Though ultimately cut from the theatrical release of Alien, the first film infamously had a deleted nest sequence in which Ripley discovered both Brett and Dallas glued to the wall and in the midst of being transformed into eggs.
Though this would eventually be restored in the 2003 “Director’s Cut” of Alien. It wasn’t until Aliens’ release in 1986 that we saw an Alien hive – or nest – up on the big screen for the first time. Interestingly the scale of the Alien hive in the second film seems to have been scaled back substantially from what James Cameron had originally envisioned.
In Cameron’s original treatment for Aliens, completed on the 21st of September 1983, it was originally intended that as the APC was driving towards the Atmosphere Processor, the Colonial Marines would have discovered it warped by the Alien’s resin.
“Among the refinery-like lattice of pipes and conduits something new and not of human design has been added.
It is a structure of some sort, extending from and crudely imitating the complex plumbing, but made of some strange encrusted substance.
It vaguely resembles the chambered nests of swallows on a much larger scale. It attenuates so gradually into the original hardware that it is hard see where one bends and the other begins.
The Alien structure seems to extend far back into the complex of machinery. The plant thrums loudly, its functioning seemingly not impaired.”
This would be removed once Cameron wrote the first actual draft of the script. Though the resin was removed from the exterior of the Atmosphere Processor, Aliens would still introduce us to the interior of a large scale Alien hive that would serve as the location for several amazing scenes!
Alien hives would reappear in Alien Resurrection (though not following Aliens’ aesthetic) and both Alien vs. Predator films, but would be completely absent from Alien 3. However, that wasn’t always the case.
Following years of development hell, when long-time Alien producers David Giler and Walter Hill sat down to assemble a script from all the previous abandoned concepts, in their earliest draft available, dated the 10th of October 1990, Hill and Giler wrote in a scene in which Ripley and Aaron discover the beginnings of a hive, referred to in this and subsequent drafts as the “meatlocker”, in the glassworks (which would eventually be replaced with the lead furnace).
The discovery followed the death of Malcolm – who would later become Dillon – after Morse inadvertently led the Alien back to the library – which would also become the Assembly Hall – where Morse had been attempting to report his discovery to the prisoner’s defacto leader.
Though Ripley had experience with the hive in Aliens, rather than suggest that the still alive prisoners are to be hosts for the next generation of Aliens, she instead tells Aaron that “this is a meat locker. It’ll feed the new Queen.”
The pair would be distracted by a cocooned Andrews, begging for help. But as Aaron moved towards him, Ripley stopped the warder, noticing something that we had not seen in an Alien film since the very first.
Like Dallas and Barbara Cole’s cocooned colonist before him, Andrews begs for death. Despite Aaron’s attempt to argue otherwise, true to Alien tradition, Ripley sets fire to Andrews. As they watch the flame engulf the Super Intendent, Ripley says “we burn it. All of it.”
The flame continues to spread around the hive resin – compared by Hill and Giler to a web – and soon the entire chamber is in flames. And then the Alien appears, holding Malcolm’s torso. Ripley throws her torch at the Alien, which is soon covered in flames itself. The Alien quickly puts out the fire, and retreats back towards the vents, leaving the cocoon chamber in flames…
Now an inferno.
Hundreds of pods fully ablaze.
A SHRILL KEENING SOUND as the flames fully engulf the half-dead…
The hive sequence would be retained in an additional draft that Hill and Giler completed two months later on the 18th of December, though with some changes. Instead of Aaron and Ripley, it is Dillon and Morse who come across the hive.
Rather than the glassworks (which had already become leadworks), the hive is actually found in the Assembly Hall (which had replaced the library) and instead of taking place after Malcolm’s death, it now precedes it.
Following an exchange of dialogue between Morse and Dillon in regards to Morse’s desire for a Pulse Rifle, the actual discovery plays out very similar to the earlier script, with much of the dialogue actually the same. A notable change is that Dillon declares it the meat locker, with the line about feeding the Queen absent and neither have any concern over rescuing the still alive Andrews.
Alien vs. Predator Galaxy commissioned one of our favourite Alien artists, Declan Loftus, to visualise this scene for this article!
As with the previous draft, Dillon sets fire to Andrews and the resin, causing the rest of the hive to catch fire. The Alien once again makes it presence known, showing up with an unknown prisoner’s torso instead of Malcolm’s. Dillon then proceeds to be the one who throws the torch at the Alien which retreats, but rather than leave the hive this time, it hides in the blazing Assembly Hall.
This is where the sequence of events flips around. As Morse and Dillion try to escape, the Alien reappears and Dillon decides to lock himself and the Alien in the Assembly Hall, where he faces his end at the hands of the Alien. While the Alien approaches, backlit by hell-fire imagery, Dillon prays.
Drawn by a fire alarm caused by the inferno within the Assembly Hall, Aaron and Ripley appear in time to watch as Dillon strikes the Alien with his fire axe, slicing through one of its legs and attempts to cause more damage. The Alien savagely rips a hole in Dillon’s chest, then retreats through the flames with Dillon’s body into an air duct.
Aaron then takes up Dillon’s role for the remainder of this particular draft, with a still-alive Golic being the one to occupy much of Aaron’s role in the finished film.
Screenwriter Rex Picket was then hired by 20th Century Fox to rewrite Hill and Giler’s previous draft. With four weeks to go until Alien 3 actually went in front of cameras, Pickett’s goal was a complete rewrite of the second half of the script due to character and plot changes mandated by Walter Hill, with further minor changes to the first half.
This draft would see the Assembly Hall hive scene completely removed, and instead replaced with a small extension of a scene from the previous draft where Golic murdered several of his fellow prisoners in the Abattoir after surviving letting the Alien out of Waste Disposal.
In Picket’s draft dated January 5th 1991, Aaron, Dillion, Ripley and Morse (who had been given a larger presence in this particular draft) are called to the Abattoir to witness the aftermath of Golic’s murder of Gregor and William. They find Eric, driven to near madness by what he saw, and a cocooned Golic.
When we’d last seen Golic, the Alien had been approaching him and Golic had been nodding to himself.
Moving deeper into the abattoir, Dillon finds:
Cocooned, ensconced in fluid, and still alive!
Apparently having taken his cocooning to be a sign of the Alien’s disappointment in him, Golic was heard muttering “I’m sorry, sir.” This dialogue is likely referring to the Alien as Golic had called it “sir” earlier in the script.
By the time the “final” draft was written, with Hill and Giler taking on scripting duties once again, the cocoon/hive sequence would ostensibly be replaced by the scene in which Ripley seeks out the Alien in the basement. Though it was dropped from the “final” script, due to the hectic nature of Alien 3’s production, Amalgamated Dynamics Inc had actually started construction on the cocoons.
Covering the special effects in the 50th issue of Cinefex released in May 1992 – and subsequently reprinted in 1997 in Titan’s Alien: The Special Effects – Bill Norton wrote about how rather than a store to feed the Queen or for potential hosts, Fincher had apparently envisioned this sequence to be a throwback to Alien’s eggmorphing sequence.
“Borrowing from a sequence which had been cut from the original Alien, Fincher early on intended to feature the discovery of partially-devoured victims being transformed into alien spores through a metamorphical cocooning process.”
Further supporting this concept, in the same article, ADI’s Alec Gillis is quoted as saying that originally Ripley’s chestburster was supposed to be a regular chestburster, and that the decision to make it a Queen came later.
“It started off as just a creature embryo, and then it was later decided to make it a queen embryo. So we had to go back and take a copy of our sculpture and make an appliance to give it the queen carapace, the hood. It didn’t have the tiny arms like the adult queen; but we thought, what the hell, maybe she grows those later.”
Though the quote was not attributed to anyone in particular, Norton would state that the sudden inclusion of the Queen into the narrative caused ADI’s work on the cocoons to stop.
The interesting thing to consider here is that the earliest complete draft for Fincher’s incarnation of Alien 3 had the Queen chestburster and a need for cocoon victims remained intact, so the exact reason for the loss of the scene – whether for narrative purposes or budgetary – is unclear.
Woodruff Jr. would go on to say that the cocoons “were begun, and then killed halfway through. We were going to end up making about twenty of these cocoons, all vacuformed and stapled up. We started on two, and then the plug was pulled because Fincher’s idea was that the creature simply kills to eat.”
Given the number of cocoons under construction, it would be safe to assume the work was commenced in late 1990 and that they were being constructed for the “meat locker” scene as originally written by Hill and Giler.
Even though the scene was removed during writing, ADI’s work on the cocoons would not go to waste. They would complete one of the cocoons, and Fincher would use it for himself.
“Actually we did finish one off for Fincher because he liked it so much. He had it on the set with him and would occasionally climb into it for inspiration. He called it his ‘thinking shell’.”
However, in 2021 Alien vs. Predator Galaxy had the chance to sit down with Alec and Tom to discuss their work on the entire series and we made sure to ask them about Alien 3’s cocoons where Alec told us that the “thinking shell” was entirely made up in an effort to get a rise out of David Fincher and no cocoons were completed!
“Tom totally made up the Fincher ‘thinking shell’ thing. There was a period there where we were having such a great time with David Fincher because it was fun. We’re all about the same age and we thought it would be funny if we made stuff up. Where we did interviews and then he would read it later and go “what the hell?” So Tom had a few good ones.”
These cocoons aren’t something that has been extensively documented in behind-the-scenes footage, but ADI has previously shared a video which showed them sculpting the cocoons, and Alec Gillis has also posted some images of the cocoons in what appears to be a later state.
Personally, I think they do look closer to the eggmorphing cocoons and nest from Alien, rather than the hived up victims from Aliens, something that ADI’s Alec Gillis confirmed to us when Alien vs. Predator Galaxy spoke to ADI in 2021.
Though not exactly faithful to the film, the numerous video game adaptations of Alien 3 took us into various hived sections of Fury. Armed to the teeth with Pulse Rifles and flamethrowers, the adaptations would have Ripley fight her way through swarms of Aliens, and eventually a couple of levels in the hived up depths of the prison.
Though not visitations to any hived up sections of Fury 161, the expanded universe would take us back to the former backwater prison colony to find it infested with Aliens a couple of times.
In Rebellion’s first Aliens vs. Predator on the PC, the fourth mission of the Predator campaign would return us to an Alien infested Fury, where we fight through recreations of locations from the film including the Assembly Hall, the Mess Hall, the Morgue and the leadworks. We would also run into the remnants of a Colonial Marines recon force that had begun to retreat having detected a Predator vessel.
In the anthology book Aliens: Bug Hunt released in 2017, a short story by Jonathan Maberry called Deep Black saw the Colonial Marines revisit Fury 161 in 2189, 10 years after Ellen Ripley sacrificed herself to prevent Weyland-Yutani and Michael Bishop from retrieving the Queen inside her.
In Deep Black, a small recon force of three Colonial Marines is dispatched to Fury 161 to investigate the appearance of activity on the surface. Following the closure of the facilities on Fury 161, Weyland-Yutani had sent four research teams to the planet in an attempt to find traces of the Alien. Each team came back empty handed.
However, Weyland-Yutani still left satellites in orbit of the planet and it was these satellites that discovered the renewed activity on Fury 161’s surface. What the investigating Colonial Marines found was a research vessel that belonged to Jingti Long Corportion, a rival corporation that was neck-in-neck with Weyland-Yutani, often edging them out with technological advances.
The Colonial Marines found an abandoned recovery effort of the Sulaco’s EEV and plenty of blood! They also heard the crew of the Jingti Long vessel being slaughtered and what sounded like the cries of multiple Aliens.
Though the Colonial Marines weren’t aware of how the scavengers found the Aliens, they hypothesized that multiple face-huggers had to have been in the Sulaco’s EEV to allow both Ripley, and the Ox/Dog to be infected. What if there had been more than just two?
Deep Black ends with the three Colonial Marines deciding that they wouldn’t allow Weyland-Yutani to retrieve the Aliens in the Jingti Long research. Did they just end up as another three corpses at the claws of the Aliens? Or did they succeed in actually wiping out whatever Aliens remained on Fury 161? The result of their decision is not known.
The games would also give us several multiplayer levels based around Fury 161, with the most recent from Aliens: Colonial Marines actually having a portion of the map covered in hive resin. Personally, though, my favourite will always be Leadworks from Aliens vs. Predator 2!