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Script Review – Alien 3’s Monks In Space

November 24, 2012

A series of posts in which I take a look at unproduced screenplays. Some are early drafts of movies which were made,  while others are scripts which remain unrealized, but are worthy of attention.

Much has been made of the incredible ‘look’ of Vincent Ward’s unrealized concept for Alien 3. However, in this post, I will focus more on his story and ideas which make this particular vision for the Alien franchise so fascinating and unique.

Alien III 

Screenplay by John Fasano

Story by Vincent Ward & John Fasano

FIRST DRAFT

March 29, 1990

Before we start I’d like to offer my apologies for the extended length of this post! Normally I won’t be so comprehensive in describing the plot, but I feel in this case the uniqueness of this particular vision warrants this amount of detail.

WARNING! – The following post contains an image of high-impact horror violence which some people may find disturbing.

Okay, so I put together the following synopsis (well, it’s more like a treatment really) based on elements from the screenplay itself. All dialogue in inverted commas and text in italics is taken directly from the script.

THE STORY

Fasano and Ward’s screenplay opens in what we think is the Middle Ages. We are inside a foundry as monks wearing cassocks (rough-hewn robes) pour molten glass. It is here we meet BROTHER JOHN, an aspiring physician. He treats an injured monk suffering from minor burns. John is described as ‘Not yet forty. Strong features, but fear behind his eyes. The fear that comes from a lack of inner confidence. A good face, nonetheless.’ We also meet BROTHER KYLE, a burly black monk in his early fifties.

It appears the glassworks is part of a multi-levelled, Medieval monastery as John makes his way up a wooden staircase. We hear chiming bells in the distance and low chanting throughout the building as a streaming procession of cassocked monks make their way to lunch. With his faithful pet dog Mattias by his side, John collects a book from the Abbey’s library and heads up a spiral wooden staircase to the bell tower and out through a door – onto the roof of the building. A dramatic pull back reveals that the roof of the Abbey – is actually the surface of a planetoid!

Illustration by Stephen Ellis.

This is ARCEON – a man-made orbiter floating in outer space. Spherical, five miles in diameter, it was constructed by The Company on Special Order. John sits on the shore of a large circular lake and begins to read. His attention is caught by a bright point of light moving across the heavens. Over the coming days, more and more monks gather to view the approaching star, until their numbers swell in the hundreds – watching, waiting.

A title card appears:

RELIGIOUS COLONY ARCEON

POPULATION: 350 Exiles

CRIME: Political Heresy

As the monks look on, the falling star ROARS OVERHEAD and crashes headlong into the lake. The object is in fact a small spacecraft – Sulaco escape pod #4. John and Kyle paddle out to the craft in a coracle (a small boat made of hide and wood). Once inside the escape pod, John discovers two stasis tubes – one broken and empty, the other containing Ripley. A recorded video message from Ripley reveals what has transpired:

It appears an overlooked alien egg had hatched aboard the Sulaco, the resulting Xenomorph killing Hicks before Ripley and Newt were able to flee in the escape pod. A trail of dried blood leading from the broken stasis tube to a bloodied torn jumpsuit in the corner (along with a broken doll’s head) suggests Newt’s tragic fate.

Illustration by ILM.

Ripley is released from stasis and brought back to the Abbey, where she awakens to a nightmare – a fully-grown adult ALIEN emerges from the shadows in her room. The creature approaches – Ripley is unable to move. The Alien rests its hand on her stomach, cocks its head, listens – the implication is clear.

Illustration by Ellis. 

Ripley screams herself awake – John is there. He tries to calm her. She falls back asleep. Two days later, she is awakened by the sounds of hammering and sawing.

Disoriented, she looks out the window and sees:

A Garden of Earthly delights … Monks labouring under a beautiful celestial blue sky – picking apples, fishing on the water on small inland lakes. Working with hammer and saw on small wooden cottages. Lyrical. Sheep graze around wooden ladders stretching hundreds of feet up to the – Ripley does a take – workers on a scaffolding. With crude brushes at the end of poles – they paint the sky blue. The Abbey, the cottages, the fields outside her window are all on one level – INSIDE THE PLANET. The vaulted ceiling, painted to look like the sky with huge glass ‘windows’ to allow the sunlight in, is actually the underside of the planetoid’s outer shell. Ripley looks back at the Monks on the ground: Instead of repairing, they are taking the cabins apart, stacking the wood onto push carts.

Illustration by ILM.

A team of monks use block and tackle to hoist the recovered escape pod past her window and up onto the roof of the Abbey’s library. With Ripley now fully rested, the ABBOT pays her a visit in order to question her. He is the colony’s leader, a man in his seventies, although he looks younger. When Ripley begins to explain she was with a platoon of Colonial Marines who left Earth six months ago, the Abbot quickly ushers John out of the room, before telling her that the Earth no longer exists: “When we left Earth seventy years ago, it was on the brink of a New Dark Age. Technology was on the verge of destroying the planet’s environment. A computer virus was threatening to wipe away all recorded knowledge. There didn’t seem to be any way it could be averted. In the almost forty years since we were towed out here in hypersleep, the news that came with occasional supply ships only got worse. Finally, the ships stopped coming. We had to resign ourselves to the fact that worst had come to pass, and the Earth no longer existed.”

Ripley enquires as to the whereabouts of Newt – The little girl with me – and the Abbot tells her she herself was the only living thing found aboard the vessel. There was no-one else. Ripley is devastated, but her mourning over Newt is cut short as she realizes to her horror – THE ALIEN HAS COME WITH HER.  She tries desperately to warn the Abbot – but he is unconvinced and locks her in her room, posting a guard of burly monks outside.

Later that night, John is summoned to a barn by an HYSTERICAL MONK, babbling that one of his sheep has taken ill. The ewe lies prone amongst the hay. There is a slimy mucous-like substance all over the ground. Suddenly the sheep begins to scream and shake violently – John is thrown back – knocks over a flaming torch which sets fire to the hay – the ewe’s stomach explodes – as a CHEST-BURSTER bursts out from the jerking and twitching carcass:

It shows the characteristics of the animal in which it has gestated. Tiny razor sharp teeth and black, glass-like eyes peer from a enlongated head covered with downy, but gore-matted WOOL. A quadroped, its shrunked hind legs struggling to free itself from the cooling morass of intestines.

Illustration by H.R.Giger.

The hysterical monk spears the Alien with a pitchfork and shoves it into the flames – killing it – as John looks on, face contorted, unable to speak – the doctor in training has seen the devil.

Ripley is summoned to a hastily-arranged tribunal, presided over by the Abbot and other higher-ups of the Abbey. Despite her protestations, Ripley is deemed a heretic and cast down into the bowels of Arceon. What follows is a brief dialogue scene between the Abbot and A BALD TRIBUNAL MEMBER in which we discover the reason why the monks are tearing down wooden cladding. It seems they are doing so to provide fuel for fires in order to keep warm and survive the coming winter. The Abbot acknowledges that the resource is finite however and they may not ultimately survive. It appears the colony’s demonizing of technology will bring about their own destruction. John attempts to sway the Abbot into listening to Ripley with regards to the evil which has arrived – but the Abbot refuses.

Illustration by Mike Worrall.

Resigned to her fate, Ripley is boarded up in a dank dark dungeon at the very bottom of the orbiter. It is here she meets BROTHER ANTHONY – a white-haired android incarcerated in the cell next to hers. The walls of Anthony’s cell are covered with charcoal sketches – different versions of demons and the devil.

With his suspicions growing that John is consorting with Ripley in order to undermine his authority, the Abbot orders that John be arrested. John overhears this and decides to seek Ripley’s help. It seems he has found something in a book he wants her to see; something which may legitimize her story in the eyes of the Abbot. Finding the ropes attached to the elevator cage (used to lower Ripley to the cell block) have been severed, John makes his way to the Abbey’s basement, swings open a trap door and begins a long and arduous descent down through the orbiter’s many levels to the dungeons five miles below.

Illustration by Ellis.

A gruesome scene follows in the Abbey’s lavatory, where several monks (including the Abbot) witness one of their comrades being taken by the fully-grown Alien. The scene begins innocently enough with the Abbot and the bald tribunal member (seen earlier), sitting in their stalls discussing the colony’s falling temperature. It appears that by taking so much wood out of the orbiter’s structure, the surface wind blows right through the colony – thereby exacerbating the very dilemma which threatens their existence. In other words: the more wood they tear down to make fires to keep warm, the colder it becomes! A delicious irony if ever there was. In fact, the irony is heightened even further since these characters don’t even realize it themselves! The bald tribunal member complains about the cold draught running straight up his backside when –

He feels a TUGGING at his bowels – it’s not piles. 

A beat.

The Bald Tribunal Member SCREAMS as something GRABS him from below –

Something SNAKES up his rectum and hooks into his lower intestine! He convulses in spasms of agony.

There is a terrible RIPPING SOUND as the Bald Tribunal Member is PULLED VIOLENTLY down – out of frame –

Illustration by Ellis.

We PAN BACK down the row of stalls – tight on each sitting monk and see their HORRIFIED REACTIONS – as the toilets reject a torrent of gore! Blood and viscera spraying the walls – converting the lavatory into an abattoir.

Meanwhile, down in the dungeon level, John has found Ripley – but it is quite apparent she has lost the will to fight. She feels enormous guilt, guilt over the loss of her crew, guilt over the loss of Newt – survivor’s guilt. John breaks her out anyway. And Anthony too. The trio make their way upwards, level by level. John tells Ripley of the ‘sheep-burster’ and Anthony surmises that the Alien “must be able to take on some of the characteristics of the animal it grows in. Maybe they are from some sort of aggressive soldier race – warring parties drop the eggs on opposing planets -” Ripley: “And the Alien takes on the form of the creature that finds it, assuming that animal is the dominant life form on the planet.” Ripley calculates that if the Alien has had a few days to lay its eggs, then their only hope of survival is to get to the escape pod and get off the orbiter.

John, however, is reluctant to leave behind the Abbey’s extensive library of books, as they contain knowledge which exists in no other record. He explains that this is the reason why the colony exists; to protect this knowledge. The order began originally as more of a counter culture movement; a reaction to the technology that was beginning to rule people’s lives: “It was a simple enough idea – Read, don’t watch. Walk, don’t pump more carbons into the air. The earliest members began to collect the remaining books. Nobody would have noticed if it hadn’t been for the Virus.” The anti-technology movement were considered political heretics after a computer virus threatened to erase all the world’s data storage systems linked together by the transglobal Corporate structure. It spread through two countries before it was stopped. Alarmed by this, many thousands of people flocked to the movement, clamoring for written information – for books. They renounced all technology and abandoned modern ways. As the Company sold all technology – this movement to live simply was quickly twisted by Federal agents into a political threat against the Company-controlled World Government. The luddite monks (all ten thousand of them) were sentenced as political dissidents – the orbiter being their gulag. All the men were packed up with all their books, and towed out into space. The eldest died very quickly – only three hundred and fifty remain. “I figured this wasn’t planned.” Ripley quips, “You don’t have to be a genius to see it wouldn’t be prudent to try to preserve man’s written works for generations – without women.”

When Ripley asks Anthony what he – an android – is doing on Arceon, he tells her he was planted by the Company “as a sensor to keep tabs on the movement.” Fifteen years ago, after the supply ships stopped coming, he saw no point in keeping up the charade and since he was a walking reminder of technology, he was incarcerated by the monks. When John says he feared he was dead after all these years, Anthony replies with a smile “I was made too good for that.” Ripley makes a pact with the two of them: “I don’t know how many of your brethren are going to be alive when we get up there, but if we make it to my ship, you’re all coming with me. We’ll take as many of your precious books as we can carry, but we’re going. I’m not going to fight this thing to end up alone again.”

 Illustration by Ellis.

With five miles of levels between them and the escape pod and with the Alien anywhere in between, it is suggested by Anthony that they head straight for the ‘technology room’ – a central power plant five levels up which supplies gravity and atmosphere for the orbiter. The hope is that they’ll be able to better arm themselves with whatever technology they may find. When John reveals that they’ll have to use ladders to climb, as the ropes attached to the elevator cage in which Ripley was lowered have been BITTEN THROUGH, Anthony expresses a little too much admiration for the Alien’s cunning for Ripley’s liking: “It’s smart. First he cuts their escape off, then works his way down through the monastery – level by level until there isn’t a thing left alive. Interesting …” To which Ripley replies: “Well, you start appreciating him more than me and I’ll find a way to shut you down, capisce?” Ripley suddenly feels a twinge of pain in her midsection. She doubles over and Anthony and John each take an arm. Ripley takes a deep breath and, believing it to be nothing more than a symptom of her interrupted hyper sleep, continues on.

Up on the monastery level – the once idyllic landscape has been reduced to a battlefield, blackened and scorched. Spot fires burn and remaining cabins have been torn down. Dozens of monks pound sharpened stakes into the ground, others push carts into rough barricades. On the level below – a posse of monks armed with pitchforks, scythes and flaming torches – spread out in a jaggedly drawn skirmish line, wading through shoulder-length fields of golden wheat, stretching for miles. They are trying to flush out the Alien. Their attempt at an orderly progression quickly falls apart as they get strung out all over the field. The Abbot stands atop an empty wagon, watching the proceedings. Then something catches his eye – ahead of the monks – a trail forms – something is moving in the long grass – heading for the monks – FRIGHTENINGLY FAST!

Illustration by Worrall.

Frozen in terror, the Abbot looks on as the Alien cuts a swathe through the wheat – picking off his disoriented men. The monks break rank and run screaming – swinging their weapons in desperation. A monk’s discarded torch sets fire to the wheat and pandemonium ensues – as some of the monks – blinded by panic – run each other through with pitchforks and scythes. Wails of defeat rise up from the wounded. With his men now dead or dying, the Abbot climbs down from his perch atop the wagon –

As his feet hit the wooden floor, he feels a shadow fall over him –

THE ALIEN

Rises out of the grass in front of the Holy Man. Slowly rises up to its height of almost three meters. It’s long, smooth head is no longer black and slimy. It is golden. Its cable-like arms are sheathed in a straw-like covering. It has adapted to the environment of the wheat field.  Its now grass-like lips draw back into a ghastly parody of a smile.

The Abbot SCREAMS and RUNS.

Meanwhile …

Ripley, John and Anthony are climbing a ladder to the third level. Once at the top, Anthony is suddenly struck by a terrifying vision –

He is seemingly standing in an open field, sheep grazing peacefully at his side.

SUDDENLY he is ATTACKED by a horde of Medieval demons.

These demons bare a striking resemblence to those depicted in the paintings of Hieronymus Bosch – 

Hieronymus Bosch – detail of ‘Hell’.

Fish faced demons. Man-headed bird demons.

Hieronymus Bosch – detail of ‘Hell’.

They fly about him, grab hold of his limbs. The Sheep nearest him opens its mouth to reveal a horde of razor sharp fangs, SINKS THEM INTO HIS ANKLE –

Anthony SCREAMS – !

Illustration by Warrall.

His flailing about threatens to topple him over the edge of the ladder shaft. John and Ripley try desperately to subdue him – as the terrified android beats them back with his wooden staff. In Anthony’s mind, John is a bird-beaked demon biting into his arm and Ripley is the hissing slime-drooling Alien itself.

Hieronymus Bosch – detail of ‘Hell’.

Ripley and John succeed in hauling Anthony to safety and pin him to the floor. Anthony’s visions finally leave him and he quickly recovers. When quizzed about his ‘episode’, Anthony explains he’s been having these visions ever since contact was lost with Earth. But they’re not really visions, more like hallucinations. As his brain is cyber-organic – patterned after the human brain – it functions the same way a human brain does. It accumulates random images and sensations during waking hours, but unlike the human brain which sloughs them off during sleep (androids are unable to do this as they don’t actually sleep) – Anthony experiences the same thing a human would when deprived of sleep – his brain starts to run off the dreams while he’s awake, as hallucinations. For him, the visions are always the same – monsters and demons – images and data he’s absorbed from medieval depictions in the old books in the library over the last twenty years. This explains the drawings of demons inside his cell: “My head is full of them. I try to get them out any way I can.” He figures that perhaps his makers fixed this problem on later models, but for him it’s an affliction he’s had to deal with. The monks, however, had no knowledge of this and believed him to be possessed by the devil – and so Anthony was forced into revealing himself as an android. The monks liked this even less and cast him down into the cells, where he’s been ever since.

Once Anthony is sufficiently rested, the trio moves on. Ripley notices the book John is carrying in his bag (the one he was so eager to show her) – but strangely he seems less inclined to reveal it to her now; telling her it’s merely a medical book and to pay it no heed. We begin to notice an unspoken attraction developing between he and Ripley. However, John is too unsure of himself to do anything about it. Ripley considers this kind of sweet. They climb a mile-long ladder to the next level – entering a twisting corridor. Rounding a corner – the trio are confronted by – THE ABBOT! He is spooked, haunted, like he’s seen the devil himself. He immediately blames Ripley for bringing about the downfall of Arceon and admonishes John for the company he keeps – reminding him that “during the time of the Black Death – many believed that God had abandoned them, so they appealed to the Devil. Flocked to him hoping to save their bodies – losing their souls in the bargain.” Ripley accuses the Abbot in turn of lying to his flock about the existence of the Earth in order to maintain control. To which the Abbot replies: “I do what I have to do to keep the Brotherhood together. We all gave up believing in Earth a long time ago. How do you think they would feel if told their exile was in vain?  That the holocaust they were trying to avoid never occured? Those men up there have grown to live with it.”

John, Anthony, Ripley and the Abbot continue along the passageway – finding their way barred by a minefield of SPRING-LOADED BEAR TRAPS. The traps have been set to discourage unauthorized access to the technology room. At John’s suggestion, they dislodge wooden planks from the walls and use the planks to fire off the traps, as they push on ahead. Ripley and the Abbot arrive at the technology room door, followed by John. Anthony however, is lagging behind. He is suddenly set upon by the Alien – which uses its chameleon-like ability to blend in with its surroundings –

The wooden wall MOVES – steps forward —

THE ALIEN

Adapted itself to look like WOOD.

Its body changes – transmutes – Cable-like sinew snaking over grained limbs to approximate the more traditional bio-mechnoid alien appearance …!

Illustration by Worrall.

The Alien grabs Anthony and – SNAP! – the robot’s left ankle becomes ensared in a trap. The Alien spits acid in his eyes – blinding him and melting his face. Upon hearing Anthony’s cries – John hurries back to help his friend. Meanwhile, with the frantic Abbot urging her on – a desperate Ripley attempts to repair the wiring to the keypad which will gain them entry to the technology room. As the Alien prepares to kill Anthony outright – John arms himself with Anthony’s staff and lashes out at the creature. Releasing its grasp on Anthony, the Alien turns its attention to John – its prehensile tail curls around his waist – John grabs a bear trap – shoves the steel jaws into the Alien’s face – SNAP! – the creature bellows, trying to shake off the trap. It lets go of John – and John pries Anthony from his own trap and the two friends run/hobble back to Ripley – who has succeeded in opening the technology room door. The Alien’s acid blood dissolves the trap – releasing it – and the screaming creature charges headlong after Anthony and John – firing off traps – reaching the door – AS IT SLAMS DOWN WITH A SOLID THUD – cutting it off from its prey on the other side.

Inside the technology room – Ripley, John, Anthony and the Abbot take a moment to catch their collective breath, and we see the interior of the vast chamber they have entered –

WINDMILLS

Real Man of LaMancha wood and cloth windmills. Two story high arms slowly rotating. Moving enormous volumes of air through the wind tunnel-like room. As far as the eye can see. Turning, creaking. WHOOSH … WHOOSH … But no electronics. No radio. No weapons. This is the Technology Room.

Ripley collapses to the floor and loses consciousness.

Illustration by Ellis.

The scene dissolves to:

Ripley’s dream – she is back aboard the escape pod. Warning lights flash, steam blasts from overhead pipes. Newt is asleep in her stasis tube. Ripley brandishes a flame thrower – senses movement – a tail between her legs – she spins to find – THE ALIEN – it grabs her – SLAMS HER ACROSS THE STASIS TUBE – like it’s taking her from behind. Ripley looks into the tube – Newt is gone. The Alien wraps its arms around Ripley – lips pull back for a kiss – Ripley jolts awake to find herself – back in the technology room, John sitting next to her, writing on a piece of parchment. Anthony lies on his back, his left foot half-severed; wires protruding. The Abbot paces. Ripley is beginning to suspect the Alien is toying with them – as it could easily break its way inside any time it chose. “Why should he enter?”, the Abbot counters, “He knows that one of the people in this room is in league with him. Maybe more than one of us.” By this it is clear he is inferring Ripley and possibly Anthony or John or all three. Paying him no heed, the turning of the windmills starts Ripley thinking. She realizes the planetoid’s life support works like a natural eco system. Plants recycle the atmosphere – absorbing carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen. The monks’ fires throw soot into the atmosphere; cutting off sunlight – cooling the planetoid, forcing them to burn more wood. If the plants wither and perish, the fires will consume all the oxygen and everyone will die. The Abbot tells her it was always planned this way. They were never meant to be merely exiled: “We’re supposed to die here. That’s the point. The punishment for our crime was death. Poetic justice for the anti-technologists.” Once again Ripley is overcome with an overwhelming sense of hoplessness. She moves away and the Abbot tells her there’s nowhere to go – she’s trapped: “Trapped inside her own prison. A prison in her mind. Inside her mind. Dancing. Sparklets of light – dance with the june bugs in the recesses of ourmindstheyare coming to danceintheshadowof -” John and Ripley turn to stare at the Abbot as he begins to speak faster and faster. He shakes, vibrates – a trickle of BLOOD runs from his left ear – his rambling becomes faster:

“Ridingthewildwindsofchange. Noescape. NoescapeforthewickedEvil. Evilthynameiswoman. Womanheiscoming. Heiscomingforyouuuuuuuuu –”

THE ABBOT’S HEAD EXPLODES – LIKE A RIPE MELON:

Blood, bone and brain spray in all directions – as a terrible alien HEAD-BURSTER is all that sits atop his blood-spurting neck. The body staggers, arms jerking. Ripley SCREAMS – as the embryonic alien-headed corpse stumbles towards her. She grabs Anthony’s staff and swings it like Babe Ruth – WHACKING the head-burster clear across the room — it hits the floor scrambling, scuttles away – and is gone. The Abbot’s headless corpse collapses in a heap. Ripley and John can only stare in stunned horror. Finally, Ripley finds her voice: “He sent him to us. That bastard outside. I can’t get away from him. He’s fucking with my mind!” Ripley feels a pain in her chest and realizes – she hasn’t eaten – in much the same way that Kane hadn’t eaten aboard the Nostromo when … she suddenly has an idea: “If he’s taunting me, then maybe we can use that. We can beat this bastard. We can get to my ship. We can live.” John and Ripley decide to move on to the next level. Anthony elects to stay behind as (being blind and crippled) he would only slow them down. Ripley and John bid him farewell and scale another ladder to a trap door in the ceiling.

They emerge onto an undergound dock – a barnacled pier.

Before them:

AN UNDERGROUND SEA stretches the width of the entire planet, over five miles across. The floor of the lowest level of the top half of the orbiter makes a ceiling that looms a hundred feet overhead.

Ripley and John board a small coracle moored at the dock and John begins to row.

Meanwhile, back in the technology room – Anthony senses movement: “Well come then. I haven’t got forever.” A shadow looms over him – he doesn’t have to see what is there.

Illustration by ILM.

Back to Ripley and John – as they continue across the water. Ripley takes the oars, allowing John to rest. Ripley asks him how old he was when they towed the orbiter out here and John replies he was five. The monks were put to sleep for the thirty years it took to get to where they are and they’ve spent almost forty more years living in isolation. Ripley asks him about his mother and he tells her he never knew her. She left his father when he joined the movement. If she hadn’t John wouldn’t be here as they kept the other children with the women, back on Earth. John enquires if the little girl travelling with Ripley was her daughter and Ripley replies:

“No. On Earth. I never mentioned my daughter. My daughter. I have – had I guess, by now – a daughter on Earth. Kathy. She was nine when I signed on to the Nostromo. Mommy will be home before you know it I said. My shares would have set us up good. Then I lost sixty years floating around in a rescue pod. Thanks to the Alien. I came home to face a bitter, 70 year old woman. My daughter. A little girl who’s mother never came home. They said I should have been happy to be alive. Funny, huh?  That’s why I went back the second time. Not so I could fight it — You can’t fight it — So I could let it kill me. I’m not looking for absolution. I couldn’t be a good mother to my daughter. I couldn’t be a good mother to Newt.  But I can be a good mother to you. I can make sure you survive.”

A crimson rain begins to fall – droplets of blood from the levels above. John fears the Alien must have slaughtered everyone. Unseen by Ripley and John, tiny ripples move across the surface of the water – as a shape passes underneath the boat – the Alien. Thanks to the refractive qualities of water, the creature appears huge – dwarfing the coracle.

Back in the technology room: all the windmills are burning. Anthony is nowhere to be seen.

Ripley and John have reached the other side of the sea. Arriving at another dock, they climb out onto dry land and begin scaling a one hundred foot ladder to the level above – the underground wheat fields. All the crops have been burned to ash, the area littered with the charred remains of John’s fellow Brothers. Ripley and John cross to another ladder and continue their ascent.

Ripley and John arrive at the monastery level to find a scene of utter devestation. The ground, the buildings – all blackened. Spot fires burning. The air choked with smoke and ash. Monks impaled on their own spikes – their bodies cobwebbed in alien coccon material. The lower level abbey windows flickering from fires within.

Searching for tools, Ripley and John enter the glass works to find: the glass furnace, boiling almost to the point of overflowing. Small fires burning out of control. Finished glass pieces shatter from the heat. Brother Kyle sits alone, playing Solitaire, quietly singing to himself. He fails to notice Ripley and John. He is clearly in shock – traumatized. John attempts to shake him from his daze and Kyle begins to sing faster – and faster. We know what this means. John finds a length of rope, loops it around Kyle’s neck and strangles him dead, easing him gently to the floor. John is immediately racked with guilt, “I killed him. I’m a doctor and I killed him.” “You had to” Ripley replies, “You’re supposed to end suffering.” She hands him a pontil, a pointed iron spear used to form the molten glass shapes – “Let’s get the hell out of here.”

Ripley and John make their way to the library on the next level. They begin collecting as many books as they can carry. John’s pet dog Mattias appears and John is overjoyed to see him. The happy reunion is short-lived however, when Mattias begins growling at something behind Ripley –

THE ALIEN

It stands in the open doorway – severely injured from the bear traps – missing a foot, its useless tongue hanging out, parts of it look like wood, parts of it look like wheat.

It carries Anthony’s waterlogged, limp body — POPS off his head like a grape from the bunch. Tosses the corpse at Ripley’s feet.

You could swear it’s trying to smile.

Ripley and John back away against the book stacks, John holds on tight to Mattias’ collar – as the Alien enters, dragging one foot. Its breathing laboured, as dripping acid blood leaves a trail of fire behind it. The Alien draws itself up to its full height –– even wounded it is one dangerous mother fucker.

Mattias pulls free from Anthony’s grasp and snaps and barks at the Alien – drawing its attention. Ripley and John seize the opportunity and charge full-tilt at the creature – John WHACKS IT over the head with his iron rod – Ripley SPEARS IT through the torso with a blowing iron – acid blood spurts out the end of the hollow tube – and the Alien spins in a circle – SCREECHING – blood spraying around him – creating a circle of fire – the acid eats through the floor – THE FLOOR COLLAPSES! Ripley, John and the Alien plummet down – through the next floor – into the glassworks below –

SPLASH DOWN! – the Alien drops into the vat of molten glass – SCREECHING – arms flailing – as it sinks beneath the surface. John hangs from a Flying Fox rope suspended directly above the vat. Ripley holds on to the edge of the hole in the floor above. John makes his way hand-over-hand along the rope to the ledge. Ripley drops to the foundry floor, twisting her ankle –  SCREEEEECH!!! – the Alien breaks the surface of the molten glass – SCREAMING – white-hot – translucent – covered in molten glass – it begins to claw its way out of the vat. John grabs the Flying Fox handle – swings down the rope – across the room – past the Alien – he yells at Ripley – “Ripley – the lever!!”. Ripley pulls a lever and a huge dump tank tilts – emptying a thousand gallons of water which cascades down on the Alien – it HOWLS in pain as the molten glass instantly cools – the rapid temperature change causing the Alien to EXPLODE INTO A MILLION PIECES!!!

The room is littered with Alien Bits. Each piece encased in glass — trapped like a fly in amber.

A beat. John is the first to speak – “Saw that happen to a bottle once.”

Ripley clutches her stomach as her knees give out. John offers her an arm for support. Mattias looks down through the hole in the ceiling and barks. Ripley and John rescue Mattias from the library which is well ablaze. Although he is beaten back by the intense heat, John wants to at least try and save a few books from the flames, but Ripley tells him it’s too late and drags him up the staircase to the Abbey’s roof, where the escape pod has been boarded up. Ripley kicks down the burning planks which surround the pod and climbs inside. She urges John and Mattias to join her. With the others safely inside, Ripley begins prepping the ship for launch and John asks her if he can be of help and she directs him to a storage compartment to collect a compressor tank. John enters the compartment and Ripley locks the door. She tells him she has an alien embryo inside her – “That’s why it didn’t kill me. He must have impregnated me when I was in the stasis tube. It hasn’t come out yet because I haven’t eaten, it’s still dormant. So either I eat and it kills me or I don’t eat and I starve to death. Either way I die.” John pulls the medieval book from his bag, the book he’s been carrying around with him and says he can help her “My book – I know what to do”. But Ripley is adamant – she is staying behind. She will set a timer to unlock the door once the pod is safely away from the colony, “Then all you have to do is get into the stasis tube with Mattias and press the blue button. With any luck a freighter or something will pick you up.” John won’t quit so easily, “You can’t do this. You can’t let it win.” to which Ripley replies “It always wins. We killed it, but it’s still inside me – You’re my last chance. If I can keep you alive it’ll make up for all those I’ve lost.” John tries a different tack “Listen to me!  You have to let me try! Ripley – you’re MY only chance!” He now has Ripley’s attention, and he tells her the monk who raised him, Father Anselm, the monk who taught him medicine, died before John had the knowledge to save him “I didn’t know enough. It was my fault he died. If you don’t let me try to save you, my body will live but my soul will be dead.”

Ripley finally acquiesces.

We cut to:

A page in John’s book – A MEDIEVAL ETCHING. A Monk vomits up the devil:

Medieval Exorcism (traditional illustration).

John lowers Ripley to the floor. He shuts the book and prepares a foul-smelling concoction from ancient herbs in a pouch. Mixing the herbs in a cup of water, he straddles Ripley and pours it down her throat. Ripley begins to gag, cough and John pummels her mid-section:

She sputters – vomits a thick black mucus-like substance – she heaves – her back arching – she screams a gut-wrenching WAIL – her torso bulges as the creature is forced upwards – John pushes up under her ribs – forcing the chest-burster up her throat – Ripley fights for air – as the alien stops halfway up her esophagus – she’s choking – John crosses himself – takes a deep breath – lowers his mouth to hers – Inhales. Exhales. CPR.

THE CHEST-BURSTER

Slithers out from Ripley’s mouth — AND INTO JOHN’S! Its reptilian tail whips about before disappearing down his gullet. John falls back against a computer console. Gagging. Fights to speak. Ripley raises herself up on one elbow. Alien mucous drooling down her chin. Hair matted against her forehead.

John gulps back oozing slime and struggles to his feet. Ripley asks him why and he tells her she was choking – “It was the only way.” John staggers to the pod’s exit and Ripley tries to stand to go after him – but can’t sit up. “But you’ll die.” she tells him. “That’s the idea.” he replies “Join my brothers. If we were right, Heaven. If we were wrong — either way, it’s where we belong.” He draws the parchment from his bag and drops it on the floor. Mattias tries to follow, but John tells him to stay. He exits the pod and Ripley drags herself across the floor “No – wait! John!” She makes it to the door and looks out to see:

BROTHER JOHN

Dawn’s rays are peeking through the battered ceiling as he walks slowly across the smoking roof. Into the inferno that is the burning Abbey. Ripley watches as John and the alien horror inside him are INCINERATED.

The heat from the fire intensifies – forcing Ripley back inside the pod. She reaches for the door and it seals shut with a thud. Safe now, Ripley rolls onto her back and weeps – for the first time in years. The pod shifts – as burning timbers beneath the craft give way. Ripley rolls onto her stomach and crawls to the pilot’s chair. She straps herself in.

The escape pod BLASTS OUT through the orbiter’s outer shell –

And into open space.

Ripley places Mattias into the stasis tube and is about to climb in herself when she notices John’s parchment on the floor. She picks it up, unrolls it and we hear John in voice over:

“I, Brother John Goldman of the orbiter Arceon, Minorite abbey and gaol, know the Abbot was wrong. There is a great evil here. I have seen it. I put pen to paper now lest this plague – this creature stills my hand. I have gone down below – both to try to warn the others and get the woman – Ripley – get from her some clue as to how to battle this evil, or at least to make my peace for not defending her. She believes there is still an Earth and I hope she is right. I hope she will be able to find out. I hope she can find some rest from the devils that torment her.”

Ripley pulls a pen from the console and writes on the parchment: “Whether the Earth exists or not, whether we end up in Heaven, or Hell, or the cold vacuum of space, she has.”

Ripley sets her course, climbs into her tube and shuts the lid. The escape pod roars away as Arceon dwindles … a smouldering, dying ember in the void …

THE SCREEN GOES BLACK

END CREDITS ROLL …

Teenager in the back of the movie theater shouts, “It’s in the dog!”

Vincent Ward

John Fasano

NOTES, CRITIQUE, MUSINGS AND APPRAISAL

Having read most of the various early drafts of Alien 3 and found nearly all of them to be wanting (with the exception of David Twohy’s sans Ripley prison breakout scenario) – I can safely say this particular draft by Vincent Ward and John Fasano is by far the most cohesive. Not only does it dare to be different without straying too far from what came before, but it also has an internal logic which is sorely lacking in the other versions.

There are also some intriguing concepts which give it greater depth:

The monks sowing the seeds of their own destruction via the degradation of their environment is a compelling idea. And having the character of Anthony suffer Bosch-like hallucinations ‘because androids don’t sleep’ is also something we’ve not seen before.

The supporting characters for the most part are well-rounded and interesting, with the exception perhaps of Brother Kyle, who I feel we should probably see more of than we do. After his introduction at the very beginning, and apart from a couple of minor scenes here and there, he doesn’t really have much to do with the main plot and only reappears for his death scene at the very end. Perhaps this is something which was to be addressed in subsequent drafts. On the positive side, the unspoken attraction between Ripley and John is nicely understated. John’s bashful nature is rather sweet and does much to endear him to the reader. The Abbot makes for an interesting antagonist in that he is portrayed in a somewhat sympathetic light – we understand why he does what he does – quite unusual for a film of this nature.

If I have one criticism of the characters, it would be to do with Ripley. Her reaction at learning of Newt’s demise seems to show, well, perhaps not indifference – but certainly a lack of emotion. And it appears this is something Sigourney Weaver herself had qualms about and Ward was aware of. But as Ward revealed in Empire Magazine’s celebrated 2009 article ‘Alien Reinvented’ – providing more character beats for Ripley is something he had planned to address in follow-up drafts – as his primary concern with this initial draft was making certain the backdrop of ‘the world’ was a real enough setting in which the story could unfold.

The reference to Ripley’s daughter, Kathy, is a nice touch. Ward was intrigued with the idea in Aliens that Ripley had a young daughter who had grown to old age while she was adrift in space. This aspect, as we now know, was originally shot by Cameron for Aliens – but excised from the theatrical release. It has since been reinstated in the extended cut of Cameron’s film – which now creates an anomaly in this particular screenplay – as Ripley clearly states that she had came home to a bitter old woman who never forgave her for abandoning her as a child. In Cameron’s film, Kathy had already died of old age by the time Ripley returns to Earth. Despite this inconsistency, the reintroduction of Kathy in this draft does much to enrich Ripley’s character. And her reveal to John that she only joined the marines’ mission to LV 426 with the express purpose of ending her life at the hands of the very nemesis which alienated her from her daughter, is an interesting insight into the mindset of Ripley in this particular story – her passive acceptance of her inevitable demise, brought about by continual loss of those she cares about.

The reference to Ripley’s daughter isn’t the only anomaly in this particular draft:

In Patrick Hobby’s in-depth Cinefantastique Magazine article on the troubled development of Alien 3 (June 1992) – Hobby mentions that in one particular version of the Ward/Fasano screenplay – the book which John carries around with him is described as containing what appears to be a medieval etching of a supposed Xenomorph tattooed on the Devil’s posterior. It does appear that John’s discovery of the Xenomorph tattoo was a contriviance introduced to enable him to have a reason for busting Ripley out of her cell. By having her indentify the creature in the picture as being the same as the ones she has encountered previously, John hopes to convince the Abbot that the demon is real and therefore offer him no choice but to listen to Ripley’s suggestions on how to deal with it. According to Ward in the documentary Wreckage And Rage: Making Alien 3 – this earlier version of the script ended not with an exorcism/abortion, but with Ripley quietly walking into the fire – ending her life and the alien embryo she carries. Once the studio had decided to keep Ripley alive in order to continue the series, Ward incorporated the illustration of the medieval exorcism into John’s book, thereby sparking the idea in John’s mind to perform the procedure and ultimately save her. With the reference to the Xenomorph tattoo removed from this version, however, it now appears that John’s discovery of the exorcism procedure is the sole impetus for him to break out Ripley from her cell, despite the fact he could not have known Ripley was impregnated at this early stage. It is a plot hole which could easily be rectified with the reveal of the Xenomorph tattoo reinstated in the draft.

The question of how the Alien came to be aboard the Sulaco in the first place is never made clear in this version (or indeed the completed film). Did the Alien Queen lay an egg on the underside of the dropship? And if so, how did she do this without her ovipositor? If, as in this draft, Ripley was impregnated by a facehugger – then why does she have no memory of having ‘some horrible dream about smothering’ or the like? As I said, it is a conundrum which also plagues the released version of the film and continues to generate debate amongst aficionados of the series. It seems likely it is nothing more than a convenient measure to enable the events in Alien 3 to occur and one which was hoped wouldn’t be thought too deeply about by the general audience.

If Anthony’s musings about the Xenomorph being a biological weapon created by an alien race to wipe out dominant lifeforms on whatever planets they chose to conquer sounds oddly familiar – it’s because it was a concept originally dreamed up by Ridley Scott during the production of the original Alien – which later gave birth to the hastily slapped-together pseudoprequel Prometheus.

The idea that a planetoid five miles in diameter could realistically sustain a surface atmosphere has often been criticised in this script as being a scientific impossibility. However, when one considers that no such qualms were raised when the original Alien resorted to that hoary old sci-fi standby ‘artificial gravity’ to explain away the fact that the Nostromo’s crew weren’t exactly weightless – I don’t see it as being problematic with regard to the suspension of disbelief in this particular story. And anyway, if it really bothers those who are scientifically-minded, then perhaps all that needed to be introduced in the script is a mention of some kind of artificially-generated force field which allows the planetoid to sustain a shallow atmosphere.

The violence in this draft is surprisingly graphic when compared to the previous Alien films. The most gruesome scene of course being the Abbot’s head exploding to reveal an alien head-burster sitting atop his neck. Exploding heads have pretty much been a staple of the horror genre since the late 70’s – with films like Dawn Of The Dead and Scanners.

Scanners – directed by David Cronenberg, 1981.

However, the head-burster in this draft of Alien 3 takes things to a whole new level of surrealism – recalling a similar image in David Lynch’s Eraserhead.

Eraserhead – directed by David Lynch, 1977.

I guess depending on how it was handled on-screen, the head-burster could either have been one of the most bizarrely shocking moments in sci-fi cinema history – or one of the dumbest.

The action set pieces involving the Alien are well-paced and relevant to the plot. The attack in the wheat fields is a particular highlight and provides much scope for thrilling visuals – particularly high-angle tracking shots following the Alien slicing a path through the wheat – as (according to the Wreckage And Rage documentary) Ward was planning to do.

The scene where the Alien is so damaged that its chameleon-like ability to change its appearance to match its surroundings begins to ‘malfunction’ is oddly similar to what happens with the T-1000 in James Cameron’s Terminator 2: Judgement Day. I’m not suggesting that one stole from the other – but it is a curious coincidence nonetheless – especially considering how similar the ending of Alien 3 is to Cameron’s film (with Ripley sacrificing herself in a vat of molten metal). Another case of ‘parallel development’ I guess.

Some criticism has been made of the anthropomorphization of the Alien in this version. It is felt by some that by giving the beast a human-like agenda, it takes away from the Alien’s mystique and dissipates our inherent fear of the unknown. The scene where it appears to be taunting Ripley with the body of Anthony is one moment in particular which is often mentioned by detractors. Some have felt that the creature’s depiction as a mindless beast should be left unsullied. I for one, however, don’t have a problem with this. For me it makes perfect sense in this third installment to expand our understanding of the beast. Our realization that it’s not just a mindless killing machine after all, but a creature with some modicum of intelligence (as Dan O’Bannon had originally envisaged in his initial concept for Alien) makes it a far more intriguing and formidable foe. And it shouldn’t be something that seems totally left of field either – as there was that moment in Aliens when the creatures cut the power to the colony’s operations room and Hudson says “How can they cut the power?! They’re just animals!” If the Alien were to be suddenly revealed as having the ability to fly a spacecraft (God forbid) – then that would definitely be jumping the shark!

Despite its minor first draft inconsistencies, the Ward/Fasano version of Alien 3 is fast-paced and exciting with some highly original and intriguing concepts and is well worth a read.

Greg Moss is a film school graduate with a background in directing music videos and is currently seeking representation as a screenwriter. He likes right-brained people, feeding the cat and watching genre movies.

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8 Comments
  1. My god man, how long did it take you to write this epic post?! Great job Greg 🙂

    • gregory moss permalink

      Thanks man! 🙂 Yeah, it took me a couple of weeks to put this together. I hope it wasn’t too much of a slog to get through – but I dig this script so much and really wanted to try and convey exactly what it is that appeals to me about it. It appears Ward is still enthused with his ‘monks in space’ concept after all these years and would love to be given the opportunity to develop it as a stand-alone movie. I hope that one day he gets his chance. 🙂

      • Not at all. Considering my face off piece was huge I will never complain about a long post, especially one this interesting! Nice to read something from someone who puts passion into their work, not just a carbon copy of something we could find on a million other blogs. Thats why I love coming here man, always insightful stuff 🙂

  2. Cheers man! 🙂

  3. Hey sweetie, from a female fan. Keep up the great writing.

  4. gregory moss permalink

    Thanks! It’s nice to be appreciated! 🙂

  5. Jamie Braswell permalink

    That was a very insightful, informative essay on ALIEN 3. I won’t lie in saying that I find Vincent Ward’s idea for an ALIEN film to be absurd, but at the same time there is something inherently fascinating about his vision. Love it or hate it, one cannot deny that it is an incredibly ballsy approach to the material that showcases a desire to take chances on something new rather than churning out the same old thing. Thanks so much for presenting the complete story here, coupled with as many production pictures/artwork as you could find. If I had one major criticism to hurdle at Ward’s story, it would be the head-bursting deaths. It is a terribly stupid idea that makes absolutely no sense at all and reeks of the need to outdo the well-known chest-bursting. It’s there for the sake of being different, but without any logic real behind it. Anyhow, great job. Thanks for taking to time to put this together!

    • gregory moss permalink

      Thanks, Jamie. It was a lot of fun putting this together. And I was so looking forward to seeing this version of the film and was so disappointed when I learned Ward had been replaced. You’re absolutely right about the ‘head-bursting’ scene jumping the shark. Although I’ve never had an issue with the scientific implausibility regarding the workings of the wooden planet – most detractors seem to conveniently forget Ripley engaging ‘artificial gravity’ aboard the Nostromo in the original Alien – a shameless re-use of an admitedly hokey 1950’s sci-fi conceit (to get around the fact the crew aren’t floating around the ship). I do think if Ward’s version had been made – it would not necessarily have derailed the series – as much as Alien Resurrection ultimately did. 🙂

      Thanks for commenting!

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