Prometheus Analysis Part VI A – Black Goo: The X Files Excitation

In this post, I would like to talk about the black goo thingy that is an integral part of the film. But, first I would like to say something. When the black substance made its first appearance in the movie (The scene where the engineer consumes a version of it that results in his dramatic disintegration), my excitement was so high that it gave me heart palpitations. The reason was it evoked a very strong memory of one of the greatest Television series ever made by the human race, The X Files. I am one of its biggest fans and the show has influenced me in so many ways. Even today I can randomly pick out an episode (Season 1 – Season 7 and episodes featuring Mulder in Seasons 8 and 9) and watch the whole damn thing in mute and speak the dialogues of every character. Apart from that, I can do the famous echo of the theme, and confidently even hum the background music from all episodes that cover the Mythology series. Anyway, I found it fascinating to look at the black goo based on the importance of black oil (Purity) phenomenon in The X Files. I do see some parallels between the two. But before I talk about it, let us get back to the role played by the black goo in Prometheus.

The black goo is the critical element in engineering life on earth. On LV 223, Prometheus finds yet another engineered variant of the black goo, which seemingly has a mutating effect on the person who directly comes into contact with it. In addition, we found out that a man infected with the substance can indirectly infect his female sexual partner. But the effect it has on the female is beyond mutation of any sort. She is able to spawn an abomination of a life form that follows through another life cycle.


Purity Virus

Now, let us revisit the Black Oil aka Purity phenomenon from The X Files. Just as the black goo has a profound significance in Prometheus, the black oil is a key element in the mythology series of The X Files. Purity first appeared on the episode, Piper Maru, in Season 3 of The X Files. Coincidentally, it also happens to be one of my favorite episodes of The X Files. I am sure every true Xphile would agree with me on that. Without going into details about this episode and the subsequent ones where Purity played a predominant role, we learned that it is nothing more than an alien virus that resides in petroleum deposits. Upon contact, the virus is capable of entering humans, taking over their bodies. It possesses very high intelligence and is capable of communication.

Alex Krycek infected with Purity

In the events leading up to the first film and eventually in the film, Fight the Future, we found out that purity is essentially something the alien colonists can’t live without, namely, it is their life force. This life force can be used in two ways. 1. It can be used to completely re-engineer their race. 2. It can be used to infect another alien race and control them as a slave race of sorts – Potency as a bio-weapon. Do you see a parallel with Prometheus? Not 100%, but nevertheless, there are some common themes.

In fact, in the film we saw that a gestational form of the black oil is capable of mutating into a fully grown extraterrestrial biological entity (E.B.E) within 96 hours in a normal temperature environment. The gestating E.B.E uses the life force of the host for development and upon maturation bursts out of the infected host, thereby killing him or her.  At least one member of the Syndicate, The Well-Manicured Man is shell shocked on hearing about the mutating ability of the virus that he sacrificed himself after giving Mulder the weak vaccine developed by a Russian Syndicate to rescue Scully. Although it would be interesting to talk about who the colonists are or what role the syndicate plays and various other conspiracy theory angles, I am not gonna do that, since, it would turn out to be a detailed discussion of The X Files, which I don’t want it to be. But, I would just mention the fact that remarkable characters on the show like The Cigarette Smoking Man, Deep Throat, X, Well Manicured Man and many more can never be forgotten.

Well Manicured Man: Trust No One, Mr. Mulder- Fight the Future

Purity had a life of its own in The X Files mythology until the very end of the series. It is by far one of the greatest symbols of The X Files. The idea was brilliant and it was perfectly executed in my opinion. The menacing effect it had when it appeared for the first time in Piper Maru still gives me the chills. It was taken to a whole another level in Fight the Future.

Now, let us review:

Purity from The X Files comes in two variants – 1. A form that can infect humans and control them. 2. A gestational form (mutated), which results in the birth of an E.B.E (Alien Colonist). Point to be noted is that it is a virus. Could be any type of virus. If its a DNA type virus, it is likely that the biological information of the colonist is stored in an exotic form that is well aware and hence, provides the life force of the colonist.

In Prometheus, we see two incarnations of the black goo – 1. A form used in the engineering of life on Earth. 2. A weaponized (mutated) form that creates a whole lot of mess.

Purity can be used to repopulate its species by delivering the gestational form to the unsuspecting host (Syndicate’s transgenic corn act as the virus carriers, which attract bees that can eventually transmit them to a human host upon bite). The weaponized incarnation of the black goo that we saw on LV 223 however, could not be a virus, because it’s intention was probably not to repopulate the Engineers. But we do see a kind of parasite-host interaction that is vital in Prometheus. I will discuss this aspect in detail in my next post.

I wanted to talk about this analogy here, simply because, it is my opinion that The X Files did this whole idea of black oil pretty efficiently. As I had explained earlier, there are certainly some parallels between the show and Prometheus. It just makes me wonder as to how much of an influence the show was on the writers of Prometheus.

There is this other interesting fact. The word purity is mentioned in the original Alien by Ash when he expresses his admiration for the Alien creature. Actually, I would like to talk about his complete quote in detail a tad bit later.

“I admire its Purity.” – Ash, Alien 1979

Black Oil/PurityThe X Files

The black oil is called Purity in The X Files. If the whole colonist angle had influenced Prometheus writers, then we are looking at a sort of Purity inspired idea for the inception of the black goo, which in turn serves as the source for the creation of Alien. Kind of comes full circle, doesn’t it? I know, I am stretching it quite a bit. Nevertheless, I find it fascinating!

Black Goo – Prometheus

Prometheus Blu-ray Release

Prometheus Blu-ray

As you guys know, Prometheus Blu-ray came out a couple of days ago. The web is abuzz with discussions about exhaustive new footage and various documentaries and commentaries on the DVD. So, you might think that my write up on Prometheus would be useless. Nevertheless, I would like to continue. This is solely my own interpretation of the movie, nothing more, nothing less. I just wanted to let you guys know that.

I haven’t read much about the Blu-ray release, since, I don’t want my write up to be influenced by the amount of new information on the disc. Anyway, I am not at all surprised at the exhaustive content on the disc. Ridley is famous for his attention to detail in producing DVDs. That’s the reason why many of his Director’s Cut DVD’s (Alien, Blade Runner etc.,) receive a widespread critical acclaim.

Good bye long hair!

Before continuing with Prometheus, just wanted to mention that I finally cut my long hair yesterday after almost nine years. At one time, my air reached the back of my knee. I cut it to waist size, a couple of years later a little more until July this year, when I kept it shoulder length. I had been pondering over cutting my hair ever since March this year, but somehow kept postponing it. But, a couple of days ago, egged on by a couple of my dear Japanese female friends, one of whom happens to be my Japanese tandem learning partner, I finally cut it off.

I am now sporting a short hair style partially based on one of Ryota Nozaki’s (Jazztronik) hairstyles (see the following picture). My hairstylist adapted his style and gave his own twist based on my hair structure.

Jazztronik – Ryoto Nozaki

I think it will take a while to get used to it though after never having seen myself in the mirror with short hair in the last nine years. In addition, I still suffer from the “phantom ponytail syndrome”, always trying to adjust my non-existent ponytail!

Prometheus Analysis Part V – Exploration on LV 223

Let me now focus on the first exploration scene on LV 223 and its fallout. First, a gist of what happened.

Exploring the room – Prometheus Website

As the crew heads to the structure, Fifield tells Holloway that the structure is hollow. They head underneath and traverse along curved corridors that are revealed thanks to Fifield’s flying mapping devices (his pops!).  They eventually head to an area where an artificial generation of earth type atmospheric effect is in place, which Chance, a crew member on the ship relates to terraforming. Here, we have the first wow moment in the film when David finds a sticky greenish substance deposit on a wall and he activates a panel on the wall which generates a hologram.

Engineers Hologram in the corridor – Prometheus Website

The hologram shows a group of engineers running away from something and the crew follow the holographic engineers which leads them to a door. They find a decapitated body of an engineer. They find alien glyphs on the wall. While Holloway and Shaw date the body of the decapitated engineer, David tries to open the door. He eventually succeeds against the wishes of Shaw but it is too late. Inside, they find the decapitated head of the engineer and numerous stone cylinders all arranged in neat order. They also find a huge bust of a remarkably human like head. Most interestingly, they find few murals on the ceiling (which have a strange resemblance to a certain creature!). But, they soon realize that the murals are changing brought on by the change in atmosphere due to unlocking the door. Unbeknownst to Shaw and Holloway, David inspects one of the stone cylinders and finds out that it is leaking a black goo like organic substance. While Shaw and Ford procure the engineer’s head for analysis, David takes one of the cylinders with him and they finally make it to the ship after some dramatic moments thanks to a sand storm. In the meantime, both Fifield and Millburn bolted off on seeing the hologram and they are stuck in the structure.

Shaw examines the decapitated head – Prometheus Website

Alright, that completes the general description of events that happened during Prometheus’s first exploration of the structure. Now, let us put on our thinking caps and start analyzing the scenes in detail.

First, let us look into the hologram and the information that can be gleaned from it. David comes into contact with a greenish, mucous like substance and he immediately knows that he is onto something (He smells the substance, which seems to react with the environment and says, “Impressive”. It is also likely that the code for activating the hologram is stored in the substance).  He then “activates” the hologram.

Now, let us review this scene from a scientific standpoint. The first thing I wanna talk about is the information stored in the hologram. Holographic data (information) storage has been suggested as a high potential technology to store high-capacity data. Today, the area is dominated by magnetic and optical data storage. But the advantage with holographic storage is that it can be used to record and read millions of bits in parallel and the information can be recorded throughout the volume of the medium. Another plus point is the longevity of information. Currently it is estimated that it can result in maintaining the integrity of data stored somewhere between 50-100 years (although there are counterpoints). The fact that the engineers are a highly advanced race of beings, it is likely they have perfected the art of storage that can hold information for more than two thousand years.  OK, now what of the slimy substance that David touched. Theoretically, it could be some kind of organic photorefractive polymer composite. Basically, it could be some kind of organic holographic material that can generate 3-D hologram display. Although there are no commercially available organic refractive materials today, who knows what future holds. Again, the engineers are highly advanced than us, so it is likely they have perfected it as well. Since we realize later that the structure they are underneath is actually a spaceship, the walls of the corridor could be laced with this refractive material that would record and store information in case there’s an emergency. Once David throws the switch so to speak, the information stored is revealed in the form of a fairly detailed hologram.

The hologram shows a group of engineers running away from something. While we don’t know the fate of the rest of the engineers who we saw in the hologram, one of them is not so lucky. As he is about to enter a room, the door shuts down effectively decapitating his head. One thing is clear – the controlled atmosphere in the room is responsible for the black goo in the cylinders being dormant. Once David opened the door, the controls are gone and the room atmosphere changed. There’s also the case of human presence. As we saw, even the murals started changing due to the disturbance. At this juncture, I would like to revisit Alien. When Dallas, Lambert and Kane explore the spaceship, Kane finds a cave like structure and heads underneath. While down, he comments that the pit is completely enclosed and it’s full of leathery objects, like eggs or something. He then adds that there is a layer of mist covering them and it starts reacting….. and he falls down. Kane’s presence disturbs the environment and when he inspects one of the eggs we all know what happened (The fact that he could see movement inside the egg on close inspection could also mean that the facehugger employs a visual mechanism to detect a nearby presence of a host for attack). However detailed may the mechanism be, there is no denial of the fact that Kane disturbed the delicate balance.

Kane inspecting the pit hosting the eggs inside Derelict – Alien 1979.

Now, I would love to know what happened to the other engineers. May be they succumbed elsewhere as well.

In my next two-part post I would like to do a fairly detailed analysis of a couple of things that we encountered in the exploration sequences – the black substance oozing out of the cylinders and the strangely familiar mural.

Physics Nobel 2012

Haroche and Wineland – Nobel Physics Prize 2012

Talk about coincidence. To sort of kill my boredom, I was rereading Programming the Universe by Seth Lloyd and I found out that Serge Haroche from College de France and David Wineland from National Institute for Standards and Technology have won this year’s Nobel Prize in Physics. The Nobel citation states the award was for “ground-breaking experimental methods that enable measuring and manipulation of individual quantum systems”.

So, a second Nobel for Quantum Optics in seven years. My congratulations are in order for both Dr. Haroche and Dr. Wineland. The news motivates me even more to finish my write-up on Quantum Entanglement.

ケン・イシイ – Metropolitan-Harmonic-Formulas

Metropolitan Harmonic Formulas – Music For Daydreams

Sorry for having disappeared again. Before engaging myself in Prometheus, I wanted to talk a bit about music. Regular visitors of my blog know that I talk about my favorite musicians from time to time. I am a huge fan of Japanese Jazz and Electronic genre and I have talked about artists like Ken Ishii, Jazztronik, Nujabes and Kyoto Jazz Massive. When I was organizing my music collection recently, I realized that I should just put the word out about Ken Ishii’s album, Metropolitan Harmonic Formulas – Music for Daydreams that was released in February 2012. This album is one of a kind folks. It is probably one of the best albums that you would ever hear as far as crossover electronic music is concerned.

Ken Ishii

Jazztronik – Ryoto Nozaki

It features many of my favorite artists like, Jazztronik, Tokyo Black Star, Masaki Sakamoto and Emi Meyer. Ishii-san has always been a creative force and he has put together a wonderful combination. I love all the tracks. But, being a huge fan of Jazztronik’s early works, I have to say that my number one track in the album is After the Rainstorm remix featuring the soothing pianos of 野崎 良太 – Ryota Nozaki. Sadly, two more remixes of After the Rainstorm are not available in this album. You should get the Music for Daydreams EP for them. Honestly, if you are into this kind of music don’t think, just head to beatport or amazon and get both these albums. I promise, you won’t be disappointed.