Who Is Ellen Ripley(8)? A What If Story, Of A Franchise Icon.
For those of us old enough, we all remember the speculation after the events of ALIEN3. Our girl, Ellen Ripley, gave up her life to ensure the alien perished, so that humanity could survive. For many of us, coming to grips with the death of such a beloved character was a tough thing.
Over the years ideas were floated (in the 90s) that maybe Alien3 would be all a dream and that maybe Linda Hamilton, of the Terminator films would take up the role of Ripley and we would continue to see the further adventures of Ripley in future films.
At some point, we have to let Ripley go. I write that to myself as much as I put it out there to everyone else. As someone who feels like the Alien series is as tied to Ripley as it the creature, I realize that Blomkamp’s ALIEN film (that we will still hopefully receive) will/may be the last time Sigourney Weaver inhabits the role of Ripley on screen. For me, that’s a sobering thought.
Ripley has lived in my mind and heart since I first discovered her in ALIENS, on VHS, in 1988. Later I would discover the masterpiece, ALIEN with my dad, and then fall in love with her all over again in David Fincher’s masterstroke, ALIEN3. During my teenage years of obsession over all things ALIEN, I started writing a screenplay that started after the events of *cough* alien resurrection*cough* and as I developed it, with stars in my eyes, at the tender age of 21, I thought my story more and more plausible.
I was never a book kind of guy. I bought ALIEN comics and graphic novels, but I was strictly a movie guy. Once the train wreck that was/is Alien Resurrection was thoroughly, and disappointingly out of my system, I started envisioning a world with a different version of Ripley now in it. Much of what I started creating dealt with Ripley8, and as time progressed and I kept working and reworking my story (all written by hand at first) I thought to myself ‘Who is Ellen Ripley now?”
Assuredly, she isn’t the same woman who threw herself into molten steel in Alien3. She’s a clone, sharing memories and is arguably a [worse?] version of the same person, but again, she isn’t the same person, is she?. I spoke about Ripley in a recent podcast episode, and how, each time I see the end of ALIEN3, hearing Ripley’s voice for the last time through radio transmission, I get choked up. The person whom I have known so well, and in my own fanboy way, fought along side, she’s dead, gone forever.
My Alien story, appropriately titled ALIEN: GENESIS found Ripley8 living in a snowy mining colony in Alaska. It’s a quiet place, her hair is short, and surprisingly, she’s aging, quickly, the after effects of cloning. She is surrounded by a den of cats, (a nod to Jonesy) and sticks to herself. The events of my story have Ripley asleep one evening until she’s awoken by gunpoint by a man that needs her help, but he isn’t asking.
This man takes Ripley off world to an unspecified planet where his pregnant wife has gone missing. His wife is mapping and researching the alien creatures, which, at this stage are at mythical proportions, yet somehow rediscovered, by accident by an interplanetary team of archeologists. I won’t say what happens, but Ripley starts dealing with her own mortality as her genetic makeup starts to deteriorate, and she begins living out the original Ripley’s memories, seeing the crew from the Nostromo, and other characters the original had encountered. At one point in my story, Ripley8 sees this little girl darting around the tunnels in the ground that are on the planet.
For many reasons, reasons I’m only coming to understand at the age of 40, I didn’t want Ripley to be dead. I wanted the original version to come out through Ripley8’s psyche. Are they really the same person? Are they different? Do memories make us human? Does sharing identical DNA with someone (something) make you family, or a stranger? These were the questions I was posing.
I’m not sure we’re going to ever see Ripley again. I hope we do. This piece is written in her honor. I honor the character of who she is, Ridley Scott for giving her life, James Cameron for making her the character we would grow to love, and David Fincher for giving her an honorable way out.
This is JM Prater, the host of Perfect Organism: The Alien Saga Podcast, signing off…