Cold War, Cold Star Beast: William Gibson’s Unmade Alien III

aliens hicks acid



With Neil Blomkamp scoring by posting some Alien concept ideas he had on Twitter, and enlisting the support of his Chappie star Sigourney Weaver to get his own Alien film greenlit, now is an opportune time to look back to the ’80’s at sci-fi author William Gibson’s (Neuromancer) script for an as yet unmade Alien III.

Several ideas were bandied about, such as aliens infesting earth, before the producers David Giler and Walter Hill met with the author – he would work from their notes and suggestions, essentially a hired hand. He’d never turned in a script before. The Alien universes appealed to his sensibilities:

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.”

Brandywine Productions suggested a Cold War in space (and earth) between the Western Colonial Administration and big multi-national states, and the Soviet-like Union Of Progressive Peoples. These factions would clash over the discovery of Hicks (Michael Biehn), Newt (unconfirmed if Carrie Henn would reprise the role) and a comatose throughout Ripley (Sigourney Weaver), and the discovery of the Alien species, with a race to genetically wield its DNA, under the guise of “cancer research”:

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”…

Suslov, a “Colonel-Doctor” in the communist-camp, muses on the alien’s origin:

Perhaps it is the fruit of some ancient experiment. A living artifact, the product of genetic engineering… A weapon. Perhaps we are looking at the end result of yet another arms race…”

At the time, before she was persuaded back in Fincher’s version, Weaver disavowed ever returning to the role of Ripley, hence the coma. The image of Hicks heading this piece is from speculative make-up tests by Amalgamated Dynamics Inc, the guys who did the practical effects on David Fincher’s Alien III and Alien Resurrection, and itself based on Neil Blomkamp’s concept art.

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Gibson never received any further feedback from Giler or Hill during the writing of his first and second draft – the writer’s strike was ongoing from March to August 1988. When they did hook up, Renny Harlin was attached to direct. They suggested Gibson work with him to “improve” the script:

“We got the opposite of what we expected,” Giler said. “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.”

Gibson decided to walk away. On Twitter in 2013, he said of his experience, “That Alien 3 script was my first screenplay. Worked with scripts of first two as my sole model of the form.”

What follows is a synopsis of the story by avpgalaxy.  A more detailed analysis of both drafts can be found on the excellent Strange Shapes site, which covers a multitude of aspects of the entire Alien series, and also Prometheus. And you can read the 1st draft itself here.

Alien III

1st Draft synopsis

The Sulaco is heading back to Earth. A malfunction in the navigation circuits leads to the ship accidentally crossing into space claimed by the Union of the Progressive People. Their space having been violated, a U.P.P interceptor docks with the Sulaco and its crew breaches the ship.

On board they find Hicks, Ripley, Newt and Bishop frozen in cyrostasis. However, in Bishop’s cryotube they find an alien egg. The face-hugger latches onto the leader of the interceptor’s crew and in their attempt to save the leader from the face-hugger, he is killed. The surviving crewmembers escape with the remains of Bishop.

We soon find ourselves on Anchorpoint, a half constructed space station. A BioLab technician, Tully, finds himself being awakened due to the arrival of the Sulaco and the W-Y weapon’s division wants the Sulaco taken in with full biohazard precautions.

The Sulaco is brought into the Anchorpoint dock and many of the marines and the biohazard team enter the ship. The group enters the hypersleep vault where they find two aliens waiting for them. Two marines are killed and a third marine kills the aliens. In the process, he also damages Ripley’s cryocapsule.

The medical crew quickly rushes to remove Ripley from the damaged capsule. Both Hicks and Newt are also revived from hypersleep. Ripley is in a coma, a result of the damaged hypersleep chamber.

For the first time we switch to the Rodina, the U.P.P’s answer to Anchorpoint. The remains of Bishop have been hooked up and his memories, including graphical representations of the aliens, are being downloaded to a computer.

On Anchorpoint, technicians are analyzing Bishop’s lower half is discovered by the dropship and some strange DNA is found on Bishop’s skin. Meanwhile Rosetti, the CO of the marines on Anchorpoint is paid a visit by Kevin Fox and Susan Welles, members of the Military Science, Weapons Division.

Hicks is brought before the directorate of Anchorpoint as well as Fox and Welles. They inform Hicks that the Sulaco breached U.P.P space and Bishop taken. Strange, however, is that they haven’t heard anything from the U.P.P. They would have normally turned this into an incident.

Tully has been forced to sign papers saying he won’t discuss any specifics of the incident with anyone. He sets to work analyzing the material found on Bishop’s remains. Both he and Spence are amazed at how the material looks under the microscope: Like the interior of the derelict ship from Alien.

Newt is also sent back to Earth. Aware that Weyland-Yutani is attempting to develop the aliens as weapons, the U.P.P makes decision to try to create their own weapons program using the aliens.

They decide to use the “alien spores” recovered from the kidnapped Bishop to clone and grow their own aliens for the purpose of “reprogramming them”. Aware of the obvious political risks, they decide to repair Bishop and send him back to Anchorpoint in hopes of distracting them.

Following on from Tully’s earlier discovery of alien DNA, the BioLab team demonstrates to Fox what happens when you introduce the alien DNA to human DNA. They watch, in real-time, as the alien DNA absorbs and mutates the human DNA, leaving a hybrid strain.

In a transmission to Anchorpoint, the U.P.P political officer drops the bombshell that they knew about the LV426 mission and the aliens. Shuman, the Anchorpoint political officer, denies this and the U.P.P drop the matter. They finally offer to return Bishop back to Anchorpoint, who is escorted back in a U.P.P shuttle. Upon arrival, he is ordered into quarantine.

Hicks goes to the station’s bar and finds an extremely drunk Tully there. Tully recognizes Hicks and reveals to Hicks that the aliens have made it on board the Sulaco. Remembering the papers he signed, Tully shuts up. Demanding more, Hicks finally gets Tully to agree to a private meeting.

Rosetti, Trent (head scientist), Fox and Welles all meet in private and discuss the situation regarding Bishop, the U.P.P and the DNA. There is no evidence of tampering with Bishop but they knew that the U.P.P downloaded all of Bishop’s data on the aliens. They also know the U.P.P recovered genetic samples of the aliens from Bishop. They decide to proceed with their research.

Not having signed any papers, Spence meets up with Hicks and informs him of Fox and Welles’ plan to grow the aliens. On Rodina, the U.P.P scientists have grown a chest-burster. Bishop, having been subjected to various tests, makes his way to Hicks and fills Hicks in on the alien experiments. Together, they decide they must destroy the experiments.

When Welles comes to check on the experiment, Tully shows how they’ve managed to grow miniature eggs. An accident occurs, one of the status tubes containing an egg is shattered, the alien egg is exposed. The egg opens and instead of a face-hugger, a small mist is emitted. The pair is rushed to decontamination.

Meanwhile Hicks and Bishop take the opportunity to sneak into the experiment lab and destroy all the miniature eggs. They are promptly apprehended.

During a meeting with the Anchorpoint directorate, Welles and Fox announce they’re leaving the station and taking the experiment back to Gateway. During the ensuing argument, Welles begins to transform into an alien. While attacking Fox, both are killed by a marine. Spence, who is checking up on Tully, finds him missing.

Rosetti removes Hicks and Bishop from detention, realizing he needs their help to track down Tully, fearful of a similar transformation. They track Tully to one of the unfinished sections of Anchorpoint. There they find the alien that Tully has transformed into and barely escape the encounter. Correctly assuming something similar is happening on Rodina, Anchorpoint tries and fails to get in touch with their communist counterparts.

Over 15 people on Anchorpoint have gone missing. Fearing that the new strain of Aliens may spread, they decide to contact the nearest ship, the Kansas City, evacuate and then blow the station. They receive a transmission from a surviving technician about the Rodina. She warns them of how their experiment failed and how the new strain replicates much more rapidly than expected. The transmission cuts out.

Investigating something detected by the air scrubbers, Hicks and his marines uncover a hive complete with a “mutant” Queen in it. As the aliens attack, Hicks attempts to kill the Queen. He runs out of time as the Queen’s egg sack bursts, releasing spores into the ventilation system. When he finally kills her, it’s too late: The marines around Hicks are starting to “change” as he escapes.

With the situation on Rodina worse, the U.P.P sends their own ship and destroys the station. It leaves without even contacting Anchorpoint. The situation is not good on Anchorpoint. Over 50 people are missing, starting to transform due to the spores.

With a USMC ship on the way, Rosetti is determined to get the lifeboats but Hicks refuses to in case they arrive too late. He’d rather destroy the station so that the new form aliens cannot spread. Due to damage incurred when the Queen was killed, the station’s fusion reactor can only be set to detonate manually. Bishop volunteers. The air scrubbers were also damaged during the attack on the Queen. They have only a few days of air left with a fire raging down below.

On their way to the escape pods, the group finds their path blocked by a resin “plug”. In order to get to the lifeboats, the group is forced to take a roundabout route through the depths of Anchorpoint, loosing various people along the way. When they finally make it to the boat bay, they find their way once again blocked by countless aliens. They’re eventually forced towards an airlock and decide to try to get to the lifeboats via the hull. At this point, only Hicks, Spence and Jackson are left.

The group makes their way to the entrance of the boats, followed by a swarm of aliens. Bishop also exits from a nearby airlock and adds his firepower to the battle.




With no way into the boat and with Jackson killed, the group retreats along the hull. A U.P.P interceptor appears, piloted by a Vietnamese commando. The survivors of Anchorpoint make it into the interceptor, which escapes as the Anchorpoint’s fusion reactor detonates.

Adrift and damaged, Bishop determines that neither Spence, Hicks or the commando are infected but that it is imperative for the aliens homeworld to be discovered and destroyed. “This is a Darwinian universe, Hicks. Will the alien be the ultimate survivor?”






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