I’m absolutely the worst person to have with me if there’s a big ominous red pimple nearby, because I’m going to be slamming my hand on it without hesitation. So you can imagine my joy when I look at Alien and see all those beautiful panels with enough buttons to keep me entertained for hours, hitting them with palm and fingers like a demented toddler as I try to figure out what is going on. ‘they do. Alien’s buttons fascinate me because they are so physical that they are almost part of the crew. Plus, they contrast so much with the mysterious and efficiently designed Xenomorph, as the Nostromo is full of old-fashioned tech that requires a steady hand and some knowledge of what each thing does before you start pushing the buttons.
Buttons are irresistible, enticing accessories that beg to be pressed. They’re a far cry from the sleek touchscreen tech we’re used to right now. Instead, the Nostromo’s control panels are lumpy, with each mechanism having its own tangible function. This only serves to highlight the role each character plays when it comes to bringing the Nostromo back to life: this ship will not operate automatically, and the large number of buttons to press indicates that the crew is in control. . With Prometheus’ sleek ship, all white and crisp, it was easy to believe that he could manage perfectly well without his crew. This is not the case in Alien. As the ship wakes up to the crew’s sudden start, the technology seems to yawn and stretch with them. The screens pass through a binary coding as if they were shaking sleep, around them buttons ignite in bright colors: turquoise, pristine white, canary yellow. Wandering around the control panels, Ripley is so efficient, so sure of what every key, dial and tuner does. Clicks and thumps echo through the cockpit as she casually stabs the switches as she passes, the systems gradually turning on. They aren’t sensitive buttons either – you have to push them down to get them to work, which makes that “clunky” sound when they push in even more satisfying.
However, not all of Alien’s technology is as seamless as this initial startup step. The control room with the MU / TH / UR AI inside is enigmatic and almost artistic, as the flashing lights that fill it don’t have labels so god knows what they are doing exactly. A reminder to our fundamental human fascination with fire and keeping the dark at bay, I can’t (and certainly can’t) deny the satisfaction that runs through my veins when I see pimples light up after being pressed. Therefore, I love the streak as Captain Dallas approaches MU / TH / UR. On a modest panel on the wall, yellow, orange and red squares light up his palm, nodding under his thumb. Miraculously, once all lined up, a small door opens by bouncing on its hinges. Such a simple process, but it’s more than nice to see that these buttons job. But wait – it’s getting better because MU / TH / UR’s control room, with its cream walls and tight-fitting little screens, is my happy place. I’m not sure if the keyboard buttons control the galaxy of lights above Dallas’ head, but as long as the lights keep blinking and the keyboard retains its big, heavy keys, I don’t care. Despite the fact that Dallas confidently navigates the keyboard, the lack of letters on each key (instead there are symbols) means that I have a sense of the complicated machinery at work. Dallas doesn’t type in their questions in full, so each one should function as some kind of simplified language. With that in mind, when the team tries to escape the Alien by killing them quickly, the mystery of the symbols littering the keys in the control room makes me doubt anyone’s ability to control MU / TH / UR, the ship’s brain.
My sudden feelings of panic for Ripley are quickly heightened after seeing her tackle MU / TH / UR’s odd keyboard. Irritable beeps cluster around Ripley as she recalls the self-destruct sequence, her sweaty hands glowing above the light of the flat, rectangular buttons hidden under the system hatch. For a button connoisseur like me, these are of a different class. The cryptic symbols and words printed on them mean that (as if being chased by a bloodthirsty alien wasn’t enough) Ripley must now figure out which buttons to press. The complicated sequence gives me the impression that the Nostromo is now against it as well by making the method to detonate the ship convoluted, and MU / TH / UR’s refusal to cooperate when Ripley tries to stop the self-destruct sequence does. only confirm my fears. As if to substantiate my suspicions of the Nostromo’s sudden reluctance to comply with its only remaining crew member, the shallow knobs aren’t as soft as those on the cream-filled, light-filled hub, and with every swipe of Ripley’s finger. the whole keyboard plunges. While that might not be a particular feat when it comes to the prop or the fictional Nostromo itself, his heavy, awkward chills as Ripley taps into the self-destruct sequence shows the ship isn’t sleek or stylish, but the words written on each button (from “Agaric Fly” to “Pranic Lift 777”) mean the Nostromo is suddenly as foreign as an iPhone, which if I didn’t know better, I would think it was an enigmatic alien tech given its brilliant design.
After Ripley taps in the correct order, she uses smooth metal handles to pull out sparkling four cylinders. No obvious buttons here; instead, it effortlessly slides a cross section out to reveal a crimson button hiding inside like a shiny gem. Okay, I might be going a little too far here, but the sight of that bright red light against the shiny metal itches my fingers to press on it. Basically, these buttons allow the Nostromo to job in a very palpable way. No touchscreens here – no graceful swipes to bring an engine online, no voice activated controls. And boy, when the characters are right those buttons send me into rhapsodies as the screens sparkle in life, MU / TH / UR answers questions and the doors open on their own.