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Why O'Bannon was right . . .

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Mar-24-2012 12:08 AM

Inspired by another post on Walter Hill and David Giler, I would like to know if anyone agrees with DanO that their rewrite was not an improvment, at least story wise. Especially when it comes to Ash. The problem is that it makes the whole sending humans to LV-426 rather ludicrous. It is clear from both the movie and novelization that the company knew this was a hostile life form, deadly. Now, they have all these androids running about and can easily send a smaller, cheaper vessel manned by a few Ash types to investigate, pick up and return to some colony off earth for further study/research. It is not as if the Nostromo just picked up the signal when the crew was awoken. There was no need for these men and women to be the ones to get the life form. No need to lose how many billions of dollars in equipment and oil, which they knew was a distinct possibility, in fact the likeliest one. The various explanations fans have made read more like rationalizations to make the story stick when the addition of Ash, while adding some suspense and the great Ian Holm, makes the Company seem both evil and stupid. Having said hat, the Giler/Hill screenplay does improve greatly on the dialogue and pace. What do you think? What makes more sense . . . Mother picking up a signal that it truly can't decipher resulting in a crew that decides on its own to investigate or the evil company planning the whole thing?

41 Responses to Why O'Bannon was right . . .

Kronnang Dunn

Mar-24-2012 12:54 AM

I think the company wanted to avoid anything that could look like another expensive xeno-contact mission after the Prometheus fiasco, and the easiest way of retrieving an Alien lifeform was to send unsuspecting space tuckers so they could get infected. Androids can't...


Mar-24-2012 1:11 AM

@Kronnang Dunn I think that will be one of the tasks I am expecting Prometheus to complete . . . not explaining every mystery of the SJs, but making the Nostromo sacrifice make sense. In the screenplay and novel Ash goes into great detail as to why the Company decided to have the crew investigate. A lot of it had to do with cost. But if Weyland-Yutani drones picked up the signal, and no one else knows, and the Company has all this info before the Nostromo leaves for earth . . . then there are probably a dozen colonies they could launch a ship from. If they want to know what the effect on humans will be, the company merely has to have the androids bring some eggs to a research facility where they can begin studying the facehuggers on animals, etc. Now, if the company is indirectly responsible for the very creations of the xenomorphs, the plot gets even murkier.


Mar-24-2012 5:29 AM

Kronnang Dunn, that's a great rationale: artificial persons cannot host the alien, and therefore human subjects were a prerequisite. Now, you could argue why it wasn't condemned prisoners from the penal colonies that were selected. But then you'd have a tough time explaining why they'd be going to an uncharted planetoid. At least with the space truckers it is a contractual obligation to investigate intelligent signals. Dallas!Dallas!, I would suggest that because of the quarantine laws, the Company would be unable to transport eggs to any ground-based science facility. Hence human hosts would be imperative to stowaway the alien pass the border controls. IMO Giler and Hill did improve the story, with genius strokes like making the lead character female. But O'Bannon and Shussett must be praised for the alien mythos.


Mar-24-2012 5:44 AM

Dan Obannon did initially say that any of the characters in original script could either be male or female.


Mar-24-2012 7:10 AM

The problem with this theory is that Ash should have killed the crew just after they left the planet. Them he could veers the ship toward Earth with the precious cargo with no annoying crew messing things around... Of course one can say that he tried. Also, he thought of the xenomorph as "a perfect organism" and that the crew had no chances against the thing, so they would die anyway. What doesn´t happened...


Mar-24-2012 8:37 AM

Nostromo was the most cost effective, expedient ship to send, and weyland wanted to be sure they got there before anyone else did. There's no reason to believe that ash was programmed to do everything on that ship by himself. Even if he was, he realized that he would not be able to. The plot hole that bothers me is that the lifeboat couldn't accommodate the whole crew. What good is an escape pod that won't even save half of the crew.

Safe? Of course he isn't safe, but he's good!


Mar-24-2012 11:36 AM

@Myrddin365 there is a second life boat, but its out of order while the events of alien are taking place.

Ghost Solitare

Mar-24-2012 11:45 AM

Think darker.... I'll give you a second.... The company didn't want any further publicity. They had obviously done a complete censure on the nature of the mission as well as specific objectives. The crew of a Bison Class Commercial towing vessel would not be as readily missed if something had gone wrong. Weyland Yutani could release any number of reasons why the ship/crew was lost. Payout the insurance to the families and secret away their little research project. That didn't happen quite as planned. The real damage comes much later. With the events of Prometheus, and Alien what rational corporation would send a terraforming colony to the same planet? If they knew as much as we suspect, and hopefully will have illustrated by the time the credits roll, then Weyland Yutani become a far more sinister corporate entity than anyone could have imagined. If you look online for the schematics for the Nostromo you will see that there were two Narcissus class long range shuttles aboard it. The other shuttle was disabled, only a company with a crappy safety record would allow something like that.


Mar-24-2012 12:09 PM

I didn't remember that part. but Ripley said the shuttle won't take four. there were seven crew members. I guess the captain has to go down with his ship in the future. Do they mention the other shuttle at any point during the movie? It would make sense, I just can't place where they communicated that.

Safe? Of course he isn't safe, but he's good!


Mar-24-2012 1:04 PM

Starbeast: I go back and forth with Ash. The explanations make sense but only if one assumes that the company is truly wicked/evil and not just amoral. On the one hand there is something more terrifying about human truly haphazardly coming upon some Lovecraftian monster by chance. On the other, Ash does make the movie more than just simple Jaws in space once the killing starts. I just think it would be more interesting if it is made clear Ash himself decides to aid the alien and allow the crew to be killed with the company unaware exactly what the nature of the message/organism is and its only orders (for Ash) to make sure the Nostromo lands and investigates. It would also make the connection to Blade Runner universe more interesting with Ash going offline so to speak. Myrddin: The only problem is that aiding the alien and killing Ripley is implicit in his orders. I do agree that Giler and Hill did improve the original a great deal. I do wish they kept the pyramid in, though, I can see how that may be viewed as too much backstory and not enough action.


Mar-24-2012 1:32 PM

The Brandywine leeches added the whole "Ash" sub plot to add a sense of corporate paranoia into the script, an idea that was very much overused by the late 70's. Although it does add another layer to the story, it also confuses the story. Not the first time these 3 idiots have unduly messed with a franchise they didn't even have a hand in creating!


Mar-24-2012 1:56 PM

Snorklebottom: I agree with overdone corporate sub-plot. But an android that disobeys orders would keep the layers and not confuse things. Or maybe just waiting until you can effectively cut from the fake Ian Holm severed head to the real Ian Holm without looking so cheesy . . . the only cheesy looking part to the first movie.


Mar-24-2012 2:09 PM

It does add layers, but it does also confuse things - for 33 years fans have been debating as to exactly how much the company knew about the alien. Don't get me wrong Ian Holm did the part justice as he usually does but watch any 10 films from the 70's and at least half of them will have the corporate conspiracy either as the main plot or as a sub-plot. End of the day, we are all here because of late, great Dan O'Bannon!


Mar-24-2012 2:27 PM

O'Bannon is the master, to be sure.

Ghost Solitare

Mar-25-2012 9:12 AM

If you accept the Weyland timeline on the website as canon then there can be no connection between the two films/universes. In Bladerunner the world economy was in the crapper and the environment was compromised. It doesn't rain all the time in Los Angeles which is obviously the result of catastrophic climactic changes. On the website Weyland regenerated an atmospheric shield over the ice caps preventing further environmental deterioration in 2016. His patent for cybernetic individuals was recognized in 2023. Replicants were not androids, they were genetically programmed clones.


Mar-25-2012 8:29 PM

Do you think the Alien would have been as brutal with Ash as the queen was with Bishop? Would it have Just ignored him? @Dallas!Dallas! I don't understand what that was referring to. Once the ship was under way, Ash could kill everyone neccessary to protect the organism. I agree with that. He just needed the others to land, grab it and take off. There had to have been a hundred better ways for Ash to try and off Ripley, though. There were effing laser pistols on board!

Safe? Of course he isn't safe, but he's good!


Mar-25-2012 9:40 PM

I am still of the belief that their really was NO signal, the entire signal thing was made up by the company to get the crew to land on LV-426. What we know of the signal comes from mother, which is already not trust worthy. The signal is only partially interpreted by mother and Ripley and is never heard from again. There was NO signal!


Mar-26-2012 9:15 AM

Hey everyone! I'm new here. I agree with O-bannon wholeheartedly. But in the end Alien came out great & that's what matters. What the addition to Ash really does is kill the isolation of the setting. "Earth" is [i]there[/i] via the android plant and it feels like an intrusion, it should just been the crew & the alien. Ash also opens up all kinds of potential plot holes as others have pointed out. Ultimately, they had a story and a script draft and a director, the project was "go" and there was no reason to re-think it from the ground up. So we have the original script and also the material that glommed on to it during production. Some of that (the alien life cycle, Ripley as a woman, everything Scott brought to the project) was great and some of it (junk the producers introduced) not so great. In the end we have Alien which is so much better than other space movies of that era (The Black Hole, Battle Beyond The Stars, Saturn 3) so I'm willing to take the lame/predictable with the original.


Mar-26-2012 9:38 AM

Having seen Dark Star a few times, I gotta admit, the re-write to the Alien script probably didn't hurt.


Mar-26-2012 10:40 AM

The mystery left by the unanswered questions in 'Alien' does not hurt the film. A true plot hole does not have plausible logical possibilities to answer a viewers concern. The unanswered questions in 'Alien' have numerous logical possibilities and the fact that these questions are not answered makes the tension of the film all the more frustrating in a positive's the point of the thing. - The signal is most certainly real. If it were not, they wouldn't be able to home in on it and they wouldn't be able to track in on the ground...the entire reason Lambert is part of the exploratory group, she uses tracking tech in the novel to hunt it down and give them direction in the planet's hostile environment.....In the novel, they even find the's a pointless thing to debate....Ash and Mother not being able to decipher it is a simple lie the other crew can never find out, because they don't have access to Mother. Ripley starts to translate, but by the time she get's anything, Ash tells her 'What's the point?' by the time she gets there, it would be too late anyway and he's right. There's no reason for her to suspect anything yet and it isn't on her mind when all hell breaks loose anyway. - The reason for sending the Nostromo has always been an attempt to hide the aquisition of dangerous alien life from government officials and stringent customs policies. That is entirely logical.....why send out an R&D vessel? It's departure will be logged, and will most definately be examined thoruoghly upon its return.........By waiting for the opportunity to have the next commercial vessel passing through that quadrant investigate, you keep a low profile, you don't raise any eyebrows by the clear and sudden departure of an expensive R&D mission, and any risk of failure can be chalked up to a small commercial crew following policy or you can just humiliate and personally eviscerate any possible survivors for their crazy story (which is what happens to Ripley in 'Aliens') and the whole thing gets smoothly, neatly swept under the rug....all of which is reasonable and plausible from a heartless perspective. - What's wrong or ridiculous or silly or implausible with the idea of a corporate entity being greedy, over zealous, heartless, cold, calculating and....oh.....evil and stupid. Yes, not all of them are, but some have been and there's no reason we shouldn't believe Weyland-Yutani would be. People can be does happen. And the company's absense makes its duplicity all the more oppressive, increasing the tension and making the horror of the film more effective. The audience is meant to loath not just the creature, which is acting on pure instinct, but the company, a nebulus entity of human construction that should treat its employees with value and dignity, but CHOOSES not to. Which is more horrifying, the instinctive alien or the willfully indifferent human entity? - How does Ash's presence kill the isolation? If anything, it makes the isolation more suffocating, more oppressive, intrusive and hope deflating. When all members of the crew are in a fight, together, to find and eliminate the alien, they at least have each other. That simplistic reality is a hopeful one; at least they have that. The presence of Ash as inhuman wolf in sheeps clothing, doing the bidding of the company in protecting what hunts them all....kills that hope. What chance do you have when you can't even trust one of your own and at the ass end of space where no one can help you but yourself. In space, no one can hear you scream, can come to your aid or make things right, because...even if one or more of them survive, the company's still going to write the whole thing off and get away with it. There's a plausible horror in that transcending the natural fear of a living threat like the alien. That you can confront the alien, that, if you can kill it, you can survive is can't lash out at the company, you can't fight back at it, you can't take it down. It's out there, across the gulf of space and whatever happens aboard the Nostromo WILL NOT TOUCH THEM. There's nothing worse than that kind of reality. And killing Ash doesn't change that, which makes his reveal that much better.....the entire film is shrouded in a cloud of betrayal and absent menace that is never lifted, even in Ripley's victory. Where's the plot holes? Any thing you don't know makes all of that more intriguing, more horrifying, more to the point of the intended affect and none of it leaves an unanwsered question you MUST have answered for it to make sense. We don't always have to know everything....if we did, we'd be God's ourselves and where's the fun in that?


Mar-26-2012 1:45 PM

Ghost Solitaire What is canon keeps changing so much I am just going with the latest ideas Scott himself has had, one of them being Blade Runner and Alien being in the same universe. I think so much has been added and played with that the whole thing falls apart if you even look too logically at even just the first two movies. The explanations for the continuity of Alien to Aliens are tenuous at best.


Mar-26-2012 2:55 PM

Craigamore Yes, tenuous. The problem with the Ash subplot is that there are too many ifs/variables and that corporate actions are rarely based on wicked ends but on profit, damaging to employees if need be, but only if need be. If, as many have pointed out here, the company can hide the whole Prometheus mission (that remains to be seen), then they can certainly hide a much smaller vessel going to LV-426 with a crew of androids. Remember, the Nostromo is not redirected to LV-426 but is sent there specifically once it leaves Thedus. No time is saved by using the Nostromo as opposed to assembling a smaller mission. And with this secret agent bit, the risks involved are too great if the crew should learn of the corporate plan and learn how to kill the alien. There are too many variables for it to make sense. If it means being able to keep a huge haul such as the Nostromo has translating into profit and sending a ship to pick up an egg and study it on site before making the next move, also translating into profit, any CEO would pick the latter. There is nothing wrong with showing a heartless company. It is just that the heartlessness usually involves an amorality in which the higher-ups may not care about employees but rarely set out intentionally to kill them. In fact it is usually amorality combined with stupidity. Much more frightening and believable to me would be a company which sends the crew there to investigate a signal it thinks MAY be dangerous but just isn't sure. With an android that is given too much independence leading to disastrous results. Which is why I think O'Bannon has a point.


Mar-26-2012 5:45 PM

"Remember, the Nostromo is not redirected to LV-426 but is sent there specifically once it leaves Thedus." @dallas!dallas!....The opening title sequence tells us that the Nostromo is in the return phase of its trip.....they didn't send the Nostromo directly to the planet.....the flight plan's proximity to Zeta II Reticuli makes this commercial vessel the ideal ship to PLACE Ash on for the interception of the signal that triggers Mother into waking them out to check it out as their contracts require.


Mar-27-2012 12:27 AM

Yes, the opening sequence does let us know what the crew (minus Ash) and the audience gets as the official destination but the problem is that the Company has planned long before the Nostromo enters Zeta II Reticuli to have it obtain the organism, so the real destination is LV-426. Which is fine except when we look at the time involved. When the crew hits LV-426 they are around 10 months distance from earth according to Lambert. Now, when Ripley asks Dallas about Ash he mumbles that before they shipped out his original science officer was replaced with Ash. It is unclear if he means from Thedus or Earth but it must be Thedus as then the company would be absolute imbeciles. So we'll safely assume Ash was placed while on Thedus. And this was not a snap decision but one carefully thought out. The question is, how long from Thedus to LV-426? Based on O'Bannon's sketches. despite the long 10 month journey to earth still ahead, the bulk of the trip has been accomplished, thanks to faster than light travel. So it would take longer to wait for the Nostromo to reach LV-426 than to send a ship, with no risky humans, from a colony outside our solar system. Quicker, less risk on every level. Time is money so they say. It just makes little sense: when you can have a 10 month journey or less with virtually no risk of detection why you would opt for a longer wait with more chances for everything to go wrong. Actually, if they kept O'Bannon's original idea of a 250 year window b/w earth and Thedus, it would have made more sense. That would be clearly too long to wait. Unless my math is wrong. If so, then gladly stand corrected. On a totally divergent note, I also like O'Bannon's crew motivated by the excitement of being the first humans to encounter intelligent life.


Mar-28-2012 6:29 AM

I could have been an error someone made. The directive sent in error, compounded by further mistakes. Anyone who works in a large organisation knows the score with these kind of FUps


Mar-28-2012 9:46 PM

Whether you enjoy Ash being added or not, you have to admit that Ian Holm was the best of the 7 actors. He was perfect in that role, especially when Dallas is telling the crew about the signal and Ash is pacing in the background, you can almost tell what Ash is thinking. The best line in the entire movie....Ash looking up at Ripley with the "you have got to be kidding me your questioning what I am doing look" and says with such dripping sarcasm that the device he made reads the changes in air density. I think people don't have a problem with the character of Ash because Ian played it so brilliantly.


Mar-29-2012 11:25 AM

@arrgy We all agree, I think. Holm nails it. I would say every one of those actors was on the same level. Now, maybe we won't see Skerrit doing Hamlet anytime soon, but if you read the script and watch how they play with it, everyone had to be on top of the ball. They really are bouncing, pun intended, off each other. I would love to see that in Prometheus. I doubt I will. But who knows?


Mar-30-2012 1:28 PM

i thought Ash had planned to kill the crew when they went back into cryo sleep. or am i confusing Ash with the creepy corporate douche in the second movie (played by paul reiser) ?


Mar-30-2012 2:54 PM

@ brockness It is never made clear if Ash has those plans/orders or not. I think Ripley implies in Aliens that Burke (le douche) had some kind of plan that you describe. But I have to re-watch to be sure @craigamore One correction to my earlier reply. It is 250 years, in the original script, b/w LV-426 and Earth making it and even Longer wait! Also, I think it is subjective when talking about what is scarier . . . in this case being out in the back ass of space with humans just coming upon the "ultimate in space terror" (from a Starlog article on the original) by chance or being directed to it by the company. The former is my choice because it implies that humans are utterly powerless and unable to comprehend certain things. The latter adds an element of human control. But Holm is just so damn good as Ash, I would still keep it, just with the change I mentioned: the company picks up the signal shortly before Nostromo leaves Thedus. The company itself knows no more than it MAY be non-human and possibly an SOS. But it might be wrong. So it places ASH on board to ensure the crew investigates it fully and, if actually alien life, to ensure it's brought back as this would be, to quote O'Bannon, "the most important discovery in history" and would make WY bigger than big! Ash then makes a logical decision to place the alien's life above the crew. Remember, it is only in Aliens that the directive to never harm humans is established.

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