1992 was a special year for me. First, I was finally graduating from my dumpster fire of a high school. Second, my writing started to mature into something people wanted to read. And finally, Alien 3 was released.
Growing up, I was a huge fan of both the Alien and Aliens movies. Yes, both movies scared and repulsed me, but the style, aesthetics and storylines captivated my imagination, unlike any other sci-fi horror.
So I remember going to the movies dancing with electricity on the day Alien 3 was released. I left disappointed. Alien 3 was a colossal letdown.
It didn’t take long for the gut punch. Within the first five minutes, the movie got rid of all the heroes from the previous film and left us with a sci-fi prison movie albeit with an alien running around. Ripley’s sole motivation was to literally kill herself. Every other character supported the same shaved head and vacant stare.
Most people disliked it. Even director David Fincher wasn’t a fan. In an interview with the Guardian on January 18, 2009, he said:
I had to work on it for two years, got fired off it three times and I had to fight for every single thing. No one hated it more than me; to this day, no one hates it more than me.
Essentially, it was a film by committee that ultimately collapsed onto itself.
Years after Alien 3 was released, rumors circulated of a far different script written by William Gibson (Neuromancer, Cyberpunk). Instead of taking place in a prison, the script was set in a space station where Weyland-Tutani scientists study the aliens. The script featured both Corporal Hicks and Bishop as protagonists and by all accounts, it was the movie we were expecting in ’92.
Twenty-seven years later, we finally have that script actually performed by original cast members. Audible has just released a dramatic reading of the script. Think old-time radio but with chest bursters. Lance Henriksen (Bishop from Aliens) and Michael Biehn (Corporal Hicks from Aliens) reprise their roles in what could have been Alien 3. In fact, this production is actually calling itself Alien 3, but like Alien 3, it’s kind of a letdown.
The production provides a brief recap of the events of Aliens. This recap provides a back story to those who have forgotten, but more importantly, it acclimates the listener to the new voices. There’s a very good reason for this: time.
Most of us are used to the way the actors sounded in the 1980s, but that’s over twenty years ago. Lance Henriksen is just shy of eighty years old, and well, he sounds like it. It took me a while to really “hear” his old voice. It’s not bad. Just different. Michael Biehn sounds like him although it’s changed a little too. That said, I still appreciate them replaying their roles. As for Ripley, she’s played by Laurel Lefkow. Ripley’s barely in it (which probably accounted for it not being made), but Laurel does a fantastic job. She’s played the role in other Alien dramatizations (Alien: Out of Shadows, Alien: River of Pain) which are actually better than this one.
The story picks up with Sulaco flying back towards Earth but it drifts into space ruled by the Union of Progressive Peoples (TPP). The script was written before the fall of the Soviet Union, so the TPP is naturally comprised of Marxists. They board the Sulaco and find a face-hugger in Bishop’s sleep chamber. Bishop explains how the creature got into his pod. One person gets face hugged so the rest desert the Sulaco, taking the remains of Bishop with them.
Ultimately, the Sulaco reaches a Weyland-Tutani space station where the evil corporation learns about the xenomorphs. The scientists study the remnants of the alien DNA and do a little mad science work as you can imagine, doesn’t quite work out. Naturally, hilarity ensues. There’s a lot more to it with both Weyland-Tutani and TPP getting tangled in space politics while the xenomorphs have a blast eating anyone who isn’t cocooned down.
The overall production is well done, but the story itself is kind of iterative. Both Alien and Aliens are landmarks films. Alien created a wonderful creepy science-fiction horror which Aliens expanded in a unique way. Alien 3 feels more derivative. Everything we encounter in this story is something that we’ve already seen in the last twenty-something years. In fact, a lot of the new elements in this script were actually introduced with Alien: Resurrection. No doubt the screenwriter, Joss Whedon (yes, that Joss Whedon), had read the Gibson script before writing Alien: Resurrection.
Unfortunately, they’re a lot of visual descriptions referenced in the script that doesn’t come across at all in the audio production. You just have to use your imagination. That said, if you are interested in a visual interpretation of script, Dark Horse Comics actually released a series on it in the past year. My suggestion: if you like the audio production, check out the comic book.
The big question: is it worth buying from Audible? The entire production is less than two hours long which sounds awfully short. I will say that it’s a good two hours that doesn’t wear out it’s welcome. Better still, you can pick it up for ten bucks which are well worth the price. If you are a xenomorph fan like myself, then it’s worth it just to hear Bishop and Hicks together again.
If you are a fan, give Alien 3 a listen, and then let me know what you thought. Did you like the story? What did you think about the performances? Let me know in the comments below.