Bug Hunting in the Future: Establishing Standard Operating Procedures for Xenomorph Control
I hope you’ve seen Aliens … it’s one of the classic military sci-fi films out there, and it completely turns the horror movie-themed Alien onto its head. With tons of exceptional performances, a truly creative story and some of the most iconic action scenes in cinema history, it’s no wonder Aliens is so beloved by many.
The film follows Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) as she and her team take on a seemingly impossible mission: to battle an alien species that has infested an entire planet and threatens to destroy humanity. What makes this movie stand out is how Ripley takes charge and rises up against these aliens in a way previously unseen in films starring female protagonists. Not only do we see her strength and courage throughout the movie, but also her intelligence, self-awareness and leadership skills – something which defies traditional gender roles.
Now, while no-one can dispute Ripley’s awesomeness (thank you, Sigourney Weaver for a sterling performance), the question that needs to be answered is – What mistakes did the marines make in the film Aliens?
The Colonial Marine Corps are well-practiced in Xenomorph control bug hunts – to the point that their dropship is even nicknamed “Bug Stomper”. Despite this, they act as if they’re improvising every step of the mission. Gorman might be a rookie but he has likely memorized these Standard Operating Procedures; furthermore, with experienced NCOs like Apone and Hicks on board, who have undoubtedly gone through similar situations previously, it’s safe to assume the SOP should be followed precisely.
However, if that is in fact the case, the SOP definitely needs some work! So in an attempt to answer this question, lets consider some of the major errors made, and what the right actions should have been.
Using Assets Incorrectly
The UD-4L Cheyenne Dropship is a significant asset in controlling Xenomorphs. This drop ship is equipped with state-of-the-art technology and weaponry, allowing Colonial Marines to quickly transport personnel and supplies to an area of operation to secure survivors or perform reconnaissance efforts.
They take only one flight crew. Taking two dropships when you only plan to use one isn’t unrealistic, but what if Ferro or Spunkmeyer get sick and can’t fly? Bishop obviously has a lot of other duties, among them driving the APC, so you can’t assume he’d be available.
At the absolute minimum, a dropship prepped and ready with supplies should have been dispatched to thoroughly evacuate those requiring critical care up to Sulaco. Unfortunately, Bishop needs over an hour just for the preflight process and when it finally arrives -empty!- it’s already too late.
Not Understanding the Mission
Although there may not be a Xenomorph present, the Marines are being sent on an exciting rescue mission with only one directive: to save as many people as possible. It is likely that “sixty-maybe seventy families” or even more have been left stranded on an incredibly hostile planet for weeks following a mysterious attack from unseen lifeforms. Needless to say, they are in desperate need of assistance and these brave soldiers must gear up if they want any chance at surviving this unpredictable mission!
While the Marines undeniably conduct “bug hunts” and colony rescue missions on a regular basis, not one of them appears to be concerned with this particular operation. Although they might look like actors from an ’80s movie preparing for a dance-off in order to save the community center, most of these veterans are well-versed experts who know precisely what needs to be done. Shockingly, none of them ever questions any part of their plan or orders given by Sgt Apone – except when he requests that they drop magazines from their pulse rifles.
But instead of having an entire medical team and field hospital, they take only one corpsman (medic), Dietrich, and Bishop who can provide basic first aid. Sure they bring a ton of ammunition but what about necessities such as food, water supplies, emergency power sources? Furthermore, since the marines don’t know anything about the state or resources available at the colony eventually being invaded, they cannot assume its existing facilities will be usable.
The Company didn’t believe Ripley about the alien, so why was a “bug hunt” the only scenario the Marines showed up ready to deal with?
Too Little Too Late
Initially, the Marines were dubious of Ripley’s narrative, yet by the time they had secured the primary building, their skepticism melted away. The physical evidence collected from records and specimens was ample enough to prove that an unknown number of “Ripley’s bad guys” – highly aggressive xenomorphs with extreme resilience – were on the loose in some part of the colony. To top it off, there was even a living (albeit catatonic) witness who could validate what happened at Hadley’s Hope!
Despite the obvious danger, no one takes any preventive action. Instead of remaining in a safe corner inside the building or deploying sentry guns to guard their perimeter, they remain at risk and leave the dropship wide open for potential threats. Not only is this foolish but also incredibly risky!
Ignoring Common Sense – Watch a Horror Movie Guys!
Hudson discovers the colonists’ PDTs in an industrial plant, which is strange considering there are no supplies of food or protection from harsh weather conditions, let alone a lack of communication tools and medical aid. Despite this bizarre scene that should trigger alarm bells for any experienced soldier, they just shrug it off and decide to investigate with little suspicion.
If the platoon had successfully saved those stranded in the plant, how did they intend on getting them back to safety? With only one APC and already filled with soldiers, Ripley, Burke, and Newt – it’s unclear what their strategy was. The atmosphere between the facility and main building is hazardous; a group of strong Marines would rather not brave it themselves let alone battered survivors or young children. What measures were taken for transportiong these individuals back to security?
When the platoon enters the mysterious plant, where none of them are acquainted with their surroundings, it is tactically unwise to send all of the members in simultaneously and crowded together. Nevertheless, Gorman may be inexperienced but he ought to already have a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for building clearance memorized. He efficiently relays instructions when they enter the main building; proving that he understands what regulations require.
Since Marine infantry doctrine heavily relies on the commanding officer’s oversight based on recorded footage, it was imperative to pause and strategize a solution or workaround as soon as communication issues arose. Failing to do so could have severe repercussions for the personnel involved in the mission.
“Sir, comms are dropping out, camera connectivity is getting worse, visibility is dogshit, we’re finding corpses glued to the f@#$king walls, and now there’s this issue with our ammo…recommend we fall back and reevaluate.”
What Should They Have Done?
Why leave the dropship shut down and parked on deck when venturing into a processing plant? The transport is packed with enough firepower to level Los Angeles, which would be completely ineffective if they had an emergency or required air support. Even though this mission requires evacuation – as it inevitably does- its imperative that these troops are able to utilize the capabilities of the aircraft in times of need.
However, when Hicks makes a call for immediate evac, the crew wasn’t ready! This decision not to be prepared was unwise even without any alien interference onboard. Just think if they’d been airborne in high-cover loiter near the plant and then Hicks called for dustoff before performing pickup and rushing towards Sulaco – nuking the site from orbit could’ve easily wrapped up their mission quickly!