From the Nostromo Crew Profiles, apparently drawn from notes concocted during Alien’s production (with additions and embellishments definitely added later), we can see the histories of the Nostromo crew members as well as the paths that the late 21st and early 22nd centuries have taken.
According to the Weyland Industries Timeline, the first off-world colony is built on Luna (the moon) in 2031 (Ellen Ripley is born here, in 2092). FTL travel is discovered a couple of years later and, along with burgeoning Atmosphere Processor technology, colonies on Mars, Titan, Thedus, and Torin Prime quickly take root. The first planet to develop a fully-breathable atmosphere is GJ-667cc in 2039. Space bustles with luxury cruisers, salvage ships, trawlers, and entire armadas of corporate shuttles.
A civil war breaks out amongst the people of Torin Prime circa 2106; a war in which both Dallas and Parker take active part. The war ends February 2108. Its war heroes lapse into serving aboard or captaining company spaceships. Corporations loom larger than governments and jostle for economic domination. Space becomes another highway. A transit route.
“Here you see a large corporation that does something in one area buying up another corporation that specialises in an entirely different field. Obviously two separate sides of the conglomerate world -perhaps engineering and biochemistry- will eventually merge, just as I think industries will develop their own independent space programs.”
~ Ridley Scott, The Future According to Science Fiction, 1984.
When it came to designing the symbols and insignias for the Nostromo and Weylan-Yutani, concept artist Ron Cobb (along with John Mollo) also created a pseudo-history for the Earth to give his designs an implied history. From an article exploring Cobb’s designs, the political landscape of Alien’s Earth is detailed as thus:
- Economics and diminishing resources have led to the political merging of cultures unlikely in the present day. During the last quarter of the 21st century the United Kingdom joined forces with Japan and dozens of developing countries to form the Third World Empire.
- Interplanetary commerce and the mining of deep space is flourishing. From 2088 to 2102 the Third World Empire pioneered the establishment of settlements on Mars and Titan, (in Prometheus we can see that the colony on Mars is under construction).
- The powerful economic bloc created by the Third World Empire helped necessitate the merging of North and South America into one economic giant in 2104.
- Multi-national companies like Weylan(d)-Yutani have been mining and exploiting space for decades. Although hinted at in the film, the motivation for the Company’s attempt to bring the Alien back to Earth remains hazy. It’s safe to assume that the military-industrial complex has continued to grow in power.
Notes on these details: the Third World Empire, which comprises of the United Kingdom and Japan as well as other developing countries “pioneered the establishment of settlements on Mars and Titan.” One pertinent British/Japanese company involved in such an endeavour would obviously be Weyland-Yutani. In Prometheus, we see a holographic Peter Weyland at his headquarters on the still-under-construction facility on Mars.
Weyland Industries’ merger with the Yutani Corporation takes place at an undisclosed time after Weyland’s death in 2093.
Ron Cobb also designed a flag for the United Americas -the union of South, Central and North America which took place in 2104- which is essentially the stars and stripes with one star rather than fifty.
The last point claims that the motivation for the Company’s interest in the Alien “remains hazy”. Ridley Scott, in an interview with Omni’s Screen Flights/Fantasies in 1984, laid bare the Company’s knowledge and motivations regarding the monster: “I think any corporation that sends probes into unknown territory is going to think of the possibility of finding something new.”
“I’m sure that the crew members on all its ships would have been briefed to bring back anything of interest,” he continued. “It would be part of one’s job to bring it back. An alien, of course, would be of top priority. This particular corporation didn’t have a preconceived notion that an alien would be found on this mission, much less the particular alien that is brought onto the ship. The idea of bringing it back alive would not have been on the minds of the corporate executives when they first received the alien transmission. They just had high expectations when they ordered the Nostromo to investigate – it was purely out of curiosity.”
From Ridley’s explanation, the over-arching story of the Alien trilogy seems to go:
Alien: A Company probe detects the Space Jockey’s signal, and reports it. The Company then re-route their most convenient ship, the Nostromo, which is due to leave a mining facility on Thedus. Prior to take-off, they replace the ship’s science officer with Ash; an android whose mission it is to ensure that the crew investigate, and to secure whatever is at the source of the signal, be it technological or otherwise. Having a Company man on board their ships “would seem to be the normal development of a huge corporation trying to protect its interests,” according to Scott. “In this particular future, it would be very easy for pirating to exist. Corporations will have to find ways to assure that vehicles carrying minerals or vital information will not be hijacked … the machinery, information data, and cargo are of more importance to corporations than the individuals on their ships.” Rival corporations would also vie to one-up each other, and alien discoveries “would be of top priority”. Afterwards, with the Nostromo having mysteriously disappeared due to the events of Alien, the Company bury the incident and brush off the find on the planetoid (likely to avoid litigation or, as Burke explains concerning his own actions in Aliens, Colonial Administration interference.)
Aliens: Decades later, a survivor returns. She is written off as having acted recklessly, and to have caused the needless destruction of the Nostromo. Burke, like the corporate executives who re-ordered the Nostromo to be re-routed, feels that there is a chance for a discovery (and profit) of some kind to be made out of the situation, and instructs the colonists on the planetoid, now designated LV-426, to check out a particular set of co-ordinates gleaned from Ripley’s report – co-ordinates leading to the Space Jockey derelict, whose emergency warning beacon has fallen silent due to seismic activity (in Alien‘s deleted materials, Dallas shuts off the signal – either explanation is valid). A mom n’ pops survey team discover the derelict and are inadvertently infected. The Colonial Administration (some branch of remaining government), who co-own the colony with Weyland-Yutani, send in a Colonial Marine unit when transmissions cease. Burke goes along as a Company adviser, and he in turn brings Ripley, who at least is acknowledged to have been on the planetoid before. Of course, Burke knows that Ripley may have been right about violent alien life all along…
Alien 3: From here, the secret is out. A Colonial Marine team was destroyed along with a colony co-financed by the Colonial Administration. When a message reporting survivors from the LV-426 mission is received from Fiorina 161, and when the Company receives data about the presence of an Alien life-form aboard the Sulaco and EEV, their military-industrial wing reaches out to snare what they now know is an Alien bioweapon…