18 October 2013

FWS Forgotten Classics: ENEMY MINE (1985)

For most of us science fiction writers, the dream is to see your work on the silver-screen, and in 1985, noted sci-fi author Barry B. Longyear was able to see his award-winning military sci-fi short-story in theaters with the movie Enemy Mine. However,Enemy Mine would die at the cinema, and became a true forgotten classic of military science fiction in later years. While this movie was quickly forgotten in the sci-fi crazy of the 1980's, the film made an impression on me when I finally watched on TNT in the 1990's. So much so, that when I founded FWS back in 2010, Enemy Mine was one of those forgotten classics of military science fiction that really wanted to discuss on this site, because of just how good this film really was. In this blogpost on another Forgotten Classic of MSF, we will exam 1985's Enemy Mine. For those with access and are curious, production of Enemy Mine was covered in Cinefex #25 (Feb. 86) and Starlog #102 (Jan. 86).

The Story of ENEMY MINE
At some point in the 21st century, the Earth unites under a world-wide agreement called the Bilateral Terran Alliance or BTA. Given the word "bilateral" could be an acknowledgement of the existence of the Soviet Union and the United States at the time of the script, and we could also deduce that in the 21st century, the Terra is united due to the actions of two superpower political entities...yeah, I'm over thinking this one way too hard. Anyway, by the later 21st century, mankind as expanded out to the stars with the intention of establishing an interstellar empire, however, the BTA quickly discoveries than the best interstellar restate is already claimed...by the Dracs. The Drac, from Dracon, are an asexual reptilian sentient species that follow the teachings of their great teacher, Shismar. They claim that they were on these worlds and systems first, and in response, the BTA annexed several systems, leading to the Human/Drac War.
The war, according to the limited amount seen in the movie, is fought in deep space, away from Dracon and Terra. The BTA seems to maintain a collection of military forward operating space stations that are used to deploy combat spacecraft. No where in the film is an larrge military combat spacecraft seen. On July 11, 2092, BTA hot-shot starfighter pilot Willis E. Davidge and others in his group are sent out against a Drac patrol in the Fryine system, which was annexed by the BTA from the Drac.
During the battle, Davidge loses several friends to a certain Drac ace, and Davidge chases the enemy fighter to the fourth planet of the Fryine system. Over the planet, Willis damages the Drac fighter, and while plunging into atmosphere, the Drac hits the chicken switch, and Willis' fighter crashes into the enemy fighter, causing him and his operator to crashland. Willis's operator dies on Fryine IV, driving Davidge to persuade the downed Drac pilot Jeriba Shigan across the harsh terrain of Fryine IV with murder in his dark heart. For 108 minutes, the story of survival of two abandoned enemy pilots on a hostile world, and their journey towards brotherhood.

The Original Text: ENEMY MINE by Barry B. Longyear 
To the surprise of some, Enemy Mine was based on a short-story written by Barry B. Longyear, and was highly praised during its original publication back in 1979. However, today there is some confusion about the work that lead to the 1985 20th Century Fox film. It seems that there several different works with the same name and basic story are floating around. The "original" text was written in February of 1978 and based off the 1968 film War in the Pacific and published by Issac Asimov;s Science Fiction Magazine in the September 1979 issue. This won the 1980 Hugo for best novella, along with the Nebula award for best novella in 1980, as well. It would be reprinted a number of times onward from 1979 to 2008. Later, in 1998, the author would expand the original short-story to a novella with the "author's cut" for the publisher White Wolf collection of Enemy Mine stories called The Enemy Papers.
That 1998 trade paperback clocked in at 665 pages and contained the expanded Enemy Mine, a portion of the Drac holy text, two more stories set in the Enemy Mine universe, along with some essays. One of the interesting stories that I would like to read is the another war story, called The Tomorrow Testament. This short story is set during the Human-Drac War from the POV of an human female infantryman, Joanne Nicole. The Enemy Papers also contains the author's final story on the Human-Drac War, called The Last Enemy and takes place on the beginning site of the war, the Drac planet Amadeen for the POV of a Drac named Yazi Ro. So, that is two versions of the Enemy Mine story, and the third is the movie tie-in book, printed for the release and written by David Gerrold. This way out-of-print movie-tie book was also credited to Barry B. Longyear, due to the original text being in the script that the book was based on. I believe it was only published in 1985 by ACE books and has different cover art based on the film.   

How Does Movie Defer from the Original Story?
It often comes up when a movie is based on a book or short story about the differences between the two. Unlike Blade Runner vs. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Enemy Mine 1985 movie contains a great deal of the original 1979 text, along with the title, and surprising, a great deal of the dialog appears in the film as well. Most of the first and second acts of Enemy Mine are very similar, including names and major events. It is in the third act that the film and novella alter. Both have scavengers arrive on Fryine IV with Drac slaves, and Zammis goes to investigate. These human slavers shoot Davidge, and take Zammis prisoner.
When Davidge wakes up at the human military installation, he learns that the Human-Drac War is over, and the scavengers were arrested and their alien slaves were sent back to Dracon, along with Zammis. Davidge is being sent home to Earth to live with his parents. During his time at the hospital, a doctor with an interest in Dracs helps Davidge throughout the final act of the book. Davidge is obsessed with learning the fate of Zammis, but lacks the funds or support to travel to Dracon. For months, Davidge translates the Talman from Drac to English, along with a translation matrix, and uses the money to buy his way to Dracon via a cargo vessel. Once former space pilot arrives on Dracon, he meets Jerry's "parent", and other members of the family who do not believe him about Jerry or Zammis. It was not until Davidge sung the line of the Jeriba family that show this oddball human some respect.
Zammis is located in a "house of despair", where unclaimed Draco go to await their fate, and since Zammis father could not present him and his family line heritage to the elder council, than he is like an untouchable in Draco society. At first, Zammis did not recognized "uncle" until they paid the "finger games". According to some outlines of the novella, there is much devoted to get Zammis to the elder-council, and the book ends with Zammis being added to the line, fulfilling Davidge's promise to Jerry.

The Historical Context of ENEMY MINE
When Enemy Mine hit theaters in winter of 1985, one has to remember it was the Reagan 80's and our mortal enemies where the Soviets, money was king, and Jedi was two years in the past, and ALIENS was one year in the future. While audience wanted space fighter battles, they were not in the mood to see a film about establishing common ground with their moral enemy. Peace through superior firepower and nuclear missiles was more popular the concept of peace talks and thawing the Cold War. In some ways, Enemy Mine was the right message at the wrong time. This was also the time when science fiction movies were replaced with more of the popcorn action film, and once again, Enemy Mine was late to the party. The top movies of 1985 were: Back to the Future, Breakfast Club, Goonies, Pale Rider, Witness, and Mask. From this list, we can see that the era of the big-adventure space movie was not popular. When came to the main actors in the film, Dennis Quaid was a star on the raise with his role in the film The Right Stuff, while Louis Gossett Jr. had own an Emmy for his role in An Officer and a Gentleman in 1982.

The Rise and Fall of ENEMY MINE
There is no doubt that Enemy Mine was a well-receiving novella in 1979, winning several major awards in 1980 and leading to several more books in the series. However, how did the roller-coaster ride of Enemy Mine transitioning from the page to the silver-screen result in the film becoming a "forgotten classic"? Given that the novella came into print in 1979, it's transition to film was rapid, greenlit in 1983 and filming began in April of 1984, and released in December 20,1985. Enemy Mine was originally direct by British filmmarker Richard Loncraine when the filming began in April 1984.  Within a few weeks, he was released by the studio after cost overruns (especially with the Icelandic on-location scenes), differences in the film, and poor dailies. By this point, over half of the $18 million budget was spent, and the studio had to make some decides about if Enemy Mine should even be finished. The decision by the studio heads was to move forward, however during this, Dennis Quaid and Louis Gossett Jr. along with other actors were paid holding money to prevent them from taking other acting gigs that could have doomed the movie. The studio had lost confidence in the direction of the film, and asked Wolfgang Petersen to direct with a complete fresh start, moving the production from Budapest to Munich. This was not all that was changed, the Drac makeup was refined, resulting in more lost time for the production. After a seven month delay, and millions over budget, filming of Enemy Mine was completed at cost of $29 million.
However, the trouble continued. The studio, once again, lacked faith in the finished produced, poured millions into promotion, topping off the budget to $40 million. Critical reception was mixed when Enemy Mine premiered on December 20th, 1985 across 703 screen nation-wide. One critic went as far as calling Enemy Mine "this year's Dune". Others, while impressed with the overall message of the film and the actors themselves, called the plot predicable. Even 20th Century Fox executives were not hopefully of Enemy Mine's chances of recouping its money given its enemies-turned-friend central plot. One was even quoted saying that the returns didn't matter, because the film was doomed anyways. Cute, but he was right, the returns were not promising. Enemy Mine would generated $1.6 million on opening weekend. When the dust settled, Enemy Mine only made $12 million back on a $40 million investment (some say $48 million!)...sounds like the US Stock Market as of late, and the film quickly disappeared.

Why Was ENEMY MINE Forgotten?
With all of the praise that yours truly is piling onto this box office bomb, why was Enemy Mine forgotten about? The sad truth that is for a 1980's sci-fi film to be remembered and celebrated today, it has to standout from the herd. This applies to great films like 2010: The Year We Make ContactALIENS, Time Bandits and equally terrible films like Solar Babies, Yor: Hunter From the Future, and Krull. However, movies like Enemy Mine were in the middle of the pack, and often required that someone either remembered the film when it was original released or saw it on TV or the rental racks.
With Enemy Mine only making back $12 million on the budget of $40 million, it quickly moved from first run theaters to dollar theaters to limited rental tapes. At the time that Enemy Mine was released onto home media, rental stores based the amount of VHS/Betamax tapes they ordered on the box-office performance, and most video stores only carried a few copies of Enemy Mine, allowing the tape to be lost in the dizzy rows of boxes and rows. Plus, the cover-art was interesting, but it competed with film like Def-Con 4. Enemy Mine was also drown out by the crush of other sci-fi titles in the video store as well. Hell, I saw more copies of Space Camp and Critters than Enemy Mine at my local rental store in the 80's...Aardvark Video in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, in case anyone was wondering. Enemy Mine would be more heavily played on stations like TNT and Superstation WGN (that is how I saw it) in the early 1990's. Even today, it is difficult to find an Enemy Mine DVD. Another point about the disappearance of Enemy Mine, was the gap between the release of the film and the film, six years, and it was not book, but a short-story in a publication.

Why is ENEMY MINE an Classic?
While the movie is more or less forgotten by younger sci-fi fans, the landmark performance by Louis Gossett, Jr is not. Even today, Louis Gossett Jr.'s portray of Jerry is used by actors today as a guide on how to get an alien species right. I've read the some of the actors on AVATAR used Enemy Mine. Hell, even the Drac makeup still looks good today! Enemy Mine represents a sea-change in how an complex alien characters could be presented to the audience. From interviews at the time, Louis Gossett Jr wanted to bring Jerry into all three-dimensions, and not be a static piece. Without Enemy Mine there could be none of the classic alien characters since 1985. It is that good.
For me, another reason for the classic status of Enemy Mine, is the general cause for the war between the BTA and the Drac. In the backstory of the film, the Drac and the Terrans, who require were the same habitable standards fighting, are battling over prime interstellar resources and habitable exo-planets. Unlike other sci-fi reasons for the genesis of interstellar conflicts, war over habitable planets and raw material is the most likely trigger for war in outer space. While the opening line is mostly disregarded after the space fighter battle, it is an important element. Also, Enemy Line is an interesting bit of sci-fi storytelling, and how war could break out between human and aliens due to xenophobia. There is also some warmth at the core of this film, the relationship between the two pilots, and the promise that Davidge must keep is all told with tugs on the old heartstrings. Even during the post-Star Wars world of science fiction cinema, it is nice to see a sci-fi movie with such heart and attention.

With the downturn in the American economy, Hollywood has attempted to turn to "safe" returns on their investments in new films. This as fueled the trend of reboots and remakes of familiar film properties...and Enemy Mine is not one of these films. Despite Enemy Mine making lists online for movies that fans would like to see remade, there is no "official" movement from Hollywood. I believe that one day, there could be a remake of Enemy Mine...after all, they remade Planets of the Apes.

He Said What?! And Other ENEMY MINE Trivia
-At a convention, author Barry Longyear stated that the studio added the scenes of off-world mining to help the audience with the concept of the title, because the studioheads thought that Americans were too stupid to get the title. I just hope this is not true.

-Originally, author Barry Longyear was going to divide up Enemy Mine into two stories. Enemy Mine would have ended with the birth of Zammis and the sequel Son Mine would have picked the rest of the story. However, Barry's wife convicted him to combine the two stories into one.

-Louis Gossett, Jr stated that the special Drac voice for Jerry came from his own childhood experience with gargling saliva.

-Portions of the movie depicted the hostile alien environment were film in Vestmannaeyjar, Iceland...which now filming in Iceland for alien worlds is trendy. Other alien environmental shots were filming in Lanzarote Islands, near Spain.

-Veteran Babylon 5 actor Peter Jurasik was going to be Enemy Mine when the original director was still filming. Peter was to play "a gravedigger", but when the new director was brought on, Peter's role was cut, along with all of the scenes filmed. At the present time, there are no plans to bring these elements back to the light of day.

-BTA female space pilot Morse was played by Carolyn McCormick, who also played the holodeck personality "Minuet" in Star Trek: TNG episode "11001001". This was her first film role.

-The 21st century Pepsi soda  picked up by Davidge was original a Coca-Cola can in the novella, and it is rumored that Pepsi paid for an product placement. This would follow a trend of Pepsi colas been seen in sci-fi films, as part of their "Choice of a New Generation" ad campaign. Gods, I hate frakking Pepsi! Proud Coca-Coke drinkers in my house.

-There was to be a longer ending to the film, showing more of Darcon and the Holy Council scene. Some believe that these scenes were filmed and scrapped due to the massive cost overrun.

What I Wish was in ENEMY MINE
While I regard Enemy Mine has a classic of MSF, it, like any other film does have elements that I wish had been added to round the complete experience of the film. The beginning of the film should have established the war and the human characters in greater detail. I read rumors of a original opening in a pilot lounge area, where Will Davidge updates his downDrac planes scorecards on a giant board of pilots, and being toasted by his unit. It was designed to establish Davidge as a badass space ace. That scene with more of the human POV should have been in the film.
When Davidge is recovered on the planet and identified, I wish there had been a debriefing scene, which I believe was in the original text. A scene where a clean-up Davidge with an BTA official would have been cool, and not as rushed as the film is now.The scene with the scavengers gravediggers and the dead Drac slaves should have been included, and reinforced the message of "human beings are dicks". Lastly, I wish we could have seen Dracon in more detail than the two minutes in the film. Maybe if there is ever a remake...

The Impact of ENEMY MINE
In this new era of search engines and dizzying amount of websites focused on movie reviews, Enemy Mine has a fair amount of one-page reviews, but there is little or none in the way of internet shrines devoted to this 1985 movie. This is one way of gauging the impact of a certain film in this day and age: how much of an internet footprint the film has. However, it wasn't until I decided to finally write this blogpost that my eyes were open to how forgotten this movie really was. To find a DVD copy of Enemy Mine, I went to three Movie Trading Companies stores here in the Dallas area, and only found the bare-bones copy with nothing in the way of extras. Taking all of these element into consideration, it seems that unlike 1980's sci-fi classics like ALIENS, Enemy Mine does not the wide range impact, and one has to explore more secondary influences of the 1985 film.
As I stated above, Louis Gossett Jr.'s performance as Jerry as become one of the standards of human actors taking on alien parts, and could be one of the direct lasting impacts of the film. While plot elements of the original text and film were recycled from the 1968 WWII film Hell in the Pacific, science fiction, as a whole,  liberally borrowed from Enemy Mine over the years. In the 7th season episode  Stargate: SG-1 "Enemy Mine", the entire episode draws heavily from the movie and short-story in both story and alien design for the Unas alien race. Then we have several Star Trek episodes that work off of this basic concept, including one my favorites: "Darmok" along with another TNG episode, "the Enemy". In the Star Trek: Enterprise episode "Dawn", we saw a real effort to capitalize on the themes of the film. I've read several times, that some of the Star Trek bigwigs are fans of the film.
When I first started playing the original Wing Commander in 1991, I came to the opinion that somehow Wing Commander and Enemy Mine are related. There is no direct evidence of this link, it is just my personal belief that Enemy Mine directly influenced the development and look of the Wing Commander PC games. Too bad, that the shitty Wing Commander movie couldn't draw this much better movie to give us the Wing Commander. The Drac are directly referenced in the excellent 2010 Hunter Prey film. When the Terran character Orin is trading verbal blows with Centauri 7, they both mentioned another race, the Drac and how they allied to the Terrans. Of course, to an old-school sci-fi geek, I loved the reference, and give that seen some interesting traction in my mind...of course, I love Hunter Prey and so should you. It would be cool if Hunter Prey was the side-sequel to Enemy Mine, and the Drac and Terrans are now allies, mainly because of the actions of Davidge, Jerry, and Zammis. I think that was a smart move on the part of director/writer Sandy Collora to include this little gem.

The ENEMY MINE Alliance Model Kit
Movie tie-in products are nothing new, especially in the post-Star Wars world, and it seems that every single sci-fi film received some manner of tie-in product (remember the weird-ass LJN DUNE figures?!), and this included Enemy Mine. While Enemy Mine did not get the line of action figures and birthday party decorations, it did get a single 1/72 BTA fighter model kit by Alfred Wong and Alliance model kits released in 1985. This resin model kit, AM32, was the only one released for Enemy Mine however, there have been rumors of a Drac fighter, but I've never been able to track down any information. The kit today sells for around $40 online and would make an nice addition to the FWS offices. Recently, there have been some modern kits based on Jerry, the BTA and Drac fighters for sale around the internet.

Some Hardware Pictures
 A good shot of the front of the Drac fighter.
Filming the space dogfight with the Drac fighter model
The oddball scavenger mining/slave ship model being worked on during production
 More of the Drac fighter model
 Only one engine on the Drac fighter? Very odd.
 One of the BTA fighter models used in the film along with the dead BTA pilot from the opening. That should be my next Halloween costume!

 Before original director Richard Loncraine was canned by the studio, the BTA was going to use a combat space shuttle-like design for the BTA offensive starship, instead of the more X-Wing like fighter seen the Wolfgang Petersen film. This model was seen in Cinefex#25, but was cut when the film was re-shot.
An interesting thruster cluster of the original BTA offensive space vehicle. Is that color outer space rust-orange?


  1. Great movie, awesome story. Definitely underrated by some. I still have nightmares with the storms or the sand tentacle monster and get emotional remembering the good and truthful friendship that was not meant to be between the human and alien. Thanks for bringing me fond memories of this story, Will.

  2. Totally agree. This movie has stayed with me since I last watched the film in high school, and I knew I had to discuss in-depth here on FWS.
    Thanks for reading and commenting!

  3. Classic science fiction film.

    Oh, and 2010: The Year We Make Contact was an excellent sequel that became a huge box office smash hit success in 1984.

  4. I had read the book before seeing the film. As a result, I thought of the film as a B movie rendition of a great book. I came away from the film wishing they had kept closer to the book. An example of this is; in the movie, Davidge is told that the Drac language is to be sung, but in the book, he figures it out for himself. It is a much more beautiful seen. It would also have been better to have the second film, “Son Mine.”

  5. 2010: The Year We Make Contact was a great film...forgotten classic of the 80's. I need to read this story, thanks for the heads up

    1. It is an almost a law of science that the book is always better than the movie. The most surprising example of this is “Star Trek 5, The Final Frontier,” The film is borderline forgettable, but the book takes the time to explain things. Though not a “Great” book, if you have seen the movie, reading the book is almost required.

  6. I am a little shocked that the ST V: The Final Insult book was superior to the batshit film...always thought that there was more to the film...
    Blade Runner and Minority Report were better films than their literature originals.

  7. Found this article after googling aardvark video in bartlesville!! Man I remember that place, it was amazing. Is that an actual picture of aardvark??

  8. Sadly, it is not. I could not uncover any photos of either location in B-Ville. I can always remember the odd little colored plastics tags for checking out videos. Mega-Movies became my go-to just before I left B-Ville in 1992. Nice to hear from someone from the old town!

  9. My biggest problem with Enemy Mine (and the reason why I suspect Enemy Mine has been forgotten) is that it didn't do a very good job of worldbuilding. Very little of the BTA is shown. Very little of the war is shown. The only spacecraft we see is that cargo shuttle at the beginning, the outpost station, the starfighters, and the mining ship. And even the BTA fighter isn't credible as it appears to be more style than substance.

    I agree with the author that Enemy Mine suffers falling into the doldrums of mid-80s sci-fi. The movie doesn't fit into late-70s/80s working class sci-fi style (Alien, Aliens, Outland, 2010) and it was too soon for the early 90s sci-fi style of Total Recall and Babylon 5, which I think would have been a more natural fit for Enemy Mine.

  10. Good points! I always wanted to know more about the origins of the war, the BTA, the Drac homeworld.

  11. Thank you for this article , like others said previously y like more the honored sort story than the film.

    ...... And the reason is the end of the movie , is compleetly anti-climax, not like the novella.


    The scene / s "landing" of Quaids Characters in the beginnig of the film recalls me , the almost ending in the sea of Tom Hanks in "Castaway" 1998 , the dark .... the wáter waves ....

    Excuse me for my terrific english , this more or less my 3th lenguaje , the other are Basque and Spanish ( I am from the Basque Country ).