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January 13, 2011

Plot hacks

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Martin Anderson considers a number of plot obstacles contronting an Alien prequel.

The problem with sequels is that they have to make sense of stuff which was thrown into the originals that spawned them mostly by dint of being 'cool' or intriguing. Thus Neo's powers of flight, which made such a cool end to the original The Matrix had to be embarrassingly persistent in the sequels; and Michael J. Fox's girlfriend being immediately 'knocked out' by Doc Brown at the start of Back To The Future Part II; and even the walk-on parts in the original Tremors getting their own Tremors sequel.

You kind of have to project backwards and force it to make sense post facto. This might be problematic for an Alien prequel for many reasons…

Not least the space-jockey himself.

Anderson reviews a number of approaches to the before of the Pilot (aka Space Jockey) offered by a variety of Alien spin off novels and graphic novels. Which, while interesting - and handy from a teaching point of view - are also quite beside the point. The main problem with the various answers to the Space Jockey’s back story is not that they are incoherent or even uninteresting but that they are offered at all.

To wax Caprican for a moment.

Diego: “This is troubling.”
Holy Mother: “Only if you try to explain it.”
Diego: “I’m sorry, Mother, I don’t understand.”
Holy Mother: “Secrets have answers. Now mysteries, they don’t have answers. That’s why I love them, they’re full of endless possibilities and permutations like God Himself, but if you solve a mystery, what are you left with?”
Diego: “A secret.”
Holy Mother: “Exactly. So ordinary.”

What do we know about the Space Jockey? He (she? it?) was killed by a Xenomorph and... that’s it. We know nothing else. This is precisely why this is one of the story's most compelling characters.

This is, in fact, the whole point of the character. The Space Jockey lends depths and a terrifying mystery to the story. Answering the question of his origins, his culture and his end diminishes a mystery by transforming it into a secret. An answer, no matter how well conceived or executed not only ruins the character but undermines the original film and, by extension, the whole franchise.

Posted by Ghost of a flea at January 13, 2011 12:28 PM