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