When I saw that FX had an “Alien” series in development I admit my eyebrows raised up quite a bit. That is, until I read the premise:
Ridley Scott’s 1979 original focused on cosmic merchant marines who discover wreckage with deadly cargo aboard, while James Cameron’s 1986 sequel, Aliens, was about actual Marines whose rescue mission turns into an operation to capture the fiends.
Whether it’s David Fincher’s prison colony in the third film, or the mercenaries of 1997’s fourth movie from director Jean-Pierre Jeunet, it’s always the workers and the underclass facing the acidic wrath of the creatures. Maybe there’s a capitalism metaphor inherent in the series.
Now a new FX TV series based on the franchise is in the works from Fargo showrunner Noah Hawley—who says it’s about time for the facehuggers and xenomorphs to sink their claws into the white-collar executives who have been responsible for sending so many employees to their doom.
Series creator Noah Hawley adds:
On some level it’s also a story about inequality. You know, one of the things that I love about the first movie is how ’70s a movie it is, and how it’s really this blue collar space-trucker world […] The second movie is such an ’80s movie, but it’s still about grunts. Paul Reiser is middle management at best. So, it is the story of the people you send to do the dirty work.
In mine, you’re also going to see the people who are sending them. So you will see what happens when the inequality we’re struggling with now isn’t resolved. If we as a society can’t figure out how to prop each other up and spread the wealth, then what’s going to happen to us?
Because that’s just what people want to see when they tune in to an “Aliens” story, right? C’mon.
But there could be a saving grace. Hints about the series, such as its setting on Earth and an out-of-control Alien infestation, remind me of Mark Verheiden’s outstanding “Aliens” story for Dark Horse Comics from 30 years ago. Originally titled “Book One,” “Book Two” and then “Earth War,” Verheiden’s tale picks up several years after the movie Aliens (the books came out before Alien 3). Hicks is an outcast, Newt is a mental basket case, and Ripley has disappeared.
Though Verheiden doesn’t explicitly focus on social inequality, his story does show tidbits of Earth-based poverty here and there; consider “Book One’s” sequence where ESP-sensitive humans pick up mental emanations from the captured Alien queen. Then there’s the narration about how civilization had been on the precipice of collapse for some time anyway, and the Alien scourge provided a means for the planet to start anew.
The three-part tale does delve in-depth into corporate swarminess; indeed, one company’s greed ultimately is what leads to our planet’s (temporary) demise. But Verheiden, being no dummy, knows what an “Aliens”-reading audience wants: Lots of xenomorph action and carnage. And he doesn’t disappoint.
Will Hawley? My bet is yeah, he will.
For an in-depth examination of Verheiden’s “Aliens” work, check out an old blog post of mine from 2009.