[SPOILERS FOR ALIEN: COVENANT, ALIEN, ALIENS AND PROMETHEUS]
Over the past nearly four decades, Sir Ridley Scott hasn’t given many opinions on how he perceives the various sequels to his 1979 sci-fi classic, Alien. His general position seems to be one of unconcern and apathy. Indeed in a 2012 interview with Empire, when asked if he’s seen Aliens vs. Predator, he straight up says:
“I couldn’t do that… I couldn’t quite take that step”
The one exception is James Cameron’s Aliens which, according to an illustrated screenplay of Alien, Scott said:
“There’s also no question that Cameron made an excellent film with Aliens. It really is an achievement… It’s always tough to follow a successful film with a sequel to it … It could never be as frightening [in the sequel] because you’ve already seen it. Therefore, what I think James Cameron [did with ALIENS] was a terrific action-picture. It’s difficult what he accomplished”
With the release of Alien: Covenant though, I do somewhat wonder how much of the Alien’s life-cycle established in the sequels does Ridley Scott consider canon? Admittedly in this day and age of constant re-boots, the justifications for what is or isn’t canon is somewhat arbitrary
Indeed when taking into account Prometheus, this may be a somewhat pointless question as so many new creatures and methods of procreation were introduced that Scott might just be making it up as he goes along!
But for arguments sake, lets focus on the primary life-cycle that we’ve seen in most Alien films.
So, for the newbies to the Alien universe, we learn from a mixture of the first three Alien films:
- The Alien Queen lays an Egg.
- This egg contains a Facehugger, which proceeds to attach itself to a living creature (i.e. a host) in the vicinity. It plants an embryo into the host before falling off and dying.
- Over a period of several hours (and sometimes days) the embryo grows into a Chestburster before (as you might expect!) bursting out of the chest of the host and probably killing it in the process.
- And again, after a very short period, the Chestburster will grow into either an adult Alien or an Alien Queen, usually with some physical attributes of the creature that hosted it.
In the various sequels, books and comics this life-cycle has been stuck to pretty rigidly. But with the newest Alien film things seem to have changed slightly. So, a quick recap of the specific aspect of Alien: Covenant that intrigues me (Again, SPOILERS)
Using Engineer technology, the android known as David has been experimenting in an attempt to create the perfect organism. Through much trials and dead ends, David eventually creates the organism that we know as the Facehugger. And by letting it loose on the crew of the Covenant, he eventually gets his wish in the bloody birth of the Protomorpth; the (assumed) predecessor to the Xenomorph.
So David, a human invention, is the one that essentially creates the monster that will eventually haunt the corridors of the Nostromo in Alien.
Now this plot-line does actually fit pretty well into what Scott and the writers of Alien, Dan O’Bannon and Ronald Shusett, had in mind for the life-cycle of the Alien. Originally the Alien didn’t just kill people. It would also capture them in order to transform them into Eggs. Unofficially it’s called “Eggmorphing,” and was a way for the writers to create a closed loop in the Alien’s life-cycle.
This wasn’t just in original script as the scene was actually shot and edited, but was removed from the final cut due to pacing. The reason it was relatively well known publicly at the time was because the scene was written into the official novelisation by Alan Dean Moore. (Said scene would also be added into Alien: Director’s Cut (2003))
Alien fan and Editor DestronTC was good enough to put a colour and sound corrected version of the scene on Youtube, which you can watch below.
So it’s not unreasonable to assume that David somehow used that Eggmorphing method in creating the few Eggs we see in Covenant. Since the above scene makes it clear that Eggmorphing can be done with dead bodies, maybe David used a few dead Engineers to proceed in his task?
So it would seem, at least on the surface, that Scott is leaning towards the original iteration of the Alien life-cycle.
But, to go back to Aliens, when James Cameron decided to address the origins of the Alien Egg, he chose to go in a completely different (and arguably better) direction by creating the Alien Queen.
This decision wasn’t without its critics as there were some who felt that Cameron had essentially s**t on what Scott had originally intended. Amazingly, Cameron took the time to write a 2000 word response to the main criticisms of Aliens, and which was published in science-fiction magazine Starlog. (Man, the 80s were a different time!)
[The writer’s] contention is that [The Alien Queen] destroys the original intention of the missing scene in ALIEN. This is perfectly correct, but I find it somewhat irrelevant since as an audience member and as a filmmaker creating a sequel, I can really only be responsible to those elements which actually appeared in the first film and not to its “intentions.” ALIEN screenwriter Dan O’Bannon’s proposed life cycle, as completed in the unseen scene, would have been too restricting for me as a storyteller and I would assume that few fans of ALIENS would be willing to trade the final cat-fight between the moms for a point of technical accuracy that only a microscopic percentage of ALIEN fans might be aware of.
So I suppose the question is: Does the Alien Queen still exist in Ridley Scott’s Alien universe? If not, does that pretty much wipe out the events of Aliens and Alien 3?
(What’s that?… No, I’ve never heard of a film called Alien Resurrection…. Nope… Never heard of it.)
To be fair, the obvious way to keep Aliens and Alien 3 canon is to have David eventually create the Alien Queen as the culmination of his search for the “Perfect Specimen.” Would Ridley Scott be willing to do this? Because so far, as demonstrated by Prometheus, he seems okay with throwing out the ideas established in most of the Alien sequels.
But is it acceptable to do that to Aliens, one of the greatest sequels of all time? Would he be doing to Cameron’s film what some people in the 80s thought Cameron was doing to Scott’s original?
Or maybe we’re being too precious? After all, the nature of art is to evolve in order to meet the changing expectations of the world around us. In the same way that Bryan Singer had no qualms about overriding X-men 1 and 2 with Days of Future Past; maybe future Alien films should do more to carve out a new existence?
Either way, we’ll probarly find out somewhere in 2019 with Ridley Scott’s followup: Alien: Awakening.