Alien - Sci-Fi's Greatest Mythology, Part 1: Engineers!
Posted Jan-07-2017 4:50 PM
Prometheus; Ridley Scott's 2012 prequel to his 1979 science fiction horror classic Alien divided audiences upon its release, and while many of us have criticized it and praised it in equal measure, there is no denying that the movie has continued to encapsulate us with its many unanswered questions, ambiguous undertones, and perplexing narrative elements. Only the original movie held our attention so vehemently, and even though Prometheus did shed a glimmer of light on some of what we saw in 1979, most will agree that the forthcoming Alien: Covenant will likely add more mystery to this gradually expanding mythology.
Although I do not suffer from OCD I do like order in my life. When things are in place and organized and categorized, they are therefore easier to understand, read and access. Alphabetical order, numeric order, by date, genre, artist, director; whichever filter we use we all assign order to manage things in our daily lives. Most movie franchises, even those that have delved into the troublesome area of time travel can be somewhat easily ordered through the events depicted. Peter Berg's Predestination is a movie that while having a completely preposterous premise makes sense narratively simply by organizing the movies key events in the associated order. Unfortunately the same cannot be said for the Prometheus-Alien franchise. As such one can understand the challenge Prometheus represents to me, especially when considering many of the "theories" we have all developed in a bid to bring order to the chaos that is Prometheus.
What follows is a series of new observations and theories that look at the movie from a fresh, more objective angle than can only truly come with the passing of time. These are elements that in some cases are so glaringly obvious that one wonders why no-one has seemingly identified them before now, things so fundamentally simple yet far reaching that they have the possible potential to change the whole way in which one perceives this movie and the mythology it is trying to create.
According to data sourced from comparisons, the Juggernaut located in the Ilium Range on LV-426 is a much smaller craft than that witnessed by the crew of the Prometheus on LV-223, with the LV-426 Derelict measuring close to 400 feet wide and the LV-223 Juggernaut measuring an amazing 1000 feet wide. The two vessels also differ greatly internally, with the Derelict appearing more organically biomechanical whereas the Juggernaut's design was more mechanical. The Derelict also only featured a single pilot's chair within its central chamber, whereas the Juggernaut also featured four sarcophagi and a navigation console. As for the pilots themselves; Ridley Scott has stated that both are Engineers despite the Derelict pilot appearing as though his body has deformed, possibly from extended periods within the chair. Contrary to common belief, however, the Derelict pilot is only nine feet tall (the opening shot is scaled incorrectly with the rest of the scene) and the remains are mummified not fossilized - Fossilization requires the subject be compounded between layers of sediment. Finally, the Derelict come to be on LV-426 2000 years ago according to statements from director Ridley Scott when promoting Prometheus back in 2012.
From events depicted and inferred in Prometheus, we are to believe that at approximately the same timeframe in which the Derelict came to land on LV-426 there was an "outbreak" of the deadly biological agent or "Black Goo" that was stored within the weapon silos on LV-223. This is evidenced from the pile of Engineer bodies, the "burst" marks seen on three of the four sarcophagi in the Juggernauts central chamber (presumably each with a dead Engineer inside) and the cellular changes affecting the decapitated Engineers head. We also saw two ghost recordings; the first showing a dozen or more suited Engineers running towards the silo's weapon storage chamber and the second showing a crew of four Engineers preparing the Juggernaut to head to Earth, with a cargo of their deadly biological agent. This "outbreak" was premeditated, likely to prevent said Juggernaut attacking Earth. One or more Engineers, or an unseen party instigated the "Outbreak" by opening the doors to one or more of the chambers used for storing the "Black Goo", as evidenced by the ghost recording of the Engineers running through the silo and one being decapitated as they rushed to close the open doors, and thus securing the outbreak, with the dozen or so Engineers (likely having been stationed in the nearby silos) falling victim to whatever was born from the three Engineers in their sarcophagi aboard the Juggernaut, as evidenced by the aforementioned pile of Engineer remains discovered by Fifield and Milburn.
In another scene, Dr. Elizabeth Shaw and Ford examine and reanimate the decapitated head of the Engineer found within the silo's weapon storage chamber. After reanimating the head, which was infected with the deadly agent before inexplicably exploding, Shaw successfully extracted some DNA from the head, revealing it to be a match when compared to human DNA. In this and another associated scene, Shaw states "It's us, it's everything", and "Their genetic material predates ours, we come from them". The characters, especially Charlie Holloway infer that this must mean that the Engineers are our creators, as would seemingly be what is being inferred in Prometheus' grandiose opening scene whereupon an Engineer sacrifices himself to seed life on a young, barren world.
But, if the Engineers are millennia, even eons old, as Shaw and Holloway suggest and Prometheus' opening scene infers, then why is their language based on Proto-Indo-European dialects and not something more prehistoric, guttural or "alien"? If they created life on Earth with the intent of producing the human race, why do so in a fashion that would take millions, if not billions of years of predetermined or programmed evolution rather than just creating the human race there and then? Why would the Engineers create life, wait millions, if not billions of years only to then point their genetic descendants to a distant star system they do not have the technology to travel to?
When Doctors Shaw and Holloway are showing the crew of the Prometheus the holograms of the ancient artifacts they had discovered, the oldest shown is a Sumerian tablet from 3590BCE. The Sumerian civilization was one of the first to develop 8,500 years ago, preceded by Neolithic settlements such as Jericho that date back 12,500 years. Hollway presents the Sumerian Tablet as evidence of the Engineers possible first visitation with humans, humans which would have already developed the basic foundations of civilization such as language, agriculture, trade, and politics. Surely, as presented in 2004's AVP, to be seen as God's the Engineers would have visited humankind much, much earlier, bestowing upon us technological and social knowledge and steering our development through their influence.
It would seem that the DNA match evidence, the Engineers language (both written and spoken), the use of primitive technology by the Engineers (woven cloak, flute, cup and vases), Shaw's statements and the Last Engineers fascination with the technology (book, chandelier and monitor) found in the Prometheus' lifeboat together actually suggests another, more tantalizing possibility for the identity and origins of the Engineers that negates them from having affected humankind before the date of the Sumerian Tablet, and furthermore negates the possibility of Prometheus' opening scene being more than a few thousand years old...
Engineers are not an ancient race of aliens. They are human. They left Earth between 12,000 to 6,000 years ago upon discovering one or more Juggernaut craft on Earth which transported them to LV-223 - Imagine a Neolithic tribe similar to the Anakim, a Canaanite tribe mentioned in the Hebrew bible who were renowned for their tall stature, who like the ancient Greeks of Sparta were likely each in peak physical condition. An ancient tribe of tall, apollonian humans who centuries or even millennia before the date of the Sumerian tablet, would have been literate in cuneiform and spoken a Proto-Indo-European dialect.
This would mean therefore that the technology the Engineers use is not their own, but scavenged from another, more ancient and possibly extinct race, that were abandoned on Earth. However, another even more nightmarish possibility is that the Juggernauts, being biomechanical in nature, are possibly alive, if not sentient, interfacing with and affecting the Humans via the chair and sarcophagi, genetically modifying Humans into Engineers, hastening their development to their evolutionary limit. As such there could exist a symbiotic, co-dependent relationship between the two, a covenant between them and the technology itself. This could explain the "Space Jockeys" deformed and elongated appearance, and by extension, the semi-organic appearance of the derelict craft itself, and even the root-like appendages witnessed on the eggs found beneath the Derelict on LV-426.
But if the Engineers are, as I postulate mere humans, why was Earth targeted to be cleansed 2000 years ago? What is the Black Goo and where does it come from? How does all this link to the Xenomorph? Those answers and more in part 2.