- "I'm Burke. Carter Burke. I work for the company. But don't let that fool you, I'm really an OK guy!"
- ―Burke (from Aliens)
Carter J. Burke was a junior executive for the Weyland-Yutani Corporation, serving as Special Projects Director for Weyland-Yutani (Space) Corp's Special Services Division. He acted as a liaison to Ellen Ripley after her rescue from deep space in 2179, and later accompanied a squad of Colonial Marines on board the USS Sulaco to LV-426, the moon where Ripley had first encountered the Xenomorph species, to investigate the loss of contact with the colony of Hadley's Hope.
While initially amicable towards the Marines and Ripley in particular, in reality Burke had ulterior motives and his loyalties lay solely with Weyland-Yutani. His continued scheming against the personnel from the Sulaco mission was eventually discovered, and he was nearly executed by the surviving Marines for his treachery. Ultimately, he was ambushed by one of the Xenomorphs at Hadley's Hope and either killed outright or taken alive to be cocooned and implanted with a Chestburster.
Carter Burke was dispatched to Gateway Station in 2179 where he was among the first people to meet with Ellen Ripley following her rescue from 57 years drifting in hypersleep. Burke brought Ripley up to speed on the years she had been missing, consoling her regarding the death of her daughter Amanda Ripley-McClaren. As one of the few people she knew following her re-emergence from hypersleep, Burke was also a regular feature in Ripley's nightmares, including one particularly vivid dream where an imaginary Chestburster hatched from her chest just moments after Burke had finished explaining how long she had been in hypersleep. Burke guided Ripley through the tribunal into the destruction of the USCSS Nostromo, and when she was subsequently stripped of her rank and flight status for her role in the ship's loss, Burke remained close.
However, he also secretly forwarded the coordinates for the derelict ship on LV-426, obtained from Ripley's testimony, to the colonists at Hadley's Hope, ordering them to investigate without disclosing what they might discover. As a result, the colony was overrun by Xenomorphs and all but one of its inhabitants, a young girl named Rebecca Jorden — better known as Newt — were killed.
When contact with the colony was lost, Burke used his contacts at Weyland-Yutani to pressure the United States Colonial Marine Corps into launching a rescue operation, and arranged for the inexperienced Lieutenant Gorman to take command of the mission. Burke also requested the standard synthetic assigned to Gorman's unit, a Bishop model 341-B, be replaced with a modified unit that had been stripped of its life-protection imperative and had a Weyland-Yutani loyalty subroutine installed, but he was unable to acquire such an android in time. With the operation assembled, Burke and Gorman approached Ripley, who was now living on Earth, and offered to reinstate her rank if she would accompany a section of Colonial Marines on a mission to investigate. While she initially refused, Burke convinced her that confronting the Xenomorphs and destroying them would help her overcome her ongoing trauma.
Mission to LV-426Facehugger specimens being stored in the medical lab, one of which had been removed from its host, Marachuk, at the cost of his life.
When the rest of the colonists were traced to the nearby Atmosphere Processing Plant, Burke and Ripley accompanied the Marines to investigate, remaining inside their APC while the troops moved in. When Ripley pointed out that the armor-piercing ammunition used by the Marines' weapons would likely cause significant damage to the Processor, Burke concurred, explaining that the station was a large fusion reactor and any damage to the coolant systems could trigger a thermonuclear explosion. Burke's insistence eventually led to Gorman disarming his men, leaving them with only flamethrowers and sidearms to defend themselves. When the section was subsequently ambushed by Xenomorph Drones, their lack of appropriate weaponry caused the majority of them to be killed or captured.
Survival in the colony
When they were stranded on the moon due to the loss of their dropship, the surviving personnel barricaded themselves inside the colony, hoping to hold out for rescue. Ripley later learned from the unit's technician Bishop that Burke had insisted the two live Facehuggers in the med lab be returned to Weyland-Yutani after the mission; after checking the colony's logs, she also discovered that Burke was responsible for the colonists initially discovering the Xenomorphs. She angrily confronted him with this information, happily rejecting his offer of wealth should they give the live Facehuggers to Weyland-Yutani as he had planned. Despite Burke's pleas that his actions had simply been a "bad call", Ripley promised him he would pay.
While Ripley and Newt slept inside the med lab, Burke seized his opportunity to rid himself of Ripley and released the live Facehuggers before sealing the door to the room, additionally hoping that with Ripley and Newt impregnated he would have the perfect means of smuggling live Xenomorphs through quarantine and back to Earth. While he deactivated the security cameras to prevent Ripley calling for help, she triggered the fire alarm in the room and was saved by the Marines.
- "This is so nuts. I mean, listen- Listen to what you're saying. It's paranoid delusion. How- It's really sad. It's pathetic."
- ―Burke, after his treachery is discovered (from Aliens)
The survivors confronted Burke in the operations center, Ripley pointing out that, as the Marines would all know about the embryos inside her and Newt, Burke would likely have sabotaged their cryotubes during the return flight to Earth and jettisoned their bodies into space. With no one left to contradict his version of events, he could simply claim they had died on the mission when debriefed. While Hicks and Private Hudson elected to execute Burke for his treachery (Hicks coldly adding, "No offense," echoing Burke's earlier comment about him being "just a grunt"), Ripley stepped in to stop them, explaining that Burke should be taken back to face justice for his actions. Suddenly, the power was cut from the complex. Gorman was ordered to guard Burke and prevent him from escaping while the others investigated the complex.
The survivors subsequently found themselves set upon by the Xenomorphs. Burke implored Gorman to do something, and as soon as the Lieutenant released him to engage the Xenomorphs, Burke slipped away in the chaos, locking the door behind him and trapping the survivors in the operations center with the Xenomorphs. However, upon fleeing through the med lab, Burke found himself face-to-face with another Drone. Burke froze in terror, and was swiftly attacked by the creature. Burke's final fate remains unclear, but it is certain that he subsequently perished — being killed outright by the Xenomorph or taken alive to be cocooned inside the Hive.
Personality and traits
- "OK, look, what if that ship didn't even exist? Did you ever think about that? I didn't know! So, now, if I went and made a major security situation out of it, everybody steps in, administration steps in, and there's no exclusive rights for anybody. Nobody wins! So, I made a decision, and it was wrong. It was a bad call, Ripley. It was a bad call."
- ―Burke, to Ripley (from Aliens)
Burke's 'operation' on LV-426 was carried out without the knowledge of his superiors. Despite scheming to further the company's corporate interests, it's clear this was done solely for his own personal gain; the manner in which he kept knowledge of the derelict on LV-426 from his superiors following Ripley's tribunal, opting instead to send several colonists to investigate on his own initiative, makes it obvious he planned to use the discovery to further himself professionally. Considered ruthless even by his colleagues at Weyland-Yutani, many of his peers nonetheless lamented that he was "executive material" and the company made note of his excellent people skills, hands-on initiative and loyalty to company interests.
Burke's deceptions ranged from manipulating Ripley into joining the Hadley's Hope mission in the first place, promising that the purpose was to destroy the Xenomorphs when clearly it was not, to actively attempting to impregnate her and Newt with Xenomorphs so that a live specimen could be smuggled through quarantine within them. He was even willing to sabotage the cryotubes of the other survivors in order to cover his tracks. However, when his deceptions eventually unraveled, he revealed himself to be cowardly and weak, and it was this cowardice that ultimately cost him his life.
Behind the Scenes
Deleted death scene
Originally, Burke's ultimate fate in Aliens was revealed in a deleted scene — as she searched the Hive for Newt near the end of the film, Ripley found Burke cocooned to the wall, still alive and impregnated with a Chestburster. He tells her he can feel the embryo moving inside him, and begs her to help him. Ripley does not, but hands him a grenade so that he may end his own suffering.
The scene was mainly cut because director James Cameron realized that, given the time frame of the film, Burke would still have had a Facehugger attached to him by the time Ripley enters the Hive. Despite this, it still appeared in the novelization of the film and the comic adaptation Aliens: Newt's Tale. The movie footage was released for the first time as a bonus feature on the 2010 Alien Anthology Blu-ray set. A slightly altered version of Burke's death was the basis of the short story Dark Mother in the 2017 anthology Aliens: Bug Hunt.
- Burke notably shares his middle initial with another antagonistic government/corporate agent in the franchise, Peter J. Keyes.
- The first names of both Burke and his actor Paul Reiser seemingly served as inspiration for the name of Ellen Ripley's second husband Paul Carter.
- Burke does not exist at all in the original treatment for Aliens. Most of his dialogue while aboard Gateway Station was instead taken by a character called Dr. O'Neil, who was cut from the finished film. With Burke's absence, the sub-plot regarding Weyland-Yutani attempting to obtain Xenomorph specimens from LV-426 was also not present in the initial script, as there is no corporate agent accompanying the Marines to the colony.
- In some ways, Burke is very similar to Ransome from Alien: Isolation, in that both characters are corporate executives who had relations with Weyland-Yutani and whose goals involved Xenomorph procurement for personal financial gain — regardless of the human cost.
- While the scene revealing Burke's ultimate fate was cut, there are several moments earlier in the film that serve to foreshadow it. For instance, when the squad first explores the med lab, one of the contained Facehuggers attempts to latch onto Burke through the jar in which it is held. Later, when Ripley confronts Burke over his role in instigating the infestation at the colony, she comments that she will make sure "they nail you right to the wall for this", obviously referring to the authorities on Earth but a reference to how the Xenomorphs cocoon their victims to walls.
- Alien3 (novel) (mentioned only)
- Aliens: Colonial Marines Technical Manual (mentioned only)
- Aliens: Colonial Marines/Stasis Interrupted (voice only)
- Aliens: Field Report
- Alien: The Weyland-Yutani Report
- Alien: River of Pain/audio drama
- Dark Mother
- Alien: The Cold Forge (mentioned only)
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 S. D. Perry. Alien: The Weyland-Yutani Report, p. 90 (2014), Insight Editions.
- ↑ Burke's actor's (Paul Reiser) height at the time was 5ft 9 ½ (176.5 cm), so that is also how tall Burke would have been.
- ↑ 3.0 3.1 James Cameron (writer and director). Aliens (1986), 20th Century Fox [DVD].
- ↑ Chris Roberson (writer), Paul Lee (illustrator). Aliens: Field Report (2014), Dark Horse Comics.
- ↑ James Cameron (writer and director). Aliens Special Edition (1991), 20th Century Fox [LaserDisc].
- ↑ Lee Brimmicombe-Wood. Aliens: Colonial Marines Technical Manual, p. 147 (2012), Titan Books.
- ↑ Alan Dean Foster. Aliens, p. 57 (2014), Titan Books.
- ↑ Stasis Interrupted (2013), Gearbox Software, SEGA [Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360].
- ↑ Alan Dean Foster. Alien3, p. 244 (2014), Titan Books.
- ↑ Lee Brimmicombe-Wood. Aliens: Colonial Marines Technical Manual, p. 154 (2012), Titan Books.
- ↑ "Weyland-Yutani Archives - Aliens Unseen: The Lesser Known Deleted Scenes". Retrieved on 2013-04-30.
- ↑ Alan Dean Foster. Aliens, p. 301 (2014), Titan Books.
- ↑ Alien II treatment (September 21, 1983) by David Giler, Walter Hill and James Cameron