Jon Spaihts’ Alien Prequel

Jon Spaihts was tasked by Ridley Scott to pen the prequel to 1979’s Alien.

“Twentieth Century Fox is resuscitating its Alien franchise,” announced Variety in summer 2009, revealing that “The studio has hired Jon Spaihts to write a prequel that has Ridley Scott attached to return as director. Spaihts got the job after pitching the studio and Scott Free, which will produce the film.”

The announcement came after years of Alien 5, prequel and reboot rumours. “I hope if they do something new, they will encompass the idea of where the Alien first came from,” series star Sigourney Weaver said the month before, “because I think that’s an interesting idea — to find out what happened and ‘how did it get to us?’”

Tony Scott had confirmed in May 2009 that Carl Rinsch was to be the film’s director, but Fox apparently pushed for Ridley’s direct involvement and he took the reins (you’d be hard pressed to find any mention of this switch nowadays). Whoever the director, Spaihts was, from the beginning, front and centre for the screenwriting role.

“I went to a general meeting with Scott Free,” he explained to filmmakermagazine. “They just wanted to meet me on the basis of things I’d written that they had read … Late in the meeting, they said that Ridley had been thinking for a long time about returning to the Alien universe … I talked for maybe 45 minutes and when I was done I had outlined a story, main characters, set pieces, a mythology and sort of fleshed it out in the room.”

He continues: “Something like ten days later, maybe two weeks, I was sitting in a room with Ridley Scott and the co-chairs of 20th Century Fox, and we were doing a deal. From there I was outlining and then writing the script, and I worked through five drafts of the screenplay with Ridley Scott over a number of months.”

The script went through a variety of titles, including the imaginative Alien Prequel and Untitled Alien Prequel, as well as Alien: LV-426, Alien: Genesis, Alien: Origins, and Alien: Engineers. The draft of the prequel that escaped to the internet in November 2012 bares the latter title.

Shadow 19: Spaihts’ pre-Alien: Engineers work, Shadow 19, features a modular terraforming ship called the Prometheus. The ship of his Alien story was also modular, but named the Magellan (perhaps after Ferdinand Magellan). Apparently, Lindelof and Scott were responsible for changing the ship’s name to Prometheus, so it’s likely a serendipitous coincidence. Shadow 19 also featured a planet of vicious alien creatures that assault the lead character (a Colonial Marine) throughout the story.

“The world turns below us, vast and slow,” opens his Alien prequel. It is Earth, and we are in 12,000 B.C.

“A shadow sweeps over the land. We move with the shadow. We cast the shadow.” The opening is remarkably close, if not exact, with the beginning of Prometheus. We are then subject to an aerial tour of this “raw natural world”: its deltas, forests, plains, mountains, glaciers, volcanoes, seas and beaches – all running, swaying, erupting, and waving with “no trace of civilisation”. We cut to a lowland plain and are introduced to three alien figures – the Engineers.

“They are men – and yet not men,” is how the script introduces these faux-gods, and their physical forms, save for one detail, match exactly their appearance in Prometheus: “Their skin is snow-white. Their features heavy and classical – as if Rodin’s Thinker had arisen from his seat. Their smooth heads are hairless and earless. Their glittering eyes entirely black.”

The Engineers were conceptualised as the works of Michelangelo come to life – muscular, heroic, thoughtful; all silent power and grace, they carry with them all the supremacy and nobility of Imperial Rome, and all the creative powers of the Ancient Greeks. When the British writer Lord Dunsany learned of the Greek Pantheon, he felt pity “for those beautiful marble people that had become forsaken.” Of course, in the script and film, any feelings of awe, pity or kinship between the humans and Engineers is one-sided and short-lived.

Spaihts originally scripted a ritual sequence that is only half-intact in the film. In Prometheus, a lone Engineer commits ritual suicide and donates his cells to a primal world. In the script, the Engineer is accompanied by two others, who stand in ceremonial robes whilst the sacrificial Engineer is naked. One of the priestly Engineers opens a box and presents “a cake of dark, sticky material.” The sacrifice Engineer “raises the seething cake to his mouth like a sacrament”. “Black scarabs” pour out of the ‘cake’ and consume him. On a microscopic level, we are treated to the image of his cells rupturing and his DNA unravelling. The scarabs devour him completely and scatter to the winds to spread his genetic material. All the while the two attending Engineers “watch passively”.

Sacrificial Engineer ready to bring life to a primordial world. In the conceptual stages, Spaihts wrote an ‘Alien Master Narrative’ that detailed the history of the Engineers. “Their civilisation is millions of years old,” it says, which has probably been altered to billions of years old in Prometheus. It continues: “Once the Engineers expressed themselves as humans do, taking pleasure in music, colour and story, but they’ve long learned to see in more dimensions than we do. Their art and ornament exist on planes imperceptible to human senses. Their constructions look dark and grim to us; but the Engineers’ eyes see far more than our own. Individual Engineers live for a hundred thousand years. Ages ago their race abandoned sex and gender, reproducing by more abstract methods. In recent millenia they have ceased to reproduce altogether.”

The accompanying Engineers were filmed but cut from the movie. “All he’s doing is acting as a gardener in space,” explained Scott when describing the actions of the Sacrifice Engineer in the movie’s beginning. “And the [resulting] plant life, in fact, is the disintegration of himself. If you parallel that idea with other sacrificial elements in history –which are clearly illustrated with the Mayans and the Incas– he would live for one year as a prince, and at the end of that year, he would be taken and donated to the gods in hopes of improving what might happen next year, be it with crops or weather, etcetera.”

After the Engineer’s dissolution, we are then treated to something not revealed at all in Prometheus. Far off, a primitive woman stares in amazement at the Engineer ship, which floats across the earth. Then, “a black scarab lands on the back of her neck. Bites deep. Injecting its cargo of DNA into her blood.” The scarab alters her DNA in some unknown way before dissolving into dust itself. Rather than being the creators of mankind, the Engineers are instead, it seems, tampering with already-present life forms.

It was Spaihts’ idea that Alien‘s Space Jockey race -now the Engineers- would be tied into human history. “If you were to try to reach back in time for the history of the universe we glimpse in the original Alien, you are inevitably concerning yourself with the affairs of non-human beings,” he told filmmakermagazine. “Both the deadly predator that is the through-line of the Alien franchise and the enigmatic dead alien giant that is the great mystery at the beginning of Alien … are interesting entities not fully explained, but to keep an audience interested in those things it couldn’t be abstraction, it couldn’t be a purely ‘alien story’ about things we can’t relate to. It was going to have to be connected to our own story. Somehow the story of those creatures was going to have to be connected to the human story, not just our history but our fate to come.” (Personally, I disagree – humanity stumbling upon the unknown and unrelatable was the source of much of Alien’s power. Whilst Grecian-esque creator gods are a fascinating idea, I never felt that they necessarily had to be the biomechanic Space Jockey race. Fans were fascinated with the ‘abstraction’ for three decades. More than that – it awed, intrigued, and scared them. An irreversible trade-off was made here with the combination of the two races.)

After the primitive woman’s encounter with the DNA-altering scarab we fade to black – and a star field. We are now nearing the end of the 22nd century, and a machine called an Excavator rolls into our view, piloted by a Dr. Jocelyn Watts; later, we will know her in Prometheus as Elizabeth Shaw.

Dating the Alien Prequel: Holloway mentions the Magellan mission as arriving on LV-426 on “thirty-one December, year of our lord 2172” – only seven years prior to Aliens, which takes place in 2179. Certainly, Spaihts was not familiar with the series’ timeline. The year is unspoken in Alien, but is mentioned aloud in Aliens by Ripley when she quotes the date of Burke’s message to Hadley’s Hope when she is confronting him in the colony. “6/12/79,” she says. The prequel’s date was later rectified in Prometheus to take place thirty years before the original film.

The Excavator is a “sturdy vehicle equipped with robotic arms” with a glass-bubble cockpit and is reminiscent of the EVA Pods from Kubrick’s 2001. In a neat visual trick, it is revealed that Watts is not floating in the extremes of space, but in the depths of an ocean. The ‘stars’ are in fact plankton illuminated by the machine’s lights. As an introduction to the character and her work, it is more visually arresting than the introductory Scottish milieu of Prometheus (and that’s speaking as a Scot.)

Conceptual depiction of the Excavator at work. In one draft -yet to be released- Watts and Holloway are excavating on Mars (depicted here.)

Watts is described as being a thirty two year old scientist and a “precocious scholar of many disciplines” who is “accustomed to field work.” Within the sea trench she uncovers a large obelisk of apparent alien origin, and she calls on her partner -Holloway- to inspect the find.

Holloway’s character is drastically different from his appearance in Prometheus. In the film he is young, excitable and surly; a braggart and puppy dog-ish. In Spaihts’ script he is Martin Holloway -not Charlie- and is “48 [years old], [a] visionary genius and archaeologist. Dark haired and lean, with the rangy build of a frontiersman.”

Holloway and Watts go over their find – the alien obelisk is “an ephemeris – a star map” according to Watts, and weighs “hundreds of tons.” That night the two go over their prior discoveries, and realise that they may have pinpointed an alien world, somehow connected to the Earth’s ancient history. We cut to Earth’s orbit, and an orbital structure called “Weyland’s Wheel”. The Wheel is a direct nod to the spinning Space Station V in 2001 – we are even told that “the Wheel’s rotation provides gravity”.

Spinning Space Stations: “The first thing an architect notices about building in space is the pull of gravity – or rather the lack of it!” read a NASA article on the subject. It continues: “A free-falling space home up in Earth orbit can take a wider variety of basic shapes than homes on the planet below … Science fiction writers in the past (back as far as 1869!) often imagined a space station shaped like a wheel or a big donut. Like the one in the classic science fiction movie 2001: A Space Odyssey, these huge ring-shaped outposts would slowly spin to induce a gravity-like force where none exists naturally, using the centrifugal force from the wheel’s spin to cause the pull of a false gravity toward its outer rim. People could stand there and feel normal, with an ‘up’ and a ‘down’ to orient them … Other space exploration pioneers, such as NASA’s own Werner von Braun, also saw a rotating wheel as the most likely space station design … But Von Braun wasn’t the first to think of a wheel in space — the idea goes back to a 1928 book The Problem of Space Travel where Herman Potocnik laid out details of a wheel-like space station called the ‘Habitat Wheel’.”

In another direct reference to Kubrick’s sci-fi opus, Watts and Holloway approach the Wheel in a ship no bigger than a commercial jet (the ship in 2001 was a Pan-Am liner). They are the only two passengers on board and Holloway “plays with a pen, batting it from hand to hand in the zero gravity”; a restless game that evokes Heywood Floyd’s wayward, floating pen. Watts and Holloway briefly discuss Weyland’s seriousness, and she worries that their meeting with the mogul will “go like the others.” Apparently, the two have shopped their theories about before. This little tid-bit lends the two an underdog status that is lost in the film, where they appear to be blindly confident.

The two dock within the Wheel and take a zero-gravity elevator ride to meet David. In another deviation from the film, David is “cunningly built, but no one would mistake him for a real human being.” This iteration of the David model has yet to close the uncanny valley between man and machine. “Mr. Weyland’s eager to meet you,” he says.

Inside the Wheel’s exhibit hall we see Weyland’s progress in space pioneering and the inexact science of terraforming:

EXHIBIT HALL

DAVID leads past models of planets, moons and asteroids. Holographic labels and data swirl around them.

DAVID: These are all the planetary bodies on which Weyland Industries has mining claims.

The end of the hall is dominated by a huge globe of Mars. Markings indicate widespread surface activity.

DAVID: (con’t) And Mars. Weyland’s crown jewel.

HOLLOWAY: How is that going? The terraforming.

WATTS: They say you’re getting diminishing returns. It’s not working.

DAVID: It’s the greatest engineering project ever attempted. Challenges are inevitable. Mr. Weyland’s a determined man.

After this short show and tell, David leads Holloway and Shaw directly to Weyland’s office, where they meet both him and Lydia Vickers. Weyland “sits behind a mahogany desk. He’s a Warren Buffet type: a country sage, horse-sense and hard knocks. He might be seventy years old, or a hundred and seventy.” Vickers is described as being “a slim woman of 45 in a costly business suit. Shrewd and watchful. Once a great beauty, she now trades in ruthlessness.”

The two archaeologists/scientists sit, and Weyland asks for their pitch. They tell him that in their research they have observed that every 1100 years the Earth’s ancient civilisations have undergone inexplicable biological and technological leaps. “I was analysing historical changes in human DNA,” says Watts. “I found the same pattern. Every eleven centuries, a pulse of new information in the genome of the human race. All over the world. Evolution can’t do that. Something was changing us. Changing the DNA of our species.”

This piece of dialogue, in tandem with the primitive woman described in the script’s opening, clears up many of Prometheus’ mysteries concerning the extent of the Engineers’ involvement in our creation. While the final film opts for some oblique mystery by omitting these details, it instead comes off as scientifically amateurish or ignorant. Watts’ theory that something is tampering with humanity’s genetic material over the ages was touted by production manager Arthur Max in Prometheus: The Art of the Film, and its exclusion from the film feels like a misstep.

As it turns out, Weyland already knows everything Watts and Holloway are telling him, thanks to elements within his company spying on the two scientists. But Weyland’s not entirely egotistical or greedy. Despite having already obtained and confirmed the veracity of their research, he is charitable enough to offer them a contract and a claim on any archaeological finds; bar any alien technology they might uncover. Holloway signs, and Weyland informs him that David will accompany the expedition as his “eyes and ears” – as will Vickers, much to her own shock.

“LV-426 is a grey moon shrouded in clouds. Behind it looms its father planet Epsilon, a lurid gas giant banded in red and gold, half-swallowed in darkness.”
~ Alien: Engineers script.

When the Magellan (the proto-Prometheus ship) arrives in LV-426’s orbit, we meet the rest of the crew. We have Watts, Holloway, David, Vickers, Janek; Ravel, Chance, Milburn and Fifield. Additionally, we have characters that are not present in Prometheus: Glasse, Brick, Karamov, Stillwell, and Downs.

The crew search the planet’s surface and eventually find the Engineer pyramid amongst its crags and peaks.

Daylight: we’re told before the crew adventure out to the pyramid that LV-426 only has six hours of daylight left. In Alien we’re told that the planetoid has a bi-hourly rotation.

Magellan: As pointed out earlier, the film’s ship is likely named after Portuguese explorer, Ferdinand Magellan. Accompanying Magellan on his travels was Italian explorer and scholar Antionio Pigafetta, who wrote an account of his travels with Magellan in his Relazione del Primo Viaggio Intorno Al Mondo (Report on the First Voyage Around the World). Supposedly, Pigafetta and the Magellan crew encountered some very real giants in Patagonia, in South America. One day, Pigafetta and some men encountered “a naked man of giant stature on the shore of the port, dancing, singing, and throwing dust on his head.” This being was so large that the men only reach his waist. Pigafetta goes on to detail communication with the Patagonian giants, their god (an even larger colossus, called Setebo) and even their funeral rites. Upon publication, his book was a popular success – so much so, that Patagonia on the map became known as Regio Gigantum (region of giants) and rumours of sightings carried on until the 18th century. So Spaihts’ futuristic Magellan crew weren’t the only ones to stumble on to a society of gargantuan beings.

The descriptions of the pyramids littered around LV-426’s surface are a major problem for the script – in Alien, and more pertinently, Aliens, there is no trace of these monumental structures at all. Though the derelict ship is upended and rendered silent by volcanic activity in Aliens -and therefore easy to overlook- it stretches credulity that the colonists there could have missed a plethora of pyramidal structures that the Magellan crew find within moments. This is probably one of several reasons that the movie was relocated to LV-223.

Inside the pyramid we find that David can see the temple’s mechanisms and technology; hidden to the human eye but plain for an android and the Engineers to see. David activates the Engineer holograms and pandemonium breaks out as a panicked Jockey recording barrels down the halls. After this almost ghostly encounter, Fifield wimps out, and Milburn accompanies him. “Buddy system,” he says.

Lost in Space: There’s an excuse of sorts for why Fifield and Milburn get lost in the catacombs – they lose their mapping equipment. Milburn even attempts to contact the Magellan, but receives only static. “To Milburn and Fifield,” Janek later toasts, “the first human beings to freak out, get lost, and sleep in their suits in the ruins of an alien civilisation.”

The ampule room containing the monolithic head is absent here – instead, they find within the core chamber an atmosphere processor. A ramp leads to a lower chamber, where they find a passageway lined with Engineer space-suits. Further ahead, they stumble upon dead Engineers and the “scene of an ancient massacre”.

The suited Engineers in the film are closer in appearance to the Space Jockey of Alien. “If he were standing,” says the script, “he would be fifteen feet tall. He is roughly human in shape. Barrel-chested. Withered to the bone. There are bulky protrusions fused with his flesh: hard to say whether they are equipment or parts of his body. His head, lolling to one side, is severed from his body. His eyes seem covered by goggles; but if so then the goggles are fused with his skull. An elephantine proboscis, severed now, once connected to a protrusion on his hip. The giant lies frozen in a convulsion of agony. His jaw gaping in a silent scream.”

When Janek informs them that a massive storm is rolling in, the crew hasten to return to the Magellan. Milburn and Fifield are left behind. David relays information about the pyramid and the atmosphere processor to Vickers, and they proceed to “protocol two”, (David, in a villainous soliloquy that comes later, explains that protocol two is an executive order to “make sure you [Watts] and Holloway never spoke to anyone about this place.” He adds that “various acceptable ways of making sure of that” were provided to him in a list. Giving this some thought, I’m confused about why Weyland just didn’t feign writing Holloway and Watts off as pseudo-scientists, since he already had all of their research, and then have David and a crew of loyal specialists and soldiers travel to LV-426 anyway. Less fuss, intrigue and murder, that way.)

“Your cadaver’s interesting,” Vickers tells Watts and Holloway as they inspect a scavenged Engineer head, “but I’m more interested in the machinery in the pyramid. The core chamber. What do you think it does?”

Vickers, in this iteration of the story, wants to secure the Engineers’ atmosphere processing tech for Weyland, and she has brought along a team of mercenaries to ensure that the job is done. The Company, then, is a more malevolent force here than in Prometheus, where Vickers tags along to oversee her father, who in turn has accompanied the Prometheus ship to LV-223 to obtain immortality or godhood.

Watts and Holloway recover and autopsy the Engineer’s decaying head. Vickers however is more interested in the alien technology, rather than the corpse.

The second act of the film focuses on Fifield and Miburn’s demise, and the awakening of Vickers’ mercenaries, hidden aboard the ship. “Four hibernation pods slide out of the metal walls. From each pod, a muscular soldier rouses from sleep. They are scarred and crew-cut. Tough customers. They wake like veterans.”

Leading this military group is Captain Shepherd, “a career mercenary who has followed the highest paycheque to this strange duty.” The other soldiers are named Ray, Vigoda, and Card. These military characters, I suppose, are to be a throwback of sorts to the Colonial Marines, and provide the film with some firepower.

Awakened by the soldiers, a furious Holloway and Watts confront Vicker’s, who explains her agenda. “Mr. Weyland’s pouring trillions into Mars,” she explains. “He’s spent a fortune building ships like the Magellan to search for colony planets. But Earth-like worlds are vanishingly rare … This [Engineer pyramid] is a technology to transform worlds. He’ll never give it up. And neither will I.”

Watts and Holloway return to the pyramid (the technology therein being investigated by the crew) and Holloway is eventually set apart and infected by a proto-facehugger creature. He awakens, stumbles through the pyramid, and is recovered by David and Watts. Before they leave the temple, David turns and runs back inside, and Watts and Holloway return to their ship without him.

The next sequence sees the emergence of a chestburster, which is born as Holloway and Watts make love. The creature escapes as Stillwell barges in; meanwhile, back in the pyramid, Fifield’s corpse is undergoing some change…

“I did have facehuggers in my original draft,” Spaihts told Empire magazine. “David, as he began to get fascinated by the science of the Engineers, doesn’t deliberately contaminate Holloway with a drop of black liquid. Instead, Holloway hubristically removes his helmet in the chamber, is knocked unconscious, facehugged and wakes up not knowing what had been done to him, and stumbles back into the ship. In my draft, he returns to his cabin, is embraced by Shaw, who is delighted to see him having feared that he had died, and the two of them make love. And it’s while they’re making love that he bursts and dies. So that lovemaking sequence echoed my original lovemaking sequence where he explodes! It was messy.”

Holloway’s chestburster, which has escaped into the nether parts of the ship, grows into a pale-skinned monster that kills Kamarov, Card, and Downs before escaping again into the ship’s hold. But there are more facehuggers and impregnation abound, and all thanks to a much more villainous David.

Spaihts explained that, “David, fascinated by these creatures, begins delaying the mission and going off the reservation on his own, essentially because he thinks he really belongs with the Engineers. They’re smart enough and sophisticated enough, great enough, to be his peers. He’s harbouring a deep-seated contempt for his human makers. So at one point Shaw goes to stop him and David ties her up and deliberately exposes her to a facehugger. He caresses an egg open and out comes a facehugger. David doesn’t smell like a person -his breath isn’t moist- so he can handle the thing like a kitten. It doesn’t want him; it’s not interested. But then he exposes it to her and it goes for her like a shot. He toys with her for a bit and then lets it take her. That, in my draft, was how Shaw was implanted with the parasite that she had to remove with the medpod sequence.”

The third act is perhaps where the script begins to crumbles. Aliens erupt, come, kill, and go. Some are dispatched with disappointing ease. Watts’ evicted Alien is quickly killed by her, only minutes of screen-time after its arrival. After this encounter, Watts arms herself and finds that the Magellan is in a state of ruin thanks to Holloway’s Alien. “So there’s two of these things on my ship now,” sighs Janek. “No,” Watts answers. “I brought it in (hefts her gun) I took it out.”

Later in the third act, Watts, Vickers, Vigoda, Shepherd and Ray enter the Engineer compound to face off with David (Janek waits aboard the Magellan) and they find Ravel and Chance, who have been tied down and exposed to facehuggers by David. “Their heads thrown back in agony. Their chests torn open from within. A dead facehugger beside each body.” The war party quickly run into an immature Alien, which is killed by Weyland mercenary, Ray. The second Alien is killed by the mutant Fifield, who has until now remained dormant within the structure. When the crew encounter Fifield, he mortally wounds Shepherd and leaps on Vickers – the dying Shepherd unloads a clip into the mutant, and he dies, but not before bleeding acid over Vickers, who “dies horribly”.

Mutants like Fifield kill characters with names in Spaihts' script.

Mutants like Fifield kill characters who actually have names in Spaihts’ script.

Just prior to meeting Fifield however, the survivors meet David within the Engineer hibernation chamber, where the android reawakens the facility’s lone Engineer, who summarily suits up and tears off David’s head before rushing for the pilot chamber. The Magellan crew rush after him, but the ‘Sleeper’ Engineer ambushes them, launching ‘missiles’ from his body that “crushes Ray like an invisible fist” and “splashes Glasse against the wall like an insect”. Stillwell is likewise killed, leaving Watts as the only survivor (no trace of these three bodies when Kane, Dallas and Lambert later investigate…)

Watts makes it back to the Magellan, where Janek awaits – however, he is immediately set upon by the alabaster-skinned Holloway Alien (which everyone has seemingly forgotten about until now). “Its goblin-shark jaws juts out. Sinks its horrific teeth into Janek’s shoulder.” Janek manages to cop a few pistol rounds into the creature, to an avail – then Watts appears, rattles the Alien over the head with the butt of a rifle until it releases Janek, and she then proceeds to blow it away. “It collapses, dead.” Acid damage also seems to be minimal, or of no real concern.

In the distance, the Juggernaut is launching. Watts and Janek bring their ship into flight and prepare to ram the alien warmonger. Unfortunately for the Sleeper, he doesn’t live long enough to enable evasive manoeuvres – an Alien Ultramorph erupts from his chest,  and the Magellan rams into the Juggernaut. Both ships topple; the Magellan comes apart and falls. Janek is killed by a “lethal fragment of glass.” The ship still in free-fall, Watts escapes in a pod and surveys the debris from the ground.

Just as in the final movie, the Juggernaut rolls after the survivor, who falls under it, but, again, survives. She is awoken by her suit warning of a shortage of air, and the Ultramorph arrives on the scene. Watts finds the Magellan’s laboratory and a game of cat and mouse ensues, ending with the Ultramorph being quickly dispatched after she “impales the Alien’s skull” with a buzzsaw. Alone on the planet now with David’s decapitated (and chatty) head, “two dozen beams of light rise from the moon, visible even from space. A beacon. A signal. A beginning. Fade out. The end…”

“I left the two of them on the surface of that planetoid,” Spaihts told Empire. “It was plain that David and Shaw were going to have to work together and deal with one another if they were to survive. That one shot of the ship taking off in the finished film really focuses you on a particular outcome, whereas my ending was much more open as to what was going to happen next. But it was very much about this shattered android and this scarred woman being left with no-one but each other to carry on with.”

In all, here is a character roster, and their fatalities:

WATTS: Survives
HOLLOWAY: Infected by a primitive “octopoid” facehugger, which erupts mid-coitus.
DAVID: Survives, though decapitated.
VICKERS: Killed by Fifield’s acid-bleeding corpse.
JANEK: Killed by glass-debris when the Magellan crashes into the Juggernaut.
MILBURN: Killed by the Hammerpede.
FIFIELD: Exposed to mutagen and becomes a quasi-Alien mutant. Finally destroyed by Shepherd’s gunfire.
CHANCE: Killed by facehugger exposure, by way of dastardly David.
RAVEL: Also killed by facehugger exposure, by way of dastardly David.
KAMAROV: Pulled into a vent by the Holloway Alien.
DOWNS: Seems to be killed by stray fire from Vigoda, who panics when facing down the Holloway Alien.
STILLWELL: Killed by the Sleeper Engineer.
GLASSE: Killed by the Sleeper Engineer.
BRICK: Inexplicably disappears without further mention between page 89 (“It’s a fucking madhouse in here”) and page 94 (“The surviving complement of the Magellan are holed up on the bridge.” No mention of Brick at all from here on.)
SHEPHERD (Weyland personnel): Killed by mutant Fifield.
CARD (Weyland personnel): “Gutted in an instant” when running into the Holloway Alien.
VIGODA (Weyland personnel): Throat ripped out by Watts’ chestburster.
RAY (Weyland personnel): Killed by the Sleeper Engineer.

As you can see, the character roster is quite large, and Spaihts seems to forget about one of his characters in the middle of the story, (if anyone can find the fate of Downs, let me know!)

And here’s a creature roster, and in order of death:

Hammerpede: Janek puts “three rounds into the bug” after it emerges from Milburn’s corpse.
Watts Alien: Killed by Watts once she is ejected from the Medpod. She shoots it with Vigoda’s pistol.
Ravel Alien: Either killed by Ray in the pyramid, or by mutant Fifield. Its particular identity isn’t known.
Chance Alien: Same as above.
Holloway Alien: Killed by Watts, who shoots it in the head on the Magellan’s bridge.
Sleeper Engineer: Chestburst’d by the Ultramorph.
Ultramorph: Watts skewers its head with a diamond-tipped buzzsaw.

After five drafts, Ridley Scott reached out to Damon Lindelof, who was asked to read Spaihts’ script and give input and perhaps a new spin on the material. Lindelof suggested removing the Aliens and moving the project away somewhat from the trappings of the series. He was hired, and worked on the script for another six to seven months, resulting in Prometheus.

“One of Damon’s major jobs when he came on board was to replace the menaces of the Xenomorphs with other things,” Spaihts explained. “Largely the other menaces in the film were present in my drafts as well – there was a black mutagenic compound that could change people in unpredictable way, Fifield did morph into a monster and become a real danger in his own right, and of course the Engineers, the Space Jockeys, proved to be terribly dangerous creatures. In my draft, as well, we did resurrect one and he tore off David’s head. Much of the mayhem of the final film was present in the drafts I wrote, but the Xenomorphs were the major change, as well as the stockpiling of this black liquid as opposed to Alien eggs.”

Spaihts finished talking to Empire by outlining his ideas for follow-ups to the film. “I did have a plan for multiple films,” he said, “and the conversations I had with Ridley was about a new franchise, from the beginning. We talked about a possible trilogy, or a duology, but more often as a trilogy. And I did have pretty broad notions as to how we were going to get from this world to the original Alien – the baton pass, closing the circle, if you will. So yes, I did have plans for two other films. I came up with an even more twisted sequence than the Medpod, but I cannot tell you what happens…”

He continued: “My vision of the trilogy would have involved the arrival of the Yutani Company and a couple of other major plays around the Engineers themselves: the revelation of an additional grand Engineer design, and the possibility of seeking an Engineer homeworld. That shot of the ship flying at the end offers a lot of creative ways to play with this. But it feels like it brackets you into the search for the Engineer homeworld and home civilisation. That’s an interesting challenge.”

Jon Spaihts on the Prometheus set.

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4 Comments

Filed under Prometheus

4 responses to “Jon Spaihts’ Alien Prequel

  1. Another enjoyable read. Very concise analysis, the best I’ve read yet. I do wonder about the original SJ though. We are led to believe this guy is an Engineer in a suit, because that’s what we see in Prometheus. If Scott manages to make his trilogy maybe this will prove to be the case. Although I personally, and sincerely, hope not! I have my own theory on the SJ (like many I’m sure) and I intend to hang on to it, regardless of what Scott puts up on the silver screen. What is canon? When it comes to the Alien/Prometheus franchise, the answer is precisely nothing, no matter what die-hard fan-boiz declare.

  2. BillTed

    I’m not sure which is worse:

    Repeatedly making blatant and obvious callbacks and references to well known better movies for no useful reason other then to distract from the lesser original content and to impress 13 year old hipsters.

    Or just wholesale and incompetently stealing entire scenes and skits from those same better movies and then attempting to pass your inferior imitations off as a unique creation.

    prometheus is guilty of both of those on what seems like almost every level.

    And I wonder how much of that comes directly from ridley himself?

    I can picture ridley sitting next to Speights with his wine and cigars collaborating:

    “Remember those black stones from Kubrick, yeah?
    And then maybe a scene where they visit a space station that looks like a wagon wheel so that it can generate artificial gravity, yeah.
    And I’ve got this great idea for a scene where the audience watches as an everyday object floats majestically in zero gravity. Something normal and everyday, maybe something like a pen.”

    He probably hasn’t seen that movie since the 70’s.
    Ridley never being more then a dabbling sci-fi fan if at all.

    Mabey thats the kind of thing that lindelof was talking about when he tried to blame his awful script on ridley.

    But even though ridley is and should be directly or indirectly guilty for all the movies numerous failures (and its few arguable triumphs),
    its pretty obvious that lindelof only made things worse.
    Thats plain to see Just by taking a mildly critical look at what he says in interviews, his writing style and all the very lost-esque additions that HE made to HIS draft.

    The jury is still out on Speights IMO,
    (At least I’ll give him a pass this time),
    but ridley and lindelof are as guilty as sin.

  3. Great and exciting work getting into the bones of ALIEN. . . I have been interested in finding some of the more occult connections in H.R. Geiger’s art and wondering if these don’t tie in to the beginning of the whole Alien mythology since it started in the early 80’s. I also wonder if there wasn’t some connection to the elite releasing this movie as a sort of revelation to the public of that gigantic 4 km spacecraft they found on the dark side of the moon only a few years prior to Ridley Scott’s ALIEN release.

  4. taffysaur

    “The jury is still out on Speights IMO”

    At least– as mentioned in the article– the Engineers conceit makes some kind of sense here. At the very least it doesn’t seem to misunderstand the concept of evolution by natural selection of random genetic mutations so spectacularly. Should have left it this way, I wouldn’t have had such a major problem with the movie.
    I feel like if you want to write science-fiction you ought to be at least passingly science-literate.

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