Alien

 In Beat Sheet

Alien Story Map

Screenplay by Dan O’Bannon
Story by Dan O’Bannon and Ronald Shusett
Directed by Ridley Scott
Running time: 114 minutes
Year: 1979

BASIC STORY MAP

Alien Story Map

PROTAGONIST: Ripley, female warrant officer onboard the commercial towing spacecraft, The Nostromo
CHARACTERIZATION/MAIN MISBEHAVIOR: Tough, Brave, Resourceful / Callous
EXTERNAL GOAL: To investigate the transmission / To kill the alien
INTERNAL GOAL: To fight for her life
MAIN DRAMATIC CONFLICT: The Alien / Weyland-Yutani Corporation
THEMES: Survival / Corporate Greed
CENTRAL DRAMATIC QUESTION: Will Ripley survive?
ENDING: Ripley kills the alien.

STORY ENGINES

Alien Story Engines

ACT I

The crew of the Nostromo are awaken from stasis by a mysterious transmission that they are required to investigate on a nearby planetoid, LV-426. As Ripley works to decode the transmission, Dallas, Kane, and Lambert trace the transmission to an alien spacecraft on LV-426. Later, Ripley learns that the transmission is not a S.O.S., but instead, a warning.

ACT II-A

While searching the spacecraft, a creature bursts out of an egg and attaches itself to Kane’s face. Dallas and Lambert rush him back to the Nostromo, but Ripley refuses entry, citing quarantine protocol. Ash ignores protocol and lets them onboard. Later, they find Kane conscious and the creature dead in the medical bay. Before they leave for Earth, an alien bursts out of Kane’s chest, killing him, and escapes into the ship.

ACT II-B

After the alien, now seven feet tall, kills Brett, Dallas devises a plan to blow it into space. Ripley gains access to Mother after Dallas’ death, discovers that Ash has been ordered by the company to preserve the alien at the expense of the crew’s lives. Ripley confronts Ash and he attempts to kill her. Parker and Lambert save Ripley, discover Ash is an android. Ash believes that they will be unable to kill it. Ripley then devises a plan to self-destruct the Nostromo and escape via shuttle.

ACT III

Parker and Lambert are killed by the alien. Ripley then activates the Nostromo’s self-destruct mechanism, makes it to the shuttle before detonation. As she prepares for stasis, she discovers the alien has stowed away. She puts on a spacesuit, decompresses the cabin, and, seconds before the alien can strike, opens the doors, sucking the alien into space. The alien attempts to climb back inside through the engine, but Ripley fires the engines and incinerates it.

FULL STORY MAP

ACT I

Alien Beat Sheet Act I

Sequence I: The crew of the Nostromo, a commercial towing spacecraft, are awaken from stasis by a mysterious transmission.

1-2 – OPENING IMAGES: Deep space. A star provides backlight to the dark side of a planet.

3 – A giant star-freighter, Weyland-Yutani Corporation’s ‘The Nostromo,’ travels through space. Text super-imposed on the screen:

commercial towing vehicle ‘The Nostromo’

crew: seven

cargo: refinery processing 20,000,000 tons of mineral ore

course: returning to earth

4 – The camera floats through the vast, seemingly lifeless ship.

5 – The Nostromo’s computer boots up.

Alien Beat Sheet Stasis

7 – The crew awakens from stasis.

8 – During a meal, the engineers, BRETT and PARKER, ask the captain, DALLAS, for a bigger share of profit. Dallas tells the men they’ll get what they’re entitled to contractually.

9-10 – Dallas consults Nostromo’s computer, MOTHER.

10-11 – The crew works at their assigned posts, but can’t locate Earth.

12 – INCITING INCIDENT: Dallas informs the crew they are only halfway home. Mother has awakened them because the ship received a transmission of unknown origin.

INT. MESS

Entire crew present.

DALLAS?Some of you may have figured out that we’re not home. We’re only halfway back to Earth.

BRETT?What the hell.

DALLAS

Mother’s interrupted the course of the voyage.

DALLAS?She’s programmed to do that if certain conditions arise. They have...

Pause.

DALLAS

Seems Mother intercepted a transmission of unknown origin. She got us up to check it out.

____________________________________

Sequence II: As Ripley works to decode the transmission, Dallas, Kane, and Lambert trace the transmission to an alien spacecraft on LV-426.

13 – Parker argues for more pay if they are to investigate the transmission. Senior Officer ASH informs Parker that he’s contractually obligated to assist in the investigation or forfeit all shares of the ship’s profit.

14 – The crew listens to the signal, but no one can identify the sound. The ship’s navigator, LAMBERT, locates the transmission on a nearby planetoid, LV-426.

14-18 – The Nostromo detaches from its refinery and lands on LV-426. It suffers damage upon its descent, lands in a massive storm.

21 – Dallas, Executive Officer KANE, and Lambert leave the ship in the storm to investigate the signal. Warrant Officer RIPLEY, Brett, and Parker make repairs, while Ash monitors Dallas and crew’s progress.

23 – Parker and Brett question Ripley regarding their shares. Ripley insists they will be paid what’s required by law.

24 – Dallas, Kane, and Lambert make their way through the storm.

24 – STRONG MOVEMENT FORWARD: Ripley questions Ash over the transmission, learns Mother hasn’t identified it yet. She sits at a console and works to decode it.

Alien Beat Sheet Alien Spacecraft

25 – The storm stops. Dallas, Kane, and Lambert trace the transmission to an alien spacecraft. Through their video feeds, Ash is unable to identify it.

EXT. PLANET – DAY

Empty landscape.

Then Kane comes up over a rise startled by what he sees.

Suddenly the transmission is deafening.

KANE

Jesus Christ.

Dallas and Lambert join him equally startled.

THEIR P.O.V. – DAY

A gargantuan spaceship rising from the rock.

Clearly of nonhuman manufacture.

____________________________________

Sequence III: On the alien spacecraft, Dallas, Kane, and Lambert find a fossilized alien with its ribs burst outwards. Ripley learns that the transmission is not a S.O.S., but instead, a warning.

26 – Communications from Dallas, Kane, and Lambert to the ship receive interference. Ash is unable to communicate effectively.

26 – Lambert wishes to leave, but Kane insists they carry on.

27 – Dallas, Kane, and Lambert enter and search the spacecraft. Ash loses their signal.

29 – CHESTBURSTER SETUP: They find a giant, fossilized alien with its ribs burst outward.

Alien Beat Sheet End of Act One Turn

31 – END OF ACT ONE TURN: Ripley reports to Ash that Mother has deciphered part of the transmission. It’s not a S.O.S., but rather, a warning.

INT. BRIDGE – DAY

Ripley at her console, still working on transmission.

Gets a readout.

Looks worried.

Speaks into communicator.

RIPLEY

Ash. Urgent. Mother has deciphered part of the transmission. I’m afraid it may not be an S.O.S.

ASH

(voice over)

Then what is it.

RIPLEY

She thinks it may be a warning.

31 – DECISION: Ripley wishes to leave and warn the crew, but Ash talks her out of it.

ACT II-A

Alien Beat Sheet Act II-A

Sequence I: While Kane investigates a derelict cargo hold, a creature bursts out of an egg and attaches itself to his face. Dallas and Lambert rush him back to the Nostromo, but Ripley refuses entry, citing quarantine protocol. Ash ignores protocol and lets them onboard.

32-33 – On the spacecraft, they lower Kane into a derelict cargo hold, where he discovers many eggs.

35 – Kane notices movement in one of the eggs, tells the others he sees signs of organic life. As he investigates further, a creature bursts out of the egg and attaches itself to his face.

Kane peers closely at the leathery ovoids.

Turns away.

Raised areas begin to appear where he touched it.

He moves his light along the rows.

Turns back to the one he was examining.

Something has changed.

The opaque surface begins to clear.

Object becoming visible within.

Kane shines his light on the floor at the base of it.

He studies it.

KANE

Jesus...

DALLAS

(voice over)

What.

Viscera and mandible now visible.

The interior surface spongy and irregular.

Kane shines the light inside.

With shocking violence, a small creature smashes outward.

Fixes itself to his mask.

Sizzling sound.

The creature melts through the mask.

Attaches itself to Kane’s face.

Kane tears at the thing with his hands.

He falls backwards.


35-37 – FIRST TRIAL
: The storm pummels Dallas and Lambert as they bring Kane to the Nostromo. Dallas informs Ripley that a creature has attached itself to Kane’s face. Ripley insists they follow quarantine protocol, which would require them held in quarantine for twenty-four hours. Dallas and Lambert become furious, as Kane could be dead within that time. Regardless, Ripley won’t budge. She demands they remain in quarantine or the rest of the ship could be infected.

RIPLEY

What happened to Kane.

Pause.

DALLAS

Some kind of organism. It’s attached itself to him. We’ve gotta get him to the infirmary.

RIPLEY

I need a clear definition.

DALLAS

Just open the hatch, Ripley.

RIPLEY

Wait a minute, if we let it in, the ship could be infected. You know the quarantine procedure. Twenty-four hours for decontamination.

DALLAS

He could die in twenty-four hours. Open the hatch...

RIPLEY

Listen to me, if I break quarantine we may all die.

LAMBERT

Open the God damn hatch. We have to get him inside.

RIPLEY

I can’t. If you were in my position you’d do the same.

37 – Ash breaks protocol and lets them in.

____________________________________

Sequence II: Dallas and Ash attempt to remove the creature from Kane’s face, but discover it bleeds an acid-like substance. Later, they find Kane has regained consciousness and the creature dead.

37 – In the medical bay, Dallas and Ash remove Kane’s helmet. They discover the creature has a firm grasp on Kane’s face, with its tail wrapped around his neck.

39-40 – They scan Kane’s body and discover the creature has part of its body down Kane’s throat. Ash surmises this maybe keeping him alive, feeding him oxygen, but Dallas wants it removed immediately, even if it kills Kane.

40-42 – Dallas attempts to cut off one of the creature’s legs, but discovers the creature bleeds an acid-like substance. Its blood burns through the floor and down two levels.

DALLAS

I’ve never seen anything like that, except molecular acid...

BRETT

This thing uses it for blood.

PARKER

Wonderful defense mechanism. You don’t dare kill it.

44-46 – Ripley questions Ash over Kane and the creature, learns it sheds its cells, continually building defenses against its adverse environment. Ripley criticizes Ash for breaking the quarantine law, saying he might have risked everyone’s life for one.

47-50 – Ash calls Dallas to the infirmary. There, they find Kane conscious in the medical bay without the creature on his face. Ripley finds the creature dead.

____________________________________

Sequence III: The crew leaves LV-426 for the refinery. During their last meal before entering stasis, an alien bursts out of Kane’s chest, killing him, and escapes into the ship.

50 – Ash inspects the creature. Ripley argues to get rid of it, but Dallas sides with Ash, electing to preserve the specimen for future tests.

51 – Ripley questions Dallas over having the creature on the ship. He states company policy dictates preserving it.

51 – Dallas elects to leave LV-426 even though the ship is not fully operational.

53 – The Nostromo leaves LV-426, heads back to the refinery.

55 – The crew finds Kane conscious and talking, seemingly back to normal. They elect to share a meal before they go back into stasis.

Alien Beat Sheet Midpoint

56-57 – MIDPOINT & CHESTBURSTER PAYOFF: During the meal, Kane begins to have what seems to be a seizure. When the crew attempts to help, a small alien bursts out of his chest and escapes.

Suddenly Kane grimaces.

RIPLEY

What’s wrong?

Kane’s voice strains.

LAMBERT?What’s the matter.

KANE

I don’t know...I’m getting cramps.

The others stare at him in alarm.

Suddenly he makes a loud groaning noise.

Clutches the edge of the table with his hands.

Knuckles whitening.

ASH

Breathe deeply.

Kane screams.

KANE

Oh God, it hurts so bad. It hurts. It hurts

(stands up)

Ooooooh.

BRETT

What is it. What hurts.

Kane’s face screws into a mask of agony.

He falls back into his chair.

KANE

Ohmygooaaahh.

A red stain.

Then a smear of blood blossoms on his chest.

The fabric of his shirt is ripped open.

A small head the size of a man’s fist pushes out.

The crew shout in panic.

Leap back from the table.

The cat spits, bolts away.

The tiny head lunges forward.

Comes spurting out of Kane’s chest trailing a thick body.

Splatters fluids and blood in its wake.

Lands in the middle of the dishes and food.

Wriggles away while the crew scatters.

Then the Alien being disappears from sight.

Kane lies slumped in his chair.

Very dead.

A huge hole in his chest.

The dishes are scattered.

Food covered in blood.

ACT II-B

Alien Beat Sheet Act II-B

Sequence I: The crew breaks into teams to capture the alien. The alien, now seven feet tall, kills Brett when he becomes separated from his team.

58 – The crew send Kane’s body into space.

59-60 – The crew devises a plan and breaks into two teams to catch the alien: Ripley, Brett, and Parker; Dallas, Lambert, and Ash.

63-64 – Believing they have the alien located, Brett, Parker, and Ripley get a good scare from Jones the cat.

65-66 – Brett chases after the cat and discovers the alien has shed its skin.

Alien Beat Sheet Jones the Cat

68 – Brett finds the cat. The alien, now seven feet tall, appears from behind and attacks Brett.

INT. UNDERCARRIAGE ROOM – “C” LEVEL

Brett enters.

Still looking for Jones.

Another yowl followed by a hiss.

Two eyes shining in the dark.

Jones.

Relieved, Brett moves toward the cat.

BRETT

Here kitty...Come on Jones.

Brett reaches for Jones.

Jones hisses.

An arm reaches for Brett.

The Alien.

Now seven feet tall.

Hanging from the undercarriage strut in reverse position.

Grabs Brett and swings up into darkness.

Brett screams.

To no avail...

____________________________________

Sequence II: Dallas devises a plan to drive the alien through the air ducts with the flamethrower to an air lock and blow it into space. Locked in the air duct, Dallas becomes confused over the alien’s location and is taken out.

69-70 – Shaken over Brett’s death, the crew regroups. Ripley and Parker reveal that the alien is now bigger and using the air ducts to move around. Ash suggests they fight the alien with fire. Dallas has Parker assemble flamethrowers.

DALLAS

The shaft could work for us. That duct comes out at the main air lock. There’s only one big opening on the way. But we can cover that. Then we drive it into the air lock and blast it into space.

PARKER

Drive it...I’m telling you the son-of-a-bitch is huge.

RIPLEY

The science department should be able to help...

ASH

Well it seems to have adapted to an oxygen rich atmosphere and it’s certainly adapted well for its nutritional requirements. The only thing we don’t know about is temperature.

RIPLEY

All right. What about the temperature. What happens if we change it.

ASH

We could try it. Most animals retreat from fire.

DALLAS

Parker, how long to hook up three or four incinerating units.

PARKER

Give me twenty minutes.

72 – Dallas consults Mother on the alien, but Mother does not have enough info to help.

72 – Armed with a flamethrower, Dallas climbs into the air shaft system to track the alien. He intends to drive and trap it in an airlock where they can then blast it into space.

74 – Lambert locates the alien, communicates its location with Dallas. Dallas moves.

75 – Lambert loses the alien’s signal. Dallas finds evidence that the alien has been in his location.

Alien Beat Sheet Dallas'Death

76 – Confused over the alien’s location, Dallas moves into a lower shaft and is attacked by the alien.

____________________________________

Sequence II: Ripley commands the crew to follow through with Dallas’ plan. With her new access to Mother, she discovers that Ash has been ordered by the company to preserve the alien at the expense of the crew’s lives. Ripley confronts Ash and he attempts to kill her. Parker and Lambert defend Ripley, knocking Ash’s head off in the process, and discover he’s an android.

Alien Beat Sheet Assumption of Power

77 – ASSUMPTION OF POWER: Ripley, now in charge, commands the crew to use Dallas’ plan, as the shuttle will not support four people. The crew agrees.

78-79 – Ripley seeks advice from Ash, but he gives her nothing, claiming he and Mother need more time to collect data. She criticizes Ash for not getting answers, saying she’ll go to Mother now that she has access.

80 – Ripley searches Mother for answers. She finds Special Order 937, for “Science Officer Eyes Only.” Ripley overrides the command, Mother spits out the following info:

Nostromo Rerouted

To New Co-Ordinates.

Investigate Life Form. Gather Specimen.

Priority One

Insure Return of Organism

for Analysis.

All Other Considerations Secondary.

Crew Expendable.

81-82 – Ripley strikes Ash. She rushes to alert Lambert and Parker, but Ash shuts off both her communication and exits.

82 – Ripley confronts Ash. She notices a milky substance coming from his forehead, a result of their scuffle. Ash is an android.

82-83 – Ash attacks Ripley, attempts to suffocate her. Lambert and Parker step in, but Ash proves too strong. Parker grabs a fire extinguisher and hits Ash in the head, saving Ripley.

84 – Parker knocks Ash’s head off, but Ash’s body still attacks. Lambert uses electrocution to take him out.

____________________________________

Sequence III: Ripley, Lambert, and Parker question Ash regarding the alien. He calls it “the perfect organism” and believes that they will be unable to kill it. Ripley then devises a plan to use the Nostromo’s self-destruct and escape via shuttle.

Alien Beat Sheet End of Act Two Turn

86-87 – END OF ACT TWO TURN: Ripley, Lambert, and Parker repair Ash, question him about the alien. He claims it cannot be killed and their chances of survival are nil.

ASH

My orders, in essence, directed me to reroute the ship to the source of the signal. There we were to investigate a life form, almost certainly hostile, and bring it back for observation. Using discretion, of course.

LAMERT

Why. Why didn’t you warn us.

ASH

Because you might not have gone in. The shares notwithstanding.

PARKER

You and the damn company. What about our lives, man.

ASH

Expendable I’m afraid. It wasn’t personal. Just the luck of the draw.

Cold comfort.

RIPLEY

The transmission was a warning.

ASH

Yes, and frighteningly specific. The derelict spacecraft landed on the planet. Like Kane, they encountered one of the Alien spores. Before they all died, they managed to set up the warning.

88 – DECISION: Ripley decides to activate Nostromo’s self-destruct mechanism and escape via their shuttle, the Narcissus, with Parker and Lambert.

88 – Parker incinerates Ash with his flamethrower.

ACT III

Alien Act III

Sequence I: Parker and Lambert are killed by the alien as they gather coolant for the journey.

89 – Ripley orders Lambert and Parker to gather the necessary coolant for their voyage as she readies the shuttle. They agree to meet each other at the shuttle in seven minutes and activate the self-destruct system.

89-90 – Ripley readies the shuttle, hears the cat.

90 – Lambert gathers coolant as Parker guards.

91-92 – Ripley searches for the cat. After a good scare, she finds him.

93 – Loading the last of the coolant, Lambert freezes, scared to death.

93 – Ripley hears commotion over their radios.

93-94 – The alien stands between Lambert and Parker. Parker is unable to fire his flamethrower, as it would torch Lambert in the process of killing the alien.

94 – Parker attacks the alien, but the alien wraps him up in its tail. It then exposes its teeth and kills Parker.

94 – Ripley overhears the alien kill Lambert over her radio.

95 – Ripley finds Lambert and Parker dead, runs for the shuttle.

____________________________________

Sequence II: Ripley activates the Nostromo’s self-destruct mechanism, finds the alien has blocked her path to the shuttle. She does not get to the override in time, but manages to escape on the shuttle before detonation.

Alien Beat Sheet Point of No Return

96-97 – POINT OF NO RETURN: Ripley activates the self-destruct system. The ship will self-destruct in ten minutes, with the option to override expiring in five.

98 – The alien has blocked Ripley’s path to the shuttle. With minutes to spare on the self-destruct override, she leaves the cat and runs to save the ship from detonating.

99-100 – Ripley doesn’t engage the override system in time. The ship will detonate in five minutes.

100-102 – With the self-destruct clock ticking away, Ripley carefully makes her way back to the shuttle.

102 – Ripley grabs the cat and pushes to the shuttle.

103-104 – Ripley makes it into the shuttle with one minute to spare. She prepares for take off and leaves seconds before the Nostromo explodes.

INT. NARCISSUS

Ripley finishes strapping herself in.

Reaches and grabs the cat box.

The cat yowling within.

Ripley hugs the box to her chest.

Hunches her head down over the container.

EXT. SPACE

The Nostromo drifts farther away from the shuttle-craft.

Finally becomes a small point of light.

Then it blows up.

Transforms into expanding fireball.

Pieces of metal flying in all directions.

And then the refinery explodes.

200,000,000 tons of gas bloating silently into the cosmos.

104 – Nostromo detonates.

____________________________________

Sequence III: As Ripley prepares for stasis, she discovers the alien has stowed away on the shuttle. She puts on a spacesuit, decompresses the cabin, and, seconds before the alien can strike, opens the doors, sucking it into space. It attempts to climb back inside through the engine, but Ripley fires both engines and incinerates it.

105-106 – Ripley comes down from the adrenaline rush. She pulls the cat out of his cage.

106 – Ripley puts the cat in a stasis chamber.

107 – Ripley readies the shuttle for her time in stasis and discovers the alien has stowed away.

108-110 – Ripley hides inside a locker and puts on a spacesuit. She arms herself with a grappling hook.

111-112 – With the spacesuit on, Ripley steps out of the locker, straps herself in to the control chair. The moment she decompresses the shuttle, the alien comes out of hiding.

Alien Beat Sheet Climax

112 – Seconds before the alien attacks, Ripley opens the doors. It is sucked into space, but manages to grasp the exterior door frame.

112 – Ripley shoots the alien with a grappling gun, but the door slams down on the line before the gun can pass. The alien uses the line to pull itself back to the ship.

113 – CLIMAX: As the alien attempts to climb back inside through the engines, Ripley fires both engines and kills it.

____________________________________

Sequence IV: Ripley details the events in a recorded log and then enters stasis.

114 – Ripley details the events of Nostromo in a recorded log and signs off.

INT. NARCISSUS – LATER

Now depressurized.

Ripley is seated in the control chair.

Calm and composed, almost cheerful.

Cut purring in her lap.

She dictates into a recorder.

RIPLEY

Final report of the Commercial Starship Nostromo. Third Officer reporting. The other members of the crew...Kane, Lambert, Parker, Brett, Ash, and the Captain Dallas are dead. The cargo and the ship destroyed. I should reach the frontier in about six weeks. With a little luck the network should pick me up. This is Ripley, last survivor the Nostromo, signing off.

She switches off.

INT. NARCISSUS

Ripley in hypersleep.

Alien Beat Sheet Closing Image

114 – CLOSING IMAGE: Ripley sleeps peacefully in stasis.

114 – THE END.

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Showing 2 comments
  • Darrell C
    Reply

    Great article and analysis of my favorite film. We discussed this screenplay a few months ago in my screewriters group and I realized how geeked out I am when they couldn’t believe the amount of trivia over this I’ve accumulated over the years. Thanks for taking the time to post this!

    • William Robert Rich
      Reply

      Thanks, Darrell. Alien is such a fascinating concept. Lots of smart folks worked on it.

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