Ridley Scott’s Alien-prequel/Prometheus-sequel invades US Theaters on May 19th, and fans who have been following Alien: Covenant news and many promotional releases closely are wondering: Will the film make any direct connections to Ripley, the heroine of the franchise, played with powerful perfection by Sigourney Weaver? Some internet detectives have hypothesized that Covenant main character Daniels (played by Katherine Waterson) could be Ripley’s mother; others have posited that Weaver is the voice of “Mother”, the company computer who manages operation while the crew of the Covenant is in hypersleep.
As revered as she is, there’s plenty fans might not know about Lieutenant First Class Ellen Louise Ripley (including the fact that her middle name is Louise!). Alien: The Official Movie Novelization was written by Alan Dean Foster includes many details about Ripley’s pre-Nostromo life and career that add layers of subtext and motivators for the famous character.
About the Author: Alan Dean Foster is the acclaimed author of movie tie-ins for Star Wars, Alien, Transformers. He was awarded the IAMTW Grand Master Scribe Award in 2008. A best-selling science-fiction and fantasy author in his own right; the popular Pip and Flinx novels and the Founding of the Commonwealth series.
Related Article: New “Alien: Covenant” Featurette “The Next Chapter” Establishes Link to “Prometheus”
Born January 7th, 2092, at the Olympia Colony on Earth’s moon, Ellen Louise Ripley earned a Masters of Engineering from the New York Aeronautic University and began working with the Merchant Navy as co-pilot aboard a ship called the Zalani; she met her future husband, Alex McClaron, while she was between flights. Against Company regulations, Ripley and Alex conceived a daughter; against the urging of her advisors, Ripley brought the child, Amanda, to term. Ripley and Alex divorced shortly before their daughter’s 3rd Birthday, leaving Ripley to raise the child on her own.
Although assigned to serve as a warrant officer on the Nostromo, Ripley attempted to obtain an official leave of absence to spend time with Amanda. Nearly unheard of, the Weyland-Yutani Corporation actually granted Ripley extended leave, provided she participates in one last long-distance haul. While she hoped to be home in time for Amanda’s 11th Birthday, this would be the fateful voyage bringing her, along with the Nostromo’s entire crew, to LV-426. These events took place in June of 2122 and the rest, as they say, is history.
The video below from Mr H Reviews is an excellent summary of Ripley’s untold backstory—and you’ve got to love the narrator’s deep baritone voice.
Another Alien novelization, Alien: Out of the Shadows by Tim Lebbon was also released in 2014; it explained what happened to Ripley after the events of Alien and before her discovery by a scavenger ship in 2159 (when Aliens picks up the franchise): Ash (Ian Holm) had uploaded his consciousness to the escape shuttle and purposely diverted Ripley from detection, hoping the Xenomorph (which he assumed would still be on board) could be recovered, eventually, by a Company vessel.
Some fans may argue that novelizations aren’t canonical, but many aspects of Ripley’s past were actually included in James Cameron’s Director’s Cut of Aliens. Check out the deleted scene below, where Carter Burke (Paul Reiser) informs her what became of her daughter, Amanda, while Ripley was lost in space. Keep those tissues handy!
Gut-wrenching! Not only has Ripley’s daughter been dead for years, she never had any children—meaning she’s utterly alone in the universe. And it’s all Ash’s fault! Whether or not Ripley ever became aware of these details is open to debate.
Knowledge of Ripley’s past life, specifically her daughter, adds genuine human emotion to her relationship with Newt (Carrie Henn) in Aliens. While the mother-daughter bond established between them is obvious, it explains why Ripley was so intent on saving her life, even at the risk of her own. Newt was a second chance for her to recapture the relationship she sacrificed with her own daughter.
Another titillating fact about Ripley’s private life: In an early draft of Alien, she and Dallas (Tom Skerritt) had an affair—actually, it was more like a booty-call to release some stress. The scene was never filmed, but the video below from Alien Theory has the dialog, along with some test footage Weaver shot with another actor. Scandalous!
While Alien: Covenant will bring us one step closer to the beginning of Ripley’s story, fans are still holding out hope that Neill Blomkamp’s Alien 5 will one day come to fruition. The story is said to give Ripley the kind of conclusion her character truly deserves, as fans were almost universally disappointed by her death/suicide in Alien 3. Time will tell.
Are you surprised by any of these details from Ripley’s life before her encounter with the Xenomorph? Let’s discuss in the Comments section! And check out the trailer, synopsis, and most recent poster for Alien: Covenant below.
Official Synopsis: Bound for a remote planet on the far side of the galaxy, members (Katherine Waterston, Billy Crudup) of the colony ship Covenant discover what they think to be an uncharted paradise. While there, they meet David (Michael Fassbender), the synthetic survivor of the doomed Prometheus expedition. The mysterious world soon turns dark and dangerous when a hostile alien life-form forces the crew into a deadly fight for survival.