Spoilers for Alien: Covenant.
For all its R-rated horror, Alien: Covenant is really about answering big questions – from the peak of modern existentialism, to the fundamentals of the Alien franchise. These two focuses are married beautifully with Ridley Scott finally revealing how the xenomorph was created, although within that he creates a pretty major franchise plot hole.
This isn’t new in the prequel enterprise. Prometheus was criticized upon release for a variety of plot holes and illogical elements, although in that instance most of the problems (dumb characters for one) were isolated to the individual movie – it was simply too far removed from the 1979 classic to have a direct crossover with the original Alien.
Covenant is explicitly bridging the two films, so while that means Scott can clear up some weird threads from Prometheus, it also brings everything closer to LV-426 and that fateful, chestbursting dinner. And it’s here that we have a problem.
The LV-426 Derelict Plot Hole
In the original Alien, trucking spaceship the Nostromo intercepts a distress call from nearby planet LV-426 and the crew go to investigate. There they come across a crashed spaceship, known colloquially as “the derelict”, where they find two things of major importance. First is the Space Jockey, a giant, trunked, humanoid pilot seemingly killed by a xenomorph bursting from his chest, who has been left on the planet long enough to become fossilized and begun to grow out of his command module. The second is the ship’s hold, which contains thousands of facehugger eggs.
After John Hurt gets attacked by one of those creatures, the movie enters full slasher territory and the origin of the Pilot and his craft isn’t discussed again (in either the original movie or its sequels). What the film suggests, though, is pretty oblique: millennia ago an elephantine alien was attacked by his own cargo, presumed to be a biological weapon.
Prometheus already made some big alterations to this idea. In the first prequel, we learned that the “Space Jockey” exterior was actually a spacesuit for the Engineers, humanity’s towering creators. While that’s certainly different to what fans knew for three decades, here’s where Prometheus’ distance came in. Because that film was on LV-223, a different planet, it was easy to chalk up everything the crew went through as a cautionary tale; what led to the derelict and space jockey was similar to what happened to Shaw and co., but occurred apart from them in location and time. The obvious suggestion was that the LV-426 ship had crashed hundreds if not thousands of years ago (perhaps even linked to the Engineer decision to destroy Earth 2000 years ago), and with his new films Scott was explaining it by proxy; it happened in the past and now we’re seeing something similar happen again.
Enter Covenant. It’s an altogether better film than Prometheus, on both a horror and ideological level, and does a lot of legwork to retroactively improve its predecessor; however, within that it creates a major clash. In the new film we learn the explicit origin of the xenomorph: everything – the egg, the facehugger and the chestburster itself – is the product of android David’s genetic meddling on the Engineer homeworld.
It’s a thematically weighty reveal that goes even deeper into the series’ already heavy creation exploration. But let’s get literal for a second: if the eggs were first made in the eleven-year gap between Prometheus (2093) and Covenant (2104), then how are they also on the derelict and able to kill the space jockey from over 1000 years prior? In going so explicitly into the backstory, Scott has directly contradicted himself and created a plot hole at the core of his series. And the explanations get tricky.