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Paranoid Android: Walter and the synthetics of the Alien universe


Signing up for a Weyland-Yutani space mission involves a ton of blood money – as the ill-fated events of the Alien series show, your chances of survival are pretty slim.

New film Alien: Covenant takes place before the terrifying events of Alien, following on from Prometheus and introducing us to a fresh-faced crew on a mission to colonise a new planet. But as the chilling trailer demonstrates, something deadly is lurking on their new world...

Prometheus' android character David is set to return, played again by Michael Fassbender. He was left in a bad state when we last saw him: beheaded and carted off by Shaw (Noomi Rapace) to find the ‘engineers’. A recently-released bridging movie explained what happened with both characters in the wake of Prometheus' ending, and tees up Covenant perfectly. Check it out below.

will in fact offer two Michael Fassbenders for the price of one, as he also plays the new synthetic accompanying the Covenant mission, Walter. In an interview with Collider Fassbender hinted that he would be quite different saying, "Walter is very much a synthetic minus any of the human traits". Whether his intentions are good or bad and what happens when the two meet, we will have to wait to find out. Here's your intro to him.

An android with hidden motives is an essential in any Alien film. We all know that when you’re not fighting off acid-blooded Xenomorphs, you have the on-board synthetic to contend with. So to give us a clue of what we can expect from Walter, we're taking a look at the other synthetics of the series…

David (Prometheus)

David is the genesis of all the Alien synthetics (remember, he first appears in Prometheus, which appears first in the timeline) but was built for a specific purpose: to help ageing tycoon Weyland (Guy Pearce) meet his maker.

Harbouring an obsession with movie classic Lawrence of Arabia and modelling his looks on acting icon Peter O’Toole, David is imbued with a degree of human understanding, if not exactly compassion. After all, it's his actions (using the crew as test subjects) that ultimately lead to the creation of a new Xenomorph.

As mentioned, during the climax he escapes with Shaw and heads for the engineer’s homeworld. The short film 'The Crossing' fills in some of the gaps, but what happens when he arrives on their world whilst Shaw is still in stasis?

Fassbender says he "believes that idle hands are the devil’s work. But his interest in the way things work, his interest in creation, we could see that in Prometheus". Could David have been creating the very creatures that ultimately wreak havoc upon the Covenant crew?

Ash (Alien)

Androids are built to resemble humans, as David remarks in Prometheus: "I was designed like this because you are more comfortable interacting with your own kind."

In Ash’s case, no one knows he isn’t human until it’s too late. The ship's Medical Officer played by Ian Holm is the undercover company man, placed on-board to ensure the planet LV-426 is checked out. Breaking Ripley’s (Sigourney Weaver) quarantine orders, he allows the infected Kane (John Hurt) aboard (along with the facehugger) and we all know how that ends.

Ash’s orders are to return the species to the company with all crew expendable, a task he is never able to complete thanks to Ripley. He still gets the best line though, telling the survivors: "I can't lie to you about your chances, but... you have my sympathies." Holm is utterly chilling and brilliant in the role, signifying through subtle body language that there's something off with Ash right from the very start.

Bishop (Aliens)

After her run-in with Ash, Ripley can’t be blamed for being wary when she finds out Bishop (Lance Henriksen) is an "artificial person", in his own words.

It’s a concern that’s misplaced because, unlike his earlier counterpart, Bishop is built to protect humans: "It is impossible for me to harm or by omission of action, allow to be harmed, a human being”. That comes in handy whether he’s avoiding a marine's hand with his special knife trick or being integral to the survival of Ripley, Hicks (Michael Biehn) and Newt (Carrie Henn).

Bishop saves the three from the alien queen by piloting the Sulaco's ship remotely down to LV-426, getting our heroes off the planetoid before it explodes in an almighty nuclear fireball. Even when the queen rips him in half, Bishop still manages to help save Newt and restore Ripley’s faith in artificial intelligence at the same time.

Annalee Call (Alien: Resurrection)

By the time of Alien: Resurrection, which takes place several hundred years after the events of Alien, there has been quite an evolution both in terms of Ripley's character (by now she's a human/alien hybrid named Ripley 8) and also synthetics.

Call (Winona Ryder) takes her cue more from Ash than David or Bishop in the way she infiltrates a group of mercenaries aboard the Betty. Like Ash, they have no idea what she really is. Her goal is to stop the recreation of new xenomorphs by posing as an engineer (the monkey wrench kind, not the ones from Prometheus).

Part of the next generation of machines now called Autons she initially plans to kill Ripley 8 as she predicts she will be used to create more aliens. However she ultimately ends up becoming a staunch ally in Ripley's climactic fight against the Newborn.

We hope that Walter can prove as iconic as some of the past androids of the series but it’s just another reason to get hyped for 12th May when Alien: Covenant hits Cineworld.

Tom Nightingale is a writer who blogs for Cineworld as part of our news team.