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William Gibson's unused 'Alien 3' script scores a chilling new novel adaptation

By Jeff Spry
Alien 3: The Unproduced Screenplay by William Gibson

Alien 3 is one of the most troubling entries in the iconic sci-fi horror saga that began with director Ridley Scott’s 1979 masterwork, Alien. Released in May of 1992 and hastily tossed together with remnants of various screenplays and unfinished drafts by then-newbie director David Fincher (Se7en, Fight Club, Zodiac), Alien 3 is polarizing at best and marked a serious downturn in the series. 

One of the more enticing “What-Ifs” of the Alien franchise is the unused, first-draft Alien 3 screenplay written by cyberpunk guru William Gibson (Burning Chrome, Neuromancer). This gung-ho version was far more action-centric like James Cameron’s Aliens and allowed for the characters of Corporal Hicks (Michael Biehn) and Newt (Carrie Henn) to remain alive and stay frosty.

Now that aborted offering from Gibson is being adapted into Alien 3: The Unproduced Screenplay by William Gibson (Sep. 7), a new Titan Books hardback novelization courtesy of Hugo Award-winning author Pat Cadigan. The results are a glimpse into a never-realized vision from one of the genre’s most celebrated creators — and SYFY WIRE caught up with Cadigan to talk about how it came together.

The storyline finds the Colonial Marine vessel Sulaco on its return journey from LV-426 when it enters a sector controlled by the “Union of Progressive Peoples,” a nation-state engaged in an escalating cold war and arms race. U.P.P. personnel board the Sulaco and discover hypersleep tubes with Ripley, Newt, and an injured Hicks. When a Facehugger attacks the lead commando, the team narrowly escapes, taking what remains of the android Bishop with them. 

alien 3

The Sulaco continues to Anchorpoint, a moon-sized space station and military installation, where it falls under control of the military’s Weapons Division. Boarding the Sulaco, Colonial Marines and scientists are attacked by Xenomorph drones.

In the struggle, Ripley's cryotube is damaged and taken aboard Anchorpoint, where she's kept comatose. Newt and an injured Corporal Hicks are revived, and Newt is sent to Gateway Station on the way to Earth. The U.P.P. then dispatches Bishop to Anchorpoint, where dangerous hybrid xenomorph cloning experiments exist.

Cadigan admits that working with William Gibson’s script was her dream assignment.

"That’s a big check mark on my bucket list — a duet with William Gibson! Bill has been a friend for almost 40 years now and it was a pleasure working with his script, which is so intelligent and evocative. I was also very pleased to know that not only are we both big fans of Alien and Aliens, we also have the same favourite characters... Ripley and Bishop," Cadigan tells SYFY WIRE.

"I enjoy writing novelizations — they’re challenging and fun — but this one was a special pleasure because Bill is not only a true friend and a colleague but brilliant and creative. His script is an original story; it’s true to the previous two films without rehashing them," she continues. "P.S.: Anyone who wants to know how Bill came to write the two versions of the script and what happened to them should get hold of the Dark Horse graphic novel, which is based on a different version of the script than the novelivation. It’s eye-opening!"

Titan Books' Alien 3: The Unproduced Screenplay by William Gibson arrives Sept. 7.