After months of waiting, the release of Ridley Scott’s “Prometheus is finally here. Having sifted through all the posters, trailers, viral videos and press conferences, all of our theories about what the film will explore and how it connects to “Alien” will be revealed. Before they pull the curtain back, we decided to take one more dive in the the rich history of the science fiction classic that started the franchise and talk about some of the more obscure facts behind “Alien” that appear to be present in promotional materials for “Prometheus.” Note: This article contains spoilers for those who have not seen the original 1979 film.
1.) The temple from “Prometheus” was originally going to be in “Alien”
When Scott and his team first set off to make “Alien,” the egg chamber where John Hurt’s character Kane is infected was supposed to be in a temple separate from the crashed spaceship. In the original screenplay by Dan O’Bannon and Ronald Shusset, the crew lands on the planet and investigates the Space Jockey’s ship, discovering a triangular shape etched in to the vessel’s walls by hand. As the crew begins to explore the planet, they spot the the pyramid, but ignore that the wall etchings were a warning rather than directions. Then 20th Century Fox cut the budget, so the egg chamber had to be built on the same set as the derelict spacecraft’s control room.
Now in “Prometheus,” Scott finally got his temple. It’s an interesting comparison in plot development that “Prometheus” is all about chasing a race that possibly created mankind across the galaxy based on cave drawings and winding up at a temple where horrible dangers may be waiting (which, we totally know it is).
2.) Hieroglyphics played a key role in the original screenplay
In losing the temple set, the film also lost the element from O’Bannon and Shusett’s draft where the evolution of the alien is presented to the crew in the form of hieroglyphics on the temple walls. The description shows the cycle of egg/squid/monster, and the crew don’t put the pieces together until they encounter the full grown xenomorph. They also eventually realize that if the monster has its way, they will transformed by the creature in to eggs, starting the cycle over again for the next victims who come across their craft.
Ridley Scott filmed the scene that shows Ripley finding the creature’s nest in the bowels of the Nostromo, where her crew members are being transformed, but later cut it for the theatrical release.
It’s significant that in the trailer for “Prometheus,” there are hieroglyphics in the temple that depict a creature that looks like H.R. Giger’s alien. It’s almost as if Scott and his writers liked the idea of explorers ignoring the blueprint of their own destruction sitting right in front of them so much that that had to resurrect the juxtaposition 33 years later. Now we’ll get the chance see if the characters are smart enough to figure it out. Anyone want to talk about the odds of that?
3.) Ripley was originally going to be a guy
Horror films have a pretty steady (and appalling) track record for their depictions of women being sexually victimized, but there was something about the string of movies in the later 1970’s that lit a fire under Dan O’Bannon. “Alien” was to be the exact opposite, with an entire male crew encountering a menace that violates its victims orally and impregnates its host, non-biased of gender. When 20th Century Fox brought in Walter Hill and David Giler to re-write the screenplay, they changed the cast around so that there would be both ethnic and gender diversity. In the end, while Ripley is the last member of the crew standing (albeit, after being chased around in her undies), Lambert (played by Veronica Cartwright) is the only one of the creature’s victim’s who ends up stripped and hanging from the ceiling, which defeats the original thesis. Even so, “Alien” and its sequel became praised for their depictions of Ripley as the ultimate sci-fi female protagonist.
I’m guessing from all of the screaming and underwear lurching we see in the “Prometheus” trailer, it doesn’t look like things are going to fair well for either sex in the new movie, but I did also notice that the characters played by Noomi Rapace and Charlize Theron are the only two crew members we see running from the crashing alien ship. We’ll have to wait until the film comes out on the gender equality scale.
4.) The Android was an Add-On
Another change that Walter Hill and David Giler made to their draft of the screenplay was the addition of Ash, the science officer played by Sir Ian Holm that reveals itself to be a menacing android in the third act. After losing their captain to the alien, Ripley uncovers that Ash has been using them all along to get the creature home, and responds to getting caught by trying to murder her with a pornographic magazine (as if “Alien” needed more sexual subtext). In a film that’s all about physical violation, Ash adds even more injury in the betrayal of the crew’s trust, both in their co-worker and the company that employs them. Ash’s entire presence on the crew is to make sure that the cargo makes it home even if the crew doesn’t.
Ridley Scott’s next film “Blade Runner” continued to explore the idea of androids meant to serve, but not necessarily fond of their human masters. That “Prometheus” features an android completely undisguised as a crew member in Michael Fassbender’s David 8 is interesting, both to see what Scott does with the character in the story, and also to see why years later Ash has to pretend to be human. Having an android on the crew of a deep space vessel sounds like a great idea, especially when handling biologically hazardous entities. So what does David 8 do in “Prometheus” that the company starts hiding them in plain sight by the time Ash joins the crew of the Nostromo?
5.) Ridley Scott is wrong about the Space Jockeys
For the last few months of press conferences surrounding “Prometheus,” we’ve heard Ridley Scott repeatedly say that the “Alien” franchise focused on the monster and ignored the big dead guy in the chair. And while he’s right about that in regards to the movies, what it doesn’t acknowledge is that in 1988, Dark Horse comics published a sequel to “Aliens” that followed an adult Newt’s journey to the far reaches of the galaxy to find the origins of the creatures that had destroyed her youth, and winds up coming face to face with the Space Jockeys. In the book, it was revealed that the ship the Ripley and her crew mates encountered had been a bomber, sent to deliver the alien eggs as biological weapon that would devastate their enemy’s planet, only the pilot became victim to his own cargo.
“Alien 3” completely knocked this story out of canon (and subsequent re-printings have the changed Newt’s name to avoid confusion), but at the time it was an incredibly popular book with an intriguing theory about how the ship got there. Considering how well versed screenwriter Damon Lindelof is in science fiction and comics, I wouldn’t be surprised if he read those as well, and it will be interesting to see if they impact the back story in “Prometheus.”