The Secret History of William Gibson’s Never-Filmed Aliens Sequel
One of the many problems with Alien 3 was its lack of escalation. (…)
But there’s an alternate universe where the series’ propulsive momentum only increased — a reality in which the third Alien film featured advanced xenomorphs exploding in batches of half a dozen from people’s legs, stomachs, and mouths; where cold-warring rival space stations of communists and capitalists race to outdo one another with their genetic experiments on the aliens’ tissue; where a flock of the phallic horrors flies through the void of space, only to be beaten back by a gun-toting robot. Oh, and there’s a thing called the New Beast that emerges from and sheds a shrieking human’s body as it “rips her face apart in a single movement, the glistening claws coming away with skin, eyes, muscle, teeth, and splinters of bone.”
This is the alternate universe where legendary science-fiction writer William Gibson’s Alien III (that’s “III,” not “3”) screenplay was realized. (…)
You can find the screenplay in an antiquated .txt file online, and there have been occasional discussions of it on message boards and niche blogs, but for whatever reason, it hasn’t been appropriately acknowledged as the remarkable genre-fiction artifact that it is. Indeed, with studio backing and the right production team, one can imagine the finished film being on par with Alien and Aliens, and it certainly would have altered the course of the franchise’s history. With the arrival of Alien Covenant — a movie that, whatever its merits, largely retreads ideas from the series’ previous installments — it’s time to tell the story of how Gibson’s Alien III came to be, why it never crossed the finish line, and what made it special.
In the latter half of 1987, Gibson got a call from the producers and he was flown to L.A. to talk it all out over dinner. Giler and Hill had been contemplating the notion of a communist faction in space as a possible aspect of a third Alien, and they presumably brought that up, though Gibson says he doesn’t “remember anything about it other than being told that Ripley wasn’t to be a character.” Weaver has said she didn’t want to participate in any significant way because she “felt Ripley was going to become a burden to the story” and that “there are only so many aspects to that character,” but Gibson suspects contract negotiations played a part, too.
(…) “Having been deprived of Ripley, I became aware of how much I’d liked Bishop” — the benevolent android played by Lance Henriksen. But he couldn’t just have Bishop in the spotlight, so he reconciled with the fact that Michael Biehn’s gentle Space Marine Hicks would have to take a more prominent role. (…)
“FADE IN: DEEP SPACE — THE FUTURE” reads the script’s opening. (…) A group of spacefarers arrives on the Sulaco and start poking around. These are folks from an interstellar government known as the Union of Progressive Peoples — in short, space commies. (…) We drift along with the Sulaco, all the way to the place where most of the film’s action takes place: a capitalist, shopping-mall-heavy society on a space station called Anchorpoint. There, the ship gets picked up and boarded again, and in the ensuing pages, we meet an array of characters who are drawn into the consequences of its arrival: lab techs Tully and Spence, Anchorpoint Marine colonel Rosetti, and a pair of mysterious Weyland-Yutani operatives named Welles and Fox. (…) Oh, Hicks, if you only knew what you were getting yourself into.
(…) The UPP delivers Bishop to Anchorpoint but surreptitiously do experiments on the Facehugger’s genetic material; Welles and Fox oversee similar covert tinkering on Anchorpoint with tissue samples recovered from two aliens that stowed away on the Sulaco. (…) In the lab, Tully and Welles get infected by an airborne, quasi-viral version of the xenomorph DNA that incubates inside their bodies. (A similar idea was introduced in 2012’s prequel Prometheus, though a source from inside that film tells me the screenwriters had never heard of Gibson’s draft.) They, in turn, inadvertently spread the infection across Anchorpoint. The result is the creation of the aforementioned New Beasts — Cronenberg-esque human-xenomorph hybrids that emerge from human carapaces and cause, as one scene’s stage direction puts it, “blind screaming chaos.”
The climax finds Hicks, Bishop, and a handful of survivors attempting to flee Anchorpoint by scurrying in zero gravity across the hull to get to some escape vehicles. (…) Soon after, a massive detonation programmed by Bishop destroys Anchorpoint — an echo of the endings of both of the previous films. (…) The protagonists await the arrival of a ship called the USS Kansas City and Bishop (…) notes that the only way for them to stop this sort of thing from happening again is to find the aliens’ home world, thus putting the dominoes in place for a sequel.
(…) Though Alien III may not have been what the producers were looking for, it may have been what they needed. Perhaps a comic-book adaptation could be in order? A novel? A fan film? Like a facehugger lying dormant in a cryochamber, it’s still out there, lingering in the backwaters of the internet, just waiting for a host to give it life.
/By Abraham Riesman/
You find the original article with much more information about the screenplay here:
William Gibson’s Alien III:
William Ford Gibson (born March 17, 1948) is an American-Canadian speculative fiction writer and essayist widely credited with pioneering the science fiction subgenre known as cyberpunk. Beginning his writing career in the late 1970s, his early works were noir, near-future stories that explored the effects of technology, cybernetics, and computer networks on humans—a "combination of lowlife and high tech"—and helped to create an iconography for the information age before the ubiquity of the Internet in the 1990s. Gibson notably coined the term "cyberspace" in his short story "Burning Chrome" (1982) and later popularized the concept in his acclaimed debut novel Neuromancer (1984). These early works have been credited with "renovating" science fiction literature after it had fallen largely into insignificance in the 1970s.
It seems some of those ideas from Alien III showed up in AC in some obvious ways to me. I did not click on all the links, but I know that A3 was very problematic with story and script and stuff being written during filming. The information provided here is both interesting and strange. I am happy with how things worked out. Pretty mind blowing info Ati- thanks!
There is a plan in the works on this forum for a future contest involving this exact script.....we will get to explore and discuss it in great detail
The premise sounds way more exciting than A3, but sounds kind of campy. For some reason I imagined John Carpenter kind of gore when I read the part about the New Beast emerging from a screaming person being torn to pieces lol. But sounds like it would make a really good comic with that kind of imagery.
@ Ati - WOW! Great find! Alien III could have been so much better than what we got with Alien 3. I guess the hardest part would have been the limited CGI available in 1987?
Scrolls yeah there were a few scripts.
Gibson's script here was the one of the original full scripts developed.
The script with monks was Vincent Wards version, the last full script done for Alien 3. Fincher who took over as director didn't like it but they had set pieces made so he changed monks to prisoners, and a wooden space orbital to a smelting-prison.
He then cobbled together the final Alien 3 script literally on the fly as they filmed. Hectic!
Ati that image is amazing. I'm using it as a visual reference inspiration for my fanfic :-)
Neuromancer has to be my all time favourite novel. I've read it quite a few times. I was a bit flummoxed on the first reading because it introduces so many buzz words and unfamiliar concepts, but on a second reading where you actually understand what it's all about, it's a terrific read.
I met Gibson in London in 2014, where he did a Q&A session. Very smart guy. He can bullshit, though! I read an article of his once where he said that parts of Neuromancer were tongue-in-cheek. I could find no such evidence myself (it's all deadly serious) and he struggled to give me an answer when challenged!
Neuromancer was amazing. I read Pattern Recognition and Zero History from Gibson in the past few years and thought they were great too.
I do like the assembly cut for Alien 3 but I think we might have missed out with bypassing Gibson's screenplay Ati. Bishop is one of my favorite characters. Thank you for this.
Cerulean Blue - 'Ati - WOW! Great find! Alien III could have been so much better than what we got with Alien 3.'
Thank you, I agree with you.
IRaptus - Thanks for the info added and I'm glad you find the painting interesting and useful.
Your opinion is close to my heart. Would be exciting to see a space station chaos with aliens. I hope it is not too late.
True, Scrolls, that is an Alien Covenant poster made for a competition in Australia - if I remember well.
"Though Alien III may not have been what the producers were looking for, it may have been what they needed. Perhaps a comic-book adaptation could be in order? A novel? A fan film? Like a facehugger lying dormant in a cryochamber, it’s still out there, lingering in the backwaters of the internet, just waiting for a host to give it life."
The answer to at least one of your questions above is yes.
I love how a facehugger was hidden in Bishop's entrails in Gibson's script. To me, Gibson would most likely get a Blade Runner-type film from a script written by him and the article mentions the lack of cyberpunk in the Alien III script. He definitely wrote in the gore but I do wonder why he held back in the synthetics/constructs area content in the script.
I can't imagine anyone would argue against William Gibson's ability to pen cyberpunk and his concepts sure fit better now in the direction the franchise (Alien) took.
The opening of this topic provides a great description of William Gibson's script and overall somewhat prophetic in where the story might be heading in the comic realm and beyond.
There is also a link above to the William Gibson Alien III script, see below sample:
DEEP SPACE - THE FUTURE
The silent field of stars -- eclipsed by the dark bulk of an approaching ship. CLOSER.
ANGLE ON THE HULL
A towering cliff of metal, Sulaco.
INT. SULACO -- HYPERSLEEP VAULT
TRACKING down the line of empty, open capsules. Frozen twilight. The final four capsules are sealed, lids in place.
ANGLE -- INSIDE CAPSULE
NEWT, then RIPLEY. HICKS next, his head and chest bandaged. Then BISHOP in his caul of plastic. But the lid of Bishop's capsule is misted with hothouse condensation.
A tear of fluid streaks the condensation.
An alarm SOUNDS.
A monitor begins to scroll data.
TIGHT ON MONITOR
TROOP TRANSPORT SULACO
CAUSE: NAVIGATIONAL ERROR
Bland feminine voice of the ship's computer, as the alarm continues to SOUND.
Attention. Due to failure of navigational
circuitry, Sulaco has entered a sector claimed
by the Union of Progressive Peoples. Auxiliary
systems are now on line. Course corrected.
Hardwired protocols prevent, repeat, prevent
arming of nuclear warheads in the absence of
Diplomatic Override, Decryption Standard Charlie
Nine. On present course, Sulaco will exit the
U.P.P. sector at nineteen hundred hours fifty
three point eight minutes.
The ship slides past beneath us. A U.P.P. interceptor descends INTO FRAME,
matching course and speed with Sulaco. The interceptor settles on Sulaco
like a wasp.
Three commandos climb into spacesuits. The Leader opens a hatch in the deck,
revealing one of Sulaco's airlocks. FIRST COMMANDO, a young Vietnamese woman,
scrambles down and attaches magnetic units to the airlock. SECOND COMMANDO
studies a monitor, tapping out a sequence on a keyboard. First Commando
gestures from hatch: no good. Second Commando tries again. A grating SOUND
as Sulaco's airlock begins to open.
INT. SULACO -- CARGO LOCK
Darkness. Armed commandos climb through opening and descend a ladder.
Reaching the deck, they fan out, weapons ready. Their leader examines the
damaged dropship. First Commando gestures urgently. She's found something.
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.
Attention. Integrity breach, Cargo Lock 3.
Security alert. Integrity breach, B Deck...
INT. HYPERSLEEP VAULT -- LEADER'S POV
The chilly aisle of capsules.
Commandos move down the line, guns poised. They peer in at Newt, Ripley, and
Hicks, but the lid of Bishop's capsule is pearl-white. The Leader tries the
controls at the foot of the capsule, where green and red indicators glow.
Nothing happens. He opens a panel, finds an emergency lever, tries it. The
green indicators wink off. The lid rises. A dense pale mist flows out,
spilling over the edges of the capsule, revealing the ovoid of a gray Alien
egg. Rooted in the center of Bishop's synthetic entrails, the egg instantly
ejaculates a Face-hugger, which strikes the leader's faceplate in a spray of
acid. He screams, blinded by the acid, grappling with the thing as it begins
to force its way into his helmet, its tail lashing furiously. Clawing at it,
he plunges blindly back down the aisle, stumbling, smashing into the empty
capsules. He vanishes through the entranceway, his screams giving way to
frenzied gagging SOUNDS.
The First Commando scrambles after him."
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