They call it the “Space Jockey” because like a horse jockey it wasn’t the “pilot” of the Derelict, it was the individual riding it. The ship itself was alive, and sentient to the degree that a horse is sentient. You did not pilot “her” like an airplane, you guided her like one would a horse with cues or gestures. You spur her on when you want her to go fast and pull back on the reigns when you want her to slow down. But you aren’t flying her, you’re riding her, and the engines are a natural propulsion system like the legs of a horse, only their method of producing motion works in the vacuum of space. The creature/ship evolved that way, and pretty much flies herself following the gestures of its Jockey.
The particular creature/ship that the crew of the Nostromo encounter had been used as a weapons platform by whatever species the Jockey was part of to fight whatever war they were apparently losing. Their home world was a biomechanical world, the life forms which populated it part living organism and part machine. Their tools of war were also biomechanical in nature and they utilized the creature/ships in the same way men utilized horses to further their wars. At some point during their shared evolution the Jockey and its ship would be fused together, one the extension of the other.
Two living creatures physically fused together: The Jockey and its Ship.
Its function was to drop the alien egg spores into the atmospheres of target planets in whatever ageless war they were waging. The spores would use the local fauna to spawn a legion of hybrid creatures mutated by combing the host DNA with that of the spore creatures (FaceHugger) which would then attack the dominant species, eventually either absorbing or exterminating all other forms of life on the target planet. In theory one spore could be enough to wipe out an entire civilization. They were a doomsday weapon just as capable as annihilating the aggressor as their target.
For reasons unknown to us there was a problem with the cargo on the creature/ship found by the Nostromo crew. Or more accurately, the bomb bay holding the spores and usually quarantined from what would be considered the flight deck was breeched. A spore organism somehow got loose and the Jockey was infected. Realizing its imminent doom, the Jockey set course to purposefully crash the creature/ship into an out of the way solar body in a run-down part of the galaxy that nobody goes to anymore in a valiant but failed bid to contain its highly lethal payload.
The semi-sentient living ship landed itself after the Jockey had perished.
My narrative on what happens actually has the Jockey expiring before the planetfall. It’s intent was to destroy the creature/ship it was riding by flying it into the sun of the planetoid’s solar system, but after expiring the creature/ship landed itself more or less gently on the Planetoid visited by the Nostromo crew centuries later. And devoid of anyone to direct it back into orbit eventually either starved to death or passed away peacefully of old age after its internal systems had run down, becoming the Derelict found in ALIEN.
My reconstructed mission of the Nostromo away party on the surface of LV-421
Think of it as a single seater bomber craft which was alive and its rider having been surgically grafted to direct contact with its navigational controls. By the time the Nostromo crew discovered the remains they were long fossilized, but its cargo of weaponized biological replicating machines below dormant and ready to explode like a rusted old phosgene shell found in a farmer’s field outside of Verdun. All it took was one idiot with a climbing rig and another one dumb enough to be eager to lower themself into the Derelict’s hold and poke about. No wonder the Company chose the Nostromo to re-route.
Kane and Dallas, ALIEN's "Dumb" and "Dumber".
Please be advised that I’m just a painter from Syracuse and NONE of this is derived from ALIEN COVENANT or PROMETHEUS, neither which I have seen. I do not wish my memories of ALIEN sullied by the franchise-oriented retconning they rely upon to suggest another sequel. Greedo didn’t shoot first and I’m not interested in having ALIEN’s legacy messed with either, at least not in my mind’s eye, and you can’t unsee things.
More to come.