Alien³ And The Tales Of The Wooden Planet

Alien³ And The Tales Of The Wooden Planet


Original release: May 22nd, 1992
Certificate: 18

Director: David Fincher
Writers: David Giler, Walter Hill, Larry Ferguson, Vincent Ward

Cast: Sigourney Weaver, Charles S. Dutton and Charles Dance

Alien³: The Unrequited Vision, Vincent Ward Films

If I were to look back on all the science fiction films I’ve seen in my 33 years and find the one that sparked my love for the genre it would be, without any doubt, Alien³.

It’s perhaps not the one that many sci-fi fans would choose, given that it takes the story in a completely different direction from its predecessors; Aliens (1986) and Alien (1979), but for me it embodies everything I love in a story and sequel both with its narrative and visual style and also because it marks the feature directorial debut of one of my favourite directors, David Fincher.

However, I was surprised to learn in recent years about the film’s troublesome development history. Back when it was released, the pre-internet days, I was only 13 years old and information like that wasn’t so readily available as it is now. You just had to be content with a kind video shop employee letting you rent films you were too young to see, over a year after they were released.


Alien&sup3 is a dark, claustrophobic nightmare, more along the lines of the original by Ridley Scott than James Cameron’s sequel, dubbed ‘Rambo in Space’. It opens with one of the pods from the Sulaco ship crash-landing on Fiorina ‘Fury’ 161, a prison planet with an all-male population of rapists and murderers.

Ripley (Sigourney Weaver), Hicks (Michael Biehn) and Newt (Carrie Henn) are on board together with the android Bishop (Lance Henriksen) but only Ripley survives. Wanting to be sure of what killed her friends, she asks for an autopsy to be carried out but keeps her suspicions to herself. A chat with the remains of badly damaged Bishop confirms that there was an alien on board with them and Ripley further suspects that one might be inside of her.

In one of the most poignant scenes in the entire Alien series, the juxtaposition of Newt and Hicks’ funeral with the birth of the new alien is both sad and terrifying. Although the actors do not appear in the movie, it’s the only chance we get to say goodbye to the characters they played in Aliens, while at the same time setting the stage for the events which are about to take place.

David Fincher and Sigourney Weaver on setDavid Fincher and Sigourney Weaver on set

While the men are uncomfortable with her presence, having embraced an apocalyptic and millenarian version of Christianity, Ripley tries to warn them that they have bigger things to worry about than gender issues and reawakened sexual urges. As the aliens’ presence on Fiorina becomes more strongly felt and their survival is threatened, the men’s only hope is a rescue ship from the Weyland-Yutani Corporation which is on its way to collect Ripley. However, the Weyland-Yutani Corporation have other plans which ultimately makes Ripley rethink her exit strategy off Fiorina.

Alien³ might not have been the movie that Fox set out to make, or the movie that fans wanted to see and its production from conception to completion was difficult to say the least. After the success of Aliens, the studio knew they wanted a follow-up but were not entirely sure which direction to take the story in. Writers were hired for the screenplay and Renny Harlin was set to direct.

David Fincher, at workDavid Fincher, at work

Another idea was to set the story on Earth and an early trailer from the studio hints heavily at this. Eventually Harlin decided to leave when the writers couldn’t come up with something he felt the previous two movies didn’t already cover.

The next director to come on board was Vincent Ward. His idea for the movie was radical, ambitious, dark and beautifully gothic with strong medieval influences. It would be set on a wooden planet inhabited by monks where Ripley’s ship would crash-land, carrying the fully formed alien with it. The presence of Ripley would be seen as a test of the monks’ faith by their God, whereas the alien would be seen as something from the Devil.

Vincent Ward's vision for Alien 3Vincent Ward’s vision for Alien 3

The sketches are extremely fantasy based, in one we see an alien with what looks like sheep’s fur and a human face at the rear. The producers didn’t like the idea of the monks and suggested convicts and instead of the wooden planet that it should be a mining colony. Ward received a list of changes Fox wanted for the film.

Then came Fincher. With a strong background in music videos and commercials with video-production company Propaganda Films, Fincher began work on his first feature film without a finished script. Having not only to piece together a story from what was leftover from previous writers’ screenplays including Ward’s, but also having to deal with the constant demands and changes that Fox wanted made, directing Alien³ was no easy job. Fincher would walk out before editing began and has since then disowned the movie, preferring not to speak of it.

Vincent Ward's vision for Alien 3, the wooden planetVincent Ward’s vision for Alien 3, the wooden planet

The Blu-ray Anthology set from 2010 includes both the theatrical version of the film as well as an extended cut, known as “the Assembly cut” which features over 30 minutes of deleted and alternate footage. This version follows a completely different narrative and opens with the crash of the pod from the Sulaco ship, but instead of Ripley being pulled from the wreckage, she is found washed up on the dirty shore by Clemens.

I would love to have seen Ward’s version of the film. From just reading about it and looking at the sketches it feels as if it would have been quite an experience and an even further departure from Aliens. Yet I can’t help but continue to love what Fincher was able to do with it, under immense pressure from a big studio and as a first time feature director.


About Patrick Samuel

Patrick Samuel

The founder of Static Mass Emporium and one of its Editors in Chief is a composer and music producer with a philosophy degree. Static Mass is where he lives his passion for film and writing about it. A fan of film classics, documentaries and World Cinema, Patrick prefers films with an impeccable way of storytelling that reflect on the human condition.