During Alien 3’s long preproduction process, numerous scripts were commissioned and concepts proposed. During this extensive development period the ideas that were pitched ran the gamut from setting the story on Earth, to visiting the alien homeworld, to even having our heroine marooned on a wooden planetoid ran by pious monks (many of the thematic elements from that latter draft managed to make its way into the finished film). Among the more oft cited stories in the lineup of unproduced Alien 3 properties is the script penned by Neuromancer author William Gibson. As Dark Horse continues in their comic book miniseries adaptation of Gibson’s Alien 3, all points continue to intercede in issue #4.
Weyland-Yutani spacelab Anchorpoint is having multiple contamination breaches. A cooler grid from the Sulaco, brought aboard in the station’s cargo hold, arrived with a xenomorph stowaway. Wey-Yu exec Welles and lab tech Tully, due to alien spore exposure, have undergone metamorphoses (xenomorphoses?) that’s turned they themselves into aliens; Tully taking the high road and (spoilers ahead) sacrificing himself in a giant storage freezer before the complete transmutation could take place. Cute furry woodland creatures, kept by eco-module moderator Holliday, have become the cocooned hosts of alien embryos. After destroying all communication links, company exec Fox attempts to flee in the one remaining escape shuttle only to be taken down by a xeno himself. Scrambled transmissions from the overrun Rodina station suggest that they’re faring no better. Left with little recourse, Hicks and Bishop, alongside newcomers Spence, Holliday, Jackson, Tatsumi and Walker, formulate a plan to override the station’s fusion plant and set it to self-destruct (“it’s the only way the be sure”). Their slim chance of survival lies in loading the Anchorpoint’s exterior maintenance truck with spare oxygen bottles and utilizing it to escape the station blast radius.
For all those that complain that Fincher’s Alien 3 needlessly killed off Hicks and Newt, all those hoping Gibson’s Alien 3 would maintain the trifecta family unit put in place at the climax of Cameron’s Aliens, Gibson sorely disappoints. While none of the above characters die per se, the only one who has any real baring on the plot at hand is Hicks. Issue #3 shuttles young Newt off to live with her Oregon-area grandparents and Ripley, who’s remained comatose since issue #1, is quietly dispatched to greener pastures in an interstellar lifeboat come #4. For better or for worse, with regard to a returning protagonist, Gibson’s sole focus is Hicks.
The xenomorph threat undergoes some interesting body horror alteration in Gibson’s take on the terrifying creature (body horror lovingly reminiscent of Cronenberg’s The Fly, Carpenter’s The Thing or even some of the more recent Resident Evil games), however he does so at the expense of an already established alien lifecycle. While many have argued that Cameron made the aliens more insect-like in Aliens, they at least had a hierarchy and breeding structure that was clean and readily understandable. Gibson’s take is a tad all over the place with faint hints of the randomness reminiscent in Ridley Scott’s recent Alien duology. One’s readiness to go with what Gibson presents here remains largely dependent on one’s readiness to go with the Prometheus black goo, or the Covenant spores, or the Alien Director’s Cut representation of eggmorphing.
While William Gibson’s Alien 3 is by no means bad, perhaps its greatest sin is it’s just kind of meh. Say what you will about Fincher’s Alien 3, the last thing it is is bland (at least as far as this critic is concerned). There’s a woefully wondrous edge to that film. Outside of some interesting aforementioned body horror (Welles’ transformation in particular), Gibson plays things safe with regard to his rendition of Alien, dulling any potential edge to otherwise potentially be had.