The Genius of the Derelict
Version 1.6 of 25/10/2020-10:32 p.m.
"I've never seen anything like it" --- Ash, after seeing
the derelict on screen
In 1979, the movie Alien () set the
standard for science-fiction horror. The principal designer of all the major features,
including the (now famous) xenomorph (), was
the Swiss surrealist and designer H.R. Giger (), who won an Academy award for his work on this film
Swiss surrealist and designer H. R. Giger ([3
]) (source unknown)
Giger needs no special introduction. One only needs examine his site's guest book
() or some of his paintings to get a good
idea about how influential this man has become in the genre of good horror fiction.
In the movie Alien, a group of space travellers lands on an unknown moon, LV-426
(), after a mysterious signal is intercepted
by the ship's mainframe and find a derelict spaceship carrying a cargo load of strange
eggs. The pilot of the derelict has been dead for millions of years and has been
fossilized, but the eggs are in stasis and the crew accidentally activates one, causing
the infestation of the spaceship with a deadly alien life form, now named
Giger was called in as an "artist in residence" to supervise and help with the
artistic aspects of the film. In doing so, he kept a diary where he collected relevant
material, such as draft sketches and paintings of the various features, including the
derelict. This "diary" was augmented later with photos of the movie replicas used by
the production team and its contents were compiled into the book "Giger's Alien"
Fig. 1: Cover for book: "Giger's Alien", published by Galerie Morpheus International
The book has several pre-production paintings of the derelict by Giger:
Fig. 2: Pre-production painting of the derelict, by H.R. Giger
Fig. 3: Pre-production painting of the derelict by H.R. Giger.
Fig. 4: Pre-production studio model of the derelict.
Fig 5: Post-production model of the derelict, with various features exaggerated.
Original Image Source: Lune Rouge
Fig 6: the derelict sitting on moon LV-426 ("Acheron") as it was shown in the film
Fig. 7: Pre-production painting of the derelict's bottom side, showing the three
vaginal entrances, by H.R. Giger.
Giger also provides for a view of the derelict in what appears to be its "alive"
Fig. 8: Pre-production painting of the derelict (alive), by H.R. Giger.
The book also contains paintings of the derelict's pilot and cockpit:
Fig. 9: Pre-production painting of the internal view of the cockpit dome of the
derelict, behind the pilot, by H. R. Giger.
Fig. 10: Pre-production painting of the derelict's pilot, by H.R. Giger.
Fig. 11: Larger-than-life-size model of the derelict's pilot, as it was shown in the
Several articles have appeared which tried to explain the derelict, although none is
considered canon and none manages to explain what exactly the derelict is. In addition,
with the exception of the second Alien film (in which only a very brief appearance of
the derelict is made, which initiates another infection), none of the subsequent films
about Alien referenced the derelict again, so its existence remains a mystery.
Wikipedia has some interesting information on the (supposed) species () which pilots the derelict (), although little or nothing of substance is known
Some interesting facts can be extracted from the book "Giger's Alien". For
- It is clear that the derelict was intended as a sort of an organic bio-ship. This
is supported by the fact that the pilot of the derelict is fused to his cockpit chair
(Figs. 9-11), using bio-mechanical means and the fact that the interior of the ship
consists of a conglomeration of bone-like organic elements (Fig. 11a). Hence, the
entire derelict and the pilot are one single entity. This is of course in accord with
Giger's general bio-mechanical style.
Fig. 11a: derelict interior with Kane (John Hurt) on his way to the egg chamber,
as it was shown in the movie Alien.
- The derelict's right "arm", displays two protrusions, which in more detailed
pictures in the book, appear to be either weapons or thrusters of some sort (Figs.
2-6 and 8).
- The original paintings also show two additional protrusions, one on the left arm
and one on the right arm, near the back side of the derelict, which also appear to be
thrusters of some sort (Figs. 3 and 5). Such thrusters could conceivably be used for
- The orientation of the pilot in the cockpit is not clear (he could be facing
forward or backwards relative to the derelict "arms"), hence the derelict's
orientation is also not clear, although it is reasonable to assume that if the
protrusion on the right arm is a weapon, the orientation must be such that the ship
travels with its "arms" extending forward. This is also supported by the fact that
the derelict displays three vaginal portals/entrances on its bottom "forward" side
(Fig. 7), as well as five additional ones at the front of the left "arm" (shown in
the book only).
- The device on top of the pilot appears to be either a "telescopic device" or some
other scientific device related to the ship's controls. It is reasonable to assume
that it may be either a telescope or spectroscope (or both), since it appears to be
almost in contact with the pilot's eyes (Fig. 10).
- The pilot's chair allows the pilot a full 360° panoramic view of the space
above the derelict, using the "telescopic" device (Figs. 3,5,9,11). This is in
agreement with the existence of the circular dome showing on Figs 3-5. In view of
Fig. 9, it is reasonable to assume that the material of the dome is transparent to
light, allowing the pilot a full view of the space outside.
- The three vaginal entrances (Fig. 7) lead directly to the cockpit and are always
open, which implies that the derelict is not sealed against space vacuum. This is
also supported by the fact that the pilot is directly connected to what seems a life
support "breathing" tube, which is attached to his nose (Fig. 10). The previous lends
support to the fact that the derelict can survive in a wide range of
- Since the pilot's fossilized chest shows a sign of "chest-bursting" (Fig. 11), it
follows that the pilot has fallen victim of his own cargo. The question is, what was
this cargo doing there in the first place.
- Detailed paintings by Giger and replicas shown in the book, indicate a meticulous
placement and positioning of the eggs in the cargo bay area. In particular, the eggs
are shown having been arranged in neat rows and columns next to what appear to be
turrets or division barriers. These division barriers seem to be positioned directly
below a strange wall mechanism which either supports the eggs or generates them:
Fig. 12: Egg chamber of the derelict as shown in the movie Alien
- The eggs are in stasis but they are alerted to the presence of nearby life forms
by a blue laser signal which emanates from one of the egg chamber walls. Since this
signal emanates from one of the walls, it is reasonable to assume that it has been
placed there by the derelict on purpose. In the book, a plethora of what looks like
worm or polyps-like life forms are found dead on the floor, near the eggs. They
appear to be either dead facehuggers (the nymph stage of the xenomorph) or external
life forms which the eggs failed to infect (Fig 12a).
Fig. 12a: Egg detail from book 'Giger's Alien', by H.R. Giger.
- The crew of the Nostromo went to the planet because the Nostromo's mainframe
computer supposedly detected a signal from the derelict. According to the
novelization of Alien by Alan Dean Scott (), this signal was a warning. In fact it was not
only a warning, but once fully decoded, it included full details about the whole
xenomorph cycle. Hence at some point, it appears that the derelict is trying to warn
travellers about the kind of cargo it is carrying.
- The above is in contradiction with the fact that the derelict included the laser
mechanism to alert the eggs for the presence of external life forms. If the derelict
truly intended to warn space travellers about the danger of approaching, it should
have also shut down any mechanisms which supported the eggs, rendering them benign.
Neither could the derelict set up the egg-alerting laser in a short time, such as the
time it would take the chest-burster to come out of the pilot.
- The three vaginal entrances on the front of the derelict appear to be equipped
with an elaborate and intricate network of wires and tubes which reach all the way to
the derelict's dome (Figs 2 and 7). This suggests that anything going through the
vaginal entrances is noticed by the derelict's pilot.
- The above discrepancies give credence to the hypothesis that the derelict is far
from benevolent and was very likely intended as a bio-ship intended to "bombard"
alien worlds with xenomorph eggs, probably in hopes of exterminating entire
civilizations. This seems to be partly supported by Giger's own painting of an
"alive" derelict, (Fig. 8), in which the very ground upon which the derelict stands
appears to be receding in horror. It also seems to be supported by some
pre-production models, such as that of Fig. 4, which actually show tons of piled up
bones from a plethora of extraterrestrial life forms, just close to the derelict (The
little light brown dots on the bottom in front of the derelict in Fig. 4 are skulls
of alien life forms. Also in Fig. 7). These bones would naturally be the remains of
any life forms which attempted to enter the derelict, but were subsequently killed
after leaving from the vaginal portals by the emerging xenomorphs.
- The above lends credence to the hypothesis that the xenomorphs are a direct
bio-mechanical creation of the derelict, which is also bio-mechanical. This seems to
be supported also by paintings by Giger which show egg chamber wall details, with
some wall features indicating that the eggs were created by the derelict itself and
upon formation they landed nicely on the bottom of the egg chamber in neat rows and
columns, arranged by the collective mechanisms of the derelict.
- An overall view of the derelict's operation can now be hypothesized: According to
the novelization by Dean Alan Scott (),
the derelict has been dead since at least one million years prior to Nostromo's
landing. This lends credence to the hypothesis that whether there are more like it or
not, the particular device/entity appears to be amongst the oldest organisms in
existence, having extensive knowledge of science and technology to the point of
managing to grow itself into a self-sufficient bio-mechanical state in the form of a
ship, complete with offensive weapons and having the ability of interstellar travel.
As it travels, it simply "scans" entire star-systems looking for planets to infect.
This could be achieved for example by scanning light sources for the presence of the
spectrum of organic molecules via its telescoping device. The presence of organic
molecules in star spectra usually betrays super-giant stars of class K and M, hence
is a good indicator of the presence of older and more advanced civilizations around
these stars. Once it finds life, it simply travels and lands on the corresponding
planet, waiting for extraterrestrial life to come and examine it. In that sense, it
resembles a giant spider, weaving its web on every planet it visits, akin to a giant
uterus which gives birth to death.
- Having landed on Acheron, it exterminated all life there (as witnessed for
example by the tons of skulls and bones around it in Fig. 4), but one of its
creations escaped its attention and infected the pilot. Seeing its own demise and
prior to dying, it chose the best way to ensure that even after its death it remained
as deadly and malignant as possible, by setting up a warning beacon to (supposedly)
warn other species about itself, knowing full well that curiosity is often a
universal trait and usually a bad advisor.
- The derelict's horror doesn't end here. What happened for example to the creature
which killed the pilot and burst out of the pilot's chest? Nobody knows, since the
moon visited was barren of life, but drawing parallels from most subsequent sources
which reference the evolution of the xenomorph like , emergent xenomorphs tend to acquire the biological
traits of the host organism. If this happens to be the case, it is safe to assume
that the organism which burst out of the pilot's chest must necessarily be a mini
copy of the derelict. A mini derelict escaping into outer space and nowhere to
- To conclude the derelict's horror, Giger provides for a final mysterious painting
in the book "Giger's Alien", which appears to be depicting the actual creator of the
xenomorph eggs and cycle (Fig. 13):
Fig. 13: Painting of the the creator of the xenomorph cycle, by H.R. Giger.
In the middle we see the actual cycle of the xenomorph, and on top we see a
horrifying creature, probably of female gender, resembling the Egyptian goddess of
night, Nut () (Fig. 14):
Fig. 14: Egyptian depiction of goddess of the sky, Nut.
It is interesting that the posture of the female creature which gives birth to
the xenomorph eggs is very similar to the posture of the Egyptian goddess Nut. It
is also interesting that Nut was a symbol of "resurrection" and "rebirth". Finally,
the most interesting aspect of this last painting, is that the general posture of
the xenomorph creator resembles very much the shape of the derelict. Beside the
fact that she is of bio-mechanical nature, the eggs are emerging from her belly
which nicely corresponds to the derelict's dome, while her hands correspond to the
right derelict "arm" (indeed, the right derelict "arm" resembles the satanist's
sign (Fig. 3)) and her legs correspond to the left derelict "arm" (the left
derelict "arm" looks like a distorted "foot"). Her posture suggests mocking or
defiance of the goddess Nut (or some other such benevolent creature), as if she is
able to "re-generate" or "resurrect" part of herself via the xenomorph cycle, using
only technology of her own.
- Based on the above, one is very tempted to conclude that the derelict is either
the male of the species or a direct manifestation of this female creature using
whatever materials it has at its disposal to organically grow itself, hence the
structural differences between Fig. 3 and Fig 13. Because spiders are traditionally
female, the author tends to believe the latter.
- Note that this painting is a visual description of the very warning signal which
the derelict emitted according to the novelization of the movie Alien by Alan Dean
The Derelict and Zeta Reticuli
The unknown moon the derelict was found on, LV-426, is identified in the movie
"Alien" as a moon orbiting a planet in orbit around either ζ1 or
ζ2 Reticuli. Wikipedia in 
has a small section on this star system, which supposedly bares some connection to
UFOlogy. In particular, this star system has been identified as a trading route
(whatever that means) for the Greys, and in particular a "star map" for those "routes"
is given by Betty Hill and Marjorie Fish. The discussion section of the corresponding
page, has some pro and con arguments for this connection. This "star map" can be seen
to be bogus if one replicates the viewer location relative to the two stars of the
binary system. The following map is the view given by Celestia () for the ζ1/ζ2
Fig. 15: Celestia view of the ζ1
with the binary pair having similar orientation to the "star map" given in Wikipedia.
One easily sees that the stars which Celestia identifies as neighbors to the system,
have nothing whatsoever to do with those of the "star map" in Wikipedia. Even the
constellations are different. Hence the Grey "trading routes" and the corresponding
"star map" are wishful nonsense at best. It is fairly interesting however, that Nancy
Lieder, the author of ZetaTalk identifies the origin of the extraterrestrials she
writes about, as ζ1/ζ2 Reticuli ().
Fig. 16: Celestia view of ζ2
Reticuli, with main planet Livenum (with
rings) in (blue) orbit around it and planetoid LV426 in (red) orbit around Livenum.
The orbit of Nostromo around LV426 is also shown. This is similar to the approach in
the movie Alien (at time: 14:54) - except that LV426 is somewhat larger in the movie,
which also shows a second satellite planetoid called Narcissus (grey orbit around
It is hard to try to psychoanalyze Giger's work, lest one desires to end up in the
loony bin. Nevertheless, the inquiring mind can gain a unique perspective of the horror
that lurks in his mind via his work, using careful and judicious observations. Although
the above analysis is nothing but a bunch of materialized inferences and hypotheses
based on a fictional object, the derelict, for me, remains one of the most horrifying
things I have ever seen in my life. It's like it was custom made to scare the living
daylights out of me. It is interesting to note that one of the original paintings of
the derelict (Fig. 2) was stolen before 1986-87 () prior to an exhibition, while after the movie
premiered, religious zealots set fire to the model of the pilot (Fig. 11), believing it
to be the work of the devil ().
Most people who have seen the movie Alien find the xenomorph itself (Fig. 1) pretty
disturbing, but there is something totally and undeniably horrifying about the derelict
itself. The details shown in the sketches of the book "Giger's Alien" imply that its
design and function are related to something totally and unimaginably malignant by any
human standard of the definition of "malignancy". Perhaps "malignancy" is not even the
right word here. The derelict goes beyond that. It encompasses an entire system of
systematic obliteration of life which goes beyond any human definition of evil. There
is a certain mysterious evil repulsiveness about it, which my mind fails to grasp due
to its immensity, but at the same time there is also a certain horrifying attraction
for its intended purpose, which no doubt stems from our innocent curiosity as a
species. The derelict looks (and "feels") so inconceivably sinister, that it is
perfectly conceivable that its canon behavior as depicted in the first Alien movie
(sitting supposedly "dead" on Acheron for example) may itself have been a pretense,
hence its eventual disappearance from all subsequent Alien movies.
I think it is good that this object exists only in our fantasies. Wait: Let me
rephrase that: I think it is good that this object is dead, even in our
fantasies: Personally I would find it extremely disturbing to share the universe
with this object/being/thing, whatever the heck it is.
Generally speaking, that's sort of a characteristic trait of Giger's biomechanical
style: I don't think there are many (intelligent) people who would like to see Giger's
worlds being realized, because if such was the case, they would be in a heck of
a lot of trouble. Case and point: The derelict. That's the genius of Giger: Being able
to generate this kind of feeling and imagery with his work.
- The author was informed that Ridley Scott is preparing an Alien prequel as of this writing,
hence the reader can expect basically two scenarios: Either the film will espouse
some of the above ideas (likely without credit) if it wants to generate some mild
interest or it will be based on a completely different scenario, in which case the
movie will likely be a fluke. There certainly exists nonsense even in , for example, where Dean Alan Scott writes:
"Ash describes the Space Jockey's race as a noble people and hopes that mankind
will encounter them under more pleasant circumstances". Or in , where we find: "The Book of Alien notes that
the actors and crew felt instinctively that the Space Jockey was a benign
creature, though they could not say why". Huh?! "Noble people"? "benign creature"?
"under more pleasant circumstances?" Are these people totally crazy?
If Giger reads these characterizations, he will cringe in horror.
- The above analysis was written in 2001. In 2012, Ridley Scott produced a prequel
which violated many of the intentional designs by Giger, even as Giger himself was
consulted for Scott's new designs before he died in 2014. More about this prequel in
the author's review of Prometheus at imDB.
- Wikipedia's "Alien", the movie (online).
- Wikipedia's "Xenomorph". (online).
- Wikipedia's "H.R. Giger" (online).
- Official H.R. Giger site (online).
- Wikipedia's LV-426/"Acheron" (online).
- Wikipedia's "Space-jockey" (online).
- Wikipedia's "derelict" (online).
- "Giger's Alien, Film Design, 20th Century Fox", by Galerie Morpheus International
(All the paintings of the book can be accessed from the Little Giger database
(online), by entering: Search: Books, Popup Menu: Giger's Alien
and clicking: Start Search)-(Book courtesy of Fotios Rouch).
- Wikipedia's "Goddess Nut" (online).
- IMDB's "Awards for Alien" (online).
- "Alien - In space nobody can hear you scream" Novelization of the movie script,
by Dean Alan Scott, 1979 (Book courtesy of "N.A.SA.").
- Wikipedia's "Zeta Reticuli" (online).
- Giger's "Missing, Lost and Stolen H.R. Giger Artworks" (online).
- ZetaTalk's "Zeta Reticuli" (online).
- Celestia (online).