Monday, December 31, 2012

Prometheus – getting practical about meeting your maker

Ridley Scott’s film Prometheus [warning: spoilers] ends with the words, “It is New Year’s Day, the year of our Lord 2094…and I’m still searching.”

Audience reception to this flick has been – unsurprisingly – sharply divided. But by box office standards, the film that cost $130 million (a relatively modest amount for a science fiction film these days) has been an unequivocal success. By October 2012, Prometheus had earned over $400 million.

One of the interesting aspects of the film is how it addresses the practicality of a creation ‘manning up’ (if that is the word) in order to meet the creator.

If you think this is a silly idea, or taboo, or nonsensical, then you are probably not a true believer. Which is strange, because believers need to realise that if their beliefs are true after all, then one day, they are destined by fate to meet God himself. Prometheus offers an example of what that meeting might be like.

One of the most obvious (real-life) previews to this introduction, of course, is when parents see their own children grow up and then – subtly sometimes (sometimes very obviously) they attain parity with their parents. It might be sons or daughters growing taller than their mothers, or becoming manifestly more powerful than their fathers. It might be progeny who know more (in real terms) than their parents, or possibly become financially more powerful.

Whatever happens, this ‘parity’, in the earthly realm, is not without enormous levels of stress and discomfort. How are the roles to be maintained, for example, when the progeny find that they are in some ways more advanced than their parents?

How should parents react to their progeny bumping against them? Of course many might say that the parents and children schema has nothing to do with God (but who is often referred to as ‘Our Father…in Heaven’) and that Prometheus is a crude fiction. Nevertheless the idea of reaching parity is real – employee vis a vis employer, apprentice and master, a would be champion – acceding to the podium ahead of the previous world champion (think Le Clos vs Phelps).

In every case, parity is not reached without a tremendous exchange of energy, stress, identity crisis, angst, role flux, and of course a change in power structures. Thus, when a human being encounters God, you can expect the same extraordinary amounts of stress. Does one imagine that in the infinity of time, all will be perfect, and above reproach?

When human beings are elevated to a heavenly realm, will they find themselves perfectly aligned, ensconced in a perfect environment, one costomised to each preference (or are preferences neutered), and will that constant exposure to God (and He to us) be as wonderful as everyone would like to believe? Will that constancy of the close encounter with that infinity superior and immediate authority grow on us over time?

One blasphemous way to very practical about this process, is to intuit it. Imagine if you were God, and your creation approached you (unbidden), asking...well, whatever it is creation needs (and their needs tend to be plentiful).  As God, aren't you dutibound to provide, and aren't these maintenance checks mandatory for a maker? 

Prometheus covers this issue in many ways. One is to look at the role of an android, whose talents surpass those of its human makers. How does the Android feel about the shortcomings of its makers? How does the maker of an android feel about its own creation showing an unsettling amount of free will?

In Prometheus, the android David makes a few telling observations:
Doesn't everyone want their parents dead?

As the ship Prometheus hovers over the lifeless LV 223*, David says, quoting Lawrence of Arabia: There is nothing in the desert, and no man needs nothing.

When his maker, Weyland, lies critically injured, moments away from death, and splutters: There’s nothing. David responds: I know.

Elsewhere he says to Elizabeth Shaw: It must feel like your God abandoned you. And yet we feel that there is more to Prometheus than the cold logic of the machine.

*The planet is LV223...and a reference to Leviticus 22:3in the Bible:
"Say to them: 'For the generations to come, if any of your descendants is ceremonially unclean and yet comes near the sacred offerings that the Israelites consecrate to the LORD, that person must be cut off from my presence. I am the LORD. "
 [This in in contrast to LV426 in Alien and the reference to Leviticus 42:6:He shall burn all the fat on the altar as he burned the fat of the fellowship offering. In this way the priest will make atonement for the leader’s sin, and he will be forgiven.]

Elizabeth Shaw demonstrates that having beliefs (even if they are misguided) possibly aid survival. Nevertheless Shaw says: We were wrong, we were so wrong…

And: you must care about something, captain. If you didn't, why are you here?

Indeed, our beliefs, or lack of, clearly shape who we are. Very misguided beliefs, or beliefs that cause us too much anxiety, probably do not aid our survival. On the other hands, affirming beliefs that are nevertheless connected to reality (not too little and not too much) help us respond and react appropriate to a range of situations.

While many who hated this film believe even the science in it is bad, I reckon the reason is that they fail to see the deeply stitched symbolism. Some have blithely called the film stupid; in fact it has been painfully and very carefully considered.  In fact, in almost every line of diaologue there is either a double meaning, a symbolic meaning or something prophetic.

Such as:

Charlie Holloway: We made you because we could. David: Can you imagine how disappointing it would be for you to hear the same thing from your creator?


Elizabeth Shaw: If we don't stop it, there won't be any home to go back to!


Meredith Vickers: If you're really going down there, you're going to die.
Peter Weyland: Very negative way of looking at things. Exactly why you should have stayed at home.


Millburn: On the behalf of scientists everywhere, I am ashamed to count you amongst us, Fifield. Really.

And finally:

Peter Weyland: And what would Charlie do now that we're so close to answering the most meaningful questions ever asked by mankind? Hm? How can you leave without knowing what they are? Or have you lost your faith, Shaw?

What we notice on this forum is that some people wish not to debate the most meaningful questions. Many people say, “Why can’t you let us believe what we want to believe, they don’t do us any harm?” Others say, “No matter how much you try, people will continue to believe (or disbelieve…” Of course, both of these statements are false.

 We are seeing a tremendous rise around the world in The New Atheism, with eloquent, charming, sensible and highly qualified debaters such as Sam Harris, the late Christopher Hitchens, Lawrence Krauss and Dawkins taking the baton from the likes of Bertrand Russell. Atheism is gaining traction thanks to the incredible strides in technology - our ability to peer into and analyze the universe and form each additional thesis at increasingly high processing speeds.

 One of the reasons, I believe, some people hated Prometheus, is because it asks us to be practical about our beliefs, and most believers like to keep the tenets of their faith as wishy washy as possible.

Upon closer inspection, faith tends to dissolve. Prometheus brings together the robotic atheist and the feminine, gentle, intuitive survivor (who is also a believer) and concludes: I am still searching. Yes, we are.

We ought to take that hint seriously. Believers have much to learn from logical, rational scientists. But the story doesn’t end there. There is much that remains that we don’t know about the universe, or even ourselves. We are at heart, after all,  symbolic creatures, rather than wrapped up in our 'creatureliness'. 

Our language is based on symbols.  Ours words.  And thus we are also at a very deep psychological level, also symbolic beings.  It may be that we must believe in something in order not to be overcome by not only the terrors of dying, but also those of living.  It is how we have come to not merely understand the world, but how we must see it in order to survive and thrive in it.

Note: If you enjoyed this article follow this link for further reading >

On Prometheus and Religion

Damon Lindelof: "Hey, a bunch of humans seeking out their creator. David knows exactly who created him, and he is not impressed by his creator."
Ridley Scott: "I do despair. That's a heavy word, but picking up a newspaper every day, how can you not despair at what's happening in the world, and how we're represented as human beings? The disappointments and corruption are dismaying at every level. And the biggest source of evil is of course religion. [...] Everyone is tearing each other apart in the name of their personal god. And the irony is, by definition, they're probably worshipping the same god. [...] I'm really intrigued by those eternal questions of creation and belief and faith. I don't care who you are, it's what we all think about. It's in the back of all our minds." Source: Esquire
Damon Lindelof: "I'm most definitively pro-science, but I think that the movie advances the idea that, can the two live along side each other? Is it possible to be a scientist and maintain some fungible faith in the unknown? And are you rewarded for having blind faith? I do think that the movie is making the meta-commentary in saying well Shaw is the true believer on board, and she's the one who survives. So what are we trying to say by telling that story?" Source:

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Sunday, December 30, 2012

2012 in Tweets - via FT.COM

Bar Rafaeli

Once Upon a Wenning - by Nick van der leek


Widely considered the forerunner of Cape Impressionism, Pieter Wenning’s dreamy, poetic scenes point towards a longing for a home and a peaceful place to live out his life, in the safety and bounty of nature

In my journey to find Pieter Wenning I head to the Cape. But Pieter Wenning is not easy to find. His life and works predate those of great artists that followed him, including the likes of Pierneef and Tinus de Jongh. I soon labour under the impression that the subjects he painted have long since disappeared. 

It’s easy to believe, driving through the suburbs of Cape Town, that his serene country homes and farmyards –  the centrepieces of the first farms, places teeming with life, and brimming with Frontier Feel – have disappeared entirely. These were homes hewn by hands, their materials drawn from hillsides and surrounding brush; the floors unearthed from nearby clays and cow dung, the first roofs invariably yellow thatch skirts rising towards a smoking chimney. 

These were the days when streams could be used for washing, and irons were heated in a fire. When passers-by were red-coated soldiers, sailors, or slaves and getting around was on foot, by horse, by train or by ship. Meat had to be shot for dinner. Cows had to be milked for cream and butter. Bread was home-baked. Eggs, still warm, had to be fetched from the coop.

Wenning’s work was all about painting an expanding frontier. But unlike Tinus and Pierneef, he was less preoccupied with monumental backdrops. Instead, Wenning became absorbed, even intoxicated, by the almost fairytale simplicity of the frontier. Its beautiful, humble beginnings. Its deep, rustic connection to nature.

His pictures have the dreamy quality of being filled with colour and light, yet remain somehow unfocused and vague. Yet his subjects are unmistakably the first homes of the earliest settlements. Nature is abundant. Green is splashed everywhere. He depicts slowly decaying homesteads beneath fluffy white clouds hanging in dreamy blue skies.

Genuine frontier homes no longer exist today because so few wild landscapes are left. But when you stare at it for long enough, his daydream speaks to you. And in time I came to see that many abandoned homes still litter lonely countrysides today. There is something in the neglect, the half-broken walls, the yielding timbers, and the overgrown gardens that surround these structures, that is distinctly Wenning.

If Wenning represented humble beginnings perhaps it is because Wenning himself came from beginnings humbler than most. In Friesland during the 1880s, Wenning’s father made a modest living trading in art prints and materials. Even at a young age, Pieter Wenning’s art teacher encouraged his drawing and painting efforts, but his parents persuaded him to join the Dutch Railways. He married at age 25 but four years later lost his job following a strike against the company. Three years later he found work in a bookstore in Amsterdam, which transferred him to a franchise in Pretoria. 

In 1908 Wenning bought a home in Sunnyside, and painted and studied art in his free time, supplementing his modest living with translation work at the Supreme Court. In 1909 he began to paint in oils. Although Wenning experimented with etchings, and held an exhibition, his efforts to sell his work (displayed in the windows of his bookshop) were not very fruitful. 

In 1913 his company sent him to Cape Town, where he met DC Bonzaaier, who became a lifelong friend. After a second visit to Cape Town in 1915, Wenning returned to Pretoria, and began working in an art stor

“Wenning struggled more than most artists, and thus his dreams were more earnest than most."

e after losing his job in the book store. In 1916 he revisited Cape Town, with three month’s leave to devote to painting. Sombre early works gave way progressively to spontaneous works bursting with colour and lyricism. But Wenning was still struggling to make ends meet, and his health suffered.

The self-critical Wenning, who often painted in the rain, almost destroyed all his work during one of these early visits to the Cape, but his friend Bonzaaier convinced him otherwise.

Read the rest.

Friday, December 21, 2012

A Nightmare before Christmas 2012 – recapping the highlights of my year, the good, the bad and the great

The Good (in another life)

I was quite a talented kid. I was the best artist in my class in primary school. I was the best writer of English essays in high school. So much so, kids who wanted to go for A’s in English came to me for advice on essay writing. I was also both the fastest runner and fastest swimmer in my class. I achieved provincial colours in swimming, biathlon and later triathlon. I was in the top 5 academically; my highest average ever was 89%. I played football for the first team, and for Free State, and hockey – briefly – for the 2nd team. This also wasn’t some backyard school in the bundus, it was Grey College, one of the top schools in South Africa.

Alas, my reign as academic genius didn’t last, in fact matric turned out to be my worst year at school of all 12 years. But, at least I walked away with university exemption.

When I started triathlon, I quickly made it into the top 5 or 6 nationally. My companions told me I had the best proportioned bod, my dad called me ‘spiere’, some of the kids I swam with said I had a better body than Ryk Neethling. For my 21st birthday I invited about 100 kids. I had a lot of friends and girlfriends.  

The Goals

It is odd looking at the above paragraphs and comparing all that to the present. What have I achieved in 2012? Am I still fit? Am I still at the top of something? I went for a walk yesterday and felt a strong sense that I want to achieve something of significance again.
 I’ve identified these as:

1) Publishing a book (and make that a very well written, thoroughly researched, highly polished novel)
2) Proving that - at 41 years of age - I am still physically capable of performing at a very high level.

 I haven’t identified the goal here yet, but the sub 40 minute 10km is part of it, and taking a stab at world 70.3 (Half Ironman) champs is definitely a contender. We’ll look at these two goals again at the end of this post.

Right now, it’s worth examining how we measure the meaning or value of our time spent on earth. There’s only one fireproof measure for whether one has had a good day, a good week, a good year – even a good life. How much did you grow? Happiness seems to be correlated to learning, mastering and performing well. Happiness seems to be embedded in the experience of pursuing a goal, having a sense of mission, and slowly creeping up on that ambition and seeing it come to fruition. Growing also happens through our experience of friendship and love with our fellow human beings. When we hold grudges, or isolate, or alienate ourselves, we get stuck. When we find ways to connect and experience the world, we flourish again.

So in a sense 2012 has been one of my best years. I’ve realised this at various times, and in a variety of permutations. I’ve grown through a lot of diverse relationships – folks that I run with, my on again off again girlfriend Maria, a trip I did to Haksskeenpan and Namibia with someone I hardly know, and a bunch of new faces I’ve met via photography, Facebook and what not. I’ve also done some weird stuff this year just for the hell of it.

The Bad 

The oddest ‘growth experience’ was probably in September, when I took Brainstorm magazine, and its moody editor, Samantha Perry, to the CCMA.

 [If you’d like to skip this episode, jump to…]

Although I clearly lost in that encounter, and lost badly (two trips to Johannesburg and back, and I refused their offer of a R5000 upfront settlement) it was unexpected for me to have almost entirely forgotten such a malicious episode as early as a month later. I think the reason for this was that I realised writing for a magazine no one has even heard of, and committing almost all of my time, wasn’t aligned with the reason I took up freelancing in the first place. Let me spell out that reason quickly here.

In high school I started writing novels. That in turn came from a voracious appetite for reading. In fact I read so much that it often fell to me, if something voluminous needed to be read, to read to the class. That love for reading led to a deep-seated desire to write. It went beyond the simple act of writing I think, I think it came from a desire to be heard. I was a teenager at the time, after all, so it was something I was feeling less and less at home. Nothing came of those early attempts. The second attempt involved 2 years of work. I made later attempts at university to produce works of fiction, and then again whilst living in Bristol, England. But at the end of the day, I published nothing.

So the idea to write for magazines was not because I was particularly interested in journalism (please don't ever refer to me as a ‘journalist’, I am a writer and a photographer, though photojournalist I can live with). I wrote for magazines to pave the way for a novel. So that editors will have heard and seen my name. At the same time, it gave me a chance to practise, improve and refine my craft. And I’m not going to lie to you, I enjoy writing, so doing it as a job, and writing about things that interest me, seems like a decent way to make a living. You’ll never be rich, but your days will be richer than the average cubicle slaves. That was the thinking.

Surviving as a freelancer, especially at first, isn’t easy. But I found one niche magazine was able to provide me with a stable income, and that became a lifeline. With that I felt I was able to build and extend my portfolio. But eventually I realised, Brainstorm was failing in two vital areas. No one knew about the magazine, so it wasn’t going to enhance my reputation as writer to a prospective book publisher or editor. And secondly, I found both the magazine and the work I was doing for them increasingly lacklustre, in a word: boring. It felt like work, not fun. I was enjoying it less and less.

So when that relationship soured in May this year, and while I mourned the loss of about 6 articles (written, edited, submitted and ultimately written off because of an editor’s bad mood) and the huge amounts of my personal time and effort wasted (not to mention that I couldn’t afford to lose large amounts of income-for-rent like that), it wasn’t long before I realised the loss of what had been a vital income stream, was a blessing rather than a curse. In short shrift I identified other magazines that I wanted to contribute to, and oddly enough, some of the longest shots paid off. R18 000 or so did come as a big loss, certainly, and one of the articles I worked particularly hard on – interviews with some of SA’s top film directors – was particularly painful to lose. But I discovered I was easily able to replace my work for them for work elsewhere. It paid better, it was more interesting and best of all, it was at magazines people had actually heard of.

Odd Thing

 And a very odd thing happened while I was sitting at the table during the CCMA meeting. At one point Perry dropped her phone on the floor and it bounced close to my foot. She asked me to pick it up. I had a very strange sense, stooping under the table to pick up the phone for an editor who was fighting for the right not to pay me for work she asked me to do...I realised I was in the wrong place, dealing with the wrong people. That same sense hit me when I worked for AVUSA.  I suffered two years under an insufferable boss at the Sowetan, Juliet Saunders, a woman who insisted throughout the period when I worked for her that “Nick, you can not write!”  She said these words to me in no uncertain terms on my first day, and then repeated it again and again.  She stuck by her guns too, publishing only one story I wrote in the entire 2 years I spent working for her, and only because it was the most self-deprecating story I could think of [How to make up for blunders at work.]

But coming back to the CCMA, a little later in the discussion everyone (Perry, her counsel, even the CCMA commissioner herself) queried how I could be entirely dependent on one magazine for an income when I was earning often as little as R3000 per month, and usually no more than R6000. It’s even hard for me to believe that those tough times happened, and persisted for over a year, and that a few months on, they are well and truly behind me. Months spent subsisting uncomfortably with a stranger I hardly knew, paying a minimal rent or no rent at all. And still struggling. And just as I was making a breakthrough at another publishing house (Touchline Media’s Bicycling and Sports Illustrated) Ryk Neethling of all people basically went behind my back and pulled the plug on that opportunity, and it was back to square one. Yes, a very difficult and frustrating time. But one that floated to the surface when these three women were badgering me with questions, thinking I was dishonest when I said I had been almost entirely financially dependent on their magazine.


My circumstances have changed quite a bit since then. I’m now paying around R4000 rent per month, and have been for the past year and a half. If you consider that one article in a magazine is worth R2000 – R3000, then do the math – you need about 3-4 articles every month in order to survive financially. To get to that level means you have to be on top of your game. Your work always has to be on spec, delivered on time, editors must like and trust you, and the quality of your work must be consistent, and consistently topical.

The Great

 No one is more surprised than I am, that despite losing my prime source of income when the relationship with Brainstorm came to an abrupt end, I simply continued to pitch to other magazines, just adding a few new ones out of the hat, and was able to function from then on almost unaffected. It shows me how far I have come as a photojournalist.  There was a time, after all, when you'd send 20 pitch emails without a single response.  Or you'd get a single commission in a month and count yourself lucky.  Now, I expect almost every pitch I send to be worthy of work, but at the same time, if it isn't, you move on unaffected.

The highlight of this exercise (writing for other publication besides Boredstorm) is undoubtedly that my work has appeared for the first time in the one magazine that I set my sights on when I first started writing – GQ. Twice this year, actually, with two more pieces due out early next year. I also added a slew of additional magazines to my portfolio, and to cap it off, won a photography contract commissioned by the SKA. It is perhaps the largest photography commission in SA, and involves probably the world’s largest and most sophisticated scientific project (and I haven’t forgotten the LHC in Switzerland). The jackpot prize with that commission, of course, is that I also use the opportunity to liaise and write about groundbreaking scientific and technological developments and advances.

In 2012 I’ve written for the following publications:

Leisure Wheels
Your Family
Marie Claire
Blue Train
Fitness for Men
Fitness for Women
Mercedes Benz
Country Life
Sunday Independent
iMag (published by City Press)
Tour De France magazine
Ironman Magazine

Right now a short piece I wrote for MyNews is currently the most commented article on South Africa's most popular news website.
 You can read it here: 3 Questions Christians never ask (or try to answer)

Other highlights of the year included doing the Cherry Run (23km over a mountain), the purchase of another new camera, this blog hitting the 1 000 000 page impression mark, running a sub 49 minutes in the first 10km of the Glen half marathon, staying overnight on the edge of the Fish River Canyon, and believe it or not, the ongoing thrill of writing BLOODLINE, currently at 111 000 words and just a

 few weeks from completion. It feels like I have physically BEEN to all those places.

My favourite films this year were: 

1. The Hobbit
2. Prometheus
3. Brave
4. Skyfall
5. Die Wonderwerker
6. The Dark Knight Rises
7. The Avengers
8. Total Recall
9. The Hunger Games
10. Snow White and the Huntsman

Interestingly, elements of all these movies feature in my book, Bloodline. The swords and sandals, and abundance of nature from the Hobbit, the mix of existential angst and survival instincts of Prometheus, the setting of Brave and Skyfall, the tragic expertise (and animal husbandry) of Eugene Marais, the dystopia of the Dark Knight Rises, Total Recall and Hunger Games, and the sheer heroism and spectacle of The Avengers. Although Snow White was, to me, not a great success, I find it stimulating that fairy tales can be interpreted with such dark relevance to these times. The setting of Snow White, if not the story itself, is perhaps the closest match visually for what I have in mind for Bloodline.

 It should be obvious that I am very interested in the impact of STORY. It can educate and inspire us, and that’s what I aim to do. The challenge is whilst writing a story that means something, to simultaneously live a life of substance. I’m not sure if I always achieve that, but I am growing, and if my legs can carry me, 2013, 2014 or 2015 should see 1) and 2) singed into real time.

 Before I bid you adieu with a big slap on the back, I need to make a few final (slightly cryptic) points.  Just as Bilbo in the Hobbit says 'I may not have told you all of it' I have not either.  There are a few pertinent points I choose not to reveal, although these may be uppermost in my mind.  It may be a relationship I'm in, or a particular dilemma I had at a border crossing and someone called Serena Crosby, or problems I seem to be having with my hips.  I'm also not going to pretend 2012 was perfect.  Although I've made a good many new friends, my relationships with my closest family still isn't great.  I'm not on speaking terms with my sister, and I hardly ever see my father and brother.  But overall, it's been one of the best years since 2000.  Stable, steady, and growing in many respects.  Much of the stability has been due to great living arrangements, and a man's best friend, all of which make me feel very grateful.

 If you’ve read this far, thank you for sharing in my journey, and I’m guessing if you've shared in mine, your journey now and next year is worth sharing too. I’d love to hear it!

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Monday, December 17, 2012

Screenwriter Jon Spaihts On The Prometheus That Never Was [VIA EMPIRE ONLINE]

The movie's original writer discusses kitten-like facehuggers and more


With Prometheus out on Blu-ray, Empire spoke to the man behind the original script for Ridley Scott's sci-fi epic, Jon Spaihts. In a fascinating interview he talked about how he originally envisaged the prequel-cum-franchise reboot. Read on to find out more about the evolution of the xenomorphs - crab-like aliens, anyone? - Scott's creepy crawly collection and David forcibly attaching a facehugger onto Shaw's fizzog.
Screenwriter Jon Spaihts On The Prometheus That Never Was

Great expectations
Screenwriters largely labour in silent anonymity. No-one's heard of the project you're working on, and many of those projects vanish into the void the moment you're done. By the time they do make it to market, you've moved on. But with Prometheus there was an avid, eager and pestering crowd, trying to find out about the project from the first moment it was announced that I would write it. This was the first time I've ever written something where there was an audience waiting for it.
I was conscious of my laptop having a substantial news value if I were to leave it in a coffee shop.
There were so many people with opinions about how it should go. So many people who wanted to know what would happen. I was conscious of my laptop having a substantial news value if I were to leave it in a coffee shop. The leak would have been rather disastrous. I felt like a Cold War spy walking around with my briefcase handcuffed to my wrist. I don't believe my draft has been released into the world. There was talk for a while about my final draft being included in the Blu-ray release of the film. But I've recently heard that there are legal complications around that and it may not be happening. So I talk a bit on the Blu-ray about the creative process, but I'm not sure the draft is on there.
I had gone into Scott Free for a general meeting, because they'd liked a script of mine. Late in the meeting, the head of the company brought up the notion of an Alien prequel and asked if I had any thoughts on it. I hadn't prepared for that and hadn't developed a story, but I found in the moment that I had a lot of opinions about it. I thought there was only one way you could go. So I started riffing in the room and held forth for 30 to 35 minutes on what the shape of the story should be and what kind of things we could do that hadn't happened before.

The medpod scene
The medpod sequence is one of the reasons I got the job in the first place. It's one of my favourite scenes and it's visually realised in an extraordinary way.
One of the things I realised was that we hadn't seen anyone survive a classic Alien chest bursting. And I was really intrigued by the notion that a character might be infected by the parasite and know that it was coming, know they had a timeframe of a few hours, and that we would have set up previously a nearly omnipotent medical device, designed to extend life for explorers in foreign places. Our heroine would have a short time to get to the machine and extract the thing inside her. It was a very gory sequence and it plays out very much like the sequence in the film. The main difference is in choreography. At the end of the sequence as I first conceived it, the heroine manages to get the creature extracted from her and it is expelled from the pod and she's sealed inside, whereas in the final film it goes the other way.
Then she lapses in and out of consciousness for a number of hours as the machine puts her back together. As she comes back to consciousness, she sees the thing growing in the cabin outside and even killing people. So by the time she emerges from the pod eight hours later, the thing is abroad in the ship and big enough to be a huge danger. That was the original conception of the medpod scene.
In the final film, obviously, that monster has been de-Alien-ised and become something a little more new and hybridised. And it's trapped inside the medpod while she rolls out, and it grows into something dangerous that's pushed to the end of the film.
As for how she recovers from her surgery so fast - well, it was more of a protracted process in my original notion. My script underwent a number of major evolutions as we were working on it, and then Damon came in and made further changes still. But that sequence and its place in the story was one of the anchors.
Screenwriter Jon Spaihts On The Prometheus That Never Was

The ever-changing xenomorphs
I wrote five different drafts of the script, working with Ridley very closely over about nine months. And even as we were working, we were constantly toying with the closeness of the monsters in the film to the original xenomorph. You can see an interesting balance, even looking at the movies in the Alien franchise, between homage and evolution. In every film you'll see that the design of the Alien shifts - the shape of the carapace, the shape of the body - and some of that is to with new technology available to realise the monsters, but a lot of is just a director's desire to do something new.
Ridley and I were looking for ways to make the xenomorphs new.
And so he was always pushing for some way in which that Alien biology could have evolved. We tried different paths in that way. We imagined that there might be eight different variations on the xenomorphs - eight different kinds of Alien eggs you might stumble across, eight kinds of slightly different xenomorph creatures that could hatch from them. And maybe even a rapid process of evolution, still ongoing, in these Alien laboratories where these xenomorphs were developed. So Ridley and I were looking for ways to make the xenomorphs new. We did a bunch of things that are still represented in the final film. We toyed with the notion that the xenomorphs might have a soft carapace like a soft-shelled crab, and be flexible and able to squeeze through cracks; that they might be pale rather than black; that they might retain inside some gelatinous cowl some resemblance of the human being in whom they'd incubated. We played with a lot of ghoulish notions like that.
Different head shapes - we toyed with a peaked head shape that you actually see in the creature that hatches from the Engineer at the end of Prometheus. And Ridley is a great and ghoulish collector of horrible natural oddities, real parasites and predators from the natural world. He had a tremendous file of photography of real, ghastly creatures from around the world - they're chilling, some of them! He would tell these tales with relish, of wasps that would drill into the backs of beetles and plant larvae, or become mind-control creatures. Terrible things happen, especially the smaller you get. As you get into the insect world or the microbial world, savage atrocities are perpetrated by one creature on another. And Ridley was thrilled with all of them. They inspired a lot of the designs and a lot of the ideas we tried.
Screenwriter Jon Spaihts On The Prometheus That Never Was

Finding a new menace
The creature did change in some pretty dramatic ways from draft to draft. But the most dramatic change was the removal of the xenomorph from the film. That was a shift that happened at the same time as I stepped off the film. A lot of that push came from the studio very high up; they were interested in doing something original and not one more franchise film. That really came to a head at the studio - the major push to focus on the new mythology of Prometheus and dial the Aliens as far back as we could came down from the studio.
So one of Damon's major jobs when he came onboard was to replace the menaces of the xenomorphs with other things. Largely the other menaces in the film were present in my drafts as well - there was a black mutagenic compound that could change people in unpredictable way, Fyfield did morph into a monster and become a real danger in his own right, and of course the Engineers, the Space Jockeys, proved to be terribly dangerous creatures. In my draft, as well, we did resurrect one and he tore off David's head. Much of the mayhem of the final film was present in the drafts I wrote, but the xenomorphs were the major change, as well as the stockpiling of this black liquid as opposed to Alien eggs.
I did have facehuggers in my original draft. David, as he began to get fascinated by the science of the Engineers, doesn't deliberately contaminate Holloway with a drop of black liquid. Instead, Holloway hubristically removes his helmet in the chamber, is knocked unconscious, facehugged and wakes up not knowing what had been done to him, and stumbles back into the ship. In my draft, he returns to his cabin, is embraced by Shaw, who is delighted to see him having feared that he had died, and the two of them make love. And it's while they're making love that he bursts and dies. So that lovemaking sequence echoed my original lovemaking sequence where he explodes! It was messy.
Subsequently, David, fascinated by these creatures, begins delaying the mission and going off the reservation on his own, essentially because he thinks he really belongs with the Engineers. They're smart enough and sophisticated enough, great enough, to be his peers. He's harboring a deep-seated contempt for his human makers. So at one point Shaw goes to stop him and David ties her up and deliberately exposes her to a facehugger. He caresses an egg open and out comes a facehugger. David doesn't smell like a person - his breath isn't moist - so he can handle the thing like a kitten. It doesn't want him; it's not interested. But then he exposes it to her and it goes for her like a shot. He toys with her for a bit and then lets it take her. That, in my draft, was how Shaw was implanted with the parasite that she had to remove with the medpod sequence.
Screenwriter Jon Spaihts On The Prometheus That Never Was

David and Shaw
In my draft David was a little more bloody-handed and the scene with his betrayal was a little more baroque.
In my draft David was a little more bloody-handed.
I left the two of them on the surface of that planetoid. It was plain that David and Shaw were going to have to work together and deal with one another if they were to survive. That one shot of the ship taking off in the finished film really focuses you on a particular outcome, whereas my ending was much more open as to what was going to happen next. But it was very much about this shattered android and this scarred woman being left with no-one but each other to carry on with.I did have a plan for multiple films and the conversations I had with Ridley was about a new franchise, from the beginning. We talked about a possible trilogy, or a duology, but more often as a trilogy. And I did have pretty broad notions as to how we were going to get from this world to the original Alien - the baton pass, closing the circle, if you will. So yes, I did have plans for two other films. I came up with an even more twisted sequence than the Medpod, but I cannot tell you what happens...
My vision of the trilogy would have involved the arrival of the Yutani Company and a couple of other major plays around the Engineers themselves: the revelation of an additional grand Engineer design, and the possibility of seeking an Engineer homeworld. That shot of the ship flying at the end offers a lot of creative ways to play with this. But it feels like it brackets you into the search for the Engineer homeworld and home civilisation. That's an interesting challenge.

Interview by Nick de Semlyen

Original story here