The Nostromo Files Investigates: A close shave with Occam’s Razor.


Some time ago, I posted a few thoughts about the characteristics of space travel in Alien (1979), but some recent reading has made me rethink things.

I was reading the entry on Alien (1979) at, a site that catalogs the common themes or tropes found in TV and film. Under the “If My Calculations Are Correct” heading, it refers to Lambert’s “ten months” line.

Like a blinding flash of light, it occurred to me: What if time dilation is not a factor to consider? What if it’s just the ten months they’re unhappy with, and not “ten-months-plus-time-dilation”? According to the principle of Occam’s Razor, sometimes the simplest explanation is sometimes the best. With a single swipe, I pitched Time Dilation out the airlock kicking and screaming, and rid myself of the burden of over-thinking this.

As Ripley advised Dallas (in an unfilmed scene), it is easy to lose perspective:

RIPLEY: Let me tell you something. You keep staring out there long enough, they’ll be peeling you off the wall.

I was free!

But then I took a look at this, and began to hear Time Dilation out there banging on the airlock door, reminding me that this shows that time flows differently on the ship and on Earth:

Actual time: 3 JUN. Flight time: 5 NOV

That looks a lot like like Special Relativity.

Scott Middlebrook (The ALIEN Universe Timeline) uses the actual time reference for the chronology of events that unfold in Alien, and rightfully so since that is the objective time reference, not the subjective ship-board reference.

When you compare the number of elapsed days between the date that the Nostromo departed Thedus (both Actual Time and Flight Time), something interesting thing happens:

This indicates that time is behaving differently in the two frames of reference, and that it is moving faster in the Actual timeframe.

At this point, I continue to apply Occam’s Razor and not draw additional conclusions until this had time to gel in my imagination. The information on this screen graphic was made to look realistic and may very well have had no deeper thinking behind it than to be nod to the time frame differences we saw aboard the Icarus in this image from Planet of the Apes (1968).

It would be so much less complicated if time aboard ship stayed the same as the rest of the universe, but with onscreen details that seem to indicate otherwise, I’m afraid I am back to considering time dilation.



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