THE THING (1951-2011)
Unknown bio-recombinator (shape shifter) alien lifeform
The Thing, also known as The Thing From Another World, is a shape-shifting creature that crash-landed upon Earth roughly 100,000 years ago. It was frozen in the ice of Antarctica and accidentally freed by the crew of Norway’s Thule Research Station, which it proceeded to attack and destroy in 1982. The Thing was forced to move onto America’s U.S. Outpost North #31 to continue its attempts to escape to the mainland. This creature has the ability to absorb and copy the DNA of any life-form it consumes, allowing it to take on its appearance, memories, and mannerisms.
As a parasitic life-form, the Thing seeks to absorb and assimilate any nearby life-form native to whatever planet the Thing arrives on. This enables the parasite to gain shelter and be able to adapt to virtually any environment that can sustain multi-cellular, complex life, which is its principal food and host source.
Each individual cell of the creature is both part of a singular multi-cellular lifeform and a distinct, independent entity at the same time. Dual-functionality of the creature enables individual cells and/or collections of cells to function as separate organisms if necessary, which are invariably focused on one goal; assimilating and imitating other lifeforms.
It assimilates other lifeforms by either deploying separate, autonomous parts or using the mass of its own body to capture or seize a host, which will subsequently consume and generate a replica of the host from the biomass of the victim and the parasite itself, which is itself a copy of the Thing. Depending upon the size or nature of the infectious method, the consumption and replication of a host can take a variable length of time, from a very long time period to a shorter one, depending on whether the assimilating agent are small particles or larger forms.
One key capability of the creature is its ability to undergo cryogenic stasis, much like the Earth-native yeast fungus. This enabled it to lay dormant for at least 100,000 Earth years, awaiting discovery by any sentient life forms who have the means to revive it from its long-term dormancy.
The Thing’s ability to interact with plant based life-forms is largely unknown. Its only interaction with plant based life was in the form of wood/clothing fibers. It cannot absorb these as noted by MacReady, which could suggest an inability to absorb plant cells or dead cells. Another interesting note is no Thing copy has ever been observed eating or drinking beyond living humans or dogs, and it also leaves the bodies of killed humans or dogs untouched even though there is usable biomass. This implies that the Thing cannot utilize dead tissue, or perhaps more interestingly, it understands that potential hosts will react strangely to the presence of someone they know to be deceased.
When the Thing engages another organism for assimilation, it rapidly generates a haphazard arrangement of limbs and body parts from its own biomass. While seemingly dramatic, this shock-and-awe tactic has proved quite effective as a hunting strategem. Victims are left stunned by the sudden transformation, allowing the Thing ample time to subdue them. These explosive mutations are generally believed to be comprised of the various anatomies of previously-assimilated species, which are constructed and organized into a formation or set of formations that fit the immediate needs of the parasite.
Once a host is captured, the assortment of grasping appendages of the creature penetrate the epidermal layers of victim, it quickly introduces masses of its own cells to begin the process of assimilation. The invading cells immediately capture and absorb all of the victim’s cells in their path, and proceed to metabolically break them down as a fuel and energy source for their activities. During this process, the parasite’s cells analyze and record the entire genetic code of its victim, which then are subsequently put to use.
Using the newly acquired biomass and genetic information, the creature uses the combined biomass of itself and the host to generate a copy of the parasite that is structured as a complete imitation of the now-deceased and consumed host. Every characteristic and individual quirk of the host is copied, including physiological flaws or health conditions, such as the weakened heart of the Outpost #31’s Norris. In order to minimize the potential loss of biomass should it be discovered, the Thing prefers to be in solitary, close proximity to its target with the condition that it will be alone long enough to generate a replacement organism of the host.
If circumstances allow, the Thing will remove the clothing of its victims in order to optimize the rate of transformation, because of the fact that during the conversion process, the extremities of the victim will take on an inconsistent, haphazard shape before returning to the form of the host’s anatomy. The precise reasons for this are unknown, but it is likely the outcome of the in-progress replica taking in the full genetic record of past victims from its parent organism, in order to perpetuate the parasite’s life-cycle. Once the assimilation process is complete, the parent Thing will detach itself from the newly generated replica, which will proceed to enact the same procedure with other lifeforms.
Though the full infection procedure has never been witnessed from start to finish, logic suggests that once the process is complete the Thing and its offspring will then resume their respective disguises to pursue their individual or collective goals. If circumstances allow or demand it, either of these replicas can abandon their current forms and take on new configurations to deal with changing situations. If possible, they will continue their subversive activities until they have either collectively or individually subsumed all other potential hosts.
While the effectiveness of this life cycle is prodigious, it does have a number of weaknesses. The first weakness is that while it can assimilate the biomass of any life-form, it cannot account for inorganic and metallic objects, which are quickly ejected from the conjoined mass. This can be witnessed during the events at the Norwegian camp, where metallic objects like piercings, tooth fillings, splints, and pins were discarded from the victim’s body, which the remaining camp members used to their advantage to flush out potential replicas.
The second weakness would be the biology of the creature itself. While operating as a large, multi-cellular entity, a Thing is difficult to distinguish from those it is imitating, due to the replica’s high levels of sentience, but when operating as individual organisms, such as separated appendages, mobile particles, and individual cells, the creature can immediately be exposed. This occurs because in these forms, the Thing has very little if any intelligence relative to a complete replica, and instead operate entirely on the instinctive programs that influence the otherwise sentient behavior of any of these imitations. Because of this, each minute configuration will respond in predictable ways to external and often dangerous stimuli.
Examples of this can be seen in the use of two highly effective methods of detection. The first would be the uninfected blood of any host organism; when in the presence of the cells of the Thing, the blood cells will immediately be captured, assimilated, and imitated by the Thing. Though this has not been witnessed, the Things’ fear of this method’s effectiveness compelled it to sabotage the efforts of its human foes to use it against the parasite in two known cases; the Norwegian camp and the U.S.-owned Outpost #31.
The next method for detection involves the use of heat, such as that in a hot needle or pin, which is then poked into any available piece of the intruders. In the case of imitation blood, such as that of the Palmer replica, the disguised cells immediately and audibly retreat from the intrusion of heat, quickly following their innate instinct to survive. The final and greatest weakness is that fire and explosives are highly effective against the Thing, as both methods quickly overwhelm the creature’s systems and render the parasite inert.
The limited scientific analyses of the creature’s cells by humans and 80’s computer software has indicated that the organism’s cellular structure is unlike any other life form native to the planet Earth. In observations of infected human biomass, the alien shape of the Things’ cells reveal their true nature by swiftly capturing and absorbing host cells, which are then flawlessly imitated by the attacking alien cell. Presumably, each cell acts as a module for transformation and as a neuron for data processing and memory (the U.S. station’s computer likened the creature’s cells to viruses), as the creature can develop parts of anatomy from any creature previously assimilated; for example, a large, tooth-filled maw or eye-stalks.
In theory, if even a single cell of this creature survived it could eventually build itself a new body through cellular absorption.
Though the creature can force the biomass of an assimilated host to expand to a maximum size relative to its own fuel and energy reserves, it cannot generate mass that exceeds that limit. Examples of this include the actions of the “kennel Thing”, which attempted to assimilate and imitate the other dogs, quickly transforming into a boiling mass of flesh and random body parts. In the confines of the dog shed it also deployed a green gelatinous spray at a particular dog, the exact purpose of which is unknown but was possibly a slower method of infection. The spray itself could also be digestive in nature as if seems to melt off the dogs fur (not seen directly, but in corpse). Equally likely is that the spray was merely a deterrent to keep the dog from escaping (as it had already begun biting through the fence).
Just prior to its torching, it even generated what appeared to be a ranged weapon (not dissimilar to the one it used on the Norwegian base) out of a dozen dog tongues and teeth, known better as the Flesh Flower. This was employed as a defensive mechanism, especially when the creature is in a state in which it is highly vulnerable, such as the attempted assimilation of multiple host organisms. An additional possibility is that could accumulate the biomass of multiple victims into a unified mass serving as a means to either keep warm or as a method self-preservation.
In the case of extenuating circumstances that involve combat, the creature is able to not only transform into a combat-capable shape, but is also able to use one or more victims as additional biomass to supplement its own rather than as additional replicas. In this context, the additional material is used by the thing to increase the mass and effectiveness of its new “combat” form, which it will then use against its opponents. This was dramatically demonstrated when the Edvard replica absorbed Adam and used his imitation to create a larger, combined form colloquially known as ‘Split-Face.’
Depending on the circumstances that it finds itself in, the Thing can operate in any fashion it deems suitable. If it is in a situation that requires it to act quickly due to mitigating factors such as short time limits, a limited working knowledge and a large number of rapidly-developing threats, it will react accordingly, employing bold and aggressive maneuvers in order to overwhelm, scatter, and confuse its prey. It will be more inclined to follow this course of action if it knows that there are a large number of potential hosts and opportunities for assimilation.
Conversely, if its potential hosts are more likely to be aware of it and have employed defensive measures, the Thing will focus on cunning, stealth, and patience: assimilate in secret, and the use of well-crafted methods of psychological misdirection and physical deception. Though this strategy requires that the creature be patient and avoid open conflict, it is also more dangerous than the former, due to the fact that the thing is more likely to be vulnerable when discovered, but conversely provides greater chances of survival, especially if it has created multiple replicas to serve as decoys.
The consciousness of the creature is yet another mystery, all that can be certain is that it retains an inherited survival instinct and enough of the facets of the assimilated creature to pass convincingly as the original. It can be deduced that once assimilated the new creature retains the memories, abilities, mannerisms and possibly the frailties of the host and uses them to sustain its survival. How much of its own consciousness and that of previously assimilated creatures it retains is unclear.
In one case a host was either incapacitated by a pre-existing condition leading to a heart attack or it mimicked the effect well enough to fool the station doctor. In another case a host was apparently knocked unconscious from a concussive blast which mere minutes later also lead to a violent attack. It is unclear if this was a forced or planned reaction. Possibly it was intending to play dead in both cases but was forced into action by the defibrillator shocks and in the other case by an opportunity to attack a large group at once.
In another feat of reasoning a Thing destroyed a test that would have lead to its exposure, demonstrating awareness of biology and medical practices that would have exposed it. Interestingly, the second time this same method was proposed as a test the Thing had seemingly preempted the idea, this despite the fact that the Thing that had arrived at the second base was spawned long before the first test was thought of and was in a non-human form. This lead to the theory of a shared consciousness between Things, especially as the 2nd sabotage was far harder to pull off covertly and while sowing seeds of misdirection it also exposed its presence.
Another interesting point is while the lack of a metal earring lead to an earlier Things exposure this did not occur to the people of the US base. In the finale many note that Childs breath does not fog as MacReady’s does, leading to the assumption he is infected, yet his earring does glint as he sits down. It is mentioned that The Thing rejects non organic materials from its host, hence the tooth fillings and earring missing. Conversely it could be proof of Child’s humanity. This would have been more clear cut if Doc has been assimilated with his nose ring intact instead of killed outright.
It is not known whether the Thing is itself a technological species, whether the ship it arrived on was its own. It could be reasoned that it crashed because the original pilot was killed or sabotaged the craft, and the creature was unable to manage the controls. However, an assimilated Blair was able to manufacture a small saucer like craft from parts it found on the base, something that was obviously beyond his human understanding. Assimilated humans have been seen operating vehicles and equipment their human counterpart would have knowledge of.
If attacked with fire or powerful electric shock (the only options available and explored in the movies and the novella, respectively) it will attempt to attack, escape or play possum. If incapacitated it appears to try to overwhelm its attackers no matter how outnumbered with a violently horrific display of its metamorphic ability, mutating seemingly uncontrollably to the point sentient creatures will flee in terror. Explosives have also been deployed to destroy the creatures form but the lasting effect, other than to render the soft tissues to a spray of blood and pulp, is unknown.
Each cell or group of cells is self-aware and has an in-built desire for self-preservation, even at the expense of the larger biomass it spawned from. After the torso of an assimilated individual has burned to death, the head separated away from the fire and developed arthropod-esque legs and eyes stalks to facilitate escape. When a small sample of Thing blood was exposed to a heated wire, in the presence of its form and still infected host, it leaped away in an attempt to escape. Similarly spilled Thing blood was seen to pool and run in rivulets looking for escape.
The self-preservation mechanism is one of the few vulnerabilities that can be exploited to aid in the detection of an infected host. This can also be seen when an infected host apparently indicated another of its kind, leading to its inevitable termination, in order to disguise its status. Just previously it had also been attempting to seed mistrust of another human who was uninfected. Interestingly just prior to its exposure the host made some resigned and very human reactions to its impending death.
One of the more violent episodes lead to a hosts arms detaching, sprouting legs with one escaping while the other facilitated an attack providing a distraction.
While fire has a devastating effect on its physical form it has been shown that the blood and soft tissues remain intact deeper inside and are seemingly self-aware or lucky enough, with the host creatures sensory organs and motor skills devastated, to still effect an ambush of a new host once he was left alone near the corpse.
It is anecdotal that when unobserved, a Thing will perform uncharacteristic behavior such as standing or sitting motionless, staring blankly ahead for long periods of time until it becomes aware of anything in its vicinity and reverts to mimicking. It will usually perform this behavior when it is already in a position of its likening or has no agenda to perform, otherwise it will move around and attempt to move into position itself in more favorable conditions to reproduce and protect its identity.
When a Thing has successfully separated a potential victim, it will transform and attempt to quickly and safely assimilate it. Allowing prey to ingest parts of itself hidden in food is one of its more subtle, if slower forms of infection. As an animal a simple bite can be used to spread its infection.
As a last ditch method of preservation a Thing is willing to freeze itself in hopes it can escape a current threat and wait for rediscovery by later and unaware prey. Blair-Thing tried to do this, but was supposedly destroyed.
The Thing (2011)
The only known survivors of Thing encounters were by Captain Blake of the United States Military and helicopter pilot R.J. MacReady in Antarctica, the status of paleontologist Kate Lloyd is presently unknown. In the winter of 1982, paleontologist Kate Lloyd is recruited by scientists Dr. Sander Halvorson and his assistant Adam Finch to join a Norwegian scientific team that has stumbled across a crashed extraterrestrial spaceship buried beneath the ice of Antarctica. Near by they discover the frozen corpse of a creature that seems to have escape the crash some 100,000 years ago. After the creature is preserved in an ice block and transported back to base where Dr. Sander, against Kate’s protests, orders a tissue sample to be drilled out before they ship it out for study. Later, while the crew celebrate the find of the century, co-pilot Derek witnesses the Things explosive escape from the compromised ice and out the wooden ceiling. The rattled team splits into groups to search for the alien. Olav and Henrik discover it hiding under one of the buildings after the kennel dog was found missing, through a hole torn in the wire mesh.
The Thing grabs Henrik and pulls him into its body while the others converge on the scene and set the creature on fire. During the autopsy to separate Henrick’s remains from that of the Thing they discover the victims skin apparently rejuvenated and the metal brace from his broken arm now outside his body. Worryingly Kate and Adam observe the Things cells appear to be absorbing and imitating Henrik’s cells. Sander decides to fly the traumatized Olav out with Pilot Sam Carter, Griggs and Derek despite Kate’s misgivings about the blood. As they prepare to take off, Kate discovers bloody metal tooth fillings and large amounts of blood in a shower stall. She attempts to flag down the departing helicopter, fearing an infection has taken someone on board. When Carter decides to land, Griggs transforms killing Olav and causing the helicopter to spiral out of control and crash beyond an impassable ridge. Kate returns to the showers to find the mess has been cleaned up.
In the recreation room, Kate tells the rest her hypothesis on the nature of the creature: It is theoretically possible that some of their number have been assimilated and replaced by an alien being, it is unable to use inorganic material such as metal, hence it spat out the fillings. The team members are unable to come to terms with this and again Sander overrules her and decide to head for the nearest camp for help. After everyone else leaves the room, Juliette tells Kate that she saw Colin leave the shower holding a towel and she knows where they keep the vehicle keys. When the two go for the keys, to prevent anyone leaving, Juliette transforms and attacks Kate. Kate narrowly escapes, running past Karl who is killed by the Juliette-Thing. Lars arrives with a flamethrower and burns the Thing while it assimilates Karl.
As they burn all the remains outside they realize they have to contain the infection on the base and eliminate it. Kate and Lars disable the snow-cats by snipping wires and Lars shares some information with her by showing her a crate of grenades. Carter and Derek return from the copter crash, both half-frozen but otherwise unharmed. Mistrust has spread like wildfire and the pairs improbable escape places them on high suspicion, Kate convinces the rest to lock them up until a test can be prepared.Adam and Sander preparing a blood test, but when both leave for a short while the lab sabotaged. As tensions rise Kate proposes they inspect the each other’s teeth, those with fillings aren’t infected. Test singles out Adam, Dr. Sander, station commander Edvard and Colin who either had porcelain or no fillings at all while Peder levels a flame thrower at those under suspicion. Kate sends Lars and Jonas to bring back Carter and Derek to test but they have tunneled of the storage shed and into a neighboring building, grabbing Lars and alarming Jonas who runs back to the others.
The panicked Jonas pleads with Peder to help him rescue Lars causing even more panic. During the argument, Carter and Derek break in armed with Lars’ flamethrower. Edvard pushes Peder to burn them both in a stand off but hesitates and Derek shoots him, puncturing his flamethrower’s tank and causing an explosion that kills Peder and knocks Edvard unconscious. While Edvard is being carried back to the recreation room, he violently transforms mortally wounding Derek and starts assimilating Jonas and Adam.
Kate hurriedly tries to unblock Carter’s stalled flamethrower giving time for the Edvard/Adam Thing to flee. While Carter and Kate search for it they hear it attack Sander and it manages to separate Carter from Kate trapping him in the kitchen. With its attention on Carter, Kate torches it until it is dead in the snow. The base is aflame now and the pair see Sander driving off in one of the snow-cats and, fearing it is heading for its spaceship, Kate and Carter give chase in the remaining vehicle.
They arrive just in time to see the ship starts up and Kate and Carter are separated once again as Kate falls inside and is knocked out by the fall. When she wakes up, she realizes she’s in a some kind of a chamber or a cockpit room, perhaps. Unaware of the Thing camouflage itself, lurking behind, then suddenly, the Thing attacks her. She manages to find a finding place in a narrow tunnel after losing hold on the single grenade she brought. When it finally drags her out, she grabs and tosses the grenade into its maw and escapes the craft with the recently returned Carter. Back in the snowcat, Kate takes the flame-thrower to stow in the back but not before she notices that Carter is missing his piercing on his ear. She calls him out on this and he even reaches for the wrong ear. Despite his protests, she burns him and destroying the snow-cat as well. Kate climbs into the remaining snowcat and stares blankly into the night.
The Thing (1982)
The next morning, Norwegian helicopter pilot Matias arrives at the camp and finds it burned and deserted. As he shouts, looking for any survivors, Colin is shown to have been hiding in the radio room and committed suicide by slitting his wrists and throat with a straight razor to ensure that the Thing could never get to him. Lars survived in the building where Derek and Carter attacked him, he has a rifle and shoots at Matias and only trusts him after checking his fillings. At that moment, the Kennel/Thing bolts out of a ruined building. Lars realizes it’s the Thing, fires at it and orders Matias to start the helicopter.
They chase the Thing to an American Antarctic research station and land outside. Matias fumbles a grenade from Lar’s supply and destroys the helicopter and himself. Single mindedly the non-English speaking Lars yells in Norwegian (“Det er ikke en bikkje, det er en slags ting som imiterer en bikkje! Kom dere vekk, idioter!!” = It’s not a dog, it’s a thing, it imitates a dog! Get the hell away from it, idiots!) and fires at the last remaining the Thing-dog, who has run to the gathering Americans, accidentally grazing Bennings leg. They scatter as Lars marches on firing at the dog and station commander Garry is forced to shoot the what he thinks is a lunatic gunman. Not knowing what to make of the incident, the crew take in the dog and start to see if they can find out whats going on.
Unable to contact the outside world via radio, helicopter pilot R.J. MacReady and Dr. Copper risk a flight to the Norwegian camp and find it destroyed with no signs of life. Finding the ice-block, the pair return with the burned remains of a hideous two faced humanoid creature, split-face. An autopsy of the cadaver by Dr. Blair is inconclusive, save that it had what appeared to be a single normal set of human internal organs. At Bennings’ request Clark, the station’s wrangler, kennels the stray with the station’s sled dogs. Shortly after, noises from the kennel cause Clark to return, finding most of the sled team being messily assimilated by the Dog/Thing. MacReady summons the crew to the kennel with the fire alarm, ordering Childs to bring the flamethrower, firing several shotgun shells into the creature with little avail. Childs arrives and incinerates the creature as it tries to escape through the ceiling.
A subsequent autopsy by Blair reveals that the stray dog was an alien organism capable of absorbing and perfectly imitating other life-forms. Realizing there was a possibility that any of his fellow researchers could have been assimilated, Blair quickly becomes withdrawn and suspicious. A second helicopter expedition reveals the now exposed alien spacecraft and the location the ice-block was removed from. They quickly deduce the craft has lain a hundred thousand years where it crashed. Bennings and Windows quarantine the burnt remains of both the dog-creature and the Norwegian cadaver in the storage room, but in the process Bennings is left alone for a short while. Seeping blood and tendrils seek him out and Windows discovers Bennings in the process of being assimilated. The crew burns the escaping Bennings replica before its transformation is completed.
Determining that all life on Earth would be assimilated in just over three years if the creature were to reach another continent, Blair goes berserk, destroying the helicopter, radio equipment and killing the remaining sled dogs, thus containing further contamination. The team overpowers him and confines him in an external the tool shed, where he complains of strange noises and dramatically leaves a noose in plain sight when the others visit him. With all contact to the outside world cut off the crew wonders how to determine who is still human. Paranoia quickly rises after the attempt to develop a test, comparing the blood of the researchers to uncontaminated blood samples is sabotaged.
Fuchs, attempting to continue Blair’s research, goes missing shortly afterwards during a power failure. The crew later find Fuchs’ dead body (which appears that he has torched himself before the Thing could get to him). MacReady now comes under suspicion when ripped clothing is found with his name tag, and is locked outside in a severe blizzard storm. Palmer us becoming increasingly paranoid and argues against letting MacCready back in. Finding his way back to camp without a guide line, MacReady breaks into a storage room and threatens the rest of the crew with dynamite. In the course of the standoff, Norris suffers a ‘heart attack’ and as Dr. Copper attempts to revive him by defibrillation, Norris’ body transforms and kills Copper. Norris’ head detaches, sprouts legs and attempts to escape as the others burn the body; however its escape is noticed by Palmer, the backup pilot, who points it out, leading to its quick destruction. The head’s self-preservation act leads MacReady to theorize that every piece of the alien is an individual entity.
As the remaining crew gather for MacCready’s test, Clark tries to stab him with a scalpel but is shot in the head. The crew settles down and complies with the test as Windows takes a sample of blood from each member into a dish labelled with their name. MacCready inserts a hot wire into each dish in turn looking for a reaction. Palmer is unmasked as an imitation and attacks Windows before being set alight and blown up with dynamite. MacReady torches Windows transforming body be for finishing the test and proving he, Childs, Garry and Nauls are still human leaving only Blair. They discover Blair missing and had been constructing a small flying craft of alien design beneath the tool shed and Childs is inexplicably seen abandoning his post at the main gate as the facility loses power. Realizing that the creature wants to freeze again, the remaining crew acknowledge that they will not survive and set about destroying the facility with dynamite and Molotov cocktails in hopes of killing the creature.
While setting explosives in the underground generator room, Garry is killed by the infected Blair. Nauls follows the sounds and never seen again. Alone, MacReady prepares to detonate the charges when a massive and warped creature (calming to be Blair-Thing) emerges from beneath the floor, snatching the detonator away with massive tentacles. MacReady kills it with a stick of dynamite, setting off the rest of the charges and destroying the entire facility.
Sometime later, MacReady is wandering in the flaming rubble and sits down resigned to his fate when Childs appears. He claims to have seen Blair and gotten lost while chasing him in the snow. With the polar climate closing in around them, they acknowledge the futility of their distrust, sharing a drink as the camp burns.