Alien: BFI Film Classics by Roger Luckhurst (book review).

November 13, 2014 | By | Reply More

The BFI through Palgrave MacMillan are releasing six genre books through November, following a similar pattern to previous film books of theirs we’ve reviewed here in the past. It therefore shouldn’t be surprising that I would choose to review them alphabetically and that ‘Alien’ by film critic Roger Luckhurst would be the first. Unusual for film critics, he likes SF films.


The size of these books are small enough to fit in a large coat pocket and to while the time away for about an hour’s travelling on public transport. These books blend background and going through the film pointing out various things, including metaphor. For instance, Luckhurst points out that Kane could be seen as the single sperm entering the womb to get pregnant which is very revealing even if I don’t think Ridley Scott saw it that way and Geiger just went for the grotesque. The background of all the Joseph Conrad references in the film and even Dallas’ failings in leadership as captain is actually rather telling.

As frequently pointed out over the various ‘Alien’ books, this is essentially a blue collar ship so is it surprising that it would have a captain who would rather have an easy life and delegate decisions to others that he doesn’t have to worry about? After all, the captain is there to run the ship not to make important decisions that belong to other departments. There are some references to the other ‘Alien’ films but Luckhurst doesn’t fall into the trap of retro-correction. If anything, the only time he really falls off the wagon, so to speak, is when he compares the Nostromo to other recent spacecraft of that time as it looks less clean and more used. In comparison to those, the Nostromo is hardly as spacious. ‘Alien’ also led the way into the grunge spaceships where the cleanest rooms were the hibernation bay and MUTHR and no one hired cleaners to keep everything tidy. This doesn’t mean that Luckhurst doesn’t make mistakes.

He says Ridley Scott directed episodes of ‘Adam Ant Lives’ on page 21 when I think he’s muddling the pop star with the BBC TV series ‘Adam Adamant Lives’ (1966). On page 66, Luckhurst describes Ash as a cyborg but although the term ‘artificial person’ comes up, doesn’t call him an android. Saying that, I’d never heard that the sap from an ash tree was white before. I don’t think Ridley Scott had neither and just wanted a colour that would say that these androids weren’t run on red blood and used milk. I don’t think Ash was mistaken for a human as they all thought he was a human, especially as the novelisation adds a little more detail that the crew weren’t told when he became a last minute replacement for the original scientific officer. Although we’ve all got the other ‘Alien’ books out there and there’s a good bet that you’ll pick this one up regardless. For those who are less sure, the examination of ‘Alien’s metaphor and such is something that has been less explored elsewhere. Although I doubt this will make much discussion, it does provide a different viewpoint that might lead off into what else this could reveal.

I still ponder on how Weyland-Yutani knew there was an alarm signal in the area and if it was from another mining vessel so far out, did they lose their shares? From what Luckhurst infers, the company chose an ineffective crew to ensure it had the best hosts but then again, as we never see other starships that does tend to be a mote point. Don’t go looking down at any odd eggs.

GF Willmetts

November 2014

(pub: BFI/Palgrave MacMillan. 96 page illustrated small enlarged paperback. Price: £12.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-84457-788-0)

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Category: Books, Films, Scifi

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About UncleGeoff

Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’
If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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