Alien: Two robots chatting

leading from
The Tomita Planets 
and 
Ridleygrams
and 
Nostromo

Earlier version of the Storyboard. The helmet in the foreground 
on the right has the words "Danger Dandruff"

a) Questioned about the use of helmets
Ridley didn't want to do the whole of the first act with people wearing helmet and it got to the point where he was to be asked about the need for these objects 

So he was asked "Well, why the helmets then?"

Ridley's answer was "Well if you’re in rough conditions, ok?


Earlier version of the Storyboard
b) Emergency Helmets
In the beginning of Alien, Ridley wanted to have a computer wake up the other computer and then fundamentally wake the crew up, and this developed into Ridley caming up with the sinister idea of having computer screens reflected in the faces of what were essentially emergency helmets or for when certain conditions arised, perhaps just as one might put the helmets on just when flying a helicopter.

Later version of the storyboard
c) Two Computers Chatting
First of all in the storyboard the helmets were mounted on clips on the seats and later they were positioned on the backs of the two seats. Once Ridley saw the Nostromo's bridge set coming together
Ridley had the idea late in the day of the two robot like voices chatting away with one another as if they were asking "Shall we wake them up?" because Terry Rawling the editor had been playing around with Tomita's rendition  of "Mars Bringer of War" in the editing room while they were cutting the movie, which featured such computer like voices chatting.


Later version of the storyboard

d) 16 millimetre projectors projecting
Ridley developed some little 16 millimetre projectors that simply projected the displays onto the visors of the flight helmets as if it were the small screens of the monitors reflecting relaying alpha numerics and conversation between the two computers, one computer goes "bink bong" and they start to talk. Ridley decided to call the two computers Tom and Jerry. None of it had been scripted but lot of it had been worked out by Jimmy Shields who was his sound designer at the time.


visual projection on the helmet visor

Nostromo Spaceship Original Emergency Helmet
(http://www.sciencefictionarchives.com)

Source Quotes
  1. Ridley Scott: A lot of what you see on the screen is there (the storyboard)  After we made alterations, when I started to do the film I then drew a day-by-day shooting storyboard which was printed and issued. While I was doing this, I didn't really know what the Nostromo corridors were going to look like. This is where I got the idea of having the helmets on the back of the seats appear to be "talking" to each other. After the lights come on, the two computers start talking to each other, I was trying to get the storyboard to be more science-fiction-y. (Fantastic Film#11, p27)
  2. Ridley Scott: 'Cause I always remember using the music of (The Tomita Planets) with War of the Worlds (Mars Bringer of War) on the very beginning when Terry Rawlings and I were cutting the film. And Terry was a great…Terry is a great editor. And has a great sense of music. In fact I learnt a lot about music from Terry. And he was screwing around with (Tomita's planet) and that’s where I got the idea of the talking heads, from two helmets, instead of having a computer saying, you know, `shall we wake them up?’, ok, I’ve got the helmet, the flight helmets on clips on the back of the seat so when you’re coming in if you want it under different conditions you’ll put that helmet on like in these helicopters I’ve just been using which are so spacey they’re unbelievable, and everything’s inside the earphone so you can hear everything, everyone. And I tried the helmets on, and I didn’t want to do the whole act with everyone with a bloody helmet on so I said `well’ they said `why the helmets then?’ and I said `well if you’re in rough conditions’ ok?" But it’s a great beginning to have 2 helmets and suddenly one goes bink, bong. And they start to talk. I thought, that came from (Tomita's Planets) when I listened to his music and you have kind of talking computers which I thought kind of interesting. (report from interview with Ridley Scott for Alien Evolution)
  3. Ridley Scott: The sinister idea of having the screens reflected in the faces of what were essentially emergency helmets which are always in position on the back of two seats seemed to be a great way of , er, opening the film. Er, I came up with that idea when I actually saw the set coming together, and so the addition of the helmets talking to each other was late in the day, but I think it worked pretty well. (Alien 20th anniversary dvd commentary)
  4. Ridley Scott: (03:51 /00:04:09) The ideas of the helmets came again late in the day, I wanted them waking up. Before in the script, they used to have a computer wakes up the other computer, and fundamentally (00:04:00), erm, wakes the crew up.  What I developed this into,  is I put two helmets on the back of the seats, developed some little 16 millimetre projectors that simply projected onto the helmets as if it were the, the small TV screens or the small monitors relaying alpha numerics and conversation between the two computers, so these two computers are chatting. That was just worked out with us in the mixing theatre and the editing room. None of that thing is scripted, in fact Jimmy Shields worked a lot of that that out 'cause he was my sound designer at that particular moment(Alien commentary from Alien quadrilogy / Alien Anthology)


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