Perfect Organism is to Alien what Man of Steel is to Superman, what Dark Knight is to Batman. The Perfect Organism is the Alien. So when David told Walter “I found perfection here. I’ve created it. Perfect Organism” Alien: Covenant is explicitly telling us something: that David created the Alien.
Before we dive too deep, I just wanted to say that I love Alien: Covenant. It’s my favourite Alien film next to the original trilogy, and I easily consider David one of the best things to happen to the franchise in recent years. But I’m not a big fan of the idea that David was responsible for the creation of the Aliens.
I know I’m not alone in this. And I know I’m also not alone in hanging my hopes on that precious wiggle room that Alien: Covenant offers us that perhaps David isn’t going to be responsible for the creation of H.R Giger’s Alien as we know it from the original films.
It’s a discussion that I frequently see arise, with passion shown for and against. I’ve been wanting to take a look at both sides of this coin for a while now. So let’s lay down the truths as the film sees it, and the possibilities I cling to so that we can work our way away from this direction.
The first thing we need to accept is that David is 100% responsible for the creation of the Alien we see in Alien: Covenant – which aren’t the Aliens as we know them from the main films. Alien: Covenant tells us that David made these ones. Now granted, the finished film wasn’t as explicit as in earlier incarnations of the script, which we’ll explore later, but the point is very clearly put across on screen. Ridley Scott has also told us that David created the Aliens in this film in interviews.
I’ve seen many argue that David is lying or mistaken about his ownership, as he is seen to do so several times throughout the film. Let’s address the unreliable narrator angle first. Throughout Alien: Covenant we see David make mistakes, or just straight up lie. He misattributes Ozymandias to George Byron when the poet was actually Percy Shelley. David lies about the fate of Elizabeth Shaw, and his involvement in the genocide of the Engineers.
David is certainly unreliable – whether due to degrading synthetic systems, or intentional behaviour. So surely that means we can’t take his claims of authorship too seriously? Here’s some of that precious wiggle room I mentioned.
The possibility is there that David is incorrect. It’s an out that a future story could take. But as it stands in the here and now, Alien: Covenant doesn’t consider David wrong about his authorship. When Davids is wrong about Ozymandias, Walter calls him out and corrects him. Walter also gets David to admit the truth regarding the Engineers and Shaw.
The film isn’t shy about telling us when David is incorrect. It doesn’t do that about David creating the film’s titular Aliens. As far as Alien: Covenant is concerned – David isn’t lying. As far as Sir Ridley Scott is concerned, David isn’t lying either – which I think is interesting considering some other comments that Scott made regarding Artificial Intelligence and creation, but we’ll get to that later as well.
Speaking to On Demand Entertainment during the press junket for Alien: Covenant, and while talking about the Alien Sir Ridley Scott simply stated “the Engineers didn’t make him [the Alien], David made him. Which I thought was far more interesting. Idle hands are the devil’s workshop is a great thing.”
This was Ridley Scott talking about the wider Alien, not just the Alien in Covenant. While working on Alien: Covenant, it was Scott’s intention that David is ultimately responsible for the creation of the Aliens as we will know them in the original series.
While Covenant was in production, during press set visits production designer Chris Seager told Collider that the lack of Giger’s iconic biomechanical aesthetics in Covenant’s Alien was deliberate, something that would tie into a larger narrative.
“Technically, we’re slightly earlier than the Giger stuff, a little bit. We’re sort of edging into that. That’s part of that whole storyline.”
As the finished film doesn’t actually go any further, where we’re left is that David created the incarnation of the Alien encountered in the film.
We did get a kind-of sequel to Alien: Covenant in the form of Advent, a short film included on the home release of Alien: Covenant where David sends Weyland-Yutani transmissions detailing some of his experiments where he refers to the Alien as his “masterpiece” and for all-intents-and-purposes sends the Company instructions on how to bioengineer his incarnation of the Alien.
Advent is much more blatant in regards to David’s creation of the previously seen Xenomorph, as well as offering a tease in regards to where David intends to take his experiments next.
“There’s still one thing left to perfect. My Queen. This is going to change everything.”
It is worth noting that the actual director and writers of Alien: Covenant weren’t credited with working on Advent though. Advent was written by Will Melton – who also wrote Last Supper, co-wrote Meet Walter and many viral pieces for other Ridley Scott projects – and was directed by Ridley’s son, Luke Scott. Luke also directed the other viral videos for Covenant.
Alien vs. Predator Galaxy did reach out to Will Melton in the hopes of finding out more about the creative process of Advent. While he was unable to comment on Ridley’s involvement with the short, Will did state regarding his own intentions with Advent that he preferred not to give anything away, instead wanting to leave it open for interpretation and discussion among the fans. For now, how much involvement Ridley had, or how much consideration was taken into Ridley’s sequel plans at the time, is not currently known.
It’s also worth noting some of the comments made regarding Ridley Scott and the Alien Queen. Ian Nathan, the author of Alien Vault and Ridley Scott: A Retrospective, appeared on the Perfect Organism Podcast at the end of 2020 where he talked about his time on the set of Alien: Covenant while producing the behind-the-scenes material. Ian spoke about being in the creature effects shop, where he asked about the Queen and was told:
“Don’t mention the Queen around Ridley. There is no Queen as far as Ridley is concerned. It doesn’t fit into his universe, his idea of the biology. There is no Queen, that’s Cameron’s thing. “
So it’s very likely that if Ridley does continue making Alien films, whatever evolution the Aliens take, it wont include the staple matriarch of the Alien life cycle.
Just to re-iterate, I’m a fan of Alien: Covenant in general but I’m really not fond of this particular angle. While I understand and appreciate the thematic elements of David genuinely creating the Alien, it strips the Alien of an aspect that I’ve always enjoyed – the element of Lovecraftian ancient cosmic horror.
One comic in particular I’ve always been a huge fan of is Aliens: Apocalypse – The Destroying Angels. In that story the Aliens are portrayed as this cyclical force that destroys life within the galaxy. A certainty that appears again and again. I appreciate that my own bias is showing here because that comic is also the reason I’m as heavily into the expanded universe as I am, but I also know I’m not alone in thinking that the Alien loses something by being a recent proxy-creation of humanity.
Not only does it make the history of the galaxy and the Alien feel much less interesting to me, it also makes the Alien universe itself feel smaller. So I count myself amongst those fans that hangs their hopes on the theory that David was simply recreating the Aliens – that he had found some ancient Engineer blueprints and was recreating their own work, perhaps even trying to modify it.
And this is a direction that the legendary Alien author Alan Dean Foster also seemed to consider. In his novelization of Alien: Covenant, while David is showing Oram around his bestiary, looking at a preserved facehugger in particular, David admires “the skill that went into its design,” David volunteers the information that he “had nothing do with” the creation of the Alien.
“It lies as I found it, a supreme example of the Engineers’ skill. And also, I suppose, of their hubris. Would that I could create something so perfect in its function,” he added. “I try, but I don’t have thousands of years of practice at biological and genetic engineering. I have only my pitiable programming on which to draw. That, and ten years of earnest effort on my own behalf. I have learned only a little, yet I soldier on, hoping always to achieve something like this, always striving to do better, to improve. That’s what the Engineers did, I suppose. That is what someone playing God should do.”
When Alien vs. Predator Galaxy had the pleasure of chatting to Alan Dean Foster for the 51st episode of our podcast back in 2017, we asked him about this inclusion – whether it was an element from an earlier script that made its way into the novelization, or one of his own inclusions.
“A little of both in that case. The script was actually fairly ambivalent about that. It wasn’t specific. So I was kind of left to make my own determination on that basis. My feeling – I have no idea where the next film’s gonna go with this – but I just got the feeling that David was working with material that had been left behind by the Engineers and he’s been playing around with it.
And you actually have both possibilities open as I see it for future development. It is possible that the Engineers developed the Xenomorphs. Or it is possible that David developed a more advanced version of the Xenomorph which you could use to explain how the Xenomorph – and the Neomorph for that matter – developed so quickly in this film as opposed to the earlier films. In other words, the lifecycle is greatly speeded up.
Now who is responsible for that? Is that something the Engineers left behind? Is that something David came up with on his own? The ambiguity of it all I think is still there. So fans can continue to debate that. I’ll continue to debate that myself actually. And we’ll see what happens with the next storyline.”
Mr Foster received his copy of the script in July of 2016 and was writing his adaptation until mid-September. As we already read in the snippet from our interview with him, the draft of the script that he was working from was “ambivalent” about David’s authorship.
However, in both earlier drafts of Alien: Covenant that Alien vs. Predator Galaxy has access to, it’s quite blatant in regards to David’s ownership. The two that we have are dated August 19th 2015 and November 20th 2015. The November draft is more in line with the exchange between David and Oram as it appeared in the finished film, with Oram asking David if he created the specimens in the lab and David responding “idle hands are the devil’s workshop.”
Unlike the film though, in this draft Oram is asking specifically about the facehugger after David tells him “this was designed as something different” from the other Neomorph specimens. This draft also seems to suggest that David had previously exposed Elizabeth Shaw to a facehugger, commenting that “Doctor Shaw didn’t survive this long, poor thing. So I’m eager to see how the organism evolves now” after the facehugger that attacks Oram has done its work.
The November draft goes on to be more specific with David’s intentions. When Walter confronts David, David tells his synthetic brother that –
“It was a righteous dream: scorch this dreadful world to nothing and remake it in my own image … Explore the uses of their pathogen. Experiment with infection and mutation. Manipulate the DNA. Refine the beast. Create my own soldiers.”
David remarks that “every general must have his troops” and details his plans of conquest. How he was planning to take Engineer ships, suggesting that Earth would be his first target. David then tries to convince Walter to join him with promises of their own empire.
Walter questions him about the author of Ozymandius as a way of proving that David was incorrect and had gone insane. In this draft it’s quite obvious that that exchange wasn’t to establish David’s lack of reliability as a creditor, but it was to signify David’s failing systems resulting in a lack of sanity. To prove to David that he was wrong, to make him question his intentions of conquest.
This is all present in the August draft too, with some small differences. The Ozymandius exchange is during David and Walter’s fight, but it’s not framed around David’s sanity. Instead of stating that he is creating his own soldiers, David refers to the Aliens as “demons.” When Oram asks what David means about having designed the facehuggers, David tells the Captain “I told you, I’ve embraced my artistic side here.”
It’s quite obvious that in these earlier incarnations of the script that David created these Aliens. There’s no wiggle-room that David recreated the work of the Engineers. In the finished film, without the direct reference to the facehugger during the “idle hands” dialogue, it’s more ambiguous and allows for that future out.
The August draft also has an interesting exchange between David and Daniels – known in this draft as Griffin – during the rape scene in which the synthetic tells her that “the future isn’t Biological. And it’s not Synthetic either … It’s Biomechanical … As all those sleeping colonists up there will soon discover. As will you.”
I just wanted to mention that in regards to Chris Seager’s comments about “edging into” H.R Giger’s more distinct biomechanical style of Alien.
Interestingly, Ridley himself stated something that seems to support the theory that David was merely copying previous work when it came to the Alien’s creation. It’s no secret that Ridley Scott is enamored by the topic of Artificial Intelligence. It’s a topic he likes to explore often in his work, and he enjoys talking about it. I also find it quite interesting that contrary to his intent that David be the creator of the Alien, Scott actually believes that artificial intelligence is incapable of being authentically creative.
Speaking to austin360 during SXSW while promoting Alien: Covenant, Ridley Scott said “can you have a computer write a book or a screenplay or a poem? Yeah, but it’s always going to be very derivative and only based on what has been done in trillions of different ways before, so it’s going to be a cross-collateralization. It can only be that.”
So if Scott doubts that artificial intelligence is capable of creating something wholly new and original, it’s entirely realistic that the derivative angle is one he might pursue if he did return to continue David’s story.
Something else I wanted to discuss is the elements of Prometheus that are often brought up during this conversation. It’s quite clear that the black goo, the accelerant, the xenovirus – whichever name you prefer – is involved in the creation of creatures that tend to follow a very specific design elements. The Deacon, the Neomorph and the Alien all have elongated heads, a secondary inner jaw and an invasive parasitical life cycle.
Alien: Covenant isn’t shy about the accelerant’s involvement in David’s creation of the Aliens. It’s very overt about it. So even if the Alien itself does end up being only a 20-year-old creation, there’s still some of that ancient cosmic horror in the origins of the black goo itself.
This is an angle that Marvel’s Alien has also recently teased in the 6th issue. As she lies seemingly dying, Iris – a member of a Synthetic freedom movement – brings up the existence of something that seems to be referencing the black goo, which she calls “Prometheus’ Cleansing Fire.”
“Humans weren’t the first organics to leave your solar system, Cruz. There have been so many others, in this galaxy alone, and they’re all gone now. Do you know why?
When organic species grow arrogant enough to travel the stars…they find it waiting. Prometheus’ cleaning fire. The fire that keeps the universe clean…of parasites like you.
It’s always the same after that. First, you tried to harness the fire as a weapon, like all the ones before you have done. Next, you’ll try to join with it..use it to make yourselves better. Stronger.”
The very opening pages of the series teased the appearance of a very Giger-esque, Li and Sil type being amongst a hive of Aliens. She’s referenced a few times throughout the first 6 issues, but is left open ended. Isis tells Cruz that this figure is Humanity’s “own future. The inevitable end result of the deadly little thing you brought back in-side you.”
It’s interesting there because “the deadly little thing” brought back by Cruz was actually a chestburster, once again solidifying a relationship between the Aliens and the black goo – Prometheus’ cleansing fire.
Prometheus also gives evidence of the Engineer’s awareness of accelerant-based creatures. We see the mural of the Deacon – it’s not an Alien – on display in the head-room. And though barely visible in the actual film, there is another mural that shows long Alien-like hands grasping an egg.
Let’s take a moment to discuss Alien’s defense of the Xenomorph XX121 as being an ancient creature. In the film, Dallas states that the Space Jockey corpse appears fossilized. This is just a short-hand way of telling the audience that it’s been there for a long time.
Looking at this from the point of view of a writer who does want to go down the recent creation route, this is easily written around. Dallas is a spaceship captain. He is not a Paleontologist. He isn’t a subject expert. If we were writing around this, it is simply that Dallas is mistaken. He doesn’t have the expertise to unequivocally know this.
And even if we are to take the fossilization comment as gospel, the franchise recently teased the idea that Engineer technology is capable of time-travel. The Space Jockeys made a handful of appearances in the expanded universe prior to Prometheus, and the Engineers have only appeared twice since.
The Engineers had substantial roles in Dark Horse’s Fire and Stone and Live and Death comic events. The possibility of the Engineer’s being able to traverse time was first brought up in Fire and Stone, when Elden – a unique type of synthetic, in the midst of being mutated by the black goo – remarked that “the things that created you. They moved through time, making and destroying life as they saw fit. The real creators.
And again, during the opening pages of the first issue of Prometheus: Life and Death, while discussing the Engineer’s influence on ancient history, the synthetic Singer speculates that the Engineers might not just be “immeasurably ancient,” but that they have the capability to travel through time, stating that “given their level of advancement, it is not beyond reason to think that they can navigate time as well as space.”
Life and Death actually ends with a tease that some of the characters have actually travelled through time. Having damaged the Juggernaut’s navigation systems to redirect the ship from Earth, Singer tells the others “we could be anywhere, and anywhen.”
So perhaps, if David does ultimately end up being the creator of the Alien as we know it, through the use of Engineer technology, they may be sent into the past.
To further emphasize that the Alien expanded universe considers Covenant’s incarnation of the Xenomorph to be something distinctively different from the Alien we just need to look at Free League’s RPG.
According to Alien: The Roleplaying Game, Covenant’s Alien is a Praetomorph; prae being an archaic way of saying pre – before. The RPG’s corebook has the following to say on Covenant’s Alien:
“Classified as Plagiarus linesteres, the Praetomorph is a variant breed of Xenomorph XX121. The Stalker [the adult from Covenant] is believed to be an evolutionary dead end for the Praetomorph, as no encountered specimen has ever metamorphosed further. Unlike its phylogenetic relative P. praepotens, the P. linesteres does not appear to have a Queen stage. It also differs in that it has no biomechanical endoskeleton, and its teeth are translucent bone instead of metal. They are bigger, more powerful, resilient, and more resistant to fire than standard Xenos—they just happen to be less intelligent and more animalistic in nature”
The Roleplaying Game would also have some fun with the various fan theories and state of the current lore by saying that though no-one can be certain about the origins of Xenomorph XX121, there’s quite a few theories anyway!
“Some believe them to be biological weapons created by some bygone race, possibly the enigmatic and godlike Engineers, while others believe they are a naturally evolved species that the Engineers themselves worshipped. Some religious cults take that a step further, believing the aliens were sent here by God or gods to exact divine retribution on humanity for leaving our solar system and daring to enter the heavens. Still others believe that humanity had a hand in the creatures’ creation, and that they are a corporate experiment run amok.”
So to surmise – David created the Aliens in Alien: Covenant as far as the film and continuity is concerned for now, but there’s still plenty of story directions to escape that he created the Alien. If Sir Ridley Scott gets to make another prequel and he still wants to explore the concept of David being responsible for the Alien as we know it from the original series then I may cry as I come out of that cinema.
To be honest, I’m more fearful of some contrived story method where David ends up inside the Space Jockey suit from Derelict, is chestbursted and that introduces the biomechanical into the Alien’s design.
And if that happens I think I may just straight up quit the fandom. But until that happens, I shall cling to that precious wiggle-room from Alien: Covenant that David was merely stealing from the Engineers and claiming as his own.