William Gibson’s Alien 3 Audio Drama Review

Posted by Corporal Hicks on June 13, 2019 (Updated: 06-Oct-2023)

Audible is bringing William Gibson’s uncovered Alien III script to life in audio for the first time, to mark the 40th Anniversary of the birth of the Alien franchise.

Alongside a full cast, Michael Biehn and Lance Henriksen reprise their iconic roles as Corporal Hicks and Bishop from the 1986 film Aliens.

Father of cyberpunk William Gibson’s original script for Alien III, written in 1987 as a sequel to Aliens, never made it to our screens, although it went on to achieve cult status among fans as the third instalment that might have been after being leaked online.

This terrifying, cinematic multicast dramatisation – directed by the multi-award-winning Dirk Maggs – is the chance to experience William Gibson’s untold story and its terrifying, claustrophobic and dark encounters between humans and aliens, as a completely immersive audio experience.

The story begins with the Sulaco on its return journey from LV-426. On board the military ship are the cryogenically frozen skeleton crew of that film’s survivors: Ripley, Hicks, Newt and Bishop.

We travel aboard and hear an alarm blare. Our heroes are no longer alone…

William Gibson was the first of several writers to be called upon to write Alien 3 for Brandywine and 20th Century Fox. Having just written Neuromancer, Gibson was considered something of a big up and comer. And unfortunately, his first draft was not quite what was expected. Following the story-notes handed to him by the producers, Gibson delivered a script that wasn’t quite what was being looked for.

“It wasn’t really good,” Gibson would admit. And that is an assessment that I would strongly agree with. I really dislike that draft. But Gibson would go to write a second and much more restrained script toying with the same ideas; ideas that would make a re-appearance in the most recent Alien: Covenant.

That second draft is easily my favourite of all the could-have-been Alien 3’s (with Twohy’s after it). But it’s not without some issues, issues that I feel would have been ironed out with a third draft. But Gibson left Alien 3 before that could happen, blaming the producers for wasting his time.

 William Gibson's Alien 3 Audio Drama Review

It’s no secret that I’m also a huge fan of Audible and Dirk Maggs’ Alien audio dramas. I will happily say they’re some of my favourite Alien experiences! You give me Dirk Maggs and Gibson’s second draft of Alien 3 and I’m salivating like the Alien that’s about to take Burke back to the hive for some intimate time!

Before we dive in I wanted to just quickly address two comments I’ve been seeing frequently pop up in regards to this Audible, both of which are nearly instantly noticeable. The first is the length of William Gibson’s Alien 3. At 2 hours and 16 minutes, Alien 3 is nearly half the length of the rest of the dramas.

This is because rather than being based on novels of 300 plus pages, William Gibson’s Alien 3 is based on a script that was intended to be a 2 hour long film. It’s a very simple and logical reason as far as I’m concerned. It’s also nearly half the price of the other Audibles, so the length is very much reflected in the pricing.

The second thing is that the drama starts with a 15 minute recap of the events of Aliens. On first thought, it’s very much “why is this here? I already know Aliens pretty well.” On second thought, I think it’s more to re-establish these characters with their current performers and reintroduce you to how the world was going to sound.

This isn’t Sigourney Weaver and Carrie Henn, it’s Laurel Lefkow and Mairead Doherty. And while it may be Lance Henriksen and Michael Biehn, they are both noticeably older than in Aliens. So I think that recap serves as a nice ease-in to the way things currently sound.

And can I say what an absolute treat it was having both Biehn and Henriksen back! Following Biehn’s less than enthusiastic appearance in Aliens: Colonial Marines, I was a little worried going into William Gibson’s Alien 3 but it’s clear that Biehn was having much much more fun this time around! As he is my digital-namesake, I think it’s be fair to say I have a huge soft spot for Hicks, so to have the original actor and character back really did bring a smile to my face!

 William Gibson's Alien 3 Audio Drama Review

Lance Henriksen and Dirk Maggs

Henriksen and Bishop serve as a sort of narrator earlier on in the story, framing the goings on around his own memory recordings and observations but that doesn’t last for long, giving this particular mechanic a strange feeling of discontinuity with the rest of the story.

Maggs continues his tradition of bringing back other Alien alumni and assembled the likes of Lorelei King (Covenant’s MUTHUR) and several actors and actresses who have previously worked with Maggs on the earlier Alien audio dramas such as Barbara Barnes (Out of the Shadows), Michael Roberts (River of Pain), Ben Cura (Ransome from Alien: Isolation), Andrew James Spooner (Sea of Sorrows) and Tom Alexander (Out of the Shadows & River of Pain).

I’m absolutely loving seeing all these returning actors, especially as I’ve been enjoying everyone’s performances in all these dramas. Alien 3 is no different. I’ve been going on about how much I’ve enjoyed hearing Hicks and Bishop back, but it’s also been fantastic to hear other talented people bringing voices to the other characters from this piece of Alien history. I can’t say I have complaints about the acting in these dramas.

William Gibson’s Alien 3 continues to make great use of the Alien: Isolation sound effects, and Maggs and Gary Hayden’s sound design continues to impress and make these Audible dramas sound authentically Alien.

However, like with River of Pain, with this story being rooted more in Aliens than Alien, I’d have appreciated hearing some Aliens specific sounds to ensure that connection comes across more in the sound.

I really loved the sounds that were used for the Hybrid/New Beast! I’m not able to actually place their origins but I thought they sounded distinctively different from the traditional Alien and also sounded fantastically creepy in their own right!

As with Dark Horse’s recent comic adaptation of Gibson’s script, Dirk Maggs’ audio adaptation is very faithful to the original script. There was certain concessions to work better in the audio drama format and Halliday’s introduction that was missing from the comic is back for the drama which I loved.

 William Gibson's Alien 3 Audio Drama Review

Michael Biehn and Dirk Maggs

There are other minor differences such as Anchorpoint having a much larger crew that is evacuated along with Newt aboard the Sulaco, perhaps echoing back to the larger population of the first Gibson draft.

Speaking of the Sulaco, unfortunately, Foxe’s sudden turn when he learns about the cooling unit retrieved from the Sulaco remains untouched in Maggs’ adaptation and still remains as my main issue with Gibson’s second draft. I had been hoping that Maggs’ would fix this piece of inconsistency.

Audible and Dirk Maggs’ have been delivering some absolutely stellar Alien experiences and William Gibson’s Alien 3 is no different. These releases have been some of my favourite moments as an Alien fan over the last few years and I hope they continue to release more for my listening pleasure!

After having thoroughly enjoyed this adaptation of William Gibson’s script, I’d be really interested in hearing Maggs’ take on an audio dramatization of Vincent Ward and John Fasano’s infamous Wooden Planet script along with Laurel Lefkow as Ripley (I can never get over how uncanny her Ripley is!!).

I can’t recommend Audible’s Alien 3 enough. If you’re one of those fans who dislikes that Alien 3 killed Hicks and Newt off, the chance to hear Biehn and Henriksen return to reprise their roles and take on a “what-if” scenario is an absolute treat!

I can’t lie and say this is going to be for everyone because this isn’t simply a case of being “a better Alien 3.” But as someone who is interested in the history of the franchise and the other possibilities, I think this is simply a gorgeously presented piece of Alien history and if that is of interest to you, even if you like the Alien 3 we got, I think this is simply fantastic.

From Aaron Percival/Corporal Hicks here at Alien vs. Predator Galaxy, yet again finding I can only recommend that you head on over to Amazon and purchase yet another fantastic Alien audio drama from Dirk Maggs and the team over at Audible.

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