Alien Gas Attack

Apply cold water to burned area…

“Why not roll some canisters of CN-20 down there,” suggests Vasquez after the first disastrous journey into the Alien hive, “nerve gas the whole nest?” Ripley is not so certain. “No good,” she says, “How do we know it’ll affect their biochemistry?” The survivors proceed to dismiss the idea of gassing the hive, and opt to nuke the site from orbit. “It’s the only way to be sure.”

As pointed out by AVPG user, SiL, Ripley in fact gassed one Alien already, during Alien’s climatic scenes aboard the Narcissus. Most folk -myself included- assumed this to be hot, pressurised air. But looking at the buttons which Ripley pushes to gas the Alien reveal that some nasty chemicals are involved in the mixture. Initially, we assumed these were pesticides of some sort, which would have been an apt gag, considering that the Alien was inspired by ants, wasps, and other insects, (even if said gag didn’t make much sense in-universe). However, a closer look reveals that three of the compounds (Iodine, Methyl chloride, and Nitrosyl chloride) are far deadlier to the Alien (and Ripley) than any pesticide.


According to Wiki, Iodine “is an oxidizing irritant and direct contact with skin can cause lesions … Solutions with high elemental iodine concentration such as tincture of iodine and Lugol’s solution are capable of causing tissue damage if their use for cleaning and antiseptics is prolonged.”

As for Methyl chloride, “brief exposures to high levels of methyl chloride can have serious effects on the nervous system, including convulsions, and coma. Other effects include dizziness, blurred or double vision, fatigue, personality changes, confusion, tremors, uncoordinated movements, slurred speech, nausea, and vomiting.”

Nitrosyl chloride is “Very toxic by inhalation … Dissolves into and reacts with moisture in the air or with water to form hydrochloric acid … Very toxic gases are generated when heated … Inhalation causes severe irritation of respiratory tract and damage to mucous membranes,” (Ripley may also want to take note: “As an immediate precautionary measure, isolate spill or leak area for at least 100 meters -330 feet- in all directions.” Oops.)

All in all, and considering the Alien’s pained, screeching reaction to exposure to the vented gasses aboard the Narcissus, maybe a few canisters of CN-20 wouldn’t have been such a bad idea after all.


Filed under Alien

9 responses to “Alien Gas Attack

  1. BillTed


    That seems like an odd function to include in a walls of a small escape shuttle though.

    Should we consider Roger Christiansen’s crew mass stenciling everything in sight plot cannon?

    That is an neat detail though that they would label them as something that could be a chemically viable inclusion to the specific scene, even though it becomes potentially debatable in the larger context of a logical world space.

    The attention to every minute detail in Alien contrasted with the utter lack of it in prometheus is so jarring!

    I think I prefer the pressurized steam idea better though.

  2. Gaius

    Also, with regard to the the dangers of a nitrosyl chloride spill: note that immediately afterward, Ripley blasted the alien “out the godd*mn airlock” (her words, not mine), venting the atmosphere of the Narcissus (and, presumably, most of the toxins she used) into space in the process. Certainly some traces would have been left over; whether or not they were present in sufficient quantities to be toxic (particularly given that Ripley went into hypersleep soon after) is up for debate.

    • BillTed

      I dont know to much about this science…

      But I would jump into the thingamajing as soom as I was sure that the coast was clear.

      I would assume that there wouldn’t be enough air and uno cards to just hang out even before blowing every thing out of the airlock.

  3. If there was some material left over after the Alien is expelled, it might’ve only been enough to give her a headache… though I don’t think the filmmakers really took these toxins into consideration. It might have been an art department thing that Ridley etc could have been unaware of (it certainly wasn’t scripted that way.)

    I’m no chemist (I studied it at high school but failed… oops) but would any trace of such toxins remain after 57 years? In Aliens, the board tell Ripley that they find no evidence of the Alien, even though we see it slobber all over the ship. Presumably all of this material was either sucked out of the ship or dissolved(?) over the intervening decades.

  4. Gaius

    The comment by Van Lewin during the Aliens debriefing was as follows:

    The team that went over your life boat centimeter by centimeter found no physical evidence of the creature you described.

    Knowing the Company as we do, that leaves (to my mind) a lot of room to maneuver:
    1). The team could have been bribed or blackmailed (in short, they REPORTED no evidence)
    2). The evidence could have been cleaned up prior to the team’s investigation: the Narcissus arrives; the Company hears about it and cleans it up before an inspection takes place; Ripley makes her statement; an investigation finds nothing
    3). After 57 years, the only remaining physical damage is minor acid scarring from the incident with the grappling hook gun (certainly SOME acid particles struck the hull when she hit it with that thing). This is ignored by the team as normal (or slightly abnormal) wear-and-tear

    • We can see in the film’s opening that the grappling gun is still wedged in the shuttle door. So that was ignored by the salvage crew and the Company, the ICC etc.

      • robbritton

        That isn’t physical evidence of the creature, though – it’s evidence that Ripley fired a grappling hook, but if they’re assuming she’s just bonkers, then she may have fired that at her imaginary alien anyway.

        • The only rebuttal I can think of at the moment is to recall the spray of acid that erupted from the Alien when it was shot (quite a fair bit of spray if you pause the scene in question) and the copius slime we saw during its appearance on the shuttle.

          But that’s probably pedantry: I’m happy, like Gaius points out, to assume no traces of it were left behind.

          (It’s been almost two years since this original conversation!) 😀

  5. Bill

    Looking at the photo, the first gas isn’t iodine, it’s a compound called iodine pentafluoride. Big difference. Iodine (an element) is an irritant, but iodine pentafluoride (a compound) is a strong fluorinating agent (= really bad) and is a particularly nasty substance: Small excerpt:
    May cause fire or explosion; strong Oxidizer; Toxic if swallowed; Toxic in contact with skin; Causes severe skin burns and eye damage; Fatal if inhaled


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