[Opinion] - Making Prometheus Work

Over the past week (or three, considering Europe’s release), Prometheus has been getting a lot of heat for being a bad film. When it’s not. As I said in my review, it is a well made film with serious flaws, that are all story born flaws. As a technical piece of film making, Ridley Scott’s career goes untarnished. But confused motivations, go-no where subplots, cliched storytelling and out of place references to Alien drag it down considerably.

I think it’s just a film that didn’t come together perfectly, and is still a mid-range film that I suggest people to see (though I feel that every movie should be seen at least once anyway). It’s better then Battleship, worse then Avengers, and that’s a column most movies this year will fit into. Of course, neither of those films pretended to be something they weren’t, which was part of Prometheus’ problem too.

Now, anyone can look at something and say “I could do better then that,” and if it’s a Jackson Pollack, you might be right (seriously, it’s just squiggles). I’m not saying that. I could never be a director. I don’t think I have it in me to be that visually expressive. But I do write, a lot. Narrative structure is something I understand, if am not always successful at. So, as a writer watching Prometheus, my mind naturally started rearranging things. And after giving it a week to cook, an idea cake has emerged from my brain oven, and it has barely collapsed in on itself.

So, what follows is my thoughts on how, using most of what we saw on screen, Prometheus could have been streamlined and improved, and more directly and organically (I do love that word, don’t I) connect it to Alien. I spoil nearly every detail of the film, so be warned. Also, it’s long.

Hard cut to a boot walking down a corridor, making that the harsh sound that shoes make on waxed surfaces. Hard cut back and forth from different angles as the figure, wearing a jump suit and a helmet, walks down this massive corridor. Basically, the movie would start with the sequence of David tending to the ship as it flies through space. This means we sacrifice the best visual of the film, the intro sequence, but sometimes sacrifices have to be made. Leave the weird flight helmet on, keeping David impersonal and alien for some time. At first, have his motions and actions be very mechanical in nature. As if he were literally a piece of equipment. However, he constantly slips into the sleeping pod room, and watches the dreams of the crew, like he does with Shaw. Instead though, he watches everyone’s dreams, giving each character a flashback that establishes a motivation. Shaw’s can remain as is, a little girl questioning belief. Her husband, Charlie, can fill in the backstory, acting as a prologue.

Charlie and Shaw (who in this version would be named Meredith, and Vickers, Elizabeth, for a specific reason) are archaeologists who find a chamber under miles of rock dug up during a Weyland construction project. The chamber is millions of years old, and inside is the giant head sculpture severely damages by the ages so as to be indistinguishable as to it's form, and a set of simple mathematical equations, which a real scientist would tell you is the universal language, and is included in SETI messages and our Voyager probes. Using this, they decipher a seven point coordinate system (reference to the original Stargate - two X axis, two Y axis, two Z axis locations, and a point of origin) which leads them to a star system. An ancient one, possible a super red giant, and a super massive Saturn-like planet, with multiple moons, as depicted in the film.

Anyway, back to David, who after each dream sequence, can be shown to be doing more and more human activities. The basketball remains, being a great transitional moment between the mechanical (the precision) and the human (games). In one crew member’s dream he sees memories of Lawrence of Arabia, which he then watches, and emulates. This would be when he first removes his helmet, revealing his very human appearance. In Vicker’s dreams, he sees nothing.

The ship arrives, and David runs a sweep of the system since they don’t know what they’ll find. A monitor identifies several dozen moons with LB, LK, and LV numbers. He identifies one of the moons as having traces of a synthetic element in the atmosphere, or an excess of an element that could only have gotten there from artificial means (I'll use Carbon-14 as an example, which occurs naturally but minutely. Open air testing of nuclear bombs flooded the atmosphere with 14C, thus making carbon dating useless to future archaeologists), and pilots a course to the rock designated LV-223. When he goes to retrieve the crew, Vickers is already awake.

Because we have the prologue dream, and each crew member would have been identified on screen when David was watching the dreams, we jump straight to a wake up scene and dinner, just as the film did and the original Alien did. Now we can establish personalities. Crew number is also reduced from 17 in the film to a more manageable nine: David, Shaw, Charlie, Vickers, Janek (Idris Elba), Ford (the Scottish doctor), Milburn (the biologist, not-dumb in this version), Fifield (the Mohawk geologist), and Chance (the pilot and navigator merged). The rest of the original cast was unnamed, and killed off nearly all together during the zombie attack scene, thus only pointless red shirts. Nameless death is only good in a movie where death means nothing. In a movie like this, or like Jurassic Park, fewer characters and fewer deaths, means death means something. And can happen to anyone). During this bonding scene, reference can be made to the fact that David is very out of date (the first David 7 built in 2068, 21 years ago, an eternity for technology). The crew can discuss hearing rumours of a new model, one that breathes, and sleeps, and even ages. They comment that by the time they get home, they won’t know who is human and who isn’t.

One thing that bothered me about the film was the landing sequence. It looked beautiful, but that isn’t the way to do it. Flying a ship that big through atmosphere is dangerous, and takes a lot of energy, which means fuel. You do aerial sweeps from orbit, and then land the ship. So here, they do that. It can establish Janek as a character, and the crew as a cohesive unit. The planet resembles Mars in terms of atmosphere and terrain. Barren, lifeless, but showing signs of a once living ecosystem (river trenches, valleys, etc). Someone comments on high silicone levels in the atmosphere, suggesting silicone based life once existed there. Someone else comments on a thousand mile wide sand hurricane on the far side of the planet.

Eventually they find a place that looks promising. Readings suggest a hollow interior, and is massive, suggesting an ancient structure of some kind. Basically from here to the arrival at the pot chamber, the movie plays out as it did, which minor character tweaks. Milburn and Fifield are neither cowardly, annoying, or ignorant. They behave as professionals. Eliminated is the scene where the chamber has been terra formed, thus forcing them to keep their helmets on for the duration. This is for two reasons: one, on the ship, things should feel cold and sterile. In the chambers, it should feel claustrophobic. Helmets add to claustrophobic atmosphere. And two, those space suits looked both awesome, and functional, and I wanted to see more of them. So, force the majority of the cast to wear them the majority of the time. Also, they take weapons.

At this point, there would be two plots going on. One, inside the chamber, with Shaw, Charlie, David, Milburn, and Fifield. The second is on the ship with Janek, Vickers, Ford and Chance. The ship story would be similar to the film, basically Vickers and Janek sizing each other up, playing a power game. Vicker’s personality seems to shift randomly. Inside the chamber, they find the corpse of the Space Jockey, head attached, never referred to as an Engineer or anything. Them, at best. There are no theories about them creating humanity, not yet. Also, none of this ‘David can read alien because he knows root words’ garbage. The characters being uncertain makes us uncertain. They enter the chamber, which is identical to the one they found in the prologue dream except the giant head is clearly detailed and visible.

This freaks them all the hell out
The room is full of pots, stacked in the walls, like on the ship at the end, not perfectly arranged on the floor like a Domino arrangement. I don’t keep all my tupperware strung across my kitchen, and I bet you don’t either. As they examine the room, Shaw begins to theorise wildly about it’s purpose, showcasing her character’s naive willingness to believe anything, no matter how remote. Charlie’s more sceptical, and needs proof. He’s kind of the centre between Shaw and David.

During this scene, while they find the murals and so such, one of the pots is accidentally knocked over and the black ooze leaks out and soaks into the Giger inspired floor. David examines the liquid, and takes a sample in sterile scientific equipment. Really, David should be a more calm version of Spock - he knows what he’s doing. He intends to return to the ship, but Janek warns them that a small silica storm is kicking up, and they’d better stay put until morning.

David takes the opportunity to examine the facility more, being guided by Chance on the ship and the cool laser Pup probes. David finds the Jockey ship, and we get the celestial map scene. The others remain in the chamber room, during which they encounter the weird penis worm which fold out in a proto-facehugger way. The two scenes, one of quite beauty as David revels in the universe, and the other of brisk horror as the penis thing attacks, can be cut together, allowing the music cues from each to spill into one another, giving the space map a terrifying edge, and the attack a bit of beauty. Milburn warns them to stay away from the worm, but it jumps and breaks his arm. They cut it open, it has acid for blood (seem familiar? I thought so too, in the theatre). The acid melts away Fifield’s mask, and he dies. While all this is going on, Ford is screaming instructions through the voice link, until the worm tears Milburn’s suit, climbs inside, and down his throat, entirely. More worms are visible in the chamber.

Just add legs, and you've got a facehugger, no?
They risk the storm taking Milburn back to the ship, David following along behind, and Vickers has her confrontation about quarantine. David stands between her and them, and lets them on board. They get Milburn to the medical facilities. Vicker’s has her best scene in the film, the “I’ll find your cord” scene, for David challenging her authority, and it also sets up more bizarre mood changes she experiences throughout the film.

Once they are in the lab, they begin studying Milburn and David’s sample. The worm is burrowing through Milburn, like it’s nesting. Shaw accidentally cut herself (this version has a much more absurdist lean - happy accidents are the causes, not planning), and some blood lands on a slide with some ooze, and it causes a reaction. David watches with interest as the blood and ooze bond and seem to mutate. Shaw theorises that the worm may have been microscopic bacteria - extremophiles - living inside the chamber, that had a reaction to the ooze that was spilled. David can quote Sherlock Holmes “never theorise before having all the evidence.” Vickers announces that the chamber is too dangerous, having lost two crew members already, for any more exploration. Charlie argues that they can’t just leave. Vickers agrees, and says that David can return, since he’s not in danger. In this version, the only person who gives David continuous shit form being a robot is Vickers, who seems to take it personally.

David returns to the ship, and the space map room. He begins pushing buttons, which causes the Space Jockey seat in the centre to rise up. He examines it. Meanwhile, on the ship, Ford runs a test on ooze affected blood, discovering that it is now a triple helix. David announces that he believes that Shaw’s theory might have been correct, that the ooze caused bacteria to mutate into something new. He believes that these were seeding ships, which would dump the ooze onto primordial worlds, and jump start mutations that allowed for complex life to form. Shaw asks how he is sure, citing the Sherlock reference. Inside the map room, he holds the depiction of Earth, and says they’ve been to Earth before.

Milburn continues to worsen, and they decide to operate. Charlie, going against orders, decides to return to the ship while Vickers is distracted. Suiting up, Shaw discovers him, and goes along too. They both return to the body of the Space Jockey, and wonder why he didn’t leave. Why he is all alone in this massive facility. David says he believes this was a space port, and that the ships has low crew numbers (reflecting the Prometheus herself). The scans found no others ships, that this lone pilot may have been the last one before everyone else left. Shaw wonders if something drove them off. They look to the mural of the xenomorph.

Milburn is cut open, and inside is a proto-xenomorph exoskeleton. The xenomorph sheds Milburn's skin off like a snake, having grown to nearly full size inside him, like it was wearing a Milburn suit. It can look like this guy if it wants, I kind of dig this streamlined design.

The xenomorph kills Ford and injures Vickers. Chance and Janek quarantine the area, forcing it outside. Vickers comes to the bridge, and is revealed to be bleeding white: she’s a robot, the next model, better then David (her name continues the trends of robots having names in alphabetical order: Ash, Bishop, Call, David, Elizabeth). She orders they leave the planet as soon as they get that thing off the ship. Janek tells her that Shaw and Charlie and David are off ship. She doesn’t care. The Prometheus takes off. David tells Shaw and Charlie, who watch it leave, to get to the Jockey ship. They arrive, and David surprises them by getting into the Jockey’s chair and activating the controls. The Jockey ship launches off, giving chase to Prometheus.

Vickers sees it coming, and freaks out, mirroring Ash’s programming malfunction in Alien, and foreshadowing Bishop’s line about older models being “a bit twitchy.” She tries to take control of the ship, killing Chance. Janek shoots her, which slows her down, but not before she turns the ship into the Jockey’s path. The ship’s collide, destroying Prometheus and damaging the Jockey ship, which lists and turns towards another moon. It plummets from the sky, crashing into the barren rocky surface of LB-426. David emerges from the Jockey seat after the crash to find Shaw hurt and Charlie dead, the impact having shattered his helmet and driving a shard through his eye (see why they kept the helmets on). Black ooze jars have shattered, filling covering the floor with the stuff. David tells her plainly that they are doomed.

The xenomorph appears in the map room, attacks and swiftly kills Shaw, countering the ‘last girl’ cliche. David manages to get back into the Jockey chair, but the xenomorph is strong, and punches a hole through the chest, and ripping out David’s guts. It then drags off Shaw and Charlie’s bodies, stepping in the ooze as it goes. David works in the chair, using his last 'breathes' to activate a control. A repeating signal, that which will eventually attract the Nostromo, a warning in math, telling people to stay away. The last shot is of David finally dying in the darkness of the Jockey chair. His final moments should be silently orgasmic. Fade out to the dulcet tones of the warning signal growing weaker and weaker.

The End, no sequel.

This version does leave several dots between it and Alien yet to be connected. The proto-xenomorph can be exposed to more of the goo, mutating it further into a more traditional Queen and lay eggs (the first time this new life cycle has happened) in the bowels of the ship, then die of starvation. The ship remains derelict until discovered by the Nostromo. The signal coded by David is a warning in a math based language, which is why Ripley doesn’t recognize it at first, but is eventually able to decipher it. The moons orbit the same system, which Weyland Corp knew they were going to, and always kept an eye on afterwards, and Nostromo was the first to get close enough, so that it wasn’t obvious they were looking for it.

It eliminates Peter Weyland entirely, as his third act introduction seemed shoe horned because they couldn’t figure out how to get David back into the map room. It’s also less actiony then one might expect from an Alien movie, but most people have their vision clouded by James Cameron’s Aliens, which was nearly all action. The original Alien was slow, intimate and deliberate. The final scene of Ripley in the pod and the xenomorph in the wall is as tense as it is because of the lack of movement. And Prometheus was promised to be more cerebral and less explody. And any human resemblance in the Jockeys is gone, entirely. There should be no similarity.

As an aside, I don’t think this, as an Alien prequel, was a story that needed to be told, despite what Ridley Scott thought. The Space Jockey is important to the Alien story in the same way that Jor-El is important to Superman’s: not at all. They are both devices that get the hero to where they need to be, and demand no further exploration then that. Adding details only cause problems, as we have seen with this film. And if the story did need to be told, it shouldn’t have involved humans in any way. It should have been totally alien, divorced from our species entirely, which is why now, I feel one hundred percent that Prometheus should have been it’s own stand alone thing. It would have been much better without that hanging over it’s head.

Is my version perfect? Hell no, I’ve thought about this for five days. Personally, I feel my own conclusion, with the xenomorph in the map room is abrupt and sensationalistic, and given more time I might come up with a more reasoned conclusion. Also, Vicker’s freak out is a convenient whatever the hell the opposite of deus ex machina is (see, I can find shit to bitch about in my own stuff!) But, I feel that it takes what we were given, and makes certain changes that benefit the premise. And, it makes a whole hearted, less pussyfooting connection to Alien. It tones down the air of sophistication, and tries not to be so lofty and challenging, while also being exciting.

As for philosophy, I always find that when having a debate, it’s easier to present arguments if you have defined sides. So this story uses an absurdist view to present the issue of evolution vs intelligent design. The film doesn’t give definite answers, but present theories via the two most extreme characters, Shaw (the creationist) and David (the scientist). The ooze may have been designed to jump start evolution, but humans were not the intended result. Is there still meaning in that level of randomness, if there was an intention to begin with? The best line of the film presented was the David-Charlie exchange that ended with “imagine how disappointing it would be to hear that from your creator,” and I would think that line might still have a place in this plan.

David’s human journey is still front and centre. The implication of Vicker's malfunction is that, the closer they try to make robots human, the more dangerous they become, which speaks to humanity's nature. David is the perfect robot, but a failed human, and maybe that makes him better then us. From his watching movies, to embracing the idea that the Jockey’s made man much like he was made, to his introduction to the thing that makes us the most human:

Everyone dies in the end.
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About MR. Clark

Adopting the descriptor of "successfully unpublished author", MR. Clark began writing things on the internet in 2012, which he believed to be an entirely reputable and civilized place to find and deliver information. He regrets much.


  1. I only just found this justnow. This is absolutely superb, I wish that the film could have followed this plot instead. I've read some other fans rewrites but this is the first which actually improves the film and which I could actually imagine being made.
    Particularly like the idea of the 'deacon' growing to full size inside Milburn- it's a logical and elegant explanation for the creature, and would also provide a truly unsettling body-horror sequence. Perfectly in-keeping with what we've seen previously in the Alien films, yet with a new twist.

  2. I like it, but personally, I hate the ending. I really don't like those "everyone dies in the end" horror movies, it seems really cheap to me. Somehow, Shaw and David survive and, if not (seemingly) kill, then defeat or trap the Xenomorph. Of course, it has to survive to lay it's eggs to set up the first movie, so maybe they salvage the Prometheus or one of it's escape pods and return home or something? Then, the last scene shows a close-up of the Xenomorph dying, either of starvation or wounds incurred in the final battle (probably not in that same room, though, since there would have been remains or something that the Nostromo crew would've found). The camera then pans across the big room in the Space Jockey ship to show the eggs it laid before it died, the same eggs the crew of the Nostromo would later find.