Literary Parallels: Alien Covenant – Leggatt and David 8


So tonight I was popping by the lovely blog The Nostromo Files and happened across this event

[Lambert assigned: Leggatt.] 29 Jan 2115: Lambert is assigned to Ridton Corp. salvage vessel as Navigator/ Comm Officer, under Captain Leigh.


Which got me thinking of the use of the character Leggatt and how he’d relate to David. Here’s some information about the book by Joseph Conrad(who inspired the names of the ships Nostromo and Sulaco, etc)

“The Secret Sharer” was published in 1910, and the story is based on an actual incident, with some of the facts altered to suit Conrad’s artistic purposes: In the 1880s, a mate aboard the Cutty Sark killed an insubordinate sailor during an altercation in which the insubordinate sailor eventually died. Like Leggatt, the killer who escapes punishment and befriends the story’s narrator, the murderer escaped his punishment by swimming to a new destiny. Conrad uses the story of a sailor to explore themes of great scope.


I couldn’t help but think about how David has done this to Shaw, killing her after piloting the ship to Planet 4. Resisting his plans he decides to do away with her and then happens upon the Covenant Crew and does the same to Daniels. Befriending her as Walter and gaining her trust to take over the ship and head off to Origae-6.

The Doppelganger Theme

Upon an initial reading, “The Secret Sharer” seems to be an old-fashioned tale of adventure on the sea. The story features a captain, his crew, a mysterious event, a murder, a near-disaster, and the saving of a ship. While “The Secret Sharer” is an adventure yarn, it also stands as a profound and often disquieting examination of every person’s dual nature and how each person must resolve this duality for the self to grow. Conrad’s use of the doppelganger theme — a character’s double or alter-ego — allows him to explore the dual nature of his protagonist, a young yet unsure captain assuming his first command.


In Ridley Scott’s case this exploration of duality in human nature is through the lens of the Androids and how they relate to their creators.

“The Secret Sharer” concerns a young captain who assumes command of his ship only a fortnight before the action of the story begins. Because of this, he is doubtful, untried, and feels himself at the mercy of a crew that while not mutinous or even hostile, slightly undermines the authority that a captain should possess if he is to truly command a ship as he sees fit. Like the skipper of the Sephora (the ship from which Leggatt escaped), the Captain worries over his reputation and the means by which he can preserve it during his first command. Because he lacks the courage and conviction needed to command a ship successfully, he stands as a well-meaning yet weak example of a typical captain. Once Leggatt appears from the depths of the sea — a possible symbol of the Captain’s unconscious desire to remedy his own weaknesses — the Captain’s personality begins to change.


As much as this relates to Oram coming into command of the Covenant a mere two weeks from Planet 4 and the crew supposedly directly disobeying orders because of the lack of respect they have for him. This also relates to Walter and his new role as partner to Daniels, he cannot relate to her in the ways she needs. In finding David and seeing the possibilities and chances to learn as revealed in the flute scene, Walter starts to become more like his twin as the story progresses.

His discovery of Leggatt changes the Captain in both obvious and subtle ways. Leggatt is, by definition, a killer who murdered an insolent sailor while simultaneously saving the Sephora during a terrible storm. While Leggatt did not intentionally kill the seaman, he is still a powerful and slightly sinister figure. Thus, Leggatt (a renegade from the law) represents the more brutal, irrational side of man, while the Captain represents the more civilized and refined one. Although the Captain thinks that a ship should be run in an orderly and straightforward fashion, Leggatt struck the insolent seaman because he would not assist him in repairing a sail. This is hardly an orderly action to take, but Leggatt felt no regard for rules and regulations when the lives of his fellow sailors were at stake during the storm, and the insolent seaman refused to cooperate in repairing the sail. The Captain, therefore, represents the more rational but timid side of humankind, while Leggatt represents the more irrational but brave side. Together, the Captain and Leggatt make up a perfect commander, and Conrad’s story tracks how Leggatt influences the Captain and by doing so, transforms him into the perfect commander.


Could there be a perfect balance of android not to be limited to be a slave and contain enough humanity not to become inherently evil because of commands or actions of a human being? I don’t think there has ever been anything close except for Call in Alien Resurrection or Bishop in Aliens(if you believe he had nothing to do with the Egg on the Sulaco)

Conrad’s use of the doppelganger theme invites the reader to consider his or her own duality and to struggle for a balance between the rational and irrational, the timid and bold, the public and private sides of his or her personality. According to “The Secret Sharer,” one’s personality is created through interacting with others who offer a glimpse into the part of oneself that one assumes he or she lacks, only to discover that it has been lying dormant, waiting to be released.


It makes me wonder if Walter could ever truly be gone, or is he self repaired on Planet 4. Biding his time, waiting to escape?


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