“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:
- he survives an incredible blow to the head, and
- 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:
- he doesn’t bleed like a droid.
- he suffers from the lingering effects of pain, unlike other robots in the series (best seen in the assembly cut)
- the script definitively states that he is a human.
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.
BISHOP II: I am not a DROIDDDDD!!!!
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.”