'Alien: Covenant': Everything We Learned About The Doomed Mission

The Xenomorph may be the star of the Alien movies, but let's face it: these movies wouldn't have much staying power if the humans they were tearing apart didn't make us care just a little bit. Sigourney Weaver's Ellen Ripley, the crew of the Nostromo, and the colonial marines on LV-426 aren't just victims – they're flesh-and-blood people we grow to love before they're so violently torn away from us.

Alien: Covenant follows in the footsteps of its predecessors by offering up a strong ensemble of actors for the slaughter: Katherine Waterston, Michael Fassbender, Danny McBride, Billy CrudupDemián Bichir, and more. And now, here's everything we learned about the doomed crew of the colony ship Covenant after visiting the set last year.

The Mission

Here's what you need to know about the basic set-up for Alien: Covenant. Ten years after the events of Prometheus, a human colony ship called the Covenant embarks on a journey to a distant planet, which the crew intends to establish as a new home via a lengthy terraforming process (what the LV-426 colonists were doing in Aliens). Every person on the ship is one half of a couple as part of a larger plan to, you know, keep the colony growing. The crew has been prepping for this mission for a year and everyone knows each other well – friendships and rivalries are already in full-swing when the film begins.

Deep into their mission, the crew is awakened from their cryogenic sleep pods by a mysterious distress signal that is human in origin. That signal leads them to another planet, a paradise that looks far more appealing than their initial destination. And then they do not peacefully settle on that planet and do not happily establish a colony because this is a movie with Alien in the title.

Alien Covenant Trailer

Daniels (Katherine Waterston)

The chief terraformist on board the Covenant and third-in-command of the crew, Daniels is in charge of an entire wing of the ship dedicated to greenhouses, farming equipment, and machinery necessary to transform an alien planet into a home. Her work on this project began ten years earlier, long before the colonization mission was even in the works.

Daniels is played by Inherent Vice and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them star Katherine Waterston, who says of her character: "She's very smart, she's good at her job, she likes her job, and she's a worker." In true cinematic fashion, she doesn't begin the movie as a hero, but discovers that's she's good in a crisis. "She doesn't start walking around knowing she can kick ass," Waterston explains, "She starts to discover her strength and her courage as the circumstances present themselves."

While Waterston dodges any direct comparisons to Sigourney Weaver's Ripley, she says that both characters are united by "really good instincts." Cryptically, Waterston notes that her third-in-command status changes at the film goes on.

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Captain Jacob (James Franco)

We know very little about Captain Jacob – on the day of the set visit, we didn't even know that he was going to be played by James Franco. However, we did learn that his first name is Jacob, that he's in a relationship with Daniels, and that every member of the cast was apparently under strict orders to not share any details about him.

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One of the more left-field decisions in Alien: Covenant is the casting of Eastbound and Down star Danny McBride as Tennessee, the chief engineer of the Covenant. While the recently released prologue short revealed him to be cut from a similar cloth as McBride's typical onscreen persona (loud, fun-loving, and slightly obnoxious), the set visit made it very clear that he's not a total goofball or even straightforward comic relief. In fact, we know that he's involved in at least one major set piece where he dons a massive metal spacesuit for a spacewalk.

Waterston notes that Daniels is close to Tennessee, saying of McBride, "He's actually quite moving in this film too, and so totally gifted." She immediately followed this up by referencing how the original Alien made you love Harry Dean Stanton before brutally killing him off, so take from that what you will.

Oram (Billy Crudup)

The Covenant's first mate and chief science officer is Billy Crudup's Christopher Oram and he does not get along with the rest of the crew...especially Daniels and the Captain. "They have a rather contentious relationship," Crudup says, "He's someone who struggles with his ideas of faith as a man of science and I think that complication alienates him from people." Raised in a Pentecostal home, Oram is very serious, lacks a sense of humor, and believes that his participation on the Covenant mission is "an act of providence." He may be a scientist, but he believes in a higher power and hopes this mission will bring him closer to God.

Oram's beliefs drive a wedge between him and the rest of the crew, including Walter, the android played by Michael Fassbender. "That's an act of man and that's an act hubris, particularly to create it in the image of a human being," Crudup says of his character's reaction to artificial life. He views Walter as a tool and nothing more.

But what about alien life? "My suspicion," Crudup says, "Were it not the life forms he encountered here, he would be quite thrilled at the breadth of God's creation."

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Sergeant Lope (Demián Bichir)

The Hateful Eight star Demián Bichir plays Sergeant Lope, the head of the military security on the Covenant expedition and the man tasked with keeping the scientists and other colonists safe. "We don't know what we will find on this planet until we find it," Bichir explains. Lope is an "old-school military type" who knows that there's a strong chance he won't survive the mission. "A lot of cops and military go out there without knowing if they're going to make it back," he says. "That's what makes you stronger, that's what makes you braver and smarter and you will be awake because you're not afraid to die."

Like everyone else on board the Covenant, Lope is part of a couple. And because this is the future and people have grown a little more accepting and open-minded, Lope's partner is Hallet (Nathaniel Rosenthal), a fellow soldier. "For me, that's a beautiful side of the story," Bichir says, "When you can have these two almost iconic macho types being together and loving each other and being a part of keeping everyone alive." By all accounts, Alien: Covenant does not make a big deal out of their relationship, instead presenting it as something everyone just accepts. Vicious aliens aside, this future is looking a little bright.

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Walter and David (Michael Fassbender)

Michael Fassbender plays two "artificial people" in Alien: Covenant: Walter, a new android who works as part of the Covenant's crew, and David, the malicious android who managed to survive the events of Prometheus. And while they're made from the same mold, they couldn't be more different when it comes to personality.

"Walter is just a very straightforward, logical synthetic," Fassbender says. "He's more like a Leonard Nimoy/Mr. Spock-type character." It seems that the human qualities of the David 8 series left people uncomfortable, especially the displays of ego, vanity, and pride. This lead to the Walter model, which lacks human qualities altogether. "He's like a very efficient butler/bodyguard/technician," Fassbender adds. "He's just solely there for the purpose of the ship and the crew."

Waterston says that Daniels considers Walter a friend, even though she's well-aware that it's ridiculous to befriend an android. Fassbender says that Walter can acknowledge her friendship, but it means nothing to him.

But what about David? Fassbender declined to explain exactly what he's has been up to, but he did offer this much: "It's been ten years since we last saw him, without any maintenance. So those human qualities have sort of gathered momentum a little bit, I suppose. They're as much a part of him now as his synthetic qualities." After meeting his creator, Peter Weyland, in Prometheus, Fassbender says that David has "moved on," a comment he follows with a cryptic chuckle.

But how does David view Walter? "I think he sees him as kin in a way," Fassbender says. "Perhaps a student, a younger brother."


Alien: Covenant is set to open on May 19, 2017.