And Another Thing

I went to see “The Thing” the other day, and was treated to perhaps the sharpest slice of satire on democratic capitalism I’d seen in years. It’s the tale of three vacuous charismatic twentysomethings who go to a movie. They line up in their chairs with Cokes in hand, and — well, see for yourself:

I couldn’t have shown it better: the world transforming itself into a magical place full of wonder and enchantment while these bubbleheaded morons suck back their Big Gulps and stare slack-jawed at a corporate logo in the sky, utterly oblivious to the world-changing events unfolding around them. I don’t think there could be a more scathing commentary packed into such a short span of seconds. The fact that it was most likely inadvertent1 only adds to the tingle; and the fact that no one else in the audience seemed to get it only sharpens the point.

Too bad the main feature didn’t live up to the short.

To be honest, I didn’t really know what to expect from this Thingquel. The official reviews were pretty crappy — given my recent overdrive head-down push to get this damn novel done by the month’s end, I seriously considered skipping it entirely — but then again, Carpenter’s 1982 version was savaged by the critics upon its release, and is today recognised as a classic. Also, as most of you know, I have a certain emotional connection to the franchise. So I put the back end of Dumbspeech away for the afternoon, braced myself with a couple of pints, and headed into the Multiplex.

Minor spoilers follow. You have been warned.

To start with, it’s not as terrible as some folks are saying. There’s a moment or two of something approaching true pathos on the journey. The variation on the blood-test scene, while not as dramatic as in the original, makes sense. One scene near the end contains either a nice moment of deliberate ambiguity, or a memo from the producers to the effect that the production was going over budget and they’d have to scale back the CGI on that last bit (I’m talking about the earring scene, for those of you in the know). And speaking of CGI, I’m not on board with those who decried its use here; had Rob Bottin had access to that technology back when he was doing Carpenter’s film, you can be damn sure he would’ve gone to town with it. The ending of the movie does bolt quite nicely onto the beginning of the ’82 film; and at least I was never bored.

But the fact is, when I first saw The Thing back in 1982 I came away thinking that I had seen a classic. I didn’t care how many critics shat on it; I knew what I’d seen, and I thought it rocked, and in the three decades since my view has remained unshaken. This movie? No fucking way.

For one thing, there are just too many similarities between the two films for me to accept that this is truly a prequel and not just a remake. This goes beyond the fact that both films feature camps mysteriously well-equipped with flamethrowers. Too many plot elements have been cut-and-pasted from one to the other; the direction and cinematography of too many 2011 scenes seem to have dropped through a wormhole from 1982. In both movies, characters under suspicion are locked in the shed; in both, they escape by digging through the floor. Both movies feature scenes in which a group of increasingly-paranoid characters bicker and argue over what to do about the potentially-thinged cast members trapped outside in the storm, and in both cases the argument is cut short when said potential-thingers break into the main building through a window. The 2011 Thing has a scene in which parka’d survivors cluster in the dark around a pile of thingly remains, lit from behind by the lights of their snowcats and wondering how to tell human from imitation; even the framing of that shot was so spot-on that for a moment I actually wondered if they hadn’t just spliced in footage from the ’82 version as a cost-cutting measure.

Some of this may have been unavoidable. After all, there’s a logistical limit to how widely divergent scenarios can be when both involve the same shape-shifting alien infiltrating isolated Antarctic research stations. And remakes are not in and of themselves a bad thing; except in this case the director is on record as explicitly stating he didn’t want to do a remake because the original Carpenter movie was “perfect”. There’s no point in redoing something unless you bring a new perspective to the material. Eric Heisserer’s script gives us nothing that Carpenter didn’t do better.

There are other problems, deriving not from the use of CGI in principle so much as from the temptations that result when such technology is too easily invoked: the desire to show cool squick trumps basic storytelling logic. For example, we are shown early on that the Thing can fragment at a whim. An arm will drop off, sprout centipede legs, race across the floor and hump some poor bastard’s face like the facehugger from Alien. Pieces chopped in half will skitter autonomously across the wall, meet up again after work at Starbucks, and reintegrate without a second thought. Given that, we should never see a scene in which the protagonist finds refuge in a space that’s too small for the alien to follow her into; all the Thing has to do is split into smaller pieces. Except we do, and it doesn’t.

Seriously?

I’ve also spent the past thirty years assuming that the burned monstrosity MacReady found at the Norwegian camp had been killed in the process of transformation: an alien caught with its pants down and dispatched before it had a chance to zip back up. Now we find out that that wasn’t the case at all. The Thing morphed into some weird deformity with two upside-down, half-fused faces, a variety of spliced-together bug/human limbs, and a gait so awkward the damn thing could have been a poster child for spinal meningitis— and it just kinda leaves itself like that, spending the next ten minutes stalking red shirts through the halls. I mean, isn’t the whole point of the Thing that it blends in? And even if it did decide that the whole imitation riff had run its course and it was time to come out fighting, wouldn’t it choose some kick-ass predatory phenotype that was, you know, integrated? Why choose an ill-fitting hodgepodge of twisted body parts that wouldn’t be caught dead together outside some cheap carnival freak show?

Well, obviously, because it looks cool.

Leaving the theatre, I didn’t feel that I’d completely wasted my money — but only because I can write the ticket price off as a tax deduction. I cannot in honesty recommend this film to anyone without the same option. That said, though, I retain a certain fondness for van Heijningen Jr.’s vision; it may tank on its own merits, but it’s certainly rebooted interest in my own take on the story. io9 posted a glowing piece on “The Things”, calling me a “master of scifi mindfuckery”. Simon Pegg tweeted its praises. When the movie actually premiered, the twitterverse filled up with don’t-waste-your-time-on-the-remake-read-Peter-Watts’s-story-instead messages, a signal boosted by folks ranging from a World Federation Pro Wrestler to the front man for Anthrax. Last I heard it had even landed on the front page of IMDB, which presumably gave Clarkesworld’s hit count a nice boost.

So, yeah. On balance, I really liked that movie. Just not for any of the reasons that would make you actually go see it.

————————————

1At least, I assume it was inadvertent — although a part of me hopes that some self-aware realist working in the belly of the beast took an opportunity to shake his ball sack in the faces of the sheep he was helping to fleece, knowing they’d be too stupid to get the joke.

This entry was written by Peter Watts , posted on Sunday October 23 2011at 10:10 am , filed under ink on art . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

50 Responses to “And Another Thing”

  1. As I watched the film, my friends and I debated the relative merits of what happened and why they made the choices they did. In some ways, we thought the film was hampered by the fact it was made in 2011. No one would have the patience for what Carpenter did in 1982.

    The other sense I received was this was a very expensive fan film. Everyone on there loved the original. You could tell they went through and wrote the screenplay based on shots from the Norwegian base settings. But all the earnestness in the world can’t safe you from some questionable story choices. Their explanation for the half melted creature in the snow wasn’t as interesting as it could have been.

    Their love and ambition outstripped their abilities.

  2. Peter, have you seen “Monsters” from last year? I think you might like it. The aliens _are_ quite squidlike!

  3. This is pretty much what I was afraid the movie was going to turn out to be: a “more of the same” remake under a thin veneer of prequelness, only without the smarts that made the ’82 version so good. On the plus side, it’ll most likely get more people to watch Carpenter’s Thing. And read a certain piece of fanfic that’s been going around.

    As for the AMC ad, yeah that’s probably not quite how they intended you to look at it.

  4. I have seen a few discussion online by people that would have been a lot happier if they’d just read “the Things” before trying to watch this film.

  5. The real classic, imho, is the original story Who Goes There? Which by the way also had flame throwers and for a very plausible, explicitly mentioned reason: to warm up outside machinery to the point where their own IC engines could turn over. Their supply planes couldn’t take off without a pre-warmup after spending an Antarctic night outside.

  6. Let me amend that: the original story had blowtorches. Whether the movie protagonists are equipped with blowtorches, blowtorches modified to be flamethrowers, or just in-your-face flamethrowers (which would indeed be very silly) is something I have no direct knowledge of.

  7. I agree with you about the odd Thing behavior. It’s never good when you have to invent your own rationalizations to make things seen on the screen make sense.

    I watched the Carpenter version immediately after the prequel, and discovered that you can assume the Thing has a bit of a character arc going — that in the prequel it’s not very cautious, while in the Carpenter film it’s learned and is much smarter. It kind of makes sense, though I’m not sure it was intentional on the filmmakers’ part.

    During the sequence where Kate the scientist hides out in the ship and the Thing somehow can’t reach her, I thought I saw smoke from the tunnel, which made me think that maybe the fellow with the flamethrower was attacking it at that moment on the other end and thus distracting it. It consumed the guy and came back to deal with Kate when she got her hands on the grenade, or so I thought. If I’m wrong, my explanation still makes a hell of a lot more sense, heh.

    It’s not entirely out of character for the franchise to have moments like that. Consider the way Nauls just wanders off without saying anything at the end of the Carpenter film, or the way the Thing makes its final manifestation and then just sort of stands there showing off what ugly shapes it can make while MacReady grabs the dynamite.

  8. […] Watts has an interest in the remake of The Thing (see here for why), and he has some entertaining things to say: “For one thing, there are just too many similarities between the two films for me to accept […]

  9. Best part of this post: The implication that Dumbspeech is only weeks away from being finished.

  10. “Best part of this post: The implication that Dumbspeech is only weeks away from being finished.”

    YES! I can’t believe I missed that!

  11. And speaking of trumped storytelling logic, did the writers fail to realize that having the Thing return to a WORKING crashed ship causes what little narrative logic remained to recoil in horror and smack the audience right in the mouth?

    Admittedly, I might have missed something (I was, by that time, doing a fair impression of Tom Servo), but the only reasonable justification for the Thing’s surface crawl was that the ship was kaput and its best survival chance lay on the surface. Moreover, why would Wilford Brimley’s crotchety ass attempt to build, in the classic original, a working flying saucer if it had access to a fully functional rig a short dog-run away? I can suspend disbelief, but the amount of neural pathway suppression required for that contortion isn’t possible sober. With a working ship, the rest simply doesn’t happen.

    The pleasure of the original resided in the fact that all of the Thing’s moves made sense, if one thought in terms of survival logic dictated by the creature’s biology – something that Peter captured so well in “The Things.” That little exercise in game theory simply doesn’t exist in this prequel.

    If anyone chooses to go, bring your jar of moths.

  12. “…when I first saw The Thing back in 1982 I came away thinking that I had seen a classic.” I think you did.

    And the not-really-rhetorical-at-all question is; Was the 2011 movie really that bad, or are you now (30 years wiser) a bit more cynical? I can’t return to stories or films that I loved 30 years ago, I’m also getting very swift to call se-pre-and-side-quels as bullshit – but is that bad storytelling or a harder audience?

    Month’s end, huh?

  13. It consumed the guy and came back to deal with Kate when she got her hands on the grenade, or so I thought.

    mmmyes. An Antarctic research station with not only flamethrowers but also grenades?

  14. @ajay: Hey, that’s a detail that’s in the Carpenter movie too! All these scientists are armed to the teeth.

    @That One Guy: By the time of the Carpenter version, the saucer has been blowed up.

    Maybe the Thing wasn’t wearing its seatbelt when the saucer crashed?

  15. Hey, that’s a detail that’s in the Carpenter movie too! All these scientists are armed to the teeth.

    They were Americans.

  16. @Dan: Yes, I saw “Monsters”. Liked it quite a bit.

    @Mike:

    or the way the Thing makes its final manifestation and then just sort of stands there showing off what ugly shapes it can make while MacReady grabs the dynamite.

    I have to self-squee a bit here, and point out that I explained that in “The Things”; it wasn’t really showing off. Bits of the whole had retained residual senses of individuality — essentially, the Thing had been contaminated by the cancerous mindset — and some of the dog parts were trying to remanifest. That was the thing literally trying to hold itself together when it started to come apart at the worst possible time.

    @That One Guy: But wasn’t the ship rendered inoperable by the grenade detonation at its heart?

  17. It sounds like this would have worked best not as a feature film, but as a pilot to a tv series. And the more I think about it, the more I realize I’d totally watch a TVThing (especially if you were the creative consultant). It could have all the tension about identity, humanity, and simulation that BSG had, while also being genuinely scary. You could set it in a small town that becomes isolated over the winter, or shoot it 24-style over the course of a single day. The implication of the original story has always been that the Thing would pose a disastrous threat if it actually got beyond the confines of the ice, and it would be interesting to see that play out — especially with humans who don’t have ready access to blood test equipment or a surplus of flamethrowers.

  18. “It sounds like this would have worked best not as a feature film, but as a pilot to a tv series.”

    Now that I would love to see.

  19. I never saw the original, or in fact knew it had a connection to your story (although I loved your story).

    I think I’ll see the original.

  20. Hard to imagine the research station not having tiger torches, a variety of fuels and several people able to weld/with the other mechanical skills needed to make something that functions as a flamethrower. Tiger torching cold engines is fairly common practice in cold climes. No, I have not done it myself. Gets difficult to warm anything up once it gets down below -50C, though, especially if it is big and conducts. Running an engine continuously or starting/running it for a while on a schedule to prevent cooling might be more practical for that.

    I vote for a TV show set over a winter. Most of the isolated northern towns I know are littered with frozen animals parts from a wide variety of species. You could have a lot of fun plotting a shape-shifting alien in that kind of setting.

    Still want to see this film version, of course…

  21. I showed this post to my friend Garg from Hungary, made a passing reference to your sense of humor (although I’ve mentioned it to him before).

    He told me a funny story about when he and his friends watched it as teenagers. First the title made them giggle ( “is this porn?”) and when the screen showed “KURT RUSSELL” and they had to pause the film to laugh ( “yup, it is porn” :D).

    Punchline:
    kúrt = fucked in Hungarian

  22. @Peter Watts: But wasn’t the ship rendered inoperable by the grenade detonation at its heart?

    True enough, but my thinking lies in the initial need for the Thing to leave the ship. The original(s) lead us to believe that the Thing flees to the surface as a bid for survival upon the crash of its ship. Presumably the survival chances are greater on the surface, either via risking travel or simply freezing and waiting to be found or waiting out a climate shift. This implies that the ship was damaged or destroyed in the initial crash, otherwise there would be no need to crawl out onto the ice. If the ship still worked, it could simply have hung out on board, or flown to a area richer in biomass immediately after the crash occurred. Perhaps I am wrong, but it seems that the entire survival-based plot hinges upon the crisis of the crashed ship.

  23. @fvngvs:

    And the not-really-rhetorical-at-all question is; Was the 2011 movie really that bad, or are you now (30 years wiser) a bit more cynical? I can’t return to stories or films that I loved 30 years ago, I’m also getting very swift to call se-pre-and-side-quels as bullshit – but is that bad storytelling or a harder audience?

    I may be more cynical, but I’ve rewatched Carpenter’s movie countless times since 1982 (most recently a few months ago, and I pretty much had it on endless loop while I was writing “The Things”) and it continues to impress the half-century PW as much as the puppy PW. The same dumbnesses rankle — that dumb computer simulation, the FX gaffe where Copper’s arms break off a couple of inches above the chomping chest — but the same smartnesses continue to turn my crank.

    @That One Guy: Yeah, well, I grant the point. I’ve already raised my token defense on that score, and this movie’s not worth any Eddie Greenspan efforts.

  24. Or even a half-serious Lionel Hutz effort. It just burns that the smartness of the Carpenter version was seemingly the first thing scrapped in the remake rush. I enjoyed that Carpenter’s Thing’s survival moves made sense. The lack in the prequel seems indicative of audience contempt, something clearly endemic lately (well, more so) in Hollywood. Plus, I actually paid to see this . . .

  25. I totally agree with you about the AMC commercial you posted, Peter. What total mindless douchebags those three are. So sad yet straight up corporate. I often wonder if that’s exactly how most CEOs see the general public — as drones who consume instead of feeling any kind of wonder at all.

    They must, right? I mean, in order to do what they do and sell us what they sell?

    Message: Coke is more important than your survival instincts.

    “Amused to Death” indeed. Rogers Waters might’ve been on to something.

  26. Oooh…the TV show could be at a fly-in Arctic placer gold mine…that way the Thing(s) could have the regular northern critters to shape from and access to Ice age DNA. Mammoth crossed with short-faced bear anyone?

    They’d still have flame thrower building gear, but no blood-testing equipment. Plus they would have giant, high-volume water hoses and high temperature/high temperature steam point, which…you know…might come in handy.

  27. Gah..that would be.steam point S


  28. I couldn’t have shown it better: the world transforming itself into a magical place full of wonder and enchantment while these bubbleheaded morons suck back their Big Gulps and stare slack-jawed at a corporate logo in the sky, utterly oblivious to the world-changing events unfolding around them. I don’t think there could be a more scathing commentary packed into such a short span of seconds.

    Was it ever that different? If things are not awful, most people don’t care much about things that are beyond their day to day existence.

  29. 1. Yay! Posts
    2. Yay! Dumbspeach
    3. Thanks for the warning about the movie.

  30. GIven the topic of discussion, this seems as good a place as any to throw this marvelous little piece into the mix.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8faq5amdK30

  31. Damn. I knew I’d forgotten to include something.

  32. For anyone who’s curious, some population data on small Alaskan towns: http://www.city-data.com/city/Alaska3.html

    Our best candidate is Adak, AK, a ghost town on an island in the western Aleutians. As of 2010, it had a population of 326 people. It is not in radio frequency, but is the home to a former military base. (The abandoned naval housing is now rented out to hunters, birders, and seasonal fishery employees. You need a pass from the Aleut Corporation to even visit. It’s fascinating.) Food supplies and assistance are entirely dependent on the “air schedule.” Aside from water and caribou meat, everything has to be flown in between storms. From the perspective of the Thing, it’s a great place to start: a small, easily-overrun population that can become a nest that draws future vectors. From a storytelling perspective, it could quickly become claustrophobic and unbearably tense.

    Wow, now I really want to set something there. Hmm.

    Also, I meant to share this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SppG-I_Dhxw

    This guy claims that Childs was infected, in large part because he changes coats. (He’s a turncoat! Get it?)

  33. I haven’t yet seen “The Thing” [sequel], though it’s a little depressing to contemplate that there was such a good opportunity here (and an opportunity with precedent) that got fluffed. What impressed me with the original was that it was a classic story of life vs. death–in which life was the bad guy. This, also, was why I though Peter’s quasi-eponymous story was so good: not only did it amplify this aspect of the original, but it did so by subordinating the ‘life’ in question to the laws of Darwinian selection.

    As for the opening vignette about the bubble-headed morons, it reminds me of nothing so much as the anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss’s comment on the current cultural dispensation:

    [The madness of our times] lies in a sort of growing stupidity of man in front of himself; as though nothing except what he himself created could have any value whatsoever, be it intellectual or monetary, while so many marvels, untouched by market value, remain inaccessible.

  34. “while so many marvels, untouched by market value, remain inaccessible”

    THIS

  35. I like the series idea, whether tv or written, but more if it takes the premise in your short story as the start. With that premise the villain is not as unequivocally neutral as the force of nature in The Rifters organism. A reader would not automatically take the destruction of The Thing as an absolute necessity.

    the stories could be amazing to read. lots of wonder and horror at the same time! and compassion and tragedy and … dudes should totally write this.

  36. I thought of this blog when I saw this take-down of the WSJ’s Robert Bryce and his comment on climate change:

    http://sci-ence.org/neutrino/

  37. For the TV series, an added bonus would be that small Alaskan towns in winter are the favourite targets of vampires. (30 Days of Night series.) Will the blood test still work with vampiric Things? Will the extra-terrestrial invasion grind to a halt as all the Things become merely moderately creepy and sparkly Kristen Stewart stalkers?

  38. @Peter: I recently reread “Things” and I definitely noticed you had a clever explanation worked in for how the alien behaves at the end. Well done, sir!

  39. Okay, saw it. I didn’t develop flaming hatred, but damn, I can see where some Internet commenters come from.

    The film’s grist for the “prequels are a creatively bankrupt idea” mill and a child of its time. That might just me being cranky, but Hollywood seems to have entirely devolved into placing profit maximization (usually achieved by pandering to the lowest common denominator) above all else, rendering artistic quality an afterthought at best. Case in point, as noted the script’s almost a carbon copy of the original, possibly because the suits wanted to maximize the margin by cutting corners in the writing department and exploiting nostalgia. The results of such methods are almost ever aggressively anemic and vacuous.

    A sequel build around your (re-)interpretation on the other hand… ever thought about contacting Carpenter and suggesting a collaboration? 😉

  40. @Hugh: Superhuman nigh unkillable predatory monsters infected with an alien organism that can consume memories and shapeshift into a variety of horrific forms? Yeah, we’ve moved from Carpenter territory into full on [Prototype] mode.

    And it is AWESOME.

  41. I would have liked to have seen the original script by Ron Moore. It would almost have to be better.

    And I’m really liking this extended TV miniseries idea.

  42. @Hugh: oh no, no vampires! Especial not paranormal. You didn’t mean paranormal did you?

    If the setting was in something like a Blindsight based universe, then maybe blampires would be acceptable. But you’d be running in to the risk of laying on too many concepts all at once for a tv series. IF the pacing was right, and the story was careful. novel, ok. tv series? tricky.

    set too far in the future? the humans would have access to a lot more resources. limited resources is a cool basis. if they don’t have access to a lot more resources, then why not?

    set far in the future though, other cool possibilities. take Blindsight for example, how does the Thing interact with beings with cognitive prostheses? easier or more difficult? different. what about blamps or bioengineered earth based biologies. what about co-opting Thing to have weaponized Thing…

    fun stuff

  43. I just think it would be hard to have the neat future concepts handled well in a tv medium.

  44. @Hugh: the sparkly would clearly be a defense mechanism engineered in to people as a Thing defense.

    it’s too bad the adolescents who take the treatment become stuck in the sullen teenager phase.

  45. I think a miniseries would have to be set present day. Maybe the Thing has been cosplaying as an animal for a while, until it finds the right human community to embed itself within. (That whole Littlest Hobo schtick seemed to work pretty well, in the past. And there’s nothing saying the Thing can’t be, say, a whale. Or a pod of them, for that matter.) But once it’s in a human community for longer than a couple of days, I think things could get pretty interesting — no pun intended. What about the louts whose assimilation is an improvement? Spouses who think their marriages have really turned around, parents who think their kids have truly learned their lesson, doctors who think their parents have finally kicked the habit — all of them kindly deceived by Things. Even after that deceit is discovered, they might not want the imposters to leave. And you’d get people who wanted to be assimilated, too — people who feel suicidally lonely, who want the sense of oneness offered by the collective. But you’d also get all the drama of a small town environment disrupted by a terrible threat — a sort of Twin Peaks story with a definite antagonist who has real goals. The Things could be drawn into those small town secrets just as much as the audience would be — they a real stake in preserving the community and its health, and would be weeding out competitors in the form of drug dealers, murderers, etc. The Things would become the good guys, in a Dexter-ous sort of way.

    Damn it. Now I want this to be real.

  46. @Sheila Yes I did mean paranormal vampires. Selling out – er, creative compromise – will be required to get this show made.

    Hmmm…how about the Things deduce from a study of current US/western media that blood sucking humanoids are actually quite popular with a large segment of the population? From the Thing point of view, you are less likely to be attacked by maniacs with flamethrowers if you adopt a pale skinned blood drinking form.

  47. @Madeline I see that. This would, naturally, allow for metaphorical discussions about religion, class, conformity, gender, etc. Via 20-something actors/actresses playing truculent teenagers, but suspiciously dressed and make-upped as if they were in a soap. Gotta have that.

    It would fly, though. I don’t think we have reached saturation point yet for mythological creatures, heroes, villians given the soap opera treatment on tv.

  48. @Hugh, I would let you have ONE episode to do goofy-assed vampire shit. MAYBE. it would have to be funny like that one x-files episode told from the point of view of Mulder then Scully or visa versa. that was cute. but I don’t mean you are supposed to copy that story, or the Rashomon thing.

    you will run the risk it will be too clever for its own good.

    So I’m going to say you should probably avoid the vampires entirely.

    I mean, …if I was the tv dictator.

  49. Just out of curiosity, are people dedicated and talented enough to put on ten minute fan episodes of a hypothetical tv series? I would enjoy watching something like that.

  50. Interesting ideas, Sheila. A miniseries of The Thing.

    Hmm…

    If I was going to do a series like this, I’d move it three thousand years into the future, where the next Ice Age is ending, humanity is different, and The Thing’s ship is once again discovered.

    Remnants of frighteningly advanced technology still exist but are harnessed by some kind of AI overseer, a corporately created entity who’s the first to alert the few remaining humans that something strange has been found in the Mid-Pacific.

    It’s a ship, the entity mind-transmits.

    And no genomic mass on this world built it.

    Investigate.

    The AI’s motives are kept hidden as eternally living humans and somewhat freakish post-humans are sent in glowing energy bubbles (a technology only the AI still understands) to see it. They push aside darkly polluted water, surround the ship with their combined energy bubbles, sensitize their organically computerized skins, and with baited breath, enter the ship.

    This is their story.

    The Thing in our time is wonderful, and I loooove Carpenter’s film. Love it. But imagine The Thing’s million-year mutational survival instinct facing off against humanity’s futuristic best.

    Would it end like Carpenter’s “The Thing,” or would something radically different happen because of humanity’s programmed evolution?

    Could The Thing alter its baseline, borrowing advanced human technology, and eventually infect an artificial intelligence? What would humanity do then?

    These are just my thoughts. Maybe they’d be better served in a book or short story instead of in an HBO miniseries. Anyway, there you go.

    I hope you become tv dictator, Sheila.