The Engineers, also called Pilots, 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 Charles 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).
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 7 (Sacrificial Engineer) to 8 (Last Engineer) feet tall and breathe oxygen just like human beings, but are also able to survive on LV-223′s surface. 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 outfited with a biomechanical pressure suit that probably also increased its strength and durability by working as a biotechnological power suit.
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.
It is also possible that the Engineers had seeded the Earth with human life to create a "breeding ground" for the Xenomorphs.
Speculation has it that the Engineers may have been antagonists / antagonized by the Yautja . In AVP Requiem, an Engineer helmet is shown as a Predator war trophy. It is also speculated that the Xenomorphs may have been an Engineer weapon against the Yaujta.
The Engineers are a technologically-advanced race of creatures reaching the highest known achievement Tier of technology in the known galaxy ever surpassing the Yautja (Predator). They are extremely advanced in genetic engineering and have built their own spacecrafts.
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, flying, 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 a lone "Engineer" ingests an unknown substance, 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 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 a 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 stored themselves within their ship's Hypersleep Chambers, 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 Prometheus' two year voyage, the ship arrived on LV-223. The Prometheus crew explored the moon's surface where they came across the Engineer's structure. The crew entered the structure and discovered the bodies of some Engineers, as well as several "urns" stored within the structure. The crew's interference caused the pathogen stored within the "urns" 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 intercoursing 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 are awakened prematurely from their hypersleep, the crew 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 an Engineer who had been and over a thousand 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 the Xenomorph bursted violently out of his chest. The creature quickly matured into an adult and began killing the crewmembers one by one and led to the destruction of the Nostromo.
57 years later, the terrafroming colony Hadley's Hope established on LV-426 was given a vague order from Weyland-Yutani executive Carter J. Burke to locate the Derelict Ship, 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.
Origin of the Crash on LV-426
The Engineer'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 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 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 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 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 Aliens: Apocalypse - 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 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 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.
- 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.