Engineers, also known as "Ossians", "Space Jockeys", "Pilots" or "Mala'kaks"' (Latin: Mundus gubernavi, meaning "Universal Pilot"), are an elusive race of large, sapient, extraterrestrial lifeforms, most notable for experimenting on Xenomorph species. Individual Space Jockeys throughout the franchise come is various appearances and abilities.
Nostromo crew members Dallas, Lambert and Kane encounter its body and realized that it was 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 Facehugger which resulted in an Alien bursting through its chest. Before dying, the creature broadcast the signal to warn anyone who passed of the danger. There is a theory that it may have been hived in the chair when it was "growing" out of it, though this has since been proven to be false.
Alien director Ridley Scott also referred to the creature as the "Big Dental Patient". These large pilot-like creatures are actually bio-engineers. Their discovery was made in the first Alien movie, when the commercial starship Nostromo set down on the unsurveyed moon LV-426 in response to a signal interpreted as a distress call. The crew found a wrecked derelict spacecraft with a dead lifeform inside, apparently its "pilot". No other remains were found, and they are not referred to in the other films of the series except for the movies Prometheus and Covenant.
The Alien production team, without having a proper technical term to go by, nicknamed the creature found aboard the derelict ship "The Space Jockey." H.R. Giger, who was designer of the derelict and of the 'Space Jockey,' as well as the Xenomorph, originally had 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). In Steve Perry's book 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. It is also still referred sometimes to though as the Pilot, or the Pilot's people. They were finally reintroduced into the Alien universe in the movie Prometheus, where they play a very significant role.
Appearances in film and media
The only two movies that the Space Jockey pilot itself has featured in is the original 1979 Alien and the prequel Prometheus. A CGI skull of another member of the (possibly) same race made its appearance the 2007 film Alien vs. Predator: Requiem. Swiss surrealist artist H. R. Giger was hired on the movie Alien to design the title's 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'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 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 Ridley 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 is another attempt to throw people off the truth. However, the trailers for Prometheus do 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 Prometheus (Spoilers)
It is revealed that their trunk-like heads are actually helmets. While the research team explored one of their temples on LV-223, they find one decapitated by a stone door. The artificial human, David, opens the door revealing a giant stone head resembling that of a human. Metal containers holding a black gooey substance surrounds 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 contained a well preserved head. They are shocked to see how human it is after the helmet is subsequently opened.
It is later shown that the black goo is some form of biological weapon that requires living hosts, first using native worms (shown in the film to be mealworms although this is most likely not officially the species they are intended to be) to gestate a superficially snake-like creatures that kills one of the crew members. The black goo also infects two members of the crew, although the end result is never witnessed. It is also sexually transmitted, infecting Elizabeth Shaw and gestating into a Trilobite.
David heads back to the ship and discovers that one of the engineers is alive in hyper sleep. 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 the main female character, Elizabeth Shaw. Before succeeding, she opens the maid's room revealing a now monster-sized Trilobite, matured into something similar to a large facehugger.
In the end, a Proto-Xenomorph rips out of the engineer and takes its first breath, extending its primitive second jaw.
Biological and historical information
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 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 had been there for an extremely long time, long enough for the corpse to become fossilized. 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.
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.
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 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 O'Bannon designed the Pilot so that it appeared to be a sympathetic and friendly lifeform.
Relation to the Xenomorphs, Predators and other races (Spoilers)
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 mankind, 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. Structures on the walls of the Engineer ship suggest they already know of and somewhat respect or worship the Xenomorphs. The mutagenic substance, the design of their suits and ships, could have all been derived by experiments on the Xenomorphs. 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, is 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, again it has turned out that this is also untrue, as they actually would bomb with metal canisters 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.
The Yautjas use Xenomorphs for hunting in most Alien vs Predator stories. We know that the Predators have had direct and violent contact with the Space Jockey race, either fighting or hunting them, because of the Space Jockey skull in the trophy room that appears on the scout ship in the opening sequence of Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem. Whether the Predators found the Aliens on their own (unlikely on LV-426.or they would have taken care of the Alien eggs and Alien would never take place), 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 have eliminated the entire species if the Jockeys had control over the Xenomporphs.
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.
Alan Dean Foster's novelization states that the Jockey was trying to warn humans away from the aliens while 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 that 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.
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.
Lastly, it should be noted that the Jockey, human, and predator race share similar basic morphology. Despite their many differences, all are upright, bipedal humanoids. We know from circumstantial evidence that the Predators and the Space Jockeys have existed for millions of years. The Predators in AvP: Requiem have skulls of dinosaurs adorning their trophy walls. The Space Jockey in Alien 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 emerge known as a Jock-Xenomorph. It seems to have no clear alliance with anything, including other xenomorphs. It is brown in color, the tail has what appeared to be holes in it, and it has short dorsal spines compared to other aliens and to the spines in ratio to their body.
TechnologyThe 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 the ending of Requiem clearly implies that the advanced human technology seen in Alien and beyond, including FTL travel and Atmosphere Processing, is a direct result of our studying Yautja technology.
The cargo hold of the Space Jockey's ship was filled with eggs of Xenomorphs (the first stage in the Xenomorph life cycle), which were held in stasis beneath a blue electrical mist. It was 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, but as revealed in Alien: Covenant, David was the "creator" of the Xenomorphs.
The novelization by Alan Dean Foster, on the other hand, states that Space Jockey's race found them on LV-426. However, the Space Jockey's race have advanced technology, leaving open the possibility that they had a hand in the Xenomorph's creation.
- Alien (1979) (First appearance)
- Prometheus (2012)
- Covenant (2017)