(Spoilers ahead, though in fairness the movie is 42 years old)

Pretty late in the movie Alien (1979), it's revealed that Weyland Yutani Corporation knew of the existence of the Xenomorphs, and in fact deliberately sent the Nostromo to their location to retrieve them. It is also revealed that Ash a) was aware of the mission and charged with facilitating the creature's delivery; and b) was an android, and therefore not in particular danger from the Xenomorph.

What I don't quite understand is, if WY was deliberately sending a ship to retrieve it, and was planning to put an android on said ship to safely transport it back, why use humans at all? It seems like it would have been significantly safer and easier from WY's standpoint to send a ship with all androids who were aware of the mission. That way not only are people not unnecessarily put in harm's way and killed, but also, because the mission doesn't need to be run clandestinely, there is much less of a risk of crew who are unaware of the mission harming the specimen (which is obviously what ends up happening). Is there any reason I'm overlooking that would explain this decision, or is it just a flaw in the screenplay?

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    Burke addresses this in the sequel. BURKE: Those specimens are worth millions to the bio-weapons division. Now, if you're smart we can both come out of this heroes. Set up for life. RIPLEY You just try getting a dangerous organism past ICC quarantine. Section 22350 of the Commerce Code. BURKE: You've been doing your homework. Look, they can't impound it if they don't know about it. So the hope is probably that they can sneak a sample back through quarantine inside a hapless victim.
    – Valorum
    Commented Aug 25, 2021 at 18:38
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    I didn’t think Weyland-Utani knew about everything before the Nostromo even set out. They were transporting a refinery which was likely a real mission also. And I think in the movie ash gets new orders from mother after they discover it. I never thought the Nostromo was specifically sent there. There’s also Valorum’s comment and the added question of whether ash would have gone to get eggs for transport or what. Because getting the full xenomorph on the ship with the crew as food seems a more likely way to get it back to earth Commented Aug 25, 2021 at 19:06
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    @ToddWilcox - The Nostromo was sent deliberately close to LV-426 with the intention of infecting the crew, we learn from Ash - ASH: Special Order 937 in essence asked me to direct the ship to the planet, investigate a life form, possibly hostile and bring it back for observation. With discretion, of course. - dailyscript.com/scripts/alien_shooting.html
    – Valorum
    Commented Aug 25, 2021 at 19:47
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    @Valorum I think I assumed that special order was issued after the distress call was received. It’s not a movie I’ve memorized (yet :-) Commented Aug 25, 2021 at 21:39
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    I believe the Nostromo had already finished its mission and was on its way home, when it was either: Redirected by Ash (in accordance with his special order that might have been sent when WY realized his ship was nearby) to receive the distress call. Or received the distress call and was redirected by Ash in accordance with the special order. ALSO, I don't recall if we know when he got the Special Order. It may have been a hidden order in his programming that activates when the distress call comes in and is clearly alien in nature. Basically we would need to know WHEN he got the Special Order.
    – NJohnny
    Commented Aug 25, 2021 at 21:57

1 Answer 1


There's a few subcurrents in the plot that play into this

  1. The original Nostromo mission doesn't appear to have been faked in any way. The goal seems to have been to send Ash on the chance there was indeed something out there along the Nostromo's route. WY Corp doesn't seem to have definitively known there was an alien there, only that there was some sort of signal.

  2. They didn't know what kind of life to expect if they did find life. That was the crux of Ash's special order. Remember, it turns out it only responded to human life, something they would not have learned if they only sent Synthetics

    RIPLEY: They wanted to investigate the Alien. No matter what happened to us.
    ASH: That's unfair. Actually, you weren't mentioned in the order.
    LAMBERT: Those bastards.
    ASH: See it from their point of view. They didn't know what the Alien is.

  3. It's probable Ash and any other androids were fairly expensive, making human crews much cheaper. It's not clear how canon the book is, but this Fandom page on Synthetics characterizes Synthetics as such, from this book

    However, their usefulness and not-inconsiderable unit cost served as a deterrent to any who wished to treat an android as expendable.

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