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The final scene of The Thing (2011) and the opening scene of The Thing (1982) both show a dog-Thing running from the Norwegian base to the American base in Antarctica. The dog-Thing is fleeing the Norwegians in a helicopter who are trying to kill it before it can reach another base.

The two bases are 80 km away from each other and the next base is a Soviet one about 50 km away. Sensing a base from 80 km away is not easy, but the dog-Thing gets there.

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How did the dog-Thing know which way to run when it fled the Norwegian base? Or did the dog-Thing just run off in a random direction and happened upon the American base?

Possible source materials for answers about the dog-Thing's sense of direction. I listed the movie screenplays on top since I am more concerned about the movie adaptation than the books or comics, but if you have insights from the books or comics that answer the question but don't contradict the movies, then go for it.

  • Any version of the screenplays for either movie.

  • A novelization of the film based on the second draft of the screenplay was published in 1982 by Alan Dean Foster.

  • The original story, Who Goes There?, by John W. Campbell, Jr.

  • Peter Watts published a short story called The Things which retells the film events from the alien's point of view and paints it in a much more sympathetic light by describing the Thing as an alien with an innocent impulse to share with the human race its power of communion and its frightened, not to mention severely saddened, reaction when they attack it.

  • Any of the Thing based stories published by Dark Horse Comics. (Four comic sequels to the 1982 film about MacReady chasing the Thing from one place to another.)

I am less interested in answers from these sources, but would consider them in lieu of answers from better sources.

If this question is not covered by any materials, please don't speculate, but just say the answer is not known yet.

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In Who Goes There? the alien is telepathic and learns a great deal of what the humans around it know. Of course, in the original story, the Norwegian base and the dog-thing do not appear. However, if the creature in the film has the same telepathic abilities as the one in the novella, it could easily have learned by reading the Norwegians' minds where the American base was located. (Although the two outposts are not in contact, they are aware of each other.)

The key passage identifying the creature as telepathic.

Barclay shook his head. "I didn't care to listen much. You can if you want to. But I gathered that the blasted idiot had all the dreams McReady had, and a few more. He slept beside the thing when we stopped on the trail coming in from Secondary Magnetic, remember. He dreamt the thing was alive, and dreamt more details. And -- damn his soul -- knew it wasn't all dream, or had reason to. He knew it had telepathic powers that were stirring vaguely, and that it could not only read minds, but project thoughts. They weren't dreams, you see. They were stray thoughts that thing was broadcasting, the way Blair's broadcasting his thoughts now -- a sort of telepathic muttering in its sleep. That's why he knew so much about its powers. I guess you and I, Doc, weren't so sensitive -- if you want to believe in telepathy."

"I have to," Copper sighted. "Dr. Rhine of Duke University has shown that it exist, shown that some are much more sensitive than others."

Rhine, by the way, was a real scientist who claimed to have demonstrated telepathy in a number of experiments.

The humans take the thing's mind-reading ability into account as they plan ways to fight it.

"Say, couldn't Norris or Van give Connant some kind of a test? If the thing is brighter than men, it might know more physics than Connant should, and they'd catch it out," Barclay suggested.

Copper shook his head wearily. "Not if it reads minds. You can't plan a trap for it. Van suggested that last night. He hoped it would answer some of the questions of physics he'd like to know answers to."

  • Can you provide quotes from the novella if you have it? That would really support your answer! :-) – RichS May 10 '17 at 2:20
  • @RichS Now with quotes culled from the online text at Outpost 31. – Buzz May 10 '17 at 2:30
  • Thanks! I upvoted this answer because it provides a reasonable explanation based on an original source. Unfortunately, the movies mention nothing about telepathy. And there are several scenes where the Thing could've defended itself better if it did have telepathy. (e.g. - When MacReady tested the blood of the Palmer-Thing in the 1982 movie or when Carter-Thing pointed to the wrong ear in the 2011 movie.) I think we can safely rule out telepathy in both movies. – RichS May 10 '17 at 3:21
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    @RichS I can't say anything about the 2011 film, but the blood testing scene plays out in somewhat the same way in the Campbell's story and Carpenter's film. Some of the infected individuals keep pretending to be human right up to when their blood is tested: Garry spoke in a low, bitter voice. "Connant was one of the finest men we had here - and five minutes ago I'd have sworn he was a man. Those damnable things are more than imitation." Garry shuddered and sat back in his bunk. And thirty seconds later, Garry's blood shrank from the hot platinum wire. – Buzz May 10 '17 at 4:52
  • If the blood test scene plays out the same way, and the Things act human right up to the second they are proven otherwise, I wonder if the lack of using telepathy in the blood scene was an oversight in the original story. Thanks for pointing that out. – RichS May 10 '17 at 4:56

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