Ron Cobb had an idea for the refinery that had big cargo modules with no gravity orientation to them, but instead a line of thrust orientation and no one could understand it including Ridley Scott, they instead wanted a gravity orientated look because of Nostromo lander already had one with a bottom and a top.
He was busy thinking "If I could come up with a really clever design for a big cargo carrying ship that, in the design itself, people could recognize how it works, it would be really nice to get it by the producer."
But instead, Ridley insisted on towers that had the look of something out of Disneyland with its fantasy towers, and Ron was very annoyed, he didn't want it to look like a castle .
|Ridley Scott's sketch of the refinery as shown in Alien The Archive |
but inverted. I placed this one upside down because I wonder if this
was the sketch Ridley did that had the towers upside down.
See also: Early sketch of the refinery
Ridley had drawn a sketch and handed it to model makers, which they refined and built.
Originally he drew it upside down, with the vague idea that it would resemble an inverted cathedral, and soon he realized that it resembled the mothership from the movie "Close Encounters of The Third Kind" and so it took another form.
He didn't want a conventional shape because he thought that the machine could be sixty years old and just added to over the decades.
The metal work on such a refinery could be fifty years old because it's only going grow old to a certain extent being in outer space, and so instead of corroding , it would simply grow obsolete.
Ridley didn't want it to look too much like something from outer space in a fantasy sense, he had no urge to streamline the design.
On the other hand he would have liked to see space barnacles or space seaweed on it, all clogged and choked up, but that would have been illogical as well.
|The "Close Encounters" mothership|
In a last ditch effort, Ron Cobb tried to redesign the towers to make them look like as if they actually did something.
So he turned them into giant trash compactors almost, for compacting ore that the ship was hauling.
However Ron was sure that Brian Johnson would save the day
- Ron Cobb: So it's (The Nostromo) is
pretty much right off my drawings. But the platform behind. I had an
idea, I thought would have been a lot of fun, big cargo modules with no
gravity orientation to them. It was a line of thrust orientation and
they couldn't understand that. They wanted a gravity orientated look
because the lander part does - it's got a bottom and a top.
Films: I can see the problems you must have had in relating those
concepts to people who had neither exposure to science nor SF.
Ron Cobb: I was intrigued by the idea of just getting things by them. I said to myself, "If I could come up with a really clever design for a big cargo carrying ship that, in the design itself, people could recognize how it works, it would be really nice to get it by the producer."
I would sneakily insist on working all the details out, how the platform worked, why it was there and why it was attacked to the other ship in the way it was
They couldn't understand it. In this case even Ridley couldn't understand it. He insisted on a kind of Disneyland thing, fantasy towers, which really annoyed me. As a last ditch effort I tried to redesign the towers to make them look like they actually did something. They became giant trash compactors almost, for compacting ore they were hauling
I think Brian Johnson will probably save the day. He'll make them look very good, 'cause its not even explained. I'm afraid the tower, the big section behind the ship, will look kind of like a castle. (Fantastic Films, July 1979, p30-34)
- Brian Johnson: That was the part that detached from the refinery and went down to, to find the alien. There was one, there was one sort of about two feet and there was one about, er, six feet, and then there was a gigantic one or reasonably gigantic, gigantic in terms of weight, because of the way we started off building it, and because of the additions we had to put on it, the amount of plastic cladding that was involved, and made it, must have made it a ton and a half or something (Alien Legacy documentary)
- Ridley Scott: The towing vehicle of the Nostromo was the tug basically (Alien Legacy documentary)
- Ridley Scott: In fact I wanted the whole vehicle to have the scale of an aircraft carrier, and of course it was a refinery with four towers (Alien Legacy documentary)
- FF: Who designed the refinery?
Ridley Scott: I did. I didn't want a conventional shape, so I drew a sketch and handed it to the model makers. They refined it, as it were, and built the model. I originally drew it upside down, with the vague idea that it would resemble an inverted cathedral.
FF: It looks rather like Close Encounters' mothership
Ridley Scott: I soon realized that as well, so it took on another form. But I knew I didn't want to do a conventional shape because I think the machine that they're on could in fact be 60 years old and just added to over the decades. The metalwork on it could be 50 years old because it's only going to grow old to a certain extent
FF: It would never corrode, but just grow obsolete.
Ridley Scott: Yes, absolutely. So it was a sort of conglomerative objective which I didn't want to be spacey in any sense of the word. There's absolutely no reason for streamlining. I would have liked to see it covered with space barnacles or space seaweed, all clogged and choked up, but that was illogical as well
FF: But the Nostromo had to be able to fly both in space and under atmospheric conditions?
Ridley Scott: I saw it as a gigantic maneuverable jump jet. Therefore it was able to get wherever it wanted on various planets, landing in a quite narrow, rocky terrain. So that's the only streamlined object in the whole thing. The refinery itself is a conglomerative mountain of technology.
FF: What was the refinery carrying?
Ridley Scott: Ore, I suppose. They'd do all the work inside once the "picker" (the smaller craft) would put the stuff aboard. The ore would be turned into liquid or gas for easier transference back to Earth (Fantastic Films US#12/ GB #2, p20)