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Noah Hawley, the mind behind the FX adaptations of Fargo and Legion, has been at work for some time now on a new story set in the Alien universe, which will mark the franchise's small-screen debut and allow a longer form story to unfold in live-action after years of films set in that world. We still know very little about what exactly Hawley has in store for us, and we still have at least a year to wait, but the writer has just provided an intriguing update on the show, and the big questions he's pondering as he writes it.
In an interview with Esquire to promote his new novel Anthem, Hawley said that he's still at work on the show, which FX head John Landgraf recently teased as potentially arriving by 2023, and noted that work is going slowly thanks in part to the sheer scope of the piece.
"It's going great. It's going slowly, unfortunately, given the scale of it," Hawley said. "I've made a certain business out of reinvention. Alien is a fascinating story because it's not just a monster movie; it’s about how we're trapped between the primordial past and the artificial intelligence of our future, where both [are] trying to kill us. It’s set on Earth of the future. At this moment, I describe that as Edison versus Westinghouse versus Tesla. Someone’s going to monopolize electricity. We just don't know which one it is."
That sense of battle over technological supremacy also means that Hawley's Alien show will be the first in the franchise to feature Earth as a major setting, as the series explores what might happen if containment of the Xenomorph threat went poorly. We don't know much more about what the show will feature just yet, but we do know that it won't re-use Sigourney Weaver's iconic character, Ellen Ripley, as Hawley has previously said he considers her story to be already very well told.
For now, the writer is especially keen on playing up the big technological, ethical, and human questions at work in the Alien universe, particular in a story he's able to tell over multiple hours beyond feature film length. In the world of this series, the Xenomorphs are far from the only scary thing to grapple with.
"In the movies, we have this Weyland-Yutani Corporation, which is clearly also developing artificial intelligence — but what if there are other companies trying to look at immortality in a different way, with cyborg enhancements or transhuman downloads?" Hawley asked. "Which of those technologies is going to win? It’s ultimately a classic science fiction question: does humanity deserve to survive? As Sigourney Weaver said in that second movie, 'I don't know which species is worse. At least they don't f**k each other over for a percentage.' Even if the show was 60% of the best horror action on the planet, there's still 40% where we have to ask, 'What are we talking about it, beneath it all?' Thematically, it has to be interesting. It’s humbling to get to play with the iconography of this world."
We'll learn more about Hawley's Alien vision as it continues to develop.