Showrunner Noah Hawley is set to create the first Alien television show, and early interviews indicate the director will be taking the franchise back to its roots. Released in 1979, Alien was a huge hit for helmer Ridley Scott and the beginning of one of sci-fi horror’s most enduring franchises. Despite some subpar sequels, the series remains one of the sub-genre’s most loved properties and this is largely down to the singular vision of Scott’s original movie.
Alien tells the simple story of a group of working stiffs who accidentally encounter a killer extraterrestrial that stows away aboard their ship and offs them one by one. Only that synopsis is not quite the whole story as, in the original script, Alien’s late twist reveals that Ash, an onboard android, has been working with the nefarious Weyland-Yutani Corporation to ensure the killer alien is kept aboard the ship at all costs. The sequels go on to explain that the company wants to use the creature as a bioweapon, a revelation that sees heroine Ripley call company man Carter Burke more of a monster than the eponymous alien in the first sequel Aliens.
This twist is pivotal to the appeal of the series, as the early movies were as much about the shadowy behind-the-scenes villainy of the Weyland-Yutani Corporation as they were about the actual Xenomorph. Unfortunately, later movies lost sight of this thread, with the lesser prequels almost entirely abandoning the idea of the working class, downtrodden laborers bearing the brunt of the Xenomorph’s fury thanks to their uncaring employers. Fortunately, while viewers may not get to see District 9 director Neill Blomkamp’s canceled Alien 5 any time soon, Fargo showrunner Noah Hawley’s interviews about his upcoming Alien series imply the helmer understands this important element of the lore. What’s more, Hawley has even implied his series may even finally introduce viewers to the unseen human monsters behind the action of the franchise, touching on a theme established as early as the first film – namely that the true monsters of this franchise are the humans trying to profit off the aliens.
According to Hawley’s Vanity Fair interview, his Alien series will return to the roots of the series – a story of power-hungry corporations unleashing a lethal bioweapon thanks to their greed and short-sightedness. Per Hawley: “ One of the things that I love about the first movie is… how it’s really this blue collar space-trucker world in which Yaphet Kotto and Harry Dean Stanton are basically Waiting for Godot. They’re like Samuel Beckett characters, ordered to go to a place by a faceless nameless corporation… In mine, you’re also going to see the people who are sending them.” Beckett is an apt comparison, as the pair are doomed regardless of what decisions they make, with a larger power (in this case, the pair’s heartless employers) pulling the strings of their fate from above.
This promising comment touches on the recurring theme that has driven the Alien series since its inception – that these characters would never have encountered, much less sought out, the Xenomorph (and by proxy their eventual demises) if it weren’t for the orders of the corporate higher-ups. Whether the Xenomorph is read as a representation of the A-bomb, biological warfare, or just a toothy monster, the heroes of the first two entries are trying to contain a threat that their wealthy employers decided to seek out and exploit, costing the lives of working stiffs in the process.
It is a poignant point left muddled by later outings, with the largely forgettable cast of Alien Vs Predator choosing to seek out contact with the Xenomorph hive and Predator hunters (although they are admittedly unaware of how deadly this will be). However, while the critical maligned AvP dropped this element of Weyland-Yutani employees being unable to decide their fate no matter how savvy they are thanks to their pernicious employers, it is Scott’s prequel movies that completely removed this thematic element. As such, it is promising that Hawley hopes to bring it back, especially at a time when the work of Bong Joon-ho and Jordan Peele has made it clear there is a market for class-conscious horror stories.
The Vanity Fair piece notes that the first four Alien movies feature merchant marines, actual marines, prisoners, and mercenaries as their respective antiheroes, but (likely intentionally) neglects to mention Prometheus and the superior prequel Alien: Covenant. That is because Scott’s prequels eschewed this recurring theme by centering around the archaeologists, geologists, billionaire CEOs, and hand-picked terraformers of Weyland-Yutani’s earlier operations. While not universally rich, these characters are also far from relatable and thus their eventual fates were less compelling than those of their predecessors. Most of them sought out involvement with the corporation and believed in its mission, rather than simply taking whatever job paid the bills (as was the case for the characters of Alien and Aliens, who were trapped as much by broader circumstance as they were by the literal settings of the films).
The worst elements of Weyland-Yutani (the uber-rich shareholders) have never been seen onscreen, let alone become lunch for a lethal Xenomorph. Thus, Hawley’s Alien television series could take a leaf from Snowpiercer’s book and become a sci-fi class satire while also offering the gory thrills the franchise is famous for. Since way back in 1990, when the first teaser for Alien 3 erroneously implied the sequel would take place on earth, viewers have been eager to see the Xenomorph wreak havoc on humanity and seeing the eponymous monster offing well-to-do war profiteers would be more entertaining and timely than another small-town massacre like the ill-judged Alien Vs Predator: Requiem. As such, Hawley’s comments are proof the project is in good hands with a creator who knows the human monsters of the Alien franchise are just as lethal as – if not more lethal than – the titular threat.