This article comes from Den of Geek UK.
NB: The following contains spoilers for Prometheus and Alien: Covenant.
Those familiar sharp teeth may loom large on Alien: Covenant’s Blu-ray cover, but let’s face it, the franchise isn’t really about those hissing aliens anymore. Since Ridley Scott stepped back into the fold with Prometheus in 2012, the space horror series has veered off on a thematic tangent: the story’s less about predatory monsters and more about a creation turning against its creator.
In Prometheus, the prequel nominally about the identity of the “big guy in the chair” from 1979‘s Alien, there was the overwhelming sense that, out of all the superstitious, squabbling, and borderline neurotic characters in its story, David interested Ridley Scott the most. A synthetic human played to memorably icy effect by Michael Fassbender, it was David who drove Prometheus’ story – far more so than the nominal lead, archaeologist-turned-astronaut Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace). It was David who first unlocked the secrets lying dormant on the planet LV-223; it was David who first started tinkering with the canisters of black goo left behind by the resident Engineers; it was David who told Shaw that he could pilot one of the alien craft at the end of the movie.
Ridley Scott’s affection for David is taken several steps further in Alien: Covenant – this year’s Prometheus sequel that flirts with a more straightforward sci-fi horror template than its predecessor, while doubling down on the creator-creation theme. If Scott seemed only casually interested in Shaw back in 2012, then the suspicion’s quickly put to rest in Covenant: Noomi Rapace is effectively reduced to a cameo appearance, while her character meets a ghoulish end that we’ll explore in a bit more detail shortly. Instead, David again emerges as the story’s driving force, not only as its antagonist, but also as an unseen orchestrator behind the whole Alien universe – something that’s only reinforced by the extra bits on the Alien: Covenant Blu-ray.
Before we get to the extras, a very brief recap of the plot: a new ship full of humans, originally intended to colonize a distant, Earth-like planet, instead follows a distress signal to an unknown world – the home of the Engineers. Years earlier, a repaired David and Elizabeth Shaw headed there in a purloined Juggernaut. Shaw’s plan was to find out why the Engineers wanted to wipe out Earth, having created us in the first place. What she hadn’t reckoned on was that David had his own agenda: while Shaw was in cryosleep, David unleashed the Engineers’ own pathogen, effectively wiping out their entire race within minutes.
The crew of the Covenant arrive on the planet, blissfully unaware of what went down years before. As the Ripley-esque lead, Daniels (Katherine Waterston), and the rest of the crew poke around the landscape, they gradually succumb to the various airborne diseases and monsters scuttling around the place: spores from a plant cause a pale abomination to erupt from a victim’s back. Another creature slithers out of a man’s face. A luckless young woman has her head pulled off by a scrawny, pestilent-looking neomorph – a distant ancestor of the big, bad alien itself.
All of the running, screaming, and violent death is all window dressing for what Alien: Covenant is really about – the Dr. Moreau, Dr. Frankenstein antics of an increasingly unhinged David. He’s spent the intervening years experimenting on the bodies of local animals, Engineers, and even poor Elizabeth Shaw to create what he believes will be the perfect life form – and when the good ship Covenant arrives, he spots an opportunity to test out his unholy creations.
The Blu-ray extras do much to hammer home David’s status as the xenomorph’s true father. In Prometheus, it was heavily implied that the alien, as we first encountered it in 1979 and then again in 1986‘s Aliens, was the creation – whether accidental or otherwise – of the Engineers. In Alien: Covenant, it becomes plain that David is far more instrumental to the beast’s creation than anyone else. A gallery on the disc shows off some of the Da Vinci-like sketches that we only glimpse in the film – dozens of drawings that show how David’s repeated experiments with bits of alien and human body parts, black goo, and eggs eventually result in the monsters we see in Covenant.
While the disc’s deleted scenes do more to flesh out the relationships between Daniels, Walter (the more gentle android, also played by Michael Fassbender), and the rest of the crew, it’s a separate short film that is far more revealing about David’s agenda – and what he might get up to next. Called Advent, the six-minute film serves as a prologue to the main feature’s events. It takes the form of a video communication between David and the Weyland-Yutani corporation back on Earth, in which David explains how he created his monsters and why.
In essence, David wiped out the Engineers so that he could take his own place as the planet’s supreme creator. His aim is to create a monster driven by pure survival instinct. Although he describes Peter Weyland, the tech billionaire who made him, as his father, David evidently harbors a grudge against the human race – which vaguely explains why he’s creating an army of acid-blooded creatures capable of wiping us all out. We also get a more detailed explanation of what the black goo is: it’s full of intelligent nano-particles that restructure the DNA of whatever they touch. For some reason, they go into overdrive when they make contact with humans – hence all the grotesque mutations we saw in Prometheus.
Alien: Covenant ended, of course, with that downbeat twist – David aboard the good ship Covenant, bound for the planet Origae-6 with 2,000 humans in cryosleep and a batch of xenomorph embryos waiting for them at the other end. The Advent film spells out what David plans to do next: he wants to make an Alien Queen, capable of spitting out lots of eggs and creating David’s army of monsters. And to make it, he plans to use Daniels.
In the disc’s director’s commentary, Scott says that screenwriter John Logan is currently writing what he calls Alien: Covenant 2 – and reveals that there’ll be just one more sequel to tie off the prequel series, and not two, as he’d originally envisaged. This certainly tallies with other reports, which suggested that 20th Century Fox is planning to round off the prequel series with one final film – dubbed by insiders Alien: Awakening – before rebooting the series with new characters and themes.
So how could the Alien prequel trilogy end? It’s fairly clear what David plans to do: he wants to go to Origae-6 with his ship full of colonists and alien embryos and start his experiments afresh – with his stated end game being to create a Queen capable of perpetuating the species without his intervention. In a press tour interview uploaded to YouTube, Ridley Scott stated that John Logan’s story will see “three or four different players coming in to investigate” – and that one of these “players” will be a detachment of Engineers who weren’t on their home planet when David killed everybody. So who might the other players be? Our guess would be Walter, whose affection for Daniels was well established in Covenant. If he survived David’s attack, then he might hop in a Juggernaut and head to Origae-6 to save Daniels from a fate worse than death.
The other player is, surely, Weyland-Yutani – which is where the Advent film comes in. It firmly establishes that the corporation knows that David’s alive, that he’s taken control of the Covenant, made some horrible monsters, and is headed to Origae-6. It’s well-known that Weyland-Yutani loves the idea of using aliens as biological weapons, so the Alien: Covenant sequel will almost surely see them head to the planet in an attempt to get their hands on it.
Whatever happens, it all has to feed back into the events of the original Alien. Somehow, a Juggernaut has to crash land on LV-426 with a cargo hold full of eggs, just waiting to be discovered by the Nostromo. The bigger question, after Alien: Covenant’s disappointing performance in cinemas, is how much of a rush 20th Century Fox will be let Scott make his third prequel film. We must admit, our feelings towards Prometheus and Alien: Covenant are somewhat mixed, but at the same time, we’re still keen to see the director given the chance to finish the grotesque saga he’s already started.