a) Whether Ash knew what itself was.
They wondered whether they should let Ash know that he was a robot or have him programmed to think that he was a human. In this instance Ridley decided that Ash knew that he was a robot and perhaps he has been woken first by the Company and then goes through the theatre of pretending to be human.
b) Fictitious backgrounds
If they had kept that fact that he was a robot from him, there were all kinds of things that they could have done from programming him to know at a certain point, like an emergency, or even putting a complete memory tape in him that would give him a complete background , background involving where he was born parents, schooling, which university he went to, brothers and the whole thing but kept off the years and so for this reason Ian Holm was given a fictitious background for his character as he thought he was a human being. Ridley didn't really know which year Alien was set in, although 2075 was seen to be when they might have space colonies but they never pinned it down.
- Fantastic Film: What did you give to Ian Holm for Ash?
Scott :For Ash, I created a fictitious background
Fantastic Film: : Did he know he was a robot?
Scott: That was a consideration I had to deal with. There are a number of ways of approaching it, but the possibilities come down to either letting him know or programming him so he thinks he's human. All the space in between was open, but we went with letting him know. If we had decided to keep it from him, there were all kinds of things we could have done, from programming him to know at a certain point, like an emergency, or even putting a complete memory tape in him that would give him a complete background - parents, schooling, brothers, the whole thing
Fantastic Film:What did Ash know about his past?
Scott: I told him the university he attended, what he read in, where he was born and so forth, I tried to keep off the years because I didn't quite know what year Alien was set in. Maybe it was about 2075, when we'd have space colonies, but it was never pinned down. We should have colonies by then, and it'll escalate from there.
Fantastic Film: But Ash definitely knows he's a robot
Scott: He does in this instance
Fantastic Film: Did Ian Holm go along with your suggestions?
Scott: They all did.
(Fantastic Film #13, Ridley Scott interview pt 2, p28-29)
- [Ridley] "and his writers debated whether Ash actually knew he" himself "was a robot." "He does in this instance, ' was
Scott's conclusion. In fact the director pictured him sitting alone in
the Nostromo, sleeplessly awaiting a message from another civilisation. "Or he could have been woken first by The Company.' he speculates, ' then goes through the theatre of pretending to be who he was..." (Alien Vault by Ian Nathan, p75, it's
possibly from the authors personal interviews with the director but
really the book doesn't go into that sort of detail)