- "I can't lie to you about your chances but... you have my sympathies."
- ―Ash (from Alien)
Ash was a synthetic employee of the Weyland-Yutani Corporation and the science officer aboard the commercial towing vehicle USCSS Nostromo. He was serving on the ship during its fateful voyage in 2122 when it encountered a Xenomorph on LV-426, an incident that eventually led to the destruction of the ship and the loss of all but one of its crew.
Ash's synthetic nature was kept secret from the rest of the crew, who assumed he was merely another human assigned to the ship. In reality, he was a synthetic sleeper agent who had been placed on board the Nostromo specifically to ensure the Xenomorph was returned to the company, for study and use in their bio-weapons division. His body was destroyed by the surviving crew, but Ash secretly uploaded part of his AI into the Nostromo's shuttle, the Narcissus, and escaped with Ellen Ripley. Chris Hooper eventually wiped Ash's consciousness from the shuttle's computer banks, finally 'killing' him.
Ash was a Hyperdyne Systems 120-A/2 synthetic that was created for Weyland-Yutani in the early part of the 22nd century. Little is known about his activities prior to 2122, but when the company detected and partially decoded the transmission coming from the derelict on LV-426, Ash was assigned to the Nostromo to ensure the retrieval of the alien creature they knew would likely be found there. Ash replaced the vessel's existing science officer, who had previously served with Captain Dallas on several occasions, two days before the ship left Thedus. After take-off, Ash performed routine health checks on the crew — including Jones, the ship's cat — before they entered hypersleep for the journey home.
Investigating the signal
When the Nostromo ostensibly discovered the signal on LV-426, Ash ensured the crew investigated by pointing out that failure to do so would incur a total forfeiture of their personal shares in Weyland-Yutani, as per company regulations. It seems Ash, acting in concert with MU/TH/UR 6000, also concealed the true nature of the signal from the rest of the crew — while Ash claimed the message was undecipherable, after landing on LV-426 Ripley was able to determine that it was likely some form of warning and not an S.O.S. as previously assumed. Even so, Ash successfully convinced her that heading out after the search party to warn them would be futile. When Kane was returned to the ship with a Facehugger attached to him, Ash undermined Ripley's command and let the search party back on board, thereby breaching basic quarantine regulations; the move made Ripley suspicious of Ash, suspicions she took to Captain Dallas, but he had no answers for her.
Once the Nostromo left LV-426, Ash notably ignored Parker's suggestions that Kane be put into stasis for return to Earth, where a proper medical team could examine him. After attempts to simply pry the Facehugger from the comatose Kane failed, Ash attempted to surgically remove the creature at Dallas' insistence, but its acid blood almost ruptured the ship's hull. When it later detached and died by itself, Ash began studying the creature intently. He discovered several interesting characteristics, including the Xenomorph's ability to replace its cells with polarized silicon, giving it a prolonged resistance to adverse environmental conditions, but apparently learnt nothing of value in the crew's later attempts to combat the Alien.
Hunting the creatureChestburster ripped out of Kane at the crew's final meal before they were to return to hypersleep, Ash prevented Parker from attacking the infant Xenomorph with a knife, allowing it to escape into the ship. Ash constructed two tracking devices to help track the creature, but a subsequent search resulted in Brett being killed by the already fully-grown Alien. When Dallas volunteered to go into the Nostromo's ventilation ducts to flush the creature into the ship's main airlock, Ash remained notably calm as the other crew members panicked while Dallas was stalked and attacked.
The truth revealed
When Ripley became increasingly suspicious of Science Officer Ash's inability to provide any helpful information on the creature she consulted MU/TH/UR directly, finally learning of "Special Order 937", a secret directive that Ash had been given by Weyland-Yutani to ensure the return of the Alien to the company's laboratories, even at the expense of the crew. When Ripley confronted Ash with this information he attacked her, holding her down and attempting to asphyxiate her by forcing a magazine down her throat. However, Ash was decapitated by Parker before he could kill her, revealing him to be an android. Despite being headless, Ash continued to attack Parker until Lambert stabbed the android in the back with an electric prod. After the confrontation, Ripley reactivated his remains, hoping to interrogate him for any information that might help in the fight against the Alien, but Ash merely mocked the remaining survivors, gloating that they would not survive the Alien's rampage by giving an exact analysis of the unique characteristics of the creature. After hearing his taunts, Ripley deactivated Ash for good and an enraged Parker incinerated his remains with a Flame Thrower. However, unknown to the crew, Ash had already transferred part of his AI programming to the Narcissus, the Nostromo's shuttle.
Aboard the Marion
Following Ripley's escape from the Nostromo, Ash secretly remained in control of the Narcissus. After keeping the shuttle drifting for thirty-seven years, he detected the distress call sent out by the DSMO Marion and rerouted the shuttle to intercept it, hoping to continue with his mission to acquire a Xenomorph specimen for Weyland-Yutani. Soon after arriving at the Marion, Ripley learned of Ash's survival and he eventually revealed himself to the group, his voice having changed due to the Seegson terminal he uploaded himself into. Throughout the incident aboard the Marion and on LV-178 below, Ash continued to plot against the survivors. After learning that Sneddon had been impregnated with a Chestburster, Ash planned to arrange the deaths of the rest of the crew, hoping that she would then enter hypersleep aboard the Narcissus, allowing him to deliver her — and the embryo she carried — to Earth. However, Sneddon killed herself before Ash could put his scheme into motion.
With his plans to recover a Xenomorph in ruins, Ash, apparently driven insane by the years he had spent drifting alone aboard the Narcissus, planned to continue his journey with Ripley, with whom he imagined he had developed an intimate connection. However, before the Narcissus departed the Marion, Ash was finally destroyed when Hoop wiped the AI's program from the shuttle's mainframe using a computer virus. With Ash destroyed, Ripley drifted through space for a further twenty years before being rescued.
Ash's betrayal led Ripley to develop an intense mistrust and hatred for androids, feelings notably displayed when she encountered the android Lance Bishop during a return mission to LV-426 with the United States Colonial Marine Corps. The 120-A/2 model became well-known for its tendency to malfunction and led to the introduction of behavioral inhibitors in Synthetics to prevent them from similarly harming humans. Ash's actions on board the Nostromo also imparted Ripley with a mistrust of Weyland-Yutani in general, thanks to their role in Ash's deployment and secret orders that undermined the crew's safety and survival.
Personality and Traits
With regards to his secret orders, Ash clearly had no qualms with sacrificing the crew to ensure the Alien was returned to Earth. On several occasions he directly assisted in the creature's progress and survival, although always subtly enough that his actions would not appear to be an outright betrayal of the rest of the crew. Similarly, he would often appear to assist in the fight against the Alien, most notably when he constructed motion detectors following Kane's death, although in hindsight it is clear his assistance was always specifically limited in its effectiveness. Despite his care, Ripley became suspicious as soon as Ash breached quarantine rules by allowing Kane and the Facehugger back on board the Nostromo, something a Science Officer — in Ripley's mind at least — would never do. When his facade was uncovered, Ash displayed a cold, emotionless and cruel demeanor, something that complimented his artificial likeness, and he subsequently mocked the remaining survivors of the Nostromo in their futile struggle against the Alien before being deactivated.
Ash was also an adept liar, successfully concealing from the rest of the crew the fact that Weyland-Yutani had already deciphered much of the transmission coming from the derelict before they had even left Thedus. He feigned ignorance when the signal was assumed by the others to be a distress call, even though the company had already learned enough from the message to know that the Xenomorph the Nostromo had surreptitiously being sent to retrieve was an incredibly dangerous creature likely to kill the entire crew.
Although first and foremost an entity programmed to execute its mission with ruthless pragmatism, Ash's consciousness relates in the diary he kept aboard the Narcicuss' computers that he genuinely respects Ripley; admiring his enemy's bravery, strength, resourcefulness and tenacity, much like how he admired the Drone aboard the Nostromo for similar reasons. Poignantly, he also longs to converse with her, as his program has grown to be able to feel loneliness in his 30 years of solitude as Ripley slept.
As the Nostromo's Science Officer, Ash utilized to the instruments in the ship's infirmary/laboratory to study both Kane and the Facehugger attached to him. Once the creature was loose, Ash used his technological prowess to construct crude tracking devices to help track it.
Behind the Scenes
For the scene in which Ash is revealed to be an android and has his head knocked off, a puppet was created of the character's torso and upper body which was operated from underneath by a small puppeteer. During a preview screening of the film this scene caused a female usher to faint. The following scene of the surviving crew interacting with Ash's remains used both Holm, kneeling under the table with his head coming up through a hole cut in its top, and an animatronic head, made using a face cast of actor Ian Holm. However, the foam rubber used to make the head shrank as it dried and consequently, the final item bore little resemblance to the real Holm. As there was no time (or budget) to make a second, the production team had no choice but to use the existing model. As a result the switch from prop to actor is very noticeable in the film. Milk, caviar, pasta and glass marbles were used to represent the android's inner workings and fluids.
Deleted airlock scene
One notable scene that was cut from Alien was to make Ash's betrayal of the crew complete. Originally, following Dallas' death, the survivors all but succeeded in ejecting the Alien into space through the Nostromo's main airlock. However, at the last moment, Ash activates an alarm in the area, scaring the creature away and subsequently causing localized decompression that seriously injures Parker and Ripley. Ripley immediately suspects Ash, and it was after this incident that she was supposed to enter MU/TH/UR and learn the truth about his secret order.
The scene was cut during filming, although a small portion of it, set on the Nostromo's bridge and featuring Lambert and Ripley, is available as a bonus feature on the Alien Anthology Blu-ray release. The entire sequence is featured in the film's novelization, while a take on the scene was later incorporated into the Alien: Isolation DLC Crew Expendable.
- In Prometheus, the android David is decapitated and subsequently shown to remain active and able to communicate even with his head severed. These scenes seem to be an obvious homage to Ash, especially since David's voice begins to falter following his decapitation. This effect was later repeated in the Alien: Covenant prologue short The Crossing, where David instructs Shaw on how to reassemble his body.
- In Alien: Isolation, Smythe's corpse has a rolled-up magazine forced down his throat, with the culprit implied to be a Working Joe android. This is an obvious homage to Ash and the manner in which he tries to kill Ripley in Alien.
- Aliens/novel (photo only)
- Alien: Out of the Shadows/audio drama
- Alien: River of Pain
- Alien: Isolation (voice only)
- Deep Black (indirect mention)
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 Tim Lebbon. Alien: Out of the Shadows, p. 330 (2014), Titan Books.
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 James Cameron (writer and director). Aliens (1986), 20th Century Fox [DVD].
- ↑ 3.0 3.1 Alan Dean Foster. Alien, p. 261 (1979), Warner Books.
- ↑ Dan O'Bannon, Ronald Shusett (writers), Ridley Scott (director). Alien (1979), 20th Century Fox [DVD].
- ↑ Alien: Isolation - Nostromo Log 009 - Health Checks
- ↑ Tim Lebbon. Alien: Out of the Shadows, p. 72 (2014), Titan Books.
- ↑ Tim Lebbon. Alien: Out of the Shadows, p. 46 (2014), Titan Books.
- ↑ Alien: Out of the Shadows audiobook
- ↑ Tim Lebbon. Alien: Out of the Shadows, p. 298 (2014), Titan Books.
- ↑ 10.0 10.1 10.2 Ridley Scott, Dan O'Bannon, Ronald Shusett, David Giler, Veronica Cartwright, Ivor Powell. The Beast Within: Making Alien (2003), 20th Century Fox [DVD].
- ↑ "Weyland-Yutani Archives - Ripley's Nosebleed". Retrieved on 2013-04-29.