Dr. Vahlen is the Chief Scientist assigned to the XCOM project. She leads the Research Team's efforts with great enthusiasm, as her particular interests lie in finding ways to adapt the alien technology to advance human scientific developments.
Dr. Vahlen appears to be German (or potentially Austrian or Swiss) based on her surname and accent. During particularly tense moments, she has been known to exclaim in strongly accented German before lapsing back into English.
Dr. Vahlen provides medical information and linguistic assistance to Delta Squad during the tutorial mission.
Following the tutorial, she introduces the Commander to the research laboratories and on occasion advises the Commander with some helpful tips about alien specimens and how to capture them, and also asks that explosives not be used so that materials and weapon fragments are preserved rather than destroyed outright. While informative, it is generally advisable to ignore the last piece of advice at higher difficulties.
In XCOM 2, Central Officer Bradford will occasionally mention Vahlen, talking about how she went missing, and report picking up "broken transmissions in what could be German", which are implied to be Vahlen.
In the Alien Hunters DLC, it is revealed she managed to escape aboard the Skyranger. She, and a number of other people, stumbled upon an abandoned Alien Genetics Lab, contained three cyrogenically frozen specimens that Vahlen began to genetically experiment on. As a result of her modifications, the specimens eventually became the Viper King, the Berserker Queen, and the Archon King, who eventually broke free and overran the facility. Vahlen's fate afterwards is unknown.
In addition to preparing written research reports, Dr. Vahlen offers advice, information, speculation, and commentary concerning a wide variety of subjects throughout XCOM's efforts to combat the alien threat.
Click a tab (above) for dialogue spoken by Dr. Vahlen.
Note: Some content was extracted from the ChiefScientistWaveData.int file and may not appear in-game.
WARNING:This article or section may contain spoilers!
"The existence of this artifact, which we believe to be a communication device of some kind, begs the question-- If the Sectoid Commander was the alien leader, then who, or what, was it communicating with."
"I believe we may have found the source of the strange readings we picked up when we first encountered it. [...] It's organic in nature yet highly magnetized. And it appears to resonate, very faintly, within a specific electromagnetic spectrum."
Outsider Shard (2)
"The methods involved in creating these "crystals"... an organic machine capable of complex communications. We could spend years studying this technology."
"Though I do not always agree with Dr. Shen, he has a point in this case. Now that we have the potential to capture an alien subject alive, we do need to construct a containment facility before we attempt to bring one in."
"We can now submit our soldiers for testing within the Psi-Lab. Once we have a complete report, I'll notify you with the results. Our current research implies a strong link between a candidate's willpower and their psionic potential. We're hoping that one or more of our existing soldiers will meet the necessary requirements."
"Excellent! Now we can begin preparing for the interrogation."
Alien Captured (2)
"I know it wasn't easy, but this could really be a turning point in our research! Not only can we interrogate the subject, but bringing an alien back alive provides us with a much better understanding of their physiology. Impressive work indeed. Preparations in the containment facility are well underway."
Alien Captured (3)
"We should begin interrogating the alien subject immediately. I'm confident we can safely house it within the containment facility, but I can't say for how long."
"...alien life on Earth... we're witnessing something never before seen in recorded history!"
"We still haven't had a candidate respond positively to the testing. We'll have to continue evaluating the remaining troops from the current pool."
Psionic Testing, Positive Results (1)
"We may be on to something, Commander. Our latest candidate is... different. We're picking up levels of psionic energy unlike any we've detected in the previous tests."
Psionic Testing, Positive Results (2)
"Ever since mankind first looked up at the stars, we have wondered what lies beyond. So very few have dared to look inward... The depths of the human mind hold more secrets than we can possibly imagine. How ironic that the means to defeat our enemy comes not through weapons or machines of war, but from within. And if we have succeeded... we will have gained a glimpse of what we are to become. We will have created something... extraordinary."
"Hello, Commander. My name is Dr. Vahlen. I oversee the Research Labs. This is where all of XCOM's research and development takes place. We have already begun analyzing the artifacts recovered from our first encounter with the aliens. Based on our preliminary findings, we believe we can use them to develop some new equipment for our soldiers. With your approval, we will begin immediately."
"Commander, we've already committed resources to a previously assigned research task, which is not yet complete. Though I consider it counterproductive, I suppose we could move on to something else if you prefer."
"I just don't understand... why use such advanced technology against innocent civilians?"
Alien Invasion and Human Implications
"I'm still having a hard time grasping what it is the aliens are hoping to accomplish here. Are they studying us? Why abduct humans seemingly at random? There must be a pattern that we haven't established yet."
"We're gaining a better understanding of the alien technology with each passing day, but the task of actually reproducing their equipment will be difficult, to say the least. Still, with each new discovery, I find myself wondering how far our research could advance the cause of human scientific development. To think, that despite whatever sinister motive brought the aliens here... that their own technology could actually bring about a positive shift in human society...."
"I've always thought of science as a way to improve our everyday lives, to answer the long-standing questions of scientific history. The aliens, though... it's obvious now that they consider science simply as a means to an end, using and discarding life as needed to reach their goal... whatever that may be."
"I have difficulty understanding how such an advanced species could show so little empathy for the lives of other sentient beings... It goes against everything we have ever imagined. The technology is there, but with it comes a callousness we would never have expected. What could have brought them to this..."
"There's no way the aliens could have predicted this outcome - we've crippled their entire support network. Of course, this isn't the end... We have no choice now but to take it further. We have to find their remaining ships, and finish what they started."
"Nothing will ever be the same. The work that we've done here - to adapt the technology of a hostile enemy force - has advanced the scientific progress of mankind by untold generations. These weapons... these abuses of science, we still have an opportunity to use them for a greater good. We have paid a heavy price, but our efforts have not been in vain."
"With each of our major victories, we have encountered incrementally more powerful aliens. After the first alien craft was shot down, they began a campaign of terror. The alien forces were led by a Sectoid Commander, a powerful Psionic creature. Upon capturing the Hyperwave Beacon, we detected a cloaked ship carrying a being of incredible Psionic power. Having captured the device it sacrificed itself to protect, an immense alien ship has now appeared within our atmosphere... We can only assume that a being of even greater Psionic power is onboard this vessel. We have already pushed human evolution sooo faaaar... and I fear where the next step will take us... But our enemy leaves us with no other choice. A new type of weapon is required."
"This is unlike anything else we've previously identified. Based on its physical appearance, I would assume this alien doesn't rely on brute strength. I recommend the troops exercise extreme caution, Commander."
"That alien is clearly different from the others... It's wielding a power unlike anything we've previously encountered."
Sectoid Commander (2)
"Yes... It almost looks like a larger version of the Sectoid... but something is different... what is that energy?"
Sectoid Commander (3)
"I believe this is indeed the same creature we encountered when we made first contact with the aliens. As we have observed, it is somehow capable of using its mind as a weapon. If we were to study this specimen's brain tissue, perhaps we might be able to adapt this ability for our own purposes."
"I can only imagine what the aliens might be doing in an underground facility..."
Alien Base (2)
"Well, it looks like we've found where they've been taking the abductees, but that still doesn't explain what the purpose of all this is."
Alien Capture (1)
"Is it too much to ask, trying to bring back a alive alien subject? I would hope our soldiers at least understand our reasoning."
Alien Capture (2)
"Another live capture? Please give my thanks to the men, Commander, I know it can't be an easy task trying to bring them in alive. You can trust that the Research team will make it worth the trouble."
Alien Capture (3)
"Your men certainly seem to have a knack for capturing alien subjects alive. I only hope they realize how important their work is in relation to ours. Please pass on my gratitude to our forces."
Alien Capture (4)
"Excellent work, Commander! Capturing the alien subjects alive allows for a much wider range of experimentation versus the expired specimens."
All Soldiers KIA (1)
"If only there was something we could have done... Some aspect of our research that we perhaps overlooked..."
All Soldiers KIA (2)
"Such a terrible loss of life... If only there was some way we could have helped them..."
All Soldiers KIA (3)
"I thought we had done all we could... but now, I'm not so sure."
All Soldiers KIA (4)
"We'll have to redouble our efforts. We cannot let this happen again..."
All Soldiers KIA (5)
"Could we have prevented this tragedy? Perhaps we need to refocus our research efforts."
Captive Alien Dies (1)
"Commander, perhaps I wasn't clear in my earlier report. Without a containment facility to house the alien captive, they will continue to die before an interrogation is possible."
Captive Alien Dies (2)
"We really have no use for these alien captives without a containment facility, Commander. If you'd like to build one, perhaps we can finally begin the interrogation process."
Captive Alien Dies (3)
"Commander, you're wasting valuable resources by continuing to order the retrieval of these living subjects. As I've told you repeatedly, we require a containment facility to house the alien before we can start an interrogation."
"We've assembled everything we need to capture and house an alien for interrogation, Commander. The rest is up to our forces on the ground."
"Commander! You may want to instruct your men to exercise restraint when using explosives... while certainly effective at killing aliens, they also destroy the artifacts we're hoping to recover from the bodies. Just something to consider."
"Commander, I realize our troops have to put their own survival first, but every alien we use explosives against is one less opportunity to recover new artifacts."
"I'm still hoping to recover some additional artifacts from the aliens, Commander, but our troops should try to be more careful with their explosives."
"This is it... Once our volunteer enters the chamber, there is no turning back. This is what we've been working towards this whole time. We likely will not be able to make any developments beyond this point."
In the novel XCOM: Resurrection, Dr. Vahlen has taken refuge in a sleeping volcano on an icy island where she is conducting further research on live specimens of the aliens. Her efforts are thwarted however when the island gets invaded by ADVENT forces. Whilst Amar and his squad try to fend off the alien forces, Dr. Vahlen activates the self-defense system of the volcano, which boils the aliens in lava. Nothing is heard from Dr. Vahlen after that event.
In XCOM 2, her role has been taken over by researcher Richard Tygan. She is stated to be 'missing', with several clues about what happened to her, such as Lily Shen talking about seeing notes written in English and broken German.
Dr. Vahlen is a major driving force in the Alien Hunters DLC for XCOM 2. After XCOM was disbanded, Dr. Vahlen escaped to a facility in which she studied defect aliens, and performed particularly unethical research; it is apparent in her dialogue during the story mission that she had created or otherwise assisted in the uplifting of the Alien Rulers. After one of her test subjects escaped, the facility had become overrun with Vipers, and all of the facility personnel were presumed killed.
The whereabouts and status of Dr. Vahlen and where she found staff for the facility are unknown. Her voice lines are substituted for Dr. Tygan's during the autopsies of the Alien Rulers.
Dialogue can be found in the game files for XCOM: Enemy Unknown which indicates that alien flora was removed from the game. Dr. Vahlen would have commented, "Another intriguing discovery... that appears to be a form of alien flora. This could imply the aliens are attempting to establish a long-term habitat on Earth, with conditions more suitable to their physiology."
However, in XCOM 2, alien flora is present near the Psionic Gateway, and is mentioned by Dr. Tygan in a similar manner.
In the original cut of XCOM: Enemy Unknown, Dr. Vahlen and Dr. Shen were to be married. The development team even went to the length of creating a wedding ring for Vahlen.
The XCOM archives in XCOM 2 reveal her first name to be Moira, a name shared with her voice actor Moira Quirk.
Moira Quirk is originally from England, and her native accent slips through in several of Vahlen's voice lines in Enemy Unknown. The most obvious is an early-game line about beginning the first few research projects which is spoken entirely in her English accent. Some fans noted her German language lines are grammatically correct but not pronounced correctly; additionally her accent sometimes lapses into what sounds more like French. Bilingual people do tend to switch between accents in conversation, so this may have been intentional.