After the Nostromo detects a signal from a potentially intelligent alien, the crew are arguing what to do about it. Most of the crew want to ignore it and return home, but Ash (Science Officer) reminds them that they signed a contract in which they agreed to investigate such signals or forfeit their entire 'share' of the operation.

Just after landing on LV-426, the ship is damaged and the mechanics are busy repairing it. Ripley is flitting about (I forget where). Dallas & Ash are discussing the signals and visiting their source. Kane joins them, while Lambert the Navigator sits at one of the more distant consoles in the cabin sucking down a cigarette in a desultory manner, listening.

Kane: I'll volunteer to be in the first group to go out.
Captain Dallas: Yeah that figures. ..You too Lambert.
Lambert: (nods resignedly, says sarcastically) ..swell

It turned out that Dallas was the other member of a 3 person group to 'suit up' for the trip. First it surprised me that Captain Dallas would allow the 2 most senior officers (himself and Kane, the Executive Officer) on-board to leave the shuttle, but we'll let that pass for the moment.

What absolutely astonished me was that Ash was not a member of the team. Who better than the Science Officer to assess and analyze what they found?

During the sojourn on the planet, Ash sits in a very important looking section of the shuttle surrounded by consoles and communications devices (which quickly fail once the team enter the alien spacecraft). It is Ripley that seems the major user of the communications instruments in the first instance (she hails for local 'space services' before they realize the Nostromo is nowhere near Earth). The rest of what Ash is doing during the surface mission does not seem an especially technical role, not compared to the value a Science Officer could bring on the surface.

Ash himself might have had reasons for not wanting to go on the mission.

  • Fear of becoming the host? No. He was many things, but not fearful.
  • Knowledge that he is not, or might not be, a suitable host. Maybe. But then, it is unclear how much they knew about the aliens.
  • There being no-one else he could rely on to override the air-lock security and get the alien back into the ship.

That last one is one very good reason for him to not want to go on the mission, but ultimately he was not invited to go and never consulted as to who should go.

Why did Captain Dallas not choose the Science Officer to go on a mission that would likely involve encountering an alien species? Why did no-one else (particularly Lambert - who was chosen, and obviously reluctant) question that decision?

  • 2
    I won't add this as an answer, but its conceivable that Ash just isn't trusted - its pointed out later on (prior to the revelation that he is an android and has specific "orders" relating to the alien) that Ash isn't part of the normal crew, he's a late addition and hasn't gelled with the rest of the "family" as no one has crewed with him before, so it might just come down to the fact that Dallas wanted those he knew he could rely on with him rather than an unknown entity.
    – Moo
    Aug 26, 2014 at 11:08

6 Answers 6


It is unlikely that Ash would be able to do any serious scientific research out of the ship. The suits were large and bulky, it would put their most valuable asset (the science officer) in the most vulnerable position (the unknown) for no real benefit.

Dallas had no comprehension what was waiting for them, however he would want someone he knew could back him up (Kane, who volunteered anyway, probably knowing that Dallas would need him) and then an extra peson in case of real trouble or an accident.

Who should he choose?

Ripley was needed to keep the engineers in check (notice how she checks on them and take no shite from them) as Ash could not do it as nothing would make Parker sit on his hands faster than Ash telling him to work and Lambert had no backbone.

Ash was the only real scientist they had so could not be risked outside the ship and Dallas probably did not know him well enough to risk his safety with him.

Parker and Brett were working.

That leaves Lambert.

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    1) Who said anything about serious scientific research? Any level of input from the SO might have been helpful once they were on-site. Like "What could cause an explosion that blows this dead Alien's ribs OUTWARDS?" OK they could not have known that question would come up, but for the 101 WTF? incidents that might, he'd be handy. 2) Ripley was not being that much help to Parker & Brett, and in fact the 'fake steam' incident was them trying to force her away from them, it was quite successful, and they only seemed to consider 'getting back to work' after she had left. Still, interesting. Oct 16, 2012 at 16:42
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    1, he might have been handy but the situations but probably 100 if the 101 situations he could have advised over the audio link and the other time it would be wiser to have the only irreplaceable crew member put of harms way. 2 they tried to fob Ripley off and she came down to see for herself, she was not really there to help just to show them they were being watched and also she stood her ground when they gave her back chat (I do not recall the steam problem being something she actually fell for?), how do you think lambert would have fared?
    – Stefan
    Oct 16, 2012 at 18:31
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    Short of a better answer, I will accept this one. I just think it is a pity they did not spare 15 seconds for Ash to comment "Oh no, the only size 7 space suit was damaged in the crash - it will take 2 days to repair!". Oct 19, 2012 at 7:09
  • Yeah, true. It would not have taken much screen time to show it.
    – Stefan
    Oct 19, 2012 at 8:12

Look at it from the captain's perspective: you're going out on a fairly dangerous mission, do you want some stranger the company foisted on you, or your friends and coworkers who you've grown to trust?

He was doing the human thing. He was probably doing the smart thing, considering what he knew at the time. His (and others') life might be in danger and friendship, reaction time, and an unwillingness to abandon were probably all as valuable if not more so than scientific knowledge. In any other plausible disaster, their actions and instincts would have saved lives instead of merely endangering those still uncontaminated.

Had the alien encounter been more mundane, a followup mission (expedition? what's the right word here?) would have been a no-brainer, and Ash would almost certainly have been asked to go do a thorough survey before leaving.

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    If Dallas knew much about Lambert (the 'reliable friends' hypothesis), he might have figured out that she was a complaining pessimist who was likely to flee at the first sign of trouble. If that was his reasoning, he would have taken Ripley. He would have known her as a PITA, but tough, sensible and not easily frightened. If 'reliable friends' was the criteria, why would he take Lambert over Ripley? We also can't say Ripley was busy with duties in the shuttle. Ripley had so little to do while they were away, she offered to work on the signal that Mother was already 'trying' to decode. Oct 16, 2012 at 13:52
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    BTW - though this does not answer the question (for me), +1 for an interesting & well argued idea. Oct 16, 2012 at 14:13

Ripley had some kind of seniority - when Dallas was gone she was in charge. That's probably why Ripley wasn't chosen to go: There needed to be a senior officer in charge on board the ship. Parker, Brent, Lambert and Ash hardly qualified for that role.

So, winner goes to the trust issue. Still, it doesn't win by much. Ash should have replaced Lambert. What did they need Ash for that he wasn't expendable? Medical stuff was automated. The journey home promised to be in hyper sleep.

Again, the trust hypothesis is plausible, but speaks more to moving a necessary plot points than what might have occured in reality..

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    "Ripley had some kind of seniority - when Dallas was gone she was in charge." She was a Warrant Officer. The way I understood it, she was 3IC, after both Dallas (Captain) & Kane (2IC). Nov 27, 2012 at 23:06
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    Yes, she was third in command. This was explicitly stated in the film when she was talking to Ash.
    – Stefan
    Aug 26, 2014 at 12:38

It's conceivable that Dallas, being captain, had exclusive knowledge of Ash being an android and kept him in the ship based on that knowledge (Ash was too valuable to risk in an EVA, perhaps?). Though you'd think the other crew would question his decision.

  • If you re-watch the movie with the assumption that Dallas knew about Ash all along, it becomes, ..absurd. Thanks for your reply though. :) Oct 19, 2012 at 7:14

In addition to the other answers. Ash was an A2. And they were known to be unreliable. Remember the dialog between Gorman Burke and Bishop in Aliens

Gorman Burke: A synthetic malfunctioned on her last trip out. Some deaths were involved.

Bishop: I'm shocked. Was it an older model?

Gorman Burke: Cyberdyne Systems 120-A/2.

Bishop: Well, that explains it. The A/2's were always a bit twitchy.

Bishop is an android and not exaggerating. For him to say something "always" was causing problems, he meant right from the beginning. It'd take some serious "twitches" for Bishop to go from "Shocked!" to "Ah, that explains it"

It's safe to assume Dallas knew Ash wasn't 100% reliable and on a mission like this he wanted crew members he could rely on.

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    Yeah, that's true, will update Aug 6, 2017 at 19:52

Ash was probably assumed better at collating information from inside the ship, dealing with consoles and readouts, rather than just a quick (as far as they expected) investigation of a distress signal. They didn't even know it wasn't necessarily a human beacon when they landed on the planet IIRC. So the investigation team were just there to do a quick, albeit mandatory, survey of the area, check out the signal and look for any possible survivors or wreckage. They had no idea they were going to encounter an alien craft, much less a hive of xeno eggs.

So Ash staying behind to monitor the planetary atmosphere, and possibly even help with any issues for the slightly-damaged Nostromo would make more sense. It wasn't a science exploration mission, just a routine check on a signal beacon that none of them were particularly enthusiastic about doing (apart from Kane). It sounds like they just wanted it done and done ASAP so they could get back on the road home.

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