In Aliens, the marines have fortified a position and are preparing for a last stand when the power suddenly goes out. Hudson appropriately asks, "How can they cut the power, man? They're animals!"

Later, we see that

the xenomorphs have crawled through the drop-ceiling.

Did the xenomorphs intentionally cut the power as a combat tactic, or did they

just kick something when crawling around?

  • 2
    I would suspect that, if done by intent, it would probably fit best in Cameron's vision to say that the Alien Queen directed them to do so. It's always struck me that Cameron's alien warriors are a bit more "all teeth, no brains" than as the xenomorph was envisioned in the original film. Just speculation and observation on my part, of course.
    – Helbent IV
    Apr 16, 2018 at 21:36
  • If the aliens intentionally cut the power on the marines, why not cut the power a few weeks earlier when the colonists were there? I don't think it was intentional.
    – RichS
    Apr 19, 2018 at 23:29

7 Answers 7


Much as I hate the horrible pink slimebaby it's worth mentioning Alien:Resurrection. When the

captured xenomorphs kill one of their number in order to use its corrosive blood to escape the cell. I'd argue that this shows they are capable of advanced tactics and understand their environment and its weaknesses.

I'm willing to concede that it's no guarantee that they understand the concept of electricity... but I think we can safely say over the series that the xenomorphs are not animals as Hudson would mean it, as they possess cunning and intelligence. That they'd understand that destroying cables means the lights go out, it's not that far fetched.

  • 21
    And they know how to press buttons and they know what happens when they do.
    – Bent
    Apr 16, 2018 at 10:32
  • 2
    Those aren’t pure xenomorphs though, as they were laid by a Ripley-infused queen clone. They might be putting that human DNA to use and using some problem solving skills.
    – n_b
    Apr 17, 2018 at 7:15
  • 3
    @n_b Valid point. However... as I remember xenomorph lore we have never seen a "pure" xenomorph. They always take on some aspect of the host. (As evidenced by Alien 3 where the xenomorph took on some aspects of it's dog host, and the alien vs predator videogame franchise where there is the "predalien".) So the xenomorphs in Aliens were already infused with settler DNA.
    – Doomfrost
    Apr 17, 2018 at 7:24
  • 4
    An octopus once discovered that it can turn out the annoying lights (with a fun "pop") by opening its tank and squirting water at the bulbs, so it's not a unique human (or primate) trait.
    – forest
    Apr 18, 2018 at 7:19
  • 1
    Our cats routinely chew on electrical wires - in particular USB charging cables. If you think of the xenomorphs as particularly large, slimy cats then their behavior seems pretty reasonable. Apr 18, 2018 at 15:28

Ordinary xenomorph drones are shown to have an understanding of cause-and-effect, as demonstrated in Alien: Resurrection when first they slaughter one of their kin to escape their confinement, then turn the liquid nitrogen that's been used to control them against their captors.

However I do not believe that understanding extends to lights and electrical wires, because the drones have not demonstrated this "ability" at any other time in the series, even at times when it would have been extremely useful/advantageous to do so. While they can see that pressing a switch performs an action, they have no way to know or intuit that said switch is connected to the light by a wire and that the wire is what makes it all work.

It is true that the drones have, at the time of Aliens, been alive for far longer than most xenomorphs in the series, and as such they could have observed humans performing maintenance-related work involving wiring and drawn the association from there.

In Resurrection it is possible drones could have been exposed to an experiment that e.g. put two simple circuits next to each other, then broke the wire of one to demonstrate that the light goes out - but of course that occurs after the events of Aliens.

In my opinion, the lights going out on the Marines is due to one of two things:

  • Hadley's Hope was already pretty smashed up from the desperate battle between the colonists and xenomorphs. The power supply in that sector could have been quite literally connected by a thread that just happened to part at that moment, or was parted by the drones encroaching on the Marines' position.
  • Interference (directly or indirectly) by the xenomorph queen. Queens have consistently been demonstrated to be far more intelligent than their drones (for example the queen from Aliens was able to control the elevator and stow away on the dropship), so it's no long stretch to consider that the queen either sabotaged the power at the most opportune time, or instructed one of her drones to do so.

The second feels like the most likely explanation, and the unofficial wiki seems to agree with this assessment.

So yes, the xenomorphs did intentionally cut the power, but it was most likely the queen and not the drones responsible for doing so.

  • I like the idea of the queen being the one responsible for the plan Apr 16, 2018 at 16:58
  • By the way, if so much electricity was going through a thin thread of wire the thread would melt. I was going to call you out on this... but perhaps that's why it would've broken after a delay from the major damage.
    – wizzwizz4
    Apr 17, 2018 at 17:17
  • 2
    It doesn't look like she's in reach of the main breaker panel while she lays eggs...
    – Mazura
    Apr 18, 2018 at 3:04

In the Alien vs Predator (1999) video game, many of the Alien levels had you intentionally and methodically sabotage things to disable power or get access to targets. If that is considered canonical I would say it shows they do.

  • The games also suggested that Xenomorph vision is partly electrical (with humans showing up due to bioelectricity), which would give with them being aware of electrical lines enough to realize "claw this up and the prey is easier to hunt".
    – FuzzyBoots
    Apr 19, 2018 at 16:17

Also remember that the main reactor in the Terraforming plant was about to blow. Was this the main power for the whole planet? Unknown, but it was connected to the base for monitoring. Perhaps a huge surge from the plant caused the base breakers to blow. In the final scenes, the entire facility is throwing all sorts of electrical emissions as the reactor goes critical. That kind of activity could produce an EMP large enough to knock out a building.


No, they did not do it deliberately.

The xenomorphs do not attack for about three minutes after the power goes down, and only attack after being discovered and shot at. Any element of surprise they might have been hoping for is completely squandered by taking so long. They would have done better if the power had not been cut at all.

However, it is likely that they cut the power accidentally, rather than the power station failing, as the loss of power seems to be local. The backup lighting is red, which for some reason exists even in the air ducts(?). When Ripley & Co move on the lighting in the rest of the facility is much the same as before the power cut, with white lights everywhere. The xenomorphs were in the overhead spaces, which is a logical place to put power cables and a logical place for xenomorphs to trip over them.


It can have a very easy explanation that is somewhat relatable to the real world: beasts simply attack everything that vibrates or emits warmth. This behavior sometimes feels as if it is devilishly intentional, and this can be confirmed by any farmer who had to deal with mice in his shed. But it is just a coincidence: all animals seek warmth, and predator animals seek sources of sound, while our technology tends to emit most of those at its weak points.

The only intelligent thing I can remember is their tendency to hide in escape vehicles right before they launch, and not to attack crew until they land.

In the trash comedy "Tremors" this behavior is displayed in detail: monsters leave a town without communication and vehicles because they stupidly attack everything that is warm or vibrates.


I figure deliberately. If I am going to design a living weapon like the aliens, smarts would be a key ingredient. The eggs were located in a spaceship and it would be prudent to have the spawn understand the concept and running of the ship. Like the other poster said, a better example is the queen making the conscious effort to follow Ridley into space without revealing her presence in order to survive. It she was just trying to get revenge, she would have attacked the shuttle immediately. The same in Alien.

  • There's some more conversation about this in an earlier response that's quite interesting: scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/148523/…
    – wcullen
    Apr 16, 2018 at 22:10
  • 1/2: Admittedly this is speculation, but given that O'Bannon and others involved in the xenomorph story creation have stated that the xenomorph is based upon parasitoid wasps and that parasitoid insect have demonstrated swarm/collective intelligence and learning, I think it is reasonable to assume that the xenomorph's intelligence could have evolved into a so-called higher-order of thinking.
    – wcullen
    Apr 16, 2018 at 22:28
  • 2/2: I believe the xenomorphs acquire aspects of the DNA from the creatures they appear to morph with (consider the size of their heads as potentially representative of brain size--again, speculation) as demonstrated throughout the franchise. Therefore, isn't it reasonable to assume that what we're seeing throughout the franchise are instances of developing and advancing intelligence? (e.g. their hive-minded until more individual traits appear in sequels). So, even though individualism appears later than the first film, isn't it possible such intelligence is burgeoning in some..?
    – wcullen
    Apr 16, 2018 at 22:28

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