Monday, July 12, 2010

Behind the... Teeth: Alien Queen, "Aliens"

The larger-than-life female called The Alien Queen is so important to film. As a struggling working mom, she exposed the dangers faced by successful and ambitious women of the future. And yet few understand her. The public focuses on incredible fx and action scenes; she's the film version of Graendal's mother, at best. There's much more to this widely-recognized, but poorly-known, celebrity.

AQ looking fab at her 1st birthday party

Imposing, courteous, and strict, The Alien Queen ("AQ," or "Queenie" to pals) was known to those closest to her as a loyal friend and fiercely-protective mother. Always looking out for the colony, always comfortable with her unusual size, she had an easy rapport with her followers. Although most of them were her children, no one could claim that she didn't deserve her throne. It was hard to challenge, much less insult, someone who could pull you apart like cotton candy.

To outsiders, she might seem cold, even cruel. Humans believe she never smiled in her whole life. Speculators say that becoming a parent changed her. To unlock the truth about this figure, we need to look into her past.

Behind the Translucent Teeth
Always proud of her humble origins, AQ would boast that before becoming Queen, she was secreted onto a spaceship hull, just like all her siblings. Dormant for so long in her pod, she literally leapt at the chance for change. She yearned to be more than just a skittering spider-octopus thing with a tail. She wanted a shiny black carapace and a projecting set of inner jaws, and she was willing to kill for them. Considering the bleak environment she grew up in, this is hardly a surprise.

You see, Queenie was born onto a barren planetoid, one incapable of supporting most forms of life. The great rock known as LV-426 had an atmosphere cold enough to freeze carbon dioxide; there was no one around to play with or kill. It did not help that her fellow podlings were all murderous carnivores who wanted a black exoskeleton just like she did; competition was fierce. Worse still, AQ's childhood was rather lonely. An orphan, she never found out what became of her parent(s?). And confinement inside her pod did not allow her to play or communicate with any of her relations. These experiences traumatized her, and probably determined her approach to a curious race called humanity.

People saw her as a horrifying monster, or perhaps the perfect living weapon. While it's true that she would have killed those folks regardless, she intuitively knew her victims would do no better to her. This creature-eat-creature mentality fit her world-view - she'd grown up knowing she'd have to fend for herself and find a place in society. Her fellow abominations were strict believers in self-reliance, outside of collective action. That meant that you only got help while fighting in swarms.

Where it all began

Smarter than most of her brothers and sisters, AQ realized there was another way to get everyone on her side: becoming the brood's new monarch. As luck would have it, the throne was empty on the day she shoved herself down a person's esophagus. Fortune smiled on her, providing a human colonist who represented a chance to fulfill her dream. By transforming that first life into a gestational nightmare, Queenie demonstrated the sort of ruthlessness expected from any ruler.

Success Comes With a Price

But those were the early days. The Queen that audiences saw on the big screen was fairly different from how she started out. The pressure of looking after so many children was exhausting. So was the Alien life-cycle, which apparently required her to pump out more eggs than the local food supply could support. And, as with so many parents who don't produce live offspring, she worried that her kids would never know their mom. Every time she looked over her gruesome sea of pods, she was reminded of her own parent-less upbringing.

Desperate colonists tried to appease her with dancing

Her personal guards observed a change in Queenie; she grew increasingly irritated by the limited mobility that came with the job. She was literally glued to the floor, and the weight of her birth organs exceeded her own great strength. While she was still a tender and contented parent, Ellen Ripley was looking at a horrific organism who was a bit worn down from it all. Providing for her growing family took its toll on AQ, and she feared that they'd caught every last creature on the planet.

Tragedy Strikes

Some things, though, never changed : Queenie always looked life straight in the eye, always tried to bite her prey right in the head. Ripley took an unstable situation and made it unimaginably worse. Despite her best efforts to protect her offspring, AQ helplessly watched as Ellen murdered all of her podlings, as well as her bodyguards. Then the small woman destroyed her egg sac.

Get away from my eggs, you bitch!

Devastated by the total loss of her life's work, AQ demanded vengeance. Summoning all her will-power, she pulled herself free from the now-useless organs that once burdened her body and spirit. She raced after the little dark-haired woman with the tiny light-haired girl. Time and again, she was frustrated. Just a few seconds too late, she watched her enemy board a vertically-moving floor and ascend to a higher level in the building. All seemed lost, but her keen hearing and eyesight told her that another moving floor was approaching.

These critical seconds, waiting for and within the elevator, were very important for Queenie. It did nothing to abate her anger, but she realized that life had provided her with another important opportunity. A series of explosions and electrical discharges indicated that her nest was too close to a dangerous power source. The same massacre that destroyed her empire had also freed her to escape a nuclear blast. As the second moving floor ascended, AQ flexed her powerful sets of jaws and thought, "it's true, then, that life takes with the left scrabbling claw while it gives with the right scrabbling claw." This was no longer just about revenge - she had to think of survival.

Always a few moments too late, AQ couldn't get vengeance on the rooftop either. Yet this also worked in her favor, as it provided her the perfect escape vehicle. Tucked carefully into the landing gear of a flying machine, she half-dozed through a turbulent trip from the reactor, through the atmosphere, and away from the planet itself. The little podling still inside her marveled that she was back in space, where she herself had come from. After she destroyed the humans, she hoped she might find the rest of her family, maybe start over...

The End

We all know she never lived to fulfill those new aspirations. Ellen Ripley's advantages were simply too great; a giant and powerful body proved no match for the dark-haired female's familiarity with robotic exoskeletons and the ship itself. But Queenie never stopped fighting, never stopped trying to spear people with her tail. To the very end, she sought to wipe out every living thing around her. When explosive decompression blew her out of the Sulaco, AQ was furious at her improbable defeat and impending death.

Yet in her final moments, The Alien Queen found a sort of inner comfort. She knew she had tried her best, knew that she'd fought her hardest. As the vacuum of space gradually killed her, Queenie realized that great ambition often leads to great catastrophe. She had known success and victory. She had become Matriarch of the brood, and the dominant power of an entire planet. An ancestor had once scribbled onto the hull of her first home, "take a life, cocoon a victim, implant an egg." When her malevolent spirit vanished from existence, she died knowing she'd done all of those things, and more.


  1. "... comfortable with her unusual size..." Haha, nice.

    1. It's been over three years now, and this is still one of my favorite posts. Thanks again, man!


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