Alien: One Nostromo shuttle or two?

leading from

a) One shuttle inoperable?
There was a queery about whether the Nostromo should really have had one or two shuttles. Bill Pearson understood that originally there was an escape vehicle one either side under the "stubby" wings on the tug which connected the engines to the main body. It was always intended that an Escape Unit would be present under both "wings", but also he thought that there was a reference in the film to the idea that the other shuttle was under repair and out of service, and so only one was left to use, on the other hand, Phil Rae who remembered that this matter was discussed on the model unit but he recalled in the movie that Ripley said "The Shuttle" implying that there was only one. However on top of the shuttle it said E1 and that might indicate that there was an E2.

b) Symmetrical?
Jon Sorensen also agreed with the idea that there were two shuttlecrafts, the Narcissus was symmetrical so one would be under each "wing". They never got around to putting shuttles underneath the Nostromo models and so it only turned up in a section design to show the shuttle being launchedBut indeed it was curious that there should be one space shuttle with only two cryotubes, Jon didn't know why in the film it should only have one, but put it down obviously to a shortcut to tension as one might expect in a horror movie.

c) One shuttle?
However Dennis Lowe only understood that there was one shuttle, the Narcissus, but wasn't sure what the others had to say and felt that Martin Bower who made the Narcissus model might have been the one to give a definitive answer.

d) Asymmetrical?
Simon Deering had the view that perhaps the Nostromo wasn't ever completely symmetrical anyway so why should there be two? He thought also about how the Titanic didn't have enough lifeboats for all the passengers and crew.

Source Quotes
  1. Bill Pearson: It was always intended that an Escape Unit would be present under both "wings", but one would be under repair and out of service. ( From Sketch to Screen, Page 97.(Thanks to xeno_alpha_07 for the headsup about this quote and its source)
  2. Bill Pearson: The original idea was that there was an escape vehicle on either side, under the wings, but in the film there's a reference to the fact that the other one had gone down, so only the Narcissus was left. (SFX 6, p35)
  3. Bill Pearson: A lot of people have expressed confusion over the location of the Narcissus garage. We were told it was on the underside of the stubby "wings" on the tug which connected the engines to the main body.  It was always intended that an Escape Unit would be present under both "wings", but one would be under repair and out of service. (From sketch to screen, p96)
  4.  Maledoro: I can't recall from where I heard it, but I read somewhere that the Nostromo had another shuttle, but it was out of order . ( 12, 2009, 02:35:40 PM)
    Jon Sorensen: Well, the crew were expendable to the Corporation, yes. Something else re-occured to me about the wonderful opening titles too. Designed by the great Saul Bass. He directed one movie I liked very much. Called PHASE IV. Beautiful looking. Pure sound and image with a "Tangerine Dream-like" score and the wonderful Nigel Davenport and Michael Murphy. Made at Pinewood Studios. Never really got a proper release in Europe. I had to see it at the GFT in Scotland, the equivalent of the London BFI, where I also saw and loved JONATHAN LIVINGSTON SEAGULL, which has just been re-released on DVD in the UK and my copy is burning a hole in the DVD player waiting for me to watch it. Always a pleasure. 
  5. Acheron: Evenin' all! Cannot believe how quickly this thread has expanded but what a great thread! And cool movies too! Awesome!!  Cheesy
    I have a conundrum. A technical question, kind of. Myself and a couple of others have been speaking about it on Propsummit and I cannot make up my mind what to do, so thought I would ask the Nostromo Builders and my fellow enthusiasts here and get their opinion. I'm drawing up some Nostromo blueprints, however I'm rapidly approaching the final view, the hull underside. But how many shuttlecraft to show? Would I be right in saying that the Narcissus wasn't on the 3 models of the Nostromo, and only shown as part of the larger model under the 'wing' between nacelle and main hull?

    Should I show a second shuttle under the other wing? Not sure.... I don't know if a second shuttle (albeit an inactive shuttel) was suggested in the modelmaking dept. What do you guys think, should I show one, or not? Comments greatly appreciated.(July 12, 2009, 12:26:44 AM)
    Dennis Lowe: I believe that the Narcissus was only really positioned on the large scale one that was made (towards the end of the production). I can't remember it being on any other previous model. I was only aware of there being just one shuttle (Narcissus) I would only show the one that is important if I were doing it. I don't about what the others think.
    If only Martin would logon he would certainly give the definitive answer
  6. Acheron: Would I be right in saying that the Narcissus wasn't on the 3 models of the Nostromo, and only shown as part of the larger model under the 'wing' between nacelle and main hull? (July 12, 2009, 12:26:44 AM)
    Jon Sorensen: And, of course, meant to add too,  the Narcissus Shuttlecraft were never shown on any the three scale miniatures we made of the Nostromo you say above.
    (Are you Joseph, by the way, whom we helped place/locate ASH's BLISTER on the Nostromo?)
    And sorry, my earlier answer was that two shuttlecraft were mooted, the Narcissus being in symmetry with a reflection of one under each wing.
    (Re: ALIEN Makers Documentary, July 12, 2009, 12:39:38 PM »)
  7. Hicks: Is there was to be two shuttles then the crew should have just abandoned ship after Dallas was killed. Ripley says: "Lambert, the shuttle won't take four." but if they had two shuttles why not use both? (July 12, 2009, 12:49:44 PM )
    Jon Sorensen: and Always seemed strange they had only one shuttle with 2 cryo-tubes. Wonder why it only had one?

    Onscreen horror movie genre requirements is the simple answer. Quick shortcuts to tension. Like taking away all their "
    weapons" and making them use cattle-prods and flame-throwers. Or having the ludicrous device in Jim Cameron's ALIENS of having the Sulaco, a supposedly military spacecraft being left totally unmanned in orbit and open to any kind of attack and thus leaving the troops reliant on the second attack shuttle parked up there with no pilot, sitting on its' tod, on an empty orbiting "Combat" ship Sulaco. Suppose this happens all the time in real combat situations. I mean, when airstrikes are launched from a present day aircraft carrier, sure, they leave the thing parked out in the bay unmanned. We all know that, so one should'nt carp. And we all know that Jim Cameron reportedly did an uncredited rewrite on a Sly Stallone RAMBO, and those films were rightfully held up as histrorically and miltarily sound and were later used as textbook cases for teaching at Westpoint. You have to forgive the scriptwriter the odd bit of leeway.  Er, otherwise... ( Re: ALIEN Makers Documentary July 12, 2009, 02:12:24 PM »)
  8. Phil Rae: I seem to recall this was discussed on the model unit, but I think Ripley says "THE shuttle"...implying there's only one. The other issue is that only ONE "hypersleep" coffin is seen in the Narcissus....I guess this issue was not really thought through in the storyline, as scripted.( Old 31-07-2008, 11:38 AM
  9.  Simon Deering: Well Id say the ship was never really completely symmetrical was it chaps ? The titanic was the other ship that had lifeboats only for half the crew wasnt it.. (onboard research recently ) Smiley( Re Alien Makers July 21, 2009,) 


  1. Funny I should read this in 2017. Yes I am that Joseph who worked with John Sorensons placement of Ash's blister on one of my Nostromo commission miniatures. Fond memories.

  2. But they didn't use this shuttle to land on LV426, so what craft DID they use? Not the whole Nostromo?

    1. Rob, the Nostromo was a tug, bulling a refinery which processed their load of ore while in trasit to Earth. They detatched the Nostromo and did indeed use it to land on LV426, damaging some systems in the process.