Review by Alli Snow
Let's get one thing straight right at the beginning: your humble reviewer is not a fan of the Unas storyline. Never have been, and probably never will be, barring any drastic changes in my personality. I found "The First Ones" dull and "Beast of Burden" painful, for a multitude of reasons that aren't worth exploring at this particular moment. Is there an explanation for this Unas-bias? Possibly, but this is neither the time nor the place.
Now that that's out of the way, I feel more comfortable in expressing my complete lack of enthusiasm with "Enemy Mine." As a matter of fact, one gets the feeling that this episode is one that fans will either love or hate (not counting those inevitable few who fall somewhere in the middle and always manage to disrupt my brilliant thesis). If you are a fan of Daniel, of bandanas and energy bars, of Unas and Unas diplomacy and translation, you went away from "Enemy Mine" with a song in your heart.
If you're partial to Jack, Sam or Teal'c, if you dislike hard-ass military stereotypes, if you can only take so much monosyllabic grunting before your eyes begin to cross, perhaps this episode won't make it into your Top Ten list.
In a fandom frankly obsessed with "team episodes," "Enemy Mine" was unequivocally not one of these. The story was surely focused on A Boy and His Unas, as Daniel and his old chum Chaka try to stop the brutal slaughter of an indigenous group of simple, yet dignified aliens. The Air Force -- represented here by General Vidrine and Colonel Edwards -- is willing to play nice with the locals ... just as long as the planet's crucial raw materials are turned over without argument.
Like Pocahontas before him, Daniel steps in between the two warring groups after a soldier with a predictably itchy trigger sparks inter-species discord. Thanks to his nifty handle on the Unas language (which somehow spans solar systems) and his penchant for negotiation, Daniel is able to divine a plan that will work for all parties and earn him the praise of even the most stalwart critic.
Where was Sam during all this? According to her one-minute scene, she was running an overhaul of the Stargate's diagnostic system. Where was Jack? Back at the S.G.C., injured after a tussle with the noble savages. And Teal'c? Several unconfirmed sightings placed him somewhere in the scenery, although these reports were still being investigated at press time.
Was there anything your humble reviewer enjoyed about this episode? Certainly. While I may not be an avid fan of the episodes he has written, Peter DeLuise's directing was, as always, irreproachable. The makeup job was flawless; it's so nice to see a science fiction show do more than slap some putty onto an actor's nose and call them an alien. The scope of the episode in terms of extras, in the scene where the many tribes of Unas come out of hiding, was quite impressive.
But those positives were simply too weighed down by the negatives to make much of a difference. The character of Colonel Edwards was a rough version of early-season Jack O'Neill, inserted to give Daniel a thick-skulled military nemesis without creating tension between the principles. Daniel was also reminiscent of an earlier incarnation of himself; "Enemy Mine" reminds us that 5-plus years dealing with military types has not given Daniel the kind of insight into their culture that a handful of encounters have given him into Unas culture. Anthropologist, teach thyself.
What wasn't so great about this episode: Pacing -- more than anything else, perhaps, "Enemy Mine" needed a B-plot, a parallel story taking place elsewhere (the S.G.C., for example). This would have had a dual purpose: give the other characters more of an investment in the episode, and break up the monotonous periods of grunting.
Déjà vu: Stargate often borrows from other movies and stock science fiction plots in its episodes. This is forgivable. Borrowing from itself ... not so much so. The clash of military and natives, the wooing of Unas with chocolate, the airplane noises ... put "Spirits," "The First Ones" and "One False Step" in a blender and press "Puree."
What was good: O'Neill witticisms. If nothing else, the writers know Jack. No matter how under-whelming an episode, he always has his one-lining moments. Directing. Makeup. And, well, I quite enjoyed the part at the end where it said "Executive Producer: Robert C. Cooper." But then again, I'm biased.
Review by Lex
It's been a long time since Daniel Jackson has had some true anthropological challenges to face. "Enemy Mine" was like a welcome glass of ice cold water after a long drought, with its familiar yet new Unas tribes, the return of Chaka, the sacred ground, the artifacts, and the cultural behaviors that had to be learned before there was a massacre.
But then there was the team interaction, or rather the lack of it. Although (as anticipated) we're seeing less of Jack this season, just as we did in Season Six, this week I missed the team.
As a result, I'm in two minds about this episode. Stargate SG-1, for me, is all about the team -- about their explorations, their adventures, their growth, their mistakes, their triumphs. "Enemy Mine" was stuffed to bursting with adventure, tension, excitement, culture and moral dilemma, and started out with the team, minus Sam, doing their thing. Jack was injured, taking him out of the picture; Sam was off doing her science project. The second half of the episode was largely Daniel alone, with the occasional sprinkling of Teal'c.
Yet this was a wonderful character episode. As with "A Matter of Time" way back in Season Two, when Daniel was absent from the story, I don't think having Sam's scientific viewpoint in "Enemy Mine" would have added to the Unas plot. Teal'c was already in danger of wallpapering the camp from time to time, and although having two people on the job would certainly have added to the decorative effect, the intense, character-driven story was the important element here.
Peter DeLuise wrote a many-layered story that added to the Stargate mythology. The uprising that Chaka led is reminiscent of the history of more "advanced" cultures around the world. The arrogance of the advanced culture (ours) thinking that technological superiority would automatically win was proven wrong.
And the idea that the military higher-ups in the S.G.C. still work on the principle that sacrifice of other cultures is acceptable in order to protect our own wasn't as shocking as it might have been. Is it the case, as Daniel told Iron Shirt, that the S.G.C. will use the naquadah to defeat a common enemy, or is their goal still only to protect Earth? Is the S.G.C., a.k.a. the U.S. military, really taking a stand for the subjugated peoples of the galaxy? Perhaps, as General Vidrine's behavior indicates, it's wishful thinking on Daniel's part.
Accepting the status quo in this episode might take a while, but the low level of team involvement allows for an appreciation of the supporting cast. Colonel Edwards, although a little clichéd in his irritation with Daniel's non-military views, clearly demonstrated his frustration with the protracted mining operation, his care for those under his command, and his bubbling desire for revenge. General Vidrine assessed the problem at hand and listened to the experts before making a difficult, ultimately distasteful decision. Iron Shirt gave an insight into what kind of leader Chaka would have been before he was kidnapped and made a slave, and the growth of Chaka himself was intriguing.
The subtle (or not-so-subtle) effects added a dimension not just to the visuals, but to the story. The return of Unas-cam was a classic example of the old adage "show, don't tell" -- the audience immediately knew what had happened to poor Lieutenant Ritter. The SFX insertion of hundreds of Unas in the confrontation scene was spot-on, and the answer to the question of just how many Unas there were in the area was answered in spectacular visual fashion, illustrating the massive threat faced by the S.G.C. personnel. Both of these scenes were excellent directorial choices.
There was one scene that both impressed and distracted me. When Chaka, Daniel and Iron Shirt sat around their campfire, the lighting created a wonderful atmosphere, and the knowledge that the Unas' faces were merely make-up faded into the background as the actors made best use of facial expressions. But Daniel's running commentary, while useful to the audience's understanding of the conversation, chipped away at the fourth wall as if the storyteller was sitting in my living room and translating for me. Perhaps some use could have been made of subtitles in this scene to give it a little more pace.
With "Enemy Mine" focusing on such intense issues, it was a shame to see the ending played out in rather a saccharine manner. That the Unas would agree to defile their own sacred ground struck me as unlikely. Some of the series' more powerful episodes have left a great moral dilemma hanging out there to be endlessly picked over: "Learning Curve," "The Other Side," "Beast of Burden," "Menace." Chaka and Daniel obviously make an impressive diplomatic team, but the resolution wraps up this episode just a little too neatly.
There was enough of what I love about the show to keep me engrossed. The Jack and Daniel banter that's been so light this season made a welcome appearance. Jack's "Daniel, go to your happy place" line was a perfect example of their relationship, and it was nice to see Jack backing up Daniel in the discussion with Colonel Edwards. The two colonels bounced off one another in a delicate balance of power, Jack ensuring he didn't step on Edwards' toes until the moment he had official reason to take charge. And having missed Daniel in "Lifeboat," his presence here in all his anthropological glory was much appreciated.
Ultimately, this episode, as so many others, concentrates on particular areas of the world that SG-1 inhabits, and it's nice to see a return to the anthropology that was so fascinating in previous seasons. Peter DeLuise ably demonstrated his knowledge of the characters and delivered a solid episode.
Rating: * * *