Alien: Life cycle of the alien

leading from

a) Short Lifecycle
Ridley went along wth the idea that alien creature has a limited lifespan like that of the life cycle like that of a butterfly or an insect. He wanted it to have a sort of timelessness. The thing that came out of the egg, the Face Hugger which was also known the "perambulatory penis", is the father. It is an abstract entity, in a sense, because all it does is plant a seed, and once having conceived, it dies.
Once it jumps out of the egg, it has to reproduce and spread as fast as possible, maybe in a cycle of perhaps only four days

b) Genetic traits
The alien creature lived to reproduce and so what the next generation would be doing would reflect that.

Once the derelict and the silo had been merged together the scenario was that a Space Jockey was infected and the spores in the basement of the derelict were what became of the other crew of the derelict.

However perhaps the idea of what the alien life form was doing as a concept was still evolving. One concept that Ridley talked about was that the next generation that followed the Face Hugger was the result was a combination of the original creature and whatever host it uses.

Ridley also talked about how the next generation took on the characteristics of its last inhabitant and its new host, so in effect, the creature known as Kane's son had the space jockey as a grandparent and took on some of its features. The host is in effect the mother even if it is a male

So in that way,  if the Face Hugger had hit the cat, it would have been a hybrid of the Space Jockey and the cat, if it could have been a dog, there would be a dog version of the alien. If it impregnates a man, the you get a man version of an Alien. Eventually the idea became that the space jockey was the pilot of a vessel that had been carrying the spores in its hold since the start of the journey.

c) A further dimension to the beast
And so Gordon Carrol and Ridley talked about it many times, should they indicated that the alien has intelligence , perhaps even great intelligence. Was it just a sort of a time bomb or even just a war machine?

Perhaps it was another form of society adjusting itself like ants, and as Ridley understood, ants had no sense of beginning or end, which goes back to his idea about the alien having a sort of timelessness.

Perhaps they were just born, run around doing this thing like everybody else in the community and then dies, and Ridley thought that this may have been the alien, and if that is so, then the alien had no intelligence except pure intuition about survival.

But there was the added question of what would you have if you're given the fact that this creature that's making use of a man's brain capacity.

Ants

d)  Getting on with its lifecycle
This idea helped explain why the Alien didn't attack Ripley in the Narcissus, when Ripley kills it, the idea was that it would have died anyway.

Like a chameleon, it had found a protective corner in that ship and was working itself in there to die. It has to be provoked to attack because it had to get on with its life cycle.

Slime emanated from its body as if it were sealing itself in again like a cocoon, and hibernate again, and perhaps it was transforming into a chrysalis it's physical volume would decrease and it would transform into the form of an egg like the spores seen in the derelict spaceship

This might seem to be a strange direction of thought because when humans become spores, Ridley talked about them being eaten away by the alien young and so grows the spore.

Does this mean the alien becomes consumed by its own biology in a similar way?

e) See also: The Creature In The Wall

f) See also: Human to Spore

Source Quote
  1. Ridley Scott: The thing that I was always frustrated about was the absence of sense of smell with the beast. It's a real element with him, because his odor must have been incredibly powerful. I wanted a sense of a timeless, slightly decaying creature that, maybe, only has a limited life cycle of, maybe, four days like an insect. The alien life form lived to reproduce and in reproducing took on the characteristics of its last inhabitant and its new host. Thus the alien on board the Nostromo had the characteristics of the space jockey on the derelict and Kane. If the facehugger had hit the cat, it could have been a hybrid of the space jockey and the cat. When Ripley blasts off from the Nostromo with the alien aboard, it's dying which is why it moves so slowly. She kills it, but it would have died soon anyway. It's like a butterfly (Fantastic Films #12, "Alien from the inside out", An exclusive interview with the Director of Alien, Ridley Scott, part two by James Delson p30)
  2. Ridley Scott: A way of explaining what had happened on the derelict [spaceship] and what was now happening on the NOSTROMO. And I think it provided some explanation for the Alien's killing spree -- like a butterfly or an insect, it has a limited lifespan in which to reproduce itself.  It also helped explain why it didn't attack Ripley in the Narcissus.  It's days were over.  Like a chameleon, it had found a protective corner in that ship and was working itself in there to die. ("Creating an Alien Ambience", Alien : The Special Effects)
  3. Ridley Scott: I want to show that the Alien has a limited life cycle, like a butterfly.  And within that period of time once it decides to expose itself - to coin a phrase - once it jumps out of the egg, it has to reproduce and spread fast as possible, maybe in a cycle of only days.  And so in the last sequence, you see slime emanating from the big Alien's body because we're trying to convey that maybe he's sealing himself in again, like a cocoon.  Also, by that point, he has to be provoked to attack, because he has to get on with his life cycle. (Book of Alien, by Scanlon and Gross)
  4. Ridley Scott: So whatever it impregnated, it could have been a dog and you would have had a dog version of alien. Impregnated with a man you get a man version of Alien. Which therefore maybe is even more lethal particularly if you’re picking up on man’s brain capacity as well. Because we never could work out…Gordon Carrol and I talked about this many times, you know, should we indicate the alien has intelligence. Or great intelligence. Or is it just a time bomb, just a time bomb, is it just a war machine? You know,…are those eggs simply war machines or are they ways of…another form of society adjusting itself like ants really…ants have…I think ants have no sense of beginning or end. They just are born, run around doing this thing like everybody else in the community and die. And I think that may have been the alien. So maybe the alien had no intelligence except pure intuition about survival. Right?  ( report from the interview with Ridley Scott carried out for the Alien Evolution documentary, 2001)
  5. Ridley Scott:  Je voulais que l'extra-terrestre change continuellement de forme. Quand il apparaît dans les machines vers la fin, il pourrait très bien être en train de mourir, terminant là son  cycle de vie très limité, peut-être même se métamorphosant en chrysalide de telle sorte que son volume physique diminue afin qu'il puisse revenir sous forme d'un œuf et hiberner à nouveau. Translation: I wanted that the alien continually changes shape. When it appears in the machines at the end, it could very well be dying, finishing there its very limited life cycle, maybe even metamorphosing into a chrysalis so that its physical volume decreases so that it could return in the form of an egg and hibernate again. (L'Ecran fantastique # 11, p12)
  6. Ridley Scott: Je voulais qu’Alien possédât au plus haut point cette force sexuelle. A un moment, dans le film, il apparaît si mince, si élégant, qu’il en devient presque trop humain. Mais, c’est normal; si la substance de l’œuf s’était répandue sur un chien, Alien aurait ressemblé à un chien. Dans le cas présent,  sa “mère“, c’est bien le personnage joué par John Hurt, il est donc logique qu’il ressemble à un homme. Translation: I wanted that ALIEN possessed the highest point this sexual force. At one point in the film , it seems so slim, so elegant, that it becomes almost too human. But this is normal ; if the substance of the egg had spread on a dog , Alien would have looked like a dog. In this case , his "mother" , it is the character played by John Hurt, so it makes sense that he looks like a man (Telerama n1548 12 septembre 1979)
  7. Ridley Scott: The thing that came out of the egg,  - the "perambulatory penis", as we used to call it - is the father. It is an abstract entity, in a sense, because all it does is plant a seed. Once having conceived, it dies and the next generation takes on characteristics of whatever life form it landed on. It could have been a dog, in which case, the Alien would have taken on a dog form. The result is a combination of two elements, the original creature and whatever host it uses. (American Cinematographer, August 1979, p842)
  8. Charley Lippincott: A creature that evolves into different shapes, not chameleon like, but like the caterpillar into a butterfly.(Rolling Stone May 31, 1979, p31)

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