I’ve been holding back on this a little bit, but Prometheus is OUT today, so this information is now available to North American movie goers.
You do not need to have seen Prometheus to read the first part of this, then I’ll dig into some spoilers to support what I’m asserting. I will clearly mark this.
NO PROMETHEUS SPOILERS YET.
What do we learn about the universe at the beginning of Alien?
- There is an Engineer ship crash landed on LV-486
- The pilot of this ship had a xenomorph
queen something emerge from his chest cavity
- There are tons of eggs in the now-empty weapons hold
- The xenomorph we’ve seen in Alien and Aliens has no human DNA in it
The Space Jockey is essentially a bomber pilot who didn’t make it home after his battle mission. The only thing that Prometheus doesn’t clarify about the situation on LV-486 in Alien is what planet this bio-attack was meant for and if the attack itself was of xenomorphs (implying the Engineers managed to create the xenomorph variant of their bio-weapon) or if the attack was of a bio-weapon and that attack went wrong, so the Engineer wrecked himself on an uninhabited planet and set off a warning beacon before he dies.
BEGIN EXTENSIVE SPOILERS FOR PROMETHEUS
The bio-weapon is a black, DNA-based weapon that doesn’t react the same to all types of alien DNA. So when it touches it’s maker - and Engineer - it drives them mad and eventually makes them explode. Hence what we see in the movie with the holograms when the infection spreads and all the Engineers are running around trying to get to The Head Room (rooms?) - specialized chambers that are atmospherically programmed to keep the bio-weapon in stasis (it’s not that the Prometheus crew springs a trap, it’s that they leave the door to The Head Room open).
We don’t see any sexes amongst the Engineers and considering that they seem to have made this weapon without thinking what it would do to a female, I suggest that they have no sex. So the Engineer brain trust on this military base created a bio-weapon they could drop on a planet. This bio-weapon would alter the victim’s DNA and cause the infected to go full berserker (the males we see infected in the film, the worms) against anything else with no direct purpose. It’s possible that it spreads infections male-to-male when it causes the head of an Engineer to explode in a fine mist.
What the Engineers (and if you believe Genesis, God himself) didn’t count on was women. Or, specifically, that these things they would attack and kill have some way of reproducing a complex set of DNA (in our case, a very similar DNA strand to the Engineers). Being that the bio-weapon is DNA-based, every time the bio-weapon interacts with the DNA building structures in another life-form, a new species is born.
Note the vagina/womb at the top of the alien life-cycle mural.
The concerning thing in Prometheus is the sculpture in Engineers stasis room that looks like a xenomorph head. That implies that at some point the Engineers realized what was possible with this virus, because I am convinced (and the film has nothing to disprove me) that the xenomorph-style head is derived from when an Engineer is infected by one of the new species. They’ve discovered this and it - rightly so - scares the crap out of them as a race. They’re a group of things that have gone around the universe creating life in a fairly normalized manner and now they’ve created something that creates a NEW something when it turns on them.
Too complicated? Let me try to break this down.
The Bio-Weapon (Black Goo) has the following characteristics: When it infects you, it has two purposes: kill and spread infection. It needs to be inside of the thing in order to start changing it, so it has a biological imperative to get INSIDE you. In it’s weaponized form, it has no consciousness that we know of. Instead, it’s more like parasitic DNA that re-purposes the things it infects.
However, when the bio-weapon comes in contact with a female capable of giving birth (or…say…LAYING EGGS), there’s the unintended side-effect that the monster gains the ability to reproduce. Hence Cuddles the squid baby having the same biological imperatives as the bio-weapon (Kill, reproduce), but the chest-bursting aspect is wholly new because the bio-weapon has mutated. It can’t transform DNA anymore, it needs to reproduce, to create another version of itself, a new species.
It was this aspect of the bio-weapon that I think took the Engineers by surprise, and it’s this aspect of the bio-weapon that makes me think we’ll have to deal with another, more insect-like species before we’re done with this universe.
What we see in the last, crappy shot of this movie is NOT a xenomorph like we’re used to. First - it doesn’t incubate for long enough and emerges a quadruped. Second - it’s internal jaw is close enough for us to recognize, but it’s not the same. Third - it’s head is too pointy.
It’s not like the xenomorph doesn’t exist in numerous sculpts, this is all on purpose because this is a version of the alien we haven’t seen before. It’s a Weapon-Human-species-Engineer life cycle.
In order for the bio-weapon to produce the xenomorph, the bio-weapon must have infected a female (or queen) of a more insect-like race. A race of aliens that lay eggs (it’s not human, because Shaw gives birth to Cuddles, the eggs a wholly absent in the human/Engineer weaponized species), has acid for blood, makes “hives.”
That’s why the face-huggers exist and don’t look like squid. That’s why there is a larvae process instead of fully-formed xenomorphs being birthed (with the exception of the Dog Alien in Alien 3, but a lot of the bio-weapon continues to adapt to whatever species it infects, the chest-burster is designed sort of like a tape worm with a mouth and the capability to use it’s tail as a spring, so it makes sense).
So - what happened before the beginning of Alien?
I propose 2 possible stories:
1) The Engineers are off killing races (for reasons even Prometheus leaves you hanging on) and one or a few of them are piloting a ship full of bio-weapon to a planet. They drop the bio-weapon on the planet, hoping to kill the insectoid race. Something goes wrong, the pilot gets infected and as he’s returning home to report victory or rally the troops to finish the job, a queen busts out of his chest, he crash lands on LV-486, dies. The Queen is like “WTF, no life forms?” so she lays as many eggs as possible, then dies. Then, the Nostromo arrives…
2) The Engineers have realized that their bio-weapon has crazy consequences when turned on themselves. “Why are we using the same weapon to create as well as destroy when we could make a whole creature that would just kill everything?” they ask themselves. One of their experiments goes wrong and they unleash the first proto-xenomorph (with the penis-shaped head). It takes forever to kill it, but they’re like: “HEY! If we mix this with the right species, we could create something really deadly.” Thus begins the search for what to combine with their creation-weapon to make the ultimate new weapon. Facilities like the one we see in Prometheus are launched. At some point post-Prometheus, they finally discover the best species to make a hybrid with - some sort of insect like species. The Space Jockey goes to the “Alien homeworld” collects as many eggs as he can so The Engineers can mass produce this new weapon, but something goes wrong and he’s infected, crash landing on LV-486.
END EXTENSIVE PROMETHEUS SPOILERS
So Prometheus did kind of explain Alien. Or it provided enough explanation for me to come up with back-plots for the gothic horror film that aren’t unsatisfactory in the greater universe these two films shared.
But I refuse to believe that there isn’t a more insect-like alien species out there. They kind of have to exist if the life-cycle of the Xenomorph is in any way related to the monsters in Prometheus.
Although this whole thing does make the end of Alien: Resurrection more interesting. The whole bit about Ripley “giving” the queen the “gift” of childbirth really echoes into the past creation of these baddies, who - UP UNTIL ALIEN RESURRECTION - hadn’t been mixed with Human DNA.
Hence “The Newborn” having a skull? I guess?
Someone get Joss Whedon to explain this.