The Creator vs. The Created - A Theory About Prometheus, Alien: Covenant and the Xenomorph
Alien: Covenant spoilers ahead!
Alien: Covenant is one hundred percent a Prometheus sequel and that will either help or hinder your enjoyment of it, as I mentioned in my mini spoiler-free review. The biggest theme running throughout this movie is definitely creation, more specifically, the creation of life. I also feel that the theme beyond creation is being unable to control what you have made. There’s a lot going on for a movie with the deceivingly simple, bare-bones premise of ‘Where did the Xenomorph come from?’. Prometheus and Alien: Covenant have far more to say than that, of course. Alien: Covenant is just the first stepping stone toward the perfect organism we see in Alien. The creature has got quite a way to go.
In Prometheus we learn that the Engineers created humanity. Humanity, in turn, create the synthetics - artificial persons. David, an artificial person, firstly infects Holloway. Holloway impregnates Shaw, who has been unable to conceive naturally, which leads to the Trilobite creature. The Trilobite impregnates and gestates the Deacon within the body of the last Engineer.
We’ve seen in Alien that the artificial people
can ‘malfunction’, as Burke so delicately puts it, which goes to show that
no matter how human (David) or less-than-human (Walter, the synthetic aboard
the Covenant) the corporations make the synthetics they still can be
unpredictable and, in some cases, uncontrollable.
Prometheus and Alien: Covenant go even further into showing just how dangerous rogue robotics can be. David-8 is the beginning of the end for the Prometheus crew, as I mentioned, he deliberately infects Holloway and seems content with letting the final Engineer bomb earth with the pathogen. He’s seemingly obsessed with the pathogen and its properties, curious even to the detriment of the people he has been manufactured to serve. There’s something off about David even before he becomes thoroughly disillusioned with humanity. Walter says that the David line was discontinued due to their creativity disturbing people. Humanity is literally dialling back their creations, devolving them into what David sees as lesser beings. He very clearly sees himself as above humanity.
We see David and Mr. Weyland’s initial conversation about creation in the opening of Alien: Covenant and it seems fitting that David is with Mr. Weyland at the conception of the journey to find humanity’s makers and at the end of Weyland’s life where he is killed by the very thing he sought. David only continues on his warped path looking to make his own life, completely removed from any ties he had to humanity previously.
In short, the Engineers created humanity and then sought to destroy us. Humanity created synthetic people and then, when concerned with what they had done, made them less like people. David contributed to the creation of a new lifeform and became obsessed with the idea of surpassing humanity, his creators, and then the genocide idea occurs.
The Engineers were perhaps unable to control humanity so they decided humanity should end. David takes it upon himself, as revealed in Covenant, to put an end to the Engineers by bombing their home world with the very pathogen they made to destroy humanity. David becomes more powerful than those which made his makers by wiping them out. Creator-versus-Created is a vicious cycle which repeats itself again and again and again throughout these two movies.
Fast forward ten years and David has been tampering with genetics. Without more Engineers to seed worlds with humanity, David just needs one key element to finish the job and end the species he sees as desperately grasping at the stars. He creates a very familiar form of life in Alien: Covenant, however, I think there’s far more to this story. I believe that these aren’t the same creatures which will terrorize Ellen Ripley twenty years down the timeline.
Once David and Shaw arrive on the Engineer’s home world, after David has presumably killed them all and created his necropolis, he kills Shaw and begins to use her corpse to manufacture life by splicing the pathogen and human DNA. A colonisation ship, the Covenant, land after hearing a human-generated signal. There are spores around the signal’s source which are either occurring naturally thanks to the pathogen in the environment or they have been manufactured by David, either way they infect crew of the Covenant and create pale, fleshy creatures called Neomorphs.
When he first sees it, David is captivated by the Neomorph. He is unconcerned by the corpse it has left in its wake, instead David sees a creature he has had a hand in bringing into the world and he clearly thinks he can control it. This is the first relative success he has seen, this is pre-Xenomorph but still a hybrid of human and pathogen. Maybe he really could control it if it wasn’t gunned down. David explains to Captain Oram later on that he has made something, his experiments have been a success. The Neomorph was a surprise, and a welcome one at that, but he has something far more sinister in store for the Covenant.
It is immediately clear that David set a trap and then he simply waited for humanity come and trigger it. David explains to Captain Oram that his successful creations have been dormant, waiting for something living, something human, to awaken them. The fleshy, ovoid eggs with skeletal Facehuggers have been laying in wait and Captain Oram becomes host to the very first Xenomorph… or something similar. David later explains to Walter that he does not think that humanity, their creators, are fit to continue expanding into the stars. What is his solution? A perfect organism fit to wipe entire species clean. A genocide.
The Xenomorph born from Oram is very, very different to the ones we see twenty years later in Alien. It’s almost fully formed at chestbursting stage, complete with limbs, and it is noticeably more lanky. The Alien’s lifecycle is sped up considerably and it is both skittish and aggressive. There’s no hiding in wait picking off people one-by-one, this Xenomorph is feral and a ‘fast food’ variety of Alien. It’s launching itself openly into the fray, an assault warrior which is reckless and without finesse. It’s not there to take hosts, it’s there to destroy. David has a slight influence over it which is seen just after it has burst when it mimics his movements. The flicker of rebellion quickly rears its head when the Alien breaks a camera David is using to monitor it aboard the Covenant.
After it is killed, David is clearly disappointed that his ‘perfect organism’ failed to eliminate the entire crew of the Covenant, you can read it all over his face, and I think that’s because David hasn’t created the perfect organism at all, not yet. The entire recurring theme seems to be that you cannot control what you create, not indefinitely, and it is dangerous to try. The original Alien movies stress that the Xenomorph is highly volatile and, no matter how much Weyland-Yutani want it as a weapon, they will never, ever be able to control it. Its arrival on Earth would signal the end of a species: humanity.
I fully believe that the other Alien prequels will see David trying to perfect his prototype Xenomorphs until he develops them too far. He’ll do what humanity did with him and witness as his creations surpass him, however, it will be far too late to dial back what he has made. The Xenomorphs will begin to take on a life of their own, something he has been unable to predict. They’ll evolve, creating a queen, and begin advancing at their own pace, adapting to all manner of hosts and moving far beyond anything David can ever hope to keep within his grasp. Rather than specifically being engineered to eradicate humanity they’ll adapt to be in a position to wipe out entire galaxies.
At some point in the twenty years following Alien: Covenant the true Xenomorphs will somehow escape containment aboard one of the Engineer ships, the cargo bay full of eggs will be intact as the ship crashes onto a desolate moon designated LV-426. The last act of the ship’s pilot will be to send a permanent beacon warning people to stay away because the thing growing in its chest is far too dangerous to ever be unleashed upon the world. Humanity, in its ever curious way, will of course set foot on that moon and one of the greatest sci-fi horror stories will play out in deep space until the Last Survivor of the Nostromo takes on the Perfect Organism across the stars.