the government of his planet consider Zobral a terrorist, and when they attack his encampment, it sets off a series of events that result in Archer and Trip attempting the titular desert crossing.
From this point onwards, the episode becomes a by-the-numbers “buddies against adversity” story, and a particularly mediocre one at that. The Chute, The Ascent, Attached and Armageddon Game all did a far better job with this dynamic, to name but the first few that spring to mind. Meanwhile, the scenes aboard Enterprise serve only to beat us about the head with the whole “maybe one there will be a Prime Directive of some sort to help us know whether to interfere in alien cultures”. Yes, we get it already!
Summary – Desert Crossing: Still haven’t made it to Risa.