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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.)
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:
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.
If Prometheus takes place thirty years prior to Alien, then how is the Prometheus ship more advanced than the Nostromo?
Because the Prometheus is
and the Nostromo is
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.
Was Jesus Christ an Engineer?
At some point in the film’s development, yes.
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.