Alien Week: The Best Side Characters
It's common knowledge that Ellen Ripley is the core of the original Alien franchise, but what about everyone else? This is a series that's not only known for Ripley but for the characters she meets along the way. From Captain Dallas, to Newt, to the various prisoners of Fury 161, it's a world filled to the brim with colorful individuals who add to her overall arc. With Alien: Covenant being released this Friday, I figured now would be a great opportunity to highlight some of the very best in each entry in the series.
Parker & Brett - Alien
Yeah, it might be cheating to mention two characters but Parker and Brett go together like peanut butter and jelly. Yaphet Kotto and Harry Dean Stanton make a delightful duo as the bickering “husband and wife” of the Nostromo, playing off of each other like the seasoned veteran actors that they are. Brett's constant reply of “right” to essentially anything Parker says becomes one of the film's running jokes in an overall terrifying and haunting affair. Parker is never the same after his best friend is killed by the titular alien, and who could blame him?
Jones the Cat - Alien/Aliens
Ellen Ripley's feline companion makes this list as it's the unofficial mascot of the ship. This cat gets into heaps of trouble throughout Alien and inadvertently causes the death of the aforementioned Brett midway through the film. Most times the inclusion of an animal to a horror movie is a total cop out, but Ridley Scott working from a script by Dan O’Bannon and Ronald Shusset, use's it to his advantage as Jones is a constant red herring, fooling the characters and the audience into thinking the alien is near. Jones (played by a different cat obviously) would return for a cameo in James Cameron's Aliens and was spared another encounter with the Xenomorph thanks to some common sense on the part of Ripley.
Private Hudson - Aliens
Bill Paxton embodied the “all bark and no bite” Hudson like few others could have. Starting the film as the loudest member of a team of “ultimate badasses” he quickly loses his cool once the Colonial Marines are attacked en masse by a hive of aliens. From this point forward he becomes a cypher for the audience, conveying our deepest fears in relation to the situation at hand. He's scared shitless and rightly so; this is not a place where you'd want to be stranded. Hudson knows it, we know it, and when his death comes near the climax of the film, we feel it deep down because our voice has died as well.
Carter Burke - Aliens
The classic company stooge, Burke is the sole reason Ripley gets pulled into this chickenshit outfit. Paul Reiser brings a slimey presence to Cameron's film, always scheming to get the upper hand and the almighty dollar. Known mostly as a comedic actor, he plays against type here as the main human villain, going up against Ripley on numerous occasions, getting progressively more evil as the film goes on. His death is a welcome one as by the time he bites the dust, you truly wish he'd died an hour ago.
Dillon - Alien 3
The leader of the religious sect of inmates on Fury 161, Dillon, played by Charles S. Dutton (Mimic), is a powerful figure in David Fincher’s debut film. A hardened criminal, but also a man of principles, he doesn't trust Ripley at first but eventually they become very close, forming a murder-suicide pact should either of them get killed by the alien that's taken over the prison facility. The source of numerous powerful monologues throughout the picture, Dutton’s booming voice is perfect for the sense of awe Fincher brings to the proceedings. His death, with its flurry of F bombs is a middle finger to the alien because Dillon, unsurprisingly doesn't take any guff from anyone, much less a murderous Xenomorph.
Andrews & 85 - Alien 3
Another twofer but much like Parker and Brett, Superintendent Andrews and Aaron (nicknamed 85 because of his IQ) are both a source of comedy and a stumbling block for Ripley to overcome. Andrews with his “rumor control, here are the facts” press conferences and 85 with his undying dedication to his boss, represent the law of the land. The Mr. Burns and Waylon Smithers of Alien 3, they're rarely seen apart, well until Andrews is pulled into an air vent, of course. As his blood rains down on the mess hall floor, we realize that 85 is on his own, and with an IQ like that he'll need all the help he can get to survive.
Dr. Gediman - Alien: Resurrection
Brad Dourif is a treasure and in Resurrection he gives one of his more unhinged performances and with a career like his, that's saying something. Playing an Igor type that works for the truly evil Dr. Wren, his eccentricities as an actor really shine. Whether he's imitating an alien, having lunch with Ripley, or babbling on while cocooned in the Queen's hive, Dourif is on fire, bringing more crazy than the film can handle at times. Add in the fact that he gets his head bitten off by the grotesque Newborn, and you have a character that leaves an impression.
Meredith Vickers - Prometheus
I would've gone with Michael Fassbender’s David here but he's more of a co-lead along with Noomi Rapace’s Elizabeth Shaw. So instead I'll go with Charlize Theron’s Meredith Vickers. Theron is great as the ice queen company stooge that's overseeing the Prometheus mission and has a ton of great interactions throughout the course of the film. Vickers doesn't give two shits what they find on LV-223 as long as it turns a profit and can possibly please her evil father, an old age makeup covered Guy Pierce. Her flirtations with Idris Elba are a source of comedy in the film and work to humanize a character that many initially mistook for one of the series’ androids. She may die because she doesn't know how to make a left turn, but she's a memorable addition to the Alien mythos.
So there you have it, my list of the best side characters in the Alien franchise. Who are your favorites? Let us know in the comments below or hit me up on Twitter.