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 AKA BLACK OIL
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.
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.
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/Purity – The 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