Space: Above and Beyond Review #7: The Enemy
Originally aired November 12, 1995
The 58th are assigned to drop cargo on the planet Tartarus in order support Earth forces battling Chigs there. But after they’re hit by a weird Chig weapon that enhances fears and phobias the 58th find that their greatest enemy on Tartarus might be each other.
“The Enemy” caught me a little off guard. It’s an episode that I remember being one of the good ones, but looking back on it I think I was confusing “The Enemy” with parts of the later episode “Sugar Dirt.” Essentially, “The Enemy” is a take on the same sort of story that was handled so well in “Mutiny,” but dealt with a much less skilled hand in this episode.
Here, the 58th are inexplicably sent on a cargo-run — which begs the question; why send highly skilled fighter jocks to do a job any Marine could handle? The planet that’s being fought over is Tartarus that’s a hellish place of unrelenting heat, bad weather and an unbreathable atmosphere. After they’ve landed the 58th are confronted by a squad of other Marines engaged in a firefight with each other. And when the 58th goes to investigate the situation outside they’re hit by a weird light that turns out to be this secret Chig weapon.
Much of “The Enemy” deals with the 58th freaking out over the effects of the weapon, turning on one and other and finally figuring out that they have to work together to survive.
Which could have been interesting, except that at no point in any other episode did we ever get the sense that Wang was scared of bugs or Hawkes claustrophobic or Damphousse afraid of blood or Vansen scared of the dark or West worried that he’d never find his girl. And all these fears and phobias are multiplied many, many times by the weapon where the 58th are almost incapacitated by them.
Worst of all West once again ditches his friends to run off to try and find his girl like he did so annoyingly in “The Farthest Man from Home.” At least at the end of that episode we got the sense that he had learned his lesson about abandoning his friends, but apparently not.
The set used for the planet Tartarus isn’t up to snuff from what’s come before either. Tartarus looks manufactured from its flat floor to sculpted rocks. I’m guessing this was a redress of the Mars set used in the pilot episode which worked well there but doesn’t here. Why they didn’t use the real outdoors like with “The Dark Side of the Sun” or with the visually interesting “Ray Butts” is beyond me.
If “The Enemy” does have one redeeming value it’s of the character of Sgt. Jackson, a ghost soldier. One of the times West runs off he finds Jackson huddled in a trench in a scene that sent shivers down my spine. But other than that “The Enemy” is mostly forgettable, much like this highly effective Chig weapon was by the writers who would fail to use it again in any other future episode.
According to the Encyclopedia of Greek Mythology, Tartarus was an “…underworld zone of eternal torment, where the greatest sinners were punished for their transgressions.”
The radio aboard the ISSCV is a “T-15-40 LOS Sattellite Radio.”
Shane Vansen’s full name is Shane Autumn Vansen and her service number is “5605103184.”
The Chigs use a kind of mine that when stepped on cuts the person in half. The Marines call them “Buzz Beams.”
Sgt Jackson: “You’ve been here before. Anytime you wake in the dark in a cold sweat…moments before you were here.”
Paul Wang: “Ain’t physics a bitch?”
Nathan West: “So much for working together.”
Marine cadence: “Born in the woods. Trained by a bear. Double set of dog teeth. Triple coat of hair. M – mean as hell. A – all the time. R – rough and tough. I – in the mud. N – never quit. E – everyday. S – Semper Fi.”
After the 58th’s ship is attacked on landing, in all the shooting the non-58th flight crew are killed in the cross-fire. Except shouldn’t the cockpit be MORE shielded than the cargo container the 58th are in that actively deflects bullets?
Maybe a goof: Wang calls Tatarus a “failed star.” Except in reality failed stars are gigantic, bigger than Jupiter that would have such high gravity the planet would smoosh a Marine flat. But maybe this is just scuttlebutt, not an actual fact in 2063 SAaB but something Wang heard from someone else?