Sunday, November 28, 2010

Crazy Fan Theory of the Week

The aliens in "Alien" (and it sequels) are sentient.

Sure, they don't talk, either to the humans or to each other. But that doesn't mean they don't communicate. Maybe they "speak" in ultra-sonic frequencies (those big, dome-like foreheads look suspiciously like the skulls of dolphins, used for echolocation) or use pheromones or telepathy or some sort of other sci-fi communications. And yes, they are astonishingly single-minded predators, and you'd think that an intelligent species would display some sort of ethical structure to their behavior. But intelligence doesn't necessarily imply culture, especially when (as is definitely the case in the first movie) each new alien has to create its own civilization from scratch wherever it's born.

But if you watch the movies under the working assumption that they're actually very smart, if uncivilized, a lot of things make sense. The alien in the first movie doesn't just wind up in the escape pod by chance, it heard the announcements and decided to get the heck out of Dodge. The aliens in the second movie display excellent strategy and tactics, placing their nest in a spot that neutralizes their enemies' most powerful weapons while allowing them free use of their own. And the alien in the third movie practically runs a textbook guerrilla warfare campaign against its opponents right up until the end.

So the next time you watch the "Alien" flicks, don't think of them as mindless, voracious killing machines. Think of them as extremely intelligent, voracious killing machines. Somehow, that makes them even scarier, doesn't it?


Fred said...

There's a scene in the fourth film -- spoiler warning -- where they definitely do communicate amongst themselves, killing one of themselves so that its acid blood will burn through the cage the rest of them are in. That would seem to require a bit more forethought, if not sentience, than you'd see in an animal just acting randomly, or on blind instinct.

Of course it's completely ruined later by the revelation that these aliens can spit acid. But, then again, a lot of things in the fourth Alien movie are ruined simply by the fact of their being in the fourth Alien movie.

Brendan said...

Aliens sort of suggests this as is. The Queen is clearly communicating with her minions on some level when she tells them to back off, and she's smart enough to recognize Ripley's weapon for what it is. What's more, she's smart enough to sneak aboard (and apparently operate) an elevator, as well as hide aboard the dropship. Even the normal aliens are smart enough to cut the power when assaulting the marines' last stand, which suggests something beyond mere animal cunning. It's also questionable if it was mere coincidence that one of the aliens was able to take down the first dropship.

Personally, I'd think that the Queen is the only truly sapient one, and the lesser aliens act smarter when being commanded by her.

It's a bit of a stretch to say the alien in the first movie figured out the self destruct message, though. Even if it was sapient, how was it able to learn English well enough to understand the context and meaning of the self destruct message over only a couple of days?

Lovecraft In Brooklyn said...

It could have gained the memories while incubating in the guy it burst out of

i'm sure science doesn't work that way, but it works symbolically

Kal said...

They are a hive mentality with an incredible will and skill to survive and thrive regardless of what race they have to exploit to do so. They are the ultimate Xenophobes unlike the Predators who will team up with another race of beings like us to combat the aliens. The aliens have no such ability to reason as to what is in their best interests. They are machines in that way - one program - survive and reproduce. They are more insect than anything else and reproduce prolifically as long as bodies are around that can incubate their young. We know that those sacs can't generate aliens on their own. They are the ultimate consumer, destroying the host before moving on to others. I assume that they each have the ability to produce a Queen and do so when conditions are right for a colony to be established and grown. I don't think they have sexes per say but are divided by Queen and Worker/Soldiers. We don't know what they eat or if they need to eat at all. How long are their lifespans? I suspect very short.

j$ said...

I had the same assumption from the first time I watched Aliens, that they were a hive animal controlled in some way by the queen. While I wouldn't ascribe ruthless cunning to the drones, clearly the queen exhibited intelligence. And it seems reasonable to me that she could have figured out the alarm. If I'm ever on an alien ship and suddenly there's lights flashing and alarms sounding and an automated voice saying something in an alien language I'm going to assume that means things aren't going well, especially if my prey are all rushing to an escape vessel.