Name this Sci-Fi trope (open spoilers for "Prometheus")

So I saw “Prometheus” the other day, and I while I didn’t love it, I thought it wasn’t a complete disaster of a sequel (the way, say “Alien Ressurection” was.) Anyway, one thing that did take me out of the film was a nagging little “trope” that I noticed. One that I’ve seen before in Sci-Fi films, but don’t have a name for it.

What bugged me was that the ship’s crew finds an alien settlement that’s clearly ancient and in disuse for a loooooooong time. The film seems to suggest that it hasn’t been used since the dawn of human life. The cave paintings that Noomi Rapace and her husband find suggest that the alien “engineers” were still there in human prehistory, but some time in the interim 35.000 years or so the Engineer settlement met with calamity when their living WMD turned on them. The buildings are so old that when the humans enter the room with the black ink, the very act of opening the door and entering the room disturbs the stagnant atmosphere so much that the walls visibly rot.

And yet, several times David activates the engineer’s machinery and it is in perfect working order! A mere touch of a button, or toot of a flute and dazzling holographic displays appear! One engineer is still alive in a stasis pod. I couldn’t help wondering what the hell kind of materials these engineers used for their technology that no entropic effects set in over the course of thousands of years. Eventually everything decays, even alien technology. And given that the rest of the settlement looks like ancient ruins, why then isn’t the holographic display system in disrepair?

After thinking about it, it occurred to me that it isn’t just a problem with this film. It’s a concept that goes back at least as far as “Forbidden Planet” - humans discover super-advanced technology of an alien race that died out thousands of years ago, technology that is in perfect working order despite sitting around for a millenia. Pretty much every other episode of “Star Trek” (any series!) involves this trope.

Yes, I tried looking it up on TV Tropes, but didn’t find what I’m looking for. But it seems so common in Sci-Fi that I can’t believe there isn’t already a name for it. Anybody know what it’s called?

Not a perfect match: Durable Death Trap.

In Working Order gives examples ranging from Total Recall (“the switch that vaporizes the frozen atmosphere of Mars fits nicely into a human palm, has no interlocks, and works immediately after a million years”) to Stargate (“any tech can be used as-is, even the titular piece of Lost Technology from The Ark of Truth, which was buried for about 50 million years”).

Ragnarok Proofing arguably comes closer to the exact example you had in mind (“The Space Jockey ship in Alien apparently had a transmitter that had been working constantly for however long it had been since the xenomorphs wiped out its crew, which was apparently long enough ago that the skeleton the Nostromo’s crew found had time to petrify”) and others (“In Empire of the East by Fred Saberhagen, set thousands of years After the End, the heroes search for a magic metal elephant to help them in the war. The elephant turns out to be a mostly operational nuclear-powered battle tank from before the nuclear holocaust. The armament is dead and the chemical-protective gear crumbles when touched, but the controls still light up, the engine roars, and none of the drive mechanism is broken. This is rare enough on a tank that hasn’t been maintained since last week.”) “Battlefield Earth is one of the worst offenders. The Earth has been taken over by aliens for a thousand years, and the characters escape into the ruins of Denver, Colorado. Not only are all of the buildings still standing, but books are still readable, computers still work, and military jets that should have crumbled into dust centuries ago are completely operational. And they have perfectly working jet fuel, which has a shelf life of 40 years. And as if that weren’t bad enough, the characters even encounter an abandoned shopping mall where frozen chickens can still be found in the supermarkets.”

You mean this?

I found this particular trope a lot less annoying than the one in the* Raiders of the Lost Ark* series - ancient, primitive technology that has enormous, perpetual, invisible energy sources.

Yea, it doesn’t bother me so much when advanced aliens can make their stuff last crazy long-periods of time. After all, they’re advanced aliens. But having ancient human cultures manage to make things last thousands of years takes a lot bigger suspension of disbelief.

Why is this a problem?

In Stargate they explicitly show that the naquada metal the gates and hand weapons are made out of is nearly indestructible, to the point of surviving a meteor impact and being thrown into a sun. They use a strange power source that is basically inexhaustible(some kind of fusion) and the computer systems are solid state crystals. What is going to break?

Stargate Universe showed us a automated ship millenia old, it was operational but had plenty of problems and they had trouble keeping life support on in only the small area of the massive ship the humans occupied.

Hell in real life Egypt and Greece and Italy there are thousands of years old human built structures still standing.

I have no problem imagining some sort of nanotech-based regenerating technology. Actually, I have no problem imagining it existing in our lifetime.

Arthur C Clarke’s story **The City and the Stars **had perfect machines. In this story, a perfect machine “has no moving parts.”

Also, in Star Trek’s The City on the Edge of Forever, The Guardian says: “A question! Since before your sun burned hot in space and before your race was born, I have awaited a question.”

If a civilization and their technology is advanced enough, then maybe they have figured out certain engineering obstacles. In Asimov’s The Last Question, the advanced technology (by then sentient) had even figured out a way to reverse entropy.

Maybe we should name (or rename) the trope to Entropy Reversal

Entropy-Proof sounds more accurate.

I don’t care what any of you say, I’m not clicking on any TV Trope link.

I gots stuff to do.

The Guardian was explicitly both technological and organic, AND somehow innately connected to time itself. Hardly surprising it could heal and repair or be somehow outside time and entrophy.

“I am both. And neither.”

So how do they craft it into stargates and laser pistols?

Same way you can’t turn concrete back into a liquid.