Today we look back at the original story for Prometheus, prior to Damon Lindelof's edit of the film's script. Back when Ridley Scott and Fox decided to revisit the popular Alien franchise, Jon Spaihts was hired to pen the script for Scott's Alien Prequel. The original title of the film was going to be Alien: Engineers and roughly 5 rewrites of this script took place before Lindelof was brought on to make some last minute changes; some of which resonated poorly with certain fans, who had expected a direct prequel to the 1979 classic. Prometheus in its own right was a great film with a lot of open ends which left audiences speculating on its secrets to this day, just like Scott's original Alien movie, though many fans forget the vagueness of that film as well since it's regarded to highly in the sci-fi community. However, before Prometheus took flight, the original plan for this prequel was in fact to focus on the horrific Xenomorph alien once again and reveal its origins alongside the explanation of the LV-426 Space Jockey.
Following the release of Prometheus in 2012, around November of the same year, the script entitled "Alien: Engineers" had leaked online and we had reached out to its scribe, Jon Spaihts for confirmation of its authenticity. Through Twitter, the screenwriter confirmed the script was one of the final drafts he had submitted before Fox decided to bring on Lindelof. Alien: Engineers is an entirely different beast than Prometheus and would certainly have made for an intense, high-octane thrill ride for fans of the franchise. Below is a run down of the major similarities and differences between Spaihts' original script versus Damon Lindelof's rewrite.
The script starts off by describing a very similar opening scequence, where a large spacecraft is seen hovering over a planet, with a sacrificial Engineer taking some kind of alien technology (not black goo like in Prometheus) and then disintegrating, seeding the planet with its DNA to kick-start evolution. Unlike Prometheus, instead of the Engineer drinking a black liquid substance, refered to as "bio-former" or "black goo" by fans, in Spaihts' draft, the Engineer allows himself to be bitten by small scarab-like creatures, which inject him with DNA-altering venom.
Just like in Prometheus, we're then introduced to the film's primary characters, Holloway and Shaw, however in the Alien: Engineers script, Shaw's name was refered to as Watts. The difference here is Holloway and Watts/Shaw discover their final star map, underwater, as opposed to the Isle of Skye.
In Spaihts' script the two scientists are then taken to an orbiting space station known as "Weyland's Wheel", much the tune of the station seen in Elysium. This is where the two meet Mr. Weyland before they embark on their journey. This is also where they convince Weyland that this mission is worth funding and agree to the voyage - an exchange that was left out in Prometheus.
Another difference is the name of the ship. Before the ship's name was known as "Prometheus", the original name for the deep space vessel was known as the "USCSS Magellan" and the moon in which they land on was not LV-223, but in fact, LV-426; the moon they land on in Alien and return to again in James Cameron's Aliens. Also, unlike in Prometheus, in Alien: Engineers, the reason for which the Magellan crew decide to set down on LV-426 is because the ship picks up unnatural formations and mineral clusters across the planet's surface. These are later discovered to be ancient Engineer pyramids - similar to the ones seen in Prometheus however they were described as being more metallic looking than stone.
The crew venture into the pyramid structure and just like in Prometheus, Fifield and Milburn get lost and must wait out the storm, but there's a reason why they got lost - each thought the other had the map. Holloway and Watts discover a pile of dead Engineers, much like what we see in Prometheus, but the difference here, is Holloway gets lost, wandering down a hallway and falls down a shaft, into a chamber full of Alien eggs. His helmet smashes and he's later discovered by David and Watts and transported back to the Magellan.
As the story progresses, Fifield and Milburn wander aimlessly throughout the pyramid until they come in contact with the Hammerpede. Milburn's death wasn't changed but in Spaihts' draft, Fifield isn't coated in the black goo, but is attacked by those scarabs, like the ones seen decomposing the Engineer at the beginning of the story. Once they break through his suit by ejecting drops of acid, they get inside and bite him - injecting him with DNA-altering venom.
Following those main differences, the plot continues on as it does in Prometheus, however one difference is while examining the severed Engineer head they discover in the pyramid, Watts/Shaw discovers something really neat. it's referred to as the Vision of the Gods. Watts has one of the crew actually extract the Engineer's eye lense and equip them to a pair of goggles, allowing Watts to essentially "see the way an Engineer would see" - which is described as very "bright". Engineers can apparently see living organisms through solid surfaces, they can see an ora around them, like a glowing outline. It was interesting to imagine what this could have looked like, had it been added to the film. But, this allowed Shaw to witness more of the spectacles which were present in the Orrey room as the Engineer started up the Juggernaut.
Another difference is when Holloway is brought back to the ship, instead of getting torched by Vickers, he actually gives birth to an octopus-like Facehugger, which gets loose on the ship. This is where the story really picks up. We then learn that David has found a hatchery under the pyramid, where instead of "URNS with Black Goo", the Engineers were engineering creatures, designed to kill Humans, and planned to take them to Earth. But because they made their creations "too well", and because the Engineers shared many same characteristics as Humans, their creations turned on them and killed them all... all except for one.
Also, instead of Shaw having sex with Holloway and contracting the alien DNA that way, David actually impregnates Shaw/Watts, by holding her down while a Facehugger crawls out of its egg and latches onto her face. In this scene, we learn that there were many different types of Aliens/Facehuggers. The one that impregnates Holloway is like an Octopus, with no bones, yet still very strong, while the one that impregnates Shaw/Watts was boney, and armored, like the classic Facehugger we see in ALIEN. Shaw/Watts later awakens to a dead Facehugger lying beside her and a red ring around her neck. She manages to escape David and get back to the ship where she frantically goes into the Med Pod and removes the grotesque Chestburster which was gestating inside her. In this scene, Shaw/Watts passes out during the recovery procedure, and her Alien baby grows up quite rapidly and kills one of the Weyland Security officers on board, in Vickers' suite. Shaw watches as it kills the officer and then begins feeding on him.
After awakening a third time inside the MedPod, as the MedPod doors open, Shaw manages to slowly and quietly, escape and grab the officer's gun, pumping a full clip into the Alien, causing it to die and drench the floor in acid, which eventually melts through a couple levels of the ship as it falls through. At the same time, whatever Holloway gave birth to is killing people inside the Magellan.
In Spaihts' script we also see the Engineer kill a Xenomorph, which had been born from the character Chance earlier in the plot, by grabbing it around the neck and snapping it in two. The sheer power of the Engineer is immense as its described to have mangled the Xenomorph with ease.
As the Engineer kills everyone but Watts/Shaw, she escapes and the Engineer fires up the Juggernaut. But something goes wrong and as the ship ascends, the Engineer gives birth to a massive Chesburster, causing the ship to crash land back on LV-426. From this, spanws the "Ultramorph", a massive Alien.
Back on the Magellan, Janek gets killed by this Ultramorph, and Watts runs and hides from it, barely being caught. The Ultramorph locates the Engineer head, which has been sitting in preservative and begins to feed on it.
Shaw makes a little noise after finding a chainsaw, which she hopes to use to kill the Ultramorph, but the Ultramorph finds her. In a quick move, Shaw swings the chainsaw, cutting off one of the Ultramorph's hands, but the Ultramorph manages to pin her down with a large spike on the end of its tail, leaving Shaw just out of reach of the chainsaw. She eventually manages to slide herself far enough up to grab it and slices the Ultramorph's head off, sending acid everywhere. At this point, as the acid begins to corrode her space suit, Shaw/Watts has to move quickly to get out of her space suit, before the acid burns through it. She manages to get out of it in time, but is left standing, with no helmet, in the toxic air of LV-426. Thankfully, she gets to Vickers' suite and grabs a fresh suit.
She later meets up with David, who has all of a sudden changed his ways from being evil and sinister to hopeful that she will rebuild him, but the film ends with the pyramids lighting up, almost like a beacon, insinuating that more Engineers will come to investigate what happened.
It's clear many plot elements were changed from Spaihts' Alien: Engineers to Lindelof's Prometheus. The reason being Fox wanted to spawn a new trilogy and Ridley Scott wanted to focus less on the Xenomorph and more on the Engineers. Either way, Jon Spaihts' script was an entertaining read, and would certainly have made for an enjoyable movie. Many copies of the script have been removed from the web, but you can still find a copy here if you wish to read it for yourself.
What do you think of Alien: Engineers? Would you have prefered this to be the plot of Prometheus? Would you like to see some of Jon Spaihts' plot elements make it into one of the Prometheus sequels? Let us know in the comments section!
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The future of Alien
The Alien franchise is taking a dramatic turn at 20th Century Studios, now owned by Disney. Currently there are two major Alien projects in development - a new Alien TV series by Noah Hawley and a new, stand-alone Alien movie being directed by Fede Alvarez. Both of which will be taking the franchise in a new direction - moving away from the Alien prequel direction Ridley Scott set out to pursue back in 2012.
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