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Monster Gallery: Alien (1979)

Pilot of the Derelict

General Note: this article refers to the original ideas and concepts behind the Pilot of the Derelict seen in Alien (1979); those have since been retroactively altered with the release of Prometheus, and are no longer officially valid, unless the current continuity is altered further. Please note that the Engineers and their suits from Prometheus will not be featured on the site, following the site’s personal criteria.


A stranded starship, on a Planetoid lost in the immensity of Space, conceals its dead Pilot, and something alive and awaiting, inside of it. One of the key elements of Ridley Scott’s Alien, the former creature was conceived as part of an unknown alien race, which either came in contact with the Alien, or even engineered it for mysterious purposes — something ultimately left ambiguous in the film itself. This character was given various nicknames: labeled as simply ‘Pilot’, ‘StarPilot, ‘Starrider’, or, humoristically, ‘Dental Patient’ (by Aliens director James Cameron); the name it is most commonly known as, however, is ‘Space Jockey’ — a designation inspired by Robert Heinlein’s eponymous novel. Hans Ruedi Giger, the designer of the creature, used it to refer to the Nostromo crew, and it was first used for the dead Pilot in one of the script drafts written by David Giler and Walter Hill, who also changed the alien entity into a human skeleton. Its nature in the final film was eventually reverted to that of an incomprehensible “alien lifeform”, closely to how O’Bannon envisioned it in his 1976 draft for Alien — where the introduction to the Pilot plays out very similarly to the final film. “Suddenly, Melkonis lets out a grunt of shock,” the script reads. “Their lights have illuminated something unspeakably grotesque: A HUGE ALIEN SKELETON, SEATED IN THE CONTROL CHAIR. They approach the skeleton, their lights trained on it. IT IS A GROTESQUE THING, BEARING NO RESEMBLANCE TO THE HUMAN FORM. [Sic]”

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