In the beginning of the Alien: Covenant movie, a group of colonists from the main ship make a landing on an unknown planet, which they found out accidentally after ship has been bombarded by an unknown wave from a star collapse and what bothers me, is that they don't wear any spacesuits, any protective gear, any air filter systems, just nothing.

Is that really the way future space expeditions gonna explore new possible planets presumed as possible habitable homes for humanity?

Every 5th grader knows, from the biology school lessons, that water, air, and even earth itself contains and gives life to a thousands of viruses, bacteria, and microorganisms.

You can breathe in bacteria, or virus, and be dead in a seconds.

Do film makers really suppose we will take it as realistic depiction of extraterrestrial expedition?

Reality check just screams out loud.

What do you think can be their motivation for such a decision?

  • 3
    Just because it's not explained in the film doesn't mean that they don't do tests to screen the atmosphere before they go onto the planet. If something's generally so common place, they don't necessarily show it on screen... there's simply not enough time. Or do you also think that no one in movies goes to the bathroom?
    – Catija
    Commented May 22, 2017 at 19:22
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    @Catija but that's just common sense. Atmosphere screening is done with ship on-board equipment based on principles of radiometry, and it's done from the orbit, and it definitely can't detect dangerous microorganisms or deadly bacteria, or other organisms which can cause severe health damage. It can only be done when actually landing to a planet and taking probes of air, earth, and water with a drone. Only after that it may be "safe" to explore the planet, and even after that wearing a protective suit is highly advisable, I guess. Crew actions is plain stupid and unjustified.
    – PaulD
    Commented May 22, 2017 at 19:33
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    @Catija Interesting article about Earth parasites: planetdeadly.com/human/disgusting-human-parasites/2 If our own homeworld contains such deadly and often invisible to naked eye organisms, it seems logical to propose they can meet something like that or even deadlier on the new planet they are going to explore.
    – PaulD
    Commented May 22, 2017 at 19:40
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    @Catija that's what I call a "balance" in science fiction and fiction in general. What story would you find more appealing to yourself, a complete nonsense or really thorough history which actually pays attention to details? That what differs trash movies form a really good ones. Of course, it's fiction, and authors must make some assumptions, but they can't be totally frivolous, otherwise story will turn into absurd.
    – PaulD
    Commented May 22, 2017 at 20:35
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    @Catija: Your points here are seriously wrong-headed. Firstly, according to you, we should answer all questions on M&TV with ""because it's a movie." Secondly, "most people don't think about it" doesn't work when it's a MAJOR plot point. If they had taken even rudimentary precautions, such as wearing breathing masks, then much of this movie couldn't have happened. Thirdly, you say that they did tests off-screen. What? Then how did all that bad stuff happen?!?
    – aryxus
    Commented May 30, 2017 at 18:23

4 Answers 4


In a comparative manner of speaking, when we look back at the expedition team in Prometheus, they removed their helmets as soon as they found the air to be breathable, without explicitly screening for pathogens.

Ford: Jesus. The sunlight is heating the water. Check out the humidity.

Charlie: Yeah, look at the CO2 levels. Outside it's completely toxic, and in here there's nothing. It's breathable.

Elizabeth: What are you doing? Charlie don't be an idiot.

Charlie: Hey don't be a skeptic. Right, there's something generating an atmosphere. David?

David: Dr. Holloway is correct.

Ford: Cleaner than Earth actually.

Charlie: They were terraforming here.

Elizabeth: Please don't do...

Charlie: I'm not wearing this thing anymore.

If this is how experts act like in the new Alien universe, a civilian team is naturally less prudent with safety.

However, Ford (the medic) did use the phrase "cleaner than Earth", and Charlie did check his instruments before removing his helmet. So giving them the benefit of doubt, we may assume their instruments screen for toxins and pathogens automatically, in addition to atmospheric composition.

Fast-forward to Alien: Covenant.

Soon after they arrived at the planet:

Ricks: Tox level within tolerances.

Right after they have landed:

Mother: Confirming atmospheric composition. Oxygen 19.5%. Nitrogen 79.4%. Barometric pressure 15.4 Psi.

And... they opened the door.

That's pretty much it.

But in "Prologue: Last Supper" when the crew was toasting before cryo, Daniels mentioned that Covenant was the first ever large-scale colonization mission to come this far into our galaxy. This implied that there were likely to be smaller scale colonization missions previously, since a moment earlier Rosenthal said:

I heard about these crazy bugs just outside this colonial post. Apparently they look like cockroaches the size of a giant poodle.

So humanity have encountered alien life before. Thus it is safe to assume that they are aware of alien pathogens and there are protocols in place to deal with alien lifeforms. For instance, there is a Med Bay in the Lander and there are quarantine protocols to handle such infections... after they've been exposed, instead of prevention. After all, chances that alien pathogens being compatible with human physiology, are slim.

Aside from in-universe explanations, removing helmets is an often-used artistic license just like doctors not wearing masks in films, to let the audience better see the face of the characters. Alien: Covenant is a survival horror movie, a science fiction, but not science documentary. Try not to pay too much attention to these things and enjoy the movie!

  • I guess you right, probably I should just relax and enjoy the movie, and I actually connived such things in Prometheus, whereas everybody was screaming "nonsense", now I just can't bear that anymore.
    – PaulD
    Commented May 22, 2017 at 20:37
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    Yeah, I hated that moment in Prometheus. All they needed was 2 seconds for a line saying they didn't detect anything harmful in the air. But then, everything in that movie is scientists being morons.
    – sirjonsnow
    Commented May 23, 2017 at 12:31
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    I don't think "pay no attention and enjoy the movie" is compelling advice when the inhalation of a deadly alien substance shortly after the helmet removal is a major plot point.
    – ArrowCase
    Commented Sep 5, 2017 at 17:10
  • Ummm.... yeah, Charlie removed his helmet as was told he was an idiot for doing so, so it's not just about whether the air mix was breathable, and clearly there weren't instrument readings saying it was fine, or others would have seen that as well and not reacted. I don't think that example really supports the case - it undermines it, in my mind. Not worth a down-vote or anything, just how I interpreted that. Commented Sep 7, 2017 at 14:36

Suspension of disbelief.

Simply put, it is called suspension of disbelief, where one is expected

to suspend one's critical faculties and believe the unbelievable; sacrifice of realism and logic for the sake of enjoyment.

In-universe, you can claim that their equipment could scan for pathogens, bacteria, virus, but those need not be permanently present to be dangerous. They could get triggered (as they did in the film), they can have a life cycle (be nocturnal, for example), they can move around (carried by wind).

Logically, it is an insanely stupid idea to remove protective gear in unknown environments. However, if we could hardly see their expressions throughout the whole movie due to them having helmets, we wouldn't appreciate their acting so much. Also, the plot would have to be quite different as well (no early on-set attacks to drive the plot forward!).

  • But it's considered a flaw when the required suspension of disbelief extends to accepting "an insanely stupid idea," isn't it? Commented Sep 7, 2017 at 14:37
  • I believe so, yeah. The director disagrees :p
    – BlueMoon93
    Commented Sep 7, 2017 at 15:44
  • Yeah.... as they are one by one keeling over and dying grotesquely, I'm thinking "Well.... what the hell did you expect, moron?" Kind of irritating, but hey, few movies are perfect. Commented Sep 7, 2017 at 15:49

Here is a simple answer:

Actors can have clear domed helmets to allow viewers to see their acting. Sharp objects can tear a space suit or the aliens can tear or use acid to penetrate a suit. No reason to make the protagonists into idiots just to get them infected.

Once one is infected they would have a quarantine procedure that they would have to follow and not be like hey we are in a hurry lets all get infected. Once again a good writer would come up with a plot device to have the infection overcome their quarantine.

Sadly most Hollywood pictures pay little attention to their writers and end up letting directors run mayhem with the plot just because they are focused on their visuals and not on a believable plot.


I disagree with people saying "if they had helmets on we couldn't see the actors faces". I recently re-watched "The Martian". In that movie they had helmets on at ALL times when outside of a habitat or vehicle. All they did was make it a big glass dome with lights inside to see the actors faces. In reality there was no helmet, it was added in during post-production so there were no reflections of green screens and camera crews.

Of course there is some suspension of disbelief. For me that is ignoring the fact that intergalactic space travel to an alien planet with black alien spores on it is happening 80 years from now.

A short dialogue about scanning the air and then agreeing it's safe to not wear a helmet would of been enough for me. To not even include that shows a disrespect for the audiences intelligence and lazy writing.

It's hard to ignore the big things if the little things aren't believable.

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