- "That's a crock-a-shit."
- ― Childs' response to MacReady's hot needle test.
Childs is a mechanic stationed at the American Antarctic research station, U.S. Outpost 31. The character appears in the 1982 film The Thing and was portrayed by actor Keith David. The character's fate was also explored in the Dark Horse comic series The Thing from Another World, and the 2002 video-game The Thing.
The Thing (1982)
Childs is first seen during the establishing shots of Outpost 31, presumably repairing the facility's Bombardier Skidozer.
Childs spots the Norwegians chasing an Alaskan Malamute, the passenger was killed when he accidentally dropped a grenade and the pilot was killed by Garry thinking that he was hostile, the crew adopted the dog. During the night, he was woken up by the fire alarm that was turned on by MacReady, MacReady ordered Childs to bring the flamethrower, he saw the unknown creature and then incinerates it. He then help subdue Blair who is suffering a mental breakdown, he destroyed the helicopters, tractor and radio with an axe, and killed the remaining sled dogs, containing further contamination. Paranoia quickly sets in as the first attempt to develop a test using uncontaminated blood samples is sabotaged by an unknown party. After Garry decides to give command to somebody else, Childs is quite willing to take the place but he meets with the disagreement of the others, especially with Clark who even threatens him with a knife.
He and the others begin to suspect MacReady is infected with the Thing when a scrap of torn shirt containing his name tag is found at the camp, and locked him outside in a severe blizzard. If a human MacReady died outside in the storm, he only feels that he would just be wrong. Somehow finding his way back to camp without a guide line, a shivering MacReady breaks into a storage room and threatens the rest of the crew with dynamite. In the course of the standoff, Norris suffers a heart attack. When Copper attempts to revive him by defibrillation, Norris' body transforms and bites off Copper's arms and he bleeds to death. Norris' head detaches from his body and the alien uses it in an attempt to escape as the others burn the body, but the head is discovered and incinerated. MacReady proposed a test on everyone to tell who is human and who is a replica. Clark in an act of mutiny tries to stab MacReady with a scalpel, but is quickly shot in the head and killed by MacReady in self-defense. The rest of the crew complies with the test; blood samples are drawn from each member of the team including Copper and Clark and jabbed with a hot wire to see whose blood will react defensively. Upon realizing that Clark was not infected, Childs denounces MacReady as a murderer. Palmer, the backup pilot, is unmasked as an imitation, and manages to kill Windows before being destroyed by MacReady with dynamite, who also torches Windows' body with a flamethrower as it begins to transform. Childs' test proves that he is human, Childs was ordered to guard the main gate, but he inexplicably abandons his post for an unknown reason.
Childs encounters MacReady, he claims to have seen Blair and gotten lost while chasing him in the snow. With the polar climate closing in around them, they acknowledge the futility of their distrust, sharing a drink as the camp burns and the cold returns.
The Thing (video game)
During the first level of the 2002 video-game The Thing, United States Arctic Marines' Captain Blake and his squad discovers the frozen body of Childs amid the rubble of Outpost 31. MacReady missing and the bottle of Scotch whisky (admittedly, with a different label) still alongside him. Aside from an unidentified Thing's remains in the station's medical laboratory, Childs is the only corpse to be discovered at the facility. Although he is not proven to be human in front of Blake himself, it is mostly implied he was human and died from exposure to the cold.
The Thing from Another World (comic)
One of the most discussed fan theories pertaining to the 1982 film is that Childs may have been an imitation towards the very end of the movie. The debate stems from several observations about Childs in the closing scene and in other material. It is worth taking note that this theory would be cast aside by Childs' appearances in the comic spinoffs, but the comics conflict with the video game as well, leaving their canonicity up to debate.
There is a possibility Childs could've been infected as the moment he leaves his post, the power goes out, meaning Blair had to be hiding in the generator room all along. It would've been impossible for Childs to see Blair out in the snow if the power cut out just seconds after abandoning his post. So, Blair could've snuck upstairs, attacked and infected Childs then had him leave camp to avoid the showdown between Blair-Thing and the remaining team members. If the Blair imitation was killed, the Childs imitation would've had itself frozen and waited for a rescue team. This is similar to what the Dog-Thing in the beginning of the film attempted. The script describes MacReady secretly having a torch under his blanket and Kurt Russel said so himself. He gives Childs a shot of Whiskey and his willingness to share a drink shows his lack of concern for infection, hinting that he's possibly infected himself and MacReady gives a gentle laugh to show this. It's likely that he torched Childs shortly afterwards if the game canon doesn't apply. Further proof is that the coats that are hanging around Childs' post were re-arranged in two seperate shots, and that Childs' coat changes from a navy blue color to a very light color by the time he sees MacReady at the end (in the game, his coat is of a similar arctic camo). This is major evidence, since the characters in the film almost never changed their clothes, and when they did, it was often a sign they were infected. This is due to the fact that the Thing often rips off extra layers of clothes from a victim it is assimilating. If Blair did in-fact attack and assimilate Childs, he may have taken one of the fresh coats from the room to replace his torn one in order to help blend in. Additionally, one of the biggest pieces of evidence to support this theory is that Childs' breath does not fog up during the ending, indicating that he might not have been breathing at all. A common counter-argument to this is that the lack of breath was actually an oversight in filming as the Bennings imitation has its breath fog when outside the station. However, this could be due to the fact that the Bennings imitation was desperately trying its hardest to appear human at the time because it knew it was being chased while it hadn't fully finished replicating Bennings. This could actually be why the Bennings imitation was unable to fully replicate Bennings' hands in time, it may have been allocating more effort into imitating the act of breathing to fool its pursuers and would have allocated less effort into replicating his hands as a result. On the other hand, the Childs imitation would have been at ease by the end of the film and may have not thought it necessary to imitate breathing.
Not to mention that if Childs did see Blair in the snow, he wouldn't run out in the snow alone, he likely would've gone to the remaining team members and inform them of what he saw. His distrust of MacReady earlier in the film proves this as when MacReady is locked outside after Nauls cuts the cable loose to leave MacReady stranded in the snow, Childs opted to lock him outside and let his freeze to death despite Palmer wanting to blow MacReady away due to him being so close and outnumbering Mac. Childs made this choice when he had Palmer, Norris, Windows, and Nauls as back up.
Though this theory may be dismissed from the game's canon entirely since Childs body is found "frozen", it is still easily possible MacReady had noticed Childs' lack of breath, realized he was an imitation (this could be why MacReady let out a faint chuckle when Childs took a drink, because if Childs was human his breath would have certainly fogged when exhaling after taking a sip), and then told Childs to stay there while he left to search for rescue. MacReady then would have abandoned Childs, saving himself and then coincidentally stumbled across Kate. The two of them then could have located a helicopter at the nearby Russian base and the game's ending would still make sense, even though Kate isn't shown directly. The Childs imitation would have then simply stayed there anyway (since MacReady would have never came back), which would have been fine since his body would have then been found by the rescue team and taken away. His purpose as an imitation would have then still been served. The final piece of evidence supporting the above claim is that Childs' body doesn't appear to have any frost on it or show any apparent signs of death by freezing. Childs is simply lying against the wall with an expressionless face, and although it could just be an oversight in design, it would make complete sense if Childs was in-fact an imitation with the sole purpose of appearing dead only to be taken later by a rescue team.
More evidence for this theory is the fact that MacReady had previously used all items on the base to make explosives, meaning the whiskey Childs drank was not in fact whiskey, but gasoline from an unused molotov cocktail. MacReady may have been chuckling because he knew the Thing didn't know what whiskey tasted like, and as such would not have any reaction to drinking gasoline, as MacReady is not actually shown drinking from the bottle.
- In the unproduced miniseries, Return of the Thing, Russians would have discovered the frozen bodies of Childs and MacReady and both would have been human.
- In the scene when MacReady is discussing the theory about the nature of the alien, Childs seems to be the most skeptical member of the group.