U.S. Outpost 31 Research Installation
U.S. Outpost 31 also known as “Station 4” is a research installation built by the United States of America located in Antarctica. It’s an isolated installation, populated by dedicated scientists and various other crew members who have grown stir crazy and tired of being all but cut off from society. During the winter of 1982, the outpost was infiltrated by an extraterrestrial being known as the Thing and led to the deaths of almost everyone there, the remaining survivors decided to destroy the entire outpost in hope of destroying the Thing.
The story takes place at an isolated US research base in Antarctica on the cusp of another ruthless winter.
The 12 men of Outpost 31 are a little stir crazy from tedium and they are bored with each other’s company. Their ennui is disrupted when a helicopter from a Norwegian research camp located several miles away enters their air space shooting rifles and dropping live hand grenades.
The Norwegians are shooting at the dog, frantically trying to kill it for reasons that are not immediately apparent. During the violent chaos and the lack of a common language, the Norwegian helicopter pilot and his armed passenger are killed by the Americans shooting in self-defense. Clark, the Outpost’s kennel master, takes the orphaned Husky and adds the dog to their sled team.
The Americans can only speculate that these Norwegian researchers went stir crazy, and Dr. Copper convinces the American helicopter pilot, MacCready, to fly out to the Norwegian base so they can see if anyone there needs medical attention. Copper and MacCready arrive too late to help anyone. The Norwegian camp is a smoldering ruin. The men stumble upon the body of someone who committed suicide by slashing his wrists and throat, and they find what looks like a funeral pyre with burned human remains in it.
They discover videotapes revealing that the scientists had found a large circular object trapped underneath the ice. They also discover a massive block of ice that looks like it had once had something encased inside of it. MacCready and Copper return to the outpost with the videotapes, and also one of the burned bodies so they can do an autopsy.
The dog is put in a kennel with the other dogs, and the outpost doctor performs an autopsy on the burnt Norwegian corpse. The rescued sled dog, we soon realize, is infected with an alien being that takes over the body of its host, shaping it into an amorphous looking mix of body parts, tentacles, claws, and teeth.
What follows are incidents in which the alien impersonates various characters in the ice station, leading to paranoia over identity. No one can know for sure whether the person standing in front of them is human or an alien simulacrum. This leads to scenarios in which the crew accuse each other of being the alien, causing several violent confrontations, as MacReady remarks, “Nobody trusts anybody now.”