- "We call them Engineers."
"Do you mind telling us what they engineered?"
"They engineered us."
- ―Elizabeth Shaw and Rafe Millburn talking about Mala'kaks
The Mala'kaks (Latin: Mundus gubernavi, meaning "Universal Pilot"); also known as the Engineers, Ossians, "Pilots", and more commonly as "Space Jockeys"; are an elusive race of large, sapient, extraterrestrial lifeforms, most notable for experimenting on Xenomorph species. Individual Space Jockeys have been observed to vary in appearance as well as abilities, with a vast civilization on their home world.
Members of this species are tall humanoids, standing over 3 meters in height, and their biology appears to differ radically across individuals, to the point that the "Space Jockey" phenomenon may actually consist of at least two separate species. The first, consisting on the so-called "Engineers", are pale-skinned, hairless humanoids with an imposing physique and glossy black eyes, but otherwise extremely similar to Humans, with which they are genetically related, as they're believed to be the progenitors of the Human race, and possibly others. Their appearance, however, is usually concealed within an exoskeletal suit that makes them appear as a much more alien creature with external ribcages and what appears to be an elephantine trunk or proboscis running from the face to the chest (possibly some sort of breathing apparatus).
The second type of Space Jockey, which has been observed less frequently, organically resembles the exoskeletal suits worn by the Engineers. These creatures have an alien-looking face complete with an elephantine proboscis. This second type has also been demonstrated to possess telepathic abilities, as they can read the minds of other species, including even synthetics.
The relationship between these two types of Space Jockeys is not known, and it seems unlikely that they may represent different castes or mutations. Instead, the radical divergence in their biology implies that they're actually separate races, which adds to the possibility that the elephantine telepathic Jockeys may have been the progenitors and/or sponsors of the human-like Engineers, explaining why the latter would wear suits that make them look like the former. This, however, is mere speculation and the two kinds have never been seen together.
Culture and society
Relationship with other races
Little is known of this race, though it is now known that they possibly created the Xenomorphs - or more specifically, a mutagenic substance that could have led to the creation of the Xenomorphs - and have the same DNA as Humans, proving that they had a hand in their creation as well. It is also possible that, rather than one creating the other, they lived alongside the Xenomorphs. This is supported by the images of what appear to be Xenomorphs featured on the walls of the temples on LV-223, suggesting that they already knew of, and may have somewhat respected or even worshiped the Xenomorphs. The mutagenic substance, the design of their suits and ships, could have all been derived by experiments on the Xenomorphs.
The Yautjas; better known as "Predators", use Xenomorphs for hunting, and it appears that the Predators have had direct and violent contact with the Space Jockey race, either fighting or hunting them. This appears to be the case because of a Space Jockey skull featured in the trophy room of a Predator's scout ship. Whether the Predators found the Xenomorphs on their own (unlikely to have been on LV-426, or they would have taken care of the eggs), received them from the Jockeys, or discovered them in some other way, is still a matter of speculation. Odds are that they discovered them on their own, because they would likely have eliminated the entire species if the Jockeys had control over the Xenomorphs.
It should be noted that the Jockey, Human, and Predator races share similar basic morphology. Despite their many differences, all are upright, bipedal humanoids. It is believed due to circumstantial evidence that the Predators and the Space Jockeys have existed for millions of years, as Predators have been shown to have skulls of dinosaurs adorning their trophy walls. The Space Jockey body found on the derelict ship on LV-426 in 2122 had already begun to fossilize, and the presence of the Jockey skull in the same trophy room, while not proving it, does support the theory that they are of ancient age.
When a Jockey is impregnated by a Xenomorph a giant Xenomorph emerges known as a "Jock-Alien". It seems to have no clear alliance with anything, including other Xenomorphs, which will attack it on sight. It is brown in color, the tail has what appear to be holes in it, and it has short dorsal spines compared to other aliens and to the spines in ratio to their body.
The Space Jockeys are clearly a technologically powerful, space-faring race of advanced age. How the Yautjas, the other known interstellar race, developed their capacity for space travel is still not known, but some evidences indicate that the advanced Human technology seen in the late 21st century and beyond, including FTL travel and Atmosphere Processing, is a direct result of studying Yautja technology that found its way up on Earth in the late 20th and early 21st centuries.
The cargo hold of the Space Jockey's ship found on LV-426 was filled with ovomorphs (the first stage in the Xenomorph life cycle), which were held in stasis beneath a blue electrical mist. How much the Space Jockeys were involved in the creation of the Xenomorphs (assuming the Xenomorphs didn't evolve naturally) is a subject that has been debated for years, but it seems that they at least studied them and transported them within their ships for unknown purposes.
The Engineers are believed to be an extremely ancient species, and the evidence suggests that they have seeded the oceans of primitive worlds, such as the Earth, with their own DNA, to create new races; although they were later dissatisfied with their own creations and planned to employ the Black Liquid as a biological weapon to destroy them. This plan never came to fruition, as the Engineers themselves fell victim to the Black Liquid on LV-223, a moon of the gas giant Calpamos, in the Zeta Reticuli System.
In 2093, the USCSS Prometheus expedition landed on LV-223 and found what looked like a temple. While the research team explored the corridors of the temple, they found the body of an Engineer decapitated by a stone door. The android, David, opens the door revealing a giant, stone head resembling that of a Human. Metal containers holding a black gooey substance surround the head. Dr. Shaw and Ford recover the head of the Engineer and take it back to the Prometheus. David secretly takes one of the canisters back to the ship. Using 3D imaging resembling a CT scan, it is revealed that the helmet still contains a well-preserved head. After the helmet is subsequently opened, the crew members are shocked to see how Human-like the being is.
It is later shown that the black goo is some form of biological weapon that merges with the genetic material of living hosts to give life to new types of creatures, first using native worms to gestate a couple of superficially snake-like creatures that kill two of the crew members. The black goo also infects two members of the crew directly, although the end result is never witnessed. It is also sexually transmitted from the body of Charles Holloway (who had been infected purposefully by David) to Elizabeth Shaw, although the pathogen didn't actually infect Shaw, but merely gestated inside her womb, giving birth to a giant mutant creature known as the Trilobite.
David heads back to the ship and discovers that one of the Engineers is alive in hyper sleep. Peter Weyland is revealed to be alive still (having used a hologram earlier to suggest to the crew he had been dead for years already) and is taken to the ship to communicate with it. After waking, the Engineer rips David's head off and knocks the others away. Weyland dies slowly from the impact next to David's head.
The hostile being then reactivates the ship and prepares to finish his 2,000 year old mission by destroying Earth with the black biological substance. The ship is brought down and crashes into the planet's surface after the captain of the Prometheus sets the Humans' ship on a suicidal collision course. The Engineer is revealed to be still alive and determined to kill Elizabeth Shaw. Before succeeding, she opens the maid's room revealing a now monster-sized Trilobite, matured into something similar to a large facehugger. The giant Trilobite overpowers the Engineer and forcefully implants an embryo down its throat, which develops as the endoparasitoid Deacon, killing its host as it emerges from his chest cavity, much like a Xenomorph chestburster. It's not known whether the Deacon incorporates genetic material from its host, like the Xenomorph, but assuming it does, the unseen adult Deacon might be a huge creature, due to its Engineer heritage.
About a year later, the android David (having hijacked an Engineer ship along with Dr. Shaw, who reattached his severed head to his body) arrived at the unnamed "Planet 4", which he believed to be the Engineers' homeworld, and used the Black Liquid to exterminate an entire settlement of Engineers. He later studied their anatomy, and might have used them in his biological research by combining different organisms, creating a batch of Xenomorph eggs.
In 2122, the USCSS Nostromo landed on another moon of Calpamos, LV-426, where crew members Dallas, Lambert and Kane encountered the body of a Space Jockey and realized that it had been responsible for broadcasting the signal that led them to the derelict ship. They also noticed that its chest appeared to have been burst open from the inside. Presumably the creature was infected by a Xenomorph facehugger, which resulted in the birth of a chestburster alien. Before dying, the creature broadcast the signal to warn anyone who passed by of the danger.
- Alien (1979) (first appearance; deceased specimen only)
- Alien vs. Predator: Requiem (2007) (skull only)
- Prometheus (2012)
- Alien: Covenant (2017)
- The original encounter with a dead Space Jockey was inspired by the similar encounter of the giant alien skeletons from the Italian 1965 sci-fi horror film Planet of the Vampires.
- The first Space Jockey was seen in the original Alien movie as a giant humanoid corpse sitting in front of a telescope-like device aboard the derelict craft. It seemed to have been there for an extremely long time, long enough for the corpse to become fossilized; although Prometheus later revealed that it wasn't just a body, but an exoskeletal suit. The Jockey that the starship Nostromo's crew found aboard the derelict seemed to be growing out of the chair of the telescope, as if it had fused itself into it. Its rib cage was bent outward; it is evident that a Xenomorph escaped from the creature, though no adult Xenomorphs were encountered on the derelict. It is most likely that any adult Xenomorph would have been dead by the time the derelict was discovered due to the lack of food sources. Though, the Xenomorph eggs, we learned, can survive for at least hundreds of years without food or water, and may have been kept in stasis by the mysterious mist that surrounded them.
- Swiss surrealist artist H. R. Giger was hired on the movie Alien to design the titular creature and the environment of the alien planet. The Space Jockey was one of many things he created for the film. The scene inside the derelict ship's interior with the Jockey pilot was, according to the writers, an essential scene, although the Fox production company wanted to pull it from the movie for cost reasons. Eventually the filmmakers won, and the scene was filmed, the Space Jockey and interior being built full-scale by Giger.
- The Space Jockey prop was 26 feet (7.9 m) tall. A smaller version of the prop was also built, but was destroyed by arsonists while on display at the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood. A second casting of the prop was destroyed for unknown reasons while still in the original mold. Pieces of this cast are owned by an anonymous collector in Moorpark, California. A third, partial casting, still exists intact. It is also owned by the same anonymous collector. However, the third cast was not an original production cast, but it is the last known authentic casting from the original mold. The mold itself is owned by an anonymous collector in the San Fernando Valley, in Southern California.
- The Alien production team, without having a proper technical term to go by, nicknamed the being found aboard the derelict ship "The Space Jockey". H. R. Giger, the designer of the derelict ship and of the "Space Jockey", as well as the Xenomorph, had originally named it "The Pilot". The greatest amount of said information can be found in the game Aliens versus Predator 2, in which the species is collectively referred to as "Pilot" (in contrast to Human, Alien, or Predator).
- Alien director Ridley Scott also referred to the creature as the "Big Dental Patient".
- In an early script visualized but never written, the Pilot ship had crashed or landed on LV-426 some 10 million years prior to its discovery by the USCSS 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 first 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 Dan O'Bannon designed the Pilot so that it appeared to be a sympathetic and friendly lifeform.
- In Steve Perry's book Aliens: Earth Hive, the Space Jockey's race are referred to as collectors, as they collect Xenomorph eggs. One is seen later on in the book and is referred to by several different names (spacer, elephant man, elephant-like creature, alien creature).
- In the novel Aliens: Original Sin by Michael Friedman, the Pilot race is referred to as the Mala'kak. However, it is also still referred to sometimes as the Pilot, or the Pilot's people. They were finally reintroduced into the canonical Alien universe in the movie Prometheus, where they play a very significant role and are believed to be the progenitors of humanity.
- A lesser-known history of the Space Jockey's race comes from an older source than the DVDs. According to "The Alien Portfolio" by John Mollo and Ron Cobb, Cobb tells of Alien creator Dan O'Bannon's backstory where the Jockey's race had simply landed on the planet on a course of exploration and had encountered the eggs there. Since the planet was dying, and they didn't realize how dangerous the eggs were, they loaded their cargo hold with the eggs and prepared to lift off. Before they were to take off, one of the crew was parasitized and "gave birth" to an alien. The crew eventually killed the alien, but at the cost of hulling their ship. As they were dying out, one of them had set up a transmission warning other ships not to land there and suffer the same fate.
- This is mentioned in the novelization of Alien by Alan Dean Foster, during the scene where Ash was telling Ripley, Lambert and Parker about their chances against the alien. Out of all sources, the Portfolio is the only one connected to the film that gives a complete series of events describing the derelict's encounter with the aliens.
- The original design of the Space Jockey was supposed to evoke a benign entity, fitting for a creature that fell victim to the franchise's original villain (the Xenomorph itself) and sent a signal to try to warn others about the danger. However, when the living creatures were reintroduced in Prometheus, they turned out to be villains. It's possible, of course, that the original Space Jockey had sent the signal to his own people and/or was more benign than others of his species. The Engineers that tried to destroy humanity may also have been a rogue faction, as the ones discovered on Planet 4 appeared to be peaceful enough, although little was seen of them before they were slaughtered by the Black Liquid.
- 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. It also states that they were larger, stronger and possibly more intelligent than Humans. The novelization also makes clear that the Jockey was trying to warn Humans away from the aliens.
- Conversely, Mark Verheiden's graphic novel indicates that they planned on invading Earth after the Xenomorphs wiped out all the Humans. It should be noted, in respect to that, that according to the comic book The Destroying Angels, the biomechanoids have been around from long before mankind even came to exist (their civilization having fallen 1.6 billion years ago due to the Aliens), and that the warning beacon may have been to warn their own kind.
- The only two movies in which the Space Jockey pilot has been featured are the original 1979 Alien and the prequel Prometheus. However, a CGI skull of another member of the (possibly) same race made its appearance the 2007 film Alien vs. Predator: Requiem.
- The Space Jockey's race have not appeared or been referred to in any of the subsequent films, but have been featured prominently in many of the video games, Alien books, Predator books, and comics series. They have made appearances in various Aliens comics by Dark Horse Comics, and some readers speculate that they had some connection to the Predators. In the bonus materials of the special edition Alien DVD, director Ridley Scott has expressed the opinion that a film exploring the backstory of the Space Jockey would be an interesting new direction for the series to take. To follow his opinion he has directed the prequel to Alien, Prometheus.
- In Mark Verheiden's comic book series Aliens, a Space Jockey-like creature is encountered, and is able to communicate telepathically with Humans. It is shown with pink skin, a tail and an elephantine trunk, and yellow, cross-shaped eyes. In the novels the Space Jockey's race are shown to be malevolent, only refraining from attacking Humans due to their immense hatred of the Xenomorphs; a common enemy. They intend to wipe out and/or enslave humanity once their war with the Xenomorphs is over. Later books never expand on the idea.
- In the more recent book, Aliens: Original Sin, the Space Jockeys are mentioned and discussed throughout the book. Towards the end the reader learns that they are trying to breed a group of Aliens.
- The game Aliens versus Predator 2 deals with an experimental lab built to study a Xenomorph hive that itself is built on the ruins of an ancient civilization. Although the Pilots are not seen throughout the game, the technology is referred to as Pilot technology, and the architecture of the ruins is similar to that of the derelict spacecraft.
- At the end of the marine campaign in the game Aliens versus Predator 2 the player fights a Queen Alien in a large room with a Space Jockey in the center.
- When it was announced that Alien director Ridley Scott was making a prequel, it was widely believed that the origins of the Space Jockey would be shown. There was even an allegedly "leaked" script (whether it was genuine, a hoax, or even a fake script deliberately leaked by the production to throw fans off of the real story is unknown) which had two interconnected stories, one of which had two men working on what was implied to be the home planet of the Space Jockeys, the other centered around a group of astronauts pursuing what is implied to be the derelict ship. However, these rumors were brought to an end when it was announced that Scott was making a movie called Prometheus. While it has been stated that there is a connection between Prometheus and Alien, Scott himself said that the connection was simply in one man working for the same company, but some have speculated that this was another attempt to throw people off the truth. However, the trailers for Prometheus did show quick shots of a room resembling the one found in Alien, suggesting that the Space Jockey, or at least another individual of the same species, does in fact play a role, if only a very small part overall. With the movie's actual release, it was revealed that there were in fact many more connections to the original franchise.
- In the comics, the Jockey is shown to have an elephantine trunk. This is inconsistent with the original concept. An inspection of the concept art done by H. R. Giger, shows that the "trunk" is supposed to be an air hose and there is a helmet surrounding the Jockey's head. This is also supported by the fact that soft tissue such as elephant trunks do not fossilize. This does not leave out the possibility of a different kind of trunk, but the one depicted in the comics is very much like an elephant's. None of the works depicting the Jockey with a "trunk" are considered canon - the only canon appearance of the Space Jockey is in Alien and its novelization and directly related works.
- Originally, the only real principal theory of their connection to the Xenomorphs was mentioned briefly by Ridley Scott in his director's commentary for the first Alien DVD. The idea was that the Jockey's ship was a "bomber" and that they used them as biogenic weapons to fight an ancient war. There is some evidence to support this, such as the Xenomorph's biomechanical nature. Alien eggs would be used as "bombs" on an enemy planet and then the Xenomorphs would proceed to kill the entire population as they spawned. However, it has turned out that this is untrue, as they actually would bomb with metal canisters filled with the Black Liquid, that would then presumably mutate local life into a devastating form. It seems that the Human race was intended as guinea pigs to test the bombing procedures for their enemies, yet this never came to pass.
- This contrasts with Dan O'Bannon's original intention that the derelict ship stumbled upon a cache of Xenomorph eggs that already lay dormant on LV-426. For budgetary and story-telling reasons, the pyramid that would have housed these eggs, and its exploration by the crew of the Nostromo, was scrapped from the film. Thus in the final analysis both Alien and Aliens seem to support the former theory over Cobb's. (Viz. Ripley's quote during the inquest in Aliens: "Ma'am, I already said it was not indigenous. It was a derelict spacecraft. An alien ship. It was not from there. Do you get it?"). Regardless, the Pilot was impregnated with a Xenomorph and killed, though it managed to send out a warning to any passing ships to stay away from the moon. The unexplained purpose of the "blue mist" that covers the eggs in the cargo hold does not offer direct support for this conclusion, but appears to indicate the possibility that the eggs were intentionally put in stasis, as if stored for later, possibly military use.
- It used to be considered possible, as well, that the crashed ship found in Alien could have just been the result of a brief encounter between the Space Jockey and the Xenomorphs, much the same as what happens to the Human protagonists of the film. Some analyses of the first film claim that the egg chamber into which Kane descends is far too deep to be part of the derelict structure as we see it from the outside. It could thus be an underground cavern; however, it more likely represents a part of the derelict that was buried under the ground upon impact. This theory has been proven false with the storyline in Prometheus.
- According to Derrick J. Wyatt, the Omnitrix from the Ben 10 franchise could accept Mala'kak DNA because said DNA would be different enough from humans to be accepted.