Engineer Origin & Alien Connection

With 2012’s Prometheus and its sequel, Alien: Covenant, director Ridley Scott returned to the franchise he created in 1979 with his gothic horror in space masterpiece, Alien, opening up the universe and revealing a unique connection between the titular xenomorphs and the mysterious “Space Jockey.”

Appearing early into the original film, the “Pilot”, as the being was referred to by the filmmakers, was first glimpsed by the crew of the Nostromo as they responded to a strange transmission emanating from the distant moon LV-426. A hulking extraterrestrial with an elephant-like trunk, its chest violently ripped open from the inside-out at some point long ago. As the crew explores the derelict ship, John Hurt’s Kane discovers a chamber containing countless egg-like cocoons. Investigating closer, a “face-hugger” erupts from one of the eggs, breaks through Kane’s protective helmet and latches itself onto his face. The others bring Kane back to the Nostromo where the face-hugger is soon enough dislodged. Soon enough a new creature, the xenomorph, burst’s from Kane’s chest, hunting the crew until only Ellen Ripley is left alive for a final confrontation.

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Related: How the Xenomorph Changed, From Giger To Alien Movies

The unique and memorable design of the creature made the Space Jockey a fan favorite early on. Working from initial concept art by H.R. Giger, the final on-screen form was designed by artist Ron Cobb, who provided an expanded backstory for the creature. According to Cobb, The Pilot was one of a race of interstellar explorers and archaeologists, who had made first contact with the xenomorph species before being wiped out by them and stranded on the planet. The Pilot wasn’t seen again in any of the sequels, though it did make occasional appearances in non-canonical comics and books, becoming a favorite subject to fans and artists over the years.

Alien’s “Space Jockey” Explained

HR Giger Space Jockey Model

For Prometheus, Ridley Scott wanted to explore the engineered origins of the xenomorphs. The film opens with the Engineers, a ancient race of tall, bald, pale extraterrestrials who are responsible for seeding life on countless planet system with their highly advanced genetic engineering technology, a viscous black goo that can be used to both create life and as weapon.

Infected after contact with the strange goop, archaeologist Charlie Holloway impregnates his girlfriend, Elizabeth Shaw, who soon gives birth (sorta) to a fully formed creature known as a trilobite.  The trilobite attacks the last surviving Engineer as all hell is breaking loose for the crew of the Prometheus. As the Engineer attempts to escape we discover that the engineers and Space Jockeys are one and the same, retconning the Pilot’s design in Alien as an exoskeletal battle suit. At the end of the film a new creature bursts from the dead engineer’s chest, a blue-hued creature known as “The Deacon”, clearly a genetic ancestor to the xenomorph. Audiences left Prometheus with the impression that the Engineers/Space Jockeys had been the creators of the xenomorphs, and had been wiped out in turn by their creation, presumably setting the stage for the events of Alien.

How Prometheus & Alien: Covenant Connect

David in Alien Covenant and the Deacon in Prometheus

Five years later Alien: Covenant expanded on the backstory even further, revealing that the xenomorphs are the creation of rogue android David, played by Michael Fassbender. After landing on the Engineer homeward following the events of Prometheus, David concluded that both humans and the Engineers were inferior to his own android form. He wiped out the race out and since then has been expanding on the genetic breakthroughs of the Engineers in his quest to engineer the “perfect organism”,  engineering the xenomorph as we know it, thereby fulfilling the central theme of Promethean mythology: unintended consequences in the quest for improvement, though with David, the consequences may have been intentional.

Functioning in Alien as little more than a harbinger of the doom that is about to befall the characters, the Space Jockey and the mysterious race of Engineers were eventually revealed to have played a key role in the central events of the franchise, though like all would-be Dr. Frankensteins, they too eventually fell victim to their own creations.

More: How Covenant Connects To The Alien Movies & Prometheus

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