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SYFY WIRE Merry Month of Bae

Amanda Ripley, space bae

By Stephanie Williams
Amanda Ripley

Women in space kicking all kinds of human, alien, and/or synthetic ass is a subgenre that produces some top-tier space bae content. One of its most iconic contributions, Ellen Ripley, came from the Alien franchise. Thankfully for us, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree — or, in the case of Ellen and her daughter, Amanda, the flamethrower doesn’t fall far from the sleep pod. Long after her mom made a grand gesture of love by blowing up the Nostromo and roasting a xenomorph like a Christmas ham, Amanda Ripley finds herself stepping into her mom’s jumpsuit. When the Ripley women are around, no xenomorph formed against them shall prosper. 

For those who aren’t familiar with the Alien franchise, Ellen Ripley left her daughter on earth for a job that was only supposed to keep her away for two years. Unfortunately, that return was delayed indefinitely thanks to Weyland-Yutani sending her and her crew to the gates of hell in the form of an orbiting moon named LV-426. They encounter a xenomorph that kills everyone except Ripley, and even though she survives, she’s left floating in a space lifeboat. In Aliens, Ripley is found some 57 years later, but Amanda is no longer alive. The video game and novelization, both titled Alien: Isolation, give Amanda her chance to remind us exactly whose daughter she is and why she’s without a doubt a space bae alum in her own right.


When we meet Amanda Ripley in Alien: Isolation, she’s 26 and still dealing with the trauma of never knowing exactly why her mother was unable to keep her promise to return for her 11th birthday. Fifteen years later, Amanda learns the flight recorder of the Nostromo has been located after a Weyland-Yutani android, Christopher Samuels, offers her a place on the retrieval team. She agrees to go even though she doesn’t actually trust Weyland-Yutani and doesn't believe that the flight recorder exists.

Despite her reservations, the need for closure regarding her missing mother is the deciding factor. So, Amanda makes the journey to the Seegson Cooperation space station, the supposed location of the Nostromo flight recorder. The moment that Amanda, Samuels, and the Weyland-Yutani executive Nina Taylor try to board the Seegson, all hell breaks loose. Unbeknownst to Amanda, the trajectory her life takes after her mother goes missing prepares her for every obstacle she faces while on the Seegson, including her encounters with the same creatures her mother met. Spoiler alert: Amanda is the lone survivor who not only defeats not one, not two, but several xenomorphs and a nest — and it’s not even the best part of her heroic journey. 


The Alien: Isolation novelization offers an even deeper look at the life Amanda had without her mother. She's a gifted engineer who is often far more capable than those making the decisions around her. Swap Amanda's job title for Chief Warrant Officer and this sounds awfully reminiscent of Ellen Ripley. Amanda’s uncanny intelligence and maturity are what help her survive to raise herself after her mother goes missing. The stepfather she is left with is an alcoholic who spends more time with his head tilted back than working and taking care of Amanda. At 16, she becomes the sole provider after her stepfather injures his back while drinking on the job. Amanda drops out of school, but her high aptitude for engineering helps her secure a job that keeps them from living on the street and going hungry. 

In the same way that Ellen Ripley’s determination is rooted in wanting to keep her daughter safe, Amanda’s determination is rooted in her need to find out what happened to her mother. This desire to learn Ellen's fate is used against her several times by people who want nothing more than to scam her out of what little money she has. But those encounters are crucial in helping her discern who’s helpful and who isn’t while making her way through the space station as she faces desperate humans, murderous androids, and the universe’s most lethal life form. Unlike her mother — whose story slowly unravels into chaos — Amanda's situation begins in chaos and she is forced to immediately rely on her own perseverance, engineering skills, and quick wit. For Amanda, the space station has already been ravaged by a xenomorph on the loose. However, like her mother, both their stories begin due to someone’s inability to follow protocol, forgoing it in selfishness. 


At one point, Amanda finds herself trapped on a dislodged space module, careening towards a near-by gas giant with the lone xenomorph that turned the space station into a floating coffin. Thanks to her quick thinking and desperation to survive, she manages to space jump from the module back to the space station in nothing but an EVA suit. It’s a gutsy move, but it’s one that Amanda makes without a second thought. 

Ellen Ripley would be proud of the way Amanda handles herself against everything thrown at her, including self-doubt. Amanda battles her inner demons while battling literal demons, making her survival as much of psychological horror as it is a physical one. She pretty much goes through years of therapy in the time it takes her to finally learn the truth of what happened to her mom. Amanda deals with abandonment, anxiety, depression, and host of additional baggage while fighting or running away from rogue androids and xenomorphs. She finds healing and forgiveness for herself by the time she finishes listening to the Nostromo flight recorder, which contains the same monologue Ellen Ripley gives at the end of Alien. All the time Amanda spent being angry with her mother disappears once she has a full understanding of the urgency her mother must have felt when she decided she had to prevent Weyland-Yuntani from getting their hands on a xenomorph specimen. There is beauty in the way Amanda not only accepts her destiny to join the battle against Weyland-Yutani, as her mother did years ago, but also how she acknowledges the sheer magnitude of the love her mother had for her to act so bravely and unselfishly.

Alien: Isolation ends with Amanda floating in space after destroying the ship the xenomorph was brought back on, the space station, and the ship she arrived on. She risks drifting in space until her oxygen runs out all in the vain of ensuring every single xenomorph is exterminated. It's an act of selflessness that clearly runs in the Ripley family — an act worthy of the space bae title and a spot right next to her mom's retired jumpsuit in the rafters.