Alien Scene-by-Scene is Now Out!



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The following is an excerpt:


(35:34 – 42:43)

In the next scene, Ash is shown anxiously awaiting the arrival of Lambert, Dallas and Kane from their excursion. The moment he sees them approaching through the storm, he heads for the air lock.

The outside elevator carries the three up to the air-lock, where Dallas asks if Ripley is available on his com-link. Ash goes to the air lock and informs Ripley that he is there waiting, to which she replies, “Right.” Inside the air lock the three explorers are shown with vents of steam blowing over them for decontamination purposes. Dallas informs Ripley that they’re now clean and tells her to let them in, but first she wants to know what has happened to Kane. Dallas explains that something has attached itself to him and that they must get him to the infirmary immediately. Ripley cautiously asks what kind of thing has attached itself to Kane, but Dallas shouts back at her that it is some kind of an organism and orders her to open the hatch. Ripley tells him that there is a great risk to the ship if they let Kane in, and that quarantine procedures require twenty-four hours for decontamination. Dallas says that Kane might not live for another twenty-four hours, to which Ripley replies—correctly, as it turns out—that if they break quarantine procedures then everyone onboard could die. Lambert then yells at Ripley to open the hatch, but she maintains a firm “no.” Dallas specifies, however, that he is giving her a direct order to open the hatch, but she still refuses. Ash, still waiting anxiously in front of the doors of the lock, decides to override Ripley and presses the button to open it, then tells Ripley that the inner hatch has been opened.

The next shot is a close-up of Kane’s helmet through which the creature has managed to melt its way inside. Ash is in the middle of cutting the helmet open using a laser scalpel and together he and Dallas—inside the autodoc now—pull the two halves of the helmet away to reveal yet another of Giger’s compressed signifiers. “My God,” Dallas says when he sees the yellowish organism that has completely covered Kane’s face and has wrapped a serpentine tail around his neck, which it tightens, threatening to kill him. The creature is a sort of compression of an arachnid with a crustacean and has legs that look more like long human fingers than spider’s legs. In either case, it is clearly exoskeletal in nature.

Dallas, holding half of Kane’s helmet, asks Ash what the hell it is that they’re looking at.

Meanwhile, in the corridor outside the autodoc, Lambert, Parker and Brett watch the entire operation through a glass window. Brett asks the same question that Dallas has just asked Ash, rhetorically, while Parker then asks how the hell Kane could be breathing with that thing on his face? Parker is in the middle of asking why they don’t just freeze Kane when Ripley comes down the stairwell behind them. She is furious, and Lambert immediately turns upon her and calls her a bitch, while giving her a full, and vicious, slap in the face.[i] Parker and Brett run over to break up the feud, while Lambert accuses Ripley of having left them out there to die in the air lock.

Dallas then yells from the other side of the autodoc and tells Ripley that when he gives an order, he expects it to be obeyed. Ripley counters by asking him: even if it’s against the law? To which Dallas, unhesitatingly replies, “You’re goddammned right!”

Parker then leans forward and yells through the glass to Dallas that maybe Ripley has a point, since they have no idea what that thing on Kane’s face is.

Inside the autodoc, meanwhile, Dallas is asking Ash how they’re going to remove the creature from Kane’s face. Ash tells him to hold on a minute while he grabs a pair of forceps and then tries to use them to pull one of the creature’s fingers away, but this only has the result of tightening the snake-like coil around Kane’s neck. Dallas tells him that the creature is not coming off without tearing Kane’s whole face off with it. Ash suggests that they take a look inside of him.

Ash then walks over to the X-ray unit and punches a few buttons that cause Kane’s platform to swivel round inside of it, while a glass partition closes him in. Ash tells Dallas that he can now take his protective mask off.

There follows a shot of a scanning device that creates an X-ray image of Kane as it slides along the length of the unit from head to toe. Looking at the X-ray, Dallas notices that the creature has inserted something down Kane’s throat, which Ash suggests that it is using to feed him oxygen. Dallas wonders aloud why the creature would paralyze him, put him into a coma and then keeps him alive. The whole thing is a puzzle, but he insists that they have to cut it off Kane’s face no matter what. Ash interjects that they should not be too hasty, since the creature is, after all, feeding him oxygen and if they remove it, it could kill him. But Dallas says he’ll accept full responsibility for whatever happens.

There follows a shot in which they have removed Kane from the X-ray machine and put him back where he was. Dallas asks Ash how he wants to go about doing this, and Ash tells him that he will use the laser scalpel to make an incision just above one of the creature’s knuckles. But when he applies the laser scalpel to one of the creature’s fingers, a jet of yellow blood shoots out onto the floor and eats a hole right through it.

Dallas is worried that the acid-blood may eat through the hull, and so he runs out, while the crew follows him to the next level down. By the time they get there, though, the acid has dropped through to the next deck, and they chase it down one level further. When it has reached C Deck, the blood has lost its momentum and left a hole in the ceiling. Ripley says that it looks like it’s stopping and Parker tells Brett to come take a look at the acid. Dallas asks for a pen from him, which he grabs and then uses to prod the hole. When he pulls it out the pencil is smoking.

Dallas says that he’s never seen anything like it except molecular acid, which Brett points out that it must be using for blood. Parker comments that it has a wonderful defense mechanism and that they don’t dare kill it.

Ripley then asks about Kane as Dallas hands the ruined pencil back to Brett. Dallas tells them that he will leave Kane to Ash and that Parker and Brett should get back to work on repairing the ship so that they can take off.

The semiotics of this sequence are complex, but there are basically two processes going on, for whenever one sign regime begins to overcode another sign regime, the result is not only a hybridization of the two, but a hybridization that takes place through two parallel processes which Deleuze and Guattari in their book A Thousand Plateaus call “facialization” and “reterritorialization.” [ii]

Every sign regime carries its own brand of facialization. For instance the face, in the Hebrew sign regime, is always turned away or hidden: one is not allowed to look upon the visage of God, or even Moses, who has to wear a veil over his face after his confrontation with the deity on Mount Sinai. During the Byzantine age, however, the Roman burial portrait is transformed and reterritorialized into the en face visage of “the average white man,” who normally turns out to be a saint or one of the other holy entities in the Christian canon. During the later metaphysical age, when the Byzantine icon painting tradition entered into Europe, the saints were pushed out and refacialized as the classic portrait study, usually of a wealthy patron or donor.

With the rise of Modernist art at the end of the nineteenth century, another facialization process began to overcode the previous one of classical art, one which—and this is especially epitomized by Picasso—took the portrait study and broke it into pieces in order to reassemble it as an “integral” visage, or multi-perspectival image. With the post-integral, or postmodern age, however, the portrait—as in the paintings of Francis Bacon, let’s say—became what Peter Sloterdijk calls a detrait, in which all the signifying features were scrambled, but not to produce an integral image with specific significations, but rather an a-signifying visage that meant nothing at all.[iii]

In the present instance, as the Gigerian sign regime begins to penetrate and overcode Sign Regime A, it starts precisely by refacialization. Kane’s recognizable facial features are simply wiped clean and covered over by a creature with mythic significations that point back to the ancient past of the Titans banished to the underworld during the rise of the mental consciousness structure. The new facialization simply wipes the slate clean and we are given the portrait study of “Face Covered by a Monster.”

The alien may be enigmatic to the crew, but it is most definitely teleological. It has a purpose, for related to the metaphysical process of facialization is also the process of reterritorialization. When Christian names, for instance, were given by the Spaniards to Native American landmarks, that is an example of “reterritorialization.” In other words, a signifier that was once used to signify one thing, is now overcoded and used to signify something else altogether.

Thus, in Sign Regime B, Kane’s mouth is reterritorialized as a vagina, while his stomach is reterritorialized as a uterus. If, as Deleuze and Guattari point out, the human hand is simply a deterritorialized paw, while the mouth, originally territorialized for nourishment, is later reterritorialized by the human frontal lobe for the instrument of language, then we can also say that Sign Regime B is using Kane’s body to make a new somatic map for itself, a kind of alien cartography that has new significations which anathematize and draw an “X” over the previous bodily organs.

A hybrid regime is thus in process of being created, and the end result in the film will be the creation of a third sign regime, a Sign Regime C that is the product of the fusion of the previous two, in imitation of the Hegelian process of thesis, antithesis, synthesis.

When the metaphysical age of the Greeks and the Hebrews overcoded the sign regime of the pre-metaphysical—or mythical—sign regime, the Father appropriated the creative powers of the Mother Goddess. Specifically, he internalized and recoded her womb to serve the uterine function of giving birth to the Logos, or the Word. Hence, Christ incarnates the Word made flesh that is breathed by God down into the virgin womb of Mary, which He uses as a proxy, although he had already demonstrated at the beginning of the Book of Genesis that Adam had appropriated the womb in the side of his body, from which he had given birth to Eve.

In a strange way, the alien is caricaturizing the masculinist appropriation of the metaphysical vulva in the age of Father Science, who imitates her creative powers through laboratory processes like in vitro fertilization, cloning and stem cell research. Note that the alien is planting a tiny embryo inside of Kane’s stomach: it is not using sperm to fertilize an egg, since Kane has no eggs to fertilize. The process is morphologically parallel with in vitro fertilization, when a sperm and an egg are incubated in a laboratory to form an embryo, which is then carefully inserted into a woman’s uterus with a long cylindrical mechanical device. The alien is doing precisely the same thing: it is inserting an already formed tiny embryo into Kane’s stomach, which will grow and grow into a serpentine creature that bursts forth from within him, like a man giving birth.

Thus, the image is not, as I would put it, metaphysically “clean.” It is composed of signifiers from both Sign Regime A and Sign Regime B to produce a hybridized image out of both regimes, for it is in process of creating a new sign regime that is half mythical and half metaphysical-scientific.

   [i] This scene was restored only for the 2003 director’s cut of the film.

   [ii] See the chapter entitled “Year Zero: Faciality” on page 167ff. For “deterritorialization” and its counter-concept “reterritorialization” see the entry at the back of the book for “Deterritorialization” on pages 508-510. Both references are to be found in Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, ibid.

   [iii] For Sloterdijk’s concept of the detrait, see Spheres I: Bubbles, ibid., 189.

This book is now out and can be ordered at the following link








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