Monday, 15 November 2010

Workin' For The Company: Yaphet Kotto & The Nostromo


Thanks to the hard work of Seth from Lost Video Archive, Unflinching Eye is proud to join some of the most stellar movie blogs around, in a week of appreciation for one of genre cinema's great undersung actors - Yaphet Kotto.

Alien
boasts one of the most remarkable character ensembles in SF cinema. A grumpy, disheveled assembly of seven space-weary technicians, flight crew and a scientist - all as different from each other as the alien is to Jones the cat. The crew of the USCSS Nostromo is as famously iconic as you'll find on any of SF's great starships, so it's a credit to the charisma and presence of Yaphet Kotto that he manages to stand out so memorably amongst such illustrious company. Let's take a look at Parker...

After being prematurely awoken from hypersleep ten months from Earth, there's few romantic aspects to life in deep space aboard the Nostromo. Just a workaday environment of boredom, tedious labour, routine and tense cabin fever. They're all company workers, but no one aboard the Nostromo exemplifies the banal, industrial nature of interstellar mining more than Engineering Technician Brett and Engineer Parker.


Parker is obviously a man with a chip on his shoulder, and it's not hard to see why. It may be the 22nd century, but social attitudes haven't changed much, and "starship mechanic" is still considered to be the same working class trade as corresponding positions today aboard a ship or oil rig. The work is hard and thankless, the conditions cramped, hot and filthy. Parker resents his higher paid, better off colleagues, especially the aloof, terse academic - Ash.

All J.T. Parker really wants is to get back into hypersleep, get home and get paid. And a bonus for this unscheduled and annoying detour (to some shitty little rock in the Zeta-2-Reticuli system) wouldn't go astray either dammit. Is that too much to ask of those fucking fat cat Weyland-Yutani execs? The burly engineer knows the company well, and that remuneration isn't likely, but it can't hurt to keep working on captain Dallas anyway. At the very least there's some satisfaction to be gained out of getting under the captain's skin. If life is tough for Parker, why should the captain have it any easier?

Of course, trust that stuffed shirt of a science officer to drag some obscure bylaw out of the handbook, threatening Parker with total forfeiture of pay. What an asshole. Begrudgingly, Parker concedes - sealing his fate.

But this landing on LV-426 ain't gonna be no "walk in the park".

When this bothersome detour leads to a crisis, it's Ellen Ripley who comes to the fore as a natural leader. But it's Yaphet Kotto's sarcastic and snidely obnoxious Parker who rises above his selfishness and personal grievances... to become the reluctant hero of the Nostromo.


When Kane's unimaginably violent and sudden death leaves the crew shocked out of their senses, it's Parker who instantly acts, grabbing a knife. He alone has the quick reflexes and courage to respond to the situation. However, in the heat of the moment his decisive action is foiled by Ash's desperate outburst, distracting Parker long enough for the blood-streaked alien to make it's escape. His attack with an eating utensil probably wouldn't have been very successful, but the point is that he reflexively risked injury or death in the face of appalling horror and great danger.

When Ripley is assaulted by Ash, Parker once again jumps into the fray without a moment's hesitation, heedless of his own safety - but it's his final moments that truly define the character's heroism. When Lambert is confronted by the organism, freezing her into a state of terrified paralysis, Parker doesn't turn and run. He selflessly stares death in the face, in a suicidal attempt to save the one member of the crew who has contributed the least to their survival (due to her pathetic indulgence in self-centred hysteria).


Parker's final moments are a screaming nightmare - a cold, terrified sweat erupting on his forehead just before the alien's metallic jaws smash through his cranium, instantly reducing his pink brain-matter to a gory mush.

Why did the initially cynical and selfish Parker respond in such a heroic way? Was it just guilt at ordering his friend Brett to chase Jones the cat... unintentionally sending him to his death? Or was Parker just waiting for the right time to shrug off the chip on his shoulder and fulfill his potential.

Whatever the truth was behind the man, we'll never know... Parker's molecular remains are just a vanishingly insignificant trace of stardust now. Light years from his home, forever a part of that cold quadrant of interstellar void that was his death place. All that remains on Earth, an epitaph on a lonely company bought plaque...


J.T. Parker (ID# 313/S4-08M)

Born February 4, 2080, San Diego, California, UA.

Died June 6, 2122, location unknown

We live, as we dream - alone





A WEEK OF YAPHET KOTTO:

Monday Nov. 15th
Unflinching Eye - Alien
Raculfright 13's Blogo Trasho - Truck Turner

Tuesday Nov. 16th
Lost Video Archive - Raid on Entebbe
Manchester Morgue - Friday Foster

Wednesday Nov. 17th
Booksteve's Library - Live and Let Die
Horror Section - Warning Sign

Thursday Nov. 18th
Mondo 70 - Drum
B Movies and Beyond - The Monkey Hu$tle
Cinema Gonzo - Report to the Commissioner

Friday Nov. 19th
Illogical Contraption - Eye of the Tiger
Ninja Dixon - Across 110th St.
Lines That Make Things - The A Team (TV episode)
Things That Don't Suck - Blue Collar

Saturday Nov. 20th
Breakfast In the Ruins - Bone
Lost Video Archive - The Park Is Mine

100% fresh Yaphet Kotto all week long!



5 comments:

  1. I done screwed up the time difference between Australia and the western US, LOL, just managed to post before midnight on the 15th Seattle time!

    Thanks again Seth, let's do it again!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Can I get in on this Yaphet action, and do a post over the weekend?
    Perhaps on Sunday?
    Unless your good, anyway, still going to ad the little banner for his apreciation week.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Sean, get in touch with Seth here: eatenbyworms@hotmail.com

    ReplyDelete