Debate: Bishop II, Man or Machine?

Bishop II and Weyland-Yutani’s ‘dog-catcher’ commandos.

“I play the man who created Bishop in his image, a guy actually much less human than his creature.”
~ Lance Henriksen, L’Ecranfantastique, 1992.

With the Fiorina Alien destroyed, Ripley and Morse stumble off the mobile gantry only to have a squad of Weyland-Yutani commandos close in on them. From their midst emerges a familiar figure. “You’re an android,” says Ripley, “same model as Bishop.” “No,” comes the response. “I’m very real.”

Another one of the Alien series’ biggest matters of debate is the identity of the mysterious Bishop II. The appearance of Charles Bishop Weyland in Paul Anderson’s Alien vs. Predator movie, and the recurrence of Bishop-based android figures throughout the expanded universe (Karl Bishop Weyland in Rebellion’s AVP), have popularised the idea that Alien 3‘s Bishop character is indeed robotic.

In the light of the Paul Anderson movie, Lance Henriksen stated: “They were leaving [Bishop II’s identity] open because they weren’t sure what they were going to do with me. But what I saw was that it was a more advanced model certainly. Again, I love the idea of the advanced models.” This retcons his earlier statements on the Alien 3 commentary, where he states that Bishop II made the Bishop androids in his image, in a paean to God’s work in Genesis.

“In the script it said Bishop I and II …  if you were going to build an android you’d build it in your own image. It’s like when you read the Bible – God made man in his own image.”
~ Lance Henriksen, Alien 3 commentary, 2003.

So is Bishop II human, or an android? He claims to be the designer of the Bishop model. The case for this man being an android, beyond Ripley’s suspicions, is that:

  1. he survives an incredible blow to the head, and
  2. Charles Bishop Weyland is a human character in Alien vs. Predator, played by Lance Henriksen. Ergo, Bishop II can’t be human.

Argument no. 2 is retroactive, since Alien vs. Predator was made a decade after Alien 3, and the decisions made by Paul W. Anderson have no bearing on earlier decisions made by Walter Hill, David Giler, and David Fincher. It’s hard to take too seriously, but many fans of the series may wish to do so.

The arguments against Bishop II being an android go as thus:

  1. he doesn’t bleed like a droid.
  2. he suffers from the lingering effects of pain, unlike other robots in the series (best seen in the assembly cut)
  3. the script definitively states that he is a human.
Bishop II concept art.

Bishop II concept art.

Concerning the latter point, there is not one version of the ever-changing Alien 3 script that depicts Bishop II as an android. Every one makes it clear that he is flesh and blood, without a synthetic bone in his body. In one early version, Morse hits him in the head with an axe. “Bishop II stands there frozen,” reads the script, “then turns to Morse, axe stuck in his head. No wires. No milk. Real blood.” Bishop II chokes out that he is not a droid – then dies. The Weyland-Yutani surgeon takes over his role, trying to convince Ripley to accompany them.

In another version of the ever-evolving script it is Golic, who has been spared until this point, who assaults Bishop II. The results are the same. Bishop bleeds, cries out, and dies. The final revised draft is different in details in that Bishop II does not die from his wounds, but he is clearly still human:

AARON: You fucking droid –!
And smashes Bishop II in the head.
Bishop II writhes on the floor. The troops fire on Aaron, shoot him down.
Bishop II turns.
No wires.
No milk.
Real blood.

Henriksen’s performance was truncated in the theatrical cut, making Bishop II seem more impervious to pain, but footage of him post-injury was restored to the assembly cut in 2003. He now, as he addresses Ripley, winces, grunts, and groans in agony, and tries to staunch his bleeding head.

In 1992 Henriksen complained that the scene maybe depicted him too ambiguously: “It’s hard to tell [that I’m human]. Bishop II gets clobbered on the head with a piece of steel. It almost takes my ear off. It opens the side of my head up, but I don’t die. They think I’m an android and they realise after they clobber me that I’m not an android. I’m a person, the guy who created Bishop.”

“When Lance gets hit in the head with this lead pipe, we had an appliance which showed his ear had become dislodged, as Fincher wanted to show that this is the real guy, and not a synthetic person.”
~ Tom Woodruff, Alien 3 commentary, 2003.

Lance, over at his facebook page in 2010, commented on the haphazard way the scene and character was put together, hinting that there was no real deep thought or conviction put into it: “There was some confusion at the moment of execution, makeup found an ear from Jack Nicholson, left after his Batman appearance, and used it on the flap of the skin wound, I think the unresolved questions adds to the entertainment, is he or is he not?” Henriksen finished by adding, “Fincher was content with the issue.” Earlier, in a 1992 issue of Starlog, Henriksen commented: “I get to play what’s left of Bishop, and I play Bishop II, his human creator.”

The enigmatic Bishop II.


Filed under Alien 3

7 responses to “Debate: Bishop II, Man or Machine?

  1. Matthew J. Spart

    The debate that refuses to die on AvP Galaxy. It reminds me of my own essay I wrote a few years ago on Alien Experience.

    Great article, Val!

  2. All AVP should be stricken from the records as irrelevant.

  3. Tim

    I agree with David’s comment above; it’s the same as the Expanded Universe in Star Wars. (i.e. most of it is junk and not relevant outside of milking the franchise for $$$ from fanboys).

    • taffysaur

      Word. Boba Fett was eaten by the Sarlacc and Emperor Palpatine died once + for all when Vader dropped him into the Death Star II reactor, and can’t nobody tell me otherwise.

  4. I agree with both David and Tim’s comments regarding AVP . . .

  5. Grimm

    While some fans may think that AVP was to milk the fanboys for more money (like Lucas with Episodes 1,2, and 3. Those movies sucked dirty monkey balls!) there is a simple thought as to how Bishop II could be human and still work in the expanded universe with AVP.


    If they cloned Ripley in the fourth movie then why couldn’t they do it with Wyland aka Bishop?!

    4 months pregnant with #2 and really enjoying the hell out of these movies again while my baby is kicking and moving inside of me. It ups the “scare” factor for someone who started out not liking this franchise at all. Just had to add my 2¢ as a fangirl.

    • Jesse

      The Star Wars Prequels have more in common with Fincher’s Alien3 than with Anderson’s AVP.
      Compare the ending montage of Revenge of the Sith to the ending shots/sequence in Alien3.
      Very similar artfulness and solemn sense of closure about them.


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