Ridley Scott's "Alien Prequel" has come a long way, from budgetary & rating conflict with Fox to the evolution of a new Independent film, no longer referred to as a prequel. Today we take a look back at the lesser known origin of Alien , the original concepts and consider what that means for this new animal Prometheus. We know 'Prometheus' is largely based on the story of the 'Space Jockey' as Scott has stated. Throughout the development of the project the director has been focusing a lot of attention on the role of the 'Space Jockey' in the origins of the Alien. Hit the jump for the details.
"It’s fundamentally about going out to find out, who the hell was that Space Jockey?" The guy who was sitting in the chair in the alien vehicle, there was a giant fellow sitting in a seat on what looked to be either a piece of technology or an astronomer’s chair. Remember that?I sat thinking about the franchise, which now has died on the road somewhere way back and lying in the dust, and thought what I should do is go back. In the first "Alien", when John Hurt climbed up and over the top of the rise, there was a massive giant lying in a chair. The chair was either a form of engine or some piece of technology and I always thought no one has ever asked who was the Space Jockey?"
Yes Ridley ..So who is this guy? The Director's cut of Alien features Scott's commentary and his reference to the Space Jockey’s ship as a "bomber", he describes how
This is interesting as Scott referred to this again in September when discussing concepts for the Prequels:"Alien eggs could be dropped on an enemy planet, and the aliens would proceed to kill the population as they spawned."
According to James Cameron, the Space Jockey’s craft picked up alien eggs and the pilot became infected by the dangerous cargo; the ship landed on LV-426 became compromised and the Space Jockey transmitted the signal as a warning. Alan Dean Foster’s novelization of Alien also state the Space Jockey encountered the aliens on LV-426. In Foster’s Alien novelization, Ash describes the Space Jockey’s race as:"And were the aliens designed as a form of biological warfare? Or biology that would go in and clean up a planet?"
It also states that they were larger, stronger and possibly more intelligent than humans. Foster’s novelization states that the Jockey was trying to warn humans away from the aliens with their message which inadvertently the Nostromo picked up. When we take a look at original role for the Space Jockey's in Dan O'Bannon's original script 'Star Beast' you will find a larger role which involved cataclysm, escape & Pyramids. During the principal photography of Alien, O'Bannon's script went through a degree of changes. Scenes were either rewritten, omitted or combined together due to budget constraints, ideas by Scott himself or general artistic reasons."A noble people and hopes that mankind will encounter them under more pleasant circumstances".
"Dan’s original script called for a small, modest little ship with a small crew. They land on a small planet. They go down a small pyramid and shake up a medium sized creature. That’s about it. He meant it to be a low budget film, like dark star, and I loved the idea." Ron Cobb Book of Alien.
Scott describes the design of the 'Space Jockey.'
"I wanted a fossil, almost, one which you’d have a hard time deciding where he leaves off and the chair, on which he died, begins.."
The Space Jockey is first discovered in Alien when the commercial starship Nostromo sets down on the un-surveyed planetoid LV-426 to investigate an unknown signal. The crew finds a crashed derelict spacecraft with its pilot the Space Jockey inside, with its ribs bent outwards from the inside. There is no trace of the Alien which was born from the Space Jockey but the derelict ship contains several thousand alien eggs. Prior to a completed screenplay O’Bannon's Star Beast draft outlined a story which is very similar to his final Alien script but with some major differences, firstly, there is no pyramid in the treatment and no eggs which means no Facehugger. Also when the crew discover the derelict wreckage and it’s fossilized alien pilot [The Space Jockey] they take it’s skull as proof of their discovery on the planet.
In this early version the crew don’t realize that the Space Jockey's skull contains a small creature which once on board the Snark [Nostromo] resurfaces and hides in which it rapidly grows in size as they take off and head off home. Like in all versions of the Alien drafts one by one the aliens takes out the crew members who attempt to lure it into an airlock to blast it out into the void.
Three of the crew members go exploring through the barren, windswept and dusty landscape. Using a portable scanning device they follow the signal and come across a derelict space craft of non-human manufacture.
They enter and and explore the craft They come across a strange "Urn" type object open at one end with strange markings on the side. They eventually come across the fossilized remains the the ships pilot and discover that in it’s last moments have scribed a triangle on a near by panel.
They take the creatures fossilized skull and head back to the Snark [Nostromo]. The three explorers are back aboard the Snark sharing with the rest of the crew what they had found. with a device called a data stick. Eventually the wind outside clears, on the horizon a Pyramid can be seen, the Space Jockey's drawing of a triangle begins to make sense so the three explorers head off on a second expedition to investigate a pyramid. It appears the Space Jockey was an Archeologist.
The crew arrive at the base of the pyramid and discover there is no visible entrance so one of them decides to scale the side of the structure to see if there is an opening at the top. At the top he finds an opening but cannot see to the bottom.
"The pyramid and the derelict ship were still the subject of a see-saw debate when I came on the project. I would love to have shot it, but the more I thought about it the more I realized it would have been wonderful in a three-hour version. What finally cracked it it was the budget. We just had to get rid of it." Ridley Scott.
Assembling a tripod device over the opening the crewman begins to descend into the unknown depths of the pyramid. When he eventually reaches bottom he’s inside what appears to be a tomb like structure with strange and unusual Hieroglyphics from floor to ceiling. Exploring the tomb further he comes across a group of "urns" similar to the one found on the derelict space craft only these ones are sealed.
While inspecting these urn like objects something happens. One of them begins to open and a small tentacled creature leaps out and attaches itself to the helpless crew members face. After a while the two remaining crew members scale the side of the pyramid and decide to pull their friend out of the structure. When he reaches the top they are shocked at what they see. The man is unconscious with something on his face, they haul him up and take him back to the Snark [Nostromo] for medical attention. The Space Jockey's history began with the basic idea that O’Bannon had in mind, which Scott wanted to include evidence of in a prognosis scene. But the relationship between the Jockey and the Egg Silo had been altered ever since H.R Giger had been brought in to design both and so with the same biomechanic style evident, the silo and the derelict vessel must have been made by the same builders. To connect things further, in the silo the Alien Life Cycle Hieroglyphics had been changed in terms of the appearance of the victim, which was at first an anonymous astronaut but soon Giger altered it to resemble a member of the Space Jockey’s race, and this frieze was filmed but left out of the final film.
O'Bannon's original concept of the Alien pyramid and the creatures life cycle were related. Like in the final film the creature’s first stage an egg,or "Spore" in this version, which contains the facehugger. The facehugger attaches itself to a host and impregnates it with an alien embryo which later bursts from the hosts chest killing the host instantly. So where does the pyramid come into all this? And why does it contain the Alien "spores"? What about the Alien culture who built the pyramid? What happened to them? What was the Space Jockey doing there? Well, to quote Ash, "There is an explanation for this you know."
"In Dan’s original conception the Alien Race had three entirely different stages of it’s life cycle. First, the egg, which is tended by the third stage adults and housed in a lower chamber of the breeding temple. When ready to hatch, the egg is placed in the middle of a sacrificial stone and a lower animal, the equivalent of an alien cow, is then led on to the stone. Sensing the warmth, the face-hugger springs out, attaches itself to the animal and deposits a foetus into the stomach. The face-hugger soon drops off and the foetus develops inside, eventually chewing it’s way out and killing it’s host. This creature, the chest-burster, is the Alien’s second stage, and it simply runs about eating, mindlessly carnivorous. At this stage the creature is still controlled and nurtured by the adult Alien’s, until the chest- burster begins to lose appendages and becomes a mild, intelligent creature. Capable of art and architecture, which lives a full, scholarly life of 200 years. At some point a cataclysm causes the extermination of the adults of this unique race leaving no one to tend and nurture the young. But in a dark lower chamber of the breeding temple a large number of eggs lie dormant, waiting to sense something warm. Years later, the Space Jockey’s race comes to this planetoid. The Jockey’s are on a mission of exploration and archaeology and are fascinated by this marvellous temple and unknown culture. One of them finds the egg chamber and gets face-hugged. He’s rescued, but no one knows what’s happened. They take him back to their ship and continue their exploration of the planet’s surface. When the Chest-burster erupts from the Jockey it goes on a killing rampage until it is shot and killed. The Alien dies, but immediately decomposes and it’s acid eats through the hull of the Jockey’s ship, leaving them stranded on the planet. The Jockey’s radio out a message that there is a dangerous parasite on the planet, that nothing can be done to save them in time and that no one should attempt a rescue. Then the Jockey’s slowly starve to death..." Ron Cobb Alien Portfolio.
At one stage the Space Jockey wasn’t a visitor from another world but one of the Adult Aliens from the very planet itself. The only survivor of the cataclysm which wiped out the rest of the species but this concept was changed back and forth until it was decided to make the creature an Alien from elsewhere and in this case an Alien Archeologist. Scott has referred to the Space Jockey in recent times as having more control over the Aliens, in fact utilizing them as Biological weapons:
"The film[s] will be really tough, really nasty,"
States Scott on the proposed two-part prequel, which he says will take place 30 years before the first film,
"It’s the dark side of the moon. We are talking about gods and engineers. Engineers of space. And were the aliens designed as a form of biological warfare? Or biology that would go in and clean up a planet?"
So clearly an evolution in the Space Jockey's role. No longer O'Bannon's innocent travelers on a mission of exploration and archeology. Scott further explains:,
"[The film] is about the discussion of terraforming—taking planets and planetoids and balls of earth and trying to terraform, seed them with the possibilities of future life,"
Scott even mentioned the appearance may alter:
"I think beneath that carcass. it’s not a carcass, it’s a suit. Inside the suit is a being."
The more apparent the evolution, the more the genesis of the Alien becomes linked to the Space Jockey’s species. The relationship seems to be utilitarian and if so how far does it go? are the Space Jockey’s responsible for the creation of the Alien? When the Space Jockey is discovered the Egg Silo is shielded beneath a “blue mist” that covers the eggs in the cargo hold, their placement and this apparent shield appears to indicate the possibility that the eggs were intentionally put in stasis, as if stored for later, possibly for military use. Another element suggesting that the Space Jockey’s race created the Xenomorphs is the similarities in design between the biomechanical spacecraft and the hostile Aliens.