Why did Garry have to shoot
the Norwegian dead, not just wound him?
A: Anne Billson, in her interesting
commentary on The Thing, expresses the same sentiment: “Of course, if
[Garry] only thought to train that unerring aim on the Norwegian’s leg,
instead of on his head, he would have saved himself and his men a whole lot
of trouble.” (BFI Modern Classics, The Thing, 31)
On the flipside of that
argument, shooting to wound isn't always as simple as movies make it out to be
as Jim Nanban points out:
"A shot to the leg is likely to one way or another impact
the femoral artery. If the
bullet it hits the femoral artery, the target is likely to bleed out in short
order. If the simple shockwave of such a hit transitions through the femoral
artery, it is quite possible to "blow out" a valve in the heart or otherwise
disrupt cardiac functions. Even if the target does survive--which is only
SLIGHTLY more likely than if they had been shot in centre-mass--there is still
the short-term concern of providing care to them with limited medical supplies
on hand, and the long-term concern that they are likely to have permanent
nerve damage and/or
paralysis. Is it more humane to kill, when evacuation to proper medical care is
not guaranteed, or is it more humane to wound, permanently cripple, and possibly
cause the target to die quite slowly waiting for proper medical care that never
Furthermore, speaking of limited supplies, Garry did not have an unlimited
supply of ammunition nor backup shooters. He was facing a shooter with an HK93,
a very accurate and reliable
German assault rifle firing 5.56mm NATO rounds--ammunition created
specifically to kill human beings offensively--from a magazine with a capacity
of at least 20 rounds (the one in the film appears to be a 40-round magazine).
Garry was attacking with a
Colt Trooper Mk III, a .357 revolver (nowhere near the power of a rifle
round, but still enough to kill) with a six round cylinder.
The distance from the rear sight to the front sight on the Colt Trooper
is going to be around six inches. This, compared to that of the Norwegian's
rifle (something over 2 feet of distance), even if all else were the same means
that Garry will be inherently less able to accurately aim his weapon (shorter
distance means errors are less detectable).
Combine this with the fact that the leg is less than half the size of the torso:
If Garry aims for the torso and kills the Norwegian, one man is dead. If Garry
aims for the leg, he is almost as likely to kill the Norwegian if he hits as
with a torso shot. But if Garry MISSES the leg, then the Norwegian now knows
there are people trying to kill him--he, a simple Norwegian trying to stop a
supernatural threat. The Norwegian now has motive to eliminate any threats
trying to stop him from ending this threat to all mankind. You can guarantee
there will be at least 2 dead people: The first person the Norwegian takes aim
at and fires upon with his fast-firing HK93, and the Norwegian when Garry's
cylinder cycles and he finally gets his sights back on target. Garry will
certainly go for a torso shot in this case, since he now has only 5 rounds left
with which to end the threat--and each miss is another one of his friends
The answer here is simple from the
director’s perspective: there would be no film to shoot if Garry had not
killed the Swede, uh, Norwegian.
However, there is an "in-story" answer as
well. It was entirely consistent with Garry’s character to flat out
kill the gunman. Garry is an ex-Army officer (according to the script) who
is also a crack shot. He constantly carries his gun around with him. That
alone speaks volumes about Garry. Anyone threatening his men is going to be
taken out in a hurry. Shoot first and ask questions later, that’s Garry’s
motto. He wasn’t going to take any chances when all he had was a six-shooter
while the Norwegian was packing a semi-automatic assault rifle. So, when the
gunman raised his weapon up to his shoulder, Garry shot him dead.
Why couldn't Windows reach
anyone on the radio?
A: It is hard for us who are accustomed
to cell phones, satellite communications and today’s Internet to understand
what life can be like for a small, forward Antarctic outpost in the early
80s. Under such conditions, it is not at all unusual for a camp to go for
days or even weeks without communications because of storms or other
atmospheric conditions. There are times when cargo planes have had to make a
special flyby just to see if a research group is still okay. Besides,
according to the script, Windows hasn’t exactly earned himself a reputation
for being a top-notch radioman. In fact, he can stink at his job even under
the best possible circumstances. Combine already bad conditions with a
not-so-reliable operator and what you see in the film is entirely plausible.
The events of The Thing (2011) seem to suggest an
altogether more sinister reason why Windows was unable to contact anyone by
radio. Here, the character Olav is
seen to be detecting some form of radio disturbance (possibly interference,
possibly a distress signal) as the snow cat approaches the alien ship at the beginning of the movie.
It should be noted that
interference from a signal emanating from the alien ship was responsible for
similar communications problems in Campbell's novella 'Who Goes There?'
In Carpenter's The Thing, if a significant source
of radio interference, enough to be causing problems for Outpost #31, had
existed for 100,000 years, then they would have noticed it as soon as Outpost #31 was established and they switched
on the radio rather only two weeks (or so) prior to the events depicted in the
film. It must then be assumed that that if the alien
ship was the ultimate source of the problem, then the Norwegians were
responsible for bringing this problem to Outpost #31. A
significant problem with this interpretation of events is the
relevant timescales. The alien ship was discovered 48 hours before the
events depicted in The Thing (2011) took place, which occurred over at most
three days. We are told in The Thing (1982) that a planned
helicopter trip between the two settlements would take an hour. Taking
account of contingencies and a possible indirect route, it seems highly unlikely
that the Dog-Thing pursuit from Thule Station to Outpost #31 would have taken at
least 9 days,
this being the minimal consistency requirement given the radio blackout at
Outpost #31 for at least two weeks.
Whose shadow was on the wall?
A: This is the biggest and
easily most contested issue in the entire film, and it’s been fascinating to
observe how the debate has progressed over time. There can be only three
candidates here: Norris, Palmer, and Blair -- with most people immediately
ruling out Blair because of his baldness. This leaves it up for grabs
between Norris and Palmer.
There was a day when
virtually any Thing fan would’ve fingered the geophysicist Norris as the
first American the Thing assimilates. This was primarily because of the hair
style suggested in the shadow as well as the silhouette’s large size. Norris
struck most people as the one who best matched these characteristics.
But in recent times Todd
Cameron, a major mover and shaker in the worldwide community of Thing fans,
after having viewed The Thing on the big screen, started a significant shift in
the opinions of the film’s followers. Todd pointed out that the chin and
neck of the silhouette are too tight to belong to the chubby Norris. Also,
the sheer size of the shadow is explained if we think of the person as
sitting some distance from the wall (or quite close to the light source). In
this case, even a skinny dude like Palmer would end up looking big. But what
really clinched it for Todd was the way the shadow is shown turning to face
the dog-Thing. There’s a certain point, it was claimed, when the shadow has
the unmistakable outline of Palmer’s hair and head.
In the wake of Todd’s dramatic
turnabout on the issue, Thing fans have been forced to do a thorough
re-evaluation of the matter. It is remarkable to now see the two sides
fairly evenly split. What was once an issue believed to be essentially
resolved is now a hot topic for impassioned debate. As of this writing, the
question of Whose Shadow Was on the Wall? is approaching 200 responses on
Outpost31’s Discussion Board.
Both sides have constructed elaborate and sophisticated arguments, and the
discussion shows no sign of slowing down.
Interestingly enough, John
Carpenter himself was asked this very question during a question and answer
session at a Film Festival. His reply was that the shadow didn’t belong to
any of the actors but was that of a stand-in just for the sake of getting
the shot. Well, needless to say, virtually no Thing fan believes this.
People point out that Carpenter has not had the best reputation for
recalling events from 20 years ago. Besides, would you reveal the secret to
what is arguably the greatest mystery of your film career?
This story is far from
over. It will be very interesting to see in the future if the opinions of
Thing fans continue to change. The Palmer side has steadily gained
adherents. Will it continue to do so? The Norris side has supporters that
are just as enthusiastic and are just as convinced. Will it remain as strong
it is? Stayed tuned. Only time will tell. (FYI: The actual shadow was not a cast
member at all but stuntman Dick Warlock.)
Stuart Cohen, co-producer of John Carpenter's The
Thing, seems, at the time of writing, to have settled this matter conclusively
on his blog: it was supposed to be Palmer. The reason why David Clennon
was substituted by Dick Warlock in this shot is that Clennon's silhouette was
too recognizable for there to be any ambiguity.
What happened to the Norwegian
A: We will perhaps never know the exact
sequence of events at the Norwegian base, but we do have some rough ideas.
After its escape from the ice block, the Thing had assimilated a number of
dogs and humans. Exactly how many is unknown, but the number was at least
one dog and one man along with probably a few others. Eventually the
surviving Norwegians discovered what was happening but by that time the
Thing perhaps had acquired enough numbers to achieve parity with the
survivors. Consequently, it may not have felt the need to remain so covert
What apparently ensued was an all-out,
no-holds-barred battle that raged throughout the Norwegian camp. The only
details we have of this fight comes from the novel. The book has Mac and
Copper bringing back some audio cassettes from the Norwegian camp, along
with the videos and Norwegian-Thing shown in the movie. The cassettes are
then played back for the other men to hear:
“MacReady and I were listening to some
of these cassettes on the flight back from the Norwegian camp. I’d like
the rest of you gentlemen to hear this particular one.” He gave the
“play” switch a nudge.
A Scandinavian voice filled the room.
It was flat, calm, methodical; the boredom apparent despite distance,
time, and even a different language.
Norris let out a bored sigh. “Sounds
like the verbal equivalent of the [video] tape we’ve been mooning over.
Hours of notes and nonsense.”
“What do you want from us?” Bennings
wanted to know.
MacReady gestured for them to be
patient. “Just listen. We thought the same way you do … at first.”
Copper played with the fast-forward
control, eyeing the built-in tape counter as the machine squealed. At
five-oh-one he stopped the racing cassette and depressed “play” a second
time. The calm voice was heard again.
Then something sounded dull, loud, and
ugly, as though a distant explosion had taken place. The little
machine’s omnidirectional internal microphone wasn’t large, but there
was no mistaking the sharp cruuumppp from the speaker.
A pounding noise followed the
explosion. There were shouts, some near, some far away. Then echoes of
confusion, of equipment being tipped over, of glass shattering. Running
feet grew loud, fading as their owners moved away from the recorder.
Something went thunk and the volume
intensified, as if the recorder had been hit or thrown against something
hard. Feet sounded close by, banging wooden planks.
A violent gurgling rose above the
general cacophony, then a loud hiss like a steam boiler shutting down.
Men screamed and raged in Norwegian.
Then a piercing screech that made the
hair on Norris’s neck stand erect. Several explosions next, like cannon
firing in the distance. The execrable screeching again, louder now,
mixed with the howls of distraught, panicky men.
Copper noted the grim expressions on
the faces of those gathered around him. He derived no satisfaction from
the effect the tape had on them. Soon all sound stopped. The tape had
come to its end. He switched the machine off and regarded his companions
“That’s it?” Fuchs asked softly.
Copper shook his head. “No. It’s a
split tape with automatic rewind. It goes on like that from the
beginning of the second half for quite awhile.” He let that sink in
before asking, “What do you gentlemen make of it? Neither MacReady nor I
could make any sense of it.” (Foster, The Thing, 43-5)
The gutted and burned-down buildings seen
in the film indicate the Norwegians’ liberal use of kerosene, incendiary
grenades, and perhaps thermite charges. On the other hand, the gaping holes
in the walls and ceilings of the surviving buildings suggest the Thing had
transformed itself into a large, powerful beast able to tear through
barriers with impunity.
What is amazing here is that, by the end
of the battle, the Norwegians had somehow gained the upper hand over the
Thing. As we know, they came extraordinarily close to vanquishing their
enemy altogether. That is, until Garry finally stopped the last Norwegian
from carrying out what had probably turned into a personal quest for
The speculative tale of the Norwegian camp is the subject of the fan fiction
The Early Winter.
At the time of writing, The Thing (2011) has just been released. This
film focuses specifically on the events that took place at the Norwegian camp,
realised as Thule Station. Expect significant updates on this site in
relation to this development.
What about the suicide victim at the Norwegian camp?
A: The apparent
suicide found by Mac and Copper brings up a couple of issues. First,
was it a true suicide? In The Thing (2011), this character is
English and his name is Colin. Although it seems to have taken place in
response to the threat posed by the Edvard-Thing, the suicide act itself happens
off-screen. Questions have been raised by some viewers over
whether or not a person could inflict such a deep throat gash upon himself.
To these fans, the throat cut is too suspicious. They tend to believe
that, while he certainly did cut his own wrists, someone else
came up from behind and cut his throat. In this view, it was a
homicide more than a suicide.
A second, more
important, issue is whether or not the Colin's body was a Thing.
After he died, did a Thing come along and assimilate/duplicate
the body? Does it merely look like a human body when it really is a
Thing in disguise? This is part of the larger question of whether or
not a Thing can assimilate and duplicate dead tissue. There is general
agreement among fans that the Thing can use dead tissue for assimilation.
That is, it can use a dead body as raw material in increasing its own
biomass. A dead body would basically be like food for the Thing.
But the script makes it quite clear at multiple points in the story that the
Thing cannot use a dead body for duplication. The duplication part of
the process requires living cells to infect. If someone is already
dead, then the Thing can't just re-animate their body and then go on to
How did the Thing escape the
A: The script and
book both describe the Thing's former prison as being like "a frozen
bathtub" with the center "thawed and scooped out." The film faithfully
portrays this on screen. So melting and scraping away of the ice are
given as primary reasons why the Thing escaped.
But the problem is, a
"bathtub" is not the usual shape of an ice block after it has steadily
thawed over time. We wouldn't expect to see rims around it if the
melting were due to natural room temperatures. This suggests we look
for less than natural means for thawing the ice. So we are left with
only two possibilities. Either the Thing had awakened and started
melting the ice from the inside or the Norwegians themselves had begun the
process of extricating their specimen.
The latter seems more
likely. Being the curious scientists that they were, the Norwegians
couldn't wait to get a good look at whatever was inside of the ice block.
They began melting and scraping away the ice from the center outwards.
In so doing, the Thing was revived by the increase in temperature and
To be updated in view of The Thing (2011).
The Norwegian-Thing, was it one man or two?
A: The confusion comes from
the split head on the Norwegian-Thing. The two facial halves give the
appearance of having been two heads that are now melted together.
However, we don't in turn see two sets of arms, two sets of legs, two
torsos, etc, that are likewise fused together. There's just nothing
else to indicate that it's actually two people who are, as Doc would say,
"in there." So, it's probably the case that the Norwegian-Thing's head
was in the process of splitting apart, similar to what see with
Palmer-Thing. This would mean the Norwegian-Thing is just one man, not
two men who were fused together in the assimilation process.
To be updated in view of The Thing (2011).
Who was in Palmer's room
smoking dope with him?
A: It was Childs.
You can readily tell from watching the film that it is a black man, but
Nauls is ruled out since he is playing pool with Clark in the very next
shot. Also, the script and book indicate strongly that Palmer and
Childs are pot buddies.
Why did the dog-Thing attack the kennel when it did?
A: The way the final film was cut, you can't help but
get the impression that the dog-Thing attacked very shortly after Clark
left the kennel. This would be somewhere close to 7 PM on the first
day, since that's the time seen on the Rec Room wall clock as Bennings
complains about the "mutt." But this opens up the issue of why did
the kennel attack happen when it did. Didn't the dog-Thing run a
great risk of getting detected if many of the men, especially Clark, were
still up and about?
Careful analysis of the film demonstrates that the kennel attack was
originally planned to occur early in the morning after Clark had caged the
dog-Thing, when all the men had gone to sleep. Here are a few
(1) The script clearly places the kennel attack many hours after the
dog-Thing was caged. It even gives a precise time: 4:30 AM. In
the script everyone but Mac is asleep. Mac happens to be in the Rec
Room with his inflatable "friend"
watching the Norwegian video tapes.
And, according to the script, the only reason why the dog-Thing's attack
gets foiled is because Mac happened to be awake to hear it. Everyone
else was sound asleep and were not awakened by the noise. Instead,
it was Mac who awoke them.
(2) The scene with Mac & his inflatable "friend" was indeed shot for the
film. The Deleted Scenes pictures
prove it. Since this scene was supposed to occur prior to the kennel
attack, this is good proof the attack wasn't originally meant to happen
until later on.
(3) Clark wears different clothing when he cages the dog-Thing than when
we see him coming back to find out what the noise is all about. This
is mentioned as a blooper in the Goofs section,
but this is not a goof if we consider the original script story! In
the script, Mac comes and wakes up Clark and tells him to quiet down the
dogs. Clark then has to get dressed. This easily accounts for
the difference in Clark's attire.
(4) Here's something even more subtle. Clark plays pool with Nauls
when Bennings complains about the "mutt." So you would expect Nauls
to be hanging around the Rec Room when the alarms sound apparently just a
few minutes later. But we actually see Nauls coming out of one of
the rooms in the sleeping quarters wearing only a t-shirt and underwear.
You can see him trying to put on some pants. This is completely
consistent with the script which has Nauls being slightly awakened by the
dogs' barking, but then immediately returning to sleep, only to be truly
awakened a little bit later by the alarms.
So, why did the dog-Thing attack the kennel when it did? The answer
is really quite simple. The film's shooting of that scene had
originally meant to put the attack in the early morning. In other
words, the dog-Thing had waited until it thought all the men were sound
asleep. It was only afterwards, during the editing process, that the
intervening time was cut out and "left on the editing room floor."
In spite of how the film was cut, it's best to interpret the timing of the
kennel attack as taking place very early in the morning when all the men,
except Mac, were sound asleep.
Did the dog-Thing escape through the roof?
A: The answer is an
unequivocal, "No." Because of fullscreen versions of The Thing
from the 80s and early 90s, it was a common misconception that at least one
Thing had escaped from the kennel. But there are multiple reasons that
conclusively disprove this notion.
We see the clawed hands break through the rafters and pull the dog-Thing up
off the floor. The creature subsequently lodges itself into the upper
right-hand corner of the cage. (You can even see the cage's corner
when the "flesh flower" attacks Childs.) When he enters the cage, Childs casts his eyes upwards at the
Thing above. Likewise, judging from the first-person perspective used,
the "flesh flower" that attacks Childs does so from above. When Childs activates the
flamethrower, he aims it upwards. Finally, the flaming mass is seen falling to the floor.
(One really needs a widescreen version of the film to see this.)
All this points to the conclusion that the Thing which Childs hit with the
flamethrower was located at the ceiling of the cage. In other words,
the Thing which broke into the ceiling had not left the cage but was instead
fried by Childs. This goes a long way towards explaining why the men aren't the least bit concerned about
a Thing being on the loose.
Why didn't the dog-Thing assimilate Clark?
Clark tells Blair that he was alone with the
dog-Thing for "an hour, hour and a half maybe" but later on he passes the
blood test. A lot depends on when Clark was alone with the dog-Thing.
Judging from the clock on the wall of the recreation room, the dog-Thing
arrived at Outpost 31 at around 8:30 AM and wasn't caged by Clark until 7
PM. So when during this period was Clark alone with the Thing?
The script indicates that Clark was supposed to be alone with the dog-Thing
immediately after its arrival. It was originally planned for the
dog-Thing to be hit by the Norwegian's rifle:
Blam! Blam! The crazed visitor screams and fires
stalks after them. His countenance ablaze, mad. Ice and
snow kick up about the terrified Americans. A bullet
smacks into the dog's hip, sending it skidding and howling
in pain. Childs, the black man by the snowmobile, takes cover,
diving behind his machine. Bennings is hit. Norris pulls, drags
him back toward the compound. The dog crawls along beside
As Bennings gets stitched by Doc Copper
in Medical, Clark was also supposed to be in the room fixing up the wound on
INT. - INFIRMARY
Dr. Copper, mid-forties, works on the outstretched leg of
Bennings, the meteorologist. Clark, the dog handler, is
mending the hip of the wounded dog off in the corner.
Bennings lets out with an ouch.
Don't "ouch" me.
Two stitches. It
just grazed you.
He helps a shaken Bennings up off the table.
What in the hell were
Flying that low...
shooting at a
dog... at us...
Stir crazy. Cabin
The dog yelps and whimpers as Clark tries to calm him.
I'll be here a while.
And when Blair asks his questions, Clark's
answer makes it clear that the time when he was alone with the dog-Thing was
supposed to be when he was bandaging the creature's wounds:
INT. KENNEL - NIGHT
The night feeding. Clark dishes out the food. Blair is
taking blood samples from the remaining three dogs.
Clark, did you notice
strange about that dog?
anything at all?
Any little thing?
No. Just that he
quick... That night when
I found him
in the rec room, he had
scraped off his bandage.
put him with the others,
his wound and noticed it
up real good...
A beat as Blair stares at Clark.
(pets dog vigorously)
What was he doing in the
Well, after I worked on
thought I'd let him rest.
room for a bit.
When I came back,
he was gone.
Well, where was he?
Where did he
Don't know. Looked
for him for a
bit... couldn't find him.
(a long beat)
You're saying he wasn't
put into the
kennel until the night?
Clark seems uneasy under Blair's intense gaze.
Blair stands, his eyes still glued to Clark.
How long were you with
Alone, I mean?
Ah... He was hurt bad.
nicked an artery... I
An hour... hour and a
Blair's eyes glaze as if in revelation.
What the hell you looking
at me like
Nothing. Nothing at
He backs out of the kennel.
As we can see, the script has Clark
staying with the dog-Thing towards the beginning of the story. The
dog-Thing was shot in the leg and Clark was bandaging it up. This is
the "hour, hour and a half" when Clark was supposed to be alone with it.
But this also provides a natural
explanation as to why the dog-Thing didn't attack Clark: It was just too
early. It realized that its Norwegian enemies were no longer a threat
and so it was safe for the time being. Consequently, it wanted to lay
low for awhile and wait till "things" quieted down. Only when the
excitement had died down would it be safe for the Thing to make any moves.
Thus, Clark was not assimilated. (It's interesting to note that the
film does show a duration of about an hour and a half, from 8:25 to 9:55,
between when the Thing first arrives and when Mac & Copper take off in the
The obvious shortcoming of this
"explanation" is that the dog-Thing wasn't wounded in the actual film.
But it seems equally obvious that Carpenter kept everything else intact and
merely deleted all references to the dog-Thing getting shot. This
suggests that Clark was still alone with it at the very beginning which in
turn provides the same natural reason why Clark wasn't assimilated.
Who was with Mac and Norris
when they went to the spaceship crater?
A: It was Palmer. The
script and book both verify this. Why Palmer? He was the back-up helicopter
pilot (this is implied when he offered to give Doc the lift to the Norwegian camp),
and Mac is quoted as saying, "I'll take Palmer as a backup, just in case we
run into any trouble" (Alan Dean Foster, The Thing, 67). The only giveaway as to who it is in the movie is that, upon returning to the camp, Palmer appears completely accepting of the fact that they have seen a spaceship buried in the ice, whereas all the rest of the men are skeptical.
What happened to the burned
Norwegian corpse in the store room?
A: When Windows returns
to the storeroom with the others, the camera gives the audience a shot of
the Norwegian-Thing still covered over by a blanket. This brings up
the issue of why didn't the Norwegian-Thing get away while the camp was
preoccupied with the Bennings-Thing.
The leading theory is that the Norwegian-Thing wasn't in as good shape as
one might think, that most of its carcass was indeed killed by the fires
back at the Norwegian station. Those parts that did survive attacked
Bennings and transferred themselves to him. Thus, once Bennings was
assimilated (or, technically speaking, mostly assimilated), there was not
much left to the Norwegian-Thing besides dead tissue. Either that or
if it was still alive then at least it was so weak that it couldn't do much
more than a weak attempt at moving into another organism.
Is Blair's computer program
A: Well, it certainly
isn't accurate in the sense that a biologist would not be working on
computer animations as part of his investigations, especially under the
pressing circumstances like we see in the film. This scene
is obviously meant to be an aid to the audience to understand the Thing's
life-cycle, not a realistic portrayal of a biologist's studies.
And how well does the simulation work? Unfortunately, it leads to more
questions than answers. We see dog cells being devoured, one by one, by
a single Thing cell and this seems to contradict what we've already seen of
the Thing's behavior. Never does the simulation show that the Thing cells divide to replace
canine cells, which is what would make more sense. So, the animation
should be taken with a grain of salt.
On the DVD commentary track, Carpenter comments that they "didn't get it quite right" regarding the Thing's life cycle but that "it doesn't matter." From this it may be concluded that the goal with the computer sequence was not truly accomplished, so it must therefore be regarded with skepticism.
It's clear that the Blair computer simulation was meant to replace a similar
scene in the script and novel. Alan Dean Foster's description of the
Thing's cells seems to be better:
Fuchs was preparing new slides, which Blair
studied under the microscope. Two cells were visible through the
eyepiece. They were active, neither quiescent nor dead. One
looked quite normal. Its companion looked anything but.
At the moment the two were joined together by a thin stream of protoplasm.
Material from the larger cell, which was long and thin, flowed into the
smaller, spherical cell. As it did so the smaller cell swelled
visibly, until the cell wall fractured in three places. Immediately
the smaller cell assumed a flattened shape like the other and three new
streams of material began to flow outward from its interior. Neither
cell appeared to have lost any mass.
Blair pulled away from the eyepiece and frowned as he checked his watch.
It was running in stopwatch mode. He turned it off. The
resulting readout was very puzzling.
(Alan Dean Foster, The Thing, 69-70)
Was Blair a Thing before he
was locked up or not?
A: A hotly debated topic. There is
evidence for both sides of the issue, and it conflicts too much to be conclusive.
Carpenter's commentary on the DVD is inconclusive. This is not surprising
since all of his references to the characters known to be Things are
ambiguous. The original Campbell short story corroborates the notion that Blair was a
Thing early in the story, and that the other Things were merely decoys so Blair-thing could go about its business in the privacy of the tool shed.
The single biggest stumbling block to this idea is the aforementioned computer sequence. If Blair is a
Thing early in the story, then he would likely have also been a Thing while he executed the computer simulation.
In which case, there would clearly be no reason for him to do so.
As for how this relates to the radio room scene, as a human his intention is clear: wreck the radio room so that help cannot be called, which
in turn will prevent the spread of the organism. As a Thing, the intention
would be to get himself separated from the men so he can go about the business of his escape. A risky
maneuver, to be sure. He risked getting shot in the process and must
have banked on the men's desire to not harm one of their own, choosing
instead to imprison him. Had he been shot and "killed," the game would not have been over for Blair-thing. The burned Norwegian corpse is a good example of how tenaciously a
Thing will cling to life, though it is debatable as to whether or not they'd have chosen to burn his corpse as a precautionary measure. (They clearly regarded him as harmless enough to leave alive but locked up).
There is never any indication of how Blair might have been taken over at any point in the movie before he is locked up, unless it was a microscopic infection resulting from his autopsies of the various burned
Things. It is also possible that the Norwegian dog or Norris-thing paid him a visit in the time span that Mac and Copper were absent.
After he is locked up, everyone appears to be accountable at all times which would make it hard for someone to get out and assimilate him. It would appear that the only possible time would be during the "lights out" sequence featured in the script and book, but deleted (though filmed) in the movie. In fact, it is after that sequence that Childs and Palmer find their storage room "greenhouse" broken into from the outside, which seems to lead to the conclusion that Blair was already up to no good at that point. (Fuchs' body being nailed to the door with a shovel is another clue). Again, the ways in which the movie and script differ makes it nearly impossible to come to anything resembling a firm conclusion.
It seems fairly certain that by the time Mac and the others look for Fuchs and visit Blair, he is not himself. Perhaps he acted strangely to ensure his continued privacy. It seems evident that he could get out when he felt like it, given his ability to gather parts for his ship and the events near the end of the movie. (Perhaps it was he that Fuchs ran into outside the lab.)
No solid conclusions can be drawn on this subject at this time. It is probably going to remain a matter of personal preference.
Who got to the blood and how?
A: This is a question that has no definite answers, but there is a trail of actual events and logic that brings about some strong speculations.
The keys, which play a crucial role to the sabotaged blood scene, disappear from the action when Windows discovers the
Bennings-Thing in mid-assimilation. He had gone to get the keys from Garry, came back, dropped them and ran out of the room. We don't see the keys show up again until right before the scene with the sabotaged blood. Someone obviously found them, used them, and somehow got them inconspicuously back into the action.
(A good guess would be by placing them in or near Garry's quarters.) Watch Windows' face as they argue about who had access to the blood.
His guilt from dropping the keys and not speaking up about it is a nice touch.
As for who did the deed, when Copper discovers the sabotaged blood it is still
pouring out of the fridge, suggesting a very recent incident.
(Contrast this to the script and novel where the blood is already fully
dried.) Both Palmer
and Norris are not present after locking up Blair when the men come up
with the idea for a blood serum test. Perfect time to hit the blood
supply. The other remaining men, Windows, Nauls, and Clark were most
likely at their respective areas. (Clark distracted with his dead dogs and
Windows probably recovering from his recent beating.) These two, Palmer
and Norris, most likely Things now working together, were up to no good.
If Norris was really a Thing,
then why did he decline leadership of the team?
A: It probably passes up the opportunity because it knows full well that the leader will fall under close scrutiny by the other men,
scrutiny that it would not be able to hold up to. (Just look what happened to Garry and Mac.) Norris-Thing had very quietly gained a level of trust with the men and used this position to keep the attention focused on others. It worked.
It also works well as a believable excuse to the other men because, as an imitation, it knows that Norris has a weak heart and the stress might not be a good thing. "Sorry fellas,
I'm not up to it."
What happened to Fuchs?
This is a matter of debate. Did Fuchs, upon learning that MacReady could be a Thing, burn himself in despair? Did he burn himself to prevent the imminent assimilation by a
Thing? Or was he set upon by a Thing who preferred to simply kill him before he could devise a way to expose it? Evidence is conflicting, and there are points to support all views.
To begin with, though the manner of death differs from the script and book than that of the movie, it seems likely that the culprit is Blair-Thing. In the script and novel, Fuchs is impaled to a door with a shovel - a move that cannot be construed as suicide.
In that scene, the complex had been broken into from the outside. Given that Blair was able to get out and gather parts for his ship, it would appear that Blair was also the culprit in the movie as the form that frightens Fuchs outside the lab and lures him outside the
Suicide 1. Did Fuchs kill himself because of his discovery about MacReady? Possibly. It might have been intended that Fuchs be the vessel by which the evidence is brought against Mac, and perhaps he was too afraid and paranoid to do anything but set himself afire to spare himself the dilemma. The
Thing that was attempting the frame-up would have to re-plant the evidence somewhere else where it could be found, explaining why shredded underwear wound up being found in Mac's shack.
Suicide 2. Did a Thing come after him once he was sufficiently far away from the entrance to the building? Like the Norwegian man who cut his own throat with a straight razor, did Fuchs prefer to die rather than be taken over? This, too, would make it necessary to plant the evidence in Mac's shack, since the intended messenger was now dead.
Murder. Fuchs was lured outside, and Blair-Thing could've confronted him then. Dousing Fuchs with kerosene would have been fairly easy to do at that point (Fuchs was holding a lit flare) and would ensure that the last reliable scientific mind perished. Blair's statement to MacReady that, "It ain't Fuchs... It ain't Fuchs," may have been implying intimate knowledge of that fact. Why not assimilate him? His prolonged absence would make the men very suspicious, and he would likely have been tied down with the others to await another solution. In fact, in the script and book, Mac instructs whoever finds Fuchs to kill him, as he had been gone long enough to be assimilated.
No solid conclusions can be drawn on this subject at this time. It is
probably going to remain a matter of personal preference.
What's up with Norris
clutching at his chest?
A: According to the script and book, Norris has an incipient heart condition that everyone knows about. This is backed up by Carpenter's statement on the audio commentary on the Collector's DVD, wherein he states in the first moments of Norris's discomfort that they are "establishing Norris's heart condition." To further this point, it is a fact that those who are stationed in the Antarctic undergo considerable physical examination, and it is highly unlikely that someone with a heart condition would be allowed the assignment without all his comrades knowing about it.
Another theory that has gone around is that the chest-clutching was the result of Norris being in the final stages of assimilation. This seems to be based on the idea that Norris was not the first assimilated, that there is no heart condition, and that a Norris-thing would have no reason to "fake" a heart condition when nobody is around to see. This simply doesn't hold up to the available facts, especially when considering that the
Thing, when imitating an organism, imitates it perfectly - including its defects. Were it to "repair" such a heart condition, it would risk drawing attention to itself.
There is little visual accountability for what an organism, being taken over from the inside, appears as.
We see this most clearly with Windows, after he is mauled by Palmer-Thing,
who appears as a bloody "glurping"
mess as he is reconstituted by Thing cells. It is doubtful that a Thing
nearing completion in this way would have been appearing for a great deal
of time as an otherwise normal human, but suddenly wracked by chest pain
from the completion of the assimilation process.
Why did Palmer-Thing point out
the escaping Norris Spider-Head?
A: It would certainly give the impression of being human, wouldn't it? :-)
Things probably watch out for each other as much as possible, but the Norris-Thing's survival was compromised. Palmer-Thing had nothing to lose (and the men's confidence to gain) at that point by pointing it out.
In the same way, it could be asked why MacReady shot Clark. The logic probably applies both ways, though in a more twisted sense to the
Why kill poor Windows?
A: It is likely that Windows was no longer human at that point. He had been viciously mauled by Palmer-Thing, in what appears to be the organism's favorite method for assimilation: violent flesh rendering and fluid injection. By the time MacReady returns from destroying Palmer-thing, Windows is sitting in the corner, recomposing, and making unusual "glurping" sounds. The tied down men scream that "It's coming back!" Windows was beyond saving, and was becoming a
Thing. MacReady had to torch him. This also lends power to
the argument that the "parent" Thing need not be present to finish the job
once it is started.
How smart is the Thing?
A: The Thing's level of
intelligence is a function of its size. The larger the Thing, the more
intelligent it is likely to be. The smaller the Thing, the less
intelligent it will be. MacReady's blood test is directly dependent on
this idea. The novel has Mac explaining his theory in greater detail
than the film:
"When attacked, it looks like even a fragment of one of these things will
try to survive as best it's able. Even a sample of its blood. Of
course, there's no higher nervous system, no brain to suppress a natural
instinct like that if it's in the best interests of the larger whole to do
so. The cells have to act instinctively instead of intelligently.
Protect themselves from freezing, say. Or from incineration. The
kind that might be caused by a hot needle, for instance." (Alan Dean Foster,
The Thing, 169)
This perhaps also accounts for why the
Norris spiderhead scurried from its hiding spot when it did. Maybe its
body mass was not sufficiently large enough to form an intelligent brain
center. Consequently, it didn't know enough not to blow its cover when
the men still presented a danger.
On the other hand, a full-sized Thing is extremely intelligent. It is theorized that it has the combined intelligences of all the organisms it has ever assimilated. This is borne out by the fact that Blair-thing, having likely been a product of either the Norwegian dog directly or one of its descendants (Norris or Palmer), has the intelligence to build a non-terrestrial ship out of helicopter and tractor parts. Blair-thing "inherited" the intelligences of its previous organisms, the knowledge being passed into the newest assimilant.
How is a Thing able to imitate
the behavior of a person so perfectly?
A: This obviously has to
do with how the Thing can retain the memories and brain patterns of its
victims. The most detailed description of this is found in the novel
as Blair explains to the other men how a Thing could take over a dog while
maintaining its canine behavior:
Blair's voice remained even, tutorial. "As
you say, the body is only designed to keep so much organic material alive
and functioning. Portion's of this dog's brain, for example, have been
blocked off by new structures. The flow of oxygenated blood has been
"In other words," Copper said quietly, "part of its brain has been turned
Blair nodded. "Certain cerebral regions were dead before this animal
died, having been supplanted in importance by new activity elsewhere."
"What regions were kill ... were turned off?"
"Difficult to say. There was massive parasitic invasion. Some of
those which control portions of the memory, intelligence, and in particular
individuality. Hard to tell with a dog, of course, be it dead or
alive." He turned his gaze back to the interlocked bodies.
"One cell is enough. The DNA pattern of the new host is irrevocably
altered. And so on and so on, each animal it takes over becoming a
duplicate of the original thing."
"You been into Childs's weed, Blair?" Norris muttered.
Blair's fist slammed onto the table. "Look, I know it's hard to
accept! I know it's difficult to picture an enemy you can't see.
But if that stuff gets into you system, in about an hour --"
"It takes you over," Fuchs finished for him.
"It's more than that, more than you becoming a part of it. The 'you'
is gone, wiped out, shunted aside permanently by a new set of cellular
instructions. It retains only what it needs of the original, the way
it used the memory patterns of the Norwegian dog to make certain it acted in
a recognizably doglike manner."
"It licked my hand," Norris murmured, "as it was being chased by those guys
in the helicopter. It came right up to me and licked my hand and
whined for help."
Blair nodded. "Sure it did. It keeps anything useful. This
organism is highly efficient, not wasteful. And it's clever.
Much too clever for my liking."
(Alan Dean Foster, The Thing, 81, 82-83)
Does a Thing know that they are a Thing?
Yes. A Thing is no longer the person that was being imitated. That person is dead, and an alien imposter is in
its place. So, there is no longer awareness coming from the human that once was for it to know or not know. Therefore, if you are sitting there wondering if you are a Thing, you
In the blood test scene, the men themselves appear to doubt their
humanity, but they probably weren't operating at peak logical power
(several days of no sleep), still didn't know 100% how the alien operated,
and were unaware that a Thing had been out consciously scavenging parts
and framing people (except for Mac, the victim of a framing, who seemed
very confident in who he is). It was also an important dramatic device to
keep the tension up in that scene.