Category Archives: Alien 3

Alien 3: I Was There!


From Empire magazine, September 1992.

Among the many British crew members working on Alien 3 was a highly experienced special effects technician from London. Understandably wishing to remain anonymous, here he gives an exclusive behind-the-scenes report on the complex, challenging and at times entirely rudderless production that was Alien 3

Alien 3 was a very silly movie to work on. It had already been going for four months by the time I started, and they hadn’t even begun thinking about making the Alien. The script wasn’t even finished by that point, and I don’t think there was a director either. All there was was a bunch of models of the characters that were going to die – the Alien didn’t get made until five or six months later. In fact, the Alien was the last thing to be considered out of all the effects.

On my first day, they weren’t even sure what the Alien was going to look like – there were all kinds of different drafts of the script, and at one point it was a glass planet so they were talking about having a glass Alien, and then it was going to be all wood and they were talking about having a wooden Alien because it was supposed to adapt to its surroundings.

They had done the facehugger which you see at the beginning of the film, because that was the thing they were least worried about. There was another super-facehugger, a clear one, that took us about three months to make, on and off; that was kicked out just after we’d finished it. We also built a huge ox that the Alien burst out of, but David Fincher didn’t like that. Eventually they went back to America and reshot it anyway; now it’s a dog. It was a colossal waste of money.

The original Alien had these kind of pipes sticking out the back that took it away from just being a man in a rubber suit, but creature designers Alec (Gillis) and Tom (Woodruff) hated them, so we left them off. The very first day we took our Alien on set, Fincher said, ‘Where are the stove pipe things on the back?’ so he had us make some foam ones and glue them on. We made them overnight and they were strapped on with string –this is on a multi-million dollar movie– and when we got on set with them he just said, ‘Take them off’. It was extraordinary.

We were a bit worried about him, to be honest, because nobody knew who he was. We knew he’d directed Madonna videos but none of us were particularly impressed by that, funnily enough. He was just allowed to film and film and film, no one was ever there to tell him to stop, but surely once you’ve done 20 takes, you must have something? I guess maybe Sigourney Weaver had something to do with it because she also wanted everything to be perfect.


The way it worked was that we’d start making something for the film and it would be written out, so we’d stop making it. Then it would be back in again, so we’d start making it again – the same thing happened with the sets. (Special effects supervisor) George Gibbs reportedly built this huge set for the ending of the film on the 007 stage at Pinewood, and they changed one aspect of the script so he had to tear it down and start again.

We also spent a huge amount of time and money making an Alien suit and some other guys did the same, making an alien puppet, and the two things just don’t match up, they don’t look like the same Alien. Again, that was because it got to the stage where it just had to be done, so consequently they don’t look like each other in the final movie.

The return of Bishop (the android played by Lance Henriksen) –or Bosh-up as he was called on the set– was a disaster. The one in the final film was redone later in America, but we produced one for our very first day on set with Fincher. He’d already got a reputation for being very short-tempered, and we’d stayed up for two nights trying to get this thing to work. We knew it wasn’t going to, we knew it was a temporary thing, and we went on set in front of Sigourney Weaver and did six takes – with each take it did less, with each take something else would break.

Sigourney thought it was great because she thought it was meant to be malfunctioning anyway, but Fincher went through the roof. We knew that was going to be the first effect shot and we knew it was a pile of shit and Fincher was very, very worried that everything else wasn’t going to work either. He balled us out quite often; when we took something on set for the first time, he’d say, ‘What the hell is this? It looks like a joke.’

I suppose you can’t really blame him, you’ve got to blame the people who want to make a film without having a script to start with. You’ve got to blame Sigourney Weaver to a certain extent, too, for having too many fingers in the pie. From what I was told she had a lot to do with the script; she was the one who didn’t want there to be any guns in the film, she was the one who decided to have the love scene. There was no reason for it other than she decided Ripley had to get into bed with someone.

At the end of the film, there were still lots of shots that hadn’t been done, with all the things that had been left out being vitally important to the story. In fact, from where I was standing, at one point it looked as though they were seriously thinking about writing the whole thing off.

Perhaps that would have been for the best…

For another peek behind Alien 3’s curtain, I highly suggest reading Ralph Brown’s account of his time filming the role of Aaron ’85’ at his blog here.


Filed under Alien 3

1992 Fan Response to Alien³


Alien 3 may as well have been dead on arrival. Despite encouraging box office results outside of the US, the film received a lashing not only from professional critics but from fans as well, precipitating a particularly nasty brand of bad feeling that continues to this day. The subsequent articles and documentaries covering its troubled production often feel like an autopsy, as the film’s crew and cast try to deduce which of the film’s various wounds finally killed it.

Starlog issues #182-184 were deluged with letters from fans who felt let down and outright insulted by the film. The magazine had maintained secrecy over the film’s plot and many readers went into the theater not knowing what they were in for.

Passionate letters ensued, pretty much all of which appeared under the telling header: ‘Alienated’.

Issue 182 (September 1992)


There was only one letter of complaint in this issue, though the fanpage comic strips were already beginning to mock the decision-making processes of Fox executives.

…Watching sequels is an experience that constantly changes – there are sequels that work (Aliens), the sequels that don’t (Robocop 2), and the ones that fall somewhere in the middle, ambitious attempts at improving on the concepts of their predecessors but lacking a certain something that makes them ultimately unsatisfying. Such is the case with Alien 3, a misconceived and often choppy third installment. Director David Fincher starts off the movie well, using unusual camera angles and stunning production design to establish the set-up of the picture, with Ripley crashlanding on a prison planet filled with rapists, murderers and other assorted stock characters who have become involved in their own religious cult. This leads to numerous undeveloped subplots (one needless scene of ‘sexual tension’, ties with religion never fully established) most likely attributed to the film’s well-reported script rewrites.

After 30 minutes of sequences that both provide plot for this film and a funeral for the dead characters left over from Aliens, Alien 3 goes very wrong very quickly. Fincher goes from a lengthy introduction to the prison and one particular character (Charles Dance) to Dance’s demise to lots of running around in the dark with flashlights attempting to destroy the Alien in the prison’s furnace. In the middle of all of this is a laughable subplot with Ripley becoming ‘pregnant’ with the next Queen Alien, leading to one unforgettable, unintentionally funny sequence with Sigourney Weaver going down into the prison’s basement to get killed by the Alien, spouting out lines like ‘Come on!!… after all, I’m one of the family.’ This brings up numerous logistical problems inconsistent with the other Alien films. How can Ripley get infected  by the Alien and still be able to live for such a long period of time, especially when the dog in the movie gets infected and dies from its Alien in a matter of hours?

There’s no need to go on, for the movie has other problems that have nothing to do with the previous picture. Fincher seems to have gone from point A to point B to point D — there’s no pacing in this picture at all, and no character development of any of the prisoners, which is a big problem in that the final chase scene depends on the audience’s knowledge of who all these convicts are. The audience that I saw the movie with thought the final climatic scene, with the prisoners running from the Alien trying to cut it off, was much more enjoyable for unintended laughs rather than suspense. And those well-reported six seconds of added FX at the end really improved the picture overall — couldn’t the producers have used that money for the script, which is a muddled mess of a hundred ideas from countless writers who worked on this picture?

One interesting problem is the editing — an early NY Times piece running time for the movie was 135 minutes, yet the final cut was under two hours. There was scenes talked about (Weaver’s sex scene, the bugs running through her hair) and scenes from the trailer (a prisoner walking outside the colony during daylight) that weren’t in the movie — all of which adds up to pre-release cutting. But whatever material was cut couldn’t save one factor in Alien 3, which is suspense, or in this case, lack of it. Fincher’s music-video style (complete with occasionally rock-synthesised music by Elliot Goldenthal) sure is flashy, but it doesn’t deliver the scares. The whole project seems to have been misguided and tired, for the Alien in this picture seems to have been inspired by the rip-offs of the Alien movies and not by its actual predecessors. And that’s the bottom line of Alien 3. Another sequel that not only doesn’t measure up to its predecessors, but fails in its own right to deliver the kind of surprise that a film like this so desperately needs.
Andy Dursin,
Glocester, RI.

Issue 183 (October 1992)


The next issue saw a deluge of reader mail, with Alien 3 occupying the entirety of the letters pages – all four of them.

Common complaints included the swift killing of Aliens’ surviving characters, the bleak tone, the splatterhouse approach to gore, plot holes and retcons -some perceived, some legitimate-, the underdeveloped characters, and even David Fincher’s direction.

…I just saw Alien 3, and I would like to say that I was deeply saddened and very disappointed. I love SF because it is an escape from everyday troubles. There is enough pain and misery in this world. Why put it on film? Movies should be entertaining and at least leave you with the hope that the characters you have grown to love through the years don’t end up dead in a horrible fashion.

The scenes that troubled me the most in the film were Newt’s autopsy, Hicks’ death and Bishop’s sad remains joking with Ripley and then begging her to unplug him. And finally, Ripley’s death. I wish I could say that it didn’t bother me, but it did,  and I think it will affect many people. As a true SF fan, I was saddened by such a hard and sobering view of life in the last of the Alien trilogy.
Mark A. Kaufman,
Address Withheld.

…I could not believe my eyes! After watching the first two minutes, I was so mad I almost stood up and walked out of the theater. How could they take the amazing story of Aliens and destroy it? Right now, I’m just pretending I never saw the movie, and Ripley, Hicks, Newt and Bishop are still in hypersleep on their way to Earth, instead of all dead!!!

It is so infuriating that the surviving cast from Aliens, who fought against unstoppable creatures and won, who escaped death in their darkest hour, who, by the exceptional direction of James Cameron, were living, breathing characters, are just plain dead! What a useless excuse for a plotline! Kill off Newt, Hicks and Bishop, just like that. And impregnate Ripley with a Queen Alien. Perfect. How much worse could the movie’s plot be? Not much. I’m sure James Cameron is laughing right now, laughing at the fact his movie is a thousand times better than Alien 3. The only thing I kind of liked about Alien 3 was the Alien P.O.V. shots. But even that has a plot hole right through it, as Aliens don’t have eyes! They use a type of radar sense!

And what a horrible way for Ripley to die. An Alien Queen bursts from her chest before she hits molten steel; hey, do I hear T2 bells chiming? What a complete rip-off of Terminator 2′s end sequence: Main character dies in orange-glowing molten steel. Give me a break!
Godfrey C. Pflugbeil
Toronto, Canada.

Alien 3 was a good movie, but at the same time, disappointing.  It just didn’t measure up to the lofty standards set by its predecessors. In Alien and Aliens, the Aliens attacked and killed their victims (when not using them as hosts) with lethal speed, inner jaw parts swiftly ending the doomed humans’ suffering. In Alien 3 however, the Alien often ‘chews’ on its prey while they’re still alive and screaming, rather than striking and ending their lives quickly. This is not because it is not strong enough to do so, because it kills Clemens and a few of the prisoners quickly, as in the previous films. But overall, most of Alien 3′s characters die kicking and hollering as the Alien eats them alive. Dillon was killed near the movie’s end, yelling at the creature to fight harder and asking it if that was ‘as hard as you can bite’. I suspect this was a cheap ploy thrown in by the filmmakers to add to the film’s horror. Actually, it detracts from the slick, deadly charisma surrounding the Alien.

Finally, the idea of the prisoners outrunning the Alien (when they use themselves as bait to lure the creature into the piston tunnel near the movie’s end) is ridiculous. As fast as that Alien moved, the convicts wouldn’t have a chance.

There were other minor problems, such as the Alien surviving the barrage of molten lead, and the evident fakery of the Alien Queen bursting from Ripley’s chest, but overall I enjoyed the movie the second time I watched it, my initial disappointment out of the way. There were some fantastic scenes as well, most notably the Alien chestburster’s birth from the dog, the prisoner falling into the gigantic fan and Clemens’ death. I also found Dillon, Charles S. Dutton’s character, to be intriguing and extremely well done. Sigourney Weaver, as usual, turns in a formidable performance as Ripley and first-time director David Fincher does a good job, creating a very dark and at times, genuinely scary feature debut.

Unfortunately, these good points do not prevent Alien 3 from joining the likes of Predator 2 and Robocop 2 as sequels unworthy of following their predecessors.
Matt Nunan,
Myrtle Point, OR.

Never have I seen a more thoroughly offensive motion picture than Alien 3. Not only is it fraught with glaring inconsistencies with the first two films, but we are deluged with endless scenes of screamed profanity and relentless gore that completely redefine ‘gratuitous’. While its predecessors left its audience with a creepy fascination that stayed with you long after leaving the theater, Alien 3 merely lingers like a bad virus.

Utterly missing is any of Ridley Scott’s meticulous craftmanship. Nor are we treated to anything resembling James Cameron’s  carefully orchestrated rollercoaster rides. What is dumped on us though are annoying confusing intercuts with inaudibly soft dialogue juxtaposed against a cacophony of yelling prisoners, thundering sound effects and loud music. We are carelessly thrown around this sludge-infested planet by David Fincher’s dizzying, awkward camera work, and splattered with bottomless buckets of blood. The close-ups of hypodermic needles puncturing skin, the ridiculously drawn-out autopsy scene, the sickening throes of an inmate’s beloved dog and the relentless series of gruesome murders overwhelmed even the teenage gore freaks which populated our audience.

Bad direction, however, might have been overlooked, since Fincher is completely inexperienced in filmmaking; but what is utterly inexcusable is the script! Character development was so badly lacking that only a pitiful few of the 20-odd people were given any individual personalities of their own (the rest were just a crowd of bald Brits); but just when a bit of insight was revealed about someone, he would be ripped to shreds and lose his meager importance anyway. Clever dialogue was jettisoned in favor of shouted vulgarities (and these guys were supposed to comprise a fundamental Christian cult?) And lest we forget Ripley herself…

She knew (or strongly suspected) her old nemesis was roaming about  the prison, but how did she react? By simply parking her bottom in the doctor’s office, afraid to tell him for fear of being labelled crazy? Come on, now! Is this the gal who ran through the Nostromo’s corridors and blew the monster out of an airlock? The same feisty lady who charged an armoured personel carrier through walls of metal to rescue Marines from an onslaught of creatures? The same beloved heroine who became a walking armoury to save one little girl from the clutches of a beast? No. This ‘new’ Ripley is a stranger.

No new insights on teh Aliens themselves were revealed to us, either. Instead, our scriptwriters convieneintly ignored what had been established in the earlier stories and went their own way. Since when did facehuggers leave marks on their victims?  And while there was seemingly one aboard the Sulaco, two impregnations resulted: Ripley’s and the dog’s; yet it had been concluded before that there could only be one per creature.

Also, Ripley apparently hosted an Alien for days on end while in other victims, this incubation period was considerably  shorter. Perhaps this was attributed to her infestation’s being a larval queen, but once more, no explanation was offered.

And how dare they kill off the gutsiest heroine in film history! They’ve earned the wrath of legions of loyal fans everywhere,. Ripley deserved much beter than to die an agonising death, and we don’t want to have to remember her this way. She is a survivor.

I have yet to meet anyone who liked this film, and I’ve already spoken with dozens of people. We are all thoroughly disgusted with it. Since the 20th Century Fox executives had a guranteed hit with another Alien movie, it seems they just didn’t bother with a good script or a capable director.

But the news is quickly getting around. Word of mouth is one of the most effective means of advertising a good film: conversely, it can send the box-office receipts plummeting on a bad flick such as this one. I nly hope word gets out fast enough.
B. F. Simon,
Address Withheld.

Issue 184 (November 1992)


People were still not ready to move on: this issue’s front page header read ‘Why Readers Despised Alien 3’, which was, again, the main focus of the letters pages, and the letters themselves appeared under the rather exhausted tag ‘Still Alienated, Alas’.

…I have been a fan of Starlog since issue #1. Since Starlog covers my type of movie, I thought that this would be a good place to express an opinion. Since Alien, Ripley has been a survivor and a heroine. In Alien 3, they at least let her keep her heroine part of her persona. This is not true of Newt.

In Aliens, Newt is definitely a survivor, since she was able to stay alive for weeks against the bad guys. To just kill her off in the new movie makes it B quality. It reminded me of Friday the 13th movies where the heroine would survive the whole movie just to be killed off in the first few minutes of the next. I realise that the actress who played Newt, Carrie Henn, has probably grown up quite a bit, but this could have been dealt with by just placing the timeline up a few years. If Alien 3 had followed Alien, I could have accepted it as a fair sequel. Newt, in my opinion, made Aliens what it was – a fantastic movie with a great story.

Alien 3 is just one of those bad dreams Ripley had in hypersleep. Newt and Hicks are still alive and having a wonderful life. I think we all could have lived just fine without Alien 3.
Gregory Young,
Las Vegas.

Alien 3 is one of the worst pieces of trash I have ever seen. As a fan of the previous two Alien outings, I was downright offended by this insult to Ridley Scott and James Cameron’s visions and the blatant attempt on behalf of the film’s producers to capitalise on the success of the Alien series without any decent attempt to make a decent third chapter. There are so many things wrong with Alien 3 (what’s the deal with the raised 3 anyway? Is it supposed to be Alien Three or Alien Cubed?) that it could be shown in filmmaking 101 classes across the world as an example of how not to make a movie.

The screenplay is a garbled mess. However, this is no surprise, considering it went through 27 writers. I also didn’t like how Hicks and Newt were cheaply killed off at the film’s beginning. In Aliens, people grew to care about these two characters, and Ripley’s reaction to their deaths was dramatically unsatisfying. The rest of the movie’s plot is simply a weak repeat of the first movie. One by one, the characters are systematically stalked with surprisingly little suspense and only one extended action sequence.

Regarding music video director David Fincher, I have to question the intelligence in the decision to hire an unknown, first-time director to helm a $50 million-plus motion picture that is a sequel to two of the most popular films ever made. Fincher doesn’t seem to have a clue as to how to direct a feature film. His use of low-angle shots, extreme close-ups, and cross-cutting may work fine in music videos, but these techniques lost their impact very fast on screen. In addition Fincher doesn’t seem to support the theory of starting scenes off with an establishing shot. I was very confused as to what was happening and where things were taking place. Fincher is also ignorant of another basic filmmaking technique: how to build suspense. I knew exactly when the Alien would strike and was never scared or surprised.

The music by Elliot Goldenthal is also no improvement over the scores by Jerry Goldsmith and James Horner. It is not only dull,  but at times completely innapropriate — namely in the scene where an attempted rape is made on Ripley and rock music is played in the background. Making a third sequel would be a mistake if it opted instead to repeat the formula of of the first two movies without adding anything new, as this one did.
Adam Kargan
Scottsdale, AZ.


… Now let’s talk about Alien 3. I liked the story and the FX. The majority of the acting was solid especially Charles Dutton, who stole every scene he was in, including those with the mutant alien. I think that Charles Dance as the doc was killed off way too early. I mean, come on — we just find out about his character’s history, and one half-second later, the Alien breaks his arm, then yanks and rips the man’s head off his shoulders. Ripley discovered the Alien wouldn’t kill her because of her being impregnated, but why doesn’t the Alien kill the guy screaming his head off on the bed? And why didn’t Ripley figure out that the Alien was trying to protect the Queen inside her by offing the good doctor? Count the seconds from when the doctor injects Ripley with that ‘solution’ and how fast the Alien jumps down to the floor. Yes, no, maybe so?


While I liked the FX, I didn’t care for the endless P.O.V. shots. The old sneak-up gag has been a cliche, and as for the running Alien P.O.V. shots, I almost half-expected Bruce Campbell to come running out with a chainsaw for a hand from Evil Dead II.
Darren J. Seeley,
Address Withheld.

I’m a SF fan and I don’t mind a little dab of horror, but I’ve think I’ve ever seen so much unnecessary gore  in one film. And what the other Alien films left to the imagination, this one didn’t. The audience was even subjected to seeing the gory death of a dog! Was the autopsy scene with Newt really necessary? In a way, this movie is an imitation of the first one: one Alien against a bunch of people in a dark, desolate place. Of course, the prison was much bigger than the Nostromo, but it didn’t seem like it. The ending expressed the futility of the whole series. Everything Ripley tried to avoid happened anyway. She was impregnated thus signalling inevitable death and everybody died. This movie is a virtual opposite of Aliens. Where Aliens was hopeful, Alien 3 is just downright depressing.

I was very excited and open-minded about the film, thinking it would be a true sequel to Aliens, thanks to the false advertising (‘the bitch is back’). They should have had the courage to advertise the movie more for what it really was. The previews made it look a lot like Aliens. They even used the music from Aliens in the trailer. Michael Biehn, who played Hicks, was right when he said that they would never be able to top Aliens.
Eric Wemmer,
Miami, FL.

I would like to direct my comments towards the rotten Alien 3 story. From what I understand, there was a lot of money spent on this flop. My question is, where did it go?

Where James Cameron was meticulous in his sequel, matching every little detail, David Fincher’s effort doesn’t even bother. Anyone notice how different the hypersleep chambers were? They looked more like the original ones on the Nostromo. So, I guess we’re to believe that they just magically changed from Sulaco-type chambers to the Nostromo-type. Also, in Aliens, the lettering of Sulaco was in black. It was white in Alien 3. Who’s going to tell us that the Aliens Queen pulled out her magic paintbrush and repainted it? Fincher must think we’re stupid.

And what about the Alien 3 xenomorph? How did it get so stupid? These are very intelligent creatures. So intelligent that this one knew Ripley had a Queen inside her. But it wasn’t smart enough to trap the prisoners for hosts. Nor did it have sense enough to cocoon Ripley and wait for the queen to emerge. If it was one of Cameron’s Aliens, it would have waited and then attacked. Anyone remember that Ripley said, ‘They don’t kill you’?

They were worried that Alien 3 would be a tired rehash of the previous films, yet they didn’t mind copying dozens of other horror movies. If I wanted to see Jason or Freddy, then I’ll go see their movies. But when I go to an Alien movie, I expect to see something more creative than a monster running around killing anything that moves. I would have preferred a rehash to Aliens than to sit through that ‘slasher in space’ garbage.

To Sigourney Weaver: Your acting was terrific, but why did you accept this role? You had this ‘creative input’, but what did you do with it? Looks like you did (as Private Hudson would say) ‘zippo’. You could have at least relented to get a decent story that would have done justice to Ripley. I guess if you give a person $5.5 million, she’ll do anything, right?
Greg George,
Babson Park, FL.



Filed under Alien 3

Interview with Walter Hill, 2004


From Film International #12

Film International: Can you clarify your contribution to the Alien series?
Walter Hill:
I generally duck answering questions on Alien in interviews – so much of it ended up acrimoniously, and when you give your side it usually sounds self-serving.

FI: Alien was the first time you functioned as a producer.
Yes. This is complicated – mainly I’ll try not to talk as a producer, but as a writer – however in this case it’s difficult to separate…

David and I had formed a production company with Gordon Carroll. This was about 1975. About six months after we started, I was given a script called Alien by a fellow I know (Mark Haggard, interesting guy, real John Ford expert) who was fronting the script for the two writers (Dan O’Bannon and Ronald Schusett). I read it, didn’t think much of it, but it did have this one sensational scene, which later we all called “the chestburster.” I should also probably say The Thing (1951) was a favourite from when I was a kid; and this script reminded me of it, but in an extremely crude form.

I gave it to David with one of those ‘I may be crazy but a good version of this might work’ speeches. The next night, I remember I was watching Jimmy Carter give his acceptance speech to the Democratic Convention [July 15th 1976], and was quite happy to answer when the phone rang. It was David – he told me I was crazy, but he had just got as far as the big scene (the chest burster) and it was really something. So basically off the strength of that, we acquired the rights and kicked it around for a few weeks, trying to figure out what to do with it. Remember, neither of us was a real sci-fi writer or a horror writer, but we were arrogant enough to think we understood how the genres worked.

First, we gave the original screenplay to the studio (Fox); they read it and passed (actually it had been previously submitted to them, so technically they passed twice), but we just didn’t want to let it go. We believed if you got rid of a lot of the junk -they had pyramids and hieroglyphics on the planetoid, a lot of von Daniken crap, and a lot of bad dialogue- that what you would have left might be a very good, very primal space story.

Finally I said I’d give the fucker a run-through (it was now around Christmas holidays). David was going off to Hong Kong with his girlfriend, but before he left we thrashed it out pretty good.

FI: How did the rewrite differ from the original script?
WH: For starters, in the original material, it was an all-man crew, and the creature was some kind of space octopus – the main idea David and I had was to do a slicked up, high class ‘B’ movie that as best we could avoided the usual cheesball characters and dialogue. This doesn’t seem like much now, but the notion that you’d write a ‘B’ movie idea -make it to be played with the same intentions and style as high drama- that was out of the box, then. And, pretty obviously we were thinking like producers before we began to deal with it as screen writers.

One other thing – I resist science fiction that suggests the universe is something other than dark, cold, harsh, dangerous. I said before how much I like Hawks’ The Thing, and one of the ideas in the finished script I liked best was the way it dramatised and valourised instinctive wariness and practicality when dealing with the unknown, over the needs of science. And I think that quality is what made that movie so American, even though it was shot in England, had an English director, English technicians, and several English cast members.

David had suggested making the captain a woman. I tried that, but I thought the money was on making the ultimate survivor a woman – I named her Ripley (after Believe It or Not); later, when she had to have a first name for ID cards, I added Ellen (my mother’s middle name). I called the ship Nostromo (from Conrad, no particular metaphoric idea, I just thought it sounded good.) Some of the characters are named after athletes. Brett was for George Brett, Parker was Dave Parker of The Pirates, and Lambert was Jack Lambert of The Steelers.

[David has] a marvellous capacity for coming up with the unexpected – a u-turn that’s novel but at the same time underlines what you’re trying to do. A lot of the time he’ll present it as a joke, and it’ll turn out to be a great idea. Like when the Ian Holm character was revealed to be a droid – that was David.

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In a sense, what was different from the O’Bannon/Shusett script is difficult to answer. There were certainly a lot of finite things: the protagonist as a woman, mixed gender crew, the Weyland-Yutani company, the conspiracy theory undertones to the Weyland-Yutani conspiracy, the possibility of using the Alien as a biological weapon, Ash as a droid, the idea of class lines based on job descriptions – what we called ‘truckers in space’ (this became an instant cliche; you couldn’t make a sci-fi movie after this without baseball hats); but the significant difference in the two scripts was setting the mood, the environment, and what became the stance of the film.

That said, we added a rough contemporary quality to the characters that broke it out of the genre mold – the ‘kiss my rosy red ass’ and ‘kill the motherfucker’ kind of dialogue that you historically didn’t find in science fiction movies. Remember, we were at the same studio that had made Star Wars. The on-lot joke at the time was that we were doing The Rolling Stones to their Beatles.

FI: The film is often criticised for having weakly defined characters.
WH: That’s bullshit. You clearly know who each of them are, and what their attitudes are – they have immediacy. And of course, our best character was the Alien.

FI: Can you elaborate?
WH: For example, David and I joked about calling him/her Nietzsche, you know, Beyond Good and Evil. Seriously, that was one of the things in making the thing fly – we articulated that notion in a way that got to the audience.

FI: I love the Ash death speech, ‘A perfect organism. Its structual perfection matched only by its hostility. I admire its purity. An organism unclouded by remorse, conscience, or delusions of morality…’
WH: Ian Holm. Wonderful actor. I remember I met Tommy Lee Jones in New York; we were interested in him playing Dallas – he told me he had read the script twice, and the only character that really grabbed him was the monster, and he’d sign up tomorrow if he could play it.

FI: It sounds like you and David Giler had a good time writing the script.
WH: Too much probably. And to tell the truth, we were kind of lefthanding the whole thing. I don’t mean we thought we were above the material; that’s the worst sin, and sends you straight to the inner circle of hell. But, we were busy on a lot of other projects and, again, neither of us felt sci-fi was our natural métier. Although I had been a big sci-fi reader when I was a kid, David not at all. Oddly enough, in the long run, I think that distance helped the script – the feeling we had standing somewhere outside the genre helped get it off center and made it different in tone. And it gave us the courage to be irreverent. I mean, when it’s 2 A.M. and you’re writing about a monster with acid for blood, some irreverence is called for; we were always taking an impossible situation and trying to make it sound real, and most of the time we pulled it off.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that we may have lefthanded the script, but we did work very hard: the Ash death speech we probably wrote about twenty times before we got it right. Anyway, David went off to Hong Kong, and I sat down and did a spec rewrite of the O’Bannon/Shusett script. It took maybe a week. After the holidays, David got back, and then he and I rewrote it several times. We gave it to the studio, and they got on board. Gareth Wigan was the executive on the piece; he’s one of the very few executives I’ve ever worked with who’s actually very good with script.

David and I then did what seemed like an endless series of polishes. The last couple we did in New York in my room at the Navarro (now the Ritz Carlton) while I was prepping The Warriors.

FI: But in the end, you two weren’t credited.
WH: Correct. The [Writers] Guild decided we didn’t deserve any writing credit for our efforts.

FI: It sounds like you’re still unhappy about this.
WH: It’s a long time ago, and there are a lot more important things in the world; however, I certainly believe it was an injustice in the sense that it doesn’t reflect the truth. Partially as a result of all that, after the first Alien, I have to admit I never felt as involvedor committed to those that followed, though obviously I was quite happy at their success.

FI: Is it true you sued Fox over the profits?
WH: Yes. Twice. Both times settled in our favour.

FI: Any backlash to this?
WH: I am told that David and I are currently blackballed at Fox. So be it.

FI: Why was Alien so successful?
WH: First, but not necessarily foremost, it was a good script – suggestive of deeper issues, deeper terrors, nightmares. It’s not quite a sci-fi movie, not quite an action movie, not quite a horror movie, but some odd kind of synthesis that came together via agood, old fashioned story move. The objective problem in the first half becomes subjective in the second half by getting into Ripley’s head and experiencing the terror through her. The final draft was very tight, only about eighty pages, lean and mean.

But whatever the quality of the script, films have to be realised. And in this case, it just all worked. Ridley Scott did a wonderful job, the best film he’s done, I think. Sigourney Weaver was iconographically perfect, and had the chops to pull it off. She was a very young womanthen: inexperienced, but it made the movie so much better that she wasn’t a known actress. Needless to say, that was a tough one for the studio to swallow. I mean, we were insisting on a female lead in a sci-fi action film, and then on top of that, an unknown female lead. With a director whose previous film had a worldwide gross of, I think, less than half a million dollars. That’s why maybe the ultimate good guy was Laddie – and he said yes.

The conventional wisdom in Hollywood is that warm films are commerical, and cold ones are not. As usual, the conventional wisdom isn’t true, and it isn’t true by the bagsful with Alien. It’s a very cold film. Hospital cold. I’m-here-to-die-ion-this-sterile-room-and-nobody-gives-a-shit-cold. But at the same time, that’s only a half-truth; it’s also fun – a good example of the old show biz rouser.

FI: What about Aliens?
WH: This was a few years later. David and I sat down and had a discussion about what the sequel should be. We figured the next one should be a straight action thriller -the military takes over- a patrol movie. David wrote it down on a couple of pages. Jim Cameron wrote a treatment. David and I rewrote it a bit (this must be about fall of ’83); we gave it to the studio and they said ‘Go to script.’ Jim went off and directed The Terminator then came back and wrote the first draft. It never changed much.

FI: Did you like the film?
WH: Obviously, Jim has a big talent for connecting with big audiences. I thought he shot the shit out of it. Tremendous physicality. I wasn’t too crazy about the stuff with the kid.


FI: What about Alien 3?
WH: Another complete fucking mess. The studio wanted to crank out another one. There were a number of false starts. David and I were a bit sick of it, and wanted to end the whole thing. But we wanted to do it with some class and thematic cohesion. We thought that killing Ripley -or to be precise, having her sacrifice herself while ridding the universe of the Alien- would be a bold move and round out the trilogy. That was our only stipulation: beyond that we tried to stay out of it as writers. As usual, David and I were busy on other films.

There were a number of writers and directors, then David Fincher was hired. There was a start date, the script was announced to be a mess (it was) – it had been run through about five writers up to then; sets were being built, actors being hired – the usual circus of expensive incompetence. The studio and Sigourney asked us to put on our firemen suits, so David and I went to London and started writing. Fifteen years later, and we’re still in hotel rooms rewriting Alien.

We felt we were working in handcuffs – writing to sets that were already built, plot moves that had been committed to that we didn’t agree with. Then there were differences of opinion with Fincher, Sigourney, and the studio. We did our best and went home.

FI: On this one, you and David got the credit.
WH: Or the blame. I think a lot of the ideas in the third one are actually the most interesting in the series, but the whole thing didn’t quite come off. And certainly some of that is our fault. Speaking for myself, I don’t think our script was nearly as good as the one we did for the first Alien.

FI: What about the fourth, Alien Resurrection?
WH: We had nothing to do with that one -didn’t even think it was a good idea for starters- we thought we had ended the series. And our relationship with the studio had deteriorated even more, probably due to the lawsuits. Our only real function was telling them that the script they developed without our input wasn’t any good and wouldn’t work. We then suffered the traditional fate of the messenger – personally, I think it’s a lousy movie. And they just wasted Winona Ryder. That’s inexcusable.


Filed under Alien, Alien 3, Aliens

God’s Lonely Men


“Then the friendless man wakes up once more, sees before him fallow waves,
sea-birds bathing, spreading their feathers, frost and snow falling mingled
with hail. Then the heart’s wounds are harder to bear, sore in the wake of loved ones. Sorrow is renewed.”
~ The Wanderer, author unknown, circa 8-10th century C.E.

This post does not delve into the making of Alien 3 in any particular way, but instead focuses on an element in the film that I personally find interesting – the concept of an apocalyptic ecclesiastical order suddenly imperiled by an eldritch terror in some backwater of space. Mixing a Medieval aesthetic with Alien might not seem immediately congruous, but they do manage to neatly intersect. The Dark Age influences in Alien 3 are an inheritance from Vincent Ward, who wrote and was slated to direct one iteration of the script. In his story the hell of Fiorina 161 is instead a heaven called Arceon; a jerry-built orbital colony with a population of 350 political prisoners who, in their exile from Earth, have all converted to a Ludditic monasticism. When David Fincher came aboard he pushed for a grimier, more traditional environment, and so the script was rewritten, setting the action on a prison planet inhabited by a skeleton crew of convicts and custodians. Though Vincent Ward’s vision of a Medieval-themed Alien film was not realised his tenure on the project left residual elements that inform the film as it was finally made and are certainly worthy of examination…

It was once commonplace to believe that as the world neared the first millennium it would begin to display signs of decline or decay – clear evidence of the impending Doomsday. Fiorina itself is a wasteland of creaking cranes, black waves, grey cliffs, flinty beachheads, abandoned tractor cabs and shacks and a creaking webwork of chains and pulleys. In this universe corporations have long usurped government institutions as world powers, the wonder of space exploration has become the monotony of long-haul truck driving, and the discovery of extraterrestrial life is not revelatory, but destructive. To the outcasts stranded there, a Fiorina sunset must look like the dying heat at the end of time.

The implied but undefined backstory to the Alien series suggests a human civilisation that has reached out into the depths of the universe yet cannot tame its most selfish and destructive qualities. A final note on the stagnant state of the Alien universe: when asked to explain how Ripley could adapt to the technology of 2179 after nearly six decades in cryosleep, James Cameron offered several possibilities, including the fact that “there have been 57-year periods in history where little or no social or technological change took place, due to religious repression, war, plague or other factors”.

The prisoners, with their stubbled domes, prickly demeanors and thrawn appearances, seem as far as you could get from the meek political dissidents of Ward’s script, but his monastic touches were not dropped completely. “This script has retained the look of a religious community,” explained Charles Dance, who played Clemens. “The men have embraced a sort of strange religious cult in this prison … All the costumes are very monk-like, colored in grays and browns. We have these wonderful hooded coats which reach right to the floor, and which are made out of government surplus tents. The look is both monk-like and menacing.”

In Giler and Hill’s October 1990 draft the prison complex retains much of the Wooden Planet’s architectural make-up including wooden beams, windmills and extensive candelight, used to “augment minimal electric light” in the facility. Candles feature heavily in the film’s foraging sequence where the Alien kills Rain and Boggs, and Rex Pickett’s script even features a Candle Room where boxes are stored and the Assembly Hall is known as the Library – as it was in Ward’s script.

Some famous poems from the Early Middle Ages, like The Wanderer and The Seafarer, focus on lonely figures in blasted landscapes, bereft of companionship or warmth, their minds despondent with the knowledge of bodily and earthly decay, their spirits only upheld by a belief in an imminent and glorious posthumous existence. Of all the prisoner characters, Clemens, despite his irreligiosity, fits this Old English melancholic temperament the best. “[Clemens is] very much a loner,” explained Charles Dance, “and not at all popular with the other members of the staff.” His introductory scene, featuring him wandering the bleak landscape alone with his thoughts, could have been lifted from any number of Old English poetry. “Often, at every dawn, I alone must lament my sorrows,” reads The Wanderer. “There is now no one living to whom I might dare reveal my heart.”


Michael Swanton, in his book English Literature before Chaucer, writes that: “Voluntary exile was a familiar ethic in secular life … for many it would seem sufficient to withdraw from the world into one or other burgeoning eremetic communities.” In the same way, Clemens, in shame, shuns any notion of returning to Earth or any other populated colony after his sentence has been served, and elects to bunker down with the close-knit outcasts on Fury. And yet, by his own testimony, he remains an outsider.

A note on Clemens’ backstory: in the film he reveals that his crime was manslaughter via severe negligence. Both pre-shoot scripts by Giler and Hill, from October and December 1990, tell the same story, but Rex Pickett’s January 1991 draft tells us that Clemens euthanised his pregnant wife after an accident put her into a coma. “The authorities gave me a choice,” he says. “The reason I came here is I wanted to go some place far enough away in order to forget.”

Regarding the prisoners and their religion, though their exact tenets are lacking any real exploration in the film, one aspect of their belief system was present in one early draft. When Ripley asks that Hicks and Newt be cremated, Aaron and Superintendent Andrews are wary:

Aaron staring at Newt’s body.
Aaron: The prisoners believe defiling a body is a sin…
Clemens: Yes. When one of our prisoners dies, they want the body whole, so he can be resurrected during the coming apocalypse.

A funeral and cremation for Newt and Hicks is arranged when Clemens warns Superintendent Andrews that the bodies may carry a contagion.

Meanwhile Dillon, the leader, pastor and prophet of the inmates, shares with two other prisoners that the scheduled cremation is completely fine by him so “long as it isn’t one of us,” (prisoner Murphy being shredded in a duct fan must have been particularly troubling for the others to stomach, since it likely quashed any chance of a bodily resurrection.) Dillon tells the other inmates to attend the funeral to collectively “show our respect,” and he even goes so far as to officiate the service. Later in the canteen Ripley learns more about the prisoners’ beliefs:


Dillon is the quintessential fiery proselytiser; a Malcolm X type (as you can see, he was even originally named Malcolm in early scripts) his voice is naturally stentorian and his language also heavily apocalyptic. Ine one draft he beats the prisoners for their attempted rape of Ripley and exclaims as he swings, “You will not fornicate! You will not rape! You will live up to your vow! You are too close to heaven to turn around!” In a later script the death of one prisoner makes him comment that “Deep shame fills my soul”; not far removed from the “frozen heart” and shamed melancholy of the Old English exile.

Later, as the Alien closes in, Dillon exhorts his fellow prisoners that “This is what we have been waiting for. This is the sign. This means the last days are near. This is The Beast from the book.” When he peptalks the others into trapping the creature he exclaims that “Those who die first go straight to the promise!” The prisoners then “Roar in approval of Jihad” and await the Alien, the dragon, “The One Who Will Come” from their prayers. “For I will be safe on The Day of the Beast. My body will be taken, but never my spirit. I am ready to be judged!”

Even Ripley cannot talk of the Alien and its implications on the wider universe without invoking religious metaphors. “I get to be the mother of the apocalypse,” she tells everyone when discussing the Queen embryo inside her.


Golic, the Judas of the story if there is one, shares an interesting relationship with ‘The Beast’ (or ‘the dragon’ as he calls it) that owes more to the relationship between Dracula and Renfield than anything particularly Medieval or theologic, though early scripts did feature a religious angle. After the Alien has killed Rain and Boggs he tells Dillon, “You pious assholes are all gonna die … The beast has risen … Nobody can stop it.” He later tells Morse that “I got to see it again. It’s the dragon of God. It’s in the book.”

Of course, I am not claiming that Walter Hill and David Giler or any of the other intermittent writers read any Old English or Medieval works and instilled them into Alien, with the exception of Vincent Ward. What is more likely is the inspirations behind Ward’s story trickled through into the final film through a long process of being trimmed, dressed over, and distilled. Though some of it shines through (most obviously, the religious nature of the prisoners along with some costuming and imagery) most of their deeper implications can only be inferred upon. Alien 3 is a film that is not greater than the sum of its parts. But some of its many constituent pieces, when inspected, can sometimes reveal an embarrassment of riches as well as missed opportunities.

In you are, by any slim chance, interested in Early Medieval/Old English attitudes towards millenarian apocalypticism, I have written about it here.


Filed under Alien 3

Newt’s Chestburster


“By the way, it’s not in the goddamed cat and it’s not in Newt, either. I would never be that cruel.”
~ James Cameron, Starlog magazine, 1987.

Alien 3′s hypnagogic opening leaves the viewer with many questions, the foremost being the well-worn ‘how did the Alien egg get aboard the Sulaco?’ Another question, answered later in the film, is ‘who did it impregnate?’ For a time Ripley, and thus the audience, suspects that the creature is coiled within Newt; and at one point in the film’s production that theory was temporarily true.

One early draft by producers Walter Hill and David Giler, dated October 1990, definitively states that the stowaway facehugger seeks out Newt as its host:

As she sleeps.
From below her crypt a strange sucking sound.
Like a surgeon removing a rubber glove.
A shadow falls over Newt’s eyes.
Something is crawling onto her faceplate.

As their EEV sinks into Fiorina 161’s turbulent ocean Ripley awakens and glimpses Newt slowly drowning within her cryotube. Suddenly, a spew of slime erupts from the girl’s mouth and from her throat crawls:

Slithers out of Newt’s mouth
Tiny forearms pushing at the sides of her stretched lips…
It struggles to free itself from Newt’s jerking and twisting carcass.
Tiny razor sharp teeth glint in the firelight.
As Newt’s face returns to normal, she smiles and…
Ripley can only scream.

Ripley falls unconscious, and dreams that the Alien has disarmed and trapped her. Sliding its tail between her legs, it spins her around and pushes her “down and across the sleep tube…” She wakes up to later discover that the Alien embryo invaded her body after abandoning its former host, and now the seed is maturing inside her.

The next draft, dated December 1990, includes an elliptical flash of the Sulaco’s med-scanners, which displays an image of a facehugger encasing Newt’s head. The next shot describes “marks on her face” and a look that “seems to say: Help me, Ripley.” Rex Pickett’s January 1991 draft also features this image, though both drafts omit the infant chestburster later crawling out of Newt’s mouth.

HR Giger drew some preliminary designs for the body-hopping Alien, envisioning it in his sketches as an ‘aquatic facehugger’ with webbed appendages (or ‘swim skin’) ostensibly purposed for gliding through the water – an aesthetic detail apparently carried on to the ‘super’ facehugger seen in the assembly cut.


The aquatic facehugger and escapee embryo, though both designed or conceptualised to an extent, were ultimately nixed after director David Fincher concluded that the overall effect had potential for unintended silliness.

“The original montage onboard the Sulaco was planned with a facehugger that was going to crawl out of Newt’s mouth,” Fincher explained. “I’d seen that effect in The Company of Wolves and it just always looks like a rubber casting of someone’s head with somebody else’s fist being forced through it. I just never thought it would work.”

The scene was eventually included in Dark Horse’s comic book adaptation of the film, depicting an oily black chestburster crawling from Newt’s mouth and slipping into the rising water…


Filed under Alien 3

The Meat Locker

The Alien’s habit of cocooning its victims serves different purposes across the various films. Alien tried to establish that the cocooned victims ‘morph’ into eggs, thereby continuing the Alien threat. Aliens took advantage of the cocoon scene’s removal from the theatrical cut of the first film and showed that the eggs were instead the result of an Alien Queen. The cocooned colonists of Hadley’s Hope are transfixed rather than transformed; all collected and impregnated together in vast nurseries within the hive.

Alien cocoons also featured in many Alien 3 scripts. In Eric Red’s story they are routinely spun by Aliens who embed their victims into the latticework to await impregnation, much as they do in Aliens, but Red also writes that the cocoons induce metamorphosis as indicated in Alien’s famous deleted scene.

“A horrible halfway transformed Colonel Sinclair is all sewn up in cocoon substance, his arms and legs molted mostly away. He realizes he is turning into one of those things. His face is torn as much with terror as hideous agony.”
~ Alien III by Eric Red, 1989.

In Vincent Ward’s script a host of cocooned monks form part of a “grim tableau”, with Ripley and Brother John finding them “impaled on their own pikes. Tangled together in their own pungy stakes. Alien cocoon material cobwebbed over their bodies.”

The cocoons made it to further Alien 3 scripts penned by a long concatenation of writers including producers Walter Hill and David Giler and pens for hire like Rex Pickett.

In one draft by Giler and Hill, dated 10th October 1990, the cocoons appear on page 91, near the end of the movie. The Glassworks from Vincent Ward’s script has yet to be superseded by the furnace from later scripts (in fact, this version retains many beats and milieus from Ward’s story, refitted to suit the prison environment), and it is here that the Alien has made its nest.


There is a low moaning emanating from somewhere within the nest. Ripley and Aaron advance forward and find “Dozens of semi-tramsparent pods — inside each, a prisoner’s body.”

Aaron gets closer, close enough to “almost make out the faces of the men inside the cocoons,” and realises that the prisoners are still, though barely, alive.


They find Superintendent Andrews cocooned and protected by a ‘Membrane’, a “cross section of laser light” that acts as an alarm. If the membrame is breached, then the Alien is somehow alerted to either escapees, interlopers, or perhaps a birth.

The Membrane is, obviously, an elaboration of the blue laser seen in the derelict’s hold in Alien. Ridley Scott had mused that this sheet of light acted as a trigger or alarm for the eggs, perhaps to alert the Space Jockey of any contamination. Alien 3′s proposed Membrane instead seems to be a function of the Alien itself.

Superintendent Andrews begs to be put out of his misery, so Ripley, in true Alien tradition, immolates him. The cocoon chamber is quickly in flames and the Alien turns up in a fury. Ripley sets the Alien aflame by launching her torch and it flees. The scene concludes with Aaron and Ripley chasing after it.


The cocoon appears in the next iteration of the script, dated 18th December, 1990. The nest has been transplanted from the Glassworks/Furnace to the Assembly Hall (that is, the steel panopticon where we first meet Dillon, Andrews, Aaron, and the other prisoners at the beginning of the movie.)

This time it is Dillon and Morse, not Ripley and Aaron, who stumble into the nest.


They find Superintendent Andrews, again cocooned and protected by a Membrane, and, again, they put the hive to the torch and are promptly attacked by the Alien. Dillon attacks the beast with his torch and it flees, disappearing behind a nearby cement abutment. Meanwhile, the hive burns around them.

Morse: Come on! Let’s get out of here!
Dillon: You go!
Morse: Both of us!

But the inferno grows, and Dillon forces Morse through a nearby door and locks him on the other side. Then: “Turning back to the ghostly, flickering incadescence, Dillon begins to pray softly.” The scene ends with:


As 1990 began to segue into the new year independent filmmaker Rex Pickett was hired to write a draft based on Giler and Hill’s December 1990 script.

Pickett excises the hive sequence entirely in his version, but there is one notable character who finds himself cocooned by the creature:

Moving deeper into the abattoir, Dillon finds:

GOLIC cocooned, ensconced in fluid, and still alive! He appears to be trying to say something. Morse leans forward and listens. Then he turns to Dillon:

Morse: He’s saying, ‘I’m sorry, sir.’

Dillon just looks at Golic, shaking his head. The others all stand behind him, looking. Eric continues babbling inanely in the background.
~ Alien 3 by Rex Pickett, first draft (revised) January 5th, 1991.

Pickett was let go after a month of work and Giler and Hill revised the script again. This time, they got rid of the cocoons altogether.

But since the script was being written throughout the film’s shooting many props were designed and crafted but were ultimately either cut from the film or never used at all. These include the super-facehugger, an ox host, and of course the cocoons and their hosts.

“We were going to end up making twenty of these cocoons,” Tom Woodruff Jr told Cinfex magazine. “We started on two, and then the plug was pulled because Fincher’s idea was that the creature simply kills to eat. Actually, we did finish one off for Fincher because he liked it so much. He had it on set with him and would occasionally climb into it for inspiration. He called it his ‘thinking shell’.”

A cocoon-in-progress, from ADI's video.

A cocoon-in-progress, from ADI’s behind the scenes video.

So what do the cocoons add to our understanding of the film and its story? It seems that the Alien acts as a custodian for the embyronic Queen, clearing the area of potential hostilities and setting the foundations of a hive.

But there is a contradiction in the Alien’s actions. If it has built the hive to properly secure hosts or a food store, and needs Ripley to carry the Queen to term, then why doesn’t it abduct her and seal her within its nest? After all, what’s to stop the prisoners from hacking Ripley and the embryo to pieces with their axes or simply bludgeoning her?

And if the Alien is building a food store, as Ripley says in the 10/10/90 script, then why are many of its victims blindly eviscerated and their corpses abandoned? And why does the Alien’s nutritional needs appear so late in the game? If the Aliens and the Queen need to eat, then why do they leave the bodies of the colonists to rot in Aliens?

But it’s safe to say that if Alien 3 had preserved its cocoon scene then it would have been only a minor logical headache compared to some other elements in the story, and might have become, like the rest of the film, very well appreciated for its visuals and imagery alone. Though Aliens is the only film within the first three to actually depict its cocoon scenes in its theatrical cut, the pods have become as vital to the idea of the Alien as its biomechanic textures and retractable jaws.


Filed under Alien 3

James Cameron’s Alien III (or ‘How it was Never Going to Happen’)

Sigourney Weaver, James Cameron, and Jale Ann Hurd at the Aliens premiere, 1986.

Sigourney Weaver, James Cameron, and Gale Anne Hurd at the Aliens premiere, 1986.

“I’m wondering if Alien 3 is in the typewriter?” Bobby Wygant asked James Cameron upon the release of Aliens in 1986. “Not for me it’s not,” he answered.

“I think Fox will want to see how this film does,” Cameron continued, “and if they’re still enthusiastic about, or if they become enthusiastic about a continuation beyond the film that Gale and I made then they’ll have to pursue that in their way. I mean find a writer, find a director, because we’ll be on to something else, I think. Some new territory.”

“But if the money were right?” Wygan teased. “No, I don’t think so,” he answered. “At this point, y’know, the way I work on films and the way my wife -who produced this film- works, is we throw ourselves into the picture right from pre-production through the end of post-production. It takes us a year or two, year and a half to do a film, and that means maybe my career will only be ten or twelve films – you can’t stay doing the same things over and over again.”

“[Another sequel is] entirely in the hands of people other than myself. The only thing I can say definitively right now is: from my involvement as a writer, the story was not constructed with an eye toward another sequel. But then, the first one wasn’t either.”
~ James Cameron, Starlog magazine, September 1986.

Wygan also asked Sigourney Weaver about Alien 3. “It took someone as talented -and crazy- as Jim Cameron to come up with a story that was as good as the first one,” Weaver said, “and I would be surprised if it could happen again. And I have a feeling, if it happened again, that Newt would have grown up and that she would be the one to go on and carry the guns, so to speak.”

In 1995 Carrie Henn briefly mentioned James’ ideas, or framework, for an Aliens sequel: “I know that James Cameron had planned to have Hicks, Ripley and me in Alien 3, to have a family-type thing.” Her feelings about that not happening? “Still, life goes on.”

Lance Henriksen also revealed that Cameron had discussed some character beats for Bishop in a potential third movie: “I also remember Jim saying to me [that] if we ever did another one that what he would have done is probably had that character realize that somebody had fooled around with his brain and make him constantly worried that he was going to do something dangerous. And so I thought, ‘Well, what a nice piece of conflict that is.'” Earlier in 2004 he had said: “Jim Cameron […] was talking about doing another Alien movie. He often pondered about what he might do with Bishop, saying that somehow they messed with his brain to make him dangerous.”

starlog 170

Starlog #170, September 1991

As for James’ opinion on David Fincher’s Alien 3? The swift and off-screen deaths of Newt and Hicks, and the pulverisation (and subsequent euthanisation) of Bishop were two points of contention. But Cameron wasn’t completely condemnatory towards the film. “I actually think that Alien 3 is a pretty good piece of work, in terms of film-making,” he said. “Fincher early on showed what he had as a film-maker, and I think the film has some great stuff in it, some beautiful photography.”

“But,” he added, “it’s hard for me to watch, because it feels like such a slap in the face to the people who have invested in the story through the first two films. I understand his reasons for doing it, but I think the best way to do a sequel is to honour the original and be original and creative in your own way. He was original and creative in his own way, but at the expense of the previous film and what a lot of people might have invested in that story up at that time. It makes it difficult for me to watch the film.”


Filed under Alien 3, Aliens

Cold Wars: William Gibson’s Alien III


Starlog #128, March 1988

Alien III was inevitable.

After the commercial and critical smash that was Aliens, Twentieth Century Fox turned to Brandywine Productions for more bottled lightning. Though Alien had briefly inspired a toy line, the sequel spawned a small merchandise empire which included action figures, modelling kits, board games, a comic book series, and even a proposed cartoon spin-off. Another sequel seemed natural.

“Well, everyone wanted to make the sequel to Aliens,” David Giler said in 2003, “kinda except us, we weren’t so… we were happy to do it, but… we weren’t all that enthused.” Co-producer Walter Hill was more incisive. “The studio wanted to crank out another one,” he said in 2004. “David and I were a bit sick of it, and wanted to end the whole thing.” Though unexcited by the prospect of a third film, the duo resolved to give the series a fitting send-off. “We wanted to do it with some class and thematic cohesion,” said Hill.

But where should they take the series now? Alien was a claustrophobic horror film with a singular monster; it was the classic haunted house trope with a twist – it was set in space. Aliens was claustrophobic but hi-octane, and it enlarged the universe by introducing the Colonial Marines and off-world colonies. The basic trappings were the same (monsters in corridors) but Cameron had managed to widen the series’ scope, switch the genre, and successfully expand upon the Alien’s life-cycle. “What do you do to make it different?” Giler mused. “You can’t do something that’s a reheat of 1 or 2.”

According to a 1997 Cinescape article, initial ideas for the film’s scenario involved the Aliens invading Earth, “where they fuse into a giant, multi-talented monster that destroys New York City”. A version of this idea made it into Eric Red’s Alien III, but was thankfully dropped in subsequent scripts. Another idea for the premise included “Ripley and Newt hunting an especially mobile creature in a Blade Runner-esque off-world metropolis.”

Whilst brainstorming, Giler and Hill also met with science-fiction author William Gibson, whose 1984 novel The Neuromancer helped usher in cyberpunk. Gibson accepted Brandywine’s offer: they would come up with a story, and he would write the script.

William Gibson's aesthetic philosophy aligned itself with the grimy universe of Alien. "I also wanted science fiction to be more naturalistic," he has said, "I wanted to see dirt in the corners."

William Gibson’s aesthetic philosophy aligned itself with the grimy universe of Alien. “I also wanted science fiction to be more naturalistic,” he has said, “I wanted to see dirt in the corners.”

But Gibson was swayed by more than the promise of a paycheque. “I found a lot of things that were interesting in the original [Alien] even when it first came out,” he explained. “I thought there were germs of stories implicit in the art direction. I always wanted to know more about these guys. Like why they were wearing dirty sneakers in this funked-up spaceship. I think it influenced my prose science-fiction writing because it was the first funked-up, dirty kitchen-sink spaceship, and it made a big impression on me.”

The Blade Runner-esque idea interested Gibson, but he was quickly set right by the producers. “The impression I had,” Gibson said, “was that budget parameters argued against introducing the Aliens into something that was the equivalent of the Blade Runner set, which I admit would have been my natural impulse.”

Instead, he worked from a series of notes supplied to him by Giler and Hill. “Writing for film is a commercial art,” Gibson acquiesced. “The writer is a hired hand.”

“[Brandywine] suggested the Marxist space empire, and I happily elaborated on that. In spite of its almost instant archaism, I found it fun. I couldn’t recall a single piece of Cold War space opera in which the other guys were commies … [The script] was sort of like a Cold War in space, with genetic manipulation of the Alien replacing nuclear war.”
~ William Gibson,, 2003 & Cinescape, 1997.

Brandywine and Fox agreed to make Alien III the last in the series, and decided to celebrate the end with a two-part movie. Meanwhile, with story parameters provided by Brandywine in mind, Gibson sat to write the first half of the two-part film. The first half would feature the Sulaco being intercepted by a socialist space bloc on its return to Earth. Corporal Hicks would lead the cast, with Newt being sent back to Earth and Ripley comatose. Gibson explained that “At the time, Ms. Weaver seemed doggedly unwilling to participate, so I was instructed to keep Ripley in stasis throughout.” There were no firm plans for the second part, which ostensibly would have been Alien 4.

Gibson was also rushed due to the threat of an impending writer’s strike (“I wrote in a backroom of Shepperton Studios,” he joked) which eventually erupted in March 1988 – he certainly worked fast, since the strike hit long after his story had been submitted.

What follows is a detailed summary of his first, widely-available script, which was handed in to Brandywine in December 1987. A second draft was handed in during January of 1988, and a bullet-pointed synopsis covers the differences between the two drafts.



Cast of characters

Cpl. Dwayne Hicks – Colonial Marine, survivor from Aliens.
Bishop – android survivor from Aliens.
Newt – colonist. Also survived Aliens (character is sent to Earth early on).
Ellen Ripley – survivor of Alien and Aliens (character is comatose throughout).

Colonial Administration/Anchorpoint Station
Tully, Charles A. (M) – a BioLab Technician.
Spence (F) – another BioLab Technician. Tully’s lover.
Jackson (F) – Operations Officer.
Colonel Rosetti (M) – Head of Military Operations.
Kevin Fox (M) & Susan Welles (F) – Weyland-Yutani Military-Sciences, Weapons Division.
Trent (M) & Shuman (M) – Members of Anchorpoint’s ‘Directorate’.
Walker (M) – Machine Shop.
Halliday (F) – survivor introduced after the outbreak.
Tatsumi (M) – survivor introduced after the outbreak.
Lab Tech (M) – (^ you get the jist).

Rodina/Union of Progressive Peoples
Vietnamese Commando (F) – Boards the Sulaco at the beginning, obtains Bishop’s body, and features throughout.
Suslov (M) – Colonel-Doctor
Braun (M) – Chief of R&D

The story begins with a navigational error sending the Sulaco astray into ‘airspace’ claimed by the Union of Progressive Peoples, a Soviet-styled faction who are political opponents of the Colonial Administration and industrial-imperialist corporations that we’ve met in the series so far.

An interceptor ship catches up with the errant Sulaco and settles on it “like a wasp”. Three U.P.P. commandos exit the interceptor and enter the Sulaco through a deck hatch. They fan through the dark interior of the hanger, inspect the damaged dropship (apparently seared from the nuclear explosion at Hadley’s Hope) and they also find something else:

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Bishop’s legs, broken, grotesquely twisted, still in fatigues, the white android blood clotted into powder. First and Second Commandos exchange looks through their faceplates.

Perturbed but alert, they explore the ship further. Inside the cryochamber they find the sleeping survivors from Aliens. Bishop’s pod has misted over, and inside it they find an Alien egg nestled among the android’s entrails. A facehugger emerges and attacks the inspecting commando (designated by the script as the ‘Leader’), who stumbles near an airlock with the ‘hugger forcing itself through his faceplate. A second commando shoots the creature, which erupts in a gout of acid. This second commando dumps the Leader’s body through the airlock to save the Sulaco from further damage.

The opening sequence ends with a vision of a black, multi-limbed creature approaching the second commando – it is the third commando, carrying Bishop’s trunk.

We are then introduced to Anchorpoint Station, firmly in Colonial Administration space. It is described as being “the size of a small moon, and growing; unfinished sections of hull are open to vacuum.” There are shades of Vincent Ward’s wooden orbiter here and, of course, the second Death Star. The station includes an area named, in a self-explanatory manner, “the Mall”, which is “a cross between a Hyatt atrium and an airport shopping concourse: shops, vegetation, fast food outlets, a bar.”

We meet one of the station’s inhabitants, a BioLab technician named Tully.

“The cubicle, terminally sloppy, resembles the nest of a high-tech hamster, not much larger than a berth of a train. The walls are plastered with a wistful collage of posters, ads, photos torn from magazines: beaches, deserts, the Grand Canyon, redwoods, blue sky – a hedge against claustrophobia and the emptiness of space.”

Tully is awoken by Jackson, the station’s operations manager. She calls with news that the Sulaco has docked at Anchorpoint. Another ship from Gateway has also arrived and demands that the Sulaco is searched by Anchorpoint’s BioLab team. Tully grumbles, but acquiesces. Before we cut to the dry dock, we see that Tully is in fact sharing his bed with a co-worker, Spence.

The BioLab team enter the Sulaco with a Marine escort and approach the cryochamber.

Adobe Photoshop PDFOnce inside they are inexplicably attacked by two Aliens. One of the Marines “unleashes his flamethrower”. The damage is devastating: “the first Alien and Ripley’s capsule vanish in a napalm fireball … liquid fire hoses the second Alien … The vault is an inferno, Ripley’s capsule is sagging, melting.”

We cut to an awakened Hicks. He is seen to by Spence. “I’m not a medic,” she tells him, “I’m from the tissue culture lab. I have to get a sample.” She proceeds to test him for infection. Hicks asks her about the other survivors. Spence says they are fine. He asks about Bishop, but Spence is confused: “There were three of you. Three that I know of, anyway…” Newt bursts into the room, having bitten and escaped from an orderly. The situation becomes oddly hostile as Hicks stands to threaten the orderly. “You looking to get yourself sedated, Corporal?” asks the latter. “Now I’m asking you the question,” retorts Hicks. Spence diffuses the situation by allowing Hicks and Newt to visit Ripley, who lies in a coma.

We cut to ‘Rodina’, the U.P.P. base, where Bishop is undergoing examination. It turns out that the U.P.P. stole Bishop’s upper body and sent the Sulaco on its way. “Information is being reamed out of the android at high speed,” the script reads, “printouts of measurements, graphs, formulas. Colonel-Doctor Suslov sits beside a female “Vietnamese Commando” (the second commando from the script’s opening, apparently) who wears “a sleeveless fatigue-blouse revealing regimental tattoos:  a yin-yang, hashmarks, an ID marker like a supermarket bar-code.  They watch as a graphics program generates a detailed anatomical drawing of a facehugger on a large monitor”.

Back at Anchorpoint, two techies are inspecting Bishop’s legs (left behind by the U.P.P.) which are inflected with “dark globules.” “Since when do androids get diseases?” one of the techs asks the other.

The political situation between the U.P.P. and Colonial Administration is laid bare to Hicks in a meeting with Anchorpoint’s Head of Military Operations and Directorate (Rosetti, Trent & Shuman) and the two Weyland-Yutani representatives from Gateway (Fox and Welles):

Shuman: “To put it in diplomatic terms, Hicks, they’ve got our ass in a sling. If they want to regard the Sulaco incident as a hostile act – and let me assure you that they will, eventually – they can compromise our position in the current round of arms reduction talks. We’re talking serious ramifications here. Then we have the communications lag to and from Earth. A week either way. So we’re looking at a fourteen day wait for policy clarification. We may have a major crisis on our hands.”

Hicks allows Newt to leave Ripley the address of her grandparents on Earth before she is shuttled off. She is taken aboard the Sulaco as it is returned to Gateway Station. From there she is apparently returned to Earth.

We cut to a conference room at Rodina, where an assembly of “Technocrats” are discussing their find. They conclude that the Alien could be made into a viable weapon if its genetic material can be controlled. Braun, the head of Rodina’s R&D, tells Suslov that “The adult form, Colonel-Doctor, is evidently a killing-machine of great strength, extraordinary sophistication. No evidence of intelligence. Purely instinctual”. The U.P.P. are aware that Weyland-Yutani are attempting to obtain an Alien themselves. They decide to repair Bishop and send him to Anchorpoint; a feigned display of acquiescence that will buy them more time with their own experiments: “Our technicians will repair [Bishop],” declares Suslov. “Return it to them… And we will proceed. We will clone the Alien…”

Back at Anchorpoint’s Tissue Culture Lab. Fox and Rosetti sit with Trent and analyse human and Alien DNA. They watch as:

The Alien form makes contact with the human DNA. The transformation is shockingly swift, but its stages can still be followed: the thing seems to pull itself into and through the coils, and for an instant the two are meshed, locked, and then the final stage. A new shape glows, a hybrid.

Meanwhile, Hicks has been temporarily assigned to the station’s machine shop. “The place is an oily forest of steel; machines of various kinds await repair.” He approaches Walker, “a big man in a grease-stained vest”.

He offers Hicks a cigarette, lights it for him with a micro-torch from the bench.

Walker: You off the mystery ship, Hicks?
Hicks: Sulaco? What’s the mystery?
Walker: (lighting his own cigarette) Popular question. Whole thing’s triple-classified now and word’s getting around that two of the deck party never came back.
Hicks: (shrugs) I was iced.
Walker: Sure…

As the U.P.P. decided earlier, Bishop is returned to the Colonial Administration, and docks at Anchorpoint. He is accosted by Marines and taken into quarantine to be examined.

Hicks bumps into Tully at a bar in the mall, and Tully drunkenly reveals that he knows about the Sulaco’s infestation. Before he says too much, he promises to reveal more to Hicks the next day after their shifts.

Colonel Rosetti, Trent, Fox, and Welles analyse Bishop and conclude that he has not been tampered with by the U.P.P., but they choose to assume that his memories concerning the Alien have been accessed. They discuss the applicability of the Alien DNA to bioweapons research. Welles and Fox decide to cultivate the Alien DNA under the pretense of studying it for medical applications. Rosetti is threatened into complying:

Fox: Has anyone mentioned military applications, Colonel? Trent?
Trent: (smiles) No. I think a very nice case can be made for applied exobiology. We do have a standing order to study alien life-forms when we encounter them. Preliminary analysis of the material from Sulaco reveals a remarkable adaptive capacity. The potential for cancer research alone…
Welles: Imagine, Colonel: if it can be programmed to only kill cancer cells…
Rosetti: And what exactly is it you propose to do, Trent?
Fox: (before Trent can answer) We’ll nourish the cells is stasis tubes, under constant observation. We’ll terminate them before they become embryos…
Rosetti: I see. Cancer research. And our motives are exclusively humanitarian. Is that it?
Welles: Colonel, when Shuman gets his reply from Earth, priority will go to military development of the Alien. We know that because we know where our orders came from. The decision has already been made.
Fox: And potential U.P.P. research in the same direction only adds to the urgency, Colonel.
Rosetti: The decision rests with me.
Welles: Perhaps you misunderstood, Rosetti. The decision has been made.
Fox: They won’t just break you, Colonel, they’ll see to it that it’s as though your career never happened. They’re top people. They can do that. And you know it.

Rosetti, with a long, cold look for both of them; he got the message:

Rosetti: Shuman, of course, will have to be informed.
Fox: Of course. “Cancer research”…

A quick scene informs us that the U.P.P. have already began to grow an Alien embryo, and they discuss the nature of the creatures: “Perhaps it is the fruit of some ancient experiment,” poses Suslov. “A living artifact, the product of genetic engineering… A weapon. Perhaps we are looking at the end result of yet another arms race…”

We jump back to Hicks, who is jogging through a construction area within Anchorpoint, ostensibly on his way to meet Tully. He “comes out of the lit mouth of a tunnel. The space he enters is the size of a football stadium, but dark and industrially Gothic. Stacks of hull-plate and geodesic struts. A shower of sparks as he passes a robot welder (a la the machine in the opening sequence of Aliens). Down the aisle of material and heavy machinery. Spence is waiting.”

She tells him that Tully could not risk divulging sensitive information, so she opted to do so instead.

Spence: [Tully] He told me what was on that ship, Hicks. What he saw. You know what is was.
Hicks: I don’t think anybody knows what it is…
Spence: They’ve got us growing the stuff. We’ve been running recombinant DNA routines on it, using human genetic material…
Hicks: You’ve been what?
Spence: (stubbing out her cigarette) Cancer research. Tully says that’s just a cover. Says it’s like trying to cure cancer with a shotgun. Anyway, everybody know those two spooks from Gateway are MiliSci [Military Science]…
Hicks: Fox and Welles?
Spence: Weapons Division. Not even supposed to exist, these days. Not officially, anyway.
Hicks: (lights a cigarette of his own) I still don’t see why you’re telling me this.
Spence: Maybe I don’t either. It’s just… we’ve got to tell somebody… Now there’s a rumor somebody came in on a U.P.P. ship today, somebody off Sulaco…
Hicks: Bishop…
Spence: I don’t know.
Hicks: Maybe Progressive Peoples’ll get their own Alien too. Maybe they’ll grow some…

Hicks is later reunited with Bishop, who visits him as he works in the machine shop. Bishop tells Hicks about the Alien Queen that stowed aboard the Sulaco, and he theorises that it somehow deposited genetic material aboard the ship before it was expelled by Ripley. They discuss the Company’s plans to reproduce an Alien, and they decide to foil these plans.

It is quickly revealed that Alien eggs are also being cultivated at Anchorpoint. The eggs are stunted, but apparently growing. Welles visits Tully in the lab to observe their progress, but her visit coincides with an inexplicable accident:

Two of the tubes BLOW OUT. Nutrient fluid and plastic shards everywhere. Welles and Tully go down. A louder ALARM cuts in; red lights strobe. Locks in the doors THUNK shut, an automatic containment measure, as Spence, outside, throws down her coffee and begins to struggle with the door-controls, trying to reach Tully. Tully, face down in a pool of the fluid, see that he’s nine inches away from the gray pigeon’s-egg of alien tissue. His eyes widen. Gets to his knees as carefully as he can.

A small gas leaks from the lips of the egg, and no more. Tully and Welles are washed down by techs in biohazard gear. No one raises the possibility of infection.

Back to Bishop and Hicks, who are sneaking into the Tissue Culture Lab. They destroy the Alien samples and are arrested by security. The higher-ups call a meeting to discuss the loss of the samples:

Welles: The Anchorpoint phase of the project is terminated, Rosetti. You’ll keep Hicks and the android in solitary until they can return with us to Gateway to stand trial for treason.
Trent: The Anchorpoint phase? What do you mean? We have no more material to work with…
Fox: You have no more material to work with, Trent. In any case, it’s become obvious that you aren’t quite the man for the job. We took the precaution of obtaining our own samples. They’re on their way to Gateway.

But Welles, who is present at the meeting, begins to double over in pain.

As the chittering tooth-burr becomes a shrill SHRIEK of inhuman rage, the transformation takes place. Segmented biomechanoid tendons squirm beneath the skin of her arms. Her hands claw at one another, tearing redundant flesh from Alien talons. Then the shriek dies. She straightens up – and rips her face apart in a single movement, the glistening claws coming away with skin, eyes, muscle, teeth, and splinters of bone… SOUND of ripping cloth. The New Beast sheds its human skin in a single sinuous, bloody ripple, molting on fast forward.

Trent vomits explosively. The Marine guard snatches his pistol from its holster and FIRES wildly across the table. Blind screaming chaos.

The Welles-Alien kills Fox outright. Colonel Rosetti escapes and frees Bishop and Hicks from solitary. The brass deduce that Welles was infected after the lab accident, and they decide to hunt down Tully, who has gone on the run within the complex. Tully, having become an Alien, attacks Hicks and co in the construction area. They escape, but it is unknown if they kill the Tully-Alien (nevertheless, he never appears again). Bishop suggests destroying the entire station to stymie the spread of infection.

Hicks: I thought you were programmed to protect human life?
Bishop: (with android blandness) I’m taking the long view.

The brass receive a message from the U.P.P., who urge them to quit their experiments with the Alien –  their own genetically-altered Alien (“Bigger, meaner, faster”) has infected their entire station already.

Hicks decides to pull Ripley from the MedLab and places her unconscious body into a cryotube aboard a lifeboat. He ejects her into space, safely away from the infected space station (and to set up Alien 4).

He then takes charge of a young squad of Marines. The script makes sure to tell us that they are not the cocky vets from the previous movie. They are young, green, and not yet battle-tested. Hicks warns them that the Aliens don’t take prisoners – if a friend is taken, do him a favour and kill him. They head into an infected area and swamp it with floodlight, which reveals:

“an enormous mutant queen. The thing is splayed on its back, mortared into the mass of resin, its vestigial head toward Hicks and the Marines. Its abdomen is arched like an inverted scorpion-tail, tipped with a swollen, semi-translucent sac that ripples and pulses in the glare of Hick’s lamp. A biomechanical birth-factory.”

Aliens begin twisting out of the grotto walls and attack:

The Aliens tear into the Marines like living chainsaws. Wallace and Costello go down immediately; the Aliens begin to drag them away. Hicks has gotten hold of the light, struggles to keep it on the queen as he props the tube against his thigh. SCREAMS. Blue stutter of pulse-rifles. A tongue of fire from Greenfield’s flamethrower, but an Alien jumps him; the napalm-stream arcs wildly, splashing the resin structure — and the Queen wakes.

The Queen emits a cloud of smoke, like the egg in the lab which infected Tully and Welles. Bishop, observing from a control room, activates the vents in the area, which suck up and disperse the gas. Hicks manages to load a mortar shell and blows the Queen’s head off. But despite Bishop’s maneuver, one of the Marines is already in the throes of transformation, and Hicks euthanises him.

Back at the U.P.P., and the Vietnamese Commando makes her way through the station, finding “a bas-relief of human bodies and glittering resin” along the way. The station is clearly doomed. She continues to make for her escape, and boards an interceptor. She sees another U.P.P. ship, the ‘Nikolai Stoiko’, looming ahead, ready to nuke the station. She escapes just as it is destroyed.

Back in Anchorpoint’s mall, where we catch up with machine shop boss Walker. The mall is abandoned, but not uninhabited:

Behind him, a mug topples, CLATTERS on the floor. He slowly lowers the liquor to the counter; just as slowly, he turns. A beast is there, waiting, beyond the glimmer of the holo-games.

Walker and the beast move simultaneously. But he doesn’t go for his gun — he grabs the control unit hanging on his chest.

An unmanned power-loader walks straight through the glass facade, plowing tables and chairs out of its way, big vice-grip claws extended. The Alien SCREAMS, leaps for it, but the steel claws close and grip.

Walker twiddles the controls; the power-loader responds, pinning the Alien against the wall. The Alien writhes and HISSES, striking furiously at the hydraulic arm. Walker tightens the grip, locks the loader in place. Picks up the jug of liquor and has another swallow.

Walker: Fuck you.

The powerloader’s cameo is completely unnecessary (why is it in the mall?) and it deflates the tension and horror of the scene. It’s clearly meant to be a badass moment for the Walker, but he begins to transform into an Alien and does not enjoy his victory.

In the station’s Eco-Module Spence seeks out the colony’s animals -monkeys, lemurs- and attempts to feed them. Unfortunately the animals have also transformed into different forms of Alien, and she flees. Hicks later finds and escorts her to safety in the Operations Room.

Hicks urges Rosetti to sabotage the Anchorpoint’s “fusion package”, which will destroy the station. Rosetti states it can only be done manually due to damage in the area. Bishop volunteers for the task. Suddenly, a Marine in the room drops to his knees in pain, and a swarm of chestbursters erupt from his body. Everyone, Hicks, Spence, Rosetti, Jackson and Bishop, flee. Hicks tells Bishop that destroying the station, even if they do not escape, is paramount. Bishops leaves and Hicks and the rest round up a group of survivors:


Another intersection of corridors. A pathetic remnant of Anchorpoint’s crew cluster beneath a flashing blue light. A dozen people, including HALLIDAY, a woman Spence’s age; TATSUMI (male Japanese); a LAB TECH (male).

We then join Bishop passing through the mall on his way to the fusion package:


Dense haze of smoke from burning insulation; half the lights are out. A body floats face down in the pool at the foot of the waterfall; the pool is overflowing, splashing on polished concrete. Bishop emerges from a doorway and hurries along toward the freight elevator. He freezes. Hears something else. Moves quietly in the direction of the SOUND. The bar. He peers into the wreckage. Four Aliens are at work, cocooning their prey. Cocooned bodies -CLOSE on the face of Shuman- have been glued to the big screen, where silent images of the soccer game repeat endlessly. Bishop stares, then turns – looks up.

A Queen. The thing towers above him in the Mall, utterly still.

Bishop makes for a freight elevator, and the Queen chases him like “a famished mantis”. He makes it, but the Queen stabs at the elevator interior with her tail.


Bishop on his knees, running his hands delicately over the ribbed plastic flooring. The Queen HISSES, BASHES the door. He finds a seam, levers up with his nails, gets a grip. Pulls. Sense of his android strength as the flooring comes up on pale streamers of super-glue. The elevator shakes with the Queen’s fury. He finds a section of the floor that can be removed. Forces the glue-caked caches. Slams down with the heel of his hand — the panel falls away, tumbling through smoke toward a point of fire-glow at the shaft’s distant foot.


Bishop lowers himself through the opening, dangles. An emergency service- ladder is recessed in one wall. He tries to reach one of the rungs with his foot, but the toe of his boot slips. Too far. He begins to swing back and forth like a gymnast, building momentum — and lets go. Falls six feet before he manages to get a grip.

He begins to descend the ladder. It’s a long way down.

Hicks and the others make their way through the colony, cutting though an “Aquaculture farm” and an “Aeroponics farm” (fish cultivated in the former, vegetation in the latter). Halliday is killed by an Alien, which Spence kills with a flare-gun. Tatsumi is also injured by another Alien. Meanwhile Bishop successfully sabotages the fusion package, initiating an imminent explosion.

Hicks and co near the lifeboats, and Rosetti runs ahead, opening the portal door to the bay. Inside he finds “an indeterminate number of Aliens, their appendages tangled black and shiny as a fresh catch of eels.” They escape into an office, where they find the corpse of one of Anchorpoint’s directorate, Trent, who has evidently shot himself after shredding documents pertaining to the Alien experiments. They find an airlock in the office, and elect to don spacesuits and cross the hull. Another swarm of chestbursters erupt from Tatsumi, and the remaining five survivors escape into the airlock. They don spacesuits, but Rosetti begins to change into an Alien and hurls the unnamed Lab Tech into space. Hicks shoots the Rosetti-Alien, killing him. Now only Hicks, Spence, and Jackson are left.

They make for the lifeboat bay, hoping to gain entry from the exterior.


The scene is silent, except for their ragged breaths. They lift their legs like weights, they progress step-by-step and risk clumsy zero-g leaps. They reach a shuttle and pry at its plates. Aliens attack, and Hicks holds them off with the limited ammunition he has left. He rescues Bishop from an airlock in the meantime, whilst Jackson and Spence pry open the ship. Jackson is successful, and leans in:

Jackson ducks, wedges helmet and shoulder through the opening – and a queen-sized stinger erupts through the back of her neck, slicing the suit’s alloy collar ring like butter. Brief but horrible SOUND on radio.

… [The] Queen, her crest rising against the stars, leads the swarm against them in a solid wave…

Hicks almost loses consciousness in the battle after an explosion, and Bishop stands alone to gun down the advancing Aliens, which he does with “no anger, no fear — just total absorption in the task at hand.” He blows the Queen’s head off with a grenade, and Gibson controversially notes that “with the loss of the Queen’s unifying intelligence, the Aliens are reduced to their usual level of instinctual action.”

The three survivors make for a radio mast jutting from the station’s surface, with several Aliens in pursuit.

Suddenly – “The U.P.P. interceptor, pitted and scorched by the nuking of Rodina, settles toward Anchorpoint on steering jets.” The Vietnamese Commando appears at a gunport, settled behind the “vicious-looking snout of a Gatling-style pulse-cannon.” She chops up the Aliens in a barrage of gunfire and Hicks, Bishop and Spence manage to board the ship and make their escape. Anchorpoint Station explodes behind them.

Bishop informs Hicks that he and Spence are not infected, but that the Vietnamese Commando is dying from radiation poisoning. Bishop rouses Hicks to join forces with the Colonial Administration and the U.P.P. to combat their joint enemy on their home turf in a united front – otherwise, the Alien will wipe out humanity.

The script ends with the vessel ‘Kansas City’ picking up the interceptor and taking our protagonists once again into the murk of space.

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Kansas City.



The stars.



Presented here is a comprehensive look at the revisions made by Gibson in the second draft. Some changes are large, others small, the rest maybe trivial. The script is altogether far more intricate than the first draft, as should be expected.

Note that some of the new scenes, like Bishop being toured around the Alien tissue lab, may not be entirely new. According to Gibson, the first draft that is available online is missing pages. The second draft presumably retains these.

A few very simple differences between the first and second drafts before we begin the list? The first is awash with Marines and Queens, the second features none. The first draft is clearly an action-spectacle, the second focuses mainly on three Alien creatures: one U.P.P. Alien that is destroyed when Rodina is nuked halfway through the screenplay, and one transformed human (‘the Hybrid’) at Anchorpoint. Another Alien bursts from the body of U.P.P. commando, Kurtz, and is the classic Giger type. It is known as ‘the Beast’.

As a result of the reduction in Aliens, there is less chaos at Anchorpoint. The station seems almost abandoned save for the few main and secondary characters. This makes sense, as it is explained that the station was under construction and apparently abandoned. It maintains a skeleton crew who await further funding for the station’s completion.

Now, a comprehensive look at the differences, which include:

  • The script opens as before, but this time the interior of the U.P.P. interceptor is described (“cramped like a WWII bomber”) and the commandos are given names and nationalities: “Kurtz (E. German), DeSolis (C. American) and Chang (Pacific Rim, female)”. Chang is the ‘Vietnamese Commando’ from the first draft.
  • In the first draft, the interceptor lands on the Sulaco “like a wasp”. The landing is rougher in the second draft: “The interceptor clangs against Sulaco, shudders, lights flicker, steam hisses from a vent.”
  • The commandos are given dialogue in the second draft.
  • In the first draft the commandos enter the dropship hanger via ladder. In the second they use “hair-thin cables”, and their battle armour and equipment is more sophisticated: “We see the lock interior as they do, infrared images generated inside their faceplates, miniature data-readouts flickering in the margins.” (their armour will crop up later…)
  • When the Leader (‘Kurtz’ here) is attacked by the facehugger he reflexively pulls the trigger on his pulse rifle, causing damage to the cryotubes. In the original he stumbles into them and out of the chamber with minimal damage.
  • Kurtz is not ejected into space after the attack. His corpse is left aboard the Sulaco. The chestburster emerges offscreen and nests in the bowels of the ship.
  • In the first draft Tully is awoken by Jackson via a vid-call. At the end of the scene it is revealed that he is sharing his bed with Spence. In the second draft Jackson comes to his cubicle in person, and catches him “tangled in a sleeping bag with Spence, obviously in the act.”
  • After the introduction to Tully, Jackson and Spence, the first draft cuts to Tully prepping to enter the Sulaco. In the second draft we cut to another scene, which introduces Rosetti, who is in dialogue with Fox and Welles. They discuss the Sulaco and the U.P.P.
    “Sulaco was returning to Gateway with specimens of weapons-related material,” explains Fox. “The Company’s quantum detectors were monitoring data from the ship’s hypersleep vault. It became evident that the material in question had… become active.”
    Fox and Welles state they will board the Sulaco with the BioLab team.
  • There is dialogue between Tully and Fox in the dry dock (summary: Fox is an authoritarian asshole).
    We then cut to Ops, where Jackson is overseeing the mission into the Sulaco. She watches the team enter the ship via an umbilicus which “clamps on with electromagnets, like a giant robot lamprey.” The investigatory team are indeed led by Fox and Welles. In the original these characters are not present.
  • The Marines accompanying the BioLab team are replaced with new characters, techies ‘Sterling’ and ‘Tatsumi’.
    Sterling is “a big NASA-style shitkicker techie”.
    Tatsumi, who featured in the first draft but was introduced near the end, “ties a Rising Sun headband across his forehead prior to putting on his helmet.”
  • The team find and comment on Bishop’s legs: “Bag it for micro-analysis,” orders Welles, and “Spence and Tatsumi squat over Bishop’s legs, working carefully with tongs and plastic; looks like a scene from an anthropological dig.”
  • The team are inexplicably attacked by two Aliens in the first draft; no Aliens appear to attack in the second draft.
  • Saying that, Jackson thinks she spies movement as the BioLab team inspect the ship. We can assume that this is a chestburster, born from Kurtz.
  • In the first draft Ripley’s cryotube is damaged during the Marine/Alien battle. In the second draft events occur differently, as there are no Aliens to fight with. The team enter the chamber and find Ripley’s tube emitting a red warning light – possibly registering damage from Kurtz’s gunfire in the opening. Suddenly: “Ripley slams up against the lid of her capsule, screaming, face contorted, clawing furiously at the plastic, mad with fear … the lid of her capsule pops up and she’s out, still screaming, all over Tully–”
    She is given an injection and passes out.
  • A new scene is inserted after this, which follows Welles as she looks through the Sulaco crew’s possessions: “Welles is coldly flipping through private possessions in a dark sleeping cubicle, using her light. This one belonged to Gorman (Aliens). In the locker she finds his military ID and a framed hologram of his wife or girlfriend.”
    She also inspects Bishop’s cubicle, where she finds: “neatly folded clothes, hi-tech android personal maintenance gear in transparent plastic bags, and a thick, ring-bound book with a plastic cover: ‘Documentation: Hyperdyne Model A/5’ … This is the ‘instruction book’ Bishop was issued with at ‘birth’.”
  • In Ripley’s cubicle Welles finds the body of Kurtz. “He’s U.P.P.” says Spence upon inspecting the body, “Sometimes they boobytrap ’em. I saw that on Titan in the Three Day War…” Sterling notices that the corpse has a hole in the chest…
  • Scene of an awakened Hicks and Newt moved. New scenes added, showing the team taking the unconscious Newt, Hicks and Ripley to the station’s MedLab. Meanwhile, in the morgue, Fox and Welles inspect Kurtz’s chestbursted corpse.
  • After this new scene we cut to the introduction of the U.P.P. base, where we meet Colonel-Doctor Suslov. The “Vietnamese” soldier in this scene is replaced by Chang, the “second commando” from the script’s opening. As before, Chang and Suslov have downloaded information regarding the Alien from Bishop’s brain.
  • The scene of the awakened Hicks and Newt is placed here. Instead of biting an anonymous orderly, Newt bites Sterling. The scene plays out like the first draft, and ends with Hicks and Newt visiting the comatose Ripley.
  • Two nameless techies inspect Bishop’s legs in the Lab in the first draft. It is Tully and Tatsumi in the second.
  • There is a new scene of Colonel Rosetti conferencing via vid-call with a Company man called Stoddart, who reminds Rosetti to follow the lead of Fox and Welles. He reminds Rosetti that funding for Anchorpoint is under review; he’d best comply with the Company if he wants it passed. Anchorpoint, as described in the script, is only half-built. Rosetti wants the station finished and functional. He grudgingly agrees with Stoddart.
    Jackson, who is present, tries to massage Rosetti’s ire: “You’ve been out here, what, five years? You were on the original design team, weren’t you? It’s your baby. It’s not happening. You’d like to see it happen…”
    Rosetti asks if Jackson would do the same. “Not if it means letting them turn it into a germ warfare lab,” she answers.
  • Spence meets Tully in the Tissue Culture Lab. They have a short conversation in the first draft. In the second Spence elaborates on Ripley’s condition (“catatonic shock), Newt’s apparent mental trauma (“this look she gets”), and her dislike of Hicks (“wonder how many planetary species he’s helped exterminate?”)
  • In the first draft is a scene with Newt and Hicks in the Eco-Module. In the second draft Welles takes Hicks’ place. She implores Newt to divulge the events of Aliens to her, which Newt doesn’t do. Spence arrives, and discusses Newt’s psychological treatment and return to Earth.
  • In the first script Suslov, Braun and an unnamed Diplomatic Officer inspect the readouts from Bishop’s brain. In the second Braun and the Officer are replaced by U.P.P. “scientific elites”, Nevsky, Rivera, and Kassel. They deduce that the Colonial Administration have Kurtz’s body, and may glean genetic material from it. They decide that producing their own Alien would not be unethical if the Company plan to do the same.
  • In the first draft Hicks is temporarily assigned to Walker’s Machine Shop. In the second it is Sterling. Walker showcases his mechanical repair drone, ‘Floyd’. Sterling tells Walker about Kurtz’s chestbusted body – the Sulaco needs maintenance before it can be returned to Gateway but Sterling is too spooked to enter. They decide to send Floyd inside instead. They don spacesuits and board a vehicle reminiscent of Alien’s excised ‘flying bedstead’ and follow Floyd to the Sulaco’s exterior.
    They use the ‘bedstead’ to remove a panel of the ship’s hull. Floyd spies something “rounded, indistinct’ inside the section’s cooling-grid.
    Sterling floats over to inspect it. We are given a subliminal flash of the ‘Beast’ Alien (from Kurtz) inside the piping, but Sterling doesn’t see it.
  • Rosetti is informed by a U.P.P. representative named Rivera that Bishop will be returned to Anchorpoint. He is informed of this in the first draft by the Diplomatic Officer. An addition here is that Rivera states Bishop’s return is to secure the handover of Kurtz.
  • In the first draft Rosetti, Fox and Trent observe the Alien DNA transfiguring human DNA. In the second it is Fox, Tully, and Spence – the latter is angered that biological weapons are being cultivated in the station.
  • We meet Halliday (first name: Susan) at this point; she was originally introduced near the first script’s end. She occupies Newt in the Eco-Module, and they feed the birds. Halliday explains that Anchorpoint was intended to have its own sustainable eco-sphere: “This is the cleanest air you’ll ever breathe,” she says, “we got that far, anyway.” Newt asks about Earth. Halliday insinuates that Earth’s eco-system is destroyed, as kindly as she can.
  • When Bishop is returned to Anchorpoint, he is greeted by Tatsumi in full biohazard gear. Chang delivers him personally. They isolate Bishop as per the first draft.
  • Newt leaves her grandparents’ address for Ripley in both drafts. Here is the address from the first: “Mr. & Mrs. Richard Jorden, 34877 Greenleaf Ave. #582, New Portland, Oregon AB994J2.”
    In the second draft it is: “Mr. & Mrs. Harold Jorden, Apt. 6783, 987435 Greenlea Place, Level 3, Subsegment 7, New Portland, Or., 7898765435.”
  • Bishop is grilled by Fox on the Alien and any possible reprogramming by the U.P.P. Bishop cannot (or slyly refuses) to give anything up.
  • New scene of Walker and the Sulaco’s damaged cooler-unit in Anchorpoint’s dock. He signs it off for repairs. It is hinted that the Beast is still inside the unit, but he does not notice.
  • New scene where Spence is informed by Welles that she and Tully are off the Tissue Culture program. She is compelled to sign confidentiality papers. Spence storms out in anger.
  • Bishop is shown the Alien samples by Welles. She wants Bishop to run the lab, the accident where she and Tully were exposed to possible contamination has diminished her trust in Anchorpoint’s specialists.
  • Newt is sent off at this point on the repaired Sulaco. Halliday sees her off with Hicks. We get a new scene with Halliday escorting Newt into the cryochamber.
  • We have a scene of Sterling showering where he is apparently killed by the Beast that was within the Sulaco’s cooling-unit.
  • There is no scene between Hicks and a drunk Tully in the bar. Instead, Tatsumi takes Hicks to Spence and Halliday in the half-constructed building zone. They inform him of the experiments going on, and they resolve to do something about the situation.
  • New scene with Fox and Walker. They discuss the Sulaco’s repair. Walker tells him that the old cooling-unit was not repaired, but replaced – the old one is still in the dock. Fox seems alarmed and runs off. He is somehow aware of the Beast’s presence in the cooling-unit, and perhaps planned for it to be delivered to the Company at Gateway Station by leaving it hidden inside the ship – the script is unclear on these details, but they can be assumed.
  • Bishop does not approach Hicks in the Machine Shop, since he does not work there in this version. Instead, Hicks seeks him out in the Tissue Culture Lab. Spence and Halliday accompany him. They tell Bishop they are here to destroy the Alien specimens. Bishop informs them that he was about to do it himself. “The responsibility would have been mines alone…”
  • In the first draft Bishop hesitates before destroying the Alien samples, and it isn’t explained why. The second draft notes that he feels a moment of conflict because it is against his nature to destroy anything living. Lance Henriksen made the same observance in interviews following Aliens’ release. It’s nice to see the notion followed up on. Bishop is the ultimate pacifist who is paradoxically employed in military operations and violent life-or-death situations.
  • It turns out Fox was running for his corporate ship, where he arms himself with a pistol.
  • Bishop and co are not arrested by Marines as in the original. Rosetti and Welles turns up instead and, in a rage, Welles tries to assault Spence, who punches her in the gut instead.
  • Welles’ transformation into an Alien takes place here, rather than in a board meeting. Her Alien form is called the “Hybrid”. She kills Rosetti (who survives until the third act in draft one) and flees with his corpse. Spence deduces that Tully must also be infected, and she races ahead to find him.
  • Fox, who has observed Welles’ transformation on a monitor, proceeds to destroy Anchorpoint’s mainframe. Jackson tries to stop him, but is shot at. Fox misses and runs.
  • Spence runs to Tully’s cubicle. He isn’t there, but he left a recorded message for her, detailing his exposure and unwillingness to infect the rest of the station.
  • After Hicks sends Ripley off in a lifeboat, Fox emerges and sabotages the others.
  • In the first script Tully transforms into an Alien and attacks Hicks and co. In the second draft he locks himself in a freezer to commit suicide. Spence finds his frozen half-transformed body.
  • Small scene of Chang and DeSolis (the third commando from the opening). DeSolis is dead, and Chang cradles his body and sings a Chinese lullaby. All other U.P.P. characters are either dead or cocooned.
  • Fox makes for his corporate shuttle, but the Beast Alien is waiting for him…
  • Hicks, Tatsumi, Bishop and Jackson discuss Fox’s sabotage. They cannot escape nor call for help. The ‘Kansas City’ ship will arrive at Anchorpoint, but days from now.
  • Spence is led back to Operations by Hicks in the first draft, Halliday in the second.
  • Hicks asks for the armoury, and is told there isn’t one. “This is a nonmilitary project,” Halliday explains. Tatsumi thinks he may have something of use – he takes Hicks to the morgue and gives him Kurtz’s commando outfit, which is equipped with a ‘suitgun’ on the arm. He has five rounds and several grenades to use against the Alien Hybrid, but he will find himself hindered by the combat suit and the suitgun. It is almost too heavy for him to drag around. The suit doesn’t figure into the original screenplay and adds an element of suspense to Hicks’ condition and battle prowess. It is powerful but hefty. Gibson clearly decided that the action should not be so all-out as the first draft’s.
  • Spence runs off to the Eco-Module in the first draft to feed the primates there. In the second this is Halliday, who enters with a box not unlike Jones’ in Alien, She intends to save an animal if she can, but is attacked by the Hybrid-Alien. It chases her through the Eco-Module in a Predator-esque sequence. Hicks and Spence arrive, and Hicks seems to kill it with a shot from the suitgun.
  • When Bishop passes through the Mall to head for the fusion package, there is no Queen waiting for him. There are no Queens at all in the second draft.
  • In draft one Halliday is implied to have flung herself over a catwalk after an Alien attacks and almost kills her. In the second she dies offscreen, but the Hybrid Alien has survived and apparently does the deed itself.
  • Spence sheds some light on what a ‘bug hunt’ constitutes: the Colonial Marines eradicate ‘redundant species’ on colony planets to make the area safe and habitable. No competing ecosystem for the colonists. Despite disliking Hicks’ profession, she trusts and likes him. They resume their journey towards the shuttle-bay to find a means of escape.
  • There are no other Aliens inside the shuttle bay in this draft, and the survivors do not hole up in Trent’s office (the character does not exist here).
  • Hicks inspects Fox and Welles’ corporate shuttle. Inside is Gibson’s tribute to Giger: “The interior of the shuttle has become a miniature version of the grotto (unused) that HRG designed for Alien. An obscene temple with Fox (still, horribly, alive) its centerpiece. Ideally, this should be the film’s most memorable set, simultaneously suggesting biological function, religion, and some utterly inhuman artform.”
    Hicks destroys the shuttle and the Beast Alien’s nest with a grenade.
  • Tatsumi, who was wounded earlier by the Hybrid, begins to violently transform, and Hicks blows him away.
  • The Hybrid Alien appears and kills Jackson “with a twisting thrust of its razored tail.”
  • The Beast Alien also appears, and the two Aliens quarrel – the Beast kills the Hybrid by tearing it in two.
  • The Beast then decapitates Walker with a swish of its tail, sending “his head, still in its helmet, bouncing off the wall of the lock.”
  • Bishop manages to open the airlock. Hicks and Spence get caught in a girder.
  • Something approaches Anchorpoint – the U.P.P. interceptor that Chang used to escape Rodina before it was nuked. A gunport reveals Chang commanding a “Gatling-style pulse cannon”, pointed to the interior of the airlock.
  • The Beast lunges for Hicks and Spence despite the vacuum, but Chang opens fire. The Beast is “torn to shreds by a withering fusillade of pulse-shells, pouring down from Chang’s interceptor like God’s own rain.”
  • The ending from this point follows the first draft:
    Hicks, Spence and Bishop board the interceptor and race to escape Anchorpoint, which explodes behind them.
    Bishop confirms that no one aboard the interceptor is infected, but Chang is dying from radiation poisoning.
    The script closes with Bishop telling Hicks that humanity needs to unite in order to survive the Alien threat. We get a shot of the sleeping Spence, and Chang’s dying face.
    The spaceship ‘Kansas City’ intercepts the U.P.P. ship, and the script ends.



Starlog #150, January 1990

For anyone who feared a ‘Space Family Robinson’ scenario, where the Alien series devolved into the happy adventures of Ripley and her adopted family, then this has to be made clear: such a scenario never existed. Gibson’s vision of the future of these characters isn’t as grim as Dark Horse’s Aliens continuation (Ripley and Bishop AWOL, Hicks a disgraced alcoholic, Newt committed to an asylum) but it does refuse to brighten their lives. Newt is packed off to Earth to live with her grandparents (okay – perhaps the only happy ending here), Ripley is rendered comatose, and the film essentially revolves around Hicks and Bishop, along with a wealth of new characters.

It’s difficult to critique the characters for an unmade movie, because performance is always in my mind, and scripts utterly lack those. This makes me give scripts that are generally good the benefit of a doubt. It would have been interesting to see Gibson’s roles cast, and to see how each actor embodied their parts. Alien’s script was notoriously light on character description, but each actor brought their respective parts to life. It might have been the same here, but we’ll never know.

Saying that, some of the characterisations here are not entirely satisfying. Fox and Welles are typical corporate shtick (was naming a devious character ‘Fox’ a joke on Gibson’s part?) though Fox has more to do in the second draft (even if it still relies on his being a devious S.O.B.) As for the Vietnamese Commando/Chang, I get that she’s meant to be an important character, but she’s a device instead. There isn’t a character there.

I didn’t feel that Hicks was necessarily transformed by his experiences in Aliens: he is quite gung-ho in the first draft, quite confident and assured and even insubordinate – but I suppose that is a change; he always seemed to tow the line in Cameron’s film. His insubordinate attitude could be analogous to Ripley’s change of attitude towards authority between Alien and Aliens. It would have depended on Michael Biehn’s acting choices. But there’s nothing drastic like Mark Verheiden’s portrayal in the Dark Horse series (I would urge you to find original copies – it’s an excellent continuation of the Aliens plot). The second draft tones him down somewhat, to my relief.

Anchorpoint isn’t an exciting and fresh environment like Earth, but it does bring the Alien close to a civilian population – at least in the first draft, where it is heavily populated. This was an element of Aliens, but the siege of Hadley’s Hope happened off-screen; its occurrence was a springboard for the rest of the plot, and the action was isolated to LV-426. There’s a feeling of outbreak here, a risk of mass infection and apocalypse. Saying that, I much prefer the second draft’s representation of Anchorpoint as a near-abandoned derelict, and its focus on two Aliens.

The political to’ing and fro’ing is new to the series, and I enjoyed it despite its outdated Cold War rhetoric and allusions – saying that, political maneuvering and backbiting is not the monopoly of any one era in time. With another draft the anachronisms could have been excised (along with the “commie bastards” dialogue that crops up here and there).

The idea that the Alien’s genetic material can transfigure and transform other beings into Alien creatures figured prominently in several Alien III scripts (from Gibson’s, to Red’s, to Twohy’s) and it seemed that Giler and Hill may have been pushing the idea of the Alien as a bio-weapon; this was an extrapolation of their original idea for Alien, which saw the creature as a man-made creature being housed in an off-world government facility. With the Alien spore spreading like a plague, you’d hope for some Thing-like paranoia in the first draft, but it’s quite absent. But again, I did prefer the non-chaotic representation of the takeover from the second draft.

The many varied transformations in the first draft verge on Kenner levels of silliness. A major problem with the Alien III scripts is that they played very loosely with the Alien’s reproductive capabilities. A very firm, simple, and horrifyingly true-to-life system was set up in Aliens; it’s frustrating to see writers turn to anything goes as a way to explain the spread of Alien spore. There are many Alien variants in the first draft, from genetically-modified types and even lemur Aliens. There is a scene with monkeys being cocooned in the Eco-Module, and the sequence reminds me of the deleted scenes featuring another primate from Cronenberg’s The Fly – disturbing, but probably on the wrong side of distressing and maybe even silly if filmed incorrectly.

The bio-weapon idea was later explored in Prometheus, as was the idea that their genetic material (or an off-shoot of it) could reconstitute the bodies of humans into strange alien beings. It is a good idea, but was probably done better in Prometheus than it was here – full-fledged Aliens erupting from beneath the skin of a person seems very B-movie. I much preferred the stage-by-stage transformation that we saw, or at least was hinted at, with Fifield’s transformation in Scott’s movie. All in all, I’d have preferred it if the struggle over the Alien saw both the U.P.P. and the Company fighting over ground at the derelict on LV-426, rather than the notion that its genetic material was a weapon in itself. Saying this, many of my problems here were rectified in the second draft.

The two Aliens fighting in the hanger would have been great to see, but the first draft’s zero-g battle would have been an effective set-piece, given the silence of space, the quiet light show of the gunfire and explosions, the slow clumsy movements of the human characters and the balletic grace of the Aliens, the only sound being crackled radio dialogue and the grinding of their teeth. It was probably cut at the insistence of Brandywine. The cost would have been astronomical (no pun…)

Conclusion? The first draft was serviceable, but hokey. The second draft was far superior, with less OTT action and more focus on dwindling resources and time. Had it been made then there may have been less complaints about the third movie. I would have liked to see Giler and Hill’s version of Gibson’s script: they have a knack for giving characters good, natural sounding speech. One of Alien 3′ greatest strengths, I thought, was the dialogue.

"My script for Alien 3 was kind of Tarkovskian," Gibson said in 1994.

“My script for Alien 3 was kind of Tarkovskian,” Gibson said in 1994.

“We got the opposite of what we expected,” Giler remarked on the subject of Gibson’s screenplay. “We figured we’d get a script that was all over the place, but which would have many good ideas we could use. It turned out to be a competently written screenplay, but not as inventive as we wanted it to be. That was probably our fault, though, because it was our story. We had hoped he’d open up the story, but it didn’t happen.”

The producers didn’t speak to Gibson for the entirety of the Writers Strike (March – August 1988) until a director was attached – Renny Harlin. Giler and Hill suggested that Gibson work with Harlin to improve the script, but Gibson ended his tenure on the film at that point, blaming the two producers for wasting time, in addition to other engagements.

Alien 3 generated a stack of scripts a foot high, before there could be a movie,” Gibson said through his Twitter feed in March 2013. “That Alien 3 script was my first screenplay. Worked w/ scripts of first two as my sole model of the form.”

“Only one detail survived [from my script],” said Gibson. “In my draft, this woman has a bar code on the back of her hand. In the shooting script [and final movie], one of the guys has a shaved head and a bar code on the back of his head. I’ll always privately think that was my piece of Alien 3.”

But that wasn’t the only detail that made it from his script to the film. Hicks asking for the armoury and being told that there isn’t one recalls the scene between Ripely and Superintendent Andrews in the final film. Also, in the first draft a specialist crew known as the “Deck Squad” are described as thus: “Their spacesuits are white, clinical; over these they wear disposable Biohazard Envelopes of filmy translucent plastic. Some are Colonial Marines, armed with pulse-rifles or flame-throwers. Others are scientists and technicians, carrying recording and sampling gear.” These, of course, match the appearance of the “Dog-Catcher Unit” from Alien 3′s finale.

Gibson later remarked on the successors to his role: “Vincent Ward came late to the project, but I think he got the true meaning of my story. It would have been fun if he stayed on.”

Special thank you to Ben Turner for trading rare Alien scripts!

And another special thanks to artist Jake Wyatt, who drew the Gibson-Alien storyboards in his spare time and allowed me to use his images. Visit his Tumblr and check out more of his fantastic art! The Jake Wyatt Riot.


Filed under Alien 3

Wooden World: Vincent Ward’s Alien III


After three years, three different screenwriters and an assortment of drafts and directors, Alien III finally began to take some crude sort of shape. Plot and design elements were beginning to take hold, and though Ward’s script was never made per se, many of the decisions made here would ultimately affect or appear in the final movie. The decision to kill off Hicks, Newt and Bishop was made here, as was Ripley’s isolation among an imprisoned monastic order, her Alien pregnancy, and a denouement featuring a final sacrifice.

Still, progress was glacial and expensive. The pressure to deliver a worthwhile successor to Aliens was running high. The production had recently lost its director, Renny Harlin, who felt frustrated by a lack of creative control and went on to direct Die Hard 2 instead. For a moment the film was mired in production hell yet again, but when producer David Giler saw The Navigator: An Odyssey Across Time he was impressed enough to seek out the film’s co-writer and director, New Zealander Vincent Ward, and quickly hired him to direct their hindered Aliens sequel.

“At the time I was working on Map [of the Human Heart] with my co-writer,” Ward told The Independent in 1993. “I was broke, I’d spent a lot of money on going to the Arctic and interviewing anthropologists and dam-buster bomber pilots, and we were driving each other crazy. I was living in this basement in Australia, and the phone call came and I turned it down. But then they rang me back and said, ‘We’ll send you the script anyway.'”

But Ward was unimpressed. “I read it, I said ‘no’ again. And then they rang me back a third time, and said, ‘You can change the script if you like.’ Well, by this time that basement was driving me crazy, so I said yes just to get out.’

Free of David Twohy’s prison-station script, Ward was on a plane for Los Angeles when he struck an idea for the film. “After The Navigator I wrote a book [Edge Of The Earth],” he told Empire magazine in 2009, “and started exploring more medieval imagery, and I came across engravings and so on that I hadn’t seen before. One of them was of a devil being cast out of someone’s mouth. So on the plane over some of these images came to mind. By the time I got to LA, I had a complete story.”

He explained to The Independent that “It struck me that it would be possible to take the elements of the Alien story and overlay a whole Christian mythos on it, and it would fit perfectly. So these monks see a star in the East, which is Ripley’s escape craft, and it crashes down in a lake, and you carry on from there.”

Somewhat to his surprise, the producers liked his bizarre idea. Ward’s story would take place on a quasi-medieval wooden orbiter: Lindisfarne in space. “It was like a Bosch world,” he explained, “It had a lot of technology at the centre of it, controlling basics like gravity and air, but it was all rotting, and the surface world was like second century AD Turkey, controlled by an ascetic sect of monks whose buildings and machines were all made of wood.”

Arceon, a satellite wrapped in an outer wood core. It carries ascetic monks across the galaxy - exiles from Earth.

POPULATION: 350 exiles
CRIME: Political heresy
~ Alien III, by Vincent Ward & John Fasano

“It was sort of a retro film,” Ward explained. “[Ripley] was with monks in a strange wooden orbiting vehicle… With a monk commune, in a wooden orbiting satellite, really. [The monks] decided to do everything the hard way, because they were monks, but they did have basic technology so they could survive. Then, in a world where people believe in devils – where she doesn’t, comes the Alien. I think it would’ve been quite amazing.”

The Alien, the devil and the dragon: Ward wasn’t the only person who had thought of the Alien in an historical and mythological manner. In an interview with Don Shay, Ridley Scott commented:

“We’d always talked about and played around with the idea of the absolutes – of good and evil. And if the Alien was really … what was it? Was it the face of the Devil; was it the face of the demon? Because if you look at historical manuscripts, engravings, and pictures, from wherever they come from whether; it’s China, whether it’s Europe, whatever the nationality, there’s a kind of continuity of the idea of the demon, as there is about the dragon.

So, [Alien was] like taking off the mystical aspects of it and saying it’s nothing to do with [myth]; it’s a biological fact, it’s a biological creature, and it’s been here before.”

Despite its strange take on the Alien series, those involved with crafting the film were genuinely interested in exploring Ward’s angle. “I liked him immediately,” said the film’s production designer, Norman Reynolds. “He was very enthusiastic; he had lots of ideas. We looked at some images he was really excited about: the fires of hell, all that sort of stuff. It seemed a really interesting way to go with Alien.”

However, it is also true that many couldn’t wrap their heads around how a satellite made of wood could sustain life. Vincent Ward explained that the satellite was not made of wood, only covered in it, like scaffolding that had grown outwards from a technological core. The orbiter was originally quite ordinary, but it was modified it to resemble an ancient abbey. The monks themselves were to be exiles from Earth, and included political criminals among their ranks.

“What if you had like a sort of powerful sect on Earth (in the future of the Alien movies) who reject all technology beyond a certain date. So the ruling forces say to the sect, ‘Okay, you wanna live this way? We have an old satellite – huge thing. We’ll tow it into outer space and you can just live there on your own.’

They just give them a place to live where they know inevitably they’re gonna die. The sect agree, but they believe in having an environment that looks archaic. Within that environment -a huge, round satellite about a mile in diameter- you have maybe 16 floors, each one about 100 metres high. It’s layered like an ant’s nest, or bee’s nest, and each layer has been largely clad with huge areas of sculpted wood. They can grow wheat there, and even have windmills and orchards. In a way it’s like a monastery.

The satellite [named ‘Arceon’] has a range of technologies that allow it to survive in outer space: it has a means of dealing with gravity, and a means of dealing with air, and it has a low surface atmosphere. It looks like a meteorite on the outer surface.’
~ Vincent Ward, Empire magazine, 2009.


The wooden world under construction. Wooden panels and struts slowly envelope a technological core; the source of the station’s life-support systems and gravity.

Before we get to the story synopsis, let’s take a look at (and get out of the way) one of Alien 3′s most infamous legacies, the killing of Aliens’ characters, and where it all began, right here, in Ward’s story.

Ward’s script begins with a scene familiar to Alien 3 viewers (the evacuation of the Sulaco) though with some key differences. The Sulaco is under siege by Aliens, and Ripley and Newt are awakened from hypersleep. They record an SOS message before abandoning the ship in an EEV:

“…taking pod four. The crew of the SS Sulaco and all Marine commandos are dead. Ship’s sensors have interrupted the hyper sleep cycle. An overlooked Alien egg has hatched. Bishop and Hicks have been killed. Xenomorphs have infested the cruiser. Newt and I are taking pod four. The crew of…”

As we know, the EEV crashes, killing Newt but sparing Ripley.

The script does not provide any explanation for the appearance of an Alien egg aboard the Sulaco, which remains a point of contention for the third movie even today. The script explains that Hicks and Bishop are subsequently killed by “Xenomorphs”. No real details are provided.

Ward’s decision to kill off Aliens’ supporting characters had, for him, a degree of emotional logic that would run throughout the film. Though he was apparently enamoured with Cameron’s parental theme, he wanted to give the film a parental theme of his own, supplanting Newt with an Alien embryo and adding nightmarish visions of Ripley’s dead daughter, Amanda (‘Kathy’ in this script, somehow). “One of the first things I wanted to do was kill [Newt] off,” Ward explained. “She kind of annoyed me.”

Ward explained that his motivation for killing Ripley’s adopted ‘family’ was necessary to explore the mindset of someone suffering from loss and their subsequent quest for personal redemption – not unlike Ripley’s previous arc in Aliens. “You can’t keep living your life fighting creatures without much of a family,” said Ward. “How would you survive? Families give us something. We’re communal, social creatures. So Ripley’s big regret is that she missed out on a personal life. She seeks some sort of strange atonement for not having had a relationship with her daughter.”

Ripley’s impregnation was to be a mockery of her parental desires. Her family is destroyed and then replaced by the Alien. “It was effectively father to the embryo inside her,” said Ward, “and so therefore would not want to destroy her during its gestation.”

Her pregnancy would also inflict her with nightmares and strange hypnagogic visions of the Alien and her dead daughter. In one sequence, the Alien leers at her and sizes up almost for a kiss. “The thought of that creature licking at her would be truly frightening and kind of wonderfully revolting, sexual and protective at the same time, even if it was only in her nightmare. It would make you feel she had gone to hell and back, and when she finally kills it the satisfaction would be very primal.”

The image of the Alien leering in at Ripley, lips pared, tongue extended, later became one of the film’s strongest images, and was even featured in promotional materials and the trailers.

Now, on to the plot of the film…


Cast of Characters

Major characters
Ellen Ripley – returning from Aliens.
Brother John – one of Arceon’s monks. Forty-ish, bookish, solitary. A proto-Clemens.
Brother Kyle – another monk. Black, early fifties. A proto-Dillon.
Mattias – Brother John’s grizzled dog.
The Abbot – leader of the monastery. Appears kindly but is authoritative. Can be considered Ward’s equivalent to Superintendent Andrews.
Anthony – an android banished to the monastery’s sub-levels.

Other named and unnamed characters feature, but are either insignificant to the plot or are mentioned offhandedly.

The movie begins with the intention of beguiling the viewer into thinking they are watching a medieval scene. Inside a glass furnace several monks blow and shape the molten glass. One monk, Brother Kyle, observes one of his fellows, Brother John, entering the works, and welcomes him with song. John does not reply. Instead he tends to a burned monk. Kyle continues to mock him with song:

Brother Kyle: Tend you quickly he will, with bottles from a shelf.
But heals not, so easily,
The ills which plague himself.

Brother John stops stirring.

Brother John: (to Kyle) Enough.

Despite Kyle’s jibs and John’s impatience, they are in fact quite amiable with one another. Kyle compliments his treatment of the burned monk, but John opines that he is no ‘Father Anselm’, a recently-deceased monk who was the Abbey’s Physician; a position that John himself would like to obtain.

We find out more about John in the next few scenes. The film assumes him as its protagonist. We see his living quarters, his “old worn out” dog, Mattias, and also John’s predilection for the library and several of its tomes. The Abbot appears in the cordoned area of the library, but allows John to borrow the book due to his treatment of the burned monk in the glassworks. “Father Anselm was… an unexpected loss,” says the Abbot. Then he adds, with an insinuation of a future promotion: “You’ll do fine.”

John takes the book at the Abbot’s insistence and leaves to find somewhere else to read. We are then given a tour of the wooden abbey as John and Mattias walk through it.


There is the bell tower with its ropes and cogs; the abbey floors thick with sandy dust, and then the films reveals its most infamous environment:

The door has opened onto the surface of a planetoid!

The curving horizon broken only by the very top of the Abbey bell tower poking through the levels below. Smoke curls from vents set into the surface. Sunken areas of the planet’s surface are seas.

This is Arceon. A man-made orbiter. A shell of lightweight foamed steel, five miles in diameter.

Constructed by The Company on Special Order, with the habitable levels within finished in whatever material suits its end user.

Here, on the top of the world, John and Mattias revel in the “celestial light” and the thinner, but fresher air. They walk to the shore of an artificial sea, where they sit and watch the stars.

The seas at the top of the world.  By Vincent Ward and Stephen Ellis.

The sea on the roof of the world.
By Vincent Ward and Stephen Ellis.

After a moment, John begins to read aloud to Mattias. The book is the memoir of a monk living in a thirteenth century monastery that had been beset by the Black Death. “I stayed as long as I could bear it,” John reads, “then with my dog [I] fled.”

Rather ominously, the book’s text was finished by another hand, hinting that the author did not survive. John, somewhat disturbed, closes the book. It will prove to be prophetic, but for now he is again looking to the heavens.

Suddenly, he sees:

One of the stars.
Brighter than the rest.
Fast enough to leave a faint trail.
Across the stars.
And down.
A comet…

John and a band of nearby monks all gather to watch the comet’s descent. It takes days to approach, but by the time it roars overheard three hundred monks have gathered on the surface to observe it. The comet trails fire above them. “John holds up his hands – to touch a star – skin blisters as it passes over him.”

The comet crashes in the lake. John is the first there, leaping into a coracle to row to the impact site.  He finds that the comet is in fact an emergency escape vehicle. He climbs in despite the protestation of the other monks. Inside he finds blood, shredded clothing, the head of a child’s doll, and two cryotubes – one smashed and empty, the other still harbouring its occupant. Ripley.

Brother Kyle boards the EEV and together he and John remove Ripley from her pod and carry her into the coracle. Kyle admonishes John for entering the vehicle but the latter is too amazed by the technology within to care.

Ripley is left to recuperate whilst the monks tow her EEV from the water. Ripley later opens her eyes to find John asleep in her room, having kept watch over her. Suddenly, an Alien emerges, glides over to her, and lays one hand over her abdomen and cocks its head. “The implication is clear,” reads the script. She screams – but it was all a dream. John eases her back to bed, where she again falls unconscious.

When she comes to she scans her surroundings and looks outside where she sees:

Garden of Earthly delights…
Monks labouring under a beautiful, celestial blue sky…
picking apples, fishing on the water on small inland lakes,
working with hammer and saw on small wooden cottages. Lyrical.

But the environment is quickly revealed to be a facsimile:

Workers on a scaffolding
with crude brushes at the end of poles paint the sky blue.
The abbey, the cottages, the fields outside her window are all on one level – inside the planet!
The vaulted ceiling, painted to look like the sky with huge glass ‘windows’ to allow the sunlight in,
is actually the underside of the planetoid’s outer shell.

The Abbot enters her room. Ripley looks around and, to her relief, finds John there also, standing in the doorway behind the Abbot. John’s presence and demeanor comfort her, not unlike Clemens in the final movie. The Abbot introduces himself and explains the purpose of the monastery and the monks within it:

“This is the Minorite Abbey within the man-made orbiter Arceon … We are a monastic order that has renounced all modern technology. We live the old way. The pure way.

Ripley then asks for Newt, and is told nobody other than herself was found. She then panics about an Alien infestation, and attempts to explain the events of Aliens, but the Abbot cuts her off at the mention of Earth – “Not possible,” he says, explaining that:

“When we left Earth seventy years ago, it was on the brink of a New Dark Age. Technology was on the verge of destroying the planet’s environment. A computer virus was threatening to wipe away all recorded knowledge. There didn’t seem to be any way it could be averted. In the almost forty years since we were towed out here in hypersleep, the news that came with occasional supply ships only got worse. Finally, the ships stopped coming. We had to resign ourselves to the fact that worst had come to pass, and the Earth no longer existed.”

Ripley continues to rave about the Alien, and the Abbot’s patience evaporates. He demands she say no more, and assigns two “burly monks” to guard her door. Entry is forbidden, even to Brother John.

That night John falls asleep in the library. Another monk barges in, hysterical, and tells him that Sandy, his sheep, is ill. “All creatures great and small,” John mumbles, grabbing his medical kit.

When the two monks arrive at the barn, Sandy the sheep is convulsing in agony. The following scene could have come straight out of Eric Red’s Alien III script: the sheep convulses and the two monks watch as it explodes in a shower of gore and an infant Alien emerges from the carcass:


“It shows the characteristics of the animal in which it has gestated. Tiny razor sharp teeth and black, glass-like eyes peer from an elongated head covered with downy, but gore-matted WOOL. A quadruped, its shrunken hind legs struggling to free itself from the cooling morass of intestines.”

The hysterical (and bereaved) monk attacks the Alien with a pitchfork. A fire erupts, and the Alien is thrown into the flames. John and the monk leave in shock while the barn collapses like a pyre.

Meanwhile Ripley, who can see the barn burning from her quarters, leaps out of bed only to be assaulted by four burly monks, who escort her to a tribunal overseen by the Abbot. The monks accuse her of bringing a pestilence to the satellite, though Ripley’s warnings about the Alien still go unheard. The Abbot decides to have her interned in the bowels of the monastery, which the other monks promptly carry out. Afterwards John corners the Abbot and protests, but the Abbot brushes him off.

Meanwhile, in Ripley’s subterranean cell, a face appears in a hole in the wall: “bright, wrinkled eyes beneath a snowy white crew-cut” peer at her from the cell next door.

We cut back to John who, after having an apparent epiphany whilst researching medieval depictions of Satan, decides to approach the Abbot once again – and spies him ordering John’s silent arrest. The monk who alerted John to the sheep’s condition is likewise condemned and taken away, and John susses that the alleged offence is having witnessed the birth of the Alien in the barn. For now, John decides the best option is to approach Brother Kyle in the glass-works. Unfortunately, John’s frenzied state alerts the other monks, and he flees the scene.

He decides to enter the subterranean levels of the wooden world, and takes a secret passage down.


Extending down through huge open areas beneath the upper level.
Past vast underground viaducts held up by wooden rafters.
Beyond that – a great underground sea that marks the centre of
the planet – below that, the cells.
And Ripley.

At this point we cut to one of the script’s better known set-pieces: the bathroom.

As the Abbot and a ‘Bald Tribunal Member’ occupy the stalls, an Alien reaches up and yanks the latter down through the hole in the ground, and drags him under the floorboards. The toilet’s faucets and lavatories “reject a torrent of gore! Blood and viscera spraying the wall – converting the Abbey into an abattoir.”

Concept of the Abbey's bathroom.

Concept of the Abbey’s bathroom.

The script does not tell us where this Alien comes from – the sheep-Alien having been killed in the barn. There is no insinuation at all that they are the same creature. If it stowed away on the EEV, there is no indication in the script. Perhaps its appearance was something to be sketched out more thoroughly in a later draft; still, it shows the carelessness of the plotting.

We catch up with Ripley and the head in the hole. The white-haired man is Anthony, an android. Anthony urges Ripley to eat and restore her strength, then to fight back against the monks. They are interrupted by John, who bangs on the cell doors in search of Ripley. He opens Anthony’s cell and enters. The two know one another.

John: Anthony? Thought you dead fifteen years.
Anthony: Made too good for that. What’re you doing?
John: I – I’m looking — the Abbot –
Anthony: What? You look like you’ve seen the devil.
Ripley (o/s): He has.

Ripley deduces that John has seen the Alien, and demands that he leave. She invokes the slaughter of the Nostromo and Sulaco crews: staying with her means certain death. “It never ends,” she says.

This conflict is set aside, and we cut to John, Anthony and Ripley working through the subterranean corridors. They discuss the nature of the Alien along the way:

Anthony: It must be able to take on some of the characteristics of the animal it grows in. Maybe they are from some sort of aggressive soldier race – warring parties drop the eggs on opposing planets-
Ripley: And the Alien takes on the form of the creature that finds it, assuming that animal is the dominant life form on the planet. So when it gestates in a man-

Ripley shudders at the memory.

Anthony: It’s a biped. In a sheep or cow, a quadroped.
Ripley: Shit. I just didn’t think it could do that to animals.
John: Wait a minute – I thought you were the expert on this monster.
Ripley: Is that the only reason you came to get me out? Because I knew about this thing?
John: Yes. I mean no. I mean, that was part of it. Look. I never thought you were wrong. I was wrong not to say anything. I was afraid to speak up. It’s hard to be a monk, you know?

John also explains that Anthony was a spy placed on the wooden world by The Company, and Anthony reveals that the world is not intended to be a monastery, but a prison, and that its inhabitants are all political exiles. John and Anthony both elaborate:

John: The order was more of a counter-culture, a reaction to the technology that was beginning to take over everyone’s lives. It was a simple enough idea – read, don’t watch disc. Walk, don’t pump more carbons into the air. The earliest members denounced technology. Started to collect the remaining books. Nobody would have noticed if it hadn’t been for the virus.
Ripley: Your Abbot talked about that. The New Plague.
Anthony: A computer virus. A bad program. By the time the corporate structure was trans-global, all the world’s data storage systems were linked. It spread through two countries before it was stopped.
John: After a scare like that, thousands flocked to our retreat. People started clamouring for written information.For our books. They abandoned the modern ways-
Ripley: I think I can see how this comes out. They abandoned their possessions.
Anthony: This was a threat-
Ripley: To the Company.
John: A movement to live simply was quickly twisted by Federal agents into a political movement against the Company-controlled world government. Too much was at stake.
Ripley: Too much profit.
John: We were sentenced as political dissidents. This orbiter is our gulag. All the men were packed up with all our books, and towed into space. Ten thousand men. The eldest died very quickly.
Ripley: The Company had a sense of irony. Sending you out on this wooden tub.
Anthony: I was placed among them as a sensor. Keep tabs on the movement.
Ripley: So how’d they find out about you.
Anthony: I told them. After the supply ships stopped coming I saw no point in keeping up the charade. Since I was a sort of walking reminder of technology, they cast me down.

The scene certainly illuminates the strange concept of monks in space, though it does carry a very bizarre notion of political sentencing, and Ripley’s interjections do nothing but make it clear to the audience that corporatism and capitalism are still pressing themes in the series, (Weaver would complain about the quality of Ripley’s dialogue. More on that later.).

Ripley is quick to inform John that the Earth was not destroyed after the exile of the dissidents, but he still seems doubtful. She further reminds him that was was right about the presence of the Alien. They discuss the layout of the monastery, which is split into three ‘levels’: Heaven, a sea, and Hell below it. They also discuss the need for, and lack of, heavy artillery, and the presence of technology in the orbiter:

Ripley: This is a man-made planet. Something has to be circulating your air, your water.
John: God?
Ripley: Please.
John: I don’t know, I just took it for granted.

Anthony announces that there is technology in the satellite, a room where fresh air and water is produced; it is the “heart and lungs of Arceon.” The three resolve to head there, and Ripley announces that she will help the monks escape the Alien, but will avoid confrontation with it. “I’m not going to fight this thing to end up alone again,” she declares.

At this point she feels the first pangs of the Alien embryo inside of her. As she does in the movie, she writes off her bad turn as an effect of interrupted hypersleep.

Back to the Abbot, and it seems that the Alien has run amok throughout the monastery. The landscape is ablaze, the monks try to flee, and the Abbot, drenched in blood, watches as a procession of monks are stalked through a wheat field by the Alien, which reveals itself to be chameleonic. The Alien rips through the monks “like a scythe through wheat”, and soon enough the entire field is consumed in fire. The Alien then attacks the Abbot, and we get a closer look at its camouflage abilities:


Rises out of the grass in front of the holy man.
Slowly rises up to its height of almost three meters.
Its long, smooth head is no longer black and slimy.
It is golden.
Its cable-like arms are sheathed in a straw-like covering.
It has adapted to the environment of the wheat field. Its now
grass-like lips draw back into a ghastly parody of a smile.

The Abbot screams and runs.

Back to the trio, and Ripley muses on the Alien’s apparent vendetta against her. She deduces that the Alien stowed away on her EEV and killed Newt, but spared and (somehow) impregnated her as a sort of revenge. “It’s almost like he’s playing with me,” she says. “Maybe they have some sort of race memory. Maybe he knows what I did to his ‘mother’. That’s why he didn’t just kill me. That would be too easy. He has to torment me.”

They reach a corridor lined with prison cells. For some reason, Anthony is winded, and John reaches out to help him climb a ladder. Anthony suddenly experiences a vision:

He is standing in an open field, sheep grazing peacefully at his side.
Suddenly he is attacked by a horde of medieval demons.
Fish-faced demons. Man-headed bird demons.
They fly about him, grab hold of his limbs.

Anthony flails and struggles against John’s grasp, imagining that he is a demon and that Ripley, who tries to help, is the Alien. Anthony falls unconscious but quickly awakens. He explains that the visions are manifestations of all the data (specifically, medieval imagery) he has absorbed during his time in the monastery.

They eventually come across the Abbot, who is in shock over the Alien’s attack. He denounces their idea of reaching the technology room, but joins them anyway. The technology room itself is surrounded by bear traps, set to dissuade anyone from entering. Using planks of wood, the four slowly set off each trap and they approach the room.

But the Alien attacks. Anthony, in a panic, steps into one of the bear traps, and the Alien seizes him, spitting acid over his face. John manages to pry Anthony free, and they flee inside the technology room, locking the Alien outside.


Inside they find:


Real Man of LaMancha wood and cloth windmills. Two story high
arms slowly rotating. Moving enormous volumes of air through
the wind tunnel-like room. As far as the eye can see.
Turning, creaking.
But no electronics. No radio. No weapons.
This is the Technology Room.

Ripley collapses to the floor and loses consciousness.

She dreams that she is aboard the Sulaco. Klaxons blare and she rushes for Newt’s cryotube. Again, the Alien assaults her:

The Alien spins her – pushes her over across the sleep tube –
Like it’s taking her from behind!
Ripley looks down into the sleep tube:
Newt is gone.
Her doll’s head lays in a pool of blood.
The Alien wraps his arms around Ripley.
Thin lips pull back for a kiss.

She awakens, back inside the technology room. There is a moment of humour:

John: I thought we’d lost you.
Ripley: What are you writing?
John: Last will and testament. (beat) Just kidding.
Ripley: Is [Anthony] –?
John: Resting. (shakes his head) He’ll be fine.
Anthony: No I won’t. He’s a terrible liar.

But the Abbot is pacing back and forth, denouncing Ripley’s actions. He accuses her of aiding the Alien. She ignores him and inspects the interior of the technology room. Everything in the colony is revealed to be reliant on plant and wind power, which is generated here. But the eco-generator is slowly destroying the wooden planet.

Ripley: Don’t you see? This is a planet set to self destruct. Not in ten minutes or two hours but soon. Your atmosphere here is finite. If the plants die the fires will eat up all the oxygen – this planetoid will be dead – Everyone will die.

The Abbot concurs, but reveals that he has always known that the environment was unsustainable. “The punishment for our crime was death,” he reveals. The monks were exiled and doomed to a slow and inexorable suffocation. “Poetic justice for the anti-technologists,” the Abbot says. “The Company’s finest work.”

The Abbot suddenly begins to talk rapid gibberish. Blood trickles from his ear and-

The Abbot’s HEAD EXPLODES!!!
Like a ripe melon dropped ten stories onto pavement.
Blood, bone, hair and brain matter SPRAY John.

A HORRIBLE ALIEN HEAD BURSTER is all that sits atop the blood spurting neck of the Abbot.

It keeps its hold on the Abbot’s spinal cord – The Abbot’s
body continues to stagger around, arms jerking mechanically as
a lack of fresh nerve impulses from the brain works its way
through the system.

The Infant Alien-headed corpse stumbles towards her –
She plucks Anthony’s staff from the floor and SWINGS –
– Like a child hitting a baseball from a TEE —
BLASTS the Chest/head-burster across the room –

It hits the floor SCRAMBLING. Scuttles down into where the
Windmills meet the floor. Disappears.

There is an obvious problem with the Abbot’s gestation time here, since he was obviously infected only hours before (if that), when the Alien wreaked havoc in the wheat fields.

Ripley becomes despondent, and is convinced that the Alien allowed the Abbot to escape with Ripley and company merely to toy with its prey. The trio briefly discuss the ‘head-bursting’ and the Alien’s reproductive process:

Anthony: Or this may be an as yet unseen stage of development – you saw a Queen – This could be like a King ant – more highly advanced than the drone, bred for survival –
John: How does this explain the thing that came out of the ewe’s chest? The Abbot’s head?
Ripley: Maybe it can deposit different types of eggs.

Ripley suddenly realises that she has been impregnated, but she does not share the news. She elects to find her ship, and Anthony decides to wait behind. Ripley and John ascend through the lower levels, and come to the satellite’s ocean, which sits in the middle of the structure.


Ripley and John spy a coracle that they can use to cross the sea. Meanwhile, Anthony, blinded by the Alien’s acidic saliva, enjoys his moments alone under the arms of the windmills inside the technology room:

The large canvas arms of the windmill rotate above his head. The wind blows through his hair.
Feels good.

Anthony reaches up and waves his hand over his eyes.

Anthony: Now the seer can only see what God wants him to. Forty years on a planet of Monks and I’ve finally found religion.

A floor board CREAKS. Anthony strains to hear.

Anthony: John? Ripley?

WHOOSH…WHOOSH… He knows it is not.

Anthony: Well come then. I haven’t got forever.

A shadow falls across his face. He can feel it.
He doesn’t have to see what is here.

Back in the coracle, Ripley and John discuss their personal lives. John reveals that he was condemned to the wooden world when he was still a child. He spent three decades in cryosleep at the beginning of his sentence. Ripley opens up about her daughter, Amanda, or as this script calls her, ‘Kathy’:

Ripley: She was nine when I signed on to the Nostromo. ‘Mommy will be home before you know it,’ I said. My shares would have set us up good. Then I lost sixty years floating around in a rescue pod. Thanks to the Alien. I came home to face a bitter, 70 year old woman. My daughter. A little girl whose mother never came home.

This is a strange detail, since we know that Amanda Ripley-McLaren died before Ripley was discovered. However at the time Ward’s Alien III was written the scene pertaining to Amanda’s fate had not been released: the Aliens Special Edition was some time off, and one version of Aliens’ early drafts described a scene where Ripley contacts her elderly daughter, but is shunned.

Unbeknownst to them, the Alien is stalking them underwater. They reach the upper levels and find the once-idyllic fields ablaze. Roasted corpses lie in the ash. Smoke bellows and pumps through the air. Monks have been impaled on their own spears, and their bodies are covered in cocoon resin. “Heaven has become Hell,” reads the script.

Ripley and John enter the glassworks and find Brother Kyle casually playing solitaire and talking to himself. Like the Abbot, he beings to speak gibberish. John euthanises him (via strangulation) and the two move on to the library, where they find Mattias, John’s dog, alive and well. The Alien cuts the reunion short by appearing in the doorway:


Standing in the open doorway. It’s in bad shape from the man traps.
Lost a foot. Tongue hanging out, useless.
Parts of it look like wood. Parts of it look like wheat.

It carries Anthony’s waterlogged, limp body – POPS off his head like a grape from the bunch.
Tosses the corpse at Ripley’s feet.

I could swear it’s trying to smile.

The Alien’s acid blood ignites on the wooden flooring, and the creature spins its tail in a circular motion, spraying and spreading fire throughout the library. The floor collapses and they plummet into the glassworks below. Ripley and John land safely, but the Alien plummets into a vat of molten glass. It begins to climb out, but:


Empties a thousand gallons –
RAINS DOWN on the Alien.
It HOWLS in pain –
The Molten Glass instantly COOLS –
The rapid extreme temperature change causes the beast to
EXPLODE into a million pieces…!!!!

The room is littered with Alien bits.
Each piece is encased in glass –
Trapped like a fly in amber.

Ripley and John flee to the monastery, and enter the EEV. “Those dead monks out there are going to start hatching soon,” she warns. She readies the ship and locks John inside, announcing that she has been impregnated with an Alien spore.

Ripley: It always wins. We killed it, but it’s still inside me – You’re my last chance. If I can keep you alive it’ll make up for all those I’ve lost.

John pleads that if Ripley dies for him then his soul will be damned for allowing her sacrifice. Ripley relents, and John performs an ‘exorcism’ to expel the Alien embryo from her body. He punches and pounds her body, forcing the chestburster up into her throat. The scene is clearly sexual, with John straddling her prostate body, and when the embryo becomes lodged in her throat he leans in for a kiss and expels the Alien from her mouth – unfortunately, the creature slithers down John’s gullet to reside within his chest. He tells Ripley and Mattias to stay put, and leaves the ship.


Dawn’s rays are peeking through the battered ceiling as he walks slowly across the smoking roof.
Into the inferno that is the burning Abbey.

Ripley watches as John and the alien horror inside him are INCINERATED.

Though she seemed unimpressed with the script as a whole, or more specifically its portrayal of her character, Sigourney Weaver read John’s sacrifice scene and had an idea – give it to Ripley. “In the original script, the male lead sacrificed himself, and Ripley goes off, again, into space,” she told Entertainment Weekly in 1992. “And I got to the end, and I thought, ‘Oh, God,’ I said, ‘This is it.'”

Back to the script, and Ripley pilots the EEV and escapes the wooden world.

Ripley escapes the burning wooden world and vanishes once again into the stars.

Ripley vanishes once again into the stars.

She places Mattias the dog into cryosleep and spots a piece of parchment on the floor: it is John’s final testament:

John v.o.: I, Brother John Goldman of the orbiter Arceon, Minorite abbey and gaol, know the Abbot was wrong. There is a great evil here. I have seen it. I put pen to
paper now lest this plague – this creature stills my hand. I have gone down below – both to try to warn the others and get  the woman -Ripley-  get from her some clue as to how to battle this evil, or at least to make my peace for not defending her. She believes there is still an Earth and I hope she is right. I hope she will be able to find out. I hope she can find some rest for the devils that torment her.

Ripley looks at the elapsed time counter on the command console. Pulls a pen from it’s holder. She adds:

Ripley v.o.: Whether the Earth exists or not, whether we end up in Heaven, or Hell, or the cold vacuum of space, she has.

The escape pod hurtles into the inky blackness of space, leaving Arceon burning and fading behind it like a dying ember.



Teenager in the back of the movie theater shouts, “It’s in the dog!”


“Essentially I found that the whole story was being watered down, and on a project of that scale it’s very hard to maintain a single viewpoint on the material, which is kind of necessary for it to have any singularity to it otherwise it becomes a mishmash of everything you’ve seen before …
~ Vincent Ward, Venue Feature magazine, 1993.

So why wasn’t Ward’s script produced? After apparently being promised full creative control over the project, Ward found Twentieth Century Fox and Brandywine Productions beginning to reign him in. Objections were raised about the strange setting, and after one particularly patronising meeting with Fox’s executives, where Ward was made to sit on a bench outside the boardroom, the director left the movie.

The script certainly has strengths, especially with its promises of grand and nightmarish imagery, but it should be noted that almost every narrative fault in David Fincher’s Alien 3 has its genesis here: the inexplicable appearance of an egg aboard the Sulaco; the offhanded killing of Newt, Hicks and Bishop; a host of faceless and largely anonymous secondary characters; contradictory gestation times; and a general sense of confusion regarding the series’ by-now established rules.

The character of Ripley is strangely unendearing. Weaver described her as being written like a pissed-off gym coach, and that’s how she comes across. She is needlessly sarcastic in times of peril or trauma and even comes across as shallow in several excerpts. “You may dress like you’re living in the Middle Ages,” she tells the Abbot, “but you can’t treat me like your chambermaid, or whatever monks had.” Not entirely sharp in wit or intellect, and lacking any of the moral rage from the previous movie.

Brother John is a very endearing character, though it is hard to imagine Charles Dance in the role: the character has an air of naivete and boyish wonder about him, whereas Clemens is an embittered and world-weary man, a self-exile and pariah. Richard E. Grant, who screentested for the role of Clemens, may have suited Brother John more than Dance (a spectacular actor, of course). I do wish that the character survived more completely into Fincher’s movie. As for John’s dog, Mattias, it’s almost an afterthought, appearing at the opening and closing moments of the film.

Brother Kyle is unfortunately barely sketched. The script hints at a sort of teasing-camaraderie between him and John, but the character barely appears. It could be argued that the character provided the basis for Dillon, who became a far more layered and righteously-bombastic character than Kyle.

Anthony the android is an interesting character, though he violates pretty much all known rules concerning the androids so far. He tires out, is severely hindered by his wounds (unlike Ash and Bishop) and the Alien displays a strange interest in him – Ridley Scott mentioned in an interview that the original Alien would not have been interested in Ash: as an android, he was an unsuitable host. Cameron had planned a scene demonstrating this (the Aliens ignore Bishop as he crawls through the piping to the comms satellite) but it was never filmed. The Alien’s interest in Anthony also raises an interesting but unanswered question – if possible, what would an android-Alien hybrid be like? It’s an interesting angle that Ward never explores.

The idea that the Alien has a personal vendetta against Ripley is an interesting one, but its method of reproduction is hardly explained. If the Alien has a mission, it’s seemingly only to torment Ripley – a frightening idea in itself, but hampered somewhat by the Alien’s often rampage-happy attitude. There are insinuations that the orbiter will eventually become a floating hive, waiting to come across more unsuspecting prey in the vast expanses of space, but the Alien ensures the colony’s destruction by torching everything it touches. The ‘head-bursting’ is utterly bizarre, and feels like it was only included to amp up the gore factor (though it is reminiscent of the pseudacteon fly). Lastly, there is a sexual element to the Alien that is very welcome: it plays the role of father, tormentor, and rapist – which surely would have pleased fans of the original movie and admirers of the implied Lambert rape scene.

The wooden world itself would have looked strange, but fantastic. Ward was clear that the world was in a state of decay: missing panels and walls exposed the interior to the vacuum of space; the wood was knotted and gnarled and barnacled. It would have been an esoteric but very visually interesting environment for the Alien to stalk through. The prison colony in Alien 3 looks beautiful itself (Fincher made the best of a colour palette of browns and greys) but the film’s descent into a labyrinth of identical-looking corridors is a mess.

Part of the monastery set, built by Chris Otterbine.

Part of the monastery set, built by Chris Otterbine.

Parts of the monastery survived into the final film. Here, Ridley Scott is interviewed on the set (his son Jake worked in the conceptual department); parts of the abbey can be seen behind him.

Parts of the monastery survived into the final film. Here, Ridley Scott is interviewed on the set (his son Jake worked in the conceptual department); parts of the abbey can be seen behind him.

Of the script’s various set pieces, the Alien in the fiery wheat field feels like the best. The bathroom attack seems too scatological and unbecoming of the series. Ward seems to enjoy talking about the toilet scene when he is asked about it on the Quadrilogy/Anthology, and we were clearly meant to be on the side of the Alien during its attack, since it lunges for the nasty tribunal members and the Abbot. It is similar to Superintendent Andrews’ exit in the final movie, where the Alien attack is played for a laugh as well as a shock.

Ward’s fear of studio executives muddying the creative waters was not unfounded, as the production of Alien 3 attests. The series was now a franchise, and creative liberties were becoming synonymous with financial risk.

“When you’re working in the studio system,” Ward explained, “they have these very powerful words – one’s yes, one’s no, and if you want something to retain its voice you have to know when to use the second one of those words. Also, you all have to be on the same page, because working in the studio system, it’s very corporate. One of my producers was on the same page, and one of them wasn’t. I ended up with a story credit for it, but it doesn’t at all resemble what I had in mind … These films are so expensive that the accountants start making the decisions.”

But the film did have vestiges of Ward’s story in it, which he acknowledged. “The basic story points are all mine,” Ward told The Washington Post in 1993, “but the rest is totally different. My idea was to spend $40 million recreating Bosch in space. I wanted to use every penny of $40 million just to scare the hell out of everybody. Apparently they had something else in mind.”

That same year he elaborated on his vision and the final outcome with What’s On In London magazine: “The prison planet wasn’t really me – I had more of a complete world than that. What I’d first pitched them on was, ‘Yes, it’ll scare the pants off people and yes, I can terrify them and there’ll be Aliens and yes, I can do all that stuff but I really want to create a world that’s quite special and different’ – and what they ended up doing was creating this convict world with guys with prickly scalps who couldn’t say more than ‘Der!’ I thought that was really boring – and so badly written. The characters… aaargghh!”

He was kinder when speaking with Venus feature magazine: “Under the circumstances they made a very good job. It’s not the film I would have made, but given the pressures they were under they did well.”

“David [Fincher] came in on the project when the original director Vincent Ward, who I thought was a really interesting guy, left the project. I really liked Vincent because we had already been involved in his Alien 3 and sold our company’s [Boss Effects] involvement to Vincent and 20th Century Fox. We were working with Vincent on designs and ideas when all of a sudden Vincent disappeared. Apparently he had some creative differences and so he left the project. We were really dismayed by this, because we had already been involved in Alien 3 for a couple of months … Certain parts of the monastery stayed in the movie, but got shifted around a bit. Norman Reynolds [the Production Designer] had already built numerous sets for Vincent’s script and had to start all over again. So it was kind of pandemonium.”
~ Richard Edlund.

Just as Ward read Twohy’s script and dismissed it, Fincher was not keen on filming Ward’s monastery story, and luckily for him, neither was Fox, who proceeded to redress or rebuilt the sets to resemble a prison colony.

Fincher himself was paraphrased by Alien set director Roger Christian as having walked into a meeting with Fox saying, “I don’t know what you’re doing – Alien is all about dirt and filth and oil and a hardcore technical world, why are we doing this ‘wooden’ thing?”


Filed under Alien 3



Aaron: The place has gone toxic. You should get out while you can.
Bishop II: Don’t panic. We’re here to micromanage the situation.
Aaron: (re: Commando Team) What’s all this?
Bishop II: A specially trained team to help get  the Xenomorph under control. Now, where is she?
~ Alien III, by Rex Pickett.

Their identities are unknown, and they can only be divined by their collective purpose. The third movie’s commando unit, sometimes nicknamed “the dog catchers”, appear at the film’s climax to collect an Alien specimen. In fact, the last third of the film is a race against time: Ripley must destroy the beast before Weyland-Yutani arrive to either hinder or complicate the situation. Unfortunately for the team, they arrive just as the adult specimen is destroyed, but this may have worked to their favour – despite their hardware, they seem comically unequipped to tackle the Alien: dressed in bleached gambesons and carrying lassos, they look like cumbersome hockey players.

Special Forces and investigatory soldiers were a staple in several Alien III scripts, but most appear at the beginning of the screenplays and are summarily wiped out, and owe their employment to the Colonial Administration rather than the Company. The commandos from the movie probably owe their appearance to William Gibson, whose script featured a specialist crew known as the “Deck Squad”, who are described as thus: “Their spacesuits are white, clinical; over these they wear disposable Biohazard Envelopes of filmy translucent plastic. Some are Colonial Marines, armed with pulse-rifles or flame-throwers. Others are scientists and technicians, carrying recording and sampling gear.”

The wardrobe, armaments and gear all sound like those of the dog-catcher commandos. The “filmy translucent plastic” overcoat is very much like that worn by the Company Man played by Hi Ching.

The combat gear was designed to evoke the dusty, hockey-pad/samurai spacesuits from the original movie.

In one version of the script, Ching’s scientist character is named “Company Man #1” and nothing more. Rex Pickett was later hired to polish the final script by Walter Hill and David Giler, and in his version of the story the Company Man #1 is introduced as Dr. Matshuita, “one of the finest transplant surgeons in the world,” according to Bishop II. Giler and Hill then fired Pickett and rewrote the script. In the final draft, Dr. Matshuita is once again “Company Man #1”.

There was an earlier draft by Giler and Hill where the Company Man attempts to convince Ripley to dismiss suicide, after the mysterious Bishop II has been killed by a blow to the head by Golic (Aaron “85” in the final movie). In later drafts it was decided to not have Bishop II die so anti-climatically, and he was kept around to the end, albeit sporting a horrific wound, and Company Man was yet again pushed into the background.


Curiously, in Pickett’s iteration of the story Aaron notices that “aside from pulse rifles some of them are carrying what appear to be sophisticated animal-control devices.” What these devices are isn’t elaborated on, but it’s surely more potent than the lassos from the movie – still, this doesn’t guarantee any success, and it’s a small injury to never see these commandos actually take on the Alien.

The commandos leave without getting what they want, but they are not empty-handed. Saying that, prisoner Morse is a very small consolation prize when you almost had the perfect organism in your grasp.


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