F.A.Q.

Here is a list of common and maybe some not-so-common-but-curious questions and answers relating to the series as a whole. New questions and answers will be added and refined over time.

ALIEN

Who played the Alien?
An assortment of actors and stuntmen brought the creature to life, the most famous of them being Bolaji Badejo, the 6’10 graphic arts student who found himself walking into a pub and then onto a movie set, thanks to a casting associate of Ridley Scott. Badejo portrayed the Alien near the end of the movie: as it attacks Lambert and Parker, as it stalks Ripley through the Nostromo, and aboard the Narcissus. Stuntman Eddie Powell, a stand-in for Christopher Lee in his Hammer phase, played the Alien as it killed Dallas and Brett (Badejo was too big for the vent set, and the wires made him feel too ill for Brett’s death). Stuntman Roy Scammell played the Alien as it ejected from the Narcissus, and English animal impersonator Percy Edwards provided the creature’s vocalisations.

What did the Company know about the Alien?
Apart from the fact that there was a signal of unknown origin emanating from an unexplored planetoid – nothing. In 1984, director Ridley Scott explained: “I think any corporation that sends probes into unknown territory is going to think of the possibility of finding something new,” he said. “I’m sure that the crew members on all its ships would have been briefed to bring back anything of interest. 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.” This also explains their lack of action regarding the derelict following the events of Alien.
See Space, 2122 – 2179 for more.

Did the Alien rape Lambert?
Literally? Not likely. See Debate: Loving Lambert for discussion.

Who designed the Alien?
HR Giger designed the creature, though many contributed. Dan O’Bannon created the character, inspired by old comic books, a dash of Lovecraft, and Giger’s art. Concept artist Ron Cobb suggested that the creature have acid for blood. It is said that Ron Shusett came up with the idea for it ingesting within a host, but the story is more complex than that. O’Bannon, Shusett, Giger, Chris Foss and others have said that parasitoid insects were the inspiration, along with O’Bannon’s chronic stomach problems.
See Facehugger/Chestburster and  The Eighth Passenger for more.

Where did the term ‘Space Jockey’ come from?
Ridley himself doesn’t remember, and most assume it came from the production crew or fanbase, but the term first popped up in one of David Giler and Walter Hill’s post-O’Bannon drafts. The difference was that Giler and Hill at first removed all of the alien elements from the screenplay, replacing the derelict ship with a downed human bomber ship, and the egg silo with a man-made weapons silo. In this short-lived iteration of the script, the occupant within the bomber ship was referred to by Dallas as a “space jockey”. Dan O’Bannon complained about the content of this rewrite, and Ridley urged the writers to return to the original alien concept. The downed pilot became an alien beast again, and though the term ‘space jockey’ left the script (in fact, the alien pilot wasn’t even mentioned in Giler and Hill’s draft, because they didn’t think its scene would be filmed) it presumably didn’t leave the minds of the production crew, who continued to dub the pilot the “Space Jockey”. See The Pilot for the full story.

Snapshot of Dallas’ “space jockey” dialogue, the first known use of the term within Alien lore. From a Giler and Hill rewrite, undated.

Why does the Nostromo have a self-destruct device?
Ostensibly, the destruct device is meant to dissuade corporate piracy from taking place. Rival companies may apparently attempt to steal from other ships, or even sabotage them. The OTT destruction devices are seemingly a deterrent. The three “maybe/perhaps” type  adverbs in this explanation will tell you that this is purely conjecture stapled together from what we know of the corporate Alien world.

Self destruct warning

Were the Nostromo crew armed?
Yes, the crew carried small arms fire. They can be seen in promotional shots of the crew, and Kane’s pistol can be seen in the director’s cut of Alien, just as he leers in at the egg. The weapons are never used against the Alien for obvious reasons – the creature’s acid blood would corrode the hull and kill the crew. “You don’t dare kill it.”

Nostromo gun prop.

Nostromo gun prop.

ALIENS

Why did no one pick up the derelict’s beacon between Alien and Aliens?
In the screenplay and storyboards for Alien, Dallas shuts off the derelict’s warning system, rendering it silent. In Aliens, the derelict has been capsized by volcanic activity and cleaved down the centre. This damage, according to James Cameron, also serves to explain why the colonists didn’t find the ship until Burke provided the co-ordinates. Cameron explained: “[Newt’s parent’s] were given the general coordinates of its position by the manager of the colony, on orders from Carter Burke. It is not directly stated, but presumed, that Burke could only have gotten that information from Ripley or from the black-box flight recorder aboard the shuttle Narcissus, which accessed the Nostromo’s on-board computer. When the Jorden family, including young Newt, reach the coordinates, they discover the derelict ship. Since we and the Nostromo crew last saw it, it has been damaged by volcanic activity, a lava flow having crushed it against a rock outcropping and ripped open its hull. Aside from considerations of visual interest, this serves as a justification for the acoustic beacon being non-operational.”

Is the Narcissus model different from the one present in Alien?
Yes, the shuttle was reproduced from snapshots of the original model. See Narcissus article for more.

Alien Narcissus

Alien Narcissus

Aliens Narcissus

Aliens Narcissus

How did the Alien design change from the original movie?
The most famous change was the removal of the Alien’s translucent dome. The rest of the changes (the feet, the direction of the tubes on the neck) are actually quite trivial. There’s a detailed look at the changes at JamesCameronOnline, and an article on the creation of the new beasts on this very blog, here.

Why do the colony Aliens have different heads from the Alien on the Nostromo?
In a way, they don’t – Cameron’s Aliens are missing the dome, but the ridged heads are based directly on Giger’s design from the original film.

Giger’s Alien without the dome.

Cameron/Winston Alien head. Basically a sculpt of Giger’s airbrushed ridges.

Cameron originally had the domes built, but removed them when he saw the ridge sculpt. Another reason for removing the dome was the concern that they would crack during the frenetic stunts and action. As for an in-universe explanation for the difference, Cameron noted that they can be considered “a different generation of Alien – slightly mutated.” Some fans assume that the dome either falls off or moults as the creature ages.

Why are the “dun coloured clouds” of the planetoid from Alien now blue?
Simply enough, the atmosphere processing is converting the atmosphere, (interestingly, the atmosphere is a deep blue when we’re on the planet surface in both movies.)

Nostromo in orbit.

The Sulaco in orbit, 57 years later.

ALIEN³

Was Ridley Scott asked to direct the third film?
According to the making of documentary, yes. Sigourney Weaver claims that Scott could never clear his schedule to take the reins. He did, however, manage to visit Fincher on the set, and was even interviewed there. His son also worked in the conceptual department.

Was James Cameron asked to direct the third film.
No. Cameron told Starlog magazine that, “I can’t comment [on Alien 3], since Gale Hurd, the producer of Aliens, and myself have decided to move on to other things and leave a third film to others.” However, ideas for a continuation were at least bounced around. Lance Henriksen claimed that he and Cameron discussed Bishop, in a possible sequel, being paranoid that he had been covertly programmed to harm others. Since Bishop was so fascinated by life in all its forms, this would have horrified the android, [quote forthcoming.]

Was Bishop II a human or an android?
According to the scripts and film-makers involved, he was human. See Debate: Bishop II, Man or Machine for discussion.

How did the design of the Alien change from the last two movies?
The dome was restored, as was the Alien’s extraneous thumb, but the rest of the alterations were quite drastic. Article on the design here. A brief comparison of the three Alien torsos:

The Alien shape over the course of the three movies. The Alien 3 creature was described by ADI as being more organic and bony, “like deer antlers”, with less emphasis on integrated mechanical pipes and tubing.

Why did David Fincher disown the film?
Because war -and filmmaking- is hell. Get Fincher’s take on the Alien 3 process here.

Who played Newt in her cryo-chamber?
Danielle Edmonton filled in for Carrie Henn, who was half a decade too old by the time of shooting the third film.

PROMETHEUS

If Prometheus takes place thirty years prior to Alien, then how is the Prometheus ship more advanced than the Nostromo?
Because the Prometheus is

a research vessel

and the Nostromo is

a battered old tug.

Production designer Arthur Max also chipped in that “[the Prometheus] is the leading/admiral ship of the Weyland-Yutani fleet[sic]. It’s much bigger and has state of the art navigation and exploration equipment  That being said, the interior architecture is very close. Some aspects of the Prometheus directly evoke the Nostromo, but here everything is in perfect shape. If I had to compare them I would say that the Prometheus is the latest high end executive Cadillac car, and the Nostromo is an old Ford Pick-up.”

Speaking of the Nostromo’s technology, Ridley Scott said in 1979 that “the machine that they’re on could in fact be 60 years old and just added to over the decades. The metal-work on it could be 50 years old.”

So the Nostromo may very well be older than the Prometheus, having been built in the 2060’s or 70’s. We should also consider that the Prometheus and its mission cost Weyland a trillion dollars – for Alien, Scott claimed that the movie “project[s] a not-too-distant future in which there are many vehicles tramping around the universe on mining expeditions, erecting military installations, or whatever.” To think that each ship and mission would cost the Company a trillion dollars is unfeasible. It only follows that the ships and technology of Alien is inferior. Scott also added that Alien was focused on ships that “look used, beat-up, covered with graffiti, and uncomfortable. We certainly didn’t design the Nostromo to look like a hotel.”

What about Aliens? The technology still looks better in Prometheus.
Some of the answers given above would apply, but only to an extent. By the time of Alien, let alone Aliens, the Company has become bureaucratic and cost-effective. Cameron explained the lack of technological progression between Alien and Aliens by suggesting that there could have been a period of cultural decay, where advances stalled and society may have regressed a little. Why have holograms for a board meeting/hearing when you can have a slide show? Cameron told Starlog magazine that there have been periods in “history where little or no social or technological change took place, due to religious repression, war, plague or other factors. Perhaps technology had topped out or plateaued before the Nostromo’s flight, and the changes upon Ripley’s return were not great.” There have been long periods of technological and societal regression in our history before (think of the period between the fall of Rome and the High Middle Ages – Petrarch didn’t mourn it as the ‘Dark Ages’ for nothing), and there may be long periods of stagnation in the future. I guess it’s dystopic. Cameron, in Aliens, also wanted a ‘lego’ look to Hadley’s Hope, as though parts of the colony were just airlifted in, already assembled, and only requiring being pieced together. Almost like a microwave meal. Cheap and just off the assembly line, with no fuss required. Prometheus presents a positive look at man’s approach to technology; by the time of Alien and Aliens the rot has truly set in.

Atmosphere processing technology seems new in Aliens; so why does it exist at the time of Prometheus?
Just because a technology is already in existence, it does not mean that everyone is familiar with this technology, hence Ripley asking Burke about the machinery at Hadley’s Hope. Additionally, in the Alien: Engineers script, the atmosphere processing technology has yet to be perfected – which is the reason Weyland funds the mission in the movie; in the hopes of finding alien technology. This may have been carried over somewhat in Prometheus – nowhere in the film is Weyland Industries’ atmosphere processing technology said to be perfected. The colony on Mars is still under construction.

But Burke, in Aliens (2179) says that the Company is just getting into the tech, but the Company have been apparently pioneering it since the end of the previous century…

We simply have to assume that, if Weyland Industries did not perfect the technology, then converting alien worlds into habitable systems hit a wall for a few years. The colonists on LV-426 had been there for several decades, so Burke’s statement may simply be relative.

Why is the Engineer smaller than the Space Jockey if they’re the same species?
We can throw out all sorts of explanations, but none that are entirely satisfying (mostly if you’re a dyed-in-the-wool purist). One reason/excuse is that different beings will be of different shapes and sizes; but looking at the Engineers we see in Prometheus, they all seem to be of the same morphology, which would make the original Space Jockey quite freakish in comparison. There’s no real explanation other ‘than it’s what Ridley Scott wanted.’ But there was a practical consideration to make in his decision to scale down the Jockey: in the scripts and even conceptual art, the Engineer was at first gargantuan, but the production scaled it down so they could use a human performer (Ian Whyte) for the role. Using camera trickery or placing Whyte on a box to make him taller would only add a foot or so to his height (the same tricks were used to make Tom Woodruff appear taller as the Alien), and they wanted to minimise post-production tinkering.

The Space Jockey/Engineer was at first going to be much larger, and more in line with its size in Alien.

Was Jesus Christ an Engineer?
At some point in the film’s development, yes.

Space Jesus

Ridley told movies.com that they excised this element because “we thought it was a little too on the nose. But if you look at it as an ‘our children are misbehaving down there’ scenario, there are moments where it looks like we’ve gone out of control, running around with armour and skirts, which of course would be the Roman Empire. And they were given a long run. A thousand years before their disintegration actually started to happen. And you can say, ‘Lets’ send down one more of our emissaries to see if he can stop it.’ Guess what? They crucified him.”

Thankfully, this idea found itself on the rubbish tip.

Why did the Engineers want to destroy Mankind?
Originally, this desire was to be tied into the ‘Jesus as Jockey’ idea. Since that was removed from the film, we’re left without an explanation – which, despite some protestations, is probably better. I postulated in The Engineer Mythos that a “haunting prospect could be the proposition that we are due to die for nothing at all, but are merely caught in an impersonal cycle of death and rebirth.”

The beginning of the movie states that they arrive at LV-223 on December 21st. When they survey the planet, Holloway states, paraphrased, that “it’s Christmas” and that he wants to “open my Christmas presents”, indicating that it’s the 25th. The next day, after the events of the movie and before the credits roll, Shaw states that it is New Year’s Day. So when does the movie take place and how do they get through so many days in what seems to be only one night?
You got me. Earth calendar? An astronomer may know the specifics.

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9 responses to “F.A.Q.

  1. RE: ALIEN – what did the company know about the alien?

    At the end of Scott’s quote you put up, he says – “They just had high expectations when they ordered the Nostromo to investigate – it was purely out of curiosity.”

    Unfortunately, ‘Special Order 937’ appears to invalidate this rather blase reasoning. ‘Bring back lifeform. Priority one. All other priorities rescinded.’

    . . . And wasn’t there something about – CREW EXPENDABLE?

    In other words –
    ‘We like the sound of this distress signal. It could be a monster in need of our help. I know – lets bung our best cut-throat robot onboard and if the crew don’t want to play ball, kill ’em. Plenty more where they came from. This way we can rehabilitate that poor creature into a good home here on Mars.’

    Of course, most of us are aware that Ridley enjoys riffing on these subjects now and again, but he does seem to trip over himself rather a lot. Unless it’s me that’s missed something. . .

    [Oh yeah, and as for his idea that all ships encountering alien life would have a duty to bring ‘a sample’ back with them – gimme strength! What about disease, contagion, onboard facilities to handle and examine and contain alien life? Let alone an alien with an angry disposition.]

  2. The Special Order is either a pre-programmed contingency plan that is applicable to all ships in most situations similar to this; or is drummed up throughout the course of the film by Ash and Mother (“we’re still collating.”) Ridley also explained, paraphrased, that “the Company is responsible for the circumstances that allow the Alien to be brought on board” – via the paranoia it engenders on its ships by thrusting Company men (in this case, Ash) on to its ships and by, essentially, economic blackmail when it comes to going against protocol (“total forfeiture of shares.”) Entertaining the thought that the Company knew what they were in for raises more problems than it solves – why send clueless truckers? Why give up after the Nostromo incident? Why settle on LV426 and do nothing about the derelict?

    I think it’s safe to say that if humanity were to receive an interstellar alien message, it wouldn’t go ignored… we’re already sending out ships with examples of our culture, history, biology, genetic make-up in the sole hope that they’ll be received by alien civilisations… In the world of Alien, companies, rather than governments, are the ones jostling one another for these discoveries; like a Cold War mentality.

    Re; bringing back a sample/disease/contagion: we see in Alien that there are protocols against this (as we know, Ripley is over-ruled by Ash), but when the crews are expendable, what does it matter? The android Company men would handle and examine said technology or life-form. In Aliens we’re told that there are stringent measures to make sure that no contaminant is brought back to Earth – the reason Burke plots to infect Ripley and Newt in the MedLab and jettison the Marines on the way back.

    That’s the best answer I can give at 7:30am and after having been up most of the night with a screaming infant 😀

    • Mark3

      The answer to this is quite simple:) You can extrapolate it from the Gateway briefing scene in ALIENS with all the surveyed worlds and finding nothing like Ripley described. I think the company (and the Marines) are used to literally dealing with “Bugs”. Primitive life forms. They’ve not been in a fight with an advanced race, or encountered one. The Space Jockey is clearly an advance race(more advanced than the alien bioweapon cargo) but the Company doesn’t have any plans or protocols beyond the gathering of smaller species, possibly infectious. Hence the presence of an android incase the crew are incapacitated/killed. Had the Space Jockey been properly reported, there would have been a much more through reaction involving weapons and science divisions of Weylan Yutani.

  3. Hi Seonaidh,

    Thanks for taking the time and trouble to respond. You must be knackered. Lol.

    I get where you’re coming from, but I believe there are two distinct issues here.

    1. From memory – that all ‘systemised transmissions must be investigated’. I have no problem with this particular edict, although this does depend upon how one interprets the extent of the remit ‘to investigate’. No point investigating in a ‘hands on’ way if the crew are not trained and skilled in such matters. Too dangeous. I would suggest that the handling, containing, delivering of an unknown lifeform/alien is something that many vessels and attendant crew would not be equipped, or have the expertise, to deal with. But, the deployment of Ash is a whole different ball of wax. And so. . .

    2. Ash, as we know, was ‘deliberately’ deployed to the Nostromo because the company expected/hoped to locate a beacon/signal. They had prior knowledge of the distress/warning beacon. Ergo, despite the crew consisting of ‘truckers in space’, this particular mission was set up in the hope of locating and bringing back a lifeform. I have no problem with this either.

    My contention is that not every ‘truckers in space’ vessel would be equipped with an ‘ASH’ to oversee such a happenstance. How many employees would Weyland-Yutani be willing to sacrifice for an unknown and possibly deadly organism before the authorities [ICC, ECA] stepped in to find out why so many of them failed to return from their missions? Wouldn’t W-Y’s own recruitment /human resources managers be wondering why they were ‘getting through’ so many staff?

    Okay, so I’m being a little pedantic here. And there are a number of unknowables too. And I wasn’t suggesting the company had fore-knowledge of the creature itself. As you say, there’s little point sending truckers on such a mission. And, I agree, no interstellar transmission would be ignored. It woud be located, logged, and analysed with whatever tools and skillsets were available to that particular vessel. But truckers without an Ash could only go so far. Without him, Ripley would have had her way by sticking to decontamination protocols. And we would have had a very short and unsatisfying movie experience. . .

    Ridley’s quote that ‘every crew member would be briefed about bringing back any lifeform’ also doesn’t chime with the reactions of Parker and Brett. They have to receive a lecture from Ash about this ‘ruling’ and, as you point out, be blackmailed by forteiture of shares. Also, at this point they were assuming some kind of ‘rescue mission’, weren’t they? Only Ash, it seems, knew different.

    The distinction I’m drawing is between ‘investigating’ and ‘bringing back’. I would suggest that ‘bringing back’ at any cost would be waving an extremely large and angry RED FLAG to the authorities and those within W-Y, including the crews themselves. I simply don’t find credible that such a cavalier, irresponsible and dangerous edict would be sanctioned across any and all missions.

    What I suspect is that there is a cabal within W-Y that is operating semi-autonomously in the pursuit of their own glory / wealth / prestige / influence / power. Maybe an internal and sub-rosa power struggle has been taking place where the stakes are high and life is cheap. and what we’re assuming to be broad company policies are in fact targeted strategems being played out in an internicene war.

    Yeah, it’s pure speculation alright, but what the heck.

    • Another late reply – blame the baby! Plus, back at university this week, so my online time has been cut short. I probably haven’t answered your objections or issues very well, but Alien hasn’t been on my mind at all this last month.

      “My contention is that not every ‘truckers in space’ vessel would be equipped with an ‘ASH’ to oversee such a happenstance. How many employees would Weyland-Yutani be willing to sacrifice for an unknown and possibly deadly organism before the authorities [ICC, ECA] stepped in to find out why so many of them failed to return from their missions? Wouldn’t W-Y’s own recruitment /human resources managers be wondering why they were ‘getting through’ so many staff?”

      That would suggest that every organism or piece of technology they encounter would be deadly. The way folk react to alien life in the series (no real lasting awe or philosophical discussion about the derelict or its pilot) indicates that these commercial company pilots are maybe used to weird things – nothing as weird or deadly as the Alien, but the events on LV426 certainly aren’t earth-shattering in terms of enlightening man on his place in the universe, etc.

      “Ridley’s quote that ‘every crew member would be briefed about bringing back any lifeform’ also doesn’t chime with the reactions of Parker and Brett. They have to receive a lecture from Ash about this ‘ruling’ and, as you point out, be blackmailed by forteiture of shares. Also, at this point they were assuming some kind of ‘rescue mission’, weren’t they? Only Ash, it seems, knew different.”

      Parker and Brett don’t know that they’re about to encounter an alien life; it could have been another downed company ship. Their objections to landing show their selfishness, and they’re summarily reminded of their duties (I’ve seen the same thing happen in the work place… no Aliens, though!)

      It’s ALL speculation, yes. Ridley talked about the Alien and Blade Runner worlds as being comic book universes, like Métal Hurlant. Sort of fantastical and weird. Hence FTL technology, sound in space (because it sounded more interesting than silence, according to Scott), creatures that violate the laws of thermodynamics, on and on – the Nostromo even has a nuclear self-destruction device; the rationale for this being that the ships would be set to detonate if they were in danger of being pirated. Makes no logical, real world sense, but in this totalitarian, authoritarian world where companies seem to over-rule governments… it kind of works. The backdrop to the series, as espoused in interviews, commentaries, story notes etcetera, are a sort of ghostly series of filaments that don’t even necessarily thread the entire series together – but: they’re an explanation and mythos of sort, and aren’t exactly covered in the movies themselves. We can pick at ’em, but they’re there, and I hope they give folk something to chew over 🙂

  4. I think the evidence is there for W-Y to have been aware of the derelict’s transmission before the events of the film and altered Nostromo’s return course to investigate, the planting of Ash in the crew suggests that was a premeditated mission. It could be that W-Y has sent crafts out many times to find sources of non-human radio transmissions, only to find they were generated naturally from a dying star, or such phenomena, if this has happened a lot this might be why it would be more routine to apprpriate a freight carrier for this purpose. Given the crew’s reaction to possible contact with alien life I would assume the discoveries of Prometheus would have been kept top secret as not only would finding a sentient but hostile race panic a human race that is completely unequipped for war in space but it might infringe upon W-Y’s corporate military interests (hence their later wish to use the Alien a biological weapon).

    On Special Order 937, we find out about this at the same time as Ripley, so it could be that Ash/Mother/W-Y colluded on this after the discovery of the derelict and Ash’s incubation. Ash could easily have been messaging W-Y on discovery of the derelict. As for the possibility of threat to the crew, I’m not sure the Health & Safety Executive would have much clout in a corporately controlled wild frontier of space! Sorry, quite garbled argument..

  5. “I think the evidence is there for W-Y to have been aware of the derelict’s transmission before the events of the film and altered Nostromo’s return course to investigate, the planting of Ash in the crew suggests that was a premeditated mission.”

    Right. The argument is that this is far as their knowledge of the signal goes – they know there’s a signal, but they don’t know what’s at the other end, hence Ash’s inclusion on the Nostromo.It’s all corporate subterfuge and spy games (Scott’s idea was that Companies now played the roles of governments). To quote Ridley: “[The Company] just had high expectations when they ordered the Nostromo to investigate – it was purely out of curiosity.” If the Company knew about the Alien, it’d make no sense to send hapless truckers with one android: they’d send a trained, armed, black ops crew, like the one we see at Alien 3’s finale.

    • “To quote Ridley: “[The Company] just had high expectations when they ordered the Nostromo to investigate – it was purely out of curiosity.” If the Company knew about the Alien, it’d make no sense to send hapless truckers with one android: they’d send a trained, armed, black ops crew, like the one we see at Alien 3′s finale.”

      Precisely. And as I pointed out in my above post, this is the logic in bringing back lifeforms – a trained crew with the necessary expertise deemed appropriate. They couldn’t do that if they didn’t know what they were dealing with. Hence the logic in sending the nearest ship and crew, who do not possess the appropriate skills, to investigate ONLY, not to bring back.

      However, the Nostromo had Ash replace the vessel’s previous science officer. Why? W-Y were clearly expecting more than just to find a signal. And Special Order 937 specifically states – ‘BRING BACK life-form. All other order priorities rescinded.’ Which meant the crew were expendable.

      And let’s be clear about the notion of Ash colluding and messaging W-Y during these events that lasted all but a few days. The Nostromo was something like 9 months out from Earth. In Aliens, the prologue makes clear there is little point querying orders from Earth because it takes TWO WEEKS to receive an answer. Ergo, if Ash was transmitting info, he was at least a two weeks away from receiving a response. Therefore, SO937 was already embedded on the Nostromo, either within Muthur or Ash himself.

      Question – why would W-Y embed a protocol that makes any life-form worth more than the crew? This is a sanction for multiple murder, is it not?
      Answer – only if they regarded the life-form itself to be more valuable to them than the crew. Yet, how would they know this, if the mission was, as RS states – ‘purely out of curiosity’. Sigh. I suspect I’m attempting to make a silk purse out of a pigs ear in the magical world of Scott logic.

      “As for the possibility of threat to the crew, I’m not sure the Health & Safety Executive would have much clout in a corporately controlled wild frontier of space! Sorry, quite garbled argument.”

      @Simon – You missed, or ignored, my open declaration in applying a pedantic viewpoint with regard to recruitment and human resources. But the ICC and the ECA are another matter and, I think I’m right in saying, firmly established in Jim Cameron’s Aliens. What you perceive to be a garbled argument is an argument based on logic. So the Nostromo arrives back in Earth orbit sans crew. Ash is debriefed / downloads data to W-Y. No matter his excuses, someone outside the company – i.e. families / friends / colleagues / tax office / HSE / might be a little bit curious as to where their loved ones / tax paying citizens are. No? The assumption many folks make that W-Y are the only company in the universe and a law unto themselves is preposterous, even in an Alien franchise sci-fi context. Especially one that takes itself seriously.

      RS has offered up many words over the years on these topics, but sometimes he does appear to contradict himself, or logic itself. For instance – That future corporations such as W-Y will act like governments is an interesting concept. But for me at least, this is a difficult one to swallow whole. Attempting to become an autocratic and autonomous state by virtue of commerce alone is not something I see happening any time soon. Sovereignty, and by association, ownership of land / planets could invoke the precept of Eminent Domain as justification for a corporation dislodging not only other corporations, but sovereign governments themselves. I don’t see Governments turning a blind eye as the largest corporations build their empires and armies. Any perceived threat will surely be tackled by either singular states, or multiple states coming together under a single banner, much like the UN we have today.

      Okay. Gonna stop here. At the end of the day, alien films are just stories occupying a fictional universe. But unlike many, I find myself needing logic to support suspension of disbelief. And with this issue, it’s a struggle.

  6. “However, the Nostromo had Ash replace the vessel’s previous science officer. Why? W-Y were clearly expecting more than just to find a signal.”

    Indeed, and we’re not debating the reverse. Ash is a company ‘man’ sent to ensure that the crew follow through with their directive to investigate. A signal of unknown origin could mean juicy technology. Unfortunately, it’s the crew who look juicy in the end.

    “Ergo, if Ash was transmitting info, he was at least a two weeks away from receiving a response. Therefore, SO937 was already embedded on the Nostromo, either within Muthur or Ash himself. Question – why would W-Y embed a protocol that makes any life-form worth more than the crew? This is a sanction for multiple murder, is it not?”

    Nothing suggests he was transmitting to W-Y directly. All we’re offered is that he is “collating” with Muthur, which suggests that he and the ship’s computer are colluding and modifying their original programming/mission directives. HAL 9000 going off the deep end is a good comparison. As we see with Ash in his final scenes, he’s not all there anyway. Special Orders may be pre-programmed and mandated, but “crew expendable” orders seem to be the sole work of Ash and Muthur. The Company may not be intent on murder, but their whacko android is.

    We should also remember that the back story was modified during production – in one of Giler and Hill’s rewrites, the derelict didn’t exist and the signal emanated from a secret government weapons facility. The Nostromo crew, in this version, were deliberately led there to serve as fodder for the Company’s biological weapon: the Alien.

    “That future corporations such as W-Y will act like governments is an interesting concept. But for me at least, this is a difficult one to swallow whole. Attempting to become an autocratic and autonomous state by virtue of commerce alone is not something I see happening any time soon.”

    Like you say at the end, let’s not get caught up in reality. This is a universe with sound in space, anda space-truck equipped with FTL travel, and an onboard nuclear detonation device – which led Scott to call the film a “fantasty”, a live-action comic book, as he said. (Interestingly, Scott did ‘predict’ that private companies would seek to monopolise space – and nowadays we have Space X, etc all working towards offering the public voyages beyond our own world)

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