The Thing from Another World (often referred to as The Thing before its 1982 remake), is a 1951 science fiction film based on the 1938 novella “Who Goes There?” by John W. Campbell. The story is about an Air Force crew and scientists trapped at a remote Arctic research outpost forced to defend themselves from a humanoid alien. It was remade in 1982 by John Carpenter and yet another version of The Thing was released in 2011. The “Who Goes There?” archetype has been redone in science fiction more than any other, sometimes with a different location like on an unexplored planet or undersea, sometimes with monsters, sometimes zombies or other beings that defy description. Usually the protagonists are a group of trapped scientists or alternatively a group of stranded working stiffs like miners.
The most recent “Who Goes There?” creation is the Canadian science fiction film The Colony. The Colony stars Laurence Fishburne (The Matrix, Predators, Man of Steel, Event Horizon, Assault on Precinct 13, Apocalypse Now, M*A*S*H) and Bill Paxton (Aliens, True Lies, Twister, Predator 2, Stripes, Apollo 13, The Terminator). It’s 2045, the world is covered in snow and the few that have survived the changing environment live in colonies. They think their worst enemies are starvation and disease. Their prospects are bleak. And the real enemy this time around? Cannibals. Immediately we think of a sci-fi version of the 1993 film Alive, based on a real-life disaster in the snow-covered mountains… and cannibalism.
This whole sci-fi/adventure/action sub-genre of being trapped and fighting off an unexpected enemy prompted us to look back at some good takes on the “Who Goes There?” story. Beyond The Thing movies (and its hundred The Thing From… adaptations), you have the Alien franchise, and similarly the Predator franchise–both encountering stalking aliens in cavernous planets or spacestations and in the case of the original and the most recent Predator entry, the jungle. The Riddick films and Ghosts of Mars follow similar storylines. We also have the underwater variants in Leviathan, The Abyss, and Sphere.
Probably the best takes on the theme are in sci-fi television. It seems like every series at one time has taken on this story. Among a bunch of The Twilight Zone episodes the “trapped underwater with something else” theme comes through in “The Thirty-Fathom Grave.” A group of people in a mining colony (a pergium production station on Janus Six) in the original Star Trek are menaced by the Horta in the episode “The Devil in the Dark.” One of the best takes was in The X-Files episode “Ice” where Fox and Scully investigate a missing group of scientists in the Arctic, besieged by a parasitic lifeform. Most recently the Syfy channel series Haven featured an episode called “As You Were,” with Audrey Parker stuck on an island resort during a storm–a new location for the theme–encountering a chameleon-like entity.
The most uses of the theme can probably be found in recent Doctor Who episodes. In “Planet of the Dead,” the Doctor encounters a swarm alien when his bus is detoured to a desert planet. In the classic episode “Waters of Mars,” astronauts are surprised by a drippy zombie force that has a great impact on Earth until the Doctor changes the past. In the two-parter “The Rebel Flesh/The Almost People,” a group of clone miners become sentient and encounter a very strange surprise–their originals. In the two-parter “The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit,” The Doctor takes the TARDIS to a planetary starbase where a drilling team awakens an ancient evil.
Check out this trailer for The Colony:
The Colony has been released outside the U.S. but does not appear to have a U.S. release date yet.