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July 3, 2024 7 mins

In this episode of STBYM’s The Monstrefact, Robert kicks off a series devoted to the various creatures of the “Alien” universe with a look at the enigmatic Engineers… 

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Episode Transcript

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Speaker 1 (00:09):
Hi, my name is Robert Lambin. This is the Monster Fact,
a short form series from Stuff to blow your Mind,
focusing in on mythical creatures, ideas, and monsters in time.
In this episode will begin a multi installment exploration of
the various strange forms found in the Alien universe leading

up to the debut of the new Alien Romulus film
in August. I previously wrote about xenomorph biology in the
article how the Alien Xenomorph Works back in twenty twelve
for the website how Stuff Works. That article is still
there in full, accompanied by illustrations authorized by the hr
Giger Museum, and as I work up to various considerations

of how natural world biology is reflected in or matches
up to the xenomorph, I'll likely draw on some of
the same ideas, but I also plan to touch on
various additional natural world and mythological connections, as well as
such sources as the twenty seventeen film Alien Covenant and
the excellent Alien RPG source books from Free League Publishing.

I want to add the caveat that I am not
setting out to wrangle all the lore here or to
provide you with a one hundred percent canonical take on everything.
You have no shortage of wikis and lore videos for that.
The Monster Fact Journey will touch on a lot of
the same themes and information, but will also reflect my
own thoughts and obsessions as a fan. With all that

in mind, let's start at the beginning with the Enigmatic Engineers,
an elder race spacefaring humanoids. The Engineers have largely vanished
from the portion of the galaxy traversed by twenty second
century terans. It is unknown what they call themselves, but
accounts whisper the names Malacak and Ossians, while informal names

such as space jockeys and universal pilots also abound. The
term engineer, used by doctor Elizabeth Shaw of the Doomed
Prometheus Expedition, has stuck in the few circles allowed to
know of them. Pale, hairless giants of uncanny statuesque perfection.
The Engineers are thought to have worn modest clothing on

their home worlds, but donned more exotic, biomechanical space suits
during their interstellar voyages. Suits that seemingly melded with their bodies,
fused with their organs, and via their strange helms, gave
them the outer appearance of a trunked elephantic head. They
were or are masters of not only interstellar travel, but

also biotechnology, able to generate new forms of life, program genetics,
master evolutionary process augment their own bodies and craft, terrifying
bioweapons beyond the scope of even the most advanced whalen
Utani weapon lab. Within the wrecked Juggernaut found on planet
LV four, twenty six, crew members from the Nostromo encountered

the long dead remains of a very large engineer, with
evidence of an explosive emergence from its chest, as well
as thousands of eggs. Prior to this, the crew of
the Prometheus encountered even more artifacts of the engineers, and
even a lone living specimen preserved in some advanced form
of suspended animation. The android David, one of the few

survivors of that mission, went on to study their works
more exhaustively, decimating one of their inhabited worlds in the process.
As such, we have much more to go on than
the crew of the Nostroma, but much about the engineers
remains clouded in mystery. Members of their species seemingly seated
the planet Earth with life long ago and as such

are our progenitors, and then much later members of their
species seem to decide to end that life instead. The
rationale for either impulse is a matter of debate, but
we find many ideas in the realities of human nature
and our own impulses to murder and create. We know
from various engineer artworks that they held their own form

in high regard, perhaps even worshiping themselves or deities drinpt
of in their own image. But they also held strange
and dangerous forms of life in seemingly high regard as well,
forms that resemble the xenomorphic creature spawned from their biotechnology.
Did they use their advanced understanding of life to create

life forms that reflected their dark beliefs? Did they harness
the raw biological power of some pre existing life form?
We simply don't know. The Alien RPG source book ruminates
on these questions as well as others. Is there indeed
a single engineer species and or culture or many? Are there?

Different breeds? Are there different casts? Is the space jockey
individual found on LV four to twenty six merely a
large specimen, a subspecies or something else? Again, all of
this is shrouded and delicious mystery, as it should be.
The Engineers are often invoked as gods, demigods, or, indeed,
as the invocation of Prometheus implies, Titans. The Titans of

Greek mythology were, of course, the pre Olympic gods cast
down by Zeus in the epic war known as the Titanomachi. Afterwards,
the gods imprisoned many of the Titans in Tartarus, while
others remained free. The individual nature of the Titans varied
from brutal Chronos to the culture bearing tricks, to Prometheus,

who in some tellings created human beings but is also
credited with giving them the gift of fire or fire technology,
and this is a common trope in many different cultures.
Even in invoking the engineers as Titans, a certain mystery remains.
Are they our creators? Are benefactors, cruel former masters of
the cosmos? Maybe all of the above. In the film Prometheus,

the engineers are explored in a manner clearly partially inspired
by the pseudoscientific ancient astronaut hypothesis, and I personally think
science fiction is the right place to deploy these concepts.
While the idea that aliens visited the Earth in ancient
or prehistoric times carries no weight in serious consideration of history, mythology,
or science. Please see our past Stuffable your Mind episodes

for more on this. It's all fair gain. In a
twisting tale of futuristic fictional space horror, the Engineers provide
us with a great elder race for the alien universe,
shrouded in mystery, ultimately unknowable and untrustworthy. In the films
that follow the life of the android David, they also
serve as a fitting contemplation point for humanity's own place

in the universe as a creator of artificial life and
an expansionist terraforming civilization in decline. Look on their works,
Ye Mighty and Despair. This alien centric monster fact series
will continue on Wednesdays, with episodes of The Artifact and
Animalia Stupendium set to return after that. I'd love to

hear from any alien fans as we proceed. There's a
lot of alien media that I haven't consumed, so you
may have additional details and your own analysis to contribute,
so send it on. As always, you can email us
at contact.

Speaker 2 (07:36):
At stuff to Blow your Mind dot com.

Speaker 1 (07:49):
Stuff to Blow Your Mind is production of iHeartRadio. For
more podcasts from my heart Radio, visit the iHeartRadio app,
Apple Podcasts, or wherever you listen to your favorite shows.

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Robert Lamb

Robert Lamb

Joe McCormick

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