The Engineers, also known as Pilots (after the individual discovered on LV-426), Space Jockeys, Ossians or Mala'kak, are an ancient extraterrestrial species of unknown origin. They possess some of the most advanced technology in the entire galaxy, with special emphasis placed on their skills in Genetic Engineering. Credited with the creation of mankind, Engineers are believed to have been beneficent Creators of sorts who sailed the stars terraforming primordial celestial bodies and seeding them with the foundations of biological life. As such, they are revered by some as gods by the species they created.
The name "Engineer" was given by Elizabeth Shaw and Charlie Holloway due to the lifeform being responsible for "engineering" the human race. Before the release of Prometheus, the Engineers were originally dubbed as the "Space Jockeys". The nickname was attached to it during production on Alien. Scott has stated he has no idea who christened the creature. People needed something to call this creature, and somehow Space Jockey stuck. But the creature has also had a host of other names including The Pilot (Giger's original nickname for it), Pilots, James Cameron called it the "Big Dental Patient," and later in the novel Aliens: Original Sin as Mala'kaks. Their "scientific" name is "Mundus gubernavi" (Universal Pilot).
Appearance and Characteristics
The Engineers are extremely pale-white, hairless and humanoid due to their subterranean nature, with two arms and legs, and said to have staring, "dead seeming" eyes. The veins underneath their skin are visible, and their pupils are in the shape of oblong plus-symbols.
The Engineers are 9-10 feet tall and breathe oxygen just like human beings. They also seem to be extremely strong and resilient given to the fact that the Last Engineer killed Peter Weyland's escorts by sending them flying across the room from simple punches and was impervious to gunshot damage at close range. However, this Engineer was outfitted with a biomechanical pressure suit that probably also increased its strength and durability by working as a biotechnological power suit. In Predator: Fire and Stone, a physical fight between an experienced Predator and an Engineer shows the latter to be far stronger with it dominating the fight, shrugging off a plasma bolt and heavily wounding the predator, causing it to rely on its stealth tactics, equipment and the aid of a human to defeat the Engineer.
The Engineers seen in Alien: Covenant however look different from those in Prometheus having eyes identical to humans and far more variance in body shape and appear to be less tall compared to the muscular physique and height of those in Prometheus.
- "It's all speculation. But there's absolutely no possibility of contact or negotiation with the Engineers. They are hostile on sight. Either they hate all life-forms, or they have a particular problem with their creations. They kill us. They kill bugs. Bugs kill us. We fight back against everything. Which is why having Ahab in our corner helps. We are at the bottom of the food chain."
"Why... Why would something so evidently advanced act with such hostility against its own creations?"
"Who knows, Mr. Melville? Maybe we're accidents. Or disappointments."
- ―Foster and Melville from Prometheus: Life and Death
Though not much is known about the Engineers, it is shown that the Engineers have displayed advanced forms of culture that exist within their society, such as language, visual arts, music and clothing.
The Engineers' writing system is strikingly similar to Mesopotamian cuneiforms that can be found in the middle-east, and their hieroglyphs are identical to what is found in Egypt, Mesoamerica, and other places on Earth.
Relation to the Xenomorphs and other races
Little is known of this race. The principal theory of their connection to the Xenomorphs, which was mentioned briefly by Ridley Scott in his director's commentary for the first Alien DVD, is that the Engineer's Ship in Alien was a "bomber" and that they used them as biogenic weapons to fight an ancient war against an unknown foe. There is some evidence to support this, such as the Xenomorph's biomechanical nature. Xenomorph Eggs were believed to be used as "bombs" on an enemy planet and then the Xenomorphs would proceed to kill the entire population as they spawned.
In Prometheus, it is shown that a lone Engineer was responsible for the creation of the human race. He sacrificed himself as his people left the empty Earth, drinking chemicals that dissolved him and changed his DNA to the planet's first micro-organisms. Humanity soon developed, making the Engineers the ancestors of the human race. As such, Human DNA and Engineer DNA are virtually identical. The lone Engineer's reasons for doing this is unknown, though it seems his race did not hold any positive regard for their descendants. Dozens of cargo ships carrying the weaponized black liquid were set to launch for Earth to release the pathogen and let it wipe out humanity; only to see the Engineers somehow lose control of their intended weapons and perish. The crew of the USCSS Prometheus believed that the abandoned planet they explored was an outpost for weapons engineering and development, lending credence to the theory that the Engineers created the Xenomorphs (or perhaps more specifically, the Black Liquid that led to the Trilobite) for war and genocidal purposes.
It was also noted by the crew of the Prometheus that the Engineers on LV-223 had been dead for around 2,000 years. This has led fans to speculate that up until about 2,000 years ago Engineers were on good terms with humans, but a specific event occurred which caused them to become hostile towards humanity. This explains the cave drawings "inviting" humanity to track them down.
Scientist Angela Foster speculated that Engineers are hostile due to them seeing humanity as a "disappointment" or "mistake".
Another theory comes from Seegson asset-stripper Melville, who believes that Engineers may possibly be protecting humanity, preventing them from obtaining the black-goo in fear of its effects on the human race being too devastating.
According to the director Ridley Scott, during a podcast with Empire magazine, the Engineers periodically visit worlds they've seeded with life and occasionally will "wipe the slate clean" if they discover their creations have lost their way. Much like the catastrophes described in biblical times when God grew tired of Mankind, the Engineers too, would eradicate entire generations of species if they proved to be a disappointment.
- "If the planet went wrong, they would want to wipe it clean. But that could take 500 years. When they revisit — because different visitors would come back and see we're not doing so well — they would look at these human beings that are jerks, that are killing the planet, killing themselves, can't settle down, they're like a bunch of children. We should wipe it clean."
- ―Ridley Scott on the Engineers' methodology.
In the Predator: Fire and Stone comic, a Yautja called Ahab developed an obsession with the Engineers and later battled one - emerging triumphant after using his self-destruct device to kill the Engineer - later claiming its skull as a trophy.
The Engineers are a technologically-advanced race. They are extremely advanced in genetic engineering and have built their own spacecraft.
The cargo hold of the Engineer's ship was filled with Xenomorph Eggs, which are held in stasis beneath a blue electrical mist. It has been speculated by fans that the Space Jockey's race are the creators of the Xenomorphs because of the similarities in design between the spacecraft and the biomechanical Xenomorphs.
The novelization by Alan Dean Foster, on the other hand, states that Space Jockey's race found them on LV-426, and there has been no conclusive evidence shown in the feature film series supporting that the Space Jockey's race created the Xenomorph. Clearly, however, the Space Jockey's race have advanced technology, leaving open the possibility that they had a hand in the Xenomorph's creation.
Director Ridley Scott also makes note that he would like to make "an Alien 5 or Alien 6" where the audience would be privy to the home planet of the Xenomorphs and learn more about the Space Jockeys, but makes no reference to whether this is the same planet that the Space Jockey's race hails from.
While exploring the interior of the Engineer-constructed spacecraft, Juggernaut, David observed a type of slime with an energy inside that was used to press buttons, activate doors, and objects. Also show there was one Engineer alive in a form of stasis similar to that used by Humans. Engineers were capable of holograms, terraforming atmospheres, bio-engineering, and perhaps even accelerating evolution.
Little is known about the Engineers' history beside them being transcendent beings, but the Engineers are shown to be the "creators" of the human race as they visited Earth during its primordial state, whereupon the lone Sacrificial Engineer ingests an unknown liquid, causing his entire body structure to dissolve and seeding the planet with his DNA, and hastening evolution upon that world. The Engineers continue to visit Earth multiple times to secretly observe the human race's development, presumably to pursue further unknown studies on humanity.
At some point approximately 2,000 years before, the Engineers stationed on LV-223 initiated a plan to wipe out humanity for reasons unknown by releasing the black liquid pathogen they had created. However, they apparently lost control of the pathogen and led the Engineers there to die off. Four surviving Engineers took refuge within their ship, storing themselves within its hypersleep chambers; however, only one of them survived.
In 2089, archaeologists Elizabeth Shaw and Charlie Holloway discover a star map among several unconnected ancient cultures within a cave during their expedition on the Isle of Skye. They interpret this as an invitation from the Engineers rather than a warning to stay away. Shaw then contacted Peter Weyland, the elderly CEO/Creator of Weyland Corporation, for a proposal in order to gain enough funding for an expedition to follow the star map. Weyland agrees with the proposal and funds the creation of the scientific vessel Prometheus to follow the map to the distant moon LV-223.
In 2093, after the USCSS Prometheus' two year voyage, the ship arrived on LV-223. The Prometheus crew explored the moon's surface where they came across the Engineer Temple. The crew entered the structure and discovered the bodies of some Engineers, as well as several Steatite Ampules stored within the structure. The crew's interference caused the pathogen stored within the Ampules to melt, a few crew members were exposed to the pathogen, and in the ensuing chaos most were killed. The android David successfully found the last living Engineer and informed Weyland, who was secretly aboard the ship the entire time. Weyland and his team went to the Engineers' ship to commune with the last Engineer however, upon waking; the Engineer decapitated David after a brief conversation and killed Weyland along with the entire party, save Shaw, who managed to escape.
The Engineer reactivated his ship and headed for Earth to carry out his original mission to wipe out the human race. The remaining crew later sacrificed themselves and the Prometheus to destroy the Engineer's ship. The Engineer survived and attacked Shaw within Prometheus' lifeboat, Shaw released the Trilobite she had extracted earlier from her womb as the result of intercourse with Holloway who was infected by the pathogen, which restrains and impregnates the Engineer while Shaw escapes. The Engineer later died and birthed a Deacon.
In 2122, while returning from Thedus, the USCSS Nostromo was diverted to the Zeta II Reticuli system, the Nostromo's onboard computer, MU-TH-UR, intercepted a distress beacon originating from LV-426. The crew members were awakened prematurely from their hypersleep, and they responded to the beacon and took the Nostromo to the planet. A three-person survey crew explored the planet's surface where they came across a crashed derelict ship. Upon entering the ship, they discovered the remains of a fossilized Engineer wearing a Bio-Suit and over numerous eggs that were stored within the ship's cargo bay. Afterwards Kane was impregnated by a Facehugger and was taken back to the Nostromo for medical treatment, only to die a few hours later when a Chestburster bursted violently out of his chest. The creature quickly matured into an adult and began killing the crew members one by one and led to the destruction of the Nostromo.
57 years later, the terrafroming and research colony Hadley's Hope established on LV-426 was given a vague order from Weyland-Yutani executive Carter Burke to locate the derelict, having learned of the ship's location from the claims of the Nostromo''s sole survivor Ellen Ripley. Surveyors Russ and Anne Jorden located the ship, Russ was attacked by a Facehugger and Anne pulled him out and radioed for help. Some of the rescue party also went into the derelict and were attacked. All of the victims were returned to the colony which eventually led to its downfall.
A team from Weyland-Yutani later returned to LV-426 nearly five decades later. They recorded the flight telemetry from the vessel, and used it to track down LV-1201, the last planet that the derelict had visited before crashing. On the planet, the company discovered Engineer ruins infested with Xenomorphs; it is presumable that the Engineers were breeding the creatures there before withdrawing from the world. Weyland-Yutani set up an extensive research complex on the planet dedicated to studying both the Xenomorphs and any Engineer artifacts recovered. Much later, while trying to escape the planet with his squad, Andrew Harrison discovered a large chamber containing a dead Engineer.
Origin of the Crash on LV-426
The Engineer's remains were first discovered in a derelict spacecraft as crewmembers from the Nostromo were investigating the source of a distress signal emanating from LV-426, (now known as Acheron) an unsurveyed satellite (at that time) that orbits the gas giant, Calpamos. Not much is known on how the Engineer's ship crashed or what it was doing with the Xenomorph Eggs in its hull, but there are several theories:
An Engineer was carrying Xenomorph Eggs as weapons secured in a compartment covered by an electrical mist that reacted when broken, but one of the eggs "hatched" and a Facehugger managed to get out and ambush the pilot by surprise. With the Facehugger attached to its face the pilot was unable to maneuver the spaceship, and it crashed onto the middle satellite (LV-426) that orbits the ringed gas giant planet Calpamos. The pilot, who later gained consciousness, sent out a distress signal but it didn't make it and the Chestburster killed it.
Behind the scenes
"The Pilot" was so named by H. R. Giger, who originally designed the creature. It has become more popularly known as the "Space Jockey," a name that first appeared on a storyboard for the scene in Alien during which the creature first appears. Director Ridley Scott has admitted that he doesn't know who had christened it as such, but the name stuck and became the unofficial moniker for the creature on set.
The derelict ship contains several thousand Alien Eggs. It is suggested by Ridley Scott in the director commentary to the film that the Space Jockey's ship was an "aircraft carrier or battlewagon of a civilization, and the eggs were a cargo which were essentially weapons. Like a large form of bacterialogical/biomechanoid warfare." The eggs, which are kept in the ship's hold, could presumably be dropped on an enemy planet, and the Aliens would proceed to kill the population as they spawned. "The Space Jockey was...the driver of the craft who is now, after many ages...has started to look like a perfect example of...where does biology end and technology begin, because he seems to have grafted...into what essentially was...a pilot's seat. But clearly from here, this is where the communication attempt would emanate from probably in an automatic transmission. So this creature obviously had experienced, maybe one of the eggs had been disturbed and a creature had got out, had attacked the rest of the crew...but let's say he was a part of the civilization he came from and now had melded into his seat." The Nostromo's computer, Mother, starts to translate the Space Jockey's transmission and it appears to Ripley to be a warning.
According to James Cameron, the Space Jockey's craft picked up Alien Eggs and the pilot became infected by the dangerous cargo; the ship landed or crashed on LV-426 and the Space Jockey transmitted the signal as a warning.
In a 2011 interview with Filmophilia.com, director Ridley Scott revealed that Space Jockey in Alien is actually a suit containing the deceased being (which is never shown). Scott also revealed that his desire to explore the unaddressed story behind the ship on LV-426, the host of eggs aboard, and the mysterious pilot were his primary inspiration for returning to the franchise with Prometheus.
- Alien (corpse only)
- Aliens: Colonial Marines (corpse only)
- Alien: River of Pain/audio drama (corpse only)
- Alien: Isolation (corpse only)
- Prometheus: Fire and Stone
- Predator: Fire and Stone
- Prometheus: Life and Death
- Alien: Covenant (appears in flashback)
- Aliens: Outbreak/novel
- Aliens: The Alien
- Aliens versus Predator (corpse only)
- Aliens: Apocalypse (corpse only)
- Aliens versus Predator 2 (corpse only)
- Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem (possibly, skull only)
- The Book of Alien notes that the actors and crew felt instinctively that the Space Jockey was a benign creature, though they could not say why.
- In the novelization of Alien by Alan Dean Foster, Ash describes the Space Jockey's race as a noble people and hopes that mankind will encounter them under more pleasant circumstances.
- Early Prometheus production art for the Engineer Bio-Suit included built-in weapons that look remarkably similar to the Yautja Plasmacaster. The production team of designers for the Prometheus film is composed of many artists that also worked in the Alien vs. Predator movies, hence the influence.
- In an early script visualized but never written, the Pilot ship had crashed or landed on LV-426 some 10 million years prior to discovery by the Nostromo. It was depicted as having been dragged in some unknown manner to the top of a pyramidal structure, which was the top of an enormous subterranean temple containing the Xenomorph eggs. This is evident in the finished Alien film, when Kane notices the hole torn in the bottom of the Pilot ship. It should also be noted that despite later rewrites and storylines, Giger and O'Bannon designed the Pilot so that it appeared to be a sympathetic and friendly lifeform.
- Concept designers Neville Page and Carlos Huante who designed the Engineers used the Statue of Liberty, Michaelangelo's David and Elvis Presley as a visual influences for the design of the Engineer.
- Ridley Scott described the Engineers as "tall, elegant dark angels."