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At the end of District 9, it transpires that

all the alien mothership needs is some of that black juice, and then it starts working again.

Given that all the alien technology came from the mothership in the first place, why didn't they just do that right at the start? Why did they even stop at Earth?

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There are a lot of secrets in District 9... – Jack B Nimble Dec 5 '12 at 22:51
In light of the Director interview below (that specifically speaks to your questions) you may wish to reconsider your acceptance. – Valorum Jan 29 '15 at 0:56
up vote 8 down vote accepted

This was explained in an io9 interview with the Director, Neill Blomkamp. In short, the prawns are a hive species. When their leaders died, they became rudderless (and not a bit stupid and docile). In the absence of command input and realising that supplies were running short, the ship auto-navigated them to the nearest habitable planet to allow them to disembark and perform repairs. Unfortunately, they encountered us.

As to why it took them 20+ years to gather the fluid to fuel the pod, it seems that it took that long for a potential new leader (Christopher) to fully mature and start making intelligent plans on behalf of the hive:

What is your own back story for these aliens? What's their home planet like? Why did the end up on Earth?

The other thing is that the ship was meant to clip together with other ships. So there's, like, vast amounts of resources that they're bringing to the parent planet. And the ship, when the army generals or the queen of that particular ship died off by some sort of virus or bacteria that they picked up on some other planet, that killed them off. And it didn't effect these sort of resilient, hardy sort of drone workers. Then the technology is usually the thing that they relied on to save them, but in this case it sort of screwed them because it brought them to a planet that kind of treated them pretty badly, but it was the ship that realized that, unless it gets to a life sustaining planet everything is going to die, which is a cool idea. So the ship just auto-pilots to the closest one in the Goldilocks band, and it's our planet and then pulls up and hits the brakes.

Where does this leave Christopher Johnson [an abnormally smart prawn who sparks a bit of a revolution... Not to give too much away]?

I think it's taken 20 years. I think because there is a subconscious hive mind happening, really what they should do is lay one egg that has a different embryo in it that grows into a Queen or being someone that dictates direction. But I think in the interim, because they may have done that, there may be an egg out there with that, but as that being is growing, I just like the idea that he may have been a lot more directionless in the beginning. But the hive structure of their society may just pick one or two that starts to become the leader. Like the overall structure of his brain may change because the hive may want that to happen. So he starts having a direction and a goal. Which is an interesting idea and it's just enough to kick start them to be able to get to the ship to get back.

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+1 for Word of God explanation. This should be the accepted answer. – Andres F. Jan 29 '15 at 1:23

From what I recall the alien said it had taken it all that time (~20 years) to create the amount needed.

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Unless I'm mistaken the 'scientist' alien knows this all along, and has been searching for the black fluid all this time.

Remember when the ship first arrives and humans explore it they find what they described as two castes, the warrior/worker ones far outnumbering the other smarter kind (or I am mistaken and they feel they are only the soldier caste, and the smarter leaders must have left).

So no one, no one at all is looking for the black goo in the whole of district 9, as the lone scientist is the only one who knows enough to do anything about it.

Further more the scientist alien needs to get up to the ship anyway, and open it up. I remember they need the goo to do that too. So there could have been gallons on the mother ship, but none on the ground.

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