Alien3 had a long, strange trip before it made it to screens in 1992, fully six years after the critical and box office smash Aliens made writer/director James Cameron a household name. During that time more than twenty scripts were considered at one time or another for the follow up. Before work began the only consideration was that series heroine Ellen Ripley, played perfectly by Sigourney Weaver, would be sitting this one out. Weaver had expressed fatigue with the series and did not think there was much more story to tell for Ripley. The first writer the producers reached out to was William Gibson, science fiction writer and “inventor” of the cyberpunk genre with his novel Neuromancer. He finished his script and it was worked on for a few iterations before the 20th Century Fox determined it was too expensive to film and they went back to the drawing board over (and over, and over, and over again). What finally hit screens was a bleak, nihilistic, and brutal movie that has its merits, but satisfied few fans of Aliens. Alien 3: The Unproduced Screenplay by William Gibson is not that story.
Following the events of Aliens, an alien embryo secretly hitches a ride in the android Bishop for the Sulaco‘s flight home from LV-426. Along the way a navigational glitch sends the Sulaco briefly into an area of space claimed by the UPP (acronym), an anti-corporate collective. UPP soldiers board the Sulaco and take the top half of Bishop before allowing the Sulaco to continue on toward the massive Weyland-Yutani deep-space station, Anchorpoint. A boarding party finds an adult alien and a firefight ensues. In the chaos, Ripley’s hypersleep pod is damaged putting her into a coma but Hicks and Newt are rescued and revived. Soon after, Military-Science goons arrive at Anchorpoint and immediately order experiments to be run on genetic alien material. Meanwhile, using the data recovered from Bishop, and some trace material left inside him, the UPP begins their own experiments. With Ripley out of commission, it is up to Hicks to continue the fight as a new, terrifying version of the Alien emerges and the hell he thought he left behind on LV-426 takes over Anchorpoint.
As presented here in an adaptation of Gibson’s original script by Pat Cadigan, this original story was admittedly too unwieldy to bring to screen as is. There are too many characters, two full space stations full of them, and an alien that follows no established series rules. It definitely needed to be tweaked and refined. But wow, some of the scenarios Gibson came up with would have been amazing to see on screen. A space station fashioned with a large section taken up by a shopping mall, an indoor jungle, alien-lemur hybrids, and a gory and horrifying transformation sequence. Some of the other ideas we already have seen in the film universe. A viral version of the alien that can be turned into an aerosol is awfully close to the way the characters are infected with the black goo in Prometheus. A Poseidon Adventure like subplot full of disaster and peril as a handful of survivors race to reach an escape ship is pretty close to the similar race to escape in Alien Resurrection. The technologically challenged UPP found in this script is the spiritual cousin to the inmates of Fury 161 forced to fight the alien with torches and a metal forge in David Fincher’s movie Alien3.
But it is there the similarities stop. This is Aliens taken to the next level. If you are a fan of the movies, especially Aliens, this is a must-read. Previously, a graphic novel was released based on a more refined version of Gibson’s script. There is also an Audible radio play, starring film stars Michael Biehn and Lance Henriksen, reprising their roles as Hicks and Bishop. However, this novel is the pure undiluted vision and if you are a fan it needs to be experienced. Some of his ideas were wacky, but Alien 3: The Unproduced Screenplay by William Gibson is a scary, entertaining ride that finally gives these characters their due.