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Derelict Ship

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"It was a ship. Relatively intact it was, and more alien than any of them had imagined possible. Dallas would not have labelled it gruesome, but it was disturbing in a way hard technology should not have been. The lines of the massive derelict were clean but unnatural, imbuing the entire design with an unsettling abnormality."
Alien novelization, chapter 4
Derelict Ship
Derelict Ship
General information
Classification Crashed Engineer vessel
Location Acheron (LV-426)
Chronological information
First appearance Alien
Last appearance Alien: Isolation (comic)

The Derelict Ship, codenamed Origin and also known as the Alien Derelict,[1] is the informal designation for the crashed Juggernaut-type Engineer spacecraft discovered on LV-426. Some time in 2122, a warning signal being broadcast from the Derelict was detected by Weyland-Yutani and the commercial hauler USCSS Nostromo was subsequently sent to investigate, without the knowledge of its crew. The ship was believed to have crashed on LV-426 several millennia prior to the arrival of the Nostromo.

The Derelict was thought to have been destroyed in 2179 when the Atmosphere Processor at the nearby colony of Hadley's Hope exploded, but it in fact survived the blast and was later home to an extensive Weyland-Yutani research camp, known as the Origin Facility.


The Derelict is a large, asymmetrical, wishbone-shaped craft, with a thickened central section between two horns. The port prong measures 161.6 meters in length and the starboard prong 174.3 meters. The craft is 116.6 meters wide and 61.0 meters wide between the starboard and port prongs, according to official historical records.[citation needed] The prongs appear to bend upwards, although this could be an effect of the way the craft is lying on the moon's surface. On one side, near ground level, the ship has three large openings. It is through one of these openings that the Nostromo crew members Dallas Arthur, Joan Lambert and Gilbert Kane entered the ship as part of their investigation. The exact nature of the openings is unclear, although Kane theorized that they were in fact airlocks, possibly left open following some kind of emergency evacuation from the ship.[2]

Kane, Dallas and Lambert discover Pliot

The Derelict's cockpit.

The interior of the Derelict resembles more a living organism than a spacegoing vessel, with walls and vaulted ceilings seemingly made of bone, and many organic shapes and structures in its passageways. Indeed, Kane additionally suggested that the ship may have been a biological construct, "grown" rather than built by the race that created it.[3] During their exploration, the Nostromo crew surveyed only one small part of the vessel, including the cockpit,[4] as well as a cavernous cargo hold beneath. However, later studies found the ship contained numerous very large internal compartments and numerous cargo bays.[5]


Derelict cargo

Kane descending into the Derelict's cargo hold.

The cargo hold explored by Kane was found to contain thousands of Xenomorph XX121 Eggs, covered in a thin, flat layer of blue mist that reacted when broken. It has been theorized that this mist is generated by the Eggs themselves as a means to detect the presence of a suitable host lifeform, although it has also been suggested that it may be some form of security mechanism created by the Engineers to keep the Eggs subdued and inert. Ridley Scott states during the Director's Commentary on the Alien home video releases that the eggs are the cargo of the Space Jockey's ship with the ship being a sort-of war ship designed to carry these biological weapons, or perhaps a science vessel carrying the eggs as cargo for scientific study.


It is unclear how many crew members were originally aboard the Derelict. When it was discovered by the Nostromo crew, only a single body, assumed to be that of the pilot, remained on board. By this time, the body was fossilized, indicating it had been dead for thousands if not millions of years, and was fused to the command chair in which it sat. Damage to the Pilot's chest indicated it had been killed by a Chestburster.


Discovery by the NostromoEdit

The origins of the Derelict and the Engineer who piloted it remain unknown. Likewise, the circumstances behind how the ship came to be on the moon — whether it was deliberately set down or crashed unintentionally — are not known. However, judging by the fossilized condition of the Pilot's corpse, the ship had been on LV-426 for potentially millions of years. Before the last of the Derelict's crew were killed, they managed to set up a warning beacon in an attempt to keep others from stumbling upon the Xenomorphs stored aboard the vessel. In a twist of irony, this message was later detected and decoded by Weyland-Yutani, and the USCSS Nostromo was deliberately rerouted there to (unbeknownst to its crew) recover one of the creatures.[6]

Loss and rediscoveryEdit

Following its discovery by the Nostromo, the vessel was damaged by volcanic activity and the emergency beacon that the Nostromo detected went offline.[7] As a result, the Derelict went undisturbed for some 57 years, during which time the colony of Hadley's Hope was established on LV-426. Despite this human habitation, the colonists remained unaware of the Derelict as it was shielded from the colony's ground scanners by the Ilium mountain range, while the moon's thick, debris-laden atmosphere shrouded the ship both from the naked eye and satellite scanning.[8]

Following the rescue of Ellen Ripley from deep space, information taken from her testimony of the Nostromo's landing on the moon allowed Hadley's Hope prospectors Russ and Anne Jorden to relocate the ship. The discovery of the Derelict's cargo initiated a large-scale Xenomorph infestation at the colony that ultimately led to the meltdown and detonation of the Hadley's Hope Atmosphere Processor. However, the Derelict was largely undamaged by the explosion.[5]

Weyland-Yutani explorationEdit

Following the loss of Hadley's Hope, Weyland-Yutani dispatched the Shinyo Maru to locate the Derelict vessel and investigate.[9] Following the successful rediscovery of the ancient ship, Weyland-Yutnai established the Origin Facility around its wreckage and immediately began studying both the ship itself and Xenomorphs bred from the Eggs found on board. Numerous smaller, portable research labs were set up within the Derelict itself. However, Marines from the USS Sephora eventually sabotaged the facility's security systems as part of an ongoing conflict with Weyland-Yutani, causing Xenomorphs to rapidly overrun the base. The inside of the Derelict was turned into a Hive and numerous Weyland-Yutani scientists were cocooned within and impregnated with Chestbursters.

Behind the ScenesEdit

Normal Wreck II

HR Giger's original artwork for "Derelict Ship" (1978) Acrylic on Woodenplate.

Originally, the Xenomorph Eggs were not aboard the Derelict, but housed in a completely separate architectural structure shaped in the form of a massive, organic Pyramid.[4] This would imply the previous existence of a native civilization, wiped out by their reverence for the creatures.

130 prop Eggs were created for the Derelict's egg chamber[10] and one special hero-Egg prop was created with a top that could peel open using hydraulics. The scene of Kane being attacked was filmed on September 10, 1978.[4]

Ridley Scott wanted an early warning system around the Alien Eggs that would signal them to the approach of a possible host organism. This effect was achieved through the use of a blue scanning laser that was projected through smoke to highlight the apparent membrane covering the eggs. The laser used was loaned to Scott by the rock group The Who, who were testing out various lasers for use in their upcoming tour in the soundstage next door to where Alien was being filmed.[4]

Ridley Scott has stated in respect to the production of Alien that he wanted to make "a slasher movie in space". The Derelict is intended as an updated version of "a dark, old, haunted house", as is the Nostromo.


  • In Aliens: Colonial Marines, should the player shoot the head of The Pilot, two small holographic ships will appear in the room and engage in a dogfight overhead. Note that the depiction of the spacecraft should not be considered the accuate truth behind the derelict's history due to the inaccurate protrayal of the ship's flight direction and the fact that this is merely an Easter Egg.
  • The Colonial Marines Technical Manual contains several transcripts describing how the company rediscovers the Derelict on LV-426 and subsequently sends a science team to investigate.[11]
  • Due to the holographic blueprint of this class of ship as seen in Prometheus. Some have questioned the true size of the Derelict as it clearly has a massive sublevel (used for storing xenomorph eggs) that rivals even the Juggernaut in size. Note that the Juggernaut does not have a sublevel like the Derelict but is composed of a series of connecting chambers, with the bridge/hypersleep chamber being at the center.




  1. Alien: The Official Poster Magazine of the Year's Most Terrifying Movie No.2
  2. Alan Dean Foster (1979). Alien novelization. Warner Books, Inc., 79. 
  3. Alan Dean Foster (1979). Alien novelization. Warner Books, Inc., 73. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 Ridley Scott, David Giler, Walter Hill, H. R. Giger, Dan O'Bannon, Ronald ShusettThe Beast Within: The Making of 'Alien' [DVD]. 20th Century Fox.
  5. 5.0 5.1  Aliens: Colonial Marines [Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360]. Gearbox Software.
  6. Alan Dean Foster (1979). Alien novelization. Warner Books, Inc., 261. 
  7. "Weyland-Yutani Archives - James Cameron's Responses To Aliens Critics". Retrieved on 2013-07-01.
  8. Alan Dean Foster (1986). Aliens novelization. Warner Books, Inc., 50. 
  9. Lee Brimmicombe-Wood (1996). Aliens: Colonial Marines Technical Manual. HarperPrism, 147. 
  11. Lee Brimmicombe-Wood (1996). Aliens: Colonial Marines Technical Manual. HarperPrism, 159. 

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