Alien: Covenant
How to Land on Other Worlds

How to Land on Other Worlds

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FacehuggerMember127 XPSep-08-2016 2:03 PM

This is one thing that has been bugging me so I thought I'd throw it out there for discussion.  If you are going to explore an unknown planet, how would you design ships to accomplish this mission?  In both Alien, and Prometheus, the entire ship comes out of orbit, and sets down on the surface.  Does this not strike anyone else as strange?  All of the actual landings off-world have been accomplished with separate landing craft, designed expressly for this purpose.   

One thing JC got right in Aliens was having the Sullaco send landing ships down to the surface (although they still managed to screw that one up).

I would submit that to explore an unknown world, you need separate landing craft and leave a mother ship in orbit.  That just seems to be the way to get it done. 

Ships big enough to accommodate all the things you need for an extended space mission are probably best built in a zero-gravity environment, like the space station.  To beef it up to withstand the heat and pressures of re-entry (not to mention taking off again) would seem to make it extremely cost-prohibitive.  So why not keep the mother ship in orbit, where it belongs, and carry smaller craft designed to shuttle peeps and cargo to the surface (and back).

In light of what we know about these things, how would you suggest they do it for A:C?  I mean we know there is evil awaiting them at their destination.  Wouldn't it behoove them to send a landing craft down first and see what's up? 

Looking at the sets from the teaser pics, do you think it might be some kind of shuttle instead of a full-sized ship?    






14 Responses to How to Land on Other Worlds

Something Real

TrilobiteMember5639 XPSep-08-2016 3:26 PM

DIZ - Your hypothesis is quite compelling! I agree that a "mother ship" equipped to dispatch multiple mission-specific vessels is ideal with regards to the exploration of a foreign planet or planetoid. This is an exceedingly fun topic to consider! Thank you so much for presenting this to us! :)


OvomorphMember62 XPSep-08-2016 7:21 PM

I like the mothership idea. Having a large ship that is capable of landing is nice, when the situation calls for it( like if planet/moon, etc is established and known to be safe). But on exploratory, or recon missions, it's best to have a mothership that is close by, but out of harm's way, and have landing craft suited for whatever role/mission that is needed. 

Michelle Johnston

ChestbursterMember763 XPSep-08-2016 10:34 PM

I think all of the ships designs in these movies are driven by story telling and the desire to create a certain "atmosphere'. The only time functionality has been part of the story telling has been A's. They knew they were heading into trouble and need a "Nam" like Copter feel for the Marines going in was spot on.

With Covenant the lander may have more of a survey feel for the main ship which carries the "colony" and the intrigue is the antagonist getting "it" on board with the protagonist aiming to cut off the lines of supply. If as part of the trade mark of the Alien franchise there is bad news/catastrophe/eucatastrophe I would expect a lander/mothership/escape vehicle. Where the twists will come is in whom the protagonists/antagonists are and who goes through the redemption arc.

It is in the "relentless" third act that Ridley has the greatest challenge to be fresh and so the tropes I have described maybe inverted and radically altered. In Prometheus there is one vehicle and escape in an Alien craft whereas JC really troped RS.

Probably the most interesting element for me is how this one finishes and that will inform the design of the Covenant and how it will "bridge" to the next story.

All of this goes to show how little we know about Covenant !        


OvomorphMember62 XPSep-09-2016 5:35 AM


FacehuggerMember127 XPSep-10-2016 7:20 AM

Yeah I agree, sometimes you need these plot devices to get the alien on board or whatever.  But hey, JC  managed to it with drop ships, so... "He said try harder".  Atta boy PW. 

Here's my short list of gaps between sci-fi and sci-fact:  AI tech, propulsion systems (or really space-faring ships in general), cryo-sleep tech, and atmospheric generators. 

Sometimes I'd just wish they'd throw us a bone and establish more of a link between current tech and what they present.  To me that just grounds the story a little better, and helps me get into it more. 


Michelle Johnston

ChestbursterMember763 XPSep-10-2016 10:50 PM


One of the trends in Science Fiction movies where extra ordinary special affects are possible is to make the fabric of the story more grounded, an extension of reality.

When I think of the science fiction I grew up on it was based more in "myth making", particularly the written work.

Entering into myth is giving yourself permission to dream and let go of ones grounded assertions but curiously learning more about the human experience. Data and David oddly tell us more about what it is to be human. 

I think Ridley is great at deciding how much should be practical how much CGI and most importantly how much to show. I was watching A Q commentary on Alien and the morphing scene and Dallas's head and shoe popping out of the nest and it just doesn't work. Whereas knowing the mucus excreted by the big guy is KY Jelly is amusing but doesn't alter the sense of threat of the scenes.

For someone like myself who has no idea how a car works or my air source heat pump, which would have been SF to my grand parents, whether the technical detail of ship capability makes sense is not something which registers with me. I know people who think its odd that the Star Trek crew walk around in dumb latex suits, we all have a threshold for suspension.

Covenant has quite a lot of plausibility issues incoming.

Why the David planet, many of us are looking for that to be explained, I believe it maybe a plot point reveal.

Why the Xeno and there for whom and how. The ingredients are Shaw, two Davids, Black Goo, evolving creature and Covenanters . How biologically sound will the argument be. I am much more interested in the application of the philosophical arguments about the forbidden knowledge (the subtext being GM and AI), punishment and retribution. If like in Prometheus the morality of the story is very strong I will not be thinking to much about the precise biological intermix which created the Xeno-morph but what it means philosophically.

I will predict the naysayers will.    

What these more relaxed "open" discussions remind me of is how difficult it is to make art from a focus group perspective all you can do is go with what you believe is right and see how people respond. The artist has to decide how important each layer is.    

Why Covenant is emotionally complicated is because it is part of a franchise with built in expectations and needs and because we "Liked" A L I E N we expect to like Covenant. As Damon said "if I spoilt your child hood you have probably already given up on this commentary".   

Alien was made 37 years ago its a miracle either the creator or his audience has stayed with him and the subject, because hopefully we have all changed in the ensuing period and are not wedded to the pre occupations of our lost youth.

In a sense what we are checking out is we all started in 1979 at the same point in the Egg and since then we have all travelled around the cir***ference of the egg in our own particular way the trick is to see if we have arrived at the other side of the Egg together or even flown the nest. If we are changed and much more knowledgable about some aspect of the fabric we may react differently and consider something important that we did not 37 years ago. As I say that i think that explains a lot of the baby boomers reactions to the tide of revivals in both film and music.

Dis obviously much of this has little to do with your concerns but you made me think about a wider range of expectation/responses with long standing franchises. 




FacehuggerMember127 XPSep-11-2016 6:22 AM

Yes very good point.  The balance between what I can suspend belief on, and what pushes me over the edge, with a oh no way.  You are very correct on that point, as traditionally, my threshold has been very low on motion pictures.  Because of my limited exposure to things of this nature in my travels, I tend to be very hard on these Hollywood types when they try to depict certain things which I have personally seen or have knowledge of.  And I think why the hell don't they get someone who knows about this stuff and get the details right?  I can only conclude that most of the people who have experience in these things would not talk to some hollywood goofball about it.  OR when they try to actually explain these things, they are vetoed because it doesn't fit into the story being presented.

So I have a lot of eye-rolling moments when I see things being depicted especially when it concerns weapons and fighting scenes.  Taking out the political angle, which is very significant, the amount of factual errors is really astounding.  To interpolate, if I know they are FOS in one aspect, it makes me suspect what else they are depicting. 

Now I may be the odd duck, and perhaps it's fair to say that being this technically accurate is not really required for the general audience.  But I would have to think there are many out there with much more experience than myself who also see this stuff and wonder. 

Case in point, if you want to de-orbit an entire ship and land on an alien planet (pun intended).  Uh OK but at least hint at how that's done. 

Michelle Johnston

ChestbursterMember763 XPSep-11-2016 8:30 AM


I think because Ridley is very strong on style and look, the functionality of the space suits in Martian were so good that NASA expect to do some thing similar when they catch up.

His knowledge of particle physics may on the other hand be a little thin. To your main point I have had two careers when I see them  depicted I see a huge amount of liberty taken with both. Indeed my post retirement career restoring and building bespoke property, got caught in the issue itself. On my last project they filmed cinema veritee the photo shoot for the house. The feedback we received was it all went so well it did not make good television so it was cancelled a perfect example of why drama is important to a story, however contrived.

On the question of Prometheus landing on a planet which was barren and empty and Peter Weyland expecting to find his makers      that was more dumb and delusional than any plausible issue I had with landing an amazing craft through a wonderful set down scene which I assumed had the necessary kit to achieve it. When I board an A380 which will overfly the middle east on its journey to Sin. I am completely lost on a) how does that work b) is it not dangerous to overfly Iran/Turkistan and Turkey?

I assume somebody knows and cares about the answer. 

Credibility though is an issue and the Hobbit Films, despite being set in a mythological world where Dwarves fly on the back of Eagles, provided no sense of threat or jeopardy in the overlong choreographed CGI fight scenes which meant they had no story telling value, no dramatic value and where to coin a phrase a waste of electricity. But again  each of us has developed our own degree of suspension. A guy in a rubber suit with a penis for a head with acid blood what a bonkers idea (say some). 



OvomorphMember62 XPSep-11-2016 8:50 AM

The Hobbit films were a clusterfrak, but my suspension of disbelief varies depending on the franchise in question.


FacehuggerMember127 XPSep-11-2016 1:35 PM

@MJ you continue to amaze.  In a fit of the strikingly obvious you have really described the conundrum that is story-telling.  You might have the most stunningly accurate portrayal of events, but if the story isn't presented in a way that "hooks" the viewer, it's totally forgotten.  The flip side of that is you might have this sensory-stunning presentation that  is total bull****, but what a story.

Yes, indeed, this is what I need to keep reminding myself of.  The nick-nook details are not enough; you need to be able to tell the story in a way that really grabs the viewer.  Yes this is the genius that is Ridley Scott.  I think his commercial art background really stood him in good stead when it came time to portray a scene; whether to sell the idea to the execs, or an audience!

Speaking of Ridley, funny story.  My wife and I belong to this run group which trains early in the mornings.  The other day I was running through the "greenway" which is an asphalt path running through our city.  Kind of a long, linear park as it were.  It is still dark.  I noticed this guy about 100m in front of us.  He had on a head lamp, so when he came upon areas where the trees created over-head cover, he would emit this glow which looked like a man running through a tunnel.  Which reminded me of the "Scott Free" logo.  Only he didn't turn into a black bird as far as I know.  But it was kinda cool watching.  Made you feel like you were about to start your own little movie as it were.     


Michelle Johnston

ChestbursterMember763 XPSep-11-2016 9:56 PM


The Hobbit Films are nearly always critiqued from the perspective of adaption. That is a shame because the principle of taking the materials of the Hobbit and expanded world into which it was drawn and telling the story in the mode of the LOTR was a worthy one. What makes the Hobbit Films so poor is to do with basic film making issues. Pace/set up/lack of focus/poor story telling values/lack of resolution/in appropriate character hierarchy and the ultimate "crime" designing the story around the structure rather than the structure round the story - at the end of the official shoot.


Thats an illuminating story and a good one about taking our environment and being stimulated by it.  


NeomorphMember1984 XPDec-26-2016 3:06 PM

Great post, Diz!

By the look of it, the trailer hints that shuttles will be deployed:

But they could be completely different ships all together :)


FacehuggerMember127 XPJan-01-2017 1:01 PM

Yeah OK, you have my attention now; by offering us a plausible way of de-orbiting a planet in space and landing on said planet.  Now we gotta a story started.  I'm in! 

Deep Space

FacehuggerMember320 XPJan-03-2017 7:14 AM

  Must have missed this thread back in Sep - anyways, some excellent points and imagery (Diz); and, MJ, you have a very engaging insight into what makes arts/cinema work for us!

re the OP - Yeah, it would seem they will go the route of Mother ship > drop ship, which makes sense.

I haven't had a career in space travel (lol ;) but I do know what you mean - when I see my profession on TV/film it usually raises a smile or 2!

With the whole colonising thing and FTL travel I just have to suspend disbelief as otherwise my enjoyment would be ruined.  It's probably a fair bet we'll never even make it to Mars and back, in a healthy condition anyways; so any film that has us whizzing round space has to be seen this way for me.  Similarly, walking round an alien terrain without full body suits, even if there is O2, would just not be happening . . . ;) You'd send the droids in to do test after test after test 1st, right?  . . . See, here I go, lol!

As long as there is continuity within the 'universe' presented then I'm OK.  I also think great artists like RS can help us suspend our disbelief and for me this is what I love about film (or even some literature) if done well as it transports me back to a childlike state (temporarily) where my critical mind switches off and I simply observe and experience things as they are without any 'cerebral' interference :) Which, for me, is a huge part of what makes art in our culture so necessary and enjoyable.


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Alien: Covenant is a sequel to 2012's Prometheus as well as a prequel to 1979's ALIEN. Alien fans looking to know more about Alien: Covenant should check back often. is an information resource for film enthusiasts looking to learn more about the upcoming blockbuster Alien: Covenant. Providing the latest official and accurate information on Alien: Covenant, this website contains links to every set video, viral video, commercial, trailer, poster, movie still and screenshot available. This site is an extension of the Alien & Predator Fandom on Scified - a central hub for fans of Alien and Prometheus looking to stay up-to-date on the latest news. Images used are property of their respective owners. Alien: Covenant, Prometheus and its associated names, logos and images are property of 20th Century Fox and are in no way owned by Scified and its related entities. This is a fan-created website for the purpose of informing and exciting fans for Alien: Covenant's release. If you have any questions about this site, its content or the Scified Network in general, feel free to contact Scified directly.

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