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In Ridley Scott's 1979 movie 'Alien', after Ripley rigs the ship to self-destruct she proceeds to the escape pod, all the while the ship announcing that it has been rigged to blow and commencing a countdown.

Ripley reaches the escape pod, only to find the xenomorph already there. The xenomorph sees her, she freaks and runs back to the area where she rigged the explosives to try to disable the destruction sequence (which she couldn't). Strangely, the alien never followed her or gave chase, instead tucking himself into the escape pod while she was trying to reset the bomb.

This has always bothered me. For me, this reveals a predatory mind of the highest order. Could it be that the alien anticipated or understood the self-destruct sequence? It never bothers to follow Ripley upon the original rendezvous at the escape pod, even though it would have been easy for the alien to destroy her. Also, to further support this argument, after Ripley's initial revelation that the alien was also tucked away safely in the escape pod after blowing the mothership, the alien seems to be content just laying there idly, not showing any form of aggression towards Ripley until she tries to smoke / freeze it out.

Could it be that the alien was intelligent enough to know Ripley would attempt to return to earth or rendezvous with another ship, thereby ensuring it a steady supply of victims?

Considering this movie came out in '79, it's still remarkably watchable today, even raising questions I had not considered upon my original viewing as a youngster.

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    I always thought that one of the things that made the creature so scary was its wildly unpredictable behavior. We have no real idea what its goals are, and only minimal understanding of its methods. – Buzz Dec 27 '16 at 13:29
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    Speaking of unpredictable behavior, when I first saw Alien I was shocked (and relieved) that the xenomorph left the cat completely unharmed. – Ixrec Dec 27 '16 at 13:54
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    I once read a theory that the xenomorphs have short lifespans (basically: They don't eat and use lots of energy), and that it actually holed up in the Narcissus escape pod to either simply die or hibernate to conserve energy. I can't find a real source now, and have no idea if it's canon (might have been from the novelization though), so this isn't an answer or anything, but it does seem pretty dormant when Ripley finds it. That scene might not be the best example of intelligence shining through, at any rate. – tobiasvl Dec 27 '16 at 21:46
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    @Ixrec that's because aliens are carriers of toxomplasma gondii. Or maybe not – Wayne Werner Dec 28 '16 at 0:31
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    "Strangely, the alien never followed her or gave chase, instead tucking himself into the escape pod while she was trying to reset the bomb." If I remember well, the explanation at the time was that the beast had exhausted itself (it was aging fast) and was mainly interested in curling up in a safe corner, which is why Ripley had a chance at against it at all. – David Tonhofer Dec 28 '16 at 12:46
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The xenomorphs in Resurrection are seen "communicating" with one another.

They screech and waggle their heads before executing a brutal - but decidedly premeditated - escape plan by killing one of their own and using its acid blood to melt through the floor of their cage.

I know, I know, Resurrection is not a great addition to the franchise, to say the least. But for better or for worse, it is part of the movie canon now. This scene does, fairly clearly IMO, establish that the xenomorphs are intelligent to a degree that they have some sort of language and are self-aware. They may not pursue technological invention, preferring instead to simply slaughter everything in their path, but that's only evidence of an alien mindset (pun not intended), not an animal one.

So, whether or not the xenomorph in the first movie could understand the meaning of the count-down sequence, it clearly understood that danger was imminent. It may have gotten that from the alarms though. (The fact that it knew to go to - and stay inside - the escape pod more strongly suggests that it knew what the escape pod was, at least.)

It's also possible that a xenomorph inherits a certain amount of knowledge from its host regarding language or basic instincts, but that's more hypothesis on my part than anything else.

Could it be that the alien was intelligent enough to know Ripley would attempt to return to Earth or rendezvous with another ship, thereby insuring it a steady supply of victims?

I would say certainly yes. The xenomorphs have shown this level of aptitude many times throughout the series:

From this moment in the escape pod, to the aliens coming through the vents in #2, rather than running down the hall into an ambush (which they recognized as a threat to avoid), to the xenomorph in Alien 3 leaving Ripley alone when it could have killed her (because it recognized she was carrying a Queen). The xenomorphs definitely have the ability to examine a situation tactically and respond accordingly, rather than simply killing everything that moves (and isn't them).

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  • Good :) I'm not the only one thinking like this then. The reason I specifically refer to the first movie, is because James Cameron changed up the dynamic of the xenomorph in the second movie. At least, in my opinion he did. For example, the xenomorphs in the second movie rather stupidly rush the machine gun turrets and get mowed down in droves, seemingly lacking the nuanced intelligence of the first movie xenomorph. Although they did eventually figure to cut the power in the 2nd movie. Both movies are excellent though, just in different ways. – Invader Zim Dec 27 '16 at 16:30
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    I would argue that the alien is less intelligent and more clever, referring to the first film only. We see no direct signs of consciousness (unnecessary to intelligence but mostly seemingly hand in hand). However, the alien apparently "sees" without eyes using psi (I believe that was the explanation) and while I may not have understood what was happening, it only needed to be very clever to glean DANGER HERE and SAFETY HERE from reactions, layouts, the flavor of the thoughts. In the end it isn't killing Ripley because it knows it needs her to survive- again, clever without needing intelligence – Broklynite Dec 27 '16 at 17:17
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    @InvaderZim I thought it was implied in Aliens that they were actually throwing themselves at the machine guns to make them run out of ammo, a plan which requires some intelligence, and that they only gave up a little too early. This seems to be what the characters think about the situation too. Remember that they're not unlike a beehive in behavior, so sacrificing some members to do that isn't necessarily "dumb". (The sole xenomorph in Alien doesn't have that luxury, and has to be more cunning.) – tobiasvl Dec 27 '16 at 21:40
  • To the part about knowing what the lifeboat was, I copy my comment to the question: I once read a theory that the xenomorphs have short lifespans (basically: They don't eat and use lots of energy), and that it actually holed up in the Narcissus escape pod to either simply die or hibernate to conserve energy. I can't find a real source now, and have no idea if it's canon (might have been from the novelization though), so this isn't an answer or anything, but it does seem pretty dormant when Ripley finds it. That scene might not be the best example of intelligence shining through, at any rate. – tobiasvl Dec 27 '16 at 21:46
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    The part about the queen I wouldn't say is a example of higher intellect. The problem is that she carrying a queen was recognized by the predator and from the films they always "ignored" or immobilized those that carried their spawn already. Thus they "know their own and ignore them" would be a behaviour that could be purely instinctual instead of a tactical decision. – Thomas Dec 28 '16 at 8:05
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The basic xenomorph drones are about as intelligent as a big cat. Most of the xeno's reactions and behavior follow patterns of large alpha predators. They fight and kill for a basic handful of reasons, IE; food, territory, threats and reproduction. though saying that they are also very aggressive.

As for the drone in the escape pod I can't really explain how it got in there or why except that it may have been trying to get away from the alarms. The xeno's sensory perception is pretty distinct as they do not seem to have any type of visual acuity. Rather they navigate using a combination of echolocation and a similar system using scent. Kind of like a bat crossed with a blood hound.

So if I remember correctly the alarm sirens were not going off in in the escape pod. For an animal that "sees" by hearing that amount of noise would probably play havoc with its systems and it would seek out shelter away from the noise. That being the escape pod where is was at least quieter.

Why did it not attack Ripley? Predators don't attack and/or kill everything they come across. Looking at the events leading up to the escape pod we see they xenomorph kill several members of the crew and assumingly consume them.

So the xeno has a belly full of Captain Dallas and has been going crazy trying to get away from the sirens. So when it got in the pod it was probably wanting to sleep/rest. The sirens may have made it ill, such as a form of motion sickness. It also may have been getting ready to molt.

It either didn't perceive Ripley as a threat until she attacked it and so was ignoring her. I have watched plenty of cats ignore mice with utter boredom and disdain. So the xeno was; 1. not hungry 2. with no queen, not looking for hosts 3. not threatened =ignoring Ripley. Plus once she got in the space suit she may have "disappeared" as the xeno probably couldn't smell her.

Why didn't it kill the cat? Same reason a bear would ignore a squirrel to go after a elk. The couple of bites of meat just aren't worth the effort of killing it. Even though it could do it instantly with a bite. Predators are notoriously lazy.

That is with a single drone. Now with a hive it's quite a bit different. The xeno's operate off a hive mind. The queen controls the drones using pheromones much like a ant colony or bee hive. Drones are expendable and are used for a wide variety of tasks that the queen wants done.

The queens are much smarter, probably around the level of a chimp or dolphin. The few queens seen are shown to be able to problem solve on a basic level. Such as realizing that an elevator can take her up.

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    I can't prove it now, but I recall reading at some point that the noise explanation is the official explanation for the alien's behavior at the end of the movie: alarms were going off all over the Nostromo and it went into the escape ship simply to get away from the noise. – Dan C Dec 27 '16 at 21:21
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    Your answer seems to imply that everyone was killed (or not killed) as food. If deleted scenes are considered canon (the scene was in the director's cut, if I recall correctly), then Dallas wasn't eaten, he was either going to be cocooned into an egg or captured to act as host for the Brett cocoon/egg. – tobiasvl Dec 27 '16 at 21:42
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    @tobiasvl Still food, food for larvae. – Agent_L Dec 28 '16 at 6:51
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    @Agent_L sure, but that's not the case this answer was making. – tobiasvl Dec 28 '16 at 6:56
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    There is a deleted scene from Alien that shows the captain morphing into an alien egg. He begs the crew that found him to kill him. So, I think humans were on the shopping list, but not on the grocery list. – Major Stackings Dec 28 '16 at 8:52
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Out of Universe, the originally planned ending for Alien had Ripley getting her head bitten off, and the Alien sitting at the console and recording the closing log using Dallas' voice, revealing that the creature was far form a simple predatory animal.

Although this ending was removed, its possible that some of the beats in the script from that version remain, including specific behaviors meant to imply how intelligent the creature really is.

http://ew.com/movies/2017/04/03/alien-ridley-scott-alternate-ending/

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