Aliens Cut An Android Villain From James Cameron’s Original Script
Originally, Aliens android Bishop was a villain in James Cameron’s first draft but why did the Alien sequel cut this subplot and change him?
James Cameron’s original script for Aliens featured an android villain, but its revision changed the Alien franchise’s approach to robot characters going forward. Released in 1979, Ridley Scott’s Alien was a relentlessly grim sci-fi horror. Unremittingly pessimistic at a time when much of the sci-fi genre was upbeat and adventure-focused, Alien depicted a world where the titular monster was out to kill the cast, their employers couldn’t have cared less and they also faced the threat of Ian Holm’s android villain Ash.
While the original Alien and its sequel Aliens were very different, the 1986 follow-up did keep some of these themes intact. As proven by the slimy corporate stooge Carter Burke, the Weyland-Yutani Corporation is just as amoral and heartless in the sequel as they are in the original Alien. However, the android characters of Aliens are a little less shady, a decision that marked a big change from Cameron’s earlier script for the movie.
The writer/director’s original script draft for Aliens was very different from what viewers eventually saw in numerous ways, but one of the most important changes was Bishop’s betrayal of Newt and Ripley. Depicting the android as a duplicitous villain and enemy of the human cast carried on the tradition established by Alien’s villainous robot Ash, and cutting the moment meant the franchise’s robot characters were never depicted as unambiguously evil again. While Bishop is one of few characters to (just about) survive in Aliens, in the first script, he abandoned Newt and Ripley on the Xenomorph-infested colony planet, having run the numbers and decided that saving them posed too big a risk for Weyland-Yutani’s corporate interests.
Cameron’s early draft is not subtle about broadcasting Bishop’s evil intentions, with the robot even stating “you were right about me all along” to Ripley before he strands her and leaves the duo to die. Changing the android to a more understanding character marked a shift in the tone of Aliens, with Cameron’s sequel depicting Burke and the Weyland-Yutani Corporation as villains, but the rest of the cast as a united heroic front. The Alien franchise did not revisit the “humans vs androids” plotline until Scott’s prequels Prometheus and Alien: Covenant, both of which reverted to depicting Michael Fassbender’s David as a more villainous robotic presence.
However, David was at least a more morally complex figure than Ash, and one with ambitions beyond simply serving the interests of the Corporation or killing anyone who got in their way. The changes made to Cameron’s original Aliens script thus paved the way for the franchise to create more complicated android characters with complex motivations, something the director would soon revisit in his next sequel, Terminator 2: Judgment Day. That blockbuster hit famously turned Arnie’s villainous T-800 into the sequel’s hero, reversing the original Terminator’s dynamic and creating a famous sci-fi hero in the process. The Alien franchise, meanwhile, depicted its android characters as more human and self-aware after Aliens thanks to changes made to Cameron’s earlier draft and removing the android villain subplot.
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