If there’s a movie that has the most controversial deleted scene in the history of cinema, it’s possibly Alien with the cocoon lair. What makes the scene controversial is that it resolves a major missing piece in the puzzle of the alien biology that only hardcore fans have cared about. At the same time, without it, James Cameron was able to produce a follow up movie that expanded upon the creature’s life cycle by introducing the concept of a hive queen. Nevertheless, in having two distinct situations, the canon of the alien has split into at least two camps.
The way I examine the movie Alien when it comes to the lair scene especially with regards to the life cycle aspect is without the context of future movies nor fan fiction. Instead, I try to look through the lens of what the original script and movie wanted to portray. Here, I want to focus on what was going on with the lair scene and bits in between that have been left up to interpretation.
First, one of the big mysteries of the lair scene was what was going on. Clearly, Brett was becoming an egg. Online, people have described his metamorphosis as eggmorphing. There’s quite a few interpretations on the mechanics behind this transformation, but I want to look at that a bit later. The other aspect, which is tougher to discern and more heatedly debated, is what exactly was going on with Dallas.
In my view, Dallas was not becoming an alien egg. Instead, he was going to be used as a new victim for the facehugger that possibly was growing within the Brett egg. My reasoning behind this mostly is that Dallas was not damaged in the same manner as Brett by being bitten fatally through the skull. However, he was paralyzed from the looks of his unmoving form. In the director’s cut, we see Dallas with some hints of blood caked around his neck while his face was pale. I feel that the alien probably used its tail to paralyze Dallas.
The other thing is that the cocoon that Dallas was within didn’t really resemble what I imagine a person being transformed into an egg would look like. Instead, it looked as though the resin covering him was used simply to plaster him against the wall for convenience and ease of access for a future facehugger.
Now, in the book and script, there’s some references to Dallas being unable to utilize the potential help of the onboard “autodoc” as a result of too much of him being eaten. It’s quite unclear what is eating him. The full grown alien? A new facehugger gestating inside of him? An embryo implanted by a new facehugger grown through the Brett egg?
My best guess here is that the Brett egg was able to launch a new facehugger which implanted an embryo inside of Dallas. Because of what happened to Kane, Dallas probably was aware of his own situation, which is why he wanted Ripley to kill him. The Brett egg is “open” although it doesn’t resemble a completely finished egg so it’s quite possible that this occurred. Also, I find it ironic that Dallas received the same “punishment” from what happened to Kane in that Dallas’ dogged sense of duty impelled the Nostromo crew to the planet and investigate the signal in the first place.
Also, I want to put my eggs in that basket (pun intended) because of how Ash describes the alien as “the perfect organism.” In short, it’s efficient in everything it does, including reproduce. It makes no sense for the alien to create numerous eggs by itself the way the life cycle suggests. Instead, it makes more sense for the alien to try and continue perpetuating itself by not only creating an egg, but finding a new victim to ensure its species’ survival.
If we look at how Lambert and Parker met their ends, I would almost suggest that their deaths had nothing to do with the alien’s life cycle. Parker received a similar end as Brett and possibly could have been setup as a new egg. If that were the case, why did the alien kill Lambert? I feel that Parker’s death was more out of part self defense since Parker attempted to assault the alien and possibly just raw aggression. After all, why would the alien simply leave their bodies as is rather than returning them to its nest?
In the book, Parker and Lambert have a slightly different fate. Ripley does not find their bodies but it’s hinted that the alien forced them into an airshaft in a way that was horrific and possibly mutilated them further. Nonetheless, in that scenario, it might have attempted to take them to a new lair. But I feel that was more artistic license on Alan Dean Foster’s point.
Going back to the lair concept though, I want to focus more on the Brett egg situation. Of everything, the mechanics behind this aspect of the life cycle is by far the most mysterious. Given that we only see a small glimpse at what Brett has become, we never see the actual process. I’ve read quite a number of theories behind the mechanics and I’m going to write a few down then combine them into a single one that makes sense to me.
One idea is that Brett is implanted with a virus where he mutates like a disease into an alien spore. This one is really far off as far as I’m concerned because it does not explain how the egg itself forms. The material of the egg seems partly similar to what the nest is composed of. So I don’t think it’s a matter of one’s skin deforming. But I believe this theory is derived from people using Prometheus’ ampule to resolve both storylines. I hate that just because it attempts to take a current situation and merge it with an idea that was written a while back by a different author.
Another semi-wild but more plausible theory is that the alien egg is partly created and that Brett’s body is just “stuffed” inside so that the facehugger can use his body as food. I’m not a huge fan of this theory either because of how the egg is shaped with his body inside. If you examine other images such as Giger’s painting or the sculptor without the egg exterior, the suggestion is that the egg is formed around him.
The general consensus is that the alien’s slime plays a huge part in creating the egg. This is the most likely scenario given that the creature constantly is drooling vast amounts of goo. Heck, if you look closely at the Brett egg and even at Dallas, you see quite a bit of slime oozing around them. But even though this might be partly true, it still doesn’t make 100% sense to me based on how the slime seems to operate. All we know is that the alien drool/slime is viscous and non-acidic as Dallas able to safely touch in while crawling through the air shaft.
So I think that the material that is used to create the resin and the basic properties of the alien slime must be different. The thing is that the resin solidifies into a hardened material. But how is it generated? What part of the alien does that come from? Is it acidic and lethal?
I think it’s at least organic to some degree. I say this because Ripley uses her flamethrower to torch the lair effectively. I’ve seen the Dark Horse comics interpret the lair creation to a combination of aggression dismantling of an environment combined while using the slime. But again, I feel that’s a bit arbitrary where the slime has a dual purpose and it just doesn’t make a lot of sense since more of the ship and environment should be destroyed just by the virtue of the creature drooling everywhere.
So, again I propose that the resin itself is created through a different mechanism. It’s like how a spider has a spinneret. The thing with the alien is that we do not see such a mechanism and none of the movies that I’m aware of actually show this aspect. My best guess of how this is done is with the four strange tube-like structures on its back. While it’s probably just artistic license with Giger, it’s the only apparent variable that could be linked to a resin producing mechanism.
Regardless, I don’t think the slime alone is enough to create a lair nor even a cocoon. Which is why I think the creature could use the objects on its back to generate large quantities of the resin, unless there’s a hidden spinneret on the creature’s body we have yet to discover.
But let’s start a bit earlier on how everything gets started. First, we need to re-examine Brett’s death scenes. The thing about those scenes is that there were a few shot and an idea or two that got tossed out. The basic death scene shows a quick shot of the alien taking a gouge into his forehead before sweeping him up into the air shaft. Without the lair scene, we can just assume that was it for him.
There’s another long form of his death which shows Brett being dragged towards the alien with the creature’s enormous hands wrapped around the sides of his head. It then proceeds to deliver a bite into his cap while blood pours down his face. His legs shake and eventually he collapses to the ground where he gets dragged up into the shaft.
Another clip has a slightly longer version of what I mentioned above where not only do we see the long bite with blood gushing from his forehead, but the creature’s tail sliding up his leg and using the end to prod into his neck. In this case, the portion of the tail sliding up his leg eventually was re-purposed for Lambert’s death scene, but the actress has since acknowledged the final cut was actually Brett’s scene if you inspect the boots and pants.
Now, the above part I mentioned is more interesting because of how the tail comes into play. My guess is that the alien’s tail acts as a paralytic poison. We see Brett’s legs convulsing as if reacting to the poison while his hands remain at his before he drops to the ground. And already I mentioned that the director’s cut shows Dallas with blood caked around his neck, which may imply why he is unable to escape. And in the Aliens Alan Dean Foster novel, there’s a part not shown in the movie where an alien penetrates the APC and paralyzes Gorman with its tail, demonstrating that Alan Dean Foster may have some privileged knowledge of the mechanics behind the alien based on his previous writing experience from the original novelization.
There are three more scenes not cut for the movie but in the original screenplay, the book and one that was never shot. The screenplay simply has the alien capture a character Brett was based on but rips his head off. That character still ends up becoming an egg but once more no mechanics are explained. The book only mentions how the alien grabs Brett by the head and pulls him into the air shaft. The lack of a physical fatal assault in the book was to hint that he was meant to be kept partly alive for the future egg creation. Finally, Ridley Scott himself wanted to have the alien tear Brett’s heart out but canceled that out due to the similarities between that form of a death and Kane’s chestburster scene.
When you add the lair scene into the movie, you have to look at the mechanics of these deaths and which one really belongs since his ultimate fate and what happens need to be linked. I feel the combination of the tail neck piercing part and the elongated head biting scene are what really lead to the start of the eggmorphing process. The tail piercing part is just how the alien is able to subdue its victims but possibly can be done multiple times as Dallas seems to have suffered a similar condition.
Now, the head biting part is more interesting. The reason I say this is that Dallas did not receive a similar wound when we see him. It’s only Brett and Parker. But I think Parker’s end was meant to parallel the final cut of Brett’s demise. The lengthy head biting scene really is meant to mirror the facehugger.
If we accept that the inner tongue contains a similar function to the facehugger’s tube which plants the embryo inside of its victim, then that is how a new facehugger is created or transferred into a new victim. It would either by the tail or the inner mouth. I’m guessing the inner mouth just because of the parallels to the facehugger, although the way the alien uses its tail against Lambert may suggest a different sexual mode operating (although it’s just another artistic license).
I think it’s just simple evolution in the way this creature is being portrayed. Once it starts planting that embryo, it covets the victim by taking it to a lair to be secured. Alan Dean Foster used the wasp and spider analogy to describe what was going on here. Definitely, a spider makes the most sense as a close parallel creature to the alien in its behavior.
I think here the alien had been building its lair for its first victim. So once the creature brings Brett to its nest, it spends quite a bit of time building the cocoon around him while helping to nurture the new facehugger. The question at this point is how much of the cocoon/egg was completed before the alien brought Dallas to the nest?
One of the things in the novel is that it’s highly unclear there what the second cocoon was until Dallas tells Ripley “that was Brett.” The only description we get from the novel is:
A second cocoon hung there, different in texture and colour from the first. It was smaller and darker, the silk having formed a hard, shining shell. It looked, although Ripley couldn’t know it, like the broken, empty urn on the derelict ship.
The empty urn here implying an open egg that was near or inside of the alien space jockey (which we don’t see in the movie). There’s a concept art depiction of this scene where the “egg” actually looks like a traditional cocoon but pretty much fitting Alan Dean Foster’s description of “smaller, dark and having a hard shining shell.” For me, that means the egg was fully formed and we aren’t supposed to see Brett at all inside of this version of the egg/cocoon.
In the movie though, we see a peek of Brett’s head as the only thing visibly remaining from his body as the egg itself has formed all around him. The plaster model behind the scenes without the egg shell is described as a “clay sausage” where vague hints of a body are there. For instance, there’s the skeletal remnants of his left hand attached and clinging near his right shoulder while a thick, bulbous, shiny bulge appears to the leg, which might have been his knee cap overly encapsulated in the resin. Unlike Dallas, we don’t even see his feet as either they’re completely covered or dissolved into the resin.
Also, one odd thing that never made much sense to me is how the statue shows that his left eye is almost gouged out. In the director’s cut, there’s a medium shot when we first see the Brett egg where there’s a drooping object falling from that side of his face. The clay statue shows something that looks like an eyeball partly falling from a large gap in the left eye hole, implying that the alien probably ripped that section of his face away. But why? That’s not the area that the alien originally had bitten at to implant the embryo (potentially).
Lastly, the close ups show some hints of blood, mostly from the slime oozing out of the egg. But the darkened environment really does not show the puncture on his forehead. So again, it feels like these shots are not congruent to the other parts of filming of his earlier death scenes and are more aligned with what Alan Dean Foster wrote about his initial encounter with the alien, meaning that the alien needed a live host for implanting its new facehugger creation.
At any rate, I think the one thing most people can agree upon is that no matter what, Brett’s body was being used to host the new facehugger…meaning it was feeding off of him. Now, that’s another part that just mystifies me because the facehugger itself does not appear to be able to feed by any obvious means unlike the chestburster.
Next was there ever a new facehugger? Or at least one that was functional? My basic assumption is yes because of how Dallas was positioned. We never get to see it and nothing comes out of the Brett egg to attack Ripley. It’s just odd that if they wanted to demonstrate a completed life cycle, why not show another facehugger lying next to Dallas?
So that again makes me wonder if the Brett egg was complete. The egg was “opened” but it did not have the same structure as the ones from the derelict ship with the four flowering corners. Also, why was his head just sticking out compared to the other eggs? The crew from the ship were gone and the rhetorical question raised was “what happened to them?” The only implication is that all the cargo was the original crew.
In my interpretation, the Brett egg had been complete. We only see his head for dramatic effect and as a way for Ripley to recognize him (because I doubt the audience could). The way the eggs were created by Giger were probably not the same that Dan O’Bannon (the script’s author) had originally in mind. Also, the script and novel has Dallas revealing the egg to be Brett rather than Ripley guessing.
The other thing is that in all honesty, the nest generally looked terrible. I know Ridley had a very difficult time trying to get the nest to look right. There were a few other shots where the colors looked terrible. In one shot, Dallas looked to be inserted into a bee hive like pink popcorn thing. Another shot was too pink and had maggots dropping from Brett’s egg. I think in trying to reconcile Giger’s vision of the interior of the derelict ship and the nest just were impossible. And despite all Ridley’s insistence on the scene being cut for time and pacing sake, I believe it was cut just because it looked awful.
I think it’s one of those things where the original writer, the director and the artist had very different notions of how things should really look. Giger made it feel alien but the concept art made the cocoons look more like traditional webbing. Kane’s description of the egg being “leathery objects” fail to align with the bizarre, glossy and hardened structure embalming Brett and Dallas.
Also, the written descriptions and actual images never really meet. The written pieces make the cocoons sound soft with the victim being embalmed into something tighter and more protective. The Dallas cocoon is described as looking like a white, silky, enclosed hammock. That certainly does not match how Dallas’s cocoon looks in the movie. And Brett’s “smaller, darker cocoon with a hardened shell” definitely doesn’t match. His cocoon is pretty huge and both have hardened shells.
But neither are made with silk. It’s goop. Yucky, nasty goop with no elegance and no discernible function besides keeping a victim in place.
With the Brett cocoon, I’ve always wondered how it came to be. I imagine him being dragged by the alien while he was unconscious or slipping in and out of conscious from his severe wound(s). Then it would place him against the platform of pipes where the alien would begin to use the hoses from its back (or perhaps a mechanism on its chest, etc) to spray him with a thick, fast solidifying resin.
It would place him into a crouching position with his hands folded across his chest while creating the initial binding to the platform. Since Parker spent at least 20 minutes making the incinerators for Dallas, a similar amount of time would be spent by the alien forming the shape of the egg and possibly nursing the facehugger embryo. We see that there is some slime dripping from the top of the egg and some from Brett’s face, so either that’s being generated by the alien as a protective fluid or the facehugger is producing it as it consumes Brett’s body. I’m guessing it’s a bit of both mostly from the alien. But you can see some blood flowing from the opening.
Now, the weird thing is how the top is forming. It’s the only part of the egg which has a unique pattern. It’s almost artistic but it doesn’t appear as organic as the actual, fully formed egg. That part alone is why I just feel it wasn’t ready but still in a state of formation. And I think it is the alien itself creating that pattern for the hatchling facehugger.
The resin itself I don’t think damages Brett’s flesh. Instead, it just solidifies around him. But there’s a lot of it and the facehugger is just slowly disposing of his flesh. The alien might rip off parts of Brett to compact him further for its creation of the egg but I don’t think the main alien consumes him during this process unless its one of those “feeds its young” type of biological processes.
At any rate, I think that the scene is both sexy and ugly simultaneously. I don’t think there would ever be an easy way to make Giger’s vision look elegant and menacing with what Dan O’Bannon originally wanted. I think the original vision wasn’t as harsh and that the cocoon was something nice and soft, hardening overtime and with an incredible amount of material binding the victim inside. The embryo probably would have been inserted inside the cocoon with the victim while more bindings were added to form a tight and highly protective shell.