What the Nostromo crew knew

leading from: The Space Jockey's Story

To introduce the world of alien organisms into terms of how the humans know of them in the universe of Alien. We find from what Harry Dean Stanton said, the reality of the Alien take place in a part of outer space where mysteries surrounding ancient cultures and strange organisms might prevail like we have heard of the yeti and the Loch Ness monster and UFOs, and perhaps a lot of strange things have been discovered and it still becomes strange for the Nostromo crew to wake up in the middle of outer space and have to deal with a strange alien spaceship on a remote planetoid somewhere.
  1. Harry Dean Stanton:"Well. we just figured the crew was more familiar, on a mundane level with alien creatures. We figured that they had been heard of and talked about. It wouldn't have been all that new to us. From my point of view anyway,aliens had been discussed in the world in which we worked. Probably a lot of weird things had been found, so it wasn't that big a deal. Of course it's strange, but I think the crew viewed aliens like we view the Yeti or the Loch Ness monster. And UFOs for example, look at the attitude we have towards that." (Alien collectors edition p45)

Primitive Alien Culture Becomes
A Biological War Weapon


a) Ron Shusett and Dan O'Bannon's Birth Pyramid
In the original Alien story, an alien traveler landed on the planetoid and had investigated an old pyramid there and the traveler had been infected and killed by the creature that had been dormant for thousands of years. It had planted an organism in the traveler's chest through his mouth, that grew and exploded from it's ribcage. Dan O'Bannon in the script, had an alien race involved in a complex bloody birth ritual. He saw them as tough, primitive, and with an extremely complicated sexual cycle. Reproductions was very difficult for them and had therefore become central to their religion, and so this pyramid was a temple to reproduction.

When the Nostromo crew were to come upon a crumbling structure covered with angular carvings, they begin to realise that they are in the presence of something of real antiquity. They can not find an entrance at the base, so they scale the pyramid and discover at the top a flue that goes straight down from the peak. This is where the character Kane sets up his tripod and winch and lowered himself down, way below ground level to the floor of the chamber. Using his suit lights he looks around in the darkness and in the middle of the room finds a stone plinth with blood drains in it. All over the walls are alien hieroglyphs, Also in there centrally located are these eggs that would be described as spores.

The alien race had two sexes of their own, but needed a third host animal to reproduce. They would bring in an animal, put it on a plinth with a spore and suddenly the creature we come to know as the facehugger comes out to deposit its seed within the animal. They would lead the inseminated creature to an enclosure where it would await the birth. However over the years, the planets has become dead and the civilisation has died out millions of years ago. All that remained was the pyramid and the spores that were life forms that were about to survive dormant for incredible lengths of time even under the most adverse conditions. And this was his vision of the alien life form before the blurring of this alien culture and the Space Jockey's took place.

Source quote
  1. O'Bannon:"I saw the inhabitants of the planet as tough and primitive, and with an extremely complicated sexual cycle. Reproduction was very difficult for them and had therefore become central to their religion. And this pyramid was an temple to reproduction. When the astronauts came upon this crumbling structure covered with ugly angular carvings, they begin to realize that they are in the presence of real antiquity. They're unable to find an entrance at the base, so they scale the pyramid and discover at the top a flue that goes straight down from the peak. This is where the character Kane sets up his tripod and winch and lowered himself down - way below ground level - to the floor of this chamber. Using his suit lights, he looks around in the darkness and in the middle of the room finds a stone plinth with blood drains in it. all over the walls are alien hieroglyphs. Also in there centrally located are these eggs - spores really. So these beings had two sexes of their own, but they needed a third host animal to reproduce. So they'd bring in an animal , put it on a plinth with a spore, and whammo! Then they'd lead the inseminated animal off to an enclosure somewhere to await the birth. But the planetoid was now dead and this civilisation had been gone for a million years. All that remained of it was this pyramid and these spores - which can survive dormant for incredible lengths of time even under the most adverse conditions. That's what I originally saw. And since I made it up, naturally I'm going to like it better: but to me that's a lot more sinister sequence of events and a lot more ingenious than blurring the two cultures together." (Cinefex 1, p48)
b.) Ridley's begins to think about warfare
Since the blurring of the cultures had taken place, there were still questions about how long they had been down there, and why they're down there. Ridley talked about thought that these things had been down their waiting for thousands of years for some other life form to come by, because its only trigger was another another life form, a biological presence that enabled it to move on and develop. He perceived an abstract kind of purity as if it was a weapon. However we are left asking if he already saw it being a product biological warfare or simply a product of natural biological processes, and well Ridley brought the subject of warfare into the statement. In the final film it seemed as if there could not have been any natural life on the planetoid, so one wonders what the spores were doing there as it seemed that they could not have been natural to the place and so Scott made the assumption that perhaps it was developed as a weapon and got out of control. If one imagined a few thousand of these creatures, that would be quite an impression. His thoughts about exploring what happened with two different civilisations in a sequel never received any further exposure.

Source quote
  1. Interviewer:"So the alien of the film's title was the dominant life form?"
    Ridley Scott:"On that rock, yes,. It may have waited thousands of years for some other life form to come near. It's only trigger you see is another life form. Another biological presence enable it to move on and develop. It truly does have an abstract kind of purity. And almost like a weapon, a product of biological, rather than bacteriological warfare. We never went into any of this but perhaps it was developed as a weapon and got out of control. Imagine a few thousand of those things,  " (Cinefantastique 9:1, p14)
c.) Giger's idea about a biomechanic landscape
If we assumed a former civilisation here had an ability to use space travel, life forms could have found there way here through one way or another.  Giger designed a landscape for the planetoid to be biomechanic, as a mixture of technology and some kind of magma, so as to create the feeling that maybe a technical civilisation that existed there once had been destroyed.

Source quote
  1. HR Giger: I don't appreciate that kind of science fiction where every element is invented. That's why I wanted the landscape to be biomechanic, a mixture of technology and some kind of magma, so as to create the feeling that maybe something has happened on that planet, maybe a technical civilisation has been destroyed. Unfortunately, as most of the landscape footage has been cut by Ridley Scott, I doubt whether all that can be felt any more. (Cinfefantastque vol 9, no 1, p37)

Egg Silo and the Derelict
squeezed into one


a.) Wrecked Construction Of Non Human Manufacture 
Originally in the alien script, the men discover a crashed derelict spacecraft and they enter it and discover that the alien occupants are all dead. They return to their own ship to contemplate what may have killed the alien crew and then they discover a pyramid on the plant which appears to be indigenous and it's primitive. 

They enter the pyramid and there they find the eggs. In the movie, the Earthmen discover what Dan O'Bannon would refer to as a "wrecked construction of non-human manufacture" that we might assume is the remains of a space craft, and inside they find the eggs of the monster. but following Dan's point of view, it was no long easy to say what it was
Concept for egg silo exterior

b.) Two Elements Squeezed Into One Sort Of Uneasy Entity.
Giger was brought in to design the pyramid and soon the derelict ships. The pyramid idea had given way to an extraordinary biomechanic breast shaped silo, still with the exterior and interior designed by Giger. Since the derelict and the silo both followed the biomechanic design of Giger, and budget cuts were necessary,  further budget cuts took place and the two elements were merged together as if the silo were connected to the space jockey chamber from below the space jockey platform.


Giger's sketch for the space jockey with silo entrance and  silo
c.) Derelict Ship Infested By An Insect Nest Alien
The derelict that was once a space ship seems no longer to be a space ship, we can't say what it is, no one can make a direct claim. However Giger conformed to the ideas of the initial story though about the derelict having been infested by aliens. It was as if the derelict space ship had landed on an ant hill and the ants had eaten their way through the spacecraft like parasites in order to use the pilot at a host. And soon the eggs would also be considered something laid inside as termites would do within the wall of a house.

(detail ) Giger's sketch for the space jockey

d.) Theories from the Alien special effects team
So what was it now, a space ship that landed on the surface or was it something else a major part of it somehow buried beneath the ground? Special effects technician Jon Sorensen and Dennis Lowe had thoughts about it. 

Jon recalled that on the set , they felt that there was more of the Derelict buried under what was seen, it was just an opinion but Kane being lowered down to the egg chamber showed that. 

Dennis Lowe thought that the egg chamber was underneath the Derelict as well, especially in view of the scale ratio from the model of the derelict built at the Bray studios workshop, so he thought that it had probably grown from the biomechanical ship.

Source Quotes
  1. Dan O'Bannon: In the movie, the Earthmen discover a wrecked, derelict spacecraft, actually no, that's not correct. In the movie, the men discover a wrecked construction of non human manufacture and inside of it they find eggs of the monster. In the original script, the men find the crashed derelict spacecraft and they enter it, they discover that the aliens are all dead. They return to their own ship to contemplate what may have killed the alien crew and then they discover a pyramid on the planet which appears to be indigenous and it's primitive. They enter the pyramid and there they find the eggs. (Fantastic Films 1o, p29) 
  2. Dan O'Bannon: They combined these two elements, they squeezed them into one sort of uneasy entity.
    Fantastic Film: The idea behind that, I would assume, being that the dangerous aliens were coming back to spawn.
    O'Bannon: No, they were two different races. In my script, it was a space going race that landed on this planet and had been wiped out by whatever was there, And now the Earthmen come and endanger themselves in the same way. In the new version, it's just a sort of a surrealist mystery.  (Fantastic Films 10 p29-30) 
  3. FX: What is the relationship between the Space Jockey and the Alien Eggs?
    HR Giger: They always told me that the Space Jockey was another alien race, so he is not part of the Alien or the Eggs. To save money, the Egg Chamber and the Space of the Egg Silo were the same . The inside of the Egg Silo were elements of my painting, and was actually the entrance to a round silo which ended up in another set. (FX, 7, 1999 (spanish magazine0 
  4. H R Giger: The egg silo and the space craft are now joined together, i.e. the astronauts enter through one of the three sewers, wind their way through the snail corridor, and find the corpse of the pilot which is twice as big as a human. Next to the seat of the pilot, there's a hole that leads into the depths of the silo.(The whole thing has been changed because the exterior views of the silo would have been too expensive!) So the silo was placed under the spacecraft, as if a mini UFO had landed on an anthill, and the ants had eaten their way through the spacecraft, like parasites, in order to use the pilot as a host. (Undated, perhaps around March 1978, Giger's Alien Diaries, p155, translation of p11, published 2013)
  5. H R Giger: Since the producers have now decided that the eggsilo is to be an integral part of the derelict, the shaft now forms a direct passage from the cockpit to the eggsilo.(27th June, 1978, Giger's Alien, p34)
  6. H R Giger: The broken floorboard, which looks like a turntable, is some 1.50 metres (five feet) above the floor. In the original script the egg silo was immediately below the cockpit , so that one of these holes in the floorboard acts as a way down for the astronaut unto the regions below him. (25th July, 1978, Giger's Alien, p34)
  7. H R Giger: We decided that it would be a good idea to have these eggs inside the derelict like termites within the wall of a house. (CFQ vol 9, no 1)
  8. H R Giger: So we designed another silo but then the budget wasn't big enough to include this structure so we decided it would be a good idea to have these eggs inside the derelict like termites inside the walls of the house. ( Warren Presents Alien collectors edition, p 31)
  9. kjohnson26: The things that kind of bugged me had more to do with stuff coming out of the changes in the script by different contributors over the long development time. It always seemed to me the egg chamber was too large and deep under the floor to be part of the derelict, instead it seemed to me to be in a cavern underneath the alien ship.
    Dennis Lowe:
    I thought the egg chamber was underneath the Derelict too, especially when you see the scale ratio from the model that was built at the Bray workshop and had probably grown from the bio mechanical ship.
    (http://www.prometheusforum.net/ May 2012 )
  10. Jon Sorenson: we always felt that there was more of the Derelict buried under what you saw...Kane being lowered down to the egg chamber showed you that. Just our opinion at the time. (Facebook , June 12th 2014)

The Design Of The Derelict


Ridley's Initial Idea
a) Ridley Scott : " I took the drawing of the space ship off a section of one of Giger'spaintings, 'cause we couldn't work out what the hell the spaceship was going to look like,  and so I was staring at his book, the Necronomicon, and he'd drawn something up that almost looked like a musical instrument, so I kind of drew around that, and said "what about this, it looks like a giant croissant, but actually it worked, like a boomerang." (Alien DVD commentary)


Giger's design
b) Giger created the final image that looked as if it were something planted that was on the verge of maturing.



  1. H. R. Giger: "Once the alien was under control, Ridley asked me if I could design a spaceship not made by human beings. Well how do you do that? I thought maybe it might look organic - something that could grow even, like a plant *- but I didn't know exactly what it should look like. Then early one morning I couldn't sleep, I got up and started painting and the derelict ship was born in a few hours. It ended up like an aerodynamic bone with little technical stuff all over it, but it wasn't anything I had planned - it just sort of ran out of my mind and my airbrush, which is not uncommon for me. Often I try to switch off my thoughts as much as possible and let the painting flow spontaneously from my subconscious mind.(Cinefex 1)  
  2. H R Giger: " I wanted it to look like something planted - perhaps in the process of maturing" (Warren's Alien Collector's edition , p32) 

Ridley's Critera
c) In regards to what we assume to be engines sticking out like arms either side of the main hull of the vessel, they might not be engines at all. Scott didn't want this to be obvious, because he had seen some photos of what seemed to be UFOs and he was mystified because he had no idea how these things could be powered.




  1. Fantastic Films: "What are the criterian for credibility in the design of alien spacecraft?" 

  2. Ridley Scott : "I have come to accept a wide variety of possibilities. And strangely enough, the more mundane something is, the more it can sometimes stagger people. Simplicity can be more powerful than you think. Take a UFO for example. How do you design it so people believe it? One of the best UFO shots is one from the thirties with the portholes. It looks like an inverted plate with a sort of cap on it *. And oddly enough it's rather archaic, it appeals to me as a solution, rather than an incredibly refined, sleek spacecraft. I like the idea of a spaceship where you've got no idea what kind of energy drives it and you've never seen anything quite like it before. " (Fantastic Films (UK)# 3, (US) No.12, p27) 
    Adamski's Venusian Scoutship
  3. Ridley was probably talking about George Adamski's photographs of flying saucers such as the Venusian Scoutship that were taken in the early 1950s.

For a detailed look at the development of the 
derelict exterior design see Design of the Derelict

Variations of The Hieroglyphs painting

leading from:
and


HR Giger painting the Hieroglyphs, (image taken from Giger's Alien)
a) The original Space Jockey/Alien relationship
The Space Jockey's history begins with the basic idea that O'Bannon had in mind, which Scott wanted to include evidence of in a prognosis scene, that involved the space jockey being an entity who landed on the planet in his ship and became infected by the spores in the pyramid. He at the time had no relationship with the film's Alien other than to become its victim.

[384.jpg]
Original life cyle tableau


b) Starting the Hierogylphs
On 5th April 1978 Giger began the hieroglyphs, a photographs shows him during the painting of the Facehugger's spring tail as it sleeps in the egg, in the painting and at the time the head would be a space helmet still and the image that we see of it in Giger's Alien, it is a humanoid astronaut wearing a costume with biomechanic patterns. Once he had designed both the derelict and the silo, both would have his biomechanic style and the astronaut in the hieroglyphs is also wearing a biomechanic suit.

alteration made to astronaut figure, before and after
c) Change in the Space Jockey / Alien's relationship
In Giger's Alien diaries, it appears to be around March that the merger between the derelict and the silo becomes apparent but in the Giger's Alien book, it was not until June that the derelict and the silo are combined. The head of the anonymous astronaut victim in  Alien Life Cycle Hieroglyphics had been changed to a space jockey at some point to resemble a member of the Space Jockey's race as it can be found in Scanlon and Gross 'The Book of Alien" and that is the way the painting is to be found today



d) Giger interview confuses the issue or adds another
In 2004, it has been a few years now that the difference had been brought to the public about the difference between the two paintings show, displayed a difference between the two painting, however Giger when asked about this by Dixieme Planete, and they reveal in the interview about how he started off with a victim that looked like the alien and transformed them into human like victims. It's not quite an answer that explains the paintings but then one might ask if Giger started off with an alien victim like the main one from the movie, then changed it to a human victim and then to a victim like the entity known as the Space Jockey. Had whoever translated Giger's words into French for the interview made an error?
  1. H R Giger (5th April 1978): I go on working and start on the design of the hieroglyphics.(Giger's Alien, p14) 
  2. Dixieme Planete : Une dernière question : pourquoi existe-fil deux versions du tableau représentant le cycle de l'Alien ? (Ce tableau est reproduit avec des différences dans le magazine Métal Hurlant et dans le livre dans lequel Giger raconte son aventure cinématographique).

    HR Giger : En fait, j'ai modifié l'apparence des victimes car ils ressemblaient trop à des extraterrestres ayant une tête de Alien. J'ai voulu les faire plus humains pour qu 'il n'y ait pas de confusion ! Mon travail sur Alien est loin, maintenant, mais je suis heureux d'avoir contribué à créer un monstre parfaitement crédible, malgré les contraintes imposées par le cinéma.
    Translation below
    Dixieme Planete: One last question: why are two versions of the tableau representing the cycle of the Alien? (This tableau is reproduced with differences in the magazine Screaming Metal and the book in which Giger describes his cinematographic adventure).
    HR Giger: Well, I changed the appearance of the victims because they resembled too much the extra-terrestrials having a head of Alien. I wanted to make them more human so that there is no confusion! My work on Alien is far away now, but I am pleased to have helped create a perfectly credible monster, despite the constraints imposed by the cinema. (Dixieme Planete 31, October/November 2004 , p49)

Placement of the Life Cycle Tableau

leading from

Final version of  the Life Cycle Tableau


a) There were debates going on about whether the hieroglyphs would be required or not. Giger was told at one point after he started working on them that they wouldn't be needed, and then he discovered that they would be needed. Ron Shusett was keen to include the hieroglyphs painting in the film and Giger talked to Ridley Scott about this and Ridley said that the hallway leading to the cockpit in the derelict spacecraft would be a possible sight for the painting.

b) So Giger brought the painting in the following day for test shots. Once the test footage had been filmed, Ridley the following day saw the rushes and commented "It works". Giger wasn't satisfied with the hallway that was no longer based on his concept for the corridor, he thought that the place seemed too much like a mine shaft rather than a part of a space craft.
 
egg silo designed to contain the hieroglyphs

c) The next thought that came from Ridley was that showing the picture in the film would show too much of the story of the alien life cycle and so it should go in the cockpit chamber, however Giger's view was that the average cinema goer wouldn't be able to read the story from the painting.

d) Giger hoped that he would be able to tackle the situation with Ron Shusett's help and get the painting in a place where it could be seen, but eventually let the whole matter go.

detail from egg silo showing hieroglyphs area

e) The test footage shot would later be found on the Alien Anthology Blu-Ray set.

Quote sources
  1. H R Giger (14th July 1978): They don't need my hieroglyphs anymore. ( Giger's Alien diaries, p249) 
  2. H. R. Giger (Monday 14 August, 1978): Shusett wants to include my painting "Hieroglyphs" in the film. I talked to Ridley about this. He said that the hallway leading to the cockpit might be a possible sight for the painting. I'll bring the painting tomorrow for a film test. ( Giger's Alien diaries, p497) 
  3. H. R. Giger (Monday 16 August, 1978):To my great suprise, they made film tests of the hieroglyph painting. ( Giger's Alien diaries, p501)
  4. H. R. Giger: "The previous days rushes are shown. A test is made of my hieroglyphics picture . Scott's comment "It works!". A place has been found for it in the "mineshaft" . I had originally meant the hieroglyphics to be the decor of the egg silo, where to my mind they still belong•. (Giger's Alien p32, Entry for August 17, 1978) (The "mineshaft" is Giger's name for the derelict's gangway given in dissatisfaction.) 

  5. the derelict corridor (referred to by Giger as the "mineshaft") where Ridley for a while would 
    have placed he derelict
  6.  H. R. Giger (Thursday, August 17, 1978): At 1pm, I watched the rushes. They showed the film test of the hieroglyphs painting. Ridley's comment: "It works." Afterwards, there was discussion about where to place the images. To me the only option is the corridor of the Alien spacecraft, which has been brutally altered. It's supposed to be part of a flying object but looks more like a mine shaft. I try to make it clear to G. Carroll. No luck. In matters like this, he's always stubborn as hell. R. Scott thinks that the hieroglyph image would tell the story of the Alien directly so I should try to put it directly in the cockpit. I tried to explain to these blockheads that regular moviegoers, even if they had enough time, would never be able to read the story from the hieroglyph image. I would like to make an attempt in this direction. With the help of Ron Shusett, I might get there another time. ( Giger's Alien diaries, p501)   

Space Jockey fused wth the chair

leading from:  
The Space Jockey's Story

[006.jpg]
The Space Jockey wrapped in his chair
a) Where does biology end and technology begin?
Ridley wondered if the fact it looks a part of its chair was a result of the ossification of the corpse and had transformed that way into something from Giger's mind which was where biology and technology fused together and one could not work out where one might begin and the other might end,  It looked to him as if Giger had grafted the pilot into its seat.
    b) Giger's Answer
    With Giger's biomechanics style, the Space Jockey turned out to be biomechanical to the extent that it looks as if he has physically grown into his seat or maybe he has grown out the seat, However Giger thought of the entity being totally integrated into the function that he performs and with his seat he forms a single unit.

    5th May 1961, Alan Shepard aboard the Freedom 7 
    c) Astronaut sunken into his vehicle and instruments.
    Fritz Billitzer in his essay about biomechanoids in Giger's Necronomicon, mentioned as an example of biomechanical relationships in the real world about how an "astronaut is literally sunk into his vehicle and instruments. That he simultaneously studies them while being studied by them",  and i wonder if those words helped form the idea of the space jockey merged with his seat to come along into being. 

      The Space Jockey's skull with small teeth
    d) Innocence of the space jockey
    Dan O'Bannon always wanted this alien to be an innocent traveler, and was pleased with the final Space Jockey, because in contrast to the alien chestburster that grew into something carnivorous, the Space Jockey did not possess the characteristics of a carnivore and he could imagine it as some totally non violent herbivorous creature sailing around space. Sitting in its doomed space ship, the pilot appeared to be benign and people involved in the film tended to agree, but they couldn't explain why. 

    To some like Alien special effects technician Dennis Lowe, it had just been caught out by the alien species just like the crew of the Nostromo, and there it was, used in the film as a warning to them in a way which only Lambert was the one to get the vibe "let's get the hell outta here"


    1. Ridley Scott: This space jockey is, I've always thought was the driver of the craft who is now after many ages, of course it would be dustless but has started to look like a perfect example of Giger's mind which is 'where does biology end and technology begin?' because he seems to have grafted the creature into what was essentially was let's say a pilot's seat. (alien-20th-anniversary-dvd) 
    2. Scanlon & Gross: The space jockey skeleton is, of course, all bones, but it's not so much a skeleton sitting in a chair as a skeleton that has become a part of the chair. It's not clear if the space jockey has ossified with time or was always an organic part of its craft . (Book of Alien)
    3. HR Giger : The creature we finally ended up building is biomechanical to the extent that he has physically grown into, or maybe even out of, his seat, - he's integrated totally into the function he performs. (Cinefex 1, p64)  
    4. HR Giger : The pilot is conceived as one of my biomechanoids, attached to the seat so as to form a single unit (Giger's Alien p34, 25 July, 1978, )   
    5.  Brian Muir: I have fond memories of working with Giger. He explained to me and my colleague Peter Voysey that the pilot and cockpit were to be as one, as if merged together. The jockey was modeled in clay, and then cast in clear resin.  (Scifi Now #52 2011, p115) 
    6. Fritz Billitzer: Astronaut is literally sunk into his vehicle and instruments. He simultaneously studies them while being studied by them.Giger's Necronomicon)
    7. Dan O'Bannon: imagine it as some totally non violent herbivorous creature sailing around space. (Cinefex 1, p64)
    8. Scanlan & Gross: Sitting in repose in its doomed spaceship, the jockey somehow appears to have been a benign creature. People involved in the film tend to agree on this. But they can't explain why. (Book of Alien)
    9.  kjohnson26 said: It seems that Mr. Scott in an interview stated that he thought the egg chamber was part of the derelict's payload and among the fans his voice is taken as definitive. I assumed that was a bit of an after the fact explanation that could be exploited in a future movie. He also seemed to take a much dimmer view of what the Space Jockey was up to than what myself and a lot of other fans assumed. I used to think the jockey was probably benign or neutral in nature with respect to other intelligent life-forms but with the early interviews and trailers for "Prometheus", it seemed likely that the more negative view of the Engineers/Space Jockeys that Mr. Scott stated before was going to prevail.
      Dennis Lowe:My take on the SpaceJockey (I still don't know where the name came from) was that it had been caught out by the alien species just like the crew were about to and that it was used in the film as a warning to them in which Lambert was the only one to get the vibe.... "let's get the hell outta here" (See more at: http://www.prometheusforum.net/)
       Space Jockey (source :http://www.mymediawelt.de/)

      Painting of the Planetary System

      leading from


      a) During the making of the movie, no one involved had any assumption that the planetoid was supposed to be in the Zeta II Reticuli star system. Dennis Lowe who actually painted the great scene of the ringed planets and the other moons was unaware of any connection between the planetoid and Zeta II Reticuli.

      b) Dennis original brief was from Nick Alder, and as far as he could remember decades ater, the brief was "We want a ringed planet (like Saturn) with a couple of moons in there" and it was up to him to do it and then it would be commented on and he would have to change it a few times. He painted the planetary backdrop using gouache paint on very siny black plastic stretched on a 4x8 foot frame. The plastic had to be shiny because it photographed black on the camera negative, and the didn't have to use polarizing filters on lights and camera reducing the exposure. Ridley asked for it to be done very very softly and Dennis thought that it should have at least some detail in the rings , although the Voyager space mission hadn't reached Saturn but by then science knew that the rings were quite complex. And so followed the painful phase of softening everything down with the airbrush.

      c) In the painting by Dennis Lowe, we notice that one of the moons around the ringed planet is lit from another direction, as if the star that is illuminating them must be a very small white dwarf as small as the planet.  Dennis noticed that it didn't look right but Ridley wanted it that way because it looked better.  Ridley's explanation for the re-lit moon was that it was on the other side of the planet and therefore would have been a lot bigger than the others. Dennis questioned this because it didn't look realistic to him kept on stating to Ridley that it would have the same crescent lighting as the main source from however many lightyears away and therefore would be exactly the same, but despite Dennis' views,  Ridley's end response was "It doesn't matter if it looks better" but Dennis was never convinced. However Dennis knew the other side to this whole matter when you are shooting a tricky sequence, there are all sorts of combinations going through the mind at the same time, and it's not until one sees through the lens that the possibilities begin to narrow down and the stomach states what it right, and Ridley followed his stomach

      d) Dennis interest in planets went back to when he was a teenager at Secondary School and he built himself a 6" Newtonian reflector telescope for which he had to buy a parabolic mirror, he spent hours peering through the eyepiece, even taking photos of the moon. This helped to give him a good understanding of physics and the real world, and being eventually as an art student, able to understand the way that light falls on objects. With this knowledge, it would have been impossible in the real world to have a light falling on one moon and not on the rest of the planetary system. That was his rational. If the strange angle light on the moon was due to bounced light,  it would have been a lot weaker than what we see on the painting.

      e) When seeing the rushes, Ivor Power said that when he saw the finished composite in Alien (with the dome projections, miniature refinery, suns, etc, which took three days to shoot) he said "That shot is as good as anything in 2001" And he was someone who was seen as being someone ought to know what he was talking about since he worked on Kubrick's 2001 A Space Odyssey. However the odd lighting on the moon would continue to bother Dennis over the following decades

      Source Quotes
      1. Jon Sorensen: It is such a beautiful image, Dennis. Beautifully executed. Ivor Powell said in rushes when he saw the finished composite in ALIEN, (with the dome projections, miniature refinery, suns, etc...the one that took us three days to shoot and was done original negative in the camera, 18 elements..."That shot is as good as anything in 2001". And should know. He worked on 2001. ( Alienexperience.com,  June 30, 2009)
      2. Dennis Lowe: I can remember vividly when Ridley wanted the middle moon lit at a different angle and I questioned this of course because it wasn't realistic. He replied "It doesn't matter if it looks better" I'm still not sure about it.(alienexperience.com, June 30, 2009,)
      3. Jon Sorensen: No we discussed this already. Ridley's attitude to "reality" and "continuity".
        I think he's absolutely right, personally. That's his whole ethos.
      4. Dennis Lowe: Yes I did that, it's gouache paint on very shiny black plastic stretched on a 4x8 foot frame. The plastic had to be shiny because it photographed black on the camera negative and we didn't have to use polarizing filters on lights and camera thereby reducing the exposure.(wwwAlienexperience.com /ALIEN Makers Documentary thread, June 30th, 2009) 
      5. Dennis Lowe: I know for a fact that when you are shooting a tricky sequence there are all sorts of combinations going through your mind at the same time, but it's not until you see it through that lens that the possibilities begin to narrow down and your stomach tells you what's right.(Alien Experience, ALIEN Makers Documentary thread, June 30th, 2009) 
      6. Dennis Lowe: His explanation for the re-lit moon was that it was on the other side of the planet (therefore would have been a lot bigger than the others) and I kept on saying that it would have the same crescent lighting as the main source came from God knows how many light years away and therefore would be exactly the same. He reverted to his stomach ! (Alien Experience, ALIEN Makers Documentary thread, June 30th, 2009) 
      7. Dennis Lowe: My original brief was from Nick Alder and it was something like "we want a ringed planet (like Saturn) with a couple of moons in there" and it was up to me to do it, then it gets commented on and I remember changing it quite a few times. (Alien Experience, ALIEN Makers Documentary thread, June 30th, 2009) 
      8. Dennis Lowe:  When I was a teenager at Secondary School I built myself a 6" Newtonian reflector telescope (I had to buy the parabolic mirror) and spent hours peering through the eyepiece - even took photos of the Moon. This gave me a good understanding of physics and the real world, and being eventually, as an art student understood the way light falls on objects. With this knowledge it would have been impossible in the real world to have a light falling on one moon and not on the rest of the planetary system. That was my rationale. (Alien Experience, ALIEN Makers Documentary thread, June 30th, 2009)
      9.  Dennis Lowe: When working on a movie you have to do everything possible for it to be 'right', then the director steps in and you have to be open enough to change the original concept until a compromise happens.(Alien Experience, ALIEN Makers Documentary thread, June 30th, 2009)  
      10. Dennis Lowe: "If I were to explain the reason for the rogue lighting on the moon the only way from my point of view would be that there would have to be a light source between the ringed planet and the rogue moon and we can't see it as it's masked by the planet from our viewpoint. That would make some kind of sense.(Alien Experience, ALIEN Makers Documentary thread, July 1st, 2009) 
      11.  In response to the suggestion from SM that it was light bouncing off the planet, Dennis said "It does happen but the bounced light would be a lot weaker than what we see on the painting"  (Alien Experience, ALIEN Makers Documentary thread, July 1st, 2009)
      12.  Simon Deering: Ok , about this moon .. :) Dennis , was it perhaps the idea that that particular moon is the moon/planet of the alien ship fame? Did Ridley simply want to draw the eye to it ?   (Alien Experience, ALIEN Makers Documentary thread, July 1st, 2009) 
      13. Dennis Lowe: Maybe,  it still bugs me though - that's why I zapped it off the painting when I inserted it in the documentary.  (Alien Experience, ALIEN Makers Documentary thread, July 1st, 2009)
      14. Dennis Lowe: "When I did the painting for the title sequence Ridley asked for it to be done very very softly and again I thought it should have at least some detail in the rings (although the Voyager space mission hadn't reached Saturn by then we knew that the rings were quite complex) and so followed a painful phase of softening everything down with the airbrush. " (Alien Experience, ALIEN Makers Documentary thread, July 1st, 2009)

      Saliva Story

      leading from

      Dennis Lowe: This afternoon Roger Nichols popped in (disturbed my meditation session - he said I was snoring) and stuffed a piece of paper in my hand. It's a brief description of the Saliva device that he made.

      Although designed by HR Giger the Alien costume was constructed by the American modeller Carlo Rambaldi and, because Ridley wanted the jaws to drip with saliva, Rambaldi had plumbed a tube into the outfit for this purpose through which liquid could be pumped.  When all was ready Ridley came over to Shepperton one evening to test this creation and immediately spotted a problem since the tube trailed behind the actor like a second tail.  'Why the blazes is that pipe coming out of his backside?' (said Ridley in words a little less polite.)  'I can't shoot it like that.' whereupon SFX in the person of Nick Allder stepped in to promise 'We'll fix that tomorrow.  Leave it to us.'

      Roger went home, dived into the shed and plundered some stuff from his aero modelling days.  The next day he fitted a battery pack and radio controlled receiver, wired them to an RC switch and attached a windscreen wiper pump.  This was hooked up to a fuel tank, liberated from a model airplane, which has the advantage of continuous flow whatever the angle of operation.  The whole contraption was installed inside the horns on the back of the Alien costume and the tank filled with a mixture of glycerin and water.

      That evening when Ridley came to review the situation the stuntman, Eddie Powell, was in the costume and suspended on wires from the undercarriage leg of the alien spaceship.  He was lowered, the jaws opened and, with just the right amount of sinister viscosity, the radio controlled alien drool oozed forth exactly on cue.  A delighted Ridley was heard to mutter 'Thank **** for the Brits.'

      It was in this undercarriage leg that the captured crew members were stored after they had been cocooned by the creature.  At one point Ridley burned these cocoons with the flame thrower but the resulting footage was considered to be gratuitously gruesome and was not included. (source Alienexperience.com, June 28, 2009)