Alien 3 saw the introduction of a new feature of Alien reproduction, a feature that has since become known as the DNA reflex theory. This is the theory that whenever an Alien infects another species, it takes traits from the host’s DNA to help the Alien survive in the environment. And the first alien to ever show this kind of ability was known as the Runner Alien. The creature is also know as a Dog Alien or an Ox Alien.
The Runner, or Dog Alien, is the result of an alien infecting a quadruped. It typically moves on four legs but is very capable of standing on only two. Because of it using all four legs, the Runner has increased speed and agility. It is similar in size to a human born Alien, standing well over two meters tall, the Runner also has a different appearance to the other Aliens that had been encountered. It had an almost brown or red appearance (while it may have been due to the lighting used in the film, the Runner has always been portrayed as brown or red since), and no longer has any dorsal spines. Like the alien in Alien and Alien Resurrection, the Runner has a smooth cowl on its head but this might also be to denote age since the Runner was relatively young.
Unlike previous aliens, the Runner was born in an “adult” form. It skipped the Chestburster phase altogether and emerged as a smaller version of itself. The Runner also had the ability to spit acid. Like in Alien Resurrection, the acid appeared to be weaker than its actual blood. The Runner also seemed to have a higher resistance to fire.
Movies – Alien 3 (1992)
From the earliest drafts of Alien 3, hybrids and Alien mutations had been key factors. It was the one thing everyone seemed to want to expand upon in Alien lore. Originally it had been ideas of alien spores transforming DNA but as things progressed, these mutations became less complex and we soon ended up with aliens coming out of different animals and taking on the traits of the host.
The original designs for the Runner, which were known to be a four legged hybrid were drawn by Mike Worral. These designs included sketches of horse and sheep-alien hybrids. H.R. Giger later came along and redesigned the Runner, and the suit itself was built by ADI. Giger had nicknamed the alien, “Bambi”. Giger’s first version of alien resembled something close to a lion, rather than the sleeker design that Fincher wanted. As time went on, Giger started to draw more sleeker, panther-like aliens until they he ended up with the final version.
In the theatrical release of Alien 3, the Runner is born from a dog belonging to one of the prisoners. A Rottweiler named Spike. Born in an almost adult form (which was nicknamed a Dog-Burster), the Runner spent most of the earlier parts of the film hiding in the vents and ventilation shafts through the prison complex. It was first encountered by a prisoner who discovered a membrane of sorts on the floor. This would seem to indicate that although the Runner skips the Chestburster stage of its life cycle, it does molt/shed its skin like the Bursters do.
It was during this first encounter that the Runner also used a new ability that would later show up in the human mutation aliens. Throughout the course of the film, the Runner refused to harm Ripley. During their first encounter, it appeared to actually be smelling Ripley, to be sensing the Queen embryo she carried. Even when Ripley attacked and antagonized the Runner, it refused to hurt her. It attempted to retreat away from her. This shows that even though the Runner was operating solitary, it still had that instinct to protect others of it’s kind. When Dillan began to threaten Ripley, the Runner also tried to the protect the host of it’s Queen. Unlike the other aliens, the Runner didn’t appear to be afraid of fire or as susceptible to it. The Runner was still alive after being immersed in a smouldering pit of molten lead. It wasn’t until being doused by water sprinklers and imploding did the Runner finally die.
Alien 3 originally featured the host of the Runner being an ox (also a quadruped), but was later re-cut to have the host become a dog, a Rottweiler to be specific. The host remained the dog in the theatrical cut but in the special edition that was released, the ox was host of the Runner.
There were a number of reasons for the decision in host changing. One of which was the crew found it easier to train a dog and even attempted to put an alien suit on an actual dog. One shot of the dog in an alien suit was filmed and featured in the special edition – when the Dog-Burster runs away from the dead oxen. It was also felt that having an alien burst out of a dead ox had less emotional impact than from being born out of a dog. The design for the Runner remained the same in both cuts, however, and would later remain the same throughout all the other media the Runner would be present in.
Alien Trilogy (1996)
Two types of Runner featured in Alien Trilogy, however, it was referred to as a Dog Alien. The player encounters Young Dog Aliens and Adult Aliens. Both are essentially the same alien, except the adult is bigger and harder to kill. Both run on all fours and appear an orange colour.
Aliens vs Predator 2/Primal Hunt (2001/2002)
The Runner was a playable multi-player class in Aliens vs Predator 2 and was also seen alongside the player in the single-player campaign. It featured the same brownish design as in the Alien 3 and the same attributes in that it was a faster alien. In the game, it is actually the fastest of all the Alien classes. The source of the Runners aren’t seen, however.
AvP Extinction (2003)
The Runner later appeared in the 2003 game, AvP Extinction. Like in the movies and AvP2, it was still a quadruped alien with increased speed and agility. Like in Alien 3, the Runners are produced by infected four legged animals seen in the game. Specifically they are created by infecting a Kurn or Krilitic. It’s odd that a Krilitic might produce a Runner since it appears to be scorpion like than an actual mammal and it does seem to have more than four legs. When upgraded, the Runner develops stacks filled with a sort of poison and when the Runner fights with an enemy, it’ll inject them with the poison which allows the infected to be tracked somehow.