Alien Movie Universe

Gateway Station and the Background Spaceships in Aliens

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MemberPraetorianJan-28-2018 6:22 PM

'When Ripley awakens from her long nightmare, she finds herself in a strange place. A Med-Tech nurse attends to her with “practiced cheeriness,” and Ripley gazes out the window to look upon “the curve of the Earth as seen from orbit, blue and serene.” The script notes that this “sprawling complex of modular habitats” in which Ripley finds herself is “collectively called Gateway Station.” This conglomeration of satellite units, each tethered to the other by steel beams, houses a hospital as well as apartments, and is where all the Earth-based scenes take place, including Ripley’s hearing with the Company and I.C.C., and is where she settles and works before Burke offers to reinstate her license.'

'In Cameron’s 1983 treatment, Gateway is instead called Earth Satellite Station Beta. The script notes that the station’s hospital is “technologically advanced even beyond Ripley’s time,” though it “still reeks of hospital oppressiveness.” Cameron eventually pared back on the idea of Ripley being technologically out of time in the final film; when he was queried on the lack of technological progress between Alien and Aliens, he explained that humanity had experienced long periods of technological stagnation before, and that perhaps the era in which the films take place is a future dystopic Dark Age. The 1983 treatment’s advanced atrium deck, replete with a landscape and a view of the station’s launchpads, is replaced in the 1985 script with the (comparatively) low-fi High Resolution Wall Screen.'

'Syd Mead made some initial drawings for Gateway, but the station as we see it was designed by Peter Lamont. The facility was a combination of matte painting (the left side, painted by Peter Melrose) and a model (the right side), which allegedly used the base and towers of the original Nostromo.'

'“I don’t recognise this place”: so says Ripley in the film, but in the first draft of the script (written in 1985 – not the 1983 treatment) she mentions it by name almost immediately, which tells the viewer that Gateway is an older structure. Between this first draft and the shooting script, Cameron changed his mind and had the satellite appear sometime after the loss of the Nostromo, leading to Ripley’s confusion. Perhaps this was done to make Ripley feel perturbed and alienated, and to easily convey the idea to the audience that the Alien-verse Earth had changed in Ripley’s absence, as well as their own.'

View of Earth and Gateway, from Ripley’s hospital room. Designed by Robert Skotak, and painted by Peter Melrose:

'Two small ships patrol Gateway. Often glanced over, they are onscreen for a mere moment, their details indiscernible in the murk of outer space. One of the mysterious craft, pictured below, is called the Gateway Maintenance Shuttle on the laserdisc set (some assume it’s a security patrol ship… and they may be right, considering it’s armed.) The design for the Maintenance Shuttle has been attributed to Robert Skotak, and it was built by modelmaker Faisal Karim.'

Gateway’s Maintenance Shuttle:

The other Gateway ship, photographed at the studio. Perhaps a shunned design from Terrahawks:

'For the second, harder-to-spot ship (if you can spot it) model worker Steven Begg alluded to it being an unused ship from a Gerry Anderson show, Terrahawks. When asked about the design of a radio-telescope featured in the aforementioned show, Begg answered: “That was designed by Ian Scoones, who was a really nice guy, but just not into science-fiction action stuff. He also designed a lot of abstract shapes for Zelda’s fleet which Gerry rejected before we settled on the angular geometric type spaceships. One of which ended up as a background spaceship in Aliens!”'

'Considering that none of Aliens’ other ships (the Narcissus, Sulaco, dropship) can be described as a ‘background spaceship’, this leaves us to assume that Begg is referring to this second ‘Gateway Patrol’ vehicle, (another briefly seen ship belongs to the scavengers who find the Narcissus, and it cannot be described as an ‘angular geometric type’. Instead, it’s more akin to a space station, from what we see.)'

Terrahawks ship that appeared briefly in the Gateway scene:

'Once Ripley leaves Gateway for LV-426, the station is not brought up again. It is mentioned several times in William Gibson’s Alien III script, but the characters of that film find themselves in a counterpart station called Anchorpoint.'

'Gateway’s Maintenance Ship eventually found itself within the Sci-fi Museum in Seattle (from where the modern day pictures of it originate), whilst the ‘Terrahawks’ shuttle was auctioned online and sold.'

Gateway Maintenance shuttle on display at the Seattle Science Museum:

Gateway ‘Terrahawks’ shuttle, photograph taken from prop’s auction:


7 Replies


MemberPraetorianJan-28-2018 6:32 PM

Stills from Aliens - Gateway Station and the three background spaceships:


ModeratorPraetorianJan-29-2018 12:29 AM

Wow! Great job and investigation Ati! I honestly never took much notice in those ships, but even they have a wealth of history and lore.

I like Gateway Station it always seemed so decrepit and rustic, much like the Nostromo. Used and non-pristine. 

I'll feature this for awhile :) 


MemberPraetorianJan-29-2018 6:42 AM

This is a great piece of work and it couldn't have had better timing. Thank you Ati. The background and history of Gateway Station in your article above have real utility for me. Below, your image is an enhanced to bring out the details of the ships cited.


MemberPraetorianJan-29-2018 3:25 PM

IRaptus - Thank you!

(The article was not created by me, the segments are taken from the original work!)

The same here. I was surprised to see that there are THREE spaceships in that short scene showing the Gateway Station. And all of them are moving...


MemberPraetorianJan-29-2018 3:33 PM

Ingeniero - Thanks and I'm glad that it is useful for you.


MemberDeaconJan-29-2018 4:11 PM

Thanks for the investigation ATI, i find the bit about the Terrahawks ships very interesting ;)

R.I.P Sox  01/01/2006 - 11/10/2017


MemberPraetorianJan-29-2018 4:25 PM

BigDave - My pleasure. Anderson's UFO and Space 1999 are my favs!

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