PARIJAH DIARIES 16
I’ll never forget the first time I saw Riddley Scott’s Alien. In 1979 I was in London, studying for a PGCE at a college in Richmond, and having a free afternoon I took a train into the centre to watch a movie. I’d been attracted by those posters featuring that weird xenomorphic egg and the tag-line In space, nobody can hear you scream, which established the suffocating tone of the first science-fiction/horror film, and I don’t mind admitting that I watched most of it through splayed fingers. You have to remember how new the genre was, how gritty and realistic in comparison with what had come before — it seems incredible that it was made only a few years later than a film like Logan’s Run, or Star Wars for that matter. I suppose it also didn’t help that I was watching it in a huge and almost deserted cinema in Leicester Square.
The horror was seeded not just by the grisly special effects; it was as conceptually creepy as it was visually shocking; H R Giger’s biomechanistic designs, both of the creature’s parasitic life-cycle and of the eerie, visceral interiors of the wrecked alien spaceship, were unforgettably disturbing. There was something about the whole production that utterly spooked me, and musing later about the power of its effect I wondered if it was explained by our deep-seated, latent fears of our own bodies and mutative disease. The film was as frightening as cancer. I also remember thinking that I was less afraid of the alien than I was of the minds that could come up with such sick ideas.
Many years later I ran into one of the writers in Bangkok, where I was working at an international school. I was trialling a new way of constructing a literature course using narrative archetypes, inspired by Christopher Booker’s wonderful book The Seven Basic Plots. I paired the works on the syllabus with other narratives which drew on the same archetypes, to bring out deep themes and structure. So we read A Midsummer Night’s Dream in conjunction with James Cameron’s Avatar, which was all the rage that year; The Great Gatsby with The Wizard of Oz; and Beowulf with Alien. An acquaintance happened to know the producer and writer David Giler, who had retired in Thailand. I contacted him and invited him to come and talk to my students, which he did, and he was very interesting and not scary at all. Giler and the screenwriter Walter Hill had adapted the original story by Dan O’Bannon and Ronald Shusett. He’d been sent O’Bannon’s screenplay, which in his opinion was dreadful but contained one extremely powerful scene. Giler sent the screenplay to Riddley Scott, who had a similarly low opinion of the writing and called Giler to complain.
Why are you making me read this rubbish? he wanted to know.
Have you got to the scene yet? asked Giler.
Ah, well, said Giler. You’ll know when you get to it.
If you remember, the film opens with the crew of a huge industrial cargo ship being woken from stasis by the ship’s computer in order to respond to a distress signal coming from a nearby planetoid. Landing there, they find a derelict space craft of non-human origin and three of the crew investigate its interior. In a vast silo, Executive Officer Kane (played by John Hurt) finds hundreds of strange egg-like pods, and as he bends over to peer inside one of them a creature launches itself at his head, smashing through his visor and attaching itself to his face. Back on board the ship, Kane is placed under observation in the medical bay. It is impossible to surgically remove the creature since its blood is so acidic that to do so would endanger not only Kane’s life but the ship itself.
He remains in a comatose state for several days, until it is found that the ‘facehugger’ has come off by itself and is lying dead on the floor. Kane wakes up and seems fine. The tension is lifted, and the crew, in celebratory mood, share a last dinner together before returning to stasis for the final leg of their voyage.
And that dinner is the scene which Giler was waiting for Scott to get to in the O’Bannon script. As viewers we instinctively understand that in film-making the tension must be released before ramping it up to even higher levels, so as the astronauts laugh and joke and enjoy their spaghetti, we’re expecting something to happen — that the threat has to re-emerge. We just don’t know from what direction it will come.
I’m sure you know — it’s one of the most famous scenes in science fiction history.
The facehugger, we will understand, constitutes only one phase of the alien’s life cycle. It has deposited an embryo inside Kane’s body, where it has been incubating, and now it bursts out through his chest in a scene of extreme, blood-drenched horror.
And that dinner, I feel, is where we are now in our own visceral horror movie, which has playing out for three and a half years. Only a fool — and I’m afraid that description encompasses most of the population — would think the movie is over.
And that’s where we are now. The public, in blissful ignorance, is oblivious to the scale of death and disability caused by the covid ‘vaccine’: the heart attacks, strokes, auto-immune disease, hideous neurological disorders, miscarriages and stillbirths and cancer it has spread across the world. The facehugger is off, the tension is released, and this blessed interlude has stretched out for nearly 18 months already. The pandemic is all in the past, they think; mistakes, no doubt, were made, but all in good faith, and now we’re getting on with our lives. And believe me, I’m grateful for every day of peace and mundanity, and trying to live each one to the full. But my bristling sense of horror has not diminished.
During this interval, global treaties have been renegotiated and legislative loopholes closed, censorship provisions strengthened, and the building of quarantine camps across the Western world has continued; and we are constantly told that we must prepare for the next pandemic. In Bill Gates’ public estimation, Covid was a beta-test, enabling us to expand and refine our public health responses in preparation for what he calls ‘pandemic #2’, which ‘will get attention this time’ (smirk).
Like the scene got attention. Covid was just one phase in the life cycle. And the threat, when it re-emerges, will come from inside.