Alien: The Pyramid

Leading from
drawing credited to Dan O'Bannon
a.) The pyramid is ancient, primitive and clearly of a different design to the derelict.

We are dealing with a different alien here: the dead ship appears to be visitors from elsewhere, the pyramid seems indigenous.

Walking around it they find no entrance, any entrance must have been buried in the shifting sands of time.

So Kane uses his climbing gear to crawl to the top of the monolith where he finds an open shaft going straight down.

Chris Foss's planetoid landscape
b.) Meanwhile back at the Earthship, the computer has finally succeeded in translating the transmission.

It means: DO NOT LAND".  

But the explorers are cut off from radio contact and do not learn of this development, so Kane goes down to the shaft. 

At the bottom he finds a bizarre tomb or shrine filled with incomprehensible paintings and heiroglyphics, which appear to have a religious significance. 

In the centre of the tomb is an altar, surrounded by egg-like objects . 

detail from above showing Pyramid
c.) From this point there only two differences in the original script worth mentioning. (After returning to the Earthship, the crew studies the films Kane shot in the tomb. 

The hieroglyphs describe the life cycle of the native Aliens. 

 Reproduction for them is extraordinarily difficult and complex requiring a host and much supervision, as a result of which their life cycle has become central to the culture. 

The fatal flaw of this species appears to be the biological necessity of overexploitation of the biosphere; and the Earthmen speculate that this may be the reason for the lifelessness of the planet and the apparent disappearance of the species. (Dan O'Bannon's Unseen Alien, Starburst 15, p42)

pyramid opening by Chris Foss

d.) Expanding on this in the original conception of the Alien race, the inhabitants of the planetoid are seen 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.  

This pyramid was a temple to reproduction (1), the exterior was approximately twenty metres tall and was possibly the creation of an ancient, primitive and cruel culture. 

Inside the building is a room accessed through a vertical tunnel in the roof since the normal entrance has long since collapsed.  

The spore pods can be found around the alter in the centre of the room (2)

The inhabitants of this world had three entirely different stages in it's life-cycle which are featured as very stylised hieroglyphs on the wall of the birthing temple. 

It features an oval design with markings as a spore casing, a star shape as a face-hugger, and the star shapes are shown in conjugation with other life forms perceived as freakish hybrids or Gargoyles, these hybrids were often part anthropoid and part octopus in another rewrite part insect and worm like things are then seen emerging from the hybrids, the image of the spore and face-hugger is followed by a creature with six legs and tentacles as the creature in its young form and then the larger form and the pattern repeats itself.
Chris Foss' pyramid interior
Old photo of Ron Cobb's birthing chamber with naturalistic colours but low in detail
e.) Dan O'Bannon borrowed the idea of a tower on a planetoid through Clifford Simak's Junkyard, in the form of a primitive stone tower on an asteroid that contained instead of birth temple full of spores a creature at the bottom the size of a melon that stole the memories of creatures that touched it and the hypothesis was that the memories would occasionally be collected by an unknown alien race and they discover that this creature had pipes and wires leading into it from the ground that made the explorers wonder if it were a synthesis of animal and machine. (See scriptintroduction in Alien Quadrilogy DVD extras) 

Why it should have been built in such a primitive way was never discovered by the explorers in Junkyard.

Likewise we never really work out how once thriving culture who built pyramids could have evolved on planetoid 120km wide in Alien.

The life form inside the tower serves as inspiration for the spore found inside the pyramid, and just as people lose their memories when touching the life form, those who become victims of the facehugger can not remember anything about encountering the spore of being facehugged.

updated scan of Ron Cobb's birth temple with less natural looking brighter colours
(see also HRGgers-influence-on-ron-cobbs-alien)

f.) A member of the Earth crew wonders if the pyramid contained fellows of the dead extra terrestrial pilot in a state of suspended animation waiting to be woken up again by their brethren which near enough mirrors an aspect of the ponderings of Erich Von Daniken when he wrote Chariot of the Gods, that he had about the purpose of the great pyramid of Egypt.

hieroglyphics detail from above

source quotes

  1. Dan O'Bannon:" I saw the inhabitants of this planetoid at 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 a temple to reproduction. When the astronauts come 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 was where the Kane character set up his tripod and winch and lowered himself down - way below ground level - to the floor of this chamber. Using his suit of lights, he looks around the darkness, and in the middle of the room finds a huge stone plinth with blood drains in it. All over the walls are alien hieroglyphics. Also in there, centrally located, are these eggs - spores really. See, these alien 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 up on the 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 civilization had been gone for millions of years. All that remained of it was this pyramid and the spores - which can survive dormant for incredible lengths of time under even 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."  ( Don Shay talks with O'Bannon. Cinefex 1.p48)
  2. INTERIOR TEMPLE. This is where the Spore Pods are stored. This room is entered through a vertical tunnel in the roof (The normal entrance has long since collapsed)/ The Spore Pods can be seen ranked around the alter in the center of the room (Dan O'Bannon's letter to Giger, Giger's Alien, p10, 363E )
  3. O'Bannon's early Alien script: DVD version: Inside the Pyramid
  4. O'Bannon's early Alien script: DVD version:Dell's Data Stick Examination
  5. O'Bannon's early Alien script: Online version: Inside the Pyramid
  6. O'Bannon's early Alien script: Online version:Dell's Data Stick Examination
  7. BROUSSARD : Maybe the rest of the crew is in there -- in some kind of suspended animation, waiting to be rescued. (source: Online version of the early Alien script by Dan O'Bannon)
  8. Walter Hill"  "Dan was deeply into pyramidology at the time" (source: Starlog July 1979, p95)


  1. Great Blog!

    You could also add another pyramid pic here.
    IMO one of the best ALIEN concept drawings: Chris Foss's version of the pyramide:

  2. Thanks, well I've added the picture and also a blowup of the part that shows the pyramid. I think a while ago there was a problem with clicking onto the pictures to make them bigger and for that reason I may have decided not to bother with that Foss painting, but now I have added it. It took a while to add it properly because the software here seems to act a bit like a Rubiks cube at times when adding certain things and suddenly other things go out of position.