Possible spoilers all around.

From "The Things", the short story written from John Carpenter's Thing's perspective, by Peter Watts:

"...I remember Norris, betrayed by his own perfectly-copied, defective heart."

Let's remember, at this point, the appearance of the bodies' internals from two scenes. In the 1982 movie, Norris's open chest cavity revealed an entirely different composition from regular human ribs, lungs, and whatnot. Griggs' chest and abdominal section appeared to be a tangle of veins(?), instead of human internal organs (helicopter scene from the movie of 2011).

Now, does the thing leave the internal organs intact, as they are copied one to one, or is it just the appearance of human on the outside and an entirely different being inside?

If the former, wouldn't a being as advanced as to be able to build a starhip from scratch know, that an internal organ is actually misfunctioning, and proceed to correct it? Even if it had no inkling as to human anatomy, couldn't it have known the difference of a proper organ from a defective one, having copied many a human before?

If the latter, why would transformed Norris' heart condition cause him(it) to collapse and jeopardize its own existence, when in fact the heart is replaced by alien anatomy and essentially doesnt exist anymore?

  • 1
    There are two simple Out-of-Universe explanations for why the 2011 movie is incompatible with the story by Peter Watts. 1. The short story was published in January 2010, more than a year before the movie came out. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Watts_(author) 2. There is no single authority for what is canon in Thingverse. Other than that, this is a good question which exposes incompatibilities within Thingverse. Without a canon source, any answers are speculative even if they are well reasoned.
    – RichS
    Aug 23, 2017 at 14:52

2 Answers 2


My guess is that the biomimicry occurs below the level of conscious awareness-- the same way a flounder reflexively deploys chromatophores to blend in with the substrate (in fact, I have a hard time seeing how it could happen any other way; imagine having to consciously focus on the modification of every assimilated cell in your body). So no matter how smart the sapient intelligence, the dumb pattern-matching body just takes what it gets and duplicates it.

Re Norris's obviously-alien insides— my take was that the body does duplicate the host down to the cellular level (this is explicitly stated in the movie). Obviously, though, that can't hold when you're in the process of actively changing into something else. Norris's bad heart killed the Norris morph, at which point the tissues began metamorphosing into alternate forms. I'm guessing the changes happened from the inside out (kind of the way a caterpillar turns into a butterfly within the cocoon, but the cocoon itself doesn't change) as a defensive strategy: much better, when helpless and surrounded by enemies/predators, to let them think you're dead until you've got your countermeasures in place. Much better than changing out in the open, where all and sundry can see that you're not dead after all. The husk of Norris provided cover while the thing lined its ducks up in a different row.

Actually, if would have been kind of neat if Norris had erupted into ducks...

  • The next question: was Norris conscious of the changes happening inside him as the Thing slowly replaced him cell by cell?
    – RobertF
    Aug 23, 2017 at 14:13
  • 1
    Ah see here: scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/39398/…
    – RobertF
    Aug 23, 2017 at 14:19
  • I relly like this answer, nice one. +1
    – Daft
    Aug 23, 2017 at 14:37

I think the intent was (beyond the obvious body horror) to show that the Norris-thing was reacting to the electroshock defibrillator. IIRC several shocks are delivered, then the chest cavity mouth opens up to eat the hands of the Doc. So the dying body of Norris is morphing into something that can survive (but it can't stay a perfect human since the heart doesn't work) and becomes aggressive since it perceives that it is under attack.

If left on the slab the Norris-thing would have eventually morphed into some other biologic form and looked for a new host to mimic, much like the 'dead' one did in the morgue. I don't think the body would have died simply for lack of a working human heart. The autopsy scene shows us that the Thing can have multiple conflicting internal arraignments depending on where it is in it's morphing state, and probably if it is under threat or trying to infiltrate. The dog kennel attack scene shows that it can have a different internal structure with a normal exterior, so how closely it mimics internal structure undoubtedly depends on how well it needs to infiltrate versus attack. Otherwise it could be detected simply by feeling for a pulse or listening for a heartbeat/lung sounds.

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