Alien III (Audio Drama) Review

Alien III

It’s funny that I ended up getting a couple more free Audible downloads and so finally decided to give this a go, an audio drama performance of a “lost” script for an original Alien III film by William Gibson, at the same time I’m covering the Doctor Who lost stories range. I’m one of those people who doesn’t particularly like Alien3, as mentioned in my review of the film from a few years ago, so when I heard of this project I was interested to hear “what could’ve been”. Turns out Alien III is as much of a mish-mash mess as Alien3, just in a different way…

Synopsis:

The Sulaco is on its return journey from LV-426. On board the military ship are the cryogenically frozen skeleton crew of survivors: Ripley, Hicks, Newt and Bishop.

Onboard an alarm blares. Our heroes are no longer alone…

*spoilers appear from here on out!*

The Good:

There are some interesting concepts on show here. The two that jump out at me is that when the genetic engineers try to create their own eggs from small samples, they create an airborne version of the facehugger… embryo thing that once inhaled turns humans into twisted hybrids, neither Xenomorph nor human. This is said that to be because the one thing these creatures were created for is to adapt to their surroundings, find a way to survive and procreate. It’s interesting, would’ve created a different kind of bodyshock horror than the original two, and made the idea of the Xenomorphs being alien weapons rather than a species more apparent.

The other was a general fleshing out of the universe. We heard that the Sulaco wanders into UPP territory, UPP standing for the “Union of Progressive Peoples”, a faction that originated from an alliance between China and Russia, and one constantly at war with the parts of space colonized by American companies like Weyland and other factions. That being said, it’s quickly established that they’re no better than the US parts of space, as they board the ship with marines and after one of their own is attacked by a facehugger hiding in Bishop’s body, they do their own experiments on the species just like the more familiar scientists do during the rest of the script, and end up being all-but wiped out, also like the other crew…

As for the rest of the audio? Well, it has its moments. Michael Biehn and Lance Henriksen reprise their roles as Cpl. Hicks and Bishop, respectively, and although Bishop’s gravelly voice doesn’t match up with Aliens, let’s just say it was damaged in the fight with the alien queen… “Ecology technician” Spence (Samantha Coughlan) was good, in a sarcastic companion kind of way, and kind-hearted ecologist Sally Halliday (Sarah Pitard) was pleasant, in a “going to be horrible killed because you like her” kind of way.

Alien III Cover

Here’s the “cover”, not that its received a physical release, as far as I’m aware.

The overall script would have been a perfectly fine, if not cliché film. The Sulaco is eventually brought on board a large spacestation called Anchorpoint, and soon a groggy Hicks joins the remaining crew (the rest having been evacuated) in their disgust at Weyland scientists having taken over the station to do your classic experimenting on the Xenomorphs thing. Unsurprisingly it doesn’t go well, and we get an outbreak of hybrid Xenomorphs that sees Hicks lead the survivors through lifts and tight ventilation shafts (of course!), with each crew member getting picked off one by one until it’s just Hicks and Spence trying to escape in what amounts to a crane, while Bishop rigs Anchorpoint to blow. A regular Xenomorph that had snuck aboard fights the hybrid before it tries for Hicks, Spence and Bishop (who arrives in the nick of time) but gets blasted by the last surviving member of the UPP station in a fighter, who then picks them up and flies them away as that station similarly explodes. The last scenes see Bishop declare nobody on board as infected, and wonders if Hicks and the UPP pilot can help broker a peace between each of the major Earth factions and take the fight to the mysterious planet where the Xenomorphs must have been created…

So basically it would’ve be a pretty bog standard slow build to a “must get from Point A to Point B in a roundabout way with great trouble” kind of horror. It does set up some interesting ideas for the future, like going to the Xenomorph home world (Something Prometheus and its sequel have teased but not really delivered) and with Newt and Ripley both seemingly headed for Earth. Either one would at least provide a more interesting premise than Alien Resurrection for a fourth film, anyway!

Thankfully the sound design was good on this, as without the visuals to go along with the shocking horror and the aliens themselves, the tense atmosphere was all in the hands of the background cues and sound effects, and while obviously it would’ve been more effective visually, it was done well here.

The Bad:

Notice something missing in the good? Maybe a character you like? Yeah, this is the thing: Ripley is written to be in a coma, and then placed in a cryo-capsule and sent off in an escape pod. That’s it. Why they hired Laurel Lefkow to admittedly do a good Sigourney Weaver impression for about four lines I have no idea. So the original Alien3 was criticised for killing off Hicks and Newt and generally resetting the cast, but this would’ve been equally criticised for writing Ripley out entirely. Not killing her off, to be fair, but still… an Alien film without Ripley is an even odder choice than the actual Alien3 opening. Hicks is so one-dimensional that he’s a support character through and through, a good one, but he’s not complex or interesting enough to be the lead. In a world where this was the actual third Alien film there would’ve been just as much outrage, even if I feel this film would’ve been a bit more exciting to watch…

Newt is also in this script, alive and well (played by Mairead Doherty), but all that did was remind me why having a child character like her doesn’t feel right in this kind of sci-fi horror setting, so I wasn’t upset when she flew off back to Earth to meet her grandparents before the story really kicked off…

Overall Thoughts:

So, Alien III would’ve been a pretty standard entry into the franchise, like Alien Resurrection it doesn’t really do anything new with the genre, but it does the clichés well enough and it adds a few interesting bits to the Alien lore. That being said, the lack of Ripley hurts it a lot, and would’ve hurt it even more at the box office, I feel. It seems neither Alien3 or Alien III can resist playing about with the survivors of the previous film, really the ideal compromise would be Alien III but with Ripley in a lead role, because this script was at least more entertaining than the downbeat and dour Alien3…

3 Star Listen

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s