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"Keys" is the only name given for an important minor character in the movie, E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, although the character is more broadly developed in the novelization of the movie. Keys is a government agent played by Peter Coyote, whose somewhat ominous presence is signaled by a set of keys that dangle from his belt and jangle with his movements. He is apparently the main person on the ground coordinating the government's initial investigation of the alien spaceship landing. His group, running towards the spaceship with flashlights blazing in the night, causes it to leave in haste, which in turn strands the title character on Earth. Keys is in charge of the later searching and surveillance which eventually leads to the government's discovery of E.T.

When the government at last takes control of E.T., Keys has an important conversation with E.T.'s child friend Elliott, who had previously helped E.T. to build a communication device in an attempt to signal the ship by which he had been left behind. When Elliott is reluctant to give Keys any information because E.T. had come to Elliott first, Keys responds, that "he came to me too. I've been wishing for this since I was 10 years old, I don't want him to die." Keys asks Elliott what more they can do, and Elliott responds that E.T. needs to go home. Keys then intones, "Elliott, I don't think he was left here intentionally, but his being here is a miracle, Elliott. It's a miracle and you did the best that anybody could do. I'm glad he met you first."

After Elliott and his siblings facilitate E.T.'s escape from the government, Keys is one of the few people present when the spaceship returns to rescue its castaway, thus marking his presence throughout the story arc.

In the novelization, Keys is portrayed sympathetically, as someone who went into the profession of science and medicine to facilitate searching for alien visitors, as an outgrowth of a childhood fascination with the subject. For him, as much as for Elliott, the encounter is a dream come true, and it is established that Keys genuinely intends to protect E.T. from harm. There is also a suggestion in the book that a connection is established between Keys and Elliott's mother (a divorcee), which could lead to a relationship. A script treatment written by Steven Spielberg for a possible E.T. sequel confirmed that this was the direction which he saw the characters going, with Keys (referred to in the script as "Dr. Keys") possibly becoming a father figure to Elliott. Discussions of a sequel often include speculation of such a development. Although Keys appears in only a few scenes in the movie, his combination of tenacity and humanity are effective in moving the story forward, making him an excellent minor character in the annals of science fiction.

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