Back to ‘What Would Rob Do?’ Ridley Scott’s ‘Alien’ is a classic. It has been one of my favourite movies since childhood – so I’ve had a decent amount of time to think about what I might have done if I’d been caught up in the terrifying circumstances on ‘The Nostromo’. Beware: spoilers below.
‘The Nostromo’ is a commercial towing vehicle dragging an oil refinery through the stars on a return journey to Earth. The crew are awoken from their suspended animation by a beacon from a nearby planet in deep space and landing on the small, primordial world mount of investigation. The beacon belongs to a crashed, fossilised alien vessel and turns out to be a warning. One of the crew is dragged back to ‘the Nostromo’ with an alien parasite attached to his face. An attempt to cut it from his face fails and results in the spilling of acid blood. The blood melts through the decks and almost burns a hole in the space ship’s hull, endangering everyone on board. The parasite implants an embryo in the crew member that spectacularly erupts from his chest is a horrifying birth scene. The alien hides in the dark corridors and air vents of ‘the Nostromo’, growing to maturity before preying on the defenceless crew – snatching them one by one. When only Ripley – the ship’s Third Officer – and the ship’s cat ‘Jones’ remain, they abandon the ship and set it for self-destruct. Thinking the alien is dead, Ripley prepares the lifeboat for suspended animation until she discovers the creature alive and secreted aboard the lifeboat. Ripley is forced to fight for her life in the close proximity of the lifeboat and – with the use of a harpoon gun, a space suit and a bulkhead – blows the alien into space.
This one strikes me as pretty simple and really comes down to what you are willing to lose to get rid of the alien. Using crew members as bait is unethical and after the creature demonstrates its lethality and acid blood, direct confrontation with the alien is not advisable. The lifeboat can only take three (a design oversight, might I say), so abandoning ship is not an option. By the time the creature is killing crew members there is still a good deal to play for. The objective is to get rid of the creature without further loss of life, while at the same time limiting damage and infection of the expensive ship and cargo.
After Brett’s death, when the alien’s full capabilities are made known, if I had been a crew member I would have advised against the strategy of using incinerators and hunting for the creature alone through the air ducts. Beyond the obvious danger, this strategy seems to me to have very little chance of success even if Captain Dallas survives the hunt. Dallas knows this when he begins to crap himself and wants out of the dark duct system. I would have advised (and feel that this plan would have appealed to the crew) that one small section of the Nostromo - probably the one containing the environmental / life support controls – be sealed off. The pressure bulkheads should be locked off and the crew should occupy the small section with the air, artificial gravity and heat contained within. Air ducts to the section also need to be sealed off – welded shut if need be. All other doors, vents and bulkheads should be left wide open. Airlocks all over ‘the Nostromo’ should then be opened and the atmosphere violently expelled. Close the air lock. Re-pressurise. Pump an atmosphere back into the ship. Repeat. As many times as you like until you feel sure that the damned creature has been sucked through the ship (with other objects and debris) and out into space.
Of course, it might be argued that the creature could have held on through repeated expellations. It is certainly strong enough, but the idea is to surprise the monster and flush the thing out through the airlock – perhaps even on the tenth, twentieth or fiftieth attempt. This certainly has a better chance of getting rid of the alien menace than chasing it through the ship with a flamethrower. In various Alien films, the vacuum of space seems to be the creatures’ Achilles Heel. Its lethality is checked at least a little in atmosphereless, zero-gee conditions. I could not know that on ‘the Nostromo’, however, but I believe that expelling the atmosphere has a much better chance of getting rid of the creature without loss of life than other potential plans. Even if the creature’s robust hide is broken as it is smashed against architecture on the way out of the ship, alien acid blood is going to be sucked out with the creature. Even if it doesn’t, the airlocks are already open so the danger is much less.
Ultimately, that is what Rob would do. That said, I might have listened to Parker: after all, Parker told the rest of the crew to ignore the beacon. ‘The Nostromo’ would never have landed on the alien planet or taken the parasite / creature on board. When the parasite is aboard, Parker advocates freezing the affected crew member – which might have actually worked. It might have at least saved the crew of ‘the Nostromo’, but would probably have infected and doomed Earth!