I just watched John Carpenter's The Thing, and also the 2011 version.

One thing I can't work out is if The Thing was the pilot of the space ship, or a passenger. It's possible there is no in-universe definitive answer, but I'm open to suggestions.

My original assumption (based on the 1982 movie) was that it was a passenger, and that the ship crashed because there was nobody left able to fly it. But the 2011 movie makes me question that assumption.

  • 3
    According to the wiki, the 2011 prequel had unfilmed scenes showing the aliens piloting the UFO as well as various (opened) containers. The implication being that the Thing was something that he been collected by the crew on a survey mission (or that it was some kind of bio-weapon). Either way, not a pilot or a passenger. thething.wikia.com/wiki/The_Thing's_UFO
    – Valorum
    Sep 18, 2016 at 23:11
  • 2
    I guess by "passenger" I mean anything other than pilot. So "bio-weapon", "collected specimen", or "prisoner" would also count.
    – nedlud
    Sep 20, 2016 at 6:23
  • @nedlud: Not to forget "uninvited passenger", or maybe even "parasite" (?) Sep 22, 2016 at 4:08
  • According to that wiki link, it sounds like nobody really knows anything in either version. (except for those last two possibilities) Sep 23, 2016 at 23:07
  • You could also check out John W. Campbell's "Who Goes There?" though I do not remember whether it had anything relevant.
    – Mary
    Apr 7, 2021 at 1:40

2 Answers 2


Taking John Carpenter's "The Thing" as the definitive version, as anyone would, it appears to be the pilot. The spaceship approaches Earth, it lands intact (as seen at the Norwegian's dig), and a single body was found. It was the pilot, if there was a pilot.

  • 7
    By "lands intact" you presumably meant "ploughs into the ground at high speed".
    – Valorum
    Sep 24, 2016 at 0:04
  • 4
    if you refer to the short story "Who Goes There" and the original movie, i agree that the alien was the pilot.
    – SteveED
    Sep 24, 2016 at 1:44
  • Given that there seem to have been no other occupants of the ship, I guess it must have been the pilot (unless the ship was on auto pilot). It's also possible The Thing assimilated the original pilot species, which still makes it the pilot in the end.
    – nedlud
    Sep 25, 2016 at 2:34
  • 4
    @valorum Any landing you can crawl away from to be entombed in ice until potential assimilation victims appear
    – Wad Cheber
    Jan 23, 2021 at 14:06
  • 3
    @WadCheberStandsWithMonica - "It was a textbook landing. If you tried to land a ten ton textbook, that's what it would look like."
    – Valorum
    Jan 23, 2021 at 14:09

Although nothing shows this in the original film, there was a separate Alien Pilot planned for the 2011 sequel.

Behind the scenes photo of the Alien Pilot. It has long limbs and is connected to the space ship via organic looking cables.

The Alien pilot did not make the final cut as it was:

dropped after experiencing a poor reception with test audiences and financial constraints.

More details on the Alien Pilot, and why it was dropped here.

The wiki article states (unsourced):

The Pilot Alien is a member of an Alien pilot race who collected specimens from different planets, a sort of planet zoological expedition

It then goes on to explain that originally before the ship crashed the Thing, after revealing itself takes on the form of a Pilot Alien so that it can fly the ship.

So plausibly, the Thing is both Pilot and Prisoner but never a willing Passenger.

  • 1
    Dead weird-looking alien pilot, still attached to equally weird and clearly alien control mechanism aboard a crash-landed alien spaceship, killed by a sapient flesh-devouring alien monster. Have I seen this plot before?
    – void_ptr
    Apr 7, 2021 at 19:31
  • @void_ptr the wiki and wordpress site said they wanted to make a nod towards aliens and the Pilot form that movie
    – AncientSwordRage
    Apr 7, 2021 at 19:44

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