…about how not to conduct an interstellar rescue mission I learned by watching Aliens.
Pardon me while I geek out for a few here.
So a bunch of friends and I sat down and rewatched the director’s cut of Aliens a few weeks ago, and there’s one thing we all agreed on: Despite the fact that it’s really quite an excellent film; well-acted, well-cast with good pacing and tension, the biggest suspension of disbelief necessary is not that there’s some ravenous species of incredibly durable alien with acidic blood and a parasitic reproductive cycle that requires hosts on a 1-1 basis.
The most unbelievable thing about Aliens is how the “rescue” mission is conducted.
Think about it.
Glean from context what we know about the Aliens universe:
First, space is hostile. There’s a dedicated Colonial Marine Corps, who have significant combat experience against a variety of threats. From this, we can also infer that the colonists would have possessed some level of weaponry to defend themselves against predators or hostile aliens.
Second, there is very limited faster than light communications. How do we know this? Well, remember, the ship had to be “declared overdue”, which means that, in order for Earth to know that something had gone wrong on LV-426, they had to wait for the Sulaco to not get back on schedule. Additionally, a ship is sent to “investigate” the colony, since nobody knows for certain what happened there.
Upon a cessation of reports from the (presumably at least lightly armed) colony on LV-426 (which we must assume are delivered by some sort of automated mail ships, or an FTL communications system that isn’t terribly fast), they decide to send a ship capable of raining nuclear fire down from heaven, presumably on a mass scale, and aboard that ship they send…
…about a dozen Marines, plus a small handful of noncombatants.
So really, you’ve lost contact with a colony of ~200 people, with the possibility of these people having come into contact with an alien race that uses people for its own reproduction… and you’re going to send two squads of Marines aboard an otherwise empty ship.
And then once they get there, of course, the idiocy deepens.
Nobody is left aboard the ship. Not one person. The entire thing apparently operates on automatic.
Once it’s revealed that their standard ammunition will result in a potentially disastrous situation if they encounter a hostile situation inside the terraforming plant, rather than withdraw to rearm and resupply with more appropriate weapons, they press onward, despite obvious and substantial evidence that the worst has come to pass.
The dropship, rather than sitting buttoned-up at a safe distance, is left sitting around with the door wide open within easy range of the colony.
Once it’s all gone to hell, and the Marines are forted up in the colony’s control center, not one person apparently has the wisdom to look up and say “Huh, is that a drop ceiling I see? I wonder how secure the structure is up there in that engineering space, and whether the aliens might be able to use that to gain access to our supposed safe haven…”
Really, these people deserved to die horribly.