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Peter Haight has co-hosted Perfect Organism: The Alien Saga Podcast, plays a mean Halen-esque guitar, and makes indie film. We met at a St. Pete’s Beach bistro and talked rock music, sci-fi, Alien and the (then new) Weyland-Yutani Report book over a couple of beers that eventually led to an interview. Check out Peter’s website: Rep-Detect. He lives in the US.
One of the staples in traditional science fiction revolves around the various spacecraft and spacefaring vessels that transport beings to all corners of the universe, both plotted and uncharted. Mankind’s desire to explore goes back to arguably prehistory, where our primate antecedents gazed upon the stars and pondered existence. This desire to explore and satiate our curiosities will outlive any organized civilization, and fortunately for the framers of hard sci-fi, has led to some incredibly creative outlets for such desires.
One of the prime examples of this poetry in motion is the spacefaring vessel Nostromo from the 1979 sci-fi horror classic, Alien, that transported a group of blue collar workers and engineers throughout deep space. The USCSS Nostromo is a bespoke M-Class starfreighter crafted by Lockheed Martin sometime in the early 22nd century. It was piloted by Captain Dallas and his crew, who were making a return trip from Thedus with several hundred thousand metric tons of ore mined from deep space.
While many hallmarks of sci-fi horror are now tired Tinseltown tropes, in 1979, the ship that transported the characters was almost as spooky as the titular Alien itself. The Nostromo was a tug-boat of sorts — it would carry the massive refinery of whatever ore the Weyland-Yutani corporation desired. The ship is a perfect design study for the “truckers in space” aesthetic. If one is to imagine what a tractor-trailer would look like blown up 1,000 times, and sent into space, that’s basically the Nostromo.
Creature comforts are minimal, and every facet of the ship is utilitarian and Spartan, likely to keep costs as low as possible. The bridge is cramped and the living quarters are claustrophobic and dated. At one point in its lifetime, the ship was retrofitted with more powerful engines to accommodate the increasingly larger payloads of the refinery. Long, octagonal hallways on the various decks are adorned with rectangular and geometric patterns — on the main deck, the hallways are white and feature various semiotics to denote the different locations, and at some points, looks like a padded room inside of an insane asylum.
On the lower decks, the same architecture applies. The decks are black in some areas and add to a very sinister feeling; even when nothing is wrong the crew feels unease, as though there is a strange creature lurking around every corner. Grime, grit, and filth fill the entire spacecraft.
At the conclusion of the film, the heroine Ripley leads the surviving crew members on a desperate race to defeat the Alien and escape with life and limb. In the process, two of the crew members get killed, the science officer is revealed to be a sleeper agent android sent by the company, and Ripley sets the ship to self-destruct in a scuttling sequence, narrowly escaping in a lifeboat with Jones, the ship’s cat.
While the ship has been surpassed in scope and breadth many times over in both cinema and literature, its design is timeless and as spooky as the creature in the film. The USCSS Nostromo is a classic example of the parallels between the visuals of a film and its narrative, as well as the monster and the horror.
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[Ed. note: Originally published on: Oct 12, 2017 @ 08:00]