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Ash’s Blister

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Ash’s blister, as it is identified in the script by Walter Hill & David Giler, is, from the outside, a small glassy protuberance on the belly of the Nostromo. The compartment first appeared in Dan O’Bannon’s script, albeit as a glass apse situated on the roof of the ship. From this location the screenplay’s characters find respite from their work and engage in philosophical and existential discussions on the nature of eternity and their limited and ephemeral place within it. Throughout the later script revisions by Giler and Hill the dome became the scene of Dallas and Ripley’s lovemaking, and then, with further revisions and the addition of the android Ash, it was relocated and re-envisioned – no longer a communal or solitary getaway spot, it became the work station of the Company’s very own inside man.

Fantastic Films: “One of the lovely touches in Dark Star was the guy sitting in the dome on top of the ship, just staring off into space. He’s gone stir-crazy.”
Ridley Scott: “They say actually if you have a porthole you spend most of your time staring at space. Maybe it is a sort of space sickness. That you could become so entranced with the idea of what you’re in.”
FF: “I see Ash’s bubble as a direct outgrowth of Dark Star.”
RS: “There was a bubble in O’Bannon’s original screenplay. That’s where the love scene took place … I guess the Ash ‘blister’ was all that was left of that [aesthetic] intention.”
~ Fantastic Films magazine, 1979.

The change in design, name, and location may be incidental, but altering the dome from a glass bauble on the roof of the ship to a ‘blister’ on its underside tonally changed the location from a vista to the stars, to a rather dingy ‘cave’ to which the insidious Ash can secrete himself away, like the monster Grendel after committing his murders. In the film, Mu-th-r’s control room also doubles for this sort of purpose; a haven for plotting, or ‘collating’, with the ship’s computer (from where you can perhaps draw another thin Beowulf allusion). “Love this cockpit,” Ridley Scott said of the blister, “somehow it’s very fascist … I always liked those blisters at the bottom of the Blenheim bomber, or Wellington Bomber, and that’s where you put him, in his own blister.”

Ron Cobb's design of the observation dome.

Ron Cobb’s design of the observation dome.

Concept of the blister.

Concept of the blister.

Ripley and Dallas’ sex scene was scrapped from the movie, and though it was filmed for Sigourney’s screentest, it was shot with an improvised, mid-constructed set, rather than the dome/blister. Another scene intended for the dome/blister was the reappearance of Kane’s corpse, which knocks against the glass to frighten Ripley.

From Hill and Giler’s script:

INT. ASH’S BLISTER

Looks around the blister.
Satisfied it’s deserted.
She puts down the flamethrower.
Methodically begins to search for the key.
Faint tapping sound.
Then stops.
She looks around.
Sees nothing.
Resumes searching near blister window…
Ripley finds key…
Tapping sound.
She whips around to see: Kane’s disfigured face slapping against the plexiglass.
She stifles a scream.
Drops the key onto the curved surface of the blister.
Fishes for it…
Kane’s bloated face swings in…

With the excision of this scene, Ash’s blister only figures into the film’s first act, and is unexplored throughout the rest of the movie. From here, Ash surveys the sojourn to the derelict craft and begins to plot against the crew.

One of the Nostromo's landing legs, with Ash's blister being constructed in the background.

One of the Nostromo’s landing legs, with Ash’s blister being constructed in the background.

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