A repository of ideas, hypotheses, and wonderings about the Nostromo, its refinery and the universe depicted in ALIEN.
New ideas and questions are welcome. Use INTERFACE 2037 to send them.
Archivist’s note: these have not been updated, except where noted, since the early 2000s.
QUESTION 1: Can the crew enter the refinery complex through the retractable umbilical seen as the Nostromo disengages from the platform?
RESPONSE 1: Unknown. Storyboards shown in the Alien DVD special features sections show two crewmembers entering a maintenance bay in the platform by way of an “EVA” sled.
QUESTION 2: What is the location of the lift that takes Dallas, Kane & Lambert the planetoid’s surface?
RESPONSE 2: While never specified in the film or other official behind-the-scenes material, a preponderance of evidence points to the underside of the hull, just next to the forward landing gear doors. This would seem practical, since the sheer length of the ship would seem to dictate that it would be close to the habitable spaces.
Opening Shot: As the camera pans along the length of the main hull, there is a box-like structure – aft of the triple engine nozzles – attached to the forward landing gear door. Perhaps as the door folds open, this structure deploys the lift’s support strut.
Descent/Landfall Sequence: In the wide shot showing the landed ship, there appears to be a smaller extra strut outboard of the starboard landing gear. This might be the lift, but its location seems to be backwards from that depicted when the three exit the airlock, as well as being an unbelievable hike from the cockpit and crew spaces.
One of Ron Cobb’s Nostromo drawings shows Ash’s observation blister on the main hull aft of the three thrust nozzles. When the explorers return, he sees them at the landing leg, a view impossible from the blister if the lift is on the starboard nacelle. The film shows that when Ash sees them return, he is looking to his right. We see, over his shoulder, that the landing leg is between him and the lift.
Brett’s death scene occurs in the forward landing gear chamber (a reasonable assumption since it is never established that the two similar chambers in the nacelles are accessible.) There is no indication in the set that the lift apparatus is housed here. Previously, the explorers exited the airlock into the tornadic winds of the planetoid and stepped onto the lift with the landing gear leg in the distance. If the airlock is on B-Deck, they would have seen these struts, but they would still have been inside the ship. The lift would logically descend from B-Deck through the forward gear chamber down to the surface.
Set photos in The Book of Alien show the airlock set used for this scene was only as high as the bay doors. This was obviously dramatic license, because otherwise, the airlock would hang from the hull as a detached chamber. Repeated viewings seem to indicate that the sets and models do not bear intense scrutiny. (The search for an answer to this question is simply an exercise in making the film match up with some kind of reality. I hope to resolve this issue as I blueprint the ship.)
QUESTION 3: Where does the crew sleep while out of hypersleep?
RESPONSE 3: Possibly in an unseen bunk room. The Company is depicted as cost-conscious, so spacious suites are not probable. It is possible the crew share the sleeping quarters, much as submariners do, between work shifts in dock or ground side. Since the “wake time” in the film is not an example of normal procedures, this is not certain.
In Ridley Scott’s commentary on the Alien DVD, he states that he envisioned the hypersleep beds being used as a “hospital” when the crew were awake. This presupposes their use in non-critical care, since the Autodoc seems to be the only mechanism capable of finer medical procedures.
QUESTION 4: How long does the crew normally spend out of hypersleep?
RESPONSE 4: Unknown. As long as days or short as hours. Travel time from “jump” point to planetary orbit may require direct human supervision. When docked at mining stations or groundside, those facilities are probably used while cargo and supplies are transferred by Company stevedores.
QUESTION 5: Are those “diapers” the crew wear in hypersleep?
RESPONSE 5: In Ridley Scott’s film commentary on the DVD, he explains that the crew might eat bland foods when they are preparing for hypersleep for eliminatory reasons. Because their stomachs have been empty for months, they eat bland foods after waking for gastronomic reasons.
QUESTION 6: What observable effects does hypersleep have on the crew?
RESPONSE 6: They move lethargically at first, as if waking from a fitful sleep. Some complain of being cold and “feeling dead,” although whether this is caused by hypersleep or because the ship is still not completely warmed up. Perhaps R.E.M. sleep does not occur. They eat bland foods (cornbread, pasta, vegetables) and drink beer before re-entering hypersleep. They are able to smoke cigarettes shortly after exiting the chamber.
QUESTION 7: How long are the bridge view ports?
RESPONSE 7: Approximately 18.75 feet.
QUESTION 8: What is the location of the airlock from which Kane’s body is ejected?
RESPONSE 8: Unknown. Maybe on the aft end of the forward hull, portside alongside the interconnecting neck, from B-Deck.
QUESTION 9: Is the starboard bow pylon on the forward hull a docking tube?
RESPONSE 9: According to Martin Bower, the model maker, it is.
QUESTION 10: Where are the Autodestruct controls found?
RESPONSE 10: C-Deck, in the Engineering Room. (Notice that Ripley climbs up to the shuttle deck after starting the scuttle countdown.)
QUESTION 11: Where is the Narcissus shuttle found?
RESPONSE 11: B-Deck, according to Martin Bower, model-maker on the film. There are two shuttles, though one is out of order in the film. The shuttle lock foyer Ripley runs through must be one of two (one on each side) in the nacelle struts. Since the shuttle is on-level with the deck, a walk-down isn’t suggested.
QUESTION 12: How was Kane moved to the Autodoc?
RESPONSE 12: Possibly by using cargo elevators that were not portrayed in the film. Maybe Lambert and Parker would have used one to get the coolant to the shuttle – had they survived.
QUESTION 13: Where is Ash’s science blister found?
RESPONSE 13: On the ship’s ventral hull, in some proximity to the forward landing gear and crew lift. He can watch Dallas and Lambert walk up to the lift from his viewport. (See Question 2 above.)
QUESTION 14: In the crew dossiers in Aliens, it is mentioned in each that there was an “employment disruption” or “employment discontinuity” on February 17, 2134. Is that the date the Nostromo was destroyed?
RESPONSE 14: Hmmm…
QUESTION 15: (added November 5, 2015) I was just re-reading one of Alien: Isolation‘s Nostromo Logs, and looking at the movie again and something caught my eye.
In Nostromo Log 008, Lambert states that Antarctica Traffic Control will get their call on October 22nd, give or take a few hours. When I looked at the movie, the readout shown as Mother awakens and reviews the flight plan indicates the actual time is “3 JUN” the ship’s flight time is “5 NOV”.
Add to the mix the flight plan from the 20th anniversary video set: they departed Thedus on 12 June.
Not sure what it all might mean, but if the bunch at Creative Assembly wrote that date in the Log based on either (or both) of the film and special feature dates, it would be interesting to draw extrapolations.
RSPONSE 15: Hmmm…
Thanks to: Scott Middlebrook.