The true monster of the Alien franchise

There is no doubt that the Xenomorph from the Alien franchise is one of cinema’s most iconic monsters. But while it’s a creature that’s captivated and frightened audiences for decades, it’s not the worst monster that exists within the movies. The Weyland-Yutani Corporation, the company at the center of the Alien universe, is the true monster. 

For starters, the entire reason the crew of the Nostromo set out for LV-426 in the original Alien film is because of company protocol. Then when something goes wrong after part of their crew sets out to explore the planet for the source of the distress signal they were instructed to investigate, Ash (Ian Holm) lets them back aboard the ship despite the fact that Kane (John Hurt), one of the crew members who went out to explore, has a foreign organism attached to his face. This is significant because Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) is in charge based on the chain of command of the crew left on the ship, and she doesn’t hesitate to remind them that the entire rest of the crew could be exposed to whatever the organism is and it could put them all at risk, which means she wants to follow quarantine procedure and not let them aboard. 

But when Ash goes against this and lets Kane and the others back in, Ripley has no problem confronting Ash and pointing out he’s the one who let the foreign organism with acid for blood in, and he knowingly broke the company’s basic quarantine rule. Ripley then says that because he did this, Ash put everyone’s life at risk. This is a frighteningly accurate statement, because the organism attached to Kane’s face that seemed to fall off and die on its own actually implanted something inside him that evolves into a tiny creature that bursts out of Kane’s chest in the middle of a meal. And that creature evolves into a massive monster that audiences would come to know as the Xenomorph. 

Ripley finds out after this that not only did the company secretly order Ash, who turns out to be an android, to return the creature in question, she also finds out that the crew is considered expendable. Then when Ash is subdued after trying to kill Ripley when she confronts him with this, it becomes appallingly clear that the company knew exactly what it was doing and wanted the Xenomorph for its potential. It also explains why Ash knowingly broke quarantine protocol and let Kane and the others in despite the risk. With this information in hand, all that is left is for the remaining crew members to try to survive and kill the alien. Eventually, only Ripley and the crew’s cat are left, and she succeeds in killing it after triggering the Nostromo’s self-destruct mechanism while she flees in the escape shuttle.

Aliens opens with Ripley being rescued after her escape shuttle is intercepted. After finding out she’s been in stasis for 57 years after the destruction of the Nostromo, Ripley explains her experience with the monster to company officials. Not only does the company act skeptical about her story, they appear far more concerned about the damage to the Nostromo and its impact on their bottom line. Although they state that some aspects of Ripley’s story can be verified, it’s clear the company officials have no interest in taking her seriously and they decide to suspend her license. 

But when something goes wrong and contact with the colony now situated on LV-426 is lost, company representative Burke (Paul Reiser) asks Ripley to accompany the Marines sent to investigate the situation. Burke, who was one of the company people at Ripley’s debriefing, tries to talk an openly reluctant Ripley into joining the Marines as an expert on the situation. Ripley openly questions Burke on his motives and asks what his interest is, and he responds by explaining the company’s financing of the colony. To persuade her to go along, Burke offers to help get Ripley reinstated as a flight officer when she brings up her current professional status, claiming the company has already agreed to his idea. However, that offer is contingent on her going along to LV-426. This doesn’t sway Ripley either, and it’s only after Burke promises that they are going out to destroy the Xenomorphs that may be on LV-426 and not bring them back that she agrees to go.

Of course, the mission to LV-426 doesn’t go according to plan, and the Marines find a nest of Xenomorphs to be far more difficult than they imagined. But while Ripley, Burke, an android named Bishop (Lance Henriksen), a little girl who is the sole survivor of the colonists named Newt (Carrie Henn), and the remaining Marines are waiting to be rescued, Ripley finds out that Burke told Bishop that the Xenomorph specimens kept in stasis on LV-426 were to be kept alive and returned to the company labs. Then when Ripley confronts Burke about this, she reveals she also knows the truth about what happened to the colonists, which is that Burke knowingly sent them to investigate the ship containing the Xenomorph eggs in the pursuit of profit. 

Openly disgusted at his duplicity, Ripley resolves to hold Burke accountable, but Burke tries to stop her by trapping Ripley and Newt with two of the Xenomorphs with the ability to impregnate humans. When this fails, Ripley explains to the Marines that Burke’s plan was to smuggle the fertilized Xenomorphs inside both Ripley and Newt through quarantine. Then when Burke tries to talk his way out the situation, Ripley herself acknowledges that people like Burke are just as bad, if not worse than the Xenomorphs when she says, “You know Burke, I don’t know which species is worse, you don’t see them f*cking each other over for a g*dd*mned percentage.” 

With this plot exposed, it’s reasonable to conclude that despite the company’s overtly skeptical reaction to Ripley’s story about the Xenomorph, they most likely knew her story was true and understood the potential financial benefits. Because it’s difficult to believe that the company can state the value of the Nostromo, which was destroyed many years earlier, but it can’t find any record of the encounter with the Xenomorph, which includes the instructions sent to Ash. And Ripley knows it’s ridiculous.

But despite his attempts to flee, Burke falls victim to the species he tried to profit from, and Ripley manages to escape LV-426 with Newt, Marine Corporal Hicks (Michael Biehn), and Bishop, who is significantly damaged in an encounter with the Xenomorph Queen before Ripley expels it from the ship. 

But their hypersleep after escaping LV-426 is interrupted in Alien 3 when a fire takes place on board, and Ripley and the others are evacuated in an escape pod that crashes on Fiorina 161, a bleak planet containing a maximum-security prison. The cause of the fire was that a Xenomorph egg onboard the ship hatched and the Xenomorph inside attempted to get into the ship’s cryogenic compartments. It manages to attach itself to one of the humans before the escape pod crashes and Ripley is the only human survivor. But while trying to figure out exactly what happened onboard the ship, Ripley sees on a scan that she’s carrying a Xenomorph specimen. She also finds out from what’s left of Bishop that the company is aware of everything involving her current situation, which means that the company rescue team on the way to theoretically help her knows that there is one of their highly coveted specimens there, and they want it for their weapons division. 

That’s why when the company rescue team includes someone who claims to be Bishop’s creator (also Lance Henriksen), and he asks Ripley to trust him, she doesn’t hesitate to say no. Despite the claim of a surgical team that could remove the Xenomorph inside her to destroy it, Ripley knows better. Then when Ripley is about to throw herself into the prison’s furnace to make sure the company can’t get the specimen, Bishop’s creator pleads with her, saying that the Xenomorph inside her is an enormous opportunity and to think what they could learn from it. In response, Ripley’s final act is to throw herself into the furnace while the Xenomorph inside of her bursts out, so that both of them will be incinerated and out of the company’s hands. 

Then after watching helplessly as Ripley makes sure they can’t get the specimen, all the company personnel can do is shut down the prison facility, because while Ripley may have been able to permanently end one species she hated, she couldn’t stop the other. 

Grant Butler is the author of the novel The Heroin Heiress and his short fiction has been published in Sick Cruising, Mardi Gras Mysteries, Horror Bites Magazine, Drabbledark II: An Anthology of Dark Drabbles, Dread Space: 23 Dark Military Science Fiction Stories, and The Siren’s Call. 

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