The Only Aliens in the Alien Universe are Xenomorphs and Space Jockeys

The Only Aliens in the Alien Universe are Xenomorphs and Space Jockeys ...

There is an odd association with fandom where our notion of what a situation should be like often obscures our memories, and even the media itself. For three years on NBC, William Shatner played a massive nerd and consummate professional who would list his relationship status as a starship.

The Alien franchise is another example of a similarity. Alien is a film and multimedia franchise named after the titular Alien. We remember it as humanitys first encounter with alien life, and that alien life wants to either kill or lay its eggs in us later.

The Alien universe's popular imagination is a shambles: It is occupied by the Alien, the dead Space Jockeys it was discovered with, and, if you're feeling generous to lesser installments, some Predators. It's a view of the Alien universe that appeals to some fans who like the series to be serious science fiction with less fuss and fussy plots (or even better, Prometheus and its angry bald pale dudes in a bit).

First Contact (With These Guys)

The first clue that the crew of the Nostromo live in a world full of identified extraterrestrials comes from their initial reaction to seeing alien life in the original Ridley Scott film. The crew's response isn't that surprising, but nobody seems to be surprised that there are aliens in the films.

If the Alien were our first encounter with any alien life, you would expect someone to invoke that fact in these discussions. Instead, the discussion is always that this alien, in particular, is exceptional. Look at the Nostromos' first encounter with alien lifeit receives a signal from the Space Jockeys ship.

First, the Nostromo crews contract stipulates that any systematized transmission indicating a possible intelligent origin must be investigated. No one accepts the signal as a given because they are out on their own mission, finding strange eggs and sticking their faces in them.

Now, even assuming the Nostromos computers are magnitudes higher than modern computers, but with a conspicuously retro user interface, to receive an alien signal from a civilization you have never encountered before, with no common reference points or basis for comparison, is an absolute technical marvel, comparable to Star Treks universal translators.

The very existence of this capability implies that humans have not only encountered alien life before, but intelligent alien life.

In the Aliens sequel, there is of course another throwaway line that gives us a good indication of the larger Weyland-Yutaniverse.

Were Going on a Bug Hunt

The Aliens' exchange is the following:

Private Hudson: Is this a standup fight, sir, or a bug hunt?Lieutenant Gorman: We do not know why there is still no contact with the colony, and that a xenomorph may be involved.Corporal Hicks: It's a bug hunt.

This is a well-known line, one that was misread in a way that made the Alien extended-franchise sound a bit silly. An entire generation of geeks sat up with their little notebooks and wrote down The Aliens are actually xenomorphs.

The alien is not there at this point in the story, as far as we know, except Ripley, the dead crew of the Nostromo, and a few hundred more dead colonists. Put all of that together and you get a fancy way of saying alien. The private is asked if he is going on a bug hunt, and the stupid, grotesquely inexperienced CO has to respond in his own offending language, effectively proving his point.

This explains that a) the Alien is really the Alien, and b) Bug hunts are something the marines are familiar with, and to be honest, are quite bored with.

What is the definition of a bug hunt? There are two approaches. One is that marine mammals are used for activities that are basically pest control. They have never encountered anything like the Aliens, but they do have to go out to colonies to exterminate giant killer centipedes, space rats, and occasionally dinosaurs.

The other, given James Camerons later work, is that Avatar is a fairly accurate portrayal of what these marines consider to be a bug hunt. Apparently Weyland-Yutani is no stranger to discovering planets of sexy blue cat people who problematically appropriate Earths Indigenous cultures, Ewoks, or similarly peaceful, non-technologically advanced civilizationsand then mowing them down to make room for another mineral refinery.

I have avoided making mention of Ridley Scott's prequel films for two reasons. One: They are terrible. Two: This interpretation of the Weyland-Yutaniverse is about revealing the world of the Alien movies, and one of the great things about the Alien films, especially the first, is that they feel like a genuine vast universe where entire civilizations can exist around us, and everything we ever learn of is a single crashed spaceship that we don't even bother to see until we return from work

Covenant and Prometheus shrink that universe. The rather primitive Space Jockeys, who we can't tell from looking at what is technology or what is a body part, become the much less interesting Engineers, tall bald white guys with some sort of God complex, responsible for both life on Earth and the Aliens predecessor. The Alien isnt alien at all, it is the creation of an Earth android who was irritated with its human creators.

Prometheus suddenly makes sense by accepting that the Alien universe is far more teeming with life than it appears to be. The biggest problem is, if we just discovered alien life for the first time, why are the only people sent to investigate it so teeshits? Why do they lack the basic common sense of a group of space truck drivers who don't want to be looking for alien life anyway?

The answer is that nobody in the film claims that this is the first evidence that humans have existed on other planets. Only a possible clue to where humanity came from (and some pretty poor evidence at that).

If humanity has already discovered a slew of Pandora-like planets and other cooler alien stuff in the time of Prometheus, it makes sense that this mission may only attract the type of person who would not only stick their face in front of an alien making dangerous snake-like movements, but would also remove their helmet first.

An Expanded Universe

The Alien universe has expanded far beyond the three films that are considered as part of the franchise and the five others that are not. There are countless comics, books, and video games, many of which include creatures such as the Corcoran Highland Goat and the Tanaka 5 Scorpion.

A big problem with the Alien universe, if perhaps an unavoidable one, has always been that it insists on being about the Alien. There are constantly indications of a vast and complex universe outside of the Alien stories, but it always ends up feeling as if the entire Star Trek franchise was completely about human/Horta interactions.

The oddest addition to the Alien universe is the scattering of easter eggs across the Alien and Blade Runner properties, implying that the two stories share a universe. Both Alien films have made explicit references to the Tyrell Corporation, and Blade Runner 2049 shows a non-dissimilar spaceship to Aliens Sulaco.

Scott has most certainly confirmed the connection in one of the Blade Runner DVD director comments.

All of the things I did during Alien into the Nostromo environment are connected to people who are still alive on Earth, and here we have people on Earth. So almost this world might easily be the city that supports the crew that goes out in Alien. So in other words, when the Alien crew returns in, they might go into a pub off the street near Deckard's house. That's how I thought about it.

Along with Blade Runners' co-writer David Peoples, the film is considered an unofficial sequel to Blade Runner, with references to both it and Alien scattered throughout the film, including a tragic cut opening space battle intended to be Roy Batty's famous Tannhauser Gate.

Loose connections like this can make for a far more interesting and diversified universe than heavily choreographed and branded projects like the Marvel Cinematic Universe, with each story offering a glimpse of something bigger, rather than some massive web of information you must consume to understand any part of it (although honestly, we do like that as well).

The films in particular raise so many questions about what goes beyond that moment of clarity: are there other aliens? And how does our relationship with them differ from that? We are clearly not chummy enough with them to invite them to join our spaceship crew, but also we seem to have never undertaken any full-blown war with them (otherwise one thinks the Colonial Marine Corps might be better prepared). Lastly, we have had enough conversations with them to be able to translate brand new alien languages on the fly.

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What strange creatures have we been missing out on? Abyss, like the ones from James Cameron's film, Arrival? Is it possible that Weyland-Yutani would like to get involved in that Pandora unobtanium cash?

On second thought, there are probablynt any Ewoks. The Colonial Marines would not last five minutes against them.