Friday, May 18, 2012

Stargate SG-1--"Enemy Mine"

Let us state the obvious and say that "Enemy Mine’ has similarities to the short story and 1985 film of the same name about a human and an alien stranded on a planet who have to learn to work together in order to survive. Granted, the similarities have more to do with how close the make up jobs of the Unas look compared to the alien in “Enemy Mine.” The episode honestly has more in common with TOS’ “The Devil in the Dark” in both story and resolution.

The SG-11 team has established a naquadah mining operation on a remote planet when one of their members is dragged off by something coming out of the forest. When the SG-1 team arrives as reinforcements. Daniel discovers the attacker is an Unas. Worse yet, the Unas in question murdered his captive. Matters are further complicated when the mine is determined to be both the mother load of naquadah, meaning the Pentagon will not give it up, and sacred ground to the Unas because the Goa’uld worked their ancestrs to death in it, so they are not going to allow it to be disturbed.

Daniel enlists the aid of Chaka to negotiate a settlement in order to keep the military from relocating the unas. Unbeknownst to him, there are considerably more unas than he thought. They are angry, armed, and ready to brawl. A nervous young soldier killing another Unas whom he believes is attacking him sets off a final confrontation which ends, rather implausibly, with Daniel negotiating a deal in which the Unas will mine the naquadah if it is used to fight the Goa’uld.

I have mixed emotions about “Enemy Mine.” There are some very impressive aspects. The tension is unbearable in some places, such as when the Unas, who greatly outnumber the SG teams, surround the camp. Gez, guys. What were you thinking setting up camp in a valley? Only the French military does that sort of thing. The combination of make up and CGI effects make for a menacing army of Unas ready to charge our heroes. There are enough new elements to separate “Enemy Mine” from it clear “The Devil in the Dark” inspiration, so that is a plus. But there are other issues.

For one, this is the second episode in a row that has been almost exclusively centered on Daniel. Jack is wounded early on, and taken out of the story. Sam has one scene visiting him in the infirmary. Teal’s hangs out with daniel at times, but he is mostly a background player. It is Daniel who is constantly right about how to proceed the entire time. He is the main focus of the rising action. He is pivotal in the conclusion. If Michael Shanks rationale for returning to the series was that more episodes would be about his character, he is definitely getting his wish. There are entire sequences of “Enemy Mine” in which virtually nothing but the Unas language is spoken between Daniel, Chaka, and their leader, Iron Shirt. You have to be a serious geek to appreciate just how long that goes on.

Another problem is how the characterizations seem a little off. Aside from Daniel, of course. He is right in his element. But it strikes me as odd the military is so keen on removing the Unas--by use of deadly force, if necessary--in order to take the mine. Respect is given for sacred sites. I have a difficult time believing the military would aggressively seize them. Even Hammond raises no objection to the idea. He has been adamant in the past about avoiding entanglements in cultural matters. Frankly, killing the Unas and taking the mine by force sounds like something SG-1 would try to stop the NID from doing in any other episode.

I am not entirely satisfied with the convenient ending, either. The Unas are willing to kill in order to preserve the mine as a memorial to their enslaved ancestors, but when they learn humans are fighting the Goa’uld, they agree to mine it themselves in exchange for food. I confess I was bracing myself for more product placement. The Unas were going to work for Snickers bars and Peach Snapples or something. It may sound like a contradiction to the previous paragraph, but a little more moral ambiguity in the resolution would have made it more believable. Everyone is really buddies now after we all argee the unas will desecrate their sacred ground for some groceries and the promise of a proxy war against an enemy they have not seen or heard from in centuries? All righty.

Writer/director Peter DeLuise seriously indulged his 21 Jump Street roots this time around. Not only did he bring back Gen. Maurice Vidrine, played by Steven “Capt. Fuller” Williams, but two soldiers attacked by Unas are named Hanson and Penhall. Tom Hanson was Johnny Depp’s character on 21 Jump Street doug Penhall was played by DeLuise. Whatever happened to Depp, anyway? I hope he is making out as well as DeLuise since their show got cancelled. Drop us a lione, Johnny. Let us know how you are.

I am going to rate ’Enemy Mine” with a good score because its strong points overcome the weak ones. The episode is definitely for Daniel fans. Fans who enoy the interaction of the teamates normally are going to be disappointed. Even fans interested in Daniel’s anthropological exploits are going to have a tough time making it through the grunts, snarls, and hand signals that take up large chunks of the dialogue. The ending is awfully trite, as well, but I am willing to admit I could be overly cynical about it. Whatever the case, “Enemy Mine” is entertaining even if it is not a perfect fit within the rest of the series.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

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