Alien Cargo is a 1999 science-fiction film.
In the future, Chris and Theta are pilots on the SSS (“Triple S”) 17 commercial transport ship travelling regular months-long trips between Mars and Titan. Most of the journey is spent in cryo-stasis, while two out of eight crewmembers remain awake in succeeding shifts. When they’re woken up by the ship’s computer they find the ship wrecked and abandoned, with no sign of the previous shift. To make matters worse, they soon discover that their ship has veered hopelessly off course, and has been adrift for over a year. As time goes on, they also find themselves growing increasingly aggressive…
The film is probably most notable for its atmospheric soundtrack and surprisingly accurate space physics.
This film provides examples of:
- 2-D Space: Averted. The ship has drifted off to a location far above our solar system's ecliptic plane.
- Artifact of Death: The space probe, revealed to be of NASA manufacture.
- Bittersweet Ending: Chris and Theta manage to save most of their crewmates by transporting them over to the Dolphin, but they can’t be rescued themselves due to the severity of the contamination threat. They mark the ship as a biohazard threat, and drift off to die.
- Commander Contrarian: Eichhorn, the first officer of the Dolphin.
- Diabolus ex Machina: At the very end, when it looks like the broad-spectrum antiviral from the infirmary has wiped out the infection, the leads suddenly catch themselves arguing so violently that they almost come to blows again...
- Ghost Ship: The ship after the previous shift killed each other, and until Chris and Theta wake up.
- Hate Plague: The belligerence between the active humans is the result of a contaminant picked up from a space probe.
- Heroic Sacrifice: Chris and Theta both.
- A House Divided
- Human Popsicle: Standard part of deep-space travel.
- Humans Are the Real Monsters: Zigzagged. The probe is definitely human-made, but it's never quite confirmed whether the virus was manufactured by humans or aliens, although at least one character speculates the latter.(Although letting a random piece of space junk float around in the vastness of space is a ridiculously ineffective method of delivery if this were some sort of attack by a hostile civilization.)
- Inappropriately Close Comrades: Chris and Theta aren't actually supposed to be in a relationship, but since there's only two people out of cryo-stasis at any one time, there's not much chance of detection.
- Kill It with Ice: The virus is successfully counteracted by exposure to subzero temperatures.
- Oh, Crap!: When Chris and Theta find out they’re still infected.
- Older Than They Look: Lampshaded by one character; because people don't age during cryosleep, they've technically been alive for much longer than their appearance would have you believe.
- Ontological Mystery
- Sapient Ship: Shoshoni, the ship's computer.
- Scifi Writers Have No Sense Of Scale: Averted. Even with major advances in technology, interplanetary travel takes months or longer, long-distance communication hours or days, and resource and fuel limits are a constant concern. Interstellar travel also seems to still be out of reach.
- Secret Relationship: As it's against company regulation, Chris and Theta have to keep their relationship secret from their colleagues. They arrange to spend their shift together, but later find out that this has exposed them to the virus.
- Sleeper Starship: the SSS17.
- Space Is Noisy