ALIEN 3 gets an audio drama-style reboot from Amazon, created from the infamous, unproduced script by sci-fi legend William Gibson.
ALIEN 3, an Audible Audio Drama
Based on a screenplay by William Gibson
Director: Dirk Maggs
Starring/Narrated by: Lance Henriksen, Michael Biehn, Tom Alexander, Barbara Barnes, Lorelei King, Laurel Lefkow, Keith Wickham
ALIEN 3 is widely regarded as a failure of a movie, critically and with fans. The release of an extended cut of ALIEN 3 on home video, which was meant to bring the film closer to the original vision of director David Fincher, has had fans looking back on the film kindlier as the years have passed.
For a movie with such low regard, it has become the subject of debate and inspired a closer dissection of the movie itself — as well as the production issues that hamstrung Fincher and the movie’s production.
The story of the making of the film is well known, as is the growing legend of an original script submitted to the producers by acclaimed sci-fi author, William Gibson.
Gibson is considered to be the creator of the sci-fi sub-genre, cyberpunk. And his debut novel Neuromancer in 1984 helped popularize the sub-genre. Gibson may be best known to casual fans as the writer of Johnny Mnemonic, a short story that was turned into a 1995 film starring Keanu Reeves.
Gibson, sometime in the 1980s, developed a script for ALIEN 3, which was never used for the film. The script has been floating around the Internet for years. Though I have seen references to the script, I had not searched for the infamous script to read it in its entirety. Now, in 2019, Amazon has produced an Audible audio drama based on Gibson’s script, starring Lance Henriksen and Michel Biehn from James Cameron’s ALIENS.
Will fans of the franchise, unhappy with the fate of Newt and Biehn’s Corporal Hicks, find solace in this what-might-have-been audio drama?
Or will they be further frustrated by the treatment of their ALIENS favorites in ALIEN 3?
The story starts with the android Bishop (Lance Henriksen) recapping the final battle against the Xenomorph Queen from ALIENS. Recounting his apparent demise at the hands of the Queen, Bishop reveals that he rebooted his system to survive and help Newt and Ripley. While in reboot mode, the Queen deposited a small egg into Bishop’s torso, which he unknowingly carried into the sleep chamber on the USS Sulaco.
The story diverges from the ALIEN 3 story we know at this point, as the Sulaco flies into the space territory of the Union of Progressive Peoples, a Soviet Union like territory that has a strained truce with the space territories owned by Weyland-Yutani.
Soon, representatives from Weyland-Yutani and soldiers from the Union of Progressive Peoples are on a space station called Anchorpoint. The Weyland-Yutani representatives are trying to keep the xenomorphs a secret and know that there is Alien DNA on the Sulaco. The soldiers from the Union think they have a bartering chip with the Ripley and crew but find out more about what happened to the Sulaco crew when they break into Bishop’s memory. Soon enough, distracted by their own petty squabbles between the two territories, xenomorphs are hunting our heroes.
The first thing that should be addressed is the fate of Newt and Hicks.
Infamously, in ALIEN 3, they are killed off-screen before the Sulaco’s escape pod crash lands on Fury 161. In Gibson’s script, Newt and Hicks are alive and well. Fans may still not be happy with the fate of Newt and, in this story, Ripley. Gibson’s ALIEN 3 has Newt being shipped back to Earth to reunite with her grandparents, and Ripley spends much of the story in a coma or asleep. Gibson, in this script, tries to steer the story away from Ripley as the main protagonist and create something new but not wholly unfamiliar.
Gibson attempts to do some world building in ALIEN 3. In ALIEN and ALIENS, The Weyland-Yutani Corporation was a faceless corporation looking to add a xenomorph to their weapons division. Fans are left to guess what a corporation needs with a weapons division and a xenomorph, and Gibson creates a reason for the obsession with obtaining the deadly alien.
Weyland-Yutani is in a cold-war truce with the Union of Progressive Peoples. The treaty forbids either side from producing experimental weapons, and that is where the secrecy in securing these creatures comes in. Once the Union is made aware of the xenomorphs, they don’t accuse and break the treaty. They attempt to do the same things at Weyland-Yutani and capture their own xenomorph to create a weapon of mass destruction.
But Gibson isn’t interested in just opening up the Alien universe, so to speak.
He’s also making changes to the xenomorphs themselves. Listening to the audio drama, I was taken aback at details about the nature of the aliens and how they impregnate other life forms. If you’ve seen Ridley Scott’s PROMETHEUS and ALIEN: COVENANT you will have an idea of the ideas introduced into this ALIEN 3 script. I would assume that Ridley Scott borrowed some ideas for his prequels directly from this Gibson script.
ALIEN 3, the audio drama, is a fascinating peek into where the ALIEN franchise might have headed. I’m not sure this story will resonate with casual fans, but hardcore ALIEN fans will love this what-if story. The only drawback for me is the lack of a detailed description of the new xenomorphs. There are details as to how they are created and a general idea of how they look, but I would love a visual of these creatures.
I suppose that one would only need to watch ALIEN: COVENANT to get an idea of what the ALIEN 3 xenomorphs might have looked like on the screen.
I’ve seen some online comments from fans of the audio drama hoping ALIEN 3 revives Neal Blomkamp’s direct sequel to ALIENS. But my experience was a bit different. While the drama did inspire hope for more movies in the ALIEN universe, it was a continuation of the David-centric prequels from Ridley Scott rather than Blomkamp’s reboot sequel.
At least with the prequels, Scott is introducing big ideas and taking the franchise in new and unique directions.