Once Dan had got the Alien inside the ship, he encountered a narrative problem and this bothered him, and it connected with his knowledge of guns.
The problem was that while the alien creature was running around aboard the ship , why they did not just kill it.
He was not happy to go along with the generation of writers before him who resorted to ‘Bullets wont stop it!” which is what Dan knew to be the biggest groaner of all.
In his view bullets would stop anything, a .458 Winchester would drop a T.Rex in its tracks, and if not that, a howitzer.
What we call the face hugger, they could step on it or stick a fork in it,
What we know to be the chestburster, a squirrel gun would have killed that creature off.
When it came to the adult creature, maybe they could spear the creature or shoot the creature with a gun that would not go right through the it and penetrate the hull.
Perhaps why they didn’t get a bunch of long pointed shafts and drive the creature out through an airlock.
To go further, there were weapons aboard the Nostromo.
He has pistol sized rail guns in his mind.
Though deadly, the critter was a vulnerable as any other animal to having holes drilled in it.
But he couldn’t let that happen, because his story was over before it was started.
So there were many ways to kill the Alien in its various incarnations.
- Dan O'Bannon: ONCE | HAD GOTTEN THE ALIEN INSIDE THE SHIP, | encountered a narrative problem, namely, why didn’t they just kill the thing? Step on it. Stick a fork in it. Generations of writers before me had resorted to “Bullets won’t stop it!” which is, of course, the biggest groaner of all time. Bullets will stop anything; a.458 Winchester would drop a T. Rex in its tracks, and if not, then a howitzer. For something as small as the alien when it first erupts from my unfortunate character, a squirrel gun would be more than adequate. And they did have weapons on board: | make passing mention of “sidearms,” and although | didn’t spell out what those sidearms are (I had in mind pistol-sized rail guns), they were certainly more than equal to cancelling the alien’s ticket, of whatever size. Though deadly, the critter was as vulnerable as any other animal to having holes drilled in it. But | couldn't let that happen, or my story was over before it started. (Something perfectly Disgusting, Alien Quadrilogy DVD set)
- Dan O'Bannon: I was stuck on one point which was, once they got the thing on the spaceship, I wanted to avoid the cliché of bullets bouncing off of the thing, the indestructible monster, I mean that's the ancient cliché right, you can't stop it, bullets wont stop it, not at all, i wanted the thing to be in every respect, in every respect a natural animal, which means, yes, if you shoot it, it will die, so the question was, in the second half of the movie, why don't they just kill the thing, why didn't they just squash it, right, stick a knife in it, whatever and I wasn't sure how to achieve that and I asked Ron Cobb if he had any thoughts. (Alien Quadrilogy and Blu-Ray commentary)
- Dan O'Bannon: What really bothered me about the whole idea of this thing running around the ship was why they didn't just kill it. Why didn't they spear the goddamn thing? Or shoot it with some kind of gun that wouldn't go right through it and penetrate the hull? Or why couldn't they get a bunch of long pointed shafts and drive it into the airlock? (Cinefex 1, p56)
b) Bringing the script to Ron Cobb
Dan O'Bannon and Ron Cobb were discussing their thoughts about the Alien script one weekend.
Cobb was thinking about the designs of the ship interior.
What Cobb seemed to been really saying was "You really have to find ways to seal the ship. it would be really dramatic to have the slightest leak, you would not want all the oxygen of the ship to disappear through a single hole! You must have watertight doors. People understand the value of watertight doors on transatlantic cruisers and you forget them! That's where we really need it! "
By this time Cobb was already designing the spacecraft interior, he drew these watertight doors that they finally built.
Dan came to Ron Cobb with the script, the original which he and Ron Shusett had written for Alien and had him read it, with the intention of getting to do some visualisations, a series of paintings that he could send around with the script.
However all this clicked with Cobb , he was very excited about it finding it to be quite amazing.
Cobb did quite a few illustrations, but they were still groping as to what the creature should look like, while he was very interested in astronautics , space flight, aerospace design, ideas of the future and also science fiction as a future mythology.
When it came to designing the spacecraft interior without becoming too much like NASA, the idea was to create the sense of confined space, spaces at a premium inside, with the idea that there were all the pressure doors and it was pressurised.
All those things Cobb felt would contribute to the tension of the films, and they were not particularly there in the early versions of what the ship should look like, so he had to do a lot of persuading, but then he knew that he was very persuasive.
Ron Cobb was also going to do the monster, and he had done some drawings but his monsters were not considered to be too hot.
L’équipage désemparé du Nostromo regarde avec impuissance le sang du
face-hugger creuser des trous a travers les ponts du Nostromo. C’est
probablement l'une des plus belles scénes du film, et cette idée découle
d’une approche rationnelle des problames qu’impliquent les idées du
The distraught crew of the Nostromo helplessly looks at the blood of the
face-hugger digging holes through the Nostromo's bridges. This is
probably one of the most beautiful scenes in the film, and this idea
stems from a rational approach to the problems implied by the ideas of
Ron Cobb" « Pour l'histoire du sang... Vous savez, je m’applique a étre aussi réaliste que possible, car c'est plus intéressant. J’avais donc fait de grands dessins représentant les vaisseaux, ce genre de choses, et je voulais rester avec cette idée qu'on devait y croire. Ce week-end-la je leur ai dit : «Vous devez vraiment trouver des moyens pour verrouiller le vaisseau. ça serait vraiment dramatique d’avoir la moindre fuite, vous ne voudriez pas que tout l'oxygene du vaisseau disparaisse par un seul trou ! Vous devez donc avoir des portes étanches. Les gens comprennent l'intérét des portes étanches sur les transatiantiques et vous, vous les oubliez ! C’est ici qu’on en a vraiment besoin !» J'ai donc dessiné ces portes étanches qu’ils ont finalement construites. C’était bien parce que je n’étais personne sur ce film, j'étais juste un ilustrateur, je n’avais aucune influence, mais j’étais tres persuasif. J’étais continuellement préoccupé par les conséquences qu’impliquait le fait d’avoir un gros engin pressurisé entouré par le vide absolu. (Google translation"For the history of blood ... You know, I try to be as realistic as possible, because it's more interesting. So I made large drawings of the ships, that sort of thing, and I wanted to stay with that idea that we had to believe it. That weekend I told them, "You really have to find ways to lock the ship. it would be really dramatic to have the slightest leak, you would not want all the oxygen of the ship to disappear through a single hole! You must have watertight doors. People understand the value of watertight doors on transatlantic cruisers and you forget them! That's where we really need it!" So I drew these watertight doors that they finally built. It was good because I was nobody on this film, I was just an illustrator, I had no influence, but I was very persuasive. I was continually concerned about the consequences of having a big pressurized craft surrounded by absolute emptiness. (Interview from AAARG.Numéro 6 - Octobre 2014)
c) Ron's important story contribution
When it came to thinking about the alien life form that was the centre of this story, that would have been aboard the human's spacecraft named The Snark,
Cobb felt it was very dubious that a creature would be able to live in the absolute emptiness of outer space and understood that most people would think the same, so why the crew would not put a space suit on with an air supply while they let the air escape from the ship, expecting the alien to die since it couldn't live in a vacuum.
Surely if they could not expel the alien from the ship, it could be exploded or destroyed with weapons, with a flame thrower or anything else.
Dan was thinking the same sort of thing and so airing his views, was saying to Cobb "What really bothers me about the whole idea of this thing running around the ship is why they didn't just kill it. Why didn't they spear the goddamn thing? Or shoot it with some kind of gun that wouldn't go right through it and penetrate the hull? Or why couldn't they get a bunch of long pointed spears and drive it into the airlock?"
Indeed Cobb had a solution, that when they find one of these aliens, they cut it and the blood spurting causes a gaping hole by going to die somewhere, causing the death of the rest of the crew.
The humans can not destroy or suffocate it on board because nothing would assure anyone that it would not burn a huge hole going to die somewhere, causing the death of the crew.
With that in mind, after due consideration which seemed like a couple of seconds to Dan, the words coming back to him from Cobb appeared to be "Well, why not give it extremely corrosive so that would like burn through metal." or even “What if its blood is an acid that can eat through the hull?”
Dan said "great" and perhaps continued "then they couldn't kill it because then its blood would eat a hole in the bulkhead and the ship would lose all it's oxygen. Well that doesn't make much sense; but it would certainly make it very, very difficult for them to deal with it on board the ship." which probably was what Cobb was saying anyway, and Dan ended statement with "great"
So Dan put it in and was very proud of Cobb for having that idea and this was something that also interested the Brandywine Productions producer Walter Hill when he would come to read the script.
- Dan O'Bannon: So | asked Ron Cobb, who was by that point doing concept paintings to visualize the film, if he could think of any way out of the corner | had written myself into. After due consideration (a couple of seconds) he said: “What if its blood is an acid that can eat through the hull?” (Something perfectly Disgusting, Alien Quadrilogy DVD set)
- Dan O'Bannon: You know, Ron Cobb gave continual input to the film right from the very start. He gave us one of the major plot elements, the monster has an incredibly corrosive blood stream, one of the reason the monster can't be cut up or fired at is that its blood would eat right through the ship. That was Ron's idea and I want everyone to know it. (Fantastic Films Number 10, p12)
- A key element in the face-hugger sequence was the realization for the crew that they are dealing with a creature infinitely more dangerous than even the ferocity of its initial onslaught had suggested.. When efforts to pry the tenacious beast from Kane's face prove unfruitful. Ash and Dallas mount a more direct assault by attempting to amputate one of its fingers. At the first incision, however, a yellowish fluid oozes from the wound. In the penetrating two decks of the ship and threatening the hull before its virulence dissipates (Cinefex 1, p56)
- Dan O'Bannon: I mentioned that to Ron Cobb and he said "Why not give it extremely corrosive blood that would eat through the hull?" And I said "Well that doesn't make much sense; but it would certainly make it very, very difficult for them to deal with it on board the ship" so I put it in." (Cinefex 1, p56)
- Dan O'Bannon :Ron Cobb I remember who was always helpful said, "well, suppose the thing bled acid that would like burn through metal." I said "great", I said "then they couldn't kill it because then it would er, it's blood would eat a hole in the bulkhead and the ship would lose all it's oxygen", I said "great". (Alien Quadrilogy and Blu-Ray commentary)
- Dan O'Bannon: You know, Ron Cobb gave continual input to the film right from the very start. He gave us one of the major plot elements, the monster has an incredibly corrosive bloodstream, one of the reasons the monster can’t be cut up or fired at is that its blood would eat right through the ship. That was Ron’s idea and I want everyone to know it. (Film Fantasy magazine https://futurism.media/interview-with-alien-co-creator-dan-o-bannon)
- Ron Cobb: Le fait est que c'est assez douteux qu'une créature puisse vivre dans ce vide absolu, la plupart des gens pensent la méme chose, alors pourquoi l’équipage ne mettrait pas une combinaison spatiale avec des réserves d’air pendant qu’on laisserait filer tout lair hors du vaisseau ? Ainsi, la créature devrait mourir, vivre dans le vide c’est plutét difficile. Et puis, on se dit que s’il n'est pas possible d’expulser I’alien hors du vaisseau, on pourrait le faire exploser ou le détruire avec des armes, avec un lance-flamme ou n'importe quoi d’autre... J'ai donc eu l'idée d'une solution : lorsqu’ils en trouvent un, ils le coupent et le sang gicle provoquant ce trou béant. On ne peut donc nite détruire ni l'asphyxier a bord, car rien ne vous assure qu’il ne va pas briler un énorme trou en allant mourir quelque part, provoquant la mort de l’équipage. » Ron Cobb: The fact is, it's pretty dubious that a creature can live in this absolute void, most people think the same thing, so why the crew would not put a space suit with air supply while would let all the air escape from the ship? Thus, the creature should die, live in a vacuum is rather difficult. And then, we think that if it is not possible to expel the alien from the ship, it could be exploded or destroyed with weapons, with a flamethrower or anything else ... So I had the idea of a solution: when they find one, they cut it and the blood spurting causing this gaping hole. So you can not destroy or suffocate on board, because nothing assures you that it will not burn a huge hole going to die somewhere, causing the death of the crew. (Interview from AAARG.Numéro 6 - Octobre 2014)
d) Acid for blood scene as a confused echo of Star Trek"The Survivor"
There was also the episode of Star Trek The Animated Series to consider where an alien who scould rearrange its molecules who had got aboard the Starship Enterprise had disguised itself as an examination table and Captain Kirk threatened to pour a highly corrosive acid onto it if it didn't reveal itself.
Having seen it, I decided that they had seen this cartoon and the scene served as a catalyst as they imagined what this acid might do in a space ship if it was poured in a similar context, but while it remained in a medical bay at an examination table, with an alien, it became the alien's blood that was a "molecular acid" as they failed to extract it from Kane's face.
(See: Star Trek The Animated Series, Episode 6: "The Survivor")
e) Ridley's reponse
Ridley Scott's thoughts about this was that it was a perfect defence, and he thought that Dan O'Bannon liked Cobb's idea for the acid blood because it was like the ants that squirt acid to combat enemy ants.
Back in the time of the making of alien, one had to consult books and watch documentaries which is rather different to the 21st century where one has access to all of this knowledge at the touch of a button through photos and videos on the internet.
- Ecran Fantastique: D’où vient l’idée du sang à base d’acide qui ronge tout sur son passage?
Ridley Scott: Je crois que c’est le designer Ron Cobb qui l’a suggérée, comme moyen de défense idéal : blesser un alien devient ainsi aussi dangereux que l’affronter. Le scénariste d’Alien, Dan O’Bannon, a hélas disparu en 2009, mais il me semble que Dan avait aimé cette idée de Ron parce qu’elle lui rappelait ces fourmis qui projettent, des jets d’acide pour combattre des fourmis ennemies. Vous seavez. il suffit de se documenter un peu pour trouver des choses étonnantes dans la Nature. à l’epoque d’Alien, il fallait consulter des livres, visioner des documentaires, et cela prenait du temps, mais aujoud’hui, il suffit d’explorer le web pour tomber sur des vidéos ou des photographies tellement incroyables que vous ne pouvez que vous exclamer “Mais qui a conçu cela ?!“ avant des vous rappeler que c’est l’œvre de la Nature, ou de Dieu le pére, si vous êtes croyant! *Google Translation Ecran Fantastique : Whence the idea of blood acid which corrodes everything in its path? :
Ridley Scott:I believe that it is the designer Ron Cobb who has suggested it, as a perfect defence: hurting an alien becomes as dangerous as confronting it.... The screenwriter of Alien, Dan O'Bannon, has unfortunately disappeared in 2009, but it seems to me that Dan had liked Ron's idea because it reminded him of these ants that spay jets of acid to combat enemy ants. You know. it is sufficient to document a bit to find amazing things in Nature. At the time of Alien, he had to consult books, watch documentaries, and it took time, but today just to explore the web for falling on videos or so amazing photographs that you can as exclaim you "but who designed this?" before reminding you that it is the work of Nature, or God the father, if you are a believer! (L'Ecran Fantastique Hors-Serie 20)
f) Walter Hill
Taking note of what they did with the idea, Walter Hill who was the first at Brandywine Productions to read the script, was able to appreciate that they had worked out an interesting problem, which was 'how do you destroy a creature you can't kill without destroying your own life-support systems"
- Walter Hill: They had also worked out an interesting problem, which is: how do you destroy a creature you can't kill without destroying your own life-support systems. ('Kill By Mouth: Neon (UK). December 97)