Stay Frosty, Hicks
So I just finished listening to Alien 3: An Audible Original Drama.
I've been driving back and forth from home to work due to a broken leg, a 116-kilometre round trip journey, so the few hours this story took was quite welcoming. I ended up listening to it even when I got home, mainly because the thing was so damn good.
I utterly hated Alien 3, the film when it came out. Aliens is my favourite film of all time. I won't go into detail why but in recent years it's edged out Star Wars as No.1. I loved Michael Biehn in Terminator, but Aliens made me a card-carrying Biehn fan till this day. So you can imagine my disappointment when the heroic conclusion of Aliens descends into a nihilistic scenario that kills off Newt and Hicks within the first fifteen minutes and Ripley at the end. It seemed like such a cruel end to the characters who fought so hard to stay alive in Aliens. In any case, the Alien franchise for me begins and ends with Alien and Aliens.
Don't get me started on Prometheus and the shit that followed.
As an any Alien and Biehn fan knows, Michael was due to star in Alien 3. Hicks was meant to be the lead character, as a way to deal with the possibility of Sigourney Weaver choosing not to return. At the time, Weaver was embarking on an Oscar-worthy series of films, so it was reasonable to assume she might not wish to play Ripley again. William Gibson, father of Cyberpunk with his novels Neuromancer and Johnny Mnemonic, was commissioned to write the script for the third film. In it, Hicks would figure heavily in the story, along with Bishop, played by the excellent Lance Henriksen.
As it turned out, Sigourney Weaver did choose to return. Discarding Gibson's draft, a new script was written. Alien 3 by Fincher was made resulting in Hicks and Newt dying. The film has divided fans ever since. While technically good, it's simply unpalatable to fans like me, who see the Alien franchise as more than just Ripley. The removal of Hicks from the franchise has been a sore point for Michael ever since, reflected in comments he has made from time to time.
The unused Gibson script has been floating around the pop culture landscape ever since. Those who read it claim it would have been far more in the spirit than the film we eventually got. It would have also given us something we rarely got with any of the movies, a bit of world-building and new a new direction for the franchise. Ironically, Prometheus would attempt to explore some of the elements featured in the Gibson draft, to a clumsier effect.
Fast forward to 2019, Audibles decided to produce the script into an audiobook, and to the delight of fans everywhere, both Michael Biehn and Lance Henriksen reprise their roles as Hicks and Bishop. Clocking in at a little under three hours, this is a pretty impressive effort. With good voice actors other than the favourites, the music and sound effects allow for a fully immersive experience for this type of medium. Once again, I listened to this thing almost continuously.
Without going into spoilers, the story follows the path of the Sulaco following the events on Acheron, or LV-426 and its subsequent arrival in two distinct territories, first the one occupied by the Union of the Progressive Peoples, and the civilian-run space station Anchor Point. It does give us an idea of how the world beyond Ripley and Hicks functions, to how fractured human society is due to the influence of the corporations, of which Weyland-Yutani is the worst.
Furthermore, how the alien remains a viable threat was also quite innovative and certainly more believable than the alien queen laying several eggs in the dropship. While touched upon briefly in Alien and Aliens, the story explains in greater detail how the xenomorph is so adaptable. As a result, the threat it poses to humankind is a good deal more extreme than Ripley's statement of 'Cain seeing thousands of eggs'.
While I would have like to have seen more scenes with Hicks, I also appreciate the need to introduce other characters. We meet a few new ones, some interesting like Spencer and Halliday, while others are the prerequisite 'red shirts'. Nevertheless, the voice acting is still top notched. Lance Henriksen's vocals for Bishop, (God love him), show signs of age but by the end, we hardly notice it. Also, the actress voicing Ripley is amazing. If I did not know it was not Sigourney Weaver, I would have never suspected otherwise. The standout is Michael's performance who steps back into Hicks so easily; I was grinning from ear to ear, hearing him utter some familiar lines.
The ending does not feel like an end. It feels like a beginning. If we never get another Alien film, I hope Audible chooses to use this timeline as a launching pad for more stories with Hicks and Bishop. They'll certainly get my money.
Alien 3: An Audible Original is a gripping, satisfying story for all fans of Aliens and Corporal Hicks. It's frosty.