This article contains spoilers for Alien: Isolation and Star Wars: Rogue One
Now that Neill Blomkamp’s much-talked-about Alien 5 idea – which would have brought back Sigourney Weaver and offered an alternate sequel to Aliens, wiping Alien 3 from the canon – seems to be off the cards, chances are that we won’t see Ellen Ripley back on the big screen any time soon.
Rumours and rumblings suggest that Ridley Scott’s Alien prequel series (which began with Prometheus and will continue very soon with Alien: Covenant) may eventually feature an aged-down Weaver back in the role of Ripley (a la the young version of Princess Leia that showed her face fleetingly in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story).
However, until that day comes (if it ever does), spinoff stories offer the only solace for fans of Ripley that desperately want more stories about the iconic spacefaring bad ass.
If you’re one such fan, read on, and learn about some Ripley’s finest stories from the wider Alien universe, as well as some of her weirder ones…
Alien: River Of Pain
Alien: River Of Pain began life as a novel by Christopher Golden, which was published by Titan Books in 2014. It’s one of only three books that are currently considered canonical with the film franchise. Recently, it’s been adapted by Audible Studios into a glossy, five-hour audio experience, with a voice cast featuring such big names as Alexander Siddig, Colin Salmon, Michelle Ryan and Anna Friel.
River Of Pain serves to expand upon the story of Aliens, particularly the events that took place on LV-426 (aka Acheron) between Ripley’s two visits to the iconic, Xenomorph-infested moon. The attempted colonisation of LV-426, and the massacre that followed, are the main focus of the piece. Ripley remains on Earth in this one, with Laurel Lefkow voicing the character with an impressive Weaver-aping accuracy.
We get to hear another chunk of Ripley’s post-Alien discussions with representatives of the Weyland-Yutani Corporation, with Ripley’s warnings about Acheron – as ever – falling on deaf ears. It’s a small but important role for Ripley, which tees up the main grisly action very nicely indeed.
Audible’s River Of Pain fleshes out the story of the movie in real style, particularly in its handling of Newt’s parents. And, on top of that fan service, you also get some impressive Xenomorph sequences.
As a bonus, William Hope, Mac MacDonald, Stuart Milligan and Alibe Parsons all reprise their roles from Aliens. The piece was directed by audio drama legend Dirk Maggs (who previously brought us the radio adaptations of Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide).
You can listen to River Of Pain on Audible’s official website. There’s a free 30 day trial on offer at the time of writing.
Sega and Creative Assembly’s 2014 video game Alien: Isolation quickly cemented itself as one of the best Alien stories ever told. It’s an utterly nerve-shredding experience, as you explore a series of corpse-laden spaceships, mostly on your own, constantly drenched in fear.
A giant Xenomorph could be lurking around any corner. It’s not unusual to hide in a locker, afraid that opening the door will bring certain death. What fun!
As well as threatening to induce heart attacks at regular intervals, Isolation also benefits from a very intimate story. You play as Amanda Ripley (voiced by Kezia Burrows), the daughter that Weaver’s Ellen left behind. The game picks with Amanda in the era when her mother’s status was unknown to mankind (fans of the films will know she was floating around deep space in stasis).
When Weyland-Utani locates the black box of the Nostromo spacecraft, Amanda is one of the people sent to retrieve it. From there, a Xenomorph-stuffed story unfolds, building up to a show-stopping tearjerker of a cameo from Sigourney Weaver herself.
It turns out that Ellen recorded a personal message for Amanda that we didn’t get to hear in Alien. Needless to say, when Amanda discovers and plays the message, the results are on the emotional side.
This cameo marked the first time that Weaver has reprised the role of Ellen Ripley outside of the main film franchise, making this game another must for fans of the character.
Crew Expendable & Last Survivor
Weaver would go on to voice Ripley again in two Alien: Isolation expansion packs, Crew Expendable and Last Survivor. Again, completists will not want to miss these, not least because they feature a lot of the original cast.
Crew Expendable plonks you in the Nostromo during the events of Alien. Brett and Kane are dead, and Weaver’s Ripley convenes by Dallas (Tom Skerritt), Lambert (Veronica Cartwright), Parker (Yaphet Kotto) and Ash (Ian Holm’s likeness, but not his voice) to decide a course of action.
You have to choose Ripley, Parker or Dallas to head into the vents and attempt to flush the Xenomorph out through the airlock. The player then has to take that trip, building up to an exchange with Ash that’s based on a deleted scene from the film.
Last Survivor picks up with Ripley right at the end of Alien, allowing the player to blow up the Nostromo and escape into the Narcissus just as Ripley did in the film. Sadly, though, in this version, the iconic cat Jones is nowhere to be seen.
Although they’re only short, these experiences are a lot fun. Getting to play as Ripley, with Weaver providing the voice, is an utter treat. A full game with Weaver as the lead would very welcome indeed.
Alien: Out Of The Shadows
Out Of The Shadows, written by Tim Lebbon, is another novel from Titan Books. It was the first in an only-loosely-connected trilogy (with River Of Pain and Sea Of Sorrows following on later), which tells extra stories in between/adjacent to the events of the films.
Out Of The Shadows is notable for finding a way to feature Ellen Ripley as its main character, despite the fact that the gaps between the films don’t really give the writers much to work with. It fits betwixt Alien and Aliens, with Ripley being woken up when the Narcissus receives a distress call from another crew that’s been ravaged by Xenomorph attacks.
What follows is a decent sequel to Alien, although the story does tie itself in knots to explain why Ripley doesn’t remember any of it when she wakes up again in Aliens. One of the strongest ideas in the book is that Ash’s consciousness was still kicking around, having stowed away on the Narcissus along with Ripley and Jones. As you might expect, that has some fun consequences.
As with River Of Pain, Dirk Maggs directed an Audible adaptation of Out Of The Shadows. Laurel Lefkow, who would later return for River Of Pain, voices Ripley. Out Of The Shadows is available on the Audible website at this address.
Fair warning: from this point onwards, things get a bit weird…
The first person shooter game Alien: Colonial Marines is notable primarily for its naffness, really. It takes place after Ripley’s death in Alien 3, with the plot focusing on a new group of marines being despatched to LV-426. Lance Henriksen reprises the role of Bishop. On paper, this should have been a hoot; a flurry of gunfire peppered with Aliens Easter eggs.
The reality was a disappointment, though, with fans taking offence to some of the massive changes Colonial Marines made to the established canon. The decision to bring back Michael Biehn as Hicks – complete with a very silly explanation – was particularly unpopular.
If you’re a fan of ridiculous retcons, you might want to seek out the Colonial Marines DLC Stasis Interrupted, where it’s explained that Hicks was freed from his cryotube and another bloke got in (before having his face eaten off, leaving everyone in Alien 3 to assume it was Hicks that died).
Ripley cameos twice. The first time, she’s asleep in her cryotube while Hicks makes his escape (he takes a moment to notice a Facehugger in her cryotube). The second time, Hicks arrives just in time to see Ripley sacrifice her life to kill the Xenomorph Queen inside her. He falls to his knees and gets captured by Weyland-Utani.
There’s no Ripley dialogue in either scene. It’s not exactly a classic, but perhaps this one’s worth seeking out if you’re into weird tie-in stuff that’s somehow still canon.
Various Dark Horse comics
In lieu of Neill Blomkamp’s Alien 5 ever seeing the light of day, Dark Horse Comics is where you want to look if you’re after an alternate sequel to Aliens.
After James Cameron’s film came out, a number of comic book series were produced by Dark Horse to continue the story. Aliens: Earth War is probably the most notable run. Therein, the eponymous Aliens of the franchise had infested and overrun Earth. Ripley, Hicks and Newt travelled to the Xenomorph home world to try and tackle the problem at its source.
It was an epic yarn, with heaps of potential. But when Fox revealed their plans to kill Hicks, Newt and ultimately Ripley in Alien 3, Dark Horse had to make major changes to the characters in its comics.
The comic book version of Hicks was renamed Wilks, Newt became Billie, and it was revealed that the comic book version of Ripley was actually a synthetic copy of the original. The comics continued for a while, and old issues were re-edited and re-released to fit with the new identities of the protagonists. It was a very odd time.
Speaking of strage comics from Dark Horse that don’t fully fit with the filmic canon: why not pick up Aliens Versus Predator Versus The Terminator if you get a chance, just because it’s a darned fun idea?
This run from the year 2000 features Ripley teaming up with John Connor and the Predators to take down Skynet, who have spliced Xenomorph DNA into their Terminators to make them even more deadly. Splendid.
Alien: River Of Pain is available on Audible now. Find out more here, and get a free 30 day trial.
Alien: Covenant reaches UK cinemas on Friday the 12th of May.