In the movie Aliens (1986), the following exchange occurs as the marines are on route to the stricken colony:

Hudson: Is this gonna be a standup fight, sir, or another bughunt?

Gorman: All we know is that there's still no contact with the colony, and that a xenomorph may be involved.

Frost: Excuse me sir, a-a what?

Gorman: A xenomorph.

Hicks: It's a bughunt.

I know that xenomorph is the name given to the Alien species in the franchise, which would mean that at the very least Gorman knows about them. Yet as the subsequent events show, the marines have no idea what they are in for, and are taken by complete surprise.

So what are the xenomorphs Gorman is talking about? And what "bugs" are they talking about hunting?

  • We really need a better "name" for the "Alien" species in the Alien franchise; maybe this will come with a sequel to Prometheus? Jun 21, 2012 at 17:41
  • @PaulGregoire (many years later) unfortunately, nothing good ever came from Prometheus or its sequel :P Let's pretend they never existed!
    – Andres F.
    Aug 24, 2018 at 16:46
  • 1
    @AndresF. agreed, sequel could have been so much more :( Aug 29, 2018 at 13:35

3 Answers 3


No, or they'd have taken off and nuked the whole site from orbit as soon as it became clear what they were dealing with...

Gorman uses 'xenomorph' because it means he can show off the fact that he knows long words in Greek, it's another instance of him believing that his Staff College education puts him above the grunts despite his lack of field experience.

As to the wider point, the whole conversation implies that there are other alien species that the Marines have come across (and also the mention of 'Arcturian poon-tang' whilst the Marines are eating breakfast) and that said species are at least hostile to humans if not actively belligerent. The Marines clearly place anything non-human (or humanoid, I suppose I have to exclude the likes of Bishop here) under the category of 'bugs' - the Bug Stomper artwork on the side of the dropship cockpit reinforces this.

The out-of-print RPG detailed other alien species that humans had come across, as I recall they were largely benign but there was at least one other species that caused problems for humans, I suspect this was an attempt to a) make the game not totally about Aliens, and b) give some substance to the referenced conversation.

  • 2
    Greek, actually. Jun 13, 2012 at 17:00
  • 8
    Just looked up the etymology of xenomorph. Apparently it means "alien life form". That silly Gorman! Jun 13, 2012 at 17:54
  • @ChrisB.Behrens I'd always assumed it was Latin, thanks for the info! Jun 14, 2012 at 10:37

They had met other aliens and it was not a big deal, note detreich and Hudson saying something like:

"apparently she saw an alien once" "well whoopy cough do"

So meeting aliens was nothing new.

However watch as they first struggle to locate the aliens as they are unprepared for creatures that do not show up in infrared, they also are confused by the alien nest. They are unsure what the walls are made of

"it must be some sort of secreted resin" "yeah, but secreted from what?"

They are also shown to be far too relaxed (sleeping in the drop ship, messing around and joking) than they would be if they were aware of this type of enemy. They are like a reflection of the American army in the first year of Vietnam where they are complacent and think their technology will win out

Burke "they are packing state of the art firepower . There is nothing they cannot handle"

They drastically underestimate their enemy despite Ripley's warnings.

If they knew this type of enemy was potentially waiting they would have been far more cautious.

  • 3
    I think the Weyland-Yutani corporation, or at least Burke, are aware of the Aliens (with capital "A"), but the Marines certainly aren't. They just have fought different aliens before, and probably think Ripley means those. See PhilPursglove's reply.
    – Andres F.
    Jun 21, 2012 at 15:55
  • I thought that they were only aware of it from Ripley, hence they sent Newt's family out to see if the ship was there. When they lost contact they correctly guessed that Ripley was telling the truth. Although I am not sure if it mentions Burke had approval from the company for what he was doing? When he was talking to Ripley it sounded like he had been trying to keep the entire thing quiet, he had not even told the colonists what they were walking into.
    – Stefan
    Jun 21, 2012 at 16:04
  • I think so too: whether with WY's approval or not, Burke was being sly. I don't think he ever disclosed the truth to anyone, Marines or Ripley. Also, keep in mind the theatrical cut doesn't show the colonist scenes ;)
    – Andres F.
    Jun 21, 2012 at 16:18
  • Oh yeah, that is true
    – Stefan
    Jun 21, 2012 at 16:20
  • 1
    I suspect that was decided after the originals were made. See my above questions on wy's statements and actions in aliens. Although it does leave questions about who sent the nostromo there in alien. Was it clarified that the company was the same?
    – Stefan
    Jun 21, 2012 at 18:30

"Bug hunt" is probably an homage to starship troopers, the Book mind you. It was published in 1959 and referred to the aliens that humanity was at war with, as Bugs. My guess is that James Cameron or someone wanted to homage the book being the similarity to the stories.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.