Reboots

A Star Trek Veteran is Reviving a Bizarre Sci-Fi Cult Classic

The Drac are back.

Dennis Quaid prepares for battle in 'Enemy Mine' (1985).
20th Century Fox

In terms of how we view science fiction movies today, the 1980s was easily the most influential and formative decade. But, interestingly enough, by 1983 after the release of Return of the Jedi, the massive influence of the Star Wars franchise on blockbuster sci-fi movies had morphed into a new phenomenon: the anti-Star Wars sci-fi epic. 1984’s Dune and 1986’s Aliens are two great examples of this miniature trend, a moment where great directors like David Lynch and James Cameron attempted to wrest the storytelling themes and aesthetics of space-based sci-fi cinema away from the Star Wars mold. And sandwiched smack-dab in the middle of this moment was a cult flick that bombed in 1985, but went on to become a classic.

Directed by Wolfgang Petersen, with a screenplay from Edward Khmara, Enemy Mine was released on December 20, 1985, one year after Petersen’s fantasy classic, The NeverEnding Story. And now, the contemplative world of Enemy Mine is coming back, thanks to Star Trek: Picard Season 3 showrunner, Terry Matalas.

As revealed by The Hollywood Reporter, Matalas will pen a screenplay for a reboot of Enemy Mine for 20th Century Studios. As of this writing, this is thought to be a feature film and not a TV series. (Matalas was also recently named the showrunner of Marvel’s new series Vision, set to debut in 2026 on Disney+.)

Based on a 1979 novella by Barry B. Longyear, Enemy Mine tells the story of a human warrior named Willis Davidge (Dennis Quaid) who becomes stranded on a planet with a member of a hated alien species, the Drac. However, this enemy pilot Jareeba “Jerry” Shigan (Louis Gossett Jr.), and Davidge soon form an alliance, and eventually, Davidge considers his enemy his friend. If this all sounds a little cliché, at the time sci-fi movies were nothing like this, and even episodes of Star Trek that used this kind of set-up still hadn’t happened. (Though the episode “The Return of Starbuck from Galactica 1980 came close.) The point is, while this storyline was common enough in westerns or other historical dramas, it hadn’t really been depicted in a sci-fi setting, at least not on the screen. And, what sells this premise emotionally is the fact that Jerry eventually becomes pregnant with a Drac baby.

Yes, that’s right, before Alien Nation in 1988, Enemy Mine featured a male pregnancy, and a storyline involving an alien baby who has two dads. After Jerry dies in childbirth, it's up to Davidge to not only protect the little Drac but to raise the baby, too. Essentially, Enemy Mine has three central twists: the initial fish-out-of-water thing for both Davidge and Jerry, then the birth of Zammis (the baby), and then, the return of humans to rescue Davidge, and the ensuing chaos that moment creates.

Jerry (Louis Gossett Jr.) and Davidge (Dennis Quaid) are unlikely allies in Enemy Mine.

20th Century Fox

In late 1985, Enemy Mine was a massive failure for 20th Century Fox. Unable to figure out how to make the movie appeal to the mass public, Enemy Mine was a box office flop when it was released, some of which was partially attributed to its production difficulties; before Petersen took over as the director, Enemy Mine had been shooting under the previous director, Richard Loncraine. When Petersen was brought on, the movie basically had to start over. The result was a quiet and affecting sci-fi film that still holds up today.

So, can this classic be made better? The answer is a cautious yes. Because of Matalas’ background with existing sci-fi priorities, a reboot of Enemy Mine written by him could very possibly improve on the original. In 2015, there was no reason to believe that the SyFy Channel’s reboot of 12 Monkeys would forge its own identity, separate from the Terry Gilliam film, and yet, through Matalas’ dynamic writing, the 12 Monkeys series became one of the best time travel shows ever. Before the release of Star Trek: Picard Season 3, fans and haters alike worried about the potential imbalance of nostalgia and forward-thinking. And then, Picard Season 3 went on to become the most-watched of the Paramount+ Trek shows up until that point, and united various disparate parts of the fanbase together in a series that looked back, and ahead, simultaneously.

If anyone can tackle a troubled masterpiece like Enemy Mine and make it fresh for a new generation, it's Terry Matalas. But, here’s hoping the Drac all look exactly the same.

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