Tag Archives: Alien III

Cold Wars: William Gibson’s Alien III

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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, williamgibsonblog.blogspot.co.uk, 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.

ALIEN III, BY WILLIAM GIBSON. FIRST DRAFT.

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Cast of characters

Returning
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).

New
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:

INT. LIFEBOAT ASSEMBLY POINT

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:

INT. THE MALL

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.

INT. FREIGHT ELEVATOR

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.

INT. SHAFT

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.

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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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EXT SPACE.

Kansas City.

Receding.

Gone.

The stars.

ALIEN III, BY WILLIAM GIBSON. SECOND DRAFT.

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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.

CONCLUSION

starlog150

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.

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Wooden World: Vincent Ward’s Alien III

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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.

RELIGIOUS COLONY ARCEON
——————————————-
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.

alien-3-arceon1

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…

SYNOPSIS

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.

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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.
Moving.
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:

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“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.

LADDERS

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:

THE ALIEN

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.

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Inside they find:

WINDMILLS

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.
WHOOSH…WHOOSH…
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 SCREAMS.

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.
John SCREAMS.

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.

Ripley SCREAMS.
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 —
WHACK-K -!!
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.

vincentward15

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.
WHOOSH…WHOOSH…
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:

THE ALIEN

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:

THE HUGE DUMP TANK OF WATER

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
BE-THWOOOoooOOM -!!
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.

BROTHER JOHN

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.

THE SCREEN GOES BLACK

END CREDITS ROLL…

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

CONCLUSION

“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?”

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