The Engineers, also called Pilots, Space Jockeys, Ossians or Mala'kak, are among the oldest extraterrestrial life. Due to their civilization being, presumably, billions of years old, they have no clear origin but possess among the most advanced technology in the galaxy. This technology has made them masters of genetic engineering, seeding many primordial celestial bodies with life.
Biology and Appearance
As seen in Prometheus, the Engineers are extremely pale-white, hairless and humanoid, with two arms and legs, and said to have staring, "dead seeming" eyes. Their veins visible underneath the skin. Their pupils are in the shape of oblong plus-symbols. The species was once thought to have telepathic powers, but the Weyland-Yutani Corporation scientists have found this not to be true, from certain information deciphered off the logging device. The distress signal picked up by the Nostromo was an acoustic beacon giving out a signal every 12 seconds.
The Engineer encountered in the derelict spaceship on Acheron was equipped with a biosuit that made it seem like a creature that had what was believed by the crew of the Nostromo to be a trunk (or breathing apparatus). The trunk, extending vertically down a broad chest, was thought to be where the "space jockey" breathes. The 'mouth' was present under the beginning of this trunk and seemed to have two mandibles (or 'alien tusks') at the sides of the mouth, though this was revealed in Prometheus to simply be part of the suit. The arms are visible to its sides and the suit appeared to have been grafted into its seat. The lower body of the creature was obscured by its seat and was not observed. The suit resembles a '8" foot tall humanoid elephant.
They are humanoid and look just like human beings except when it comes to size, eyes and hair. The Engineers seem to possess no body hair, including eyebrows and eyelashes, their lips are as pale as the rest of their skin, and the eyes are almost completely black. Their size, ( 7'0") gives them enormous strength relative to a human. Their behavior is almost unknown, and the only example of a living Engineer seen so far in the series occurs in Prometheus.
In this short time we learn that the Engineers were plotting a course for Earth, and were planning on using the assorted dangerous organisms in the cargo hold as weapons. All but one of the Engineers on LV-223 were killed by their own cargo, which were too unwieldy to control, despite having been created by the Engineers themselves. It's unknown why the one Engineer remained in cryo-sleep while the rest of his kind on LV-223 were killed in the incident at the LV-223 outpost.
Their homeworld is unknown, but they are known to be capable of colonizing worlds similar to their own, and for being able to terraform or create a breathable atmosphere in an otherwise inhospitable environment. Their technology is incredibly advanced, and their knowledge of the cosmos, as evidenced in Prometheus, is vast, if not complete. If the actions of the Engineers in Prometheus are any indication, they appear to be wholly inimical to human life.
Cuneiforms, Hieroglyphs and Language
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 areas on Earth. Not much is known at the moment involving whether they are responsible for giving humans an extinct language which has not been spoken for five thousand years or more on Earth or not, but it is currently being spoken and written by the Mala'kak and seems to be their language.
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 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. Alien 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 possibly 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 (a far-fetched fiction without scientific basis or understanding of the human genome, evolution or basic molecular biology). 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 goo 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.
It is also possible that the Engineers had seeded the Earth with human life to create a "breeding ground" for Proto-Xenomorphs for military purposes.
The Engineers are clearly a technological superpower, space-faring race of advanced age. They are known to carry in their cargo a particularly deadly bioweapon: a form of black liquid released from vases, which is most likely a mutagen. This mutagen is so refined that it has the propensity to create lifeforms, namely the Trilobite. The Engineers can also ingest a similar liquid, which causes their bodies to disintegrate and be reduced to the basest forms of their DNA, useful for terraforming and directed panspermia.
The cargo hold of the Engineer ship in Alien was filled with Xenomorph Eggs (the first stage in the Xenomorph life cycle), which were held in stasis beneath a blue electrical mist. It has been speculated by fans that the Engineers 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 the Engineer race found them on LV-426, and there has been no conclusive evidence shown in the feature film series supporting that the Engineers created the Xenomorphs. Clearly, however, the Engineer 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 Engineers, but makes no reference to whether this is the same planet that the Engineer race hails from.
Origin of the ship on LV-426
The Mala'kak's remains were first discovered in a derelict spacecraft as crewmembers from the USCSS 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 alien eggs in its hull, but there are several theories:
A Space Jockey 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 or Acheron) 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 him.
Alternatively, the pilot may have been transporting Xenomorph eggs from one populated planet to another. When one of the eggs hatched and a facehugger escaped, the pilot landed on LV-426, intentionally sacrificing itself to prevent any hostile aliens from reaching its initial destination and slaughtering the population there.
According to one hypothesis, the Pilots were thought to have created the Xenomorphs either as a terraforming mechanism designed to destroy an ecosystem for later replacement or as a bio-engineered weapon designed for mass genocide. They were used to end a civil war that was tearing the Pilot civilization apart about ten million years ago, but apparently, it went horribly wrong. This theory also explains the large amount of alien eggs in the ships cargo bay under the security field. Either way, the only crew member found was the captain and was discovered with ribs protruding outward, showing that a chestburster had been implanted.
The Engineers are masters of biotechnology, which was proven to wipe out the entire Engineer base on LV-223, leaving a single Engineer to rest in hypersleep. All other Engineers on the planet were massacred under unknown circumstances by their creations. When the crew of the Prometheus arrived on LV-223, they found the Engineer base and recovered the head of one of the beings, as well as a room filled with murals and urns containing Black Liquid. Investigation of the severed head revealed that Engineers were humanoid in appearance. Attempts to revive the head with a Synapse Reestablisher caused it to explode, due to exposure to bioweapons or the Black Liquid prior to death. Due to the actions of the android David, the Last Engineer was awoken and was hostile to the humans, and Elizabeth Shaw found out that the Engineer Base had planned on going to Earth and wiping out humanity for over 2000 years, but a pandemic erupted on LV-223, claiming the lives of all but one Engineer. The Engineer was able to understand David but rather than respond with words, he tore David's head off and killed all humans but Shaw as she managed to get away. He then attempted to pilot the ship and head for earth but was stopped by the Prometheus spaceship, which crashed into the alien ship. The Engineer survived this crash, and broke into the Prometheus's escape pod to kill Shaw, who then opened the doors to a sealed room which contained a hostile Trilobite she had previously given birth to; said creature immediately grabbed the Engineer who was unable to fight it off and was impregnated by it.
Shaw and David eventually escaped LV-223 in an Engineer ship, their destination was the Engineer Homeworld, possibly to warn the species and/or to question about why the Engineers wanted to wipe out humanity.
Meanwhile, the Last Engineer on LV-223 died when the embryo it was impregnated with by the Trilobite "burst", creating a Deacon.
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 transmission 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. It is also suggested the Space Jockey encountered the Aliens on LV-426.
In a 2011 interview with Filmophilia.com, director Ridley Scott revealed that Space Jockey in Alien was not in and of itself an extraterrestrial creature, but rather a suit containing the actual 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.
- In Alan Dean Foster's original Alien novelization (1979), Ash describes the Space Jockey's race as a noble people and hopes that mankind will encounter them under more pleasant circumstances. It also states that they were larger, stronger and possibly more intelligent than humans. Foster's novelization states that the Jockey was trying to warn humans away from the Aliens. Of course, Ash is also shown to be a willfully deceptive figure in the story, and this novelization differs in a number of places from the final film, as it was based on a slightly earlier draft than what was shot.
- Mark Verheiden's first Aliens graphic novel (aka Aliens: Book 1, or the first Aliens comics series in 1988) depicts a living member of the Space Jockey's race as malevolent. Revealed to be alive 13-15 years after the events of Aliens, this Pilot is called a partner to the one from LV-426, and at first refrains from attacking humans due to its apparent immense hatred of their common enemy, the Xenomorphs, saving the story's protagonists on their mission to the Xenomorph homeworld. But it is then revealed the Space Jockey intends to wipe out and/or enslave humanity and conquer the Earth once its joint war with the Xenomorphs is over and that it is using a beam from space to begin terraforming the Earth into a cold and uninviting environment like LV-426. The Space Jockey creature in the series communicates telepathically with humans.
- In a short follow-up comics story in Dark Horse Presents: Aliens, this second Space Jockey is shown orbiting the Earth in its spaceship--identical to the one from LV-426--which is revealed to be the source of the terraforming beam that was changing Earth. The beam by this point is said to be helping to restabilize the Earth's atmosphere. The creature is assassinated and its ship destroyed during a meeting with the President of the United States and his advisors.
- In Steve Perry's Aliens: Earth Hive (1992)--the novelization of Aliens: Book 1--the Space Jockey's race are referred to as collectors because they collect Xenomorph eggs.
- In Michael Jan Friedman's Aliens: Original Sin (2005)--a spin-off sequel to Alien Resurrection--the race is referred to as the Mala'kak, and it is revealed that some humans have been secretly in contact and in league with the species from 200 years before Resurrection as the organization Loki.
- According to the comic book The Destroying Angels (1999), the Aliens caused the species to become virtually extinct 1.6 billion years ago and when a facehugger attaches itself to a Space Jockey that was barely living, it creates a Jockey Xenomorph.
- The AVP game series featured the Space Jockey in two of their games. Aliens versus Predator featured a Space Jockey in the marine level "Derelict" as well as the Alien bonus level of the same name (this is the same Space Jockey from Alien). The game Aliens versus Predator 2 involves an experimental lab built on the species' artifacts and technology. At the end of the marine campaign, Harrison fights an Alien Queen in a large room with a Space Jockey in the center.
- A brief mention to a Space Jockey was seen in an AVP comic where a Space Jockey ship is seen above the Xenomorph homeworld.
- The inspiration of the Pilot species came from Jet pilots.
- It has been noted that in AVP-R, you can see a Space Jockey "skull" in the scout ship, Prometheus has since revealed that they are actually humanoid in appearance and not like the massive creatures with trunks that has been shown in varies comics.
- Early Prometheus production art for the Engineer Bio-Suit included weapons that look remarkably similar to the Predator Plasma caster. The production team of designers for the Prometheus film is composed of many artists that also worked in the AVP movies, hence the influence.
- It is possible that the pilot was on a mission to destroy the Xenomorph eggs. If this is true, it is more than likely that there were numerous other transports carrying Xenomorph cargo. Prometheus revealed that the Engineers intended to wipe humanity out and were going to use bio-weapons, the eggs may have just been another bio-weapon.
- The full horror occurring when the pilot was attacked by a "Facehugger", and as the "Chestburster" was boring its way out of the Space Jockey's chest, it had to in its last agonizing death throes, try to set down on the nearest available place, being one of the satellites of Calpamos, notably LV-426. (Acheron)
- The Space Jockey or Engineers are actually very similar to Humans as seen in Prometheus. Notable differences include towering height (about 8 ft ), extremely muscular built and chalk-white skin. Their bodies lack any kind of hair. Possibly due to their species' stature, the Engineer seen in Prometheus possesses superhuman strength (compared to a human), which allowed him to kill or incapacitate four crew members of Prometheus almost without effort. Also, the Pressure Suit they use beneath the Outer Space Pilot Biosuit seems to be composed of biomechanoid components, so it could be another reason for their incredibly lethal strength and superhuman endurance.
- The Engineers apparently use some sort of bio-mechanical technology that blends with their flesh, as briefly seen in the Prometheus trailer, making them look completely different.