Money in “Alien”

In the Alien series, they talk a lot about “The Company” and its “shares” but they never rely on exposition. Why are shares so important? I have a theory.

“The Company” is the Weyland-Yutani Corporation, an immense corporate conglomerate based on real-life zaibatsu. The Company has an extremely diverse range of products and services, so they handle a lot of shipping, entire colonies on extra-solar planets, and even have their own military fleet. All the characters in the first, second, and fourth movies work for The Company, and the characters in the third movie are prisoners in a penitentary owned by The Company. A large part of Company employee compensation is based on issuance of “shares,” I am assuming shares in the company.

In the Alien setting, the economy of human civilization is dependent on interstellar shipping, but they do not have faster-than-light travel. The crew spends the majority of their multi-year voyages in hibernation pods, a notion popularised in 2001. What this means is the crew of any round-trip voyage is potentially gone for decades at a time and only ages a few months. When the main character “Ripley” (played by Sigourney Weaver) is lost in space in between the first and second movies, she is gone for 80 years and only has aged a few weeks. Upon her return she finds that her daughter has died of old age.

So, imagine you are one of these people on the crew of a freighter, and every time you complete a shipment you are gone for a decade. If you were paid primarily with a standard salary, by the time you get back your savings will be worth nothing, due to basic inflation.

But since a share of stock represents a partial ownership in the company (even a constant percentage of the company), as long as the company exists and grows with the economy, your stake is secure. Since Weyland-Yutani has a monopoly in a number of markets it will be around for a while. And since a share of stock usually has a dividend associated with it, this makes up for your crappy slave-level “normal” freighter crew salary. If the stock splits while you are gone for 20 years, you could be pleasantly suprised when you wake up on Earth.

See, it all makes sense.

In the Alien series, they talk a lot about “The Company” and its “shares” but they never rely on exposition.
Why are shares so important? I have a theory.