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?