Spaceship in Prometheus


The spacecraft is an important setting in Ridley Scott’s Prometheus; it takes on a foreboding and dark presence and embodies many key characteristics of gothic spaces. Traditional gothic settings often contain medieval castles, dungeons, dark passages, ruins, shadows, etc. The spaceship in Prometheus contains many dark enclosures and secret passageways and becomes a complex maze in which both the crewmembers and film audience become lost. In one scene of the film, Elizabeth dizzily wanders through the tunnel-like corridors of the ship; these corridors are round and wide and seem to completely swallow her body in the shot. She eventually ends up in a secret room of the ship that she never knew existed and uncovers that Peter Weyland, long thought to be dead, is actually alive and hiding on the ship. In addition, the spaceship, like a monster, is not only one space but is actually a collection of disparate spaces and elements from different settings. The ship contains not only doors, hallways, beds, and kitchens from conventional homes, but also a high-tech bypass surgical device called the MedPod that belongs in a hospital and various decontamination and microscope rooms from virology labs; these are elements from spaces that do not really belong together outside the setting of the spaceship. Furthermore, each element in the spaceship contains a twist; the beds, for example, are actually cocoon-like hypersleep chambers in which the crewmembers are in a deep state of hibernation. When members are sleeping, their dreams and memories can actually be activated and observed by outsiders; the spaceship therefore holds the deepest fears and desires of all the people which inhabit it. Also, unlike a traditional home where the inhabitants have control and possession of things in their spaces, the spaceship seems to have possession and ownership of the people within it; for example, it has a camera and feed on all the travelers so everything that they see and do is reported back to the central control of ship. And while the ship is supposed to function as a safe haven from for the crew members in this dangerous expedition, it is ironically the space the mysterious black liquid is introduced to the crew, which unleashes subsequent chaos and destruction in the film. The ship is also supposed to serve as a border against any possible threatening non-human invaders on the foreign planet, or the “impure” or “pollution” according to Douglas. It must preserve order on the ship and reject any ambiguities that may threaten this order; however, it is actually the means by which borders are breached. The spaceship therefore becomes a space of oppression and danger rather than a space of safety and peace and a “home away from home” as it was intended.


Cuddon, J. A. The Penguin Dictionary of Literary Terms and Literary Theory. London: Penguin Books, 1991. Print.

“Discontinuity: Spaceships at the Abyss.” Science Fiction and the Two Cultures: Essays on Bridging the Gap Between the Sciences and the Humanities. Ed. Gary Westfahl and George Edgar. Jefferson: McFarland, 2009. 131-139. Print.

Douglass, Mary. Purity and Danger, an Analysis of Concepts of Pollution and Taboo. New York: Praeger Publishers, 1966. Print. An International Journal of the Humanities

Kosofsky, Eve. The Coherence of Gothic Conventions. New York: Arno Press, 1980. Print.

Vargish, Thomas. “Technology and Impotence in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.” War, Literature & the Arts: An International Journal of the Humanities 21.1/2 (2009):322-337. Print.


One response to “Spaceship in Prometheus

  1. I enjoyed reading your post and was initially drawn to it since both of our monstrous settings are related to science or technology. I like how you point out features, such as dreams and a lack of privacy, that make the spaceship a home where ownership is inverted. The effect of outsiders watching in and intruding on a dwelling definitely adds to a sense of vulnerability.

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