Why the 'cocooning' scene and reproductive cycle concept in 'Alien' went unusedPinned Topic43,059 Views59 RepliesAdd A Reply
As some of you know by know, the famous deleted 'cocoon' scene is really one of my favorite subjects. I found this awesome article that gives superb detail about it. I urge you all to read the original work that I will source in this post. There is a ton of detail here, yes it's long but worth the read.
In Alien the biological origin of the creature is a question left unanswered – nobody in the film feels the need to discuss the exact nature of the monster, where it’s from, why it exists, or how it propagates itself. They are too busy trying to survive. James Cameron took the opportunity to fill this void in his sequel, and the Alien Queen has sat quite neatly at the top of the Alien hierarchy since. Of course, the original film had established, but never incorporated, its very own complex mode of reproduction that Cameron consciously ignored – the transfiguration of human bodies into Alien eggs, a process referred to by fans as ‘egg-morphing’.
To paint a simple picture, Alien’s version of the reproductive cycle came in two distinct phases: the first can only be understood through Dan O’Bannon’s original script. It was there that Dan outlined the Alien’s intricate life-cycle and how it related to the creature’s culture and religion. The second is the version that was prepared and even shot for the film, but ultimately discarded, and it is the most commonly known deleted element of the movie, namely, the scene where Ripley discovers the Alien’s nest and the remains of Brett and Dallas. While the script aimed to provide an entire social system for the Alien, the movie pared this back to give us only the horror of the ‘procreative’ process.
Dan’s Alien, as originally conceived (no pun…) was a member of a religiously-minded race who were implied to have a long history, a well-developed culture, pictorial language, and, we can presume, complex social behaviours. In his script the Alien’s reproductive system necessitated three sexual partners—two consensual (a ‘parent’ Alien and the facehugger), and one sacrificial body (the embryo’s host). Within their (now-extinct) society the reproductive process was undertaken within pyramid structures. Conceptual artist Ron Cobb explained that within these temples the Alien eggs were tended to “by the third stage adults and housed in a lower chamber of the breeding temple. When ready to hatch, the egg is placed in the middle of a sacrificial stone and a lower animal, the equivalent of an alien cow, is then led on to the stone. Sensing the warmth, the facehugger springs out, attaches itself to the animal and deposits a foetus into the stomach.”
So essentially: an adult Alien produces an egg; from this egg emerges the facehugger, which infects a third party with spore. This spore erupts from the body of its host, and a fully-fledged Alien is born. But how does the ‘parent’ Alien produce an egg in the first place? From the body of yet another creature, according to the script, in a process referred to by fans as ‘egg-morphing’. The entire process seems long, difficult, and intricate, and also quite wasteful in terms of bodies, since we have two corpses but only one newborn Alien. It’s easy to see why Cameron opted to use the Alien Queen, which would have exploited every incubator that it could, in less time, and with less variables endangering the cycle.
Despite O’Bannon’s effort in trying to depict an entire alien culture, time and budget concerns saw them cut from the film. The pyramid was merged with the derelict spaceship, which obviously changed the whole nature of the Alien. It was no longer indigenous to the planetoid, and no longer had a culture of its own. Instead it is implied to be the cargo of another alien race. Despite this major change, the cocooning and egg-morphing was still in. For now.
In O’Bannon’s original conception of the Alien, newborn Aliens are overcome with blood-lust, but this eventually subsides and the creature becomes rational and civilised, heralding its maturation and growth into a third-stage adult. Of the Alien in his script and its savagery, O’Bannon explained that “It’s never been subject to its own culture, it’s never been subject to anything except a few hours in the hold of the ship. Quite literally, it doesn’t have an education. The Alien is not only savage, it is also ignorant.” Once its blood-lust has subsided, “the Alien becomes a mild, intelligent creature, capable of art and architecture, which lives a full, scholarly life of 200 years.”
“What gave us the cocoon concept was that insects utilise others’ bodies to be the hosts of their eggs,” Ridley said in 1984. “That’s how the Alien would use Dallas and each of the crew members it kills. This explains why the Alien doesn’t kill everybody at once, but rather kills them off one by one: it wants to use each person as a separate host each time it has new eggs.”
One idea about how ‘egg-morphing’ works is that the human host serves as yolk for a growing larvae, rather than becoming the larvae itself, as is usually assumed. This isn’t explicitly explained in the script, but it can be inferred from the multitude of quotes from Scott and co. Still, yoke or otherwise, the process requires a ‘middleman’ that isn’t present in the Queen concept of the life-cycle.
Peter Voysey took over sculpting the cocoon while Giger was overrun with other details of the film. On September 11th 1978 he presented his work to Giger, who, ever the attentive artist and perfectionist, wrote in his diary: “It’s a bit of an overkill. The egg that is supposed to lend its shape to the figure [of Brett] disappeared underneath the bubbles and lost its shape. The two figures of the cocoon should be cast in wax and will be garnished with the latex scraps of Alien III [the third-stage adult]. Like the way a spider wraps its victim and sticks it to the wall.”
Several days later he wrote “[After the weekend] they want to film the burning of the cocoon. There’s two cocoons glued to the bottom of the aircraft. One is supposed to be a few days old, and the other is the partially eaten corpse of Alien III’s first victim. The corpse has acquired the shape of an egg and is supposed to look slimy and bloated. The colour should be the same as the egg’s. The second victim is also wrapped in slime and still alive and, according to the story, begs to be killed out of mercy by the flame thrower. So we have to replace the actor with a latex doll, in four copies, because they will play the scene four times, and one doll has to be burned each time. This promises to be an interesting Monday.”
Unfortunately, when the crew turned up that Monday morning “R. Scott turned up at the leg room and cursed. He doesn’t like the nest with the two cocoons at all. I don’t particularly like it either. It would have been better if I had taken a look at it on Sunday. A lot could have been changed.”
Giger spent the next week tweaking and repainting the cocoons. “The cocoon still looks ****ty despite the fact that we worked on it all week. I should do more work on it, but I don’t feel like it.” The general dissatisfaction with the cocoons ended up pushing the shooting schedule back, and the production eventually elected to shoot the burning cocoon sequence later, at Bray Studio.
When the first cut of Alien clocked in at almost three hours, one of the cuts made was the egregiously long (almost eleven minutes) Alien nest scene. Everyone involved in the production has stated unanimously that the scene was cut due to pacing issues. Producer Gordon Carroll told Fantastic Films magazine in 1979: “We were under a lot of budget pressure and schedule pressure at the time, we had to postpone [filming] it. So when we got to it we never did get it right. So we dropped it. Although we liked the idea of that scene because it tells you just one more thing about the Alien – about it’s cycle and what it uses people for.” David Giler chipped in, ”But I think we were right in dropping it. Although I’ve always loved that scene.” That same year Giler told Cinefantastique, “It was removed because it simply didn’t work. It interfered with the pacing of the film. It looked terrible, awful. So instead of redoing it, we decided to write it off as a bad idea.”
Ron Shusett said of the scene and its excision: “We filmed it, and it was spectacular and cost a lot – we demolished the set with a flamethrower. When we ran it for ourselves, we found the climax wasn’t working because Sigourney couldn’t automatically know where Tom Skerritt was, so it took nine extra minutes to justifiably believe she could find him. That totally undid the rest of the ending. The audience would say, ‘Come on – get off the ship!’”
Shusett explained that when the scene was cut it did not harm the film’s narrative nor muddle the Alien’s life-cycle in any way: “When we took out that scene, the whole thing worked great, and nobody missed it … We could have made a terrible mistake: ‘Oh, look at that great idea we had, where he says, Kill me! and he’s growing into the egg!’ It’s like cutting off a little finger: no matter how good some scene or scenes are, if it hurts the overall movie, you have to have the willpower to take it out. The biggest dangers as filmmakers is we tend to get indulgent, and it’s hard to be objective.”
Giger himself was pleased with its excision, since he disliked the entire sequence. “It didn’t really fit with the rest of the film,” he told Total Film in 2003. “It used a strange yellow light that was a different colour to the rest of the film. I didn’t feel that the sequence was as horrifying as many people believe.”
One key element from O’Bannon’s egg-morphing scene that was filmed, cut, but survived into the sequels was the Alien cocooning its victims. James Cameron decided to include the feature in the sequel, but this time with no egg-morphing involved. Instead the Aliens would paralyse and abduct their victims, take them to a hive, embed them in the walls, and place an egg, produced by the Alien Queen, within reach.
In 1996 Cameron spoke to Starburst about his problems with the egg-morphing scene and concept. ”If you follow Dan’s original concept, the closure of the original cycle was the human host turning back into a cocoon … 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, [egg-morphing] was going beyond the ground rules they set themselves.”
Cameron however was impressed by the idea that the Alien’s life-cycle was inspired directly by the horrors of the natural world. “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,” he said, “like the [life]cycle of a digger wasp, which paralyses its prey and injects an egg into the living body to mature.” He stuck with the idea of a life-cycle inspired by the brutal insect world, but egg-morphing was out. “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.”
Source: Strange Shapes *(2017 edit: Seems the post was deleted from the Strange Shapes blog.)
Yes thats kind of the idea and makes sense.... the Alien Xeno was a Worker, and as the Face Huger knew it was impreganating a visiting host, its aim was to produce such a Xeno, and this Xeno has the ability to create via Egg Morph maybe a Queen, or indeed another Worker etc
There task would be to look after the Eggs, and Queen and once a Colony is started, then more Eggs are laid by the Queen which the Hive as a collective whole (telekinesis) or similar then allows the Face Hugers to then produce Warrior/Drone Xenos that are there to collect Hosts and other tasks...
Just checked Ants do not change Eggs its the way that the Larva are looked after that can change one to become a Queen, also another way is depending if the Eggs are fertilised when laid or not as depending on this determines what kinds of Ant you get.
If you actually look at how Ants procreate and how long they live you can see that indeed they are maybe one of the most perfect organism as far as procreation on Earth..
So why cant the Xeno borrow some of them ideas and twist them to a more horific way...?
R.I.P Sox 01/01/2006 - 11/10/2017
They just found out recently one ant colony has spread across most of earth an if you take one ant from say brazil or were ever and put it in a colony in europe they recognise each other and dont attack :O . ****roaches are mental for reproduction as well...
"It's almost as if they are making it up as they go along" :D
Wait a minute : did I read
Correctly ? Is o bannon saying
That after the alien finishes
Killing and morphing and
Cocooning that it enters a
Third stage where it becomes
Becalmed and scholarly ?
Is that what to the alien on the lifeboat ?? Was it starting to go into that sate or was it dying ??
I think it should be expected that everyone here wants to have their ideas accepted. This is the second go at rereading each post and all the new ones today about the egg-morphing cannon debate or the queen egg laying scenes in the movies.
I want to test a boundary here. This is the image of the Alien-Predator hybrid right before it is about to implant a rather large amount of hybrid embryos down the throat of this obviously beyond frightened pregnant mother.
Svanya started the thread I think with the intent to point out that the aliens have another way to reproduce based on a culture and sex. The rationale behind this explanation I think is so that we can relate to the aliens. It was obvious from reading Svanya’s entire post that Giger wanted his ideas from his art to be translated onto the big screen and this involved alien’s having sex. As the aliens were creating the molecular material to create an egg they would also require the biomass of a creature. In this case a human being.
Purely from a scientific point and because I want to culminate everyone’s views here together, which I think is the right way to go. I can only envision that the aliens need a diverse way to reproduce no matter what the situation. Two aliens having sex would obviously be an extremely strong visual were it to be fully portrayed on the big screen as Giger had intended. I have looked at just about all of Giger’s work and he has what appear to be some rather dark and almost demonic nightmarish themes in his work.
For me the scene in Aliens VS Predator Requiem with the Alien-Pred hybrid implanting embryos would be no more graphic than say two aliens in an embrace. I would want to see it in full visceral detail though. The original film is more a masterpiece than people think. It has some of the best science fiction artwork I have ever seen. I look at many different types of art and there are things that you can only do in a movie and not with oil and canvas. For me this is all about art, culture, creativity, personal fears, dreams, and the eternal.
What made the face huger scene so powerful when Cain was on the operating table, right before they are about to cut through one of the digits, was the imagery with the tail around his throat and the obvious other anatomy of the face hugger in his mouth. At the time if it had been any more graphic the movie sensors would never have allowed it to be shown in a theater…but I think times have evolved enough and people could handle a scene with two aliens having sex. I would want the same elaborate intensity as the face hugger scene though, nothing less would be suitable.
I have not changed my mind about the imagery of a queen being the way that the producers of these films wanted to show how the aliens reproduce. I just like how this is conveyed through the special effects. This resonates more strongly with me on a deeper level and I like it more.
So if anyone wants to answer that question would any of you want to have seen a fully envisioned Giger scene in any of these films where aliens are having sex?
Also, we would have had more chance seeing an alien sex scene in the 70's than now. When was the last time anyone saw an R rated or 18 and over film that has been made recently? They were 10 a penny in the 70's.
The poster was good though!
Is it suggesting the alien after being 'born' goes through a stage where its a mindless killing machine (like with what we have seen so far). After that stage it develops into some more civilised.
Holy smokes...that has set the imagination on fire. I have so many questions, if you have anymore answers.
Did the aliens build the temples? Do they develop physically too?( in this later stage) Are some of the other giger art works related to the alien in their later stage of development?How do the engineers fit into their realm?
How about this for a crazy idea then. The Giger Alien's are the younglings and are in a phase of 'Blood Lust.' Then, they eventually go into another phase where they shed their cells and evolve into engineers. Haha Crazy hey?
What if Bob was once one of these mindless killing machines, and it was he who attacked the other engineers, then, went through a process of change, evolving into an engineer? :)
The poster was good though!
Indeed what does a 3rd stage xeno look like ??
Clown fish can change sex as another example...still cant copy n paste quotes savanya..I have to make them links but its not too bad. -djamelameziane
Don't make it a link, just press CTL+V. It pastes it right on the page, no need to open any buttons. :)
To copy paste just press CTL+C then to paste press CTL+V. Took me awhile to figure it all out too. :)
An no sorry I meant on a phone - no ctrl :) the only way is to make it a link...
"It's almost as if they are making it up as they go along" :D
Necro, the idea that engineers could be the civilised evolution of the xeno simply blew my mind ! I don't know if this would make any sense but I love this crazy hypothetic twist !
'An no sorry I meant on a phone - no ctrl :) the only way is to make it a link...' -djamelamziane
@djamelamziane; I have no idea how to help then, maybe ask Chris?
I really recommend browsing the Strange Shapes blog. it's amazing.
It's more creepy? Yes! but it's long, complex and a waste of resources (the bodies). Even reminds me how disorganized and complex is the set of steps to create a deacon.
Definitely the queen is much more practical and productive, and no matter what the purist think about it.
Nice Thread btw :)
Could be just me, but I would have liked to see that pile of dead Engineers in Prometheus attached to the walls with some kind of slime or resin as in the pictures of this thread :)
@Pulserifle187; In O'bannon's original script I think so, there is mention of a society and religion.
It reminds me a lot of the creature SIL from the movie 'Species'. (Which Giger also designed)
“When we took out that scene, the whole thing worked great, and nobody missed it …"
yes they did, in fact, Cameron went off and INVENTED a whole Queen Culture Hive Mind to sit in the place vacated by that ESSENTIAL NON-CUT.
An alien or 'xeno' that can make its own eggs, I would have wanted MORE OF THAT in an Alien Prequel i.e. what Prometheus was going to be, in teh first place.
There's (literally) nothing scarier than a self-reliant acid-blooded body-snatching egg-maker that's yet to find its voice! As discussed by the O'Bannon script Alien could be the story of 'how a xeno goes 'ape'' without its 'culture' behind it to 'temper it somewhat'?
Maybe we find that the prequel Alien/Xeno is a slave of this repressive societal regime. Alien Prequel could have been a SLAVE SHIP story.
There would have to be 'something bigger than the massive Elephantine SPace Trucker', too - that goes without saying. Maybe a Titans-type race, all biomech'd up etc.
I prefer the original Alien cut more so than the DC, mainly becuase it's longer, Ridley said it took to long for people to walk into a room etc, but for me that was part of the tension, there is no dialogue in There Will be Blood for the first scenes, but we are intensely watching his every moment, it adds, not detracts from the feeling. When Brett is wandering slowly around on his own hunting down Jones (you wouldnt catch me walking around on my own, I promise you) the tension is that it is taking him time to walk through doors, the moment he puts his head under the dripping water we are in his shoes, we feel the water, it's small relief from the horror that awaits him!
For me, what makes the scene interesting is not Dallas, but Brett, he was the first victim (not counting Kane) and therefore the most important. So we discover Brett has not been killed when we first thought, but has suffered an absolutely terrifying, painfully unimaginable slow death! That intensifies our angst and adds to our curiostiy, why were they cocooned? Was his death painful?
But for pace in the film, we are with Ripley, she is our last life, we've lost every other one and it's we, not just Ripley that want off the ship, to carry that tension in a movie you have to have the urgency of getting off the ship asap! This scene detracts from the tension and therefore was rightly dropped, but also rightly reintroduced for another cut.
People tend to get a bit anal about bits being added in and taken out (see Star Wars) but you still have the original to cherish (unlike Star Wars, where you're forced to watch whatever George wants you to) and the alternative cut to compare it to, happy days all around.
P.S. Great article btw.
Nice stuff to know. I think it's possible to still have the cocoon method of reproduction as another possible mutation for the xenomorph, while still having the queen. It just needs a good writer to make the biology believable. Of course, the Alien Queen can still exist as a big baddie, while cocoons can form other drones.
This is great source material Svanya! Great find! It makes for compelling reading. Good-on-you for that...
Is Dallas being turned into an egg also or is he just being held in plcae for when the Brett-Egg/Facehugger hatches out and jumps on him to smother his head?
A very intresting topic, But being a Alien fan, I am so Glad they went with the Alien queen. For the first 2 movies it just fits well and I love the Alien queen Design. I will say the Idea of the alien being able to reproduce in otherways is very intresting but I dont think it would of worked, But then again you only know what youve watched.
Love Sci Fi, Love Movies, Love Gadgets
Couldn't agree more with Master Giger. I think if they had the time and money Giger himself could have created something truly horrific and yet beautiful for the cocoon scene. I did think the scene when added looked like it was tacked on and did updet the pace of the penultimate scene.
I like the cocoon Idea But if a queen is produced by egg morphing. If that is so does that mean the alien bangs the alien queen? and because its the perfect organism each one the aliens millions of sperm is accounted for and fertilized in the queens womb and extended out later into a birth sack canal thing?
hahahahaha had to laugh after reading that out loud
I like the egg morphing idea. If that is so does that mean the alien drone bangs an alien queen once its matured? since its the perfect organism is that why the queen Is able to have so many eggs? Each one of the 100s of millions of sperm cells from a drone are fertilized with in the queens womb.
hahaha had to laugh after reading that out loud. LIT
I prefer to pretty much ignore anything Cameron says. He's a hack, and something of a plagiarist, and I for one do NOT consider ALIENS to be Canon.
Cameron is spectacularly unimaginative, proven time and agin in that all the creative work in his productions comes from other people, then he dumbs things down.
IN SPACE THERE IS NO WARNING
"I like the egg morphing idea. If that is so does that mean the alien drone bangs an alien queen once its matured? since its the perfect organism is that why the queen Is able to have so many eggs? Each one of the 100s of millions of sperm cells from a drone are fertilized with in the queens womb."
Queens don't produce full grown Aliens. The 'banging' part occurs when hugger meets host.
But Alien director's cut get this scene.
This is the same thing that was in Aliens with Amanda Ripley - theatrical cut doesn't mention about Amanda (consequently - she is didn't exist), but director's cut get Amanda and everyone accepts Amanda as a canon. Alien DC and Aliens DC - what difference? I put the equal sign. If Amanda was accept as a canon, then egg-morphing a canon too.
And the main argument - everyone who watches the movie can see this scene - this isn't a deleted scene. Example: Burke-cocoon from Aliens - it's deleted scene.
Sorry for bad english.