Outside the ship, Dallas, Kane, and Lambert make their way onto the planet, with Lambert complaining about the lack of visibility on the ground. When Dallas insists that she stop griping, she tells him, “I like griping.” Back on the ship, Ripley sips coffee and looks out the window at the difficult weather outside. Speaking to Ash through an intercom, Ripley experiments with locating the signal, which they still cannot find. At a computer, Ripley waits for any sign of the transmission, as a cat on board watches her from nearby. Outside again, Dallas, Lambert and Kane continue to walk around the planet, investigating it. They come across another massive spacecraft nearby, which seems to have been abandoned, and they speak to Ash, who is back on the Nostromo. He too can see the craft, through the cameras the trio have brought with them, and tells them, “I’ve never seen anything like it.” The trio approaches the spacecraft hesitantly, Lambert suggesting they go back to the ship. Ash is having more and more trouble hearing them, and the video gets more and more static, as Lambert, Dallas, and Kane approach the ship.
We see the abandoned spacecraft from its exterior, as Ash struggles to steady the footage from their cameras. Their footage goes completely static on Ash’s screen as they wander on to the spacecraft. They go down a long and dark corridor, examining the spacecraft, with nothing but the lights attached to their helmets to guide them. Kane climbs up the side of the interior of the ship, where he finds a large fossilized figure positioned on a platform. It is seemingly some kind of alien, sitting in a chair, but long dead. Dallas, Kane, and Lambert examine the alien, as Dallas notes that the bones have grown outward from the body, “like he exploded from inside.” Dallas examines the body, as Lambert once again suggests that they leave. Abruptly, Kane calls Dallas over to another part of the chamber, where he has found a large hole in the floor. Dallas walks away from the body of the alien, as the camera zooms in on the fossilized alien’s face and suspenseful music plays.
Back in the ship, Ripley speaks to Ash over an intercom. She tells him that Mother has decoded the transmission, which seems less like an SOS and “more like a warning.” When Ripley decides that she wants to go out and find Lambert, Kane, and Dallas, Ash discourages her, asking, “What’s the point? By the time it takes to get there, they’ll know if it’s a warning or not.” Ripley looks contemplative, and decides not to go after all. We see the abandoned spacecraft again. Inside, Kane makes his way down a winch into the hole, which appears to be a cave of some kind. Using a flashlight, he examines the cave, as he reports that “it’s like the goddamn tropics in here.” Down a long passageway within the cave, Kane comes upon what he reports to be a number of “leathery objects, like eggs or something.” The light in the cave is blue and dark, and all the viewer can make out is Kane’s flashlight as he examines “a layer of mist just covering the eggs that reacts when broken,” and we hear a high-pitched humming sound when he begins to touch the mist. Suddenly, Kane falls down the side of the basin. As he stands up, assuring his associates that he just slipped, he examines an egg, which he observes “appears to be completely sealed.” As he touches it, it seems to shriek, and he can see an organism moving inside the egg. “It seems to have life, organic life,” he reports back to his companions. Suddenly, the top of the egg opens like a flower, making a strange growling noise. Kane begins to examine the moving object inside the egg. It appears to be an organ-like object that has some kind of breath or movement. As Kane reaches towards the life form, it bursts out of the egg, shrieking and attaching itself to his helmet. He falls backwards onto the ground. The camera zooms slowly outward from the abandoned spacecraft, and we hear the howling of the wind.
Back on the Nostromo, Ripley rests, leaning back, as Ash stands and observes that their companions have returned to the ship. A door closes as Lambert and Dallas get cleaned off in another portal of the Nostromo. “What happened to Kane?” asks Ripley, and they tell her that something attached itself to him and he needs to be brought to the infirmary. She asks to know more about what attached itself to Kane, and Dallas impatiently tells her it’s an organism and orders her to open the hatch. Ripley resists, however, because she is worries that if they let Kane on the ship with the organism, the organism could infect the whole ship. She alludes to “quarantine procedure,” which requires that he stay outside for 24 hours, but Dallas fires back that Kane could die in 24 hours. Ripley tells them that they cannot let him in, as it would risk everyone’s life. Lambert and Dallas become more and more impatient, but Ripley remains firm about protocol, telling them, “if you were in my position you’d do the same.” Dallas orders Ripley to open the door, but she stays firm. Ash opens the hatch against Ripley’s wishes, undermining her orders.
We see Kane’s helmet being surveyed by a technological device; it still has the organism attached to it. Indeed, the organism appears to have gone through the helmet. Slowly, Ash and Dallas remove the helmet, revealing the spider-like organism, which has wrapped its tentacles and a long scale-y tail around Kane’s head. “My God,” Dallas says, staring at the grotesque sight. Kane is still breathing, but the organism has completely wrapped itself around Kane’s face. Dallas wonders, “how are we gonna get that off,” as Ash seeks to remove one of the fingers from Kane’s face with a pair of surgical tongs. He begins to pull the finger, but the tail-like extension wrapped around Kane’s neck appears to tighten as he does so. The other crew members watch from a side hallway, and Parker wonders why they don’t freeze him, as Ash presses some buttons on a nearby machine. Ripley and the others look concerned as Kane’s body is pulled into a small coffin-like pod. Dallas and Ash take their masks off as they observe an x-ray image of the creature’s position on Kane’s body. “What’s it got down his throat?” asks Dallas, and Ash replies, “I would suggest it’s feeding him oxygen.” They observe that the creature has paralyzed him and put him in a coma, but that it keeps him alive, before Dallas says definitively, “We’ve got to get it off him.” Ash is not so convinced, suggesting that because they do not know anything about the organism, they should not be too hasty. “If we remove it, it could kill him,” Ash says. This does not deter Dallas, who suggests that they should take that chance, and that he will take responsibility should Kane die.
Dallas and Ash set to work cutting the creature off of Kane’s face. Ash suggests they make an incision just below the knuckle of the creature. When they do, a heinous yellow fluid comes pouring out, which appears to burn through the floor rapidly. Dallas becomes concerned that the substance will eat through to the hull, and goes to investigate frantically, followed by Parker and the others. They go down each floor, tracking the leak of the fluid. The corrosive material appears to stop, and Dallas impatiently asks Brett for a pen in order to examine the substance. As he gathers some with the pen, we see the fluid smoking, and Brett suggests that the creature “must be using it for blood.” “It’s got a wonderful defense mechanism. You don’t dare kill it,” Parker says. Dallas orders them to get back to work as he tells them that Ash will take care of Kane.
Brett and Parker continue to work on the Nostromo, both agreeing that they never should have landed on the planet to begin with. “The sooner we patch this up and get out of here, the sooner we can go home. This place gives me the creeps,” says Parker. Back upstairs in the infirmary, we see Kane laid out, with the creature still attached to his face. The camera moves through the chamber slowly as suspenseful music plays, and we see Ash examining x-ray footage of the creature's attachment to Kane. He looks through a microscope, as Ripley approaches him and asks what the creature is. “I don’t know yet,” says Ash, turning off the screen. Ripley asks how Kane is doing, and Ash informs her that his condition is the same. He reports that he has discovered another layer of “protein polysaccharides” on the creature, and that it replaces its cells rapidly to protect itself from “adverse environmental conditions.”
Ash appears impatient as Ripley asks him questions and looks at his work. After Ash tells her how difficult the creature is, Ripley gives him a hard time for having let the creature on the Nostromo in the first place. When he protests that he was following a direct order from Dallas, she tells him, “When Dallas and Kane are off the ship, I’m senior officer.” Ash tells her that he forgot, and she informs him that he also forgot the fundamental quarantine protocol. He fires back that he didn’t forget it, and that they needed to save Kane, but Ripley argues that they are risking everyone’s life by inviting the creature onto the ship. “Maybe I should’ve left him outside…but it’s a risk I’m willing to take,” Ash tells her, to which Ripley responds, “That’s a pretty big risk, for a Science Officer. That’s not exactly out of the manual, is it?” Ash becomes resentful, telling Ripley to let him do his job, and that he takes it seriously. She stares at him, before walking out of the infirmary. Ash takes off his gloves and takes a sip of coffee, before walking over to take another look at Kane.
The film maintains a suspenseful tone throughout. Plot unfolds slowly, and director Ridley Scott relishes in the atmospheric and visual world of the narrative. While the events that occur are dramatic, they occur after long intervals of inaction, and in short bursts. The leisurely pace of the action only adds to the suspense. In the first section of the film, the crew members' expectations are reversed when they are called to follow an unexpected transmission, but nothing particularly bad happens. In this section of the film, things slowly start to go awry. Lambert's anxiety about going onto the planet foreshadows the danger that will befall them, and as their cameras go static when Lambert, Dallas, and Kane enter the abandoned spacecraft, the viewer can sense that something is wrong. The tone of the film is suspenseful and scary, giving it the atmosphere of a horror movie.
Indeed, the creature that the crew encounters is truly the stuff of horror. While Kane's initial investigations of the cave seem innocuous enough—if creepy—the flying creature that emerges from the egg, shrieking and attaching itself to Kane's helmet, is terrifying and unsettling. All of the suspense and the worry about what will befall them on the planet comes to a kind of climax when the creature attacks Kane. Then later, on the ship, the creature is revealed to be truly grotesque, half yellow spider, half suffocating octopus, glued to Kane's face like a parasite. The tone of terror that has been accumulating throughout the start of the film becomes truly horrifying with the introduction of the parasitic alien.
Also adding to the suspenseful tone of the film is the score and the general aesthetic minimalism that continues in this part of the film. The sweeping shots of various locales and of the Nostromo itself continue in this section of the film, complemented by Jerry Goldsmith's eerie, minimalist score. The score comes in economically, underscoring a general sense of mystery and uncanniness. A particular moment in which the score and the cinematography contribute to the suspenseful tone of the film is when it pans slowly from Kane's body lying on an infirmary bed over to Ash examining the alien carefully under a microscope. The pan is long and slow, and Goldsmith's score is delicate but foreboding.
Director Ridley Scott is firmly committed to constructing not only an action-packed narrative, but an atmospheric world, an immersive representation of life in space, both its wonders and its dangers. This sets the film apart from other science fiction films. In fact, it seems as though Scott is less interested in exposition and narrative than he is in event and atmosphere. The viewer knows very little about the characters, there is hardly any exposition, and Scott devotes much more time to setting the scene than revealing to us where these characters have been or what they are returning to on Earth.
While characterization is sparse, the viewer learns a great deal more about Ellen Ripley and her relationship to her fellow crew members in this portion of the film. Ripley is portrayed by Sigourney Weaver as competent, confident, common-sensical and rule-following. When Dallas and Ash go against her wishes and her following of the rules to bring Kane back onto the ship, Ripley is upset with them, even though she allows them to examine the alien. Indeed, both Dallas and Ash have undermined her authority, as when Dallas is outside of the ship, she is the senior officer. As one of two women on the ship, Ripley must assert her authority with greater strength, tackling the fraternal loyalty between Ash, Dallas, and Kane to assert her rank. While her viewpoint is somewhat ruthless—she wants to leave Kane in the outside world, exposing him to the risk of death—she is looking out for the well-being of everyone on the ship, and thinking of what's best, a perspective that neither Dallas nor Ash are taking.