The Derelict

Chris Foss' Derelict

Leading From
The Derelict,
Chris Foss' art

black and white image of Foss' derelict from Skeleton Crew August, 1990

a) Chris Foss's Derelict Ship. Foss possessed a colorful and flamboyant style O'Bannon considered ideal for the derelict ship and its benign aliens. His design actually bears a resemblance to the description given in Dan O'Bannon's original script which was something comparable to a titanic lobster and happened to be the one that Dan approved of the most.

concept for derelict by Chris Foss, no.1

"Through billowing dust-clouds, a huge SHAPE appears. The dust clears, and THEY SEE:
A GROTESQUE  CRAFT, nose down in the sand like some titanic lobster"

(1)Dan O'Bannon's DVD version of the early Alien script.
concept for derelict by Chris Foss no.2
b). Pictures number 1 and 2 both have the same front, one can see nearly the whole body of the 1st resting upon the sand,  and the 2nd like the 3rd is half buried in the sand, (perhaps both would come across as concepts easier to put on screen than the 1st.)  The 2nd also has a fin like structure poking out of the sand behind it roughly similar to the third one. The 3rd one can also be seen to be a reinterpretation of Chris Foss' design for a Harkonnen Flagship from Jodorowsky's Dune ill fated Dune project in 1975. Both ships have a main central body vertical with arms branching to down the side ending vast bauble like engines

1) Visit Chriss Foss's website:
2) Read about the Unseen Dune at the the Dune Info website:

derelict no.3

Quote sources

  1. Foss possessed a colorful and flamboyant style O'Bannon considered ideal for the derelict ship and its benign aliens. (Cinefex 1, p36)
  2. Dan O'Bannon "I conceptualised the derelict as a gnome's castle - colorful and interesting and bizarre as hell, but not morbid. Chris Foss did a wonderful painting of the ship, which is still my favourite, bronzed lobster like thing sitting in the sand, very technological, very odd looking, very difficult to work out how it would fly" (Cinefex 1, p64)

Foss's unused 1975. Harkonnen Flagship design
earlier sketch of unused 1975 
Harkonnen Flagship design

Foss' derelict pt B

leading from 

Chris Foss' derelict no.3 
(no number has been given by the artist)
First draft storyboards for special photographic effects displays images of a Chris Foss's derelict ship no.3.  The storyboards presented in the Alien Anthology Blu-Ray set released in 2010 were put together by Ron Cobb and Chris Foss

A question that arises is whether or not the image is based on the painting that O'Bannon finally settled on from Foss design of the derelict?

a) The first image here shows a silhouette of the derelict  in the storm 
b) The second shows the derelict after the clouds have cleared and a side entrance is seen. 
c) The third shows a high angle shot looking over the top of the derelict down onto the men approaching, 

d) The fourth shows a low angle close up of the top and the curved arms bridging across , the men's point of view as the approach the vessel. 

Cobb's concepts


a) Cobb's problem as an alien spaceship designer.
  1. Dan O'Bannon: "The only problem was that he was a rationalist. I noticed this when we first started designing the picture. All these different things he as doing were coming out so well that I decided to have him  take a crack at the derelict spaceship. But when I asked him to come up with an irrational shape he got very disturbed. He couldn't handle that. He kept coming up with convincing technology for a flying saucer or some other kind of UFO." (Cinefex 1, p43)
b)  Ron Cobb created two paintings that featured his designs for derelict space crafts.

Alien derelict
b i) An alien derelict:
A design for the alien derelict space craft made up from curved shapes that could easily contain the space jockey design that he created.
  1. Future life #23 in an article about Ron Cobb mentions briefly that craft was to be destroyed, without any further word about this.
Manmade derelict -"Black Ship and Cylinder"
b ii)) "Black Ship and Cylinder"
A concept painting showing the remains of a manmade ship and a cylindrical tower with human explorers wandering around shining their torches.

  1. The Book of Alien says about this picture that the searchers find a lost Earth base where previous travelers fought a losing battle with aliens.
  2. In Starburst 14, 1979,  John Brosnan was handed a script by the publisher of the Alien novelisation and he mistakingly believed it was the original script but it was instead was a rewrite by Giler and Hill . His words about it were:"The original script reveals that the eggs are a part of a genetic engineering experiment being carried out by the same Earth company that employs the crew of the Nostromo. The company is illegally involved in a project to create a perfect killing machine - the "alien" of the title. Unknown to the crew of the Nostromo the ship has been programmed to pick up one of the eggs, activate it and return the resulting creature to the company headquarters. The crew themselves  are merely expendable guineau pigs being used to see just how effective the company's deadly creation is. But the crew or some of them, learn the truth when they discover that one of their number is actually a robot working under the direct orders of the company."
  3. At the bottom of the painting as shown in the Alien from the Quadrilogy DVD set released in 2003, there is a copy of the picture and presents at the bottom of the picture the ominous words "Black ship and cylinder". This painting was a concept for a different version of the script than the final one.
  4. A copy of a script featuring the black ship and the cylinder enters my hands on 31st January, 2011 (many thanks to Valaquen of Strange Shapes). The description of the alien derelict has been made much simpler, into the form of a human built space craft. The black ship is a new version of an L-52 craft, perhaps named after the B-52 bomber. In this scenario, the old L-52 craft is known to generally go with a compliment of seven people. The disfigured remains of one dead human astronaut are discovered. So it is revealed that in this script, the egg silo is replaced by a concrete cylinder, is said in the script to be a government model 503, with the silo beneath the ground. When Dallas arrives at the top, he discovers a wheel recessed into contiguous pillbox with spokes shaped to accept clutching hands. When turned, a few meters away an opening appears in the Cylinder's surface. Down below he finds the egg silo, with a plinth on the ground upon which are rows of the leathery urns, the spores

Ridley's Criteria for the Derelict

Ridley was probably talking about George Adamski's photographs of flying saucers such as the 
Venusian Scoutship that were taken in the early 1950s. See photograph of flying saucer on the right).
When Ridley joined the project, Chris Voss's lobster derelict had been the design that O'Bannon wanted, however it didn't satisfy Ridley and he then went through a number of different ideas for the ancient derelict ship before he settled on the concept that finally interested him that we see in the final movie. 
  1. Fantastic Films: "What are the criterian for credibility in the design of alien spacecraft?"
    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: "Like Giger's instead of the Foss conceptions?"

    Ridley Scott : "Foss' ideas were interesting but they tended to all look alike. Giger's craft was definitely not of this world"  (Fantastic Films (UK)# 3, (US) No.12, p27)

Chris Foss's lobster derelict ship

Moebius' Alien derelict exterior

a) Moebius' derelict exterior
When Moebius arrived on the project and stayed for a short time, Ridley had him design a derelict ship and Moebius came up with a view of the vessel in the distance on a landscape and a closeup of the vessel's observation dome. The shape of it might be comparable to a space rocket capsule or an inverted spinning top.

Moebius's derelict ship (from SFX December 2014 preview of The Alien Archives book)

b)  Ridleygram of Moebius derelict
In the Ridleygram of the derelict being revealed,  Ridley drew more than one of Moebius' derelict and connects the pods with long bridge tunnels.He drew it as an interpretation of Moebius design, but also we know that he has been using the Giger's Necronomicon as a bible. Ridley was not satisfied with these ideas, and he thought that Moebius design looked too Victorian so he was keen to take it a step in new direction.
Ridlegram: Derelict is revealed
c) Moebius' Derelict Exterior's Relationship to Giger's Egg Silo
The way that Ridley drew the derelict closer up makes it look organic as if it has been slight Gigerised and because of the shape resembles Giger's egg silo. At this stage, Ridley's own design for the egg silo was based on Giger's Castle Harkonen from Dune shown in Giger's Necronomicon. Giger's breast shaped egg silo was initially a pyramid that soon undergone an extreme transformation in design to something more organic looking.
Giger's Egg silo design, work378

Quote source
  1. Ridley Scott: This was a Moebius idea of the derelict. It's actually rather nice and slightly archaic and faintly Victorian for some reason or other. I quite liked it but we finally decided, it simply wasn't strange enough - not unearthly enough. It was too normal, so therefore Giger came up at a much later stage and did another one (p28, Fantastic Films (GB) #2/(US) No.12)

Moebius' Alien spaceship concepts for Alien part 2

a) Moebius concept sketches for Ridley Scott, that remained safe in the drawer of Jean-Marc L'Officer who would later discovered them there and published them in Ashcan Comics #4

Moebius concept sketch for ridley scotts Alien

b) Derelict inspired by Chris Foss derelict and  Space 1999 Eagle Transporter?
The upper drawing is perhaps a concept for the derelict, one might compare it to Foss's elongated Derelict ship and take notice of the raised neck on the left 

 Moebius sketch of derelict #1 (File scanned by Jean-Marc L'Officier)

black and white image of Foss' derelict with
raised neck from Skeleton Crew August, 1990

c) Comparison between to Eagle Transporter
One can also make a comparison to the Eagle Transporter from the hit TV series Space 1999 originally aired from 1975-1977 because the central compartment looks very much like the removable passenger capsule/ service pod located in the middle the Eagle Transporter in the hit TV series Space 1999 that was aired from 1975-1977. The toy version of this spacecraft by Dinky features opening stairways in the side of the passenger pod. And at the rear the of the ship in the drawing are bulbous sections with a grid that also vaguely resemble the sort of shape used as a cockpit of the Eagle Transporter.

Eagle transporter from Space 1999

d) Moebius Derelict is combination of at least two Foss derelicts
The lower drawing of a derelict ship takes inspiration from Chris Foss' derelict ships. 
Compare the windows on the front pod of the ship to the pod extending from the front of the above Chris Foss derelict ship that resembles a prawn or lobster with it's head sticking out towards the right and also compare it to the derelict by the Chris Foss shown at the bottom which that has a central body positioned vertically with its tail in the air connected by pylons to large bulbous engines buried in the ground. So it is a combination between at least two.

 Moebius sketch of derelict #2 (File scanned by Jean-Marc L'Officier)

Chris Foss Derelict

source quotes
  1. Jean-Marc L'Officier: -- and I printed two small b&w spaceship designs (which I found in an old drawer) in ASHCAN COMICS #4.(( 11th, February 2000)

From Giger's Necronomicon

Giger had drawn something up
that looked almost like a musical
instrument(Work 280: Mordor IV)
 Morder IV detail, 4 valves lower centre
If we look at the picture Mordor IV to the right, the central face at the top appears to be putting it's mouth to the opening of a croissant shaped thing, so I take this to be the picture and upon this structure are a series of four valves, which could easily be seen as the entrances to the derelict interior but Ridley decided to reduce the number of entrances to three (and then the number three appeared to come through as a repeating theme all over the alien pilot's chair and the body of the alien monster itself)
origins of wreck entrance design
Giger wanted to do some research for the alien ship and Ridley Scott realised that he had too much to do as it was, so he took it onto himself to find something in Giger's Necronomicon that was going to serve as the basis for the design of a ship that he wanted, and so he studied one of the paintings and found something like a musical instrument such as a saxaphone, he drew around it and as he recalls, said "What about this, it looks like a giant croissant" and then perhaps it looks like a boomerang. This was to be the basis of derelict ship that Giger would further develop. He first came up with a design that resembled a saxophone and Ridley Scott recalls that his response was "No, this one goes a little too far in the unusual." So a second version of the design was accomplished which Ridley accepted.

source quotes
  1. Ridley Scott:" Au départ, Giger voulait se lancer dans des recherches de designs pour le vaisseau étranger, mais je lui ai dit “Non, tu es déjà beaucoup trop occupé par tout ce que tu as à faire. Si tu ajoutes cela au rest, tu ne finirais jamais ton travail à temps!“ J’ai décidé d’y réfléchir de mon côté. J’ai repris son album Necronomicon , et je me suis attaché à scruter les détails de ses grands dessins pour y trouver une forme basique qui pourrait être celle du vaisseau. J’ai pensé que c’etait une démarche logique, car elle nous permettrait de rester dans son universe graphique. J’ai déniché un détail intéressant que j’ai soumis à Giger et à mon équipe de décorateurs, et au début, ils m’ont présenté quelque chose qui avait le form d’un saxophone! Je leur ai dit “Non, là on va un peu trop loin dans l’insolite“. Ce n’est que dans un second temps qu’ils ont conçu ce superbe objet courbe. Une fois que cet aspect a été finalisé, j’ai donné au vaisseau étranger le surnom de “cuirassé“, parce qu’il a l’aspect d’un bateau de guerre."(Ecran Fantastique Hors-Serie #29, p13)
    Ridley Scott: "Initially, Giger wanted to go into research designs for the alien ship , but I told him "No, you're already too busy with all that you do. If you add this to the rest, you never finish your work on time "I decided to reflect on my side. I picked up the album Necronomicon, and I am attached to scrutinize the details of his large drawings to find a basic form which could be that of the vessel. I thought it was a logical step, as it would allow us to stay in his graphic universe. I found a interesting detail that I submitted to Giger and my team of designers, and at first they showed me something that had the form of a saxophone! I said "No, this one goes a little too far in the unusual."It is only in a second time they have designed this beautiful curved object. Once this has been finalized, I gave the foreign vessel the nickname "battleship", because it has the appearance of a warship"
  2. Ridley Scott : "I took the drawing of the space ship off a section of one of Giger's 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. paintings, '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... " (Alien DVD commentary)

Changes to the derelict


Giger's wreck detail work 396

a) Changes
There was talk about changes that needed to be made to the derelict's design, the information about this is not exactly clear in the quotes below, we find Giger's explanation revealed that there was some confusion about whether the ship could be told apart from the landsdcape and then we also discover another side to it, that his derelict space ship design didn't make sense in three dimensional terms for the modellers so Giger had to do some pictures to explain the structure even further. Giger mentioned that there were several reasons given for the need to change it but not one of the ones given was the most talked about how there was some trouble getting the design accepted but nothing about the problem regarding how to interpret it's dimensions.

Giger's derelict arm before completion behind Giger and alien eggs

b) Were these two events or one event seen from two extremely different points of view about the need to change the design? We might wonder perhaps if the earlier concern about whether they could be interpreted took place at an earlier time as described in the first Giger quote in "Initial Work". It was Brian Johnson who compared Giger's painting to an Escher optical illusion but going by the content of his interviews Escher's work was something he liked to think about. However Giger produced two other paintings to explain the shape of the derelict as seen from the side, works 396 and 397, and perhaps 382.

"Waterfall" by Escher
Quote sources
  1. H. R Giger (Friday, 14th July 1978): Long discussion with with Carroll, Scott and Seymour. I am supposed to modify the Alien spacecraft, i.e. it should have the same entrance area as the one they are currently constructing in in the H stage. My current spacecraft is supposedly too reminiscent of a bone and would thus blend into the landscape. But this alien spacecraft is from another planet and should consequently look different from the bone landscape. The changes come from G. Carroll, who is the mouthpiece of O'Bannon and Shusett. If these people would only decide on something. ( Giger's Alien diaries, p249)  
    Giger's Wreck Entrance , work 375
  2. H. R. Giger (19 July 1978, Shepperton Studios) " They ask me to the office, where Scott, Seymour and Carroll are waiting for me. Carroll says I will design another derelict. The entrance passage and the landscape can stay the same as those that have been built in Sound Stage H, but the rest will have to be changed. As it is now, it is too reminiscent of a bone (work 378*) and might make people think it was an organic part of the landscape. There will also be technical difficulties in building it. I am astounded to hear this from Carroll, of all people, who had been enthusiastic about my derelict when he first saw it. I suspect that Shusett and O'Bannon are behind it. Even good friends can often infuriate one. I try to convince Carroll that the dimensions and the aerodynamic shape are enough in themselves to distinguish the derelict from the landscape, and moreover the technical details ought not to be too obvious in case they spoil the biomechanical character of a space-ship built by non-humans. I simply can't see how I can improve on it; I regard it as one of my best pictures. Carroll proves unyielding and finally practically orders me to conjure up something else out of the ground. They seem to think I can just shake good ideas out of my sleeve - the bitter fate of a creative artist. Scott keeps quiet during the discussion, and in silent opposition demonstrates a quite ordinary, banal crashed aircraft, its tail fins pointing skyward. I understand  and, promising to try something different, go back to my work. This is an occasion when time will work for me. "(Giger's Alien, p24, ) (* Giger makes a reference to work 378 in his book Giger's Alien but this an error because this is the painting of the egg silo exterior, so maybe he is still talking about work 374)
    work 397
  3.  H. R. Giger: "I liked the derelict very much and Ridley did also - but then they wanted it changed for several reasons. But I said I could not. Once I have a good design, I cannot change it to something I think is not so good." (Cinefex 1)
  4. Ridley Scott: "There's a great tendency in this business not to use the first thing you come up with. As a result, people often just work something to death - I've been accused of this time and time again. What we were looking for here was a totally alien-looking spacecraft. I didn't think it would something with a lot of lights on it and stuff like that. I figured it would be like nothing anyone ever imagines; either that, or extraordinarily familiar and slightly archaic looking. And Giger's first drawing was just a knockout. I took one look at it and said '"That's it." Other people couldn't quite see it though, so I had to keep digging my heels and saying, ' You wont get a better derelict - don't screw about with it.' You know, Giger is a special case, and when something's that good, you have to recognise it and leave it alone." (Cinefex 1)
  5.  Brian Johnson: "It's a wonderful design, but as it turned out, we couldn't build it. It was like an Escher optical illusion. As a two-dimensional painting  it look very logical, but there was not actual way you could build it in three dimensions. To get a rough idea of the shape, we took about a nine-inch piece of polystyrene and then carved it with a little device that looks like a tuning fork with a wire stretched between.  When you heat it up, the hot wire just melts its way through the polystyrene and you can carve the right sorts of shapes very quickly, You can't get the sorts of detail you can with clay. But somehow the derelict form just didn't work, so I got together with Giger and we talked about possible modifications. Then he went off and did the drawing. From that we produced another polystyrene shape which he though was pretty good."(Cinefex 1)
  6. Brian Johnson: We took Giger's sketch and sculpted a small replica without any detail, just the basic shape, for a test. It's a common problem. A director will come to you with drawing; "Hey I've got this great sketch!" But it's a two-dimensional drawing, and when you put it into three dimensions it never looks the same. You have to be able to look at the sketch  and say, "That's going to look like a pile of rubbish. Why don't you let me have a go at making something similar, but might have a totally different shape in three dimensions?"We showed the rough sculpted form of the Giger sketch to Ridley, who said that it was somewhere near what he would like. Then we built a huge one about 12 feet across that would be used for background establishing shots. (Starlog. October 1979, p68)

Giger's derelict exterior


  Giger's derelict painting (Work 374: Wreck) that bears qualities of an Escher drawing
a) Transition to being a spacecraft designer 
On Friday morning, 3rd March 1978, Giger had flown over from Switzerland to England. Once  it was certain that Giger knew what he was supposed to be doing with the alien beast, Ridley asked Giger if he could design a space ship that was not designed by human beings.  The sudden transition into being the designer of the derelict space craft was confusing for him because before hand, he had only been expected to design the title alien life form, and Dan O'Bannon had hoped to go with Chris Foss' design for the derelict (See Foss' derelict design)

He asked himself "well how do you do that?" He thought it might look organic or something that even grown like a plant, but he did not know exactly what it should look like. He would make it look biomechanical as with his well known style. The dead alien spaceship was not designed for function, and it should be different from the ones used on Earth and they did not want it to look as if it was made by human beings.

b) Having the derelict ship idea
Across March, 3rd, 4th and 5th, he worked on the drawing of the alien derelict space ship. In the early hours of a morning, while he was at the flat he was staying in Old Church Street in London,  he couldn't sleep, he had an idea and so he got up to work on it. He thought that maybe the ship could look like something planted, perhaps in the process of maturing.  It was a question of getting down on paper, and so he started painting and the derelict ship was born within a few hours.

Derelict exterior sketch from below from Giger's Alien Diaries (note the additional arm extending around the other side of the vessel)

What he ended up with looked to him like an aerodynamic flying bone with a little technical stuff all over it with arms stretching out in front. actually he didn't know how it would look when flying, , but it wasn't something that he consciously planned, it just sort of ran out of his mind and through his airbrush. which was not an uncommon phenomena for Giger. He knew how the thing should appear in the movie, looking very aggressive and frightening.

Often he would try to switch off his thoughts as much as possible and let the painting flow spontaneously from his subconscious mind. He had a good feeling coming with the ease that this picture was coming out.

By the time Mia gets up, he had finished the picture.

Derelict exterior sketch from below from Giger's Alien Diaries (note the additional arm extending around the other side of the vessel)
c) Battle between O'Bannon and Scott over derelict
On the 5th March, 1978 Giger had found himself in Scott's office on Lexington Street. There he was outlining his ideas for the derelict space ship built by non-humans, which the three astronauts come across on the strange planet. Ridley Scott thinks that it is absolutely great, but Dan O'Bannon who has just flow in from the USA doesn't think that it is technical enough. The war of words comes to an end and Scott then asks Giger to paint a picture of the entrance passage. The battle was won.

d) Comparison to a lobster
Another point to note, if one takes a look at Foss' derelict design that resembles a  cross between a lobster and a train and compare it wth Giger's main design, work 374, it looks a lot as if the left half of Giger's ship is a biomechanised version of Foss' lobster like structure sticking out of the sand, and Giger had taken Foss' design as a starting point and had given the thing another half with a hammer shaped tip . The fin to the left side of Foss' derelict on Giger's derelict becomes a bulbous protuberance .  

One side of Giger's derelict in comparison to Chris Foss' derelict ship

e) Comparison to a spiral and a French curve
But Giger's original concept for the Derelict ship is roughly shares features with shapes from a French curve set perhaps with the out outer spine broken leaving the semi stump like parts. The thing is also a sort of a clockwise spiral with the engine like protruberence on the right being the center of the spiral while in the view of the derelict ship above it's  a sort of an anti-clockwise spiral
typical French curve set

f) Comparison to a Record Insert Adapter
I asked myself if the strange form of the derelict with its two main limbs and extraneous parts had somehow been inspired by the triskelion symbol which is the symbol with three interlocking legs associated with places such as the Isle of Mann, or even something such as the Swaztika commonly associated with the Nazis of World War 2, however on the 16th of January, 2014 I found out about the Record Insert Adapters for old vinyl records. And noticing the arms sticking out with extraneous stumps etcetera , I had found my derelict ship as it would be seen from an aerial perspective

45rpm vinyl record insert adapters

A view of the derelict showing the glass dome about the cockpit. (work 382:Wreck Inspection) 
Like both a wishing bone and a boomerang

Small silver coin (drachma) from Syracuse, c. 317-310 BC.
(source:, issues 13)
The Triskelion of the Isle of Mann flag

g) See also: Changes to the Derelict

Source quotes
  1. H. R. Giger: 5 March 1978, London.: In Scott's office on Lexington Street, I outline my ideas for the derelict (plate 374) The derelict is a space-ship built by non-humans which the three astronauts come across on the strange planet. Scott thinks its absolutely great. O'Bannon who has just flown over from the USA, doesn't think it's technical enough. A battle of pros and cons begin. I keep quiet; I know that Scott will win the argument. I did the picture one morning when I couldn't get back to sleep. I was staying in a flat in Old Church Street in London at the time. The derelict is not strictly in my field of work. But I had this idea and simply had to get it down. By the time Mia gets up I have finished the picture. I also get a good feeling when pictures go so easily, and looking back,  I'm often not disappointed with my work. The certainty that my ideas will be adopted and that Scott can interpret them allows me to keep quiet. The war of words comes to an end and Scott asks me to paint a picture of the entrance passage. The battle is won. (Giger's Alien, p22, )
  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)  
    derelict sketch 374a
  3. H. R. Giger: Well, it was decided that I would do the alien and only the alien. That's because Ron Cobb was working on the project in the early, early days. I don't remember whether they asked me or not, but I painted my version of the derelict in the morning and showed it to Ridley in the afternoon. He said, "That's it. We'll use it. Please do the entrance and the interior now." So I wound up doing more than we expected. (Warren's Alien Collector's edition, p33) 
  4. H. R. Giger (16 March, Zurich) I've had a longish talk with my lawyer about my contract, and an hour and a half's telephone conversation with Beale, a production executive of Twentieth Century Fox. It all seems clear for the time being. I've made my concession and done two extra pictures for my Alien designs. I've finished the entrance passage (plate 375) as well as a view of the derelict showing the glass dome about the cockpit (plate 382). (Giger's Alien, p22, )
  5. derelict sketch 374b
  6. derelict sketch 374c (resembling a lobster)
    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)
    (* Giger often talks about creating the final image that looked as if it were something planted that was on the verge or maturing.  In Warren's Alien Collector's edition (p32) he mentions" I wanted it to look like something planted - perhaps in the process of maturing.) 
  7. HR Giger: Ridley asked me if I could design a spaceship not made by human beings. I thought maybe it might look organic - something that could grow, even, 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 within a few hours. It ended up like an aerodynamic bone with a little technical stuff all over it, but it wasn't really anything planned. (Alien The Archive, p49, repeated from Cinefex 1) 
  8. HR Giger: The dead, alien space ship was not designed for function. I knew the spacecraft should be different from the ones used on Earth. They did not want it to look as though it had been made by human beings. I decided it should look biomechanical - half mechanics, half biology. It's like a flying bone with arms stretching out in front. I don't know how it would look when flying. I just know how it should appear. It looks very aggressive, frightening. (Star Wars vs Alien, fall 1979, article: The Nightmare Maker)
  9. Ron Shusett: He did the entire ship organically. We wanted it to look like it was built by something other than human, built by totally alien intelligence. (Future Life #11, July 1979, p32)
possibly a derelict sketch from Giger's Alien Diaries

The Derelict during construction

Leading from:

a) Giger visits Bray in September
On the 20th September, H R Giger is driven to Bray Studios by Seymour where the special effects group are working. In the middle of the main hall is the framework of his tried and trusty derelict with a nucleus of steel tubes. The whole surface is covered in netting.

b)  Giger loves the Derelict
Dick Butten, one of the modellers, had built the shape of the craft up, Martin Bower noted that the person who created the 12 foot wide polystyrene shape over a steel framework was an outside contractor. and the Peter Voysey spent a month covering it with a coat of plasticene and fitting it out with cables and technical accessories. Martin Bower believed that several hundred pounds of plasticene were used, and they cleaned out every florist, toy and craft shop around. This was applied and sculpted all over the model with thousands of EMA pipe bends pressed and then spray painted directly over. The final thing would be fine for filming as long as no one pressed too hard  Giger is delighted with the way they have built it up from his plasticene models. He tells the group of his delight and they seem very pleased. Giger admired the work of Peter Voysey very much and his work exceeded Giger's wildest dreams.

c) Helped by O'Bannon's absence?
Giger. however much he considered Dan O'Bannon a friend, he openly acknowledged his disputes with him and Dan's displeasure with his derelict design and wondered of that the fact there was success with this model was due to Dan's departure in August

Peter Voysey working on Alien derelict ship  (photo by Dennis Lowe)
Source quotes
  1. H. R. Giger: 3 August, 1978, Shepperton Studios. Next day O'Bannon
    flies back to America. Mia films him as a souvenir. (Giger's Alien, p24, ) 
  2. H. R. Giger: 20 September, 1978, "Seymour drives me to Bray Studios, where the special effects group works. In the middle of the hall is my tried and trusty derelict, or at any rate the framework of it, with a nucleus of steel tubes. The whole surface is covered with netting. Dick Butten, one of the modellers, has built it up, and now Voysey has to cover it with a coat of plasticine and fit it out with cables and technical accessories. I'm delighted with the way they have done the job, built up from my plasticine models, I say so to the group, and they seem very pleased. Extraordinary -suddenly they are working from my designs. Has O'Bannon's departure got something to do with it? As always there simply wasn't time to make any other design. (Giger's Alien, p26) 
  3. Martin Bower :"At this time we were joined by Peter Voysey. He had been working on the sets, in particular the huge "space jockey" over at Shepperton. Now he set about detailing the Alien derelict. An outside contractor had built a huge 12 foot wide polystyrene shape over a steel framework based on one of Giger's (pronounced Geeger)drawings. Now he had a job of detailing it! I cannot tell you exactly how many pounds of plasticene he used by I believe it was several hundred. I know we cleaned out every florist, toy and craft shop in the area! This was applied and sculpted over an entire models with thousands of EMA pipe bends pressed into it and then spray painted directly over. It was filmed that way and was fine as long as no one pressed it too hard! " (scifi and fantasy models, Alien The Models: The Definitive Story part Two, p37) 
  4. Nick Allder :"The model was built of polystyrene with a fibreglass 'skin'." (Starlog, October 79, p68)
  5. H.R.Giger (22nd November 1978) : "Voysey has been very busy for over a month with covering the derelict, a job calling for a lot of patience and a lot of skill. He makes such a perfect job of it that it exceeds my wildest dreams."(Giger's Alien, p26, )

Alien derelict ship (photo by Dennis Lowe)

Alien derelict ship (photo by Dennis Lowe)
On the board in the background, a poster or at least someone's rendition of the artwork by 
Robert McCall for 2001 A Space Odyssey can be seen. (see also :
Possible Robert McCall inspiration for refinery platform)
derelict ship engine (source Giger's Alien p24)
Alien derelict ship (source: Giger's Alien, p26)
derelict ship engine (source Giger's Alien p24)
derelict ship engine detail (source Giger's Alien p26)
Alien derelict ship (image found at Propsummit)
Alien derelict ship (Giger's Alien p26)
Alien derelict ship (Giger's Alien Diaries)
Alien derelict ship (photo by Dennis Lowe)

The front of the Nostromo is seen in the background but here we are introduced to the features on 
the side of the main body of the derelict and seen in detail below, two blisters like  windows.  
(photo by Dennis Lowe)
closeup of side detail the derelict (photo by Dennis Lowe)
derelict arm (Giger's Alien p27)
derelict arm (Giger's Alien p27)
Derelict entrance (source: Giger's Alien p24)
Derelict entrance (image found at Propsummit)
Derelict entrance (image found at Propsummit)
Derelict entrance (source: Giger's Alien p24)