Ridley Scott’s prequel to Alien asked more questions than it answered. Chris Wharfe dares to go where they can’t hear you scream in search of his own answers.
After watching Prometheus for the second time, I’ve come to a few conclusions about what could possibly have come before the film (prequel to the prequel, perhaps?). Take these with a grain of salt, as they’re the result of a few conversations on a bus ride home, but also be aware: they’re chock full of spoilers. For a spoiler-free review, see this link…
So as it turns out, the past is a lot more interesting than the future. Where will Dr Elizabeth Shaw and David’s head go from here? The ending of Prometheus made it pretty obvious. They’re off to the Engineer homeworld. Or, as one film blogger (known by the Twitter handle FilmFan1971) speculated, perhaps we’ll see a sitcom launched to the tune of Pinky and the Brain, which sees the duo having all sorts of wacky adventures around the galaxy.
But in all seriousness, it’s pretty clear-cut where Rapace and Fassbender are most likely headed. What’s less clear-cut, and thus far more intriguing, is what exactly happened to lead up to the events of Prometheus. Who are the Engineers? Why did they create the human race, only to U-turn on the whole situation and suddenly try to destroy us? And what exactly happened on LV-223?
From a little bit of deduction and a lot of guesswork, here’s what I think happened. Don’t take my word for it, but do let me know whether you agree or disagree. Could be that I’ve missed some major plot point, or there’s a gaping hole in my theories. So do let me know if you spot anything like that.
So, first and foremost, the Engineers created humanity. I believe this is what we are seeing at the very start of Prometheus. The planet quite clearly bears no similarity to that which we see later: so is it Earth? And are we witnessing an Engineer’s DNA mutating into the very first forms of life on Earth (which is to say, bacteria that will evolve into humanity, ala Darwinism)?
Anyway, the fact that the Engineers created humanity is pretty much set in stone from the DNA match. If that particular plot point turns out to be a red herring, it would eradicate any consequence of the events of Prometheus, so I can’t see that happening. But why did exactly did the Engineers create us? I can think of two reasons: first, as an experiment. As Dr Holloway remarks to David on the robot’s creation – because they could. From the holographic images seen in the main room of the Engineer spaceship, it might be inferred that not only did the Engineers create humanity, but also our entire solar system. Perhaps, then, the Engineers saw themselves as Gods?
However, a (somewhat more far-fetched) theory could be that the Engineers created humanity as a weapon. Picture it: they’re embroiled in some sort of galactic war. And these guys don’t seem to carry guns; when the last living Engineer goes berserk at the end of Prometheus, he’s defeated by that giant Facehugger. Why? Because he’s got sod all to defend himself with. So maybe the Engineers created humanity as a slave race to act as their army. Of course, for this to prove true, billions of years of evolution would have to happen in just a few years – but maybe there’s some kind of timey-wimey loophole, what with the distance between Earth and LV-223? (I don’t pretend to understand the science of it all.)
But anyway, for whatever reason, the Engineers did indeed create the humans. But then they wanted them dead. As Dr Shaw notes, this begs the question: why? My best guess is that they became so despaired with humans forever warring and blowing each other up that they realised their ‘experiment’ (see previous theory) had failed. So they brewed a strange black liquid, which is supposedly intended to have the effect that it had when Dr Holloway consumed it. Presumably, the Engineers were perhaps intending to poison the Earth’s water supply with the black liquid (again, they don’t seem to carry weapons, so this would make a suitable alternative), but the Facehuggers and Xenomorphs were an unseen side effect. Maybe from the conditions of the storage facility in which the vases were kept, which, as seen in Prometheus, was perfectly breathable and capable of supporting life.
Of course, the alternative theory here is one suggested by director Ridley Scott himself in the early days of the original script – “were the aliens designed as a form of biological warfare? Or biology that would go in and clean up a planet?” This fits nicely into the reasons for the creation of the Xenomorphs (so in this instance they were not a side effect, but the intended effect, of the black liquid – though this doesn’t explain the infection of Charlie Holloway).
As Fifield and Milburn note when they find a pile of Engineer carcasses, one of the bodies has a hole in its chest. This points to the Facehuggers doing their chestbursty thingy and turning into Xenomorphs, and then presumably eradicating the Engineers (at several points in the film we are told that whatever weapon of mass destruction the Engineers were creating, it must have at some point turned on them). So that’s the story of the Engineers over. They came to this planet to, as the Captain says, install a military outfit, but were then wiped out. Perhaps more of them exist on another planet. We’ll have to wait for Prometheus II (or whatever it will be called, what with the Prometheus having kamikazed into the Engineer ship) for that.
Which brings us to the start of Prometheus. The Engineers (at least those on LV-223) are wiped out, the Facehuggers are squirming around and, come the film’s conclusion, we see a Xenomorph. The only thing left to explain, then, is the dozens of different alien types we see. Where in Alien things were slightly more clear-cut, with simply the Facehuggers using a human host to give birth to the Xenomorphs, here we have all sorts of alien lifeforms doing all sorts of things. So how does it link up?
From my second viewing of Prometheus, I think I’ve managed to establish the evolutionary chain of the Xenomorphs. Unless I’m much mistaken (which I could easily be), it’s something along the lines of this…
ENGINEERS create BLACK LIQUID
BLACK LIQUID gives birth to FACEHUGGERS
INFANT FACEHUGGERS grow into LARGE FACEHUGGERS
LARGE FACEHUGGERS use human (or Engineer) host to give birth to XENOMORPH
The last part of that should sound familiar. This is all basic stuff. But there’s a few plot holes that need explaining. Millburn was clearly killed by a Facehugger: so why didn’t anything burst out of his chest? That one could easily be explained by the Facehugger being seemingly not fully developed (at least in comparison to the one seen at the film’s close, disregarding the size of the one in Alien) – and thus couldn’t produce a Xenomorph. More difficult to explain is the whole impregnation thing. And this is where I’m a bit stuck. Perhaps the chain above could be spliced to include an offshoot, whereby if an infected host (who has consumed the black liquid) consummates with another then thus results the huge bastard Facehugger we saw at the end of Prometheus.
Honestly though, that one’s stumped me – as has how a reanimated Fifield came back to attack the ship, or indeed any explanation of the star map being found across various ancient civilizations. Perhaps the Engineers periodically visited their creation (that being Earth) to make sure everything was running smoothly? (In which case it would be safe to assume that something wasn’t running smoothly the last time they visited.)
This could easily be a lot of hokum (do people still say that?). Some of it may not make sense. Leave me a comment if you agree/disagree with anything I’ve said, though. I’d love to hear any other theories. Unless you think I need to step away from the laptop and go outside for a while…
Written by Chris Wharfe