The crew of Alien (1979)

The Personal Journey of Ripley

What is at stake?

In a word: survival.

Who is the central character?

Ripley, played by Sigourney Weaver, is the main character in the highly successful 1979 science fiction motion picture, Alien. From the very beginning of the movie, we get the impression that she is a “by-the-book” type of character who only wishes to follow company procedure and expects the other crew members to do likewise. She seems to be the only one who understands that the policies that are set in place are for the purpose of protecting the ship’s crew. She is quick to step in and a take charge in emergency situations while maintaining her composer.  She is not well liked by the crew members as they do not seem to mirror her adherence to company policy.


Although she is accompanied by equally commanding colleagues who steal the show, at times, Ripley is the most likely candidate to cast as the main character because she exhibits strength of character and un-yielding determination to get things done, no matter how difficult the decision.

Describe this character’s personal journey.

In the sci-fi movie, Alien, seven members of a spaceship mining crew are on their way back to earth after a successful mining trip into deep space. Half-way back to earth, the crew members are awakened by a distress beacon coming from a planet not far from where the crew is traveling. The majority of the crew members are opposed to looking into the source of the distress call but company policy asserts that all distress calls must be investigated.

The crew begrudgingly sets course towards the other planet to investigate. Upon landing, the ship suffers some minor damage. Two of the crew members exit the ship to begin repairing the damage. Ripley, being third in command, is left on the ship with the crew’s doctor while the ship’s captain and two other crew members set out on foot to seek out the distress call.

Ripley keeps communication open between herself and the ship’s captain until communication is interrupted by an unknown anomaly. The ship’s captain and his team come across a space ship of unknown origin. The ship is the source of the distress call. The ship has crashed landed on the surface of the planet and the crew enters the space ship to investigate.

One of the crew members separates from the crew and wanders into the hull of the space ship where he discovers thousands of pod-like sacks that appear to be made up of unknown organic material. One of the pods opens up and out jumps a small spider like creature that attaches to the helmet of the crew member.

The scene switches back to the captain and his crew members, one in a body bag. The captain explains what has happened and asks Ripley to open the door to allow them back into the ship. Ripley refuses to open the door to allow them in, citing company policy. The captain orders Ripley to open the door once again and Ripley continues to hold her ground, even though she is disobeying a direct order from her captain.

The ship’s doctor over-rides Ripley’s refusal to open the door by manually opening the door to allow the captain and the crew members inside. The captain and doctor rush the injured member into the medical unit to examine him. The other crew members wait outside and one of the members attacks Ripley for not opening the door sooner. The crew member is pulled off of Ripley and so begins Ripley’s journey.

The crew soon learns that this alien creature is a monstrous killer. The first crew member to fall victim to the alien’s death-dealing objective is the crew member who was attacked by the pod. The alien spider planted an alien inside of the first crew member and the other members of the crew witnesses the alien creature burst through the crew member’s stomach and escapes into the ship.

It is at this point that we witness Ripley beginning to take charge of the out-of-control situation. The captain attempts to track down the alien after it flees into the bowels of the ship but he quickly succumbs to an alien attack. Ripley takes charge and begins ordering everyone to take a stand against the alien monster. She sends the surviving crew members out to track down the alien. One of the crew members wanders off by himself to look for a crew members pet cat and becomes the third victim of the alien.

Alone with the doctor, Ripley learns that the ship’s doctor knew, all along, about the alien and that the mining trip was nothing more than a farce used to obtain a sample of the alien species for military purposes. When the doctor attacks Ripley for wanting to kill the alien, the remaining members jump to her aid. Killing the doctor, the crew members are shocked to find out that the doctor was not really human. The doctor was, in fact, a robot sent out on the mission to get the alien sample.

Ripley makes the decision that she and the remaining crew members will escape the mother ship by using the escape pod and destroy the mother ship and alien by using the ships self-destruct mode.  She begins programming the ship to self-destruct while the other members gather up food and supplies. As the crew members head back to the escape pod, they are attacked and killed by the alien.

Ripley is alone and determined to fight. She escapes the mother-ship and is headed towards earth only to discover that the alien is inside the escape pod with her. She carefully dons a space suit while carefully evading the attention of the alien. Once into the space suit, she releases liquid nitrogen to slow down the alien. She opens up an escape hatch and forces the alien out into space. Ripley and the pet cat are the only surviving members of the space crew.

How is the character transformed?

Ripley already had strength of character and yet she never stopped fighting. She strengthened her personal resolve and taught us all one very important lesson: always follow safety policy, no matter how much you disagree with it.

What good reason does the character have not to act?

When survival is on the line, it is very difficult to just give up. Ripley didn’t have the option of giving up. Where others may have found the opportunity to give up, Ripley saw a reason to keep fighting.  She pushed herself and her crew to keep fighting until the very end. She could have easily given up, but quitting was just not in her nature.