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Okay, so this is how I understood it: They found some drops of blood that Ripley lost during the third film (Alien3). So, they clone her. Easy peasy, far future, get it.

Now, that newly cloned human winds up with a clone of the parasite that infested the original human. From a drop of blood.

In addition: The parasite would age at the same speed as the host. They didn't wait a lifetime for Ripley to mature. I would guess it took only a couple years, given that the scientists didn't appear to have aged noticeably. Anyway, Aliens hatch rather quickly. It doesn't take them decades, it doesn't take them years, it doesn't take them days.

How does this make any sense?

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    They wrote themselves into a corner with the shitty third script. Then when it came time to milk the cash cow, they didn't worry about consistency or sophistication or any of that jazz. That's why the final showdown is with muppet baby alien. – John O Aug 6 '12 at 2:22
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    That's the difference between real cloning and Hollywood cloning. In real cloning you create an embryo, having the same genetic makeup, which has to grow up, and can differ exactly how a twin brothers can differ in personality etc. depending on education and other circumstances. Hollywood cloning means the recreation of the same person from a single dead cell, including memories and hairstyle. – vsz Aug 6 '12 at 6:25
  • I once had a coworker who believed it was possible to clone Ripley from a few cells left at the end of Aliens3 and also believed the new Ripley would have her memories intact. When I explained personal memories weren't encoded in DNA, his reply was that science hadn't disproved it so it was possible. What a clueless moron! – RichS Mar 2 '17 at 7:23
  • Didn't they handwave the memories by stating that the aliens can store memories in their DNA? – Jeremy French Mar 2 '17 at 10:03
  • Yeah damn you Hollywood, what next? Killer aliens who only reproduce by laying eggs in human hosts, yet somehow survived and evolved before encountering mankind? What is this, sci/fi or something? – Amarth Apr 22 at 19:01
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Bad science abounds in this release of Alien: Resurrection. I will summarize what is supposed to have happened.

  • Ripley's blood is found. Her blood was compromised by the Xenomorph genes. I have discussed the idea of the Xenomorph utilizing the genetic structure of its prey, but this particular event implies the alien compromises ALL of the genetic structures of its target during its short time within its target organism.

  • When the gene sample is analyzed, the scientists were surprised to discover that her blood was not a single genetic structure but was instead hybridized by a queen.

  • This meant the scientists, if they were able to create a viable sample would have the potential to create and breed the aliens; and there was much rejoicing.

Here is where the movie becomes convoluted and loses almost everyone:

  • There are multiple attempts used to try and create a viable sample from which to recreate the queen. Two development paths are used during the study.

  • One path recreates Ripley's body after eight or more attempts. We only got to see the ones that were remotely close to viable. There could have been many others. You get to see those attempts when Ripley flames that lab near the end of the movie. All of those different creatures were an attempt to recreate the Ripley line of the creature's development. Once a viable Ripley is created, she gives birth to an alien queen. You do not see this. It is implied. Ripley calls herself the creatures' mother.

Clone lab where Ripley clones failures are stored.

Clone lab where Ripley clones failures are stored.

  • The Ripley path recreates Ripley, nearly complete with memory, attitude, and superhuman levels of strength, agility and senses. She reaches adulthood at a super-fast rate, much like the aliens do. She then appears to stop aging, otherwise she would have aged unto death by the end of the movie. The Ripley clone is the only viable version along the Ripley path of development.

Beautiful Ripley clone

Beautiful Ripley clone

  • On the Alien path, there is also one hybrid success, a queen who will need hosts to produce her normal offspring. Three offspring are the result which are stupidly put into the same cell. Two of them kill the third and escape through the acid-made hole in the floor.

  • Unfortunately, the queen has hybridized genes as well, and one of her offspring has a far more human appearance and is not born from an egg but a live birth. Don't think too deeply into this. You've already watched it. You can't un-see it.

Alien-Human hybrid, the ugly one...

Alien-Human hybrid, the ugly one...

  • The alien-human hybrid kills its mother moments after its birth as well as the annoying scientist who narrates its birth until it kills him.

If you want to follow this catastrophe in a discussion of its scientific merits on posthumanism, read this essay: 'Who Are You?': Alien/Woman as Posthuman Subject in Alien Resurrection

  • Nice answer (as always). Just one follow up: How did you arrive at "two dozen"? IIRC at one point one of the leading scientists stated that there were twelve additional Xenomorphs after one was killed. Ripley, however, had an "8" tattooed onto her arm, while the chamber with the failed Ripleys was labelled "1-7". Were there additional attempts other than that? – bitmask Aug 6 '12 at 3:02
  • However, if I understand you correctly, the queen and Ripley were cloned separately, the queen was implanted into Ripley and later removed. I'm willing to accept that it needed a human host for some time. However, why did they need Ripley in the first place? You cannot make an Alien film without Weaver, but In-Universe they could have used any other host to mature the queen, right? – bitmask Aug 6 '12 at 3:05
  • Mistaken number Bitmask. I meant half a dozen. I thought I corrected that. I will... They didn't need Ripley as a host, they needed her to get the genetic material. They were perfectly willing to destroy ur-Ripley once they got what they wanted. – Thaddeus Howze Aug 6 '12 at 3:14
  • What I still don't get is why they would (and could) have cloned two organisms at the same go. Even after reading the article you linked, the process of cloning Ripley still eludes me. I thought you were suggesting that Ripley and the Queen were created separately in two paths. Did I misread you? – bitmask Aug 6 '12 at 3:25
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    Because it was a bad movie. We're talking Ed Wood with a blockbuster budget. I don't think any good movie could have been created following the third movie, but this one was worse than it might have been. – John O Aug 6 '12 at 3:54
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The film's official novelisation offers some additional detail. Her blood and various tissue samples had been kept on ice in the Fiorina infirmary when she had her initial physical (after being found in the escape pod). Those samples were cultivated and found to contain Xenomorph DNA along with Ripley's own. Additionally, her memories were found to have been read (somehow) and then encoded into the DNA, allowing for Ripley's memories to return.

Her expression changed. He almost thought she’d smiled, but then it was gone. She startled him with a question. “How did you…?”

It seemed such an effort for her to speak, he anticipated the rest. “How did we get you? Hard work. Blood samples. Tissue samples, taken on Fiorina 161, on ice in the infirmary there.”

Alien Resurrection: Official Novelisation

As to how she was able to age at such a rapid rate (but without dying), this is also addressed. Ripley's DNA was manipulated by the Xenomorph DNA, with a little help from the scientists, to allow for rapid aging. This in turn provided the embryo to have a host to develop in.

Such a simple explanation for such a complicated job. It was unprecedented work. The samples were varied enough, and there were plenty of cells, but the DNA was in chaos. It had been an amazing discovery to find that the embryonic Alien that had already infected Ripley’s body when the blood and tissues were taken had not stopped its invasion there. Like a virus, the embryo had actually invaded the host’s living cells—every last one of them—and forced them to change to accommodate its growth and development. It was a major breakthrough in adaptive evolution. It was a way to guarantee that any host, any host at all, would provide whatever it was the developing embryo needed, even when the host’s own body was inadequate.

Alien Resurrection: Official Novelisation

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    And yes, I'm fully aware that this is dumb. Don't shoot the messenger. – Valorum Mar 2 '17 at 12:36
  • You read the novel? You're even more dedicated than I thought! – Wikis Mar 2 '17 at 12:48
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    @Wikis - It's actually pretty good, as novelisations go. MiB2 is my benchmark for bad novels, with Wild Wild West coming a very close second. – Valorum Mar 2 '17 at 13:04
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    I can back Valorum up on this - my memories are favourable. I've certainly read far worse novelizations. – Miller86 Mar 2 '17 at 13:35
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As far as I read in to it, they cloned Ripley with the Alien in her already. Pretty much cloning her as she was in the third movie. Thus why we see the other Ripleys (1-7) all bad-cloned were because the Alien and Human DNA fused together (i.e. Star Trek _two-lifeforms-fusing-together-during-teleport or like The Fly, when he becomes more and more a fly due to the same idea) instead of "organism inside an organism", which is what they achieved in 8.

0

This is from my memory of the novelisation which I read quite a while ago, so may not be 100% accurate as per canon. Essentially, they managed to salvage some of ripley's blood from the molten metal she jumps into at the climax of 3. As she's been implanted by the alien queen this sample also has some of the alien queen's blood in it. Using the DNA in the blood they try and clone the alien and Ripley separately but fail, so are reduced to trying to clone one creature.

The first 7 clones are horrific hybrid creatures incapable of life, hence the "Gallery of Horrors" scene in the film.

The 8th is Alien!Ripley with the acid blood and creepy attitude, who they manage to separate the part human Ripley!Queen from whilst she's "maturing" as a clone. I can't remember how they explained the non-hybrid aliens however - potentially also clones from a different source?

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    Can you provide any sources from the novelisation? – Edlothiad Mar 2 '17 at 12:17
  • unfortunately not. Its a vague memory of a book I got out of the library as a kid, Sorry :( – Miller86 Mar 2 '17 at 12:23
  • amazon.co.uk/… - Amazon has a copy of the novelisation on its own, but I'm not sure if its the same one - the one I read was part of a bumper all-four-films-in-one-book version. – Miller86 Mar 2 '17 at 12:26
  • The samples weren't from the molten metal, they were from her medical exam earlier in the film; scifi.stackexchange.com/a/153730/20774 – Valorum Mar 2 '17 at 12:36
  • I stand corrected :) – Miller86 Mar 2 '17 at 13:34
0

The novelisation explains it all.

They (the USM scientists) take samples of DNA from Fury 161. They realise that the alien 'invades' every cell in the host's body to change its DNA and make the host more suitable for the alien to gestate in.

As such, the scientists find both DNA samples intertwined/merged in the blood. Making a clone from these samples would create a hybrid being, since the DNA is difficult to separate. They don't want that, though, so they work hard to disentangle the two DNA types, creating Ripley and the queen inside her as a result. Previous attempts failed, which is why the earlier clones are more or less hybrid beings (part alien and part human).

As others have said, we already see the alien taking traits from its host (Alien 3). This implies the process works the other way around, too, with the host being changed by the alien. (This also may explain why Ripley survived the opening of Alien 3, since the alien DNA probably made her hardier than her companions so that she would survive long enough for the queen to fully develop.)

Later Alien novels (such as The Cold Forge) expand upon this idea in canon. Basically, facehuggers don't implant embryos, they insert a liquid/virus-like material that rewrites the host's DNA to produce the alien as if it were a kind of cancer from their own body. This prevents the host rejecting the alien developing inside them, and allows for the alien to take on traits of its host. This is called the DNA reflex.

The memory thing is handwaved, but we might assume that the alien only inherits alien memories with some vague 'instincts' from its host, and vice versa. Of course, the human doesn't usually survive the process, so it doesn't matter that they retain memories in their DNA.

So Ripley only got her own memories back because her portion of the DNA (presumably) had also encoded her own memories. There's not a lot of evidence that she has alien memories, because that would mean she would potentially remember things from previous hosts (such as the queen's host on LV-426.

Of course, if this is how it works, it raises the question of whether a mother could pass on memories to her child if she was implanted just before giving birth and the child survived. The change in her DNA might encode the memories, which might then pass on to her child. There could have been an even weirder story there with a child who thinks she's her mother and who is also technically the sibling of the alien that burst from her mother.

  • There is an even more ludicrous explanation, too. The neuroscanner in Alien 3 says it's 'testing' the 'foreign tissue' it detects (i.e., the alien queen). Could that mean the neuroscanner is able to map its DNA just by scanning it, so that it can check it against its databases? If so, however, why didn't Weyland-Yutani just do a 3D print of the DNA (we have done this with human hearts already) after Alien 3? – Adam Lowe Apr 22 at 18:44
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    Hi, welcome to SF&F! This answer could be improved if you could insert direct quotes from the novelization you refer to. Check out How to Answer for more hints on writing a good answer. Most of this appears to have been covered in the accepted answer, so you can also make your answer stronger if you emphasize the details that aren't already described in that. – DavidW Apr 22 at 18:51
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Hey I have a completely different theory, namely that they took the scan Ripley had made in the third movie, which being future technology could have totally saved a complete bio scan alien queen and all. Which was then used as a sort of blueprint to create clone Ripley. This helps explain the memories and the fact that they're fragmented(Incomplete process). This also explains how their DNA gets mixed so much, They're practically growing fungus in a petri dish so the ratio of alien to human is bound to be a little off.

  • Welcome to scifi.stackexchange! Not that your answer is implausible, but do you have some sources to back that up? It's always preferred to answer as close to verifiable facts as possible around here. – Einer Jul 29 '14 at 11:07
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    Agreed. This reads like a fanfic rather than something based on the evidence seen in the films – Valorum Jul 29 '14 at 11:33

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