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Nerds: Hicks’ time of death?

Last week a landmark event occurred which may have slipped under the radar, or seismometer, or whatever contraption is used to measure the coming together of nerd like minds (A Wheatonometer? “Wow, that convention was at least point six Wils” — yeah, that works for me).

Anyway, for reasons which will be discussed at a later date, The Furman Machine’s Furious,’s very own Buzzmoo and yours truly were together in the same state, in fact the same room for the first time ever. That’s right folks, in the whole time that Furious, Buzzmoo, The Romulans and myself were killing time making the Victory 04 machinima series or any of the various other projects that we’ve slapped together over the last six or so years, there’d never been more than two of us in a room together at once.

With a collection of nerds like that in the one place it wasn’t long before the inevitable happened. That’s right, we started arguing about a ridiculous and completely pointless event in a science fiction film.

The film(s)? Aliens/Alien3. The bone of contention? The character Hicks’ (played by Michael Biehn) time of death.

The debate began when I made an off handed comment about Biehn having probably one of the highest death rates of any actor that I could think of, meaning that his characters rarely survive to the ending of a movie. I was immediately challenged, so began naming the movies that he’s been (and died) in, but didn’t get any further than Aliens before topic took on a life of it’s own.

When did Hicks die? At the end of Aliens the three surviving characters (Hicks, Ripely and Newt) go into some kind of hypersleep/stasis state. However during the opening moments of Alien3 we discover that their ship has crashed and that neither Newt or Hicks survived the impact leaving Ripely to pull a Brittany — shave her head and hang around with questionable characters — while we’re all left wondering what the point of having Hicks and Newt survive to the end of the previous movie was?

Our old friend Wikipedia defines Stasis or Hypersleep as: “a science fiction concept akin to suspended animation. Whereas suspended animation usually refers to a greatly reduced state of life processes, stasis implies a complete cessation of these processes, which can be easily restarted or restart spontaneously when stasis is removed.”

In my interpretation if there was a ‘complete cessation’ of Hicks ‘state of life processes’ then that can only mean that his ‘living’ condition was also suspended. Meaning that he was neither alive OR dead until the point at which his condition changes. So, given that he never returns a living state his condition has to be dead! And therefore that condition status is retroactive to the point at which he enters hypersleep… meaning he ceased to be alive prior to the end of Aliens.

Of course I’m not claiming that I’m 100% right here – I don’t have to, it’s obvious that I am – but I’ve made this post so that the debate can continue. I know that Buzzmoo has more to say on the subject… so have at it! [source]

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    It is an interesting arguement.
    Dead or Not-Dead (Undead??) However, I would imagine that the deep stasis was only for the sake of the powers-that-be who decide who is going to star in the next movie and who isn’t.
    In this case, if they hadn’t decided to ‘revive’ the roles of Hicks and Newt, then it could be concluded that the characters were indeed not-dead and the intention was to revive them in a sequel.
    If not, the final scene would have been Ripley (with hair) getting the heck out there after Hicks and Newt meet an untimely (and very possibly gruesome end).
    Mind you, I think that the start of the next movie with the matter-of-fact and very impersonal news that both Hicks and Newt were dead adds a real-ness about the death factor. There is, after all, no meaning or sense to the whole death process. It just happens.
    To anyone.
    at any age.
    And it doesn’t matter how much you say to someone that you won’t let anything happen to them, as Ripley did in fact do with Newt, that you can possibly stop it.
    Just adds more guilt for the character of Ripley to bring to her revived role.
    Interesting that her following Alien move was indeed ‘Resurection’…
    How low will those movie boffins go to actually cheat death???

  • I completely agree that the whole thing boils down to the powers that be not wanting/affording the actors who played Newt and Hicks for the third film – There’s also the fact that there were quite a few *important* years pass (between the making of Aliens and Alien3) in Carrie Henn’s life (the girl who played Newt) and she probably wouldn’t have been able to pull off the whole ‘cute little girl’ act anymore.

    But the real question is did Biehn’s character technically *survive* the film – My argument is NO: From the point that he entered hypersleep he didn’t breath ,or think again, or stop any Terminators again, therefore = DEAD.

    Had he been revived from hypersleep then IMO he would have *technically* have *survived* Aliens.

    Had Alien3 been set years after they arrived back at their destination and in the intervening years he’d fallen off a ladder and died resulting in his character not being in the third film, then I’d still consider that he *survived* Aliens… it’s the fact that his status is *SUSPENDED* at the end of the film (Aliens) and that his condition never returns to *LIVING* that I’m taking issue with.

    Well, not really “taking issue with” but more “being a huge freakin nerd and arguing about something completely meaningless for no apparent reason”! :D

  • Okay…here’s the thing. Elroy, despite the fact that you friggin’ nerds might not agree with him, is right. Regardless of what the definition of stasis is, we have to work within the mythos of Aliens. At the beginning of the film, Ripley survives for fifty years in a hypersleep chamber. During this time, she DOESN’T age. Her cells have stopped growing, dividing and dying. This means that she is essentially ‘suspended’. All her vital functions – breathing, heartbeat and thought – have stopped. The cessation of these processes induces a death-like state, therefore, Hicks died the moment he entered the hypersleep chamber. Sorry, you lose. He’s in your base killing your men. Give up, n00bs.

  • When I started reading this, I thought it was about David Hicks. I thought “he’s not dead!”.

    Anyway, I think Hicks was undead, or possible not-not-dead, until the crash where he finally was dead. So he wasn’t alive, or dead. Thank you.

  • Let me just start by saying that I LOVE a good discussion/slash/arguement!!

    If stasis IS (arguably) death, then where is decay? Surely if Hicks was dead, even snap frozen, there would be signs of decay! Therefore, it is only natural to consider that he’s STILL ALIVE!!

    HE’S ALIVE! (ominous flashing white light followed closely by the crashing sounds of thunder…)

    Therefore, it is safe to say, the Producers’s did it, with the screen script, in the producer’s library.

    In the library, with the screen script, by the Producers.

    Game over.

  • Wait, wait, wait! I’m not saying that he *IS* dead and decaying when he enters stasis… heck, why the hell would you get into one of those things in the first place if you were just going to wake up all gooey and riddled with maggots.. ewwww!

    Also, the reasons why he didn’t appear in the third film (producers or otherwise) don’t really come into play here – because regardless of why he died (in a plot or practical sense) his character is none the less DEAD. What we’re attempting to determine here is not WHO or WHAT, but WHEN (and maybe a little WHERE) he died.

    Now, back to the pointlessness… What I’m saying is that his STATUS (condition, amount of aliveness, call it what you will) is in suspended! Think it like this, his condition (on paper) is neither dead OR alive – if someone says “Hey, that guy in that box thing there – he dead?” you can’t answer with 100% certainty.

    In a way it’s like the whole Schrödinger’s cat thingy. He isn’t really dead or alive until he is either revived from Stasis or a situation occurs where his unable to ever be revived – In Hicks case, a thumping great steel bar suddenly parted his torso.

    My argument is that, because his condition is in suspension and that it never returns to a state where the box next to “Is Alive” gets checked, his time of death therefore has to be the moment that his condition went to ALIVE to SUSPENDED.

  • Having thought about it since our intitial discussion, I’ve come to this way of thinking:

    He’s not really alive or dead in a physical sense – he’s in a seperate place to where concepts like life and death exist.

    However, if you want to remain true to the emotion of the piece, at that part of the story, then Hicks is alive (albeit in a bad state) when the credits roll – there is hope that they’ll find rescue, and Hicks will be fine, and Ripley, Newt and Hicks will form some kind of family.

    The emotion supersedes actual clinical fact. As the audience, I want to know that life goes on after such a deathly rollercoaster that is Aliens, that there is some sort of hope, despite the truth that none of them may ever wake up from what is analogous to a real-life coma.

  • The argument really has nothing to do with the context of the story – it’s more about the technicalities of being in stasis.

    Forget hicks, forget aliens… if you are never revived from stasis WHEN is your time of death?

  • Ok then, if we are talking about the cold hard technicalities.

    Hicks, like Schrödinger’s cat, is neither live nor dead whilst in stasis, that’s a given.

    What I guess is the crux of the matter, in this case, is to determine the cause of death

    1) Was Hick’s injuries before he was put in stasis life-threatening? Would those injuries (given future medical treatment) cause certain death?
    2) Putting aside stasis, what would have killed him?

    I think that the fact of stasis postponed the actual time of his death. Without it, he most certainly would have died (given the context of the story).

    It’s just unfortunate that ‘shit’ (aka the skewering) happened. While he had life-threatening injuries, that was the real nail in the coffin.

  • Has anyone given any thought as to why they were in ‘stasis’ at the end of the movie?
    It could very well have finished with the three of them hugging and crying with relief as their ship disappears into the distance (queue ‘Star Wars’ like credits.)
    Could it be that they hadn’t decided whether they wanted to ‘pull the plug’ on the characters or not at the end of the movie?
    Seems like ‘stasis’ is a good place to shelve their characters at the end of a movie while they decide the fiscal possibilities of a sequel.
    Therefore, it is a strong possibility that they are both dead AND alive.
    Long live Schrodinger’s cat.

  • My thinking is that it was a neat reference to the first film, which finished in much the same way, albeit only Ripely and the cat (whose name escapes me) in hypersleep – I don’t recall if there was a reference in the fourth film, but there was the echo of Ripely’s radio transmission (from the first film) in the third.

    I agree with what both you and Furious are saying – they are, while in stasis, neither alive nor dead…

    Their condition is NOT dead and is NOT alive.
    Therefore the are both alive AND dead – because NOT ALIVE means dead and NOT DEAD means alive.

    Let me try to put another spin on it – Lets say you open Schrödinger’s box and find a dead cat in there.. if the cat’s condition UP UNTIL you opened the box was considered unknowable (or both alive AND dead)… What moment do we then consider the poor cat’s demise to have been? The moment it entered the box, or the moment we opened it?

    Now, if we’re saying that the moment the cat enters the box it is considered BOTH alive AND dead, then it’s time of death is the moment it entered the box. Sure, we’re also saying that the cat is alive while in the box… But we’re also saying it’s dead too!

  • “When I started reading this, I thought it was about David Hicks. I thought “he’s not dead!”.” – i thought the same thing when Elroy called me in regards to the topic recently!

    I think what Furious says is important – it is clearly the producer’s intention to leave the audience with a sense of hope, so you’d expect Hicks still to be alive.

    If the Alien universe hypersleep is anything less than suspended animation, there’s no doubt he was alive at the end of Aliens!

  • In clinical terms a person is not dead until they are warm and dead – in order for a medical officer to assign a certification, all efforts to revive him (including warming him to >36C and maintaining cardiac output as best possible) need to have been made. He will need to have been found, revived/warmed and reassessed before being flung through the out chute (hopefully with a basketball net around it ;D).
    Therefore he is very much alive until just before the third film, technically.
    Jonesy is the cat.
    At what point is Carrie Henn cute?! When her death is announced early in Alien3 I heard people cheer in the audience I was in. In fact I think it was Elroy!

  • That’s all well and good for you E.R. fans – but what do your medical journals have to say about Suspended Animation and Stasis machines Eh?

    Yeah, that was me cheering at the little girl’s death… I’m odd like that. Seriously though, I understand WHY they thought that having that character in the second movie would work — Giving her someone to bond with and replace her long dead daughter — but adding a smarmy little kid to a cast like that just means groans of disgust at lines like “mommy said that monsters aren’t real, but they are!”.

    So, yeah, I was happy that they whacked her at the start of Aliens3 – I only wish they’d had a couple of Aliens fight over her in the previous movie.

    Oh and by the way =- she doesn’t factor in to the whole time of death thing, because she apparently drowned when the pod crashed.. so she must have at least attempted to breath.