The Swiss artist H. R. Giger was a part of the team that created the first Alien film. He was brought into the production because Ridley Scott liked his art book Necronomicon. Some of the creatures from that surreal and Lovecraft inspired book were changed only slightly to become the xenomorph we all know. Giger also personally made the movie sets for the Derelict, the Pilot (also known as the Space Jockey), the egg chamber and the Facehugger. It ment that his art became an important part of what is now a big franchise.
In the original Alien movie, the Pilot seemed obviously none human. Instead of being a human guy in a suit, he or she (or it) was fossilized, and seemed attached to, or maybe even grown out of, the seat. The Pilot was perhaps a part of a larger biomechanical system that also included everything around him. The size of the Pilot also hinted that he or she was something else than human; the body was simply too big. If you look closely, you can also see that the Pilot seem to be missing legs, as if he was created to spend all his life in the pilot seat. The entire creation – the Pilot, his seat, the Derelict and the eggs – just seemed very different from everything previously known to humans.
By now, we all know that Ridley Scott at least partly changed the concept Giger created for the original Alien. In Prometheus, the Pilot became a human bodybuilder in a biomechanical armor. Stairs were also added to his platform. All these changes did upset a lot of people (google if you haven't read that stuff). Scott did, for sure, add a contradiction. But that's NOT what I intend to discuss here. Prometheus and Alien Covenant have been made and are by now important parts of the Alien franchise. Nothing can change that. So instead of complaining, I would like to discuss what the Gigeresque biomechinalcal vision means to the entire Alien setting. I find it very thought-provoking. Giger simply made things more Alien.
1. Why is sex also an Alien thing?
Initially, I thought sex wasn't that important to this setting. I changed my mind after listening to Giger (there are several Youtube interviews). His art is full of sex, sometimes in a quite rough and explicit way. And the creatures Giger brought to the Alien franchise are obviously sexual too. The Facehugger is, more or less, simply a phallus with long fingers. It gives the term facerape a very literal meaning. In the art from Gigers´ book Necronomicon, even the head of the xenomorph looks like a long phallus. And the entire shape of the Derelict is womb looking. All this stuff is a part of the Gigeresque biomechanical vision where the difference between bodies and machines is very blurred. After the prequels, it´s obvious that the very idea of two opposite sexes is something that once was seeded on Earth by the Engineers. Male and female are simply a designed mechanic, created to be used for spreading and mixing genes between organisms. This makes having sex an Alien behavior, simply because life on Earth is also Alien.
2. Exactly what kind of creatures are the xenomorphs?
The creatures Giger created are biomechanical beings who (in the form of facehuggers) impregnate other beings. They are sexual in a very brutal and deadly sense. But they are probably also a part of a much larger biomechanical eco system. In the Derilict, where xenomorph eggs were found in the original movie, there were even vagina looking openings next to the eggs. The eggs seemed to have been born out these wall "vaginas". It least that is a possibility. In the second movie, the eggs came from a Queen, but it might still be possible that the Derelict itself also could produce eggs. The xenomorphs might just be one of many beings that could come out of a biomechanical womb.
3. What does the existence of a biomechanical ecosystem really mean?
I would like to imagine that the Derelict and everything that is contains is a part of a huge interstellar, or maybe even intergalactic, ecosystem that has been spread out among the stars for many thousands of years. It might be a combination of life from many planets, united in a long term, interstellar evolution. The biomechanical aspect might have been there for a very long time. It may include not just many living species far away, but also biomechanical AIs, androids, buildings and huge weapon systems. Some of this stuff is probably drifting somewhere in space, more or less fossilized, bizarre looking and hard to understand for humans...
4. What does it mean to be human in the perspective of a biomechanical evolution?
Humans are just one of many life forms that was once seeded on Earth. The fact that they (we) have a genetic bond to the Engineers, doesn't make us special. Perhaps we are just one of many possible version of humans. I can imagine humans, in one form or another, being born from thousands of eggs or being grown out of the walls or seats in a womb looking vessel or planet based factory. Humans are basically bioengineered creatures that could be changed in ways that might seem terrible or just bizarre to us. Since humans can be created through genetic programming, we are not that different from synthetics. Both beings are programmed to do certain things. In a biomechanical and bioengineered ecosystem, the difference between biology and technology is blurred and perhaps not even relevant.
5. How much does mankind know?
Weyland Yutani, and probably some of their company rivals, must have grasped at least some of the stuff that's out there. But I would to think that nobody really knows what's out there. And hopefully that will never be completely described within the franchise. A total description of all Gigeresque creatures would just kill the mystery. Instead I would like to see hints and clues, maybe even contradicting stuff, showing up in different places and companies. Just knowing that there is something huge out there is interesting.
6. What is really the big picture?
Humans are not aware of what they recently have encountered. Life has probably existed in the universe for a very long time, maybe even billions of years. Mankind is just something very small in a much bigger interstellar or maybe intergalactic context of life. That would make sense also in a Lovecraftian perspective, where mankind is just something insignificant, facing much more powerful beings from other, distant worlds. As I said above, Giger was inspired by Lovecraft. I would say, he is kind of a Salvador Dalí with a Lovecraftian twist.
7. Conclusions and further thoughts
In this post, I have tried to understand the xenomorphs, the very centerpiece of the setting, in a way that is true to the original Gigeresque thoughts. In a way, that is rethinking things, at least all the stuff that has been done after the first move. It makes the xenomorphs (and mankind) a part of something bigger. A biomechanical ecosystem, as I prefer to call it. By seeing the xenomorphs in the Gigeresque context where they were first created, they become something more than just scary monsters with acid blood. In some of the movies and in many of the comics and novels, the directors and writers seem to have forgotten or not studied the original ideas. I hope that will change.
Obviously, I'm posting this in the Setting section. I guess it's possible to use some of this in the Alien RPG – maybe as inspiration for new creatures, new biomechinalcal technology or other Alien things. As I see it, the art Giger created is cruicial to anybody who wants to understand this franchise as something more than just space horror. His biomechanical take on life is – just like The Company with the dark secrets, and the synthetics who challenge their creators - a core theme in this franchise. I hope it will be useful to many, perhaps even beyond the RPG. As I said in another thread: the Alien franchise is something that should be fixed. Returning to Giger and his art might be a part of that.
Of course, I´m not the first one to think about the Giger legacy. Alien fan theories have been around since 1979. But by this post, I tried to develop some of the thoughts that has been around for many years. As David puts it: Big things have small beginnings.