"It looks like damage."
The Engineers, also known as Pilots (after the individual discovered on LV-426), Space Jockeys, Ossians or Mala'kak, were an ancient extraterrestrial species of unknown origin. They possessed 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 humankind, Engineers were 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 were revered as gods by the species they created.
The Engineers have a multitude of different names; deciphered hieroglyphic tablets found in Tanaka 5 referred to them as 'Ossians', whereas the decoded beacon of the Derelict Ship from LV-426 made reference to a species known as 'Mala'kak'.
The name "Engineer" was given by Elizabeth Shaw and Charlie Holloway due to the lifeform being responsible for "engineering" the human race. Though their scientific name was originally 'Mundus givernavi' (universal pilot), this name was actually incongruous, as there is no 'pilot' genus to draw from. After Elizabeth Shaw's notes were recovered some time following her disappearance, a more appropriate name was given following the revelation that Engineers were the predecessors of the human race - 'Homo Genitor' (creator of man).
Characteristics and Traits
The Engineers are extremely pale humanoids. They are readily distinguished from humans by their hairlessness, high nose bridge, raised brow ridges, and extreme height. The veins underneath their skin are visible, and their eyes are black.
Though some fossilized evidence points to Engineers being as tall as 4.5 meters, the largely agreed consensus is that they typically averaged 2.7 meters. Their musculature appears very similar to that of humans, with visible musculature matching up closely with the general build of humans. 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 from Planet 4 as seen in Alien: Covenant, however, appeared more primitive and slightly different in appearance from those the crew of the USCSS Prometheus encountered on LV-223, having eyes more closely resembling those of humans, far more variance in body shape and appear to vary in height as well, compared to the universally tall and muscular Engineers seen in Prometheus, although the clothes they wore bear a striking resemblance to those worn by the sacrificial Engineer from Prometheus. Based on a cut scene from Prometheus, as well as their voices as heard during David's genocide on Planet 4, their voices appear similarly human-like, although seemingly lower in pitch.
Engineers have a lifespan of around 150 years.
- "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."
- ―Melville and Foster (from Prometheus: Life and Death)
Though not much is known about the Engineers, it is shown that they have displayed advanced forms of culture that exist within their society, such as language, visual arts, music, and clothing. Music, specifically, appears to be a strong aspect of their culture, with a special flute-like instrument serving as a tool to operate different technological instruments. It has been hypothesized that Engineers see music as not only sound, but colors, shapes and words as well.
Their practices are unknown, though it appears they hold strong reverence for Engineers that are located on other worlds, as the entire city on Planet 4 arrived to greet the Juggernaut.
The Engineers' language has been compared to a variation of Proto-Indo-European.
Although pure speculation, Elizabeth Shaw theorized that female Engineers adopted a leadership role, whereas the males assumed soldier, artisan and philosopher positions. They were incredibly visually similar to their male counterparts, and just as deadly.
Some theories suggest that there may be a caste system to the species, differentiating a civilian from a militant-type.
Most Engineer sites will consist of at least one giant stone head. These are speculated to represented one of the six elders of their civilisation.
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 race. 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.
In the Fire and Stone series, over a century after the events of Prometheus, an Engineer is depicted attempting to exterminate all life on LV-223, Xenomorphs and the crew of the Geryon alike.
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.
During a podcast with the Empire magazine, director Ridley Scott explained that the Engineers periodically visit planets they seeded with life to check on their creations. If their creations proved to be a disappointment, the Engineers would eradicate an entire generation of species using the pathogen and start all over again.
- "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 Predator 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, such as the Vast black Ship and the Juggernaut-class vessels.
Some Xenobiologists have speculated that Engineer technology is not of their own, but in actuality is based on creatures even greater than they, hence, the presence of the much larger 'Space Jockey' found within the LV-426 Derelict.
The cargo hold of the Engineer derelict on LV-426 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.
While exploring the interior of the Engineer Temple, David observed a type of slime with an energy inside that was used to press buttons, activate doors, and objects. Also, 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 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.
On April 4, 2090, a probe sent by Wayland arrived on LV-223 to survey the moon. Before it could complete it's readings however, it was stepped on and destroyed by a passing Engineer.
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 2094, David arrived at Planet 4 aboard a Engineer ship and bombed an Engineer city with the black liquid, wiping out the settlement and creating Neomorphs.
In 2104, the colony ship Covenant, discovers Planet 4. After a series of deaths and a disaster that strands the crew on the planet, David leads the survivors to the Engineer city, filled with the petrified remains of the inhabitants.
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 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 burst 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.
In 2137, the USCSS Anesidora discovered the derelict. Inside, the crew discovered the fossilized Engineer and equipment from the Nostromo. While exploring the ship, crew member Catherine Foster was attacked by a Facehugger, and the Anesidora subsequently headed to Sevastopol Station in search of help, triggering an outbreak there.
In 2179, the terraforming 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.
Origin of the Crash on LV-426
The Engineer's remains were first discovered in a derelict spacecraft as crew members 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 battle wagon 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.
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.
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.
- 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 (H. R. 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.
- Alien: The Roleplaying Game broadly speculates that the Space Jockey seen in the first film may in fact be a different species to the Engineers.
- 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.
- On the early draft script of Prometheus, the dialogue between the Last Engineer and David had nearly 5 pages. It revealed that the Engineers created the human race, but were disappointed with their creation because humans made wars and killed each other, calling them a "barbaric violent species." He mentioned a "mother's child" being taken back to Paradise to be taught the meaning of life and creation in order to educate the human race in Eden (i.e. Earth), but the humans decided to punish him. This hints at the history of Jesus.
- There has been debate among fans over whether the species that David wiped out in Alien: Covenant were actually Engineers. The reason for this debate comes from the largely cosmetic difference in appearances between the species seen in Prometheus and in Covenant, as well as the implausibility that the entire Engineer species would be situated on a single city, with the city itself being rather primitive and undeveloped, which contrasts the sophisticated design of Engineer Juggernauts.
- 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."
- Alien/comic (corpse only)
- Alien: River of Pain/audio drama (corpse only)
- Alien: Isolation/novel/series (corpse only)
- Prometheus: Fire and Stone
- Predator: Fire and Stone
- Prometheus: Life and Death
- The Crossing
- Alien: Covenant (appears in flashback)
- Advent (corpse only)
- David's Lab: Last Signs of Life (corpse only)
- Alien: The Roleplaying Game
- Aliens: Fireteam Elite
- Aliens: Theory of Alien Propagation (mentioned only)
- Aliens: Outbreak/novel
- Aliens: The Alien
- Aliens versus Predator (corpse only)
- Aliens: Apocalypse
- Aliens: Original Sin (mentioned only)
- Aliens versus Predator 2 (corpse only)
- Aliens: Colonial Marines (corpse only)
- Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem (skull only)
- Andrew E. C. Gaska. Alien: The Roleplaying Game, p. 284 (2019), Free League Publishing.
- Aliens versus Predator 2 (2001), Monolith Productions, Sierra Entertainment, Fox Interactive [Microsoft Windows].
- Alien Legacy trading cards — 04. The Space Jockey (1998), Inkworks.
- Michael Jan Friedman. Aliens: Original Sin, p. 243 (2005), DH Press.
- Predator: Fire and Stone 4
- Alien: Covenant commentary by Ridley Scott
- Andrew E. C. Gaska. Alien: The Roleplaying Game, p. 285 (2019), Free League Publishing.
- Colonial Marines Operations Manual P.189
- "In Prometheus, according to the script, the reason why the Engineers are mad at humanity". Reddit.
- "The Prometheus Theory That Has Horror Fans Scanning the Script". Looper.