The original script for Ridley Scott’s Alien prequel sheds some interesting light on both Prometheus and Alien: Covenant. There’s been serious talk of an Alien reboot set before the original film for the better part of a decade, with Ridley Scott signing on for the project back in 2009 after years of teasing an exploration of the xenomorph’s origin. This has ultimately come to the screen with Prometheus and now Covenant, but the creation-minded series could have been very different had the original idea been used.
The kernel of the enterprise is a script by Passengers scribe Jon Spaihts titled Alien: Engineers. Commissioned around the same time Scott came on board, it would have taken the series in a more direct, series-faithful journey to the 1979 original. Like Spaihts’ Black Listed screenplay, however, a lot of changes were made between him handing in the draft and the movie entering theaters. Damon Lindelof, best known for Lost, took Engineers and injected some of J.J. Abrams’ mystery box ethos, leading to a more high-minded script with serious distance from the original Alien.
Based on what we’ve seen in Covenant, the events depicted in that draft are 100% non-canon, but there’s still immense worth in the screenplay. Indeed, the story behind Engineers provides an explanation for why Prometheus and Covenant are the philosophical genre movies they are, and may even provide clues for where the series could be heading.
What Happened In Alien: Engineers?
At its core, Engineers follows a similar plot to Prometheus, just with a more explicit Alien connection. A group of scientists (led by Jocelyn Watts and Professor Martin Holloway) find evidence of humanity’s creators on Earth, meet with Peter Weyland and travel off in search of their creators on a ship called the Magellan. Their destination is LV-426, the moon in the original Alien. There they detect several structures that are clearly the product of living beings and go to investigate, finding terraforming equipment and a collection of dead Engineers inside.
From here the film branches into several subplots: Watts takes one of the creatures’ heads and experiments on it, revealing the Space Jockey helmet as a mask; two of the group – Fifield and Millburn – are left in the structure and attacked by crawling, bug-like beings; company woman Vickers gets a group of mercs to collect the alien tech. Most importantly, Holloway is separated and impregnated with an alien, leading to what would have been the movie’s show-stopper; later reuniting with Watts, they have sex and the creature – a proto-xenomorph – bursts out of his chest.
Watts goes back to the structure to figure out what happened, coming across the mission’s android David who has uncovered an Engineer spacecraft. The ship was set to target Earth and wipe out humanity with a slew of facehuggers before the creatures got loose. Deciding to continue their work, David unleashes a facehugger on Watts and activates the ship. She has the alien removed from her by a surgical pod (meaning there’s two aliens – hers and Holloway’s – on the ship).
The survivors set out to stop David, who has now woken an Engineer from cryosleep. The behemoth decapitates David and kills most of the Magellan crew, while a mutated Fifield finishes off Vickers and the mercenary leader. The Engineer then speeds off, only to be killed by a chestburster implanted before his hypersleep. In the confusion the Magellan is able to crash into the craft, sending it plummeting to the ground below ready and waiting for the Nostromo crew of the original film. Watts escapes the crash, takes on the “Ultramorph” birthed from the Engineer and is left alone on the planet with David as a warning beacon begins transmitting.