There are dramatic differences in technological aesthetics and anatomy between the engineers across Alien, Prometheus and Covenant. The differences are extreme enough that they do not look like members of the same species.

Among other things (see the attached image for a side-by-side comparison of anatomy), the engineer in Alien is at least twice as large as those in the prequels, does not have legs or any room for legs that are not broken, and is fused with or growing out of the pilot's seat.

enter image description here

The technology in Alien is biomechanical in nature, resembling a weird cross between industrial machinery and bones and mummified bodies. The technology in Prometheus and Covenant is clearly artificially constructed, but it seems to be aping the aesthetic of Alien. The design of the juggernaut/derelict cockpit is different, as the one in Alien does not seem intended for walking around, since the floor is full of holes and there are no stairs; whereas the one in Prometheus has a flat surface and a convenient staircase.

In Covenant, the engineers bear little physical resemblance to the one from Prometheus. They appear to be a different species, but they use the same technology.

I am aware that in the prequels the engineers are revealed to be humans wearing suits. This is supposed to be a retroactive change applied to the pilot from Alien. That does not explain the obvious disparities in anatomy and technology. I know that these inconsistencies are a result of sloppy production, but I will assume that these differences exist within the fictional universe rather than continuity errors.

This is what the original pilot seat of the derelict ship in Alien looked like:

enter image description here

Based on the shape of the suit and the general Giger aesthetic, the pilot in Alien should look something like this:

enter image description here

The engineers in Prometheus look like this:

enter image description here

The engineers in Covenant look like this:

enter image description here

  • 4
    While I think this is a decent question, and the answer may just come down to "different filmmakers, different tech, different look", the side by side here is doing more to convince me there's no practical difference at all.
    – Radhil
    Commented Jun 22, 2018 at 16:27
  • 6
    Because terrible writing.
    – Valorum
    Commented Jun 22, 2018 at 17:44
  • 3
    ...have you actually seen Prometheus? There's a particular fact revealed in that film which pretty much negates your complaint about Prometheus & Covenant, and also is likely the reason for the changes in body proportions.
    – recognizer
    Commented Jun 23, 2018 at 13:49
  • 1
    @recognizer: The jockey clearly is not human because the proportions are all wrong. That "suit" is fused to the wearer. The makeup effects are clearly different between movies. They are not the same. Why are they not the same?
    – Anonymous
    Commented Jun 25, 2018 at 23:20
  • 1
    @recognizer: I am assuming that the differences exist in-universe rather than being sloppy retcons. I thought I said so in the body of the question.
    – Anonymous
    Commented Jun 26, 2018 at 12:42

2 Answers 2


So if you compared an Australian Aboriginal to an Anglo-Saxon from western Europe, would you say they aren't the same species?

There can quite easily be variation within a species, especially if they are advanced enough to breed or modify themselves as they see fit.

Have a look at the first scene in Prometheus where the engineer sacrifices himself with goo, and compare him to the elders standing behind him. That engineer was probably bred to be the perfect specimen, so that the DNA and genes that were left there would have the best effect on populating the planet.

  • Apparent racial differences among a specific alien species isn't at all a common trend in sci fi movies. As such, it should not be considered obvious, and would need more backing.
    – Misha R
    Commented Apr 11, 2020 at 4:45

The engineers society (for lack of a better term) had many different variations dependent upon any given function. The 'differences' noted result from this - different buttons, same machine.

I find the varied striations of the engineers society in the film(s) themselves. A certain class to begin the life cycle on any given world, as shown in deleted (but view-able) scenes where taking the parasite was akin to a deeply religious rite.

The innate command arrogance of the one builder we saw in the film, why did only he have access to a viable life support system of the entire crew. Our 'standard' alien resulted from this commander.

The scene in which all of the parasites are released onto the engineers home world, where the crowds resemble a bustling open air market and multiple variations are seen amid the crowds.

Bear in mind also that no one on the engineers home world saw anything unusual in the ships' return (prior to the parasite dump). In the films time line that ship, indeed that entire base in which the majority of the film takes place, had been defunct for several millennia (based upon the 'clues' from earth that brought the humans there.

Given this, it is only logical that the engineers had multiple ships and crews constantly arriving & departing from all over, given that the specific ship that the parasite was dumped from hadn't been 'home' in millennia, yet no alarm was raised at its arrival, rather the crowd rejoiced to see it.

Everything points to a widespread and diverse, far flung society. This diversity almost 'demands' that the engineers were not wholly genocide with the loss of their home world.

Bear in mind too that the original film Alien had an 'undecipherable' signal emanating from the crashed ship, the Engineer deliberately crashing his infected ship on a non viable world and setting a beacon to warn off his people. I know in the latter part of Alien they suddenly decided the signal was a warning to stay away.

Everything thus far in the film franchise, books & games, all point to a diverse culture of engineers.

  • 3
    Could you edit to provide evidence for why you think this is the case?
    – TheLethalCarrot
    Commented Jun 25, 2018 at 8:13
  • 1
    I actually forgot about the warning signal. The audio of it was clearly inhuman (as in a human vocal apparatus could not produce it), yet in Prometheus the engineer speaks Indo-European.
    – Anonymous
    Commented Jun 26, 2018 at 16:33
  • @Anonymous there is no evidence that the warning signal from Alien was set by the pilot or crew of the ship in Alien - it could have been another species entirely, who avoided the fate of the Nostromo...
    – Moo
    Commented Aug 8, 2021 at 23:23

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