Aliens: Replacing the human to spore stage
with the alien queen

Leading from

a) Cameron does away with the 'human to spore' stage.
When James Cameron came to make Aliens in 1985, he decided to do away with the 'human to spore' part of the creatures life cycle that had been left out of the original version of the Alien movie released in 1979.

When Ridley Scott made Alien back in 1978, his idea at the time was that when the humans were taken away by the alien beast, they were cocooned and were being used as food for the alien's young, which roughly went with Dan O'Bannon's idea.
 
What form the actual alien young that was devouring the humans took in this instance is another question, did they start out as small eggs that hatched. Whatever the case, they would eventually grow into the egg shaped spores that contained the face hugger as seen in the derelict ship.

b) Cameron's interpretation of the spore.
For some reason, Cameron found out some information about the human to spore transformation but came to imagine that it meant that the human victims on a cellular level were actually metamorphosing into spores rather than simply people being eaten as food by the alien young growing into the spore

If he had based his argument about why he didn't want to use the 'human to spore' stage on the facts behind O'Bannon's original concept, he would not have been able to denounce it as so illogical. An explanation given about it from the original film makers is that it was inspired by spiders cocooning their prey and various insect young eating their hosts that they've been implanted into while they developed.

c) Spores become eggs that are layed.
In the first Alien, one would see the thousands of spores in the egg silo covering what seemed like acres and acres of ground, and Cameron had to make them into something near enough eggs that are layed, but one of them hatches, goes through its life cycle, becomes an adult and is killed. Thus there was no connection between thist adult and the future eggs.

By the end of the production of Alien, Ridley had decided that the eggs were the ships cargo, with each presumably collected from somewhere else, Cameron was still following the idea that one creature was supposed to have layed the thousand or so eggs that filled the inside of the derelict ship and he decided that idea was impossible

Ripley encounters the Alien Queen (Alien Blu-ray)

d) Invention of the Alien Queen.
Cameron thought it was very important to have something going beyond what had been seen in the first Alien film. Although there were a number of aliens in the new film that displayed a difference in appearance, they were mainly a reprise of Giger's design, but he took a step in another direction.

He had to create a society or a hierarchy and a life cycle that made some sense to him. These multiple aliens were a part of a hierarchical hive structure where the central figure is a giant queen whose role it is to further the species, and so in the film the alien queen would be the revelation about how the aliens' social order would work. 

The Alien queen would be like a termite queen with her big egg sac and ovipositor creating all those egg like forms that Ridley Scott's original Alien film could never account for, rather than what was cut out of it in terms of the cocoon scene. 

A termite queen being tended by her children, the worker termites.
Courtesy of Barbara Thorne
 Source: https://www.npr.org/
So the idea was that it was a parasitic, insect-like creature, such as a digger wasp that will paralyse caterpillars or some other host and inject its eggs into them, then the eggs would hatch out. Yet it had a different life cycle that was two-part, because the egg as a container for the face hugger would also give birth to this creature.

The face hugger would then inject its egg into a host and give birth in a parasitic way -  much like a digger wasp's larva would emerge from a dead caterpillar - to the actual alien itself that would become an adult.  


So presumably, somewhere in this life cycle an alien queen itself would emerge in the similar way that a queen bee is created. Off the top of his head Cameron would imagine that bees used hormones or some other signal to generate a queen when they needed one, and then a more accepted view on the creation of a queen bee is that it is developed from larvae selected by worker bees and specially fed in order to become sexually mature. That added a layer to the life cycle that Cameron felt was missing from the film "Alien", and it made sense to him. Also he saw the tail as being a stinger that could be used to paralyse the prey as well.

Earlier, he had been developing a story called "Mother" that was about a mother extra-terrestrial monster, that would do anything to defend its offspring. For Cameron, in Aliens, the queen would be a character more than a thing or an animal

It looked to him as if the producers Gordon Carroll, David Giler and Walter Hill were not really bothered about how the alien queen concept might have conflicted with idea behind the creation of the spores from the first movie and were not there to correct any misunderstandings that he might have had about it.  

But as we would see by the development of the third film,  the producers worked with William Gibson who found himself writing about the alien spores becoming near enough a fungal spore when the alien reproduced.
 
Digger wasp with insect host for its young preparing to bury it
(source: https://naturallycuriouswithmaryholland.wordpress.com)


e) Two part life cycle
Another question was: Why would you have a two-part life cycle like that? 

Although the answer had already been worked out for the original Alien movie, it had not been clearly spelt out and perhaps not even so in Cameron's Aliens movie. His answer is adaptation. He looked towards the digger wasp as a comparison for the alien life cycle although the digger wasp's larva does not adapt to its host. but he understood that the next generation of wasp should be more effective at attacking that species of caterpillar. So, his idea for the two-part life cycle was that when the face hugger laid its egg or embryo inside the host, that allowed a process of adaptation where the emerging creature would take on aspects of its host.  

In the case of the alien, it came out with fingers and hands and legs and arms that were jointed with elbows and actually quite human in the architecture of the body, but quite inhuman in the development of the head. So the purpose of that kind of in between phase of the life cycle was adaptation, and so Cameron went with the idea that theoretically the creature was either genetically engineered or had just evolved naturally to adapt well to hosts anywhere. 

So, if someone thought about how a life form was going to take over a galaxy, that is Cameron came to the conclusion about how it would be done. The life form has to be able to adapt to the chemistry and the morphology of any potential host population, and if a creature is going from planet to planet, these hosts are going to be organisms that it has never seen or been exposed to before. It couldn't possibly show up perfectly adapted to prey on that host's population without having that intermediate stage in the life cycle. 

alien warrior from Aliens


f) Further questions about the space jockey
For a few not quite happy with what they were told to believe in the film, not happy with Cameron's simplicity that resulted were near enough a bunch of insects with the alien queen laying eggs with an egg sac like a termite queen's, the oddly oversized Alien Queen presented in the film was so big that some might have even wondered if this is the sort of size that a chestburster that erupted from the original space jockey in Alien might grow into, and if that was so, how did it manage to hibernate for all these thousands of years since the space jockey died.

 Source Quotes
  1.  Q: Did you have the idea of the Queen from the beginning?

    Cameron: I thought it was very important to have something beyond that hadn't been seen before in the first film, even though we have a number of aliens throughout the main body of the film. They're mainly a reprise of Mr Giger's design. I thought it was important to show some new form beyond that. And, I think, there's a lot of revelation going on there, as to how their whole social organization works. I think of the Queen as a character, rather than a thing or an animal.

    Q: Someone raised the point that having the concept of a queen alien was in contradiction to the reproductive life cycle of the alien as it was implied in the first film

    Hurd: Where did the eggs come from then?

    Q: From the humans that had been infected by the alien

    Cameron: But you see, that was never seen at all. Yes, it's in contradiction to the reproductive cycle that was in the original script of the first film. But it's not in contradiction to what you saw in the film. What you saw in the film was a thousand eggs. one of them hatches, one of them goes through its life cycle, becomes an adult, and is killed. There is no connection between the adult and the future eggs. Now in the scene that was apparently shot and cut, and which I never saw, in which Tom Skerrit and Harry Dean Stanton are turning into eggs, that closed the cycle. But, to me, that was completely irrelevant to what you actually saw in the film. 
    Unless you're an ardent fan of the film and studied what was taken out, which to me is irrelevant to the group experience of this movie, it's not a contradiction, it's merely an alternative explanation. And a more plausible one, really.

    Q: Obviously, you've given this point a lot of thought. This change was not made lightly

    Cameron: Yes, it was a conscious decision. Had the first film appeared in its complete form, then I would have had to take a different approach to the story. But I felt only a responsibility to what people saw within the first film, not the intentions of various people behind it

    Hurd: Few people knew this anyway. Most people we spoke to assumed the alien was a shape changer

    Cameron: No, I don't think that's quite true either. Some people might have been misled, but I don't think everybody was. I never bought it was a shape changer. (L'Ecran Fantastique #73, October 1986/ Bloody Best of Fangoria v6, 1987/ Science Fiction Film Making In The 1980s)
  2. Cameron: They've seen the eggs, they've seen the parasite that emerges from the eggs, they've seen the embryo layed by the parasite emerge from a host person, and they've seen the embryo grow up into a supposedly adult form. But the adult form - one of them anyway - couldn't possibly  have layed the thousand or so eggs that filled the inside of the derelect ship. (Blockbuster: How Hollywood Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Summer)
  3. Cameron: In my story, the eggs come from somewhere else. At last that was my theory. So working from that theory - acres and acres of these quite large eggs, two and a half to three feet tall - I began to focus on the idea of a hierarchical hive structure where the central figure is a giant queen whose role it is to further the species. (Blockbuster: How Hollywood Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Summer)
  4. StarburstHaven't you messed around with the alien life-cycle in Aliens?
    James Cameron: Only in respect of Dan O'Bannon's original concept. It doesn't violate anything that audiences saw within the final act of Aliens as the cocoon scene was removed. If you follow Dan's original concept, the closure of the original cycle was the human host turning back into a cocoon. I never found that to be very satisfying as it showed, when one had the facehugger attached, the embryo implanted, and when it burst out it killed that person. There was nothing going on with John Hurt in that respect. So there was a different version of it when the alien grabbed Harry Dean Stanton and presumably put him into a cocoon. It's certainly no great logical detour to assume that it might have used him as another host but I think it would be a bit odd that he turned into an egg. That's something that would have been hard for the audience to swallow because it involved the transformation of the human host and although one can assume the alien can metamorphose,  to have its biological properties take up residence in a human being and change it was going beyond the ground rules they set themselves. One of Alien's great attributes was that it set up a very weird biological process but it has a basis in science fact all the way through like the cycle of a digger wasp which paralyses its prey and injects an egg into the living body to mature. There's a validity in all of that but I dispensed with it because we never saw that in the film anyway. Had it appeared in the film I wouldn't have violated any logic turbulence. (Starburst 98, October 1996, interview with James Cameron by Alan Jones)
  5. James Cameron: I think it's strange to think about further victims becoming hosts. It would be somewhat difficult for audiences to swallow because it requires the transformation  of the human host. You can accept the fact the alien transforms but to have its biological properties take up residence in a human being was a direct violation of logic. You can't suspend belief that way; it's too absurd. (Skeleton Crew, August 1990, p22)
  6. James Cameron: I had a story I was developing called Mother that was about a Mother extra-terrestrial - monster, basically, that would do anything to defend its young, its offspring. And I thought, "Well, what is ALIEN all about? It's about eggs. Well, who lays the eggs? Where did all those damn eggs come from? Don't we want to meet her?" So it was actually a fairly simple progression of ideas and it all happened very fast. (Famous Monsters of Filmland (Jul/Aug 2016)
  7. James Cameron: They've seen the eggs, they've seen the parasite that emerges from the eggs, they've seen the embryo laid by that parasite emerge from the host person, and they've seen the embryo grow into that supposedly adult form. But that adult form - one of them anyway - couldn't possibly have laid the thousand or so eggs that filled the inside of the derelict ship. At least that was my theory. So working from that image - acres and acres of these quite large eggs - I began to focus on the idea of a hierarchical hive structure where the central figure is a giant queen whose role it is to further the species. (The Winston Effect, p78-79.)
  8. Hurd: Where did the eggs come from then?
    Q: From the humans that had been infected by the alien
    Cameron: But you see, that was never seen at all. Yes, it's in contradiction to the reproductive cycle that was in the original script of the first film. But it's not in contradiction to what you saw in the film. What you saw in the film was a thousand eggs. one of them hatches, one of them goes through its life cycle, becomes an adult, and is killed. There is no connection between the adult and the future eggs. Now in the scene that was apparently shot and cut, and which I never saw, in which Tom Skerrit and Harry Dean Stanton are turning into eggs, that closed the cycle. But, to me, that was completely irrelevant to what you actually saw in the film. (L'Ecran Fantastique #73, October 1986/ Bloody Best of Fangoria v6, 1987/ Science Fiction Film Making In The 1980s
  9. James Cameron: I had to create a society or a hierarchy and a life cycle that made some sense, so if the queen was a termite queen with her big egg sac and ovipositor creating all those eggs that Ridley Scott or Giger never account for in the original film - in fact, they did account for it, but they cut it out of the film. They had some kind of strange life cycle where some of the human hosts were encapsulated and then turned into the egg from which the face hugger emerged, but that never made a damn bit of sense to me. I figured it was a fair game to chuck it out because they didn't put it in the movie. So the idea was that it was a parasite, insect-like creature, like a digger wasp that will paralyse caterpillars or some other host and inject its eggs into them, then the eggs would hatch out. Yet it had a different life cycle. It had two-part life cycle because the egg would give birth to a face hugger, which would then inject a second egg inside the host. So the big egg was a container for the facehugger. The face hugger would then inject its egg into a host and give birth in a parasitic way -  much like a digger wasp's larva would emerge from a dead caterpillar - to the actual alien itself that would become an adult.  So presumably, somewhere in there an alien queen itself would emerge in the same way that bees can use hormones or some other signal to generate a queen when they need a queen.  That added a layer to the life cycle that I don't think was really contemplated by Ridley and Giger, but that made sense to me. And I saw the tail as being a stinger that could be used to paralyse the prey as well. (James Cameron's Story of Science Fiction p38)
  10. James Cameron: Then the other question is: Why would you have a two-part life cycle like that? And the answer is adaptation. The digger wasp's larva does not adapt to its host. but the next generation of wasp should be more effective at attacking that species of caterpillar. So, my idea for the two-part life cycle was that when the face hugger laid its egg or embryo inside the host, that allowed a process of adaptation where the emerging creature would take on aspects of its host.  In the case of the alien, it came out with fingers and hands and legs and arms that were jointed with elbows and actually quite human in the architecture of the body, but quite inhuman in the development of the head. I know the idea used in some of the subsequent films was the dog version of the alien, and I think even a cow version at one point. So the purpose of that kind of intergeneration or intermediate phase off the life cycle was adaptation, and theoretically the creature was either genetically engineered or had just evolved naturally to adapt well to hosts anywhere. So, you think about how you are going to take over a galaxy, that is how you do it. You have to be able to adapt to the chemistry and the morphology of any potential host population, and if you are going from planet to planet, these hosts are going to be organisms you have never seen or been exposed to before. You can't possibly show up perfectly adapted to prey on that host's population without having that intermediate stage in the life cycle. So that was the concept. (James Cameron's Story of Science Fiction p39)

1 comment:

  1. The way I look at it is that the colonists were irradiated to a slight degree due to their proximity to the Terra-forming plant, which in turn mutated their cell structure enough that when Newt's father was impregnated, the resulting embryo came out altered from the smooth headed Alien into the Alien Queen, which in turn produced lesser versions of the original Alien (hence the bones on the head and their more straight-forward and less intelligent approach to dealing with the marines).

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