During the final climactic moments of Alien 3, the franchise’s hero, Ellen Ripley (tragically impregnated with the larva of an alien Queen) is approached by a mysterious figure, offering to surgically remedy her fatal condition and give her a chance at the peaceful domestic life she never had. This individual, referred to simply as “Bishop II” in the film’s credits, is portrayed by the enigmatic Lance Henriksen (who also plays the role of the heroic android Bishop). The finale of Alien 3 gives little explanation as to the true nature of Bishop II, allowing, in a massively cinematic fashion, for those questions to be pushed aside in service to Ripley’s final, ultimate sacrifice: the taking of her own life in order to eliminate the alien threat inside her and thwart the Company’s attempts to acquire the species.
Still, for many fans, those questions return as soon as the credits begin to roll, and they’re left in the dark to ponder the true identity and motives of that mysterious representative of the company while Elliot Goldenthal’s score plays in the background. The question of just exactly who and what Bishop II is has been a topic of debate and discussion for some time in the Alien fan community but has remained a subject which the films themselves, including Alien: Resurrection and beyond, have largely ignored. With that acknowledged, some concrete details have emerged through various licensed books, comics, video games, and other media over the years, each dropping hints and tidbits that sometimes raise just as many questions as they answer. In celebration of Alien Day 2018, below you will find Fanbase Press’ best attempts to answer the question of who is Bishop II?
What can we learn about Bishop II from Alien 3?
As mentioned in the opening of this piece, Bishop II appears at the end of Alien 3 in an attempt to acquire the chestburster inside Ellen Ripley for Weyland-Yutani’s bio-weapons division. But, what can we learn about the Bishop II character from this short scene?
When confronted by the representative of the company, Ripley assumes Bishop II is an android and tells him such. Bishop II goes on to explain that he’s “very human” and actually designed the “Bishop” android. Whether intentional or not, Ridley Scott’s recent forays in the Alien franchise seem to confirm that multiple “models” of androids may share the same face (See David and Walter in Alien: Covenant.), though it does seem to speak to Bishop II’s narcissism that the android line he designed shares his own face. When it comes to the events on the prison planet Fury 161, apparently, Weyland-Yutani, Ripley’s former employer and the corporate entity that has been seeking to acquire the xenomorph over the past three films, sent this man in an attempt to show Ripley a “friendly face.” As fans of the franchise know, this olive branch offered by a man flanked by armed corporate commandos is righteously rejected by our hero. In the following commotion, Bishop II is struck in the head with a large metal implement by one of Ripley’s allies, Assistant Superintendent Aaron. Bishop II bellows that he’s not a “droid” as the commandos open fire, killing Aaron. The fact that Bishop II claims he’s not a synthetic and bleeds red blood (as opposed to the white fluids usually found inside androids) when his ear is nearly torn off by the force of the blow he receives has always stood in contrast to the fact that he then inhumanly stands back up and continues to plead for Ripley to agree to the bargain, despite what should be an incapacitating wound.
Given Bishop II’s almost superhuman ability to shrug off the wound he receives from Aaron, it seems very unlikely that he’s simply another human character akin to the others we’ve followed and been introduced to in the Alien films. Taking into account Bishop II’s own words, it seems most likely that the character is either an advanced form of android or a very privileged human who’s the beneficiary of cybernetic implants and advances. While the events taking place in Alien 3 don’t specifically answer that question, the film does tell us the following about Bishop II:
– He has some ability to survive injuries that would kill the average human.
– He has high-ranking authority or access within Weyland-Yutani.
– He has some connection to the Bishop android and may have designed it.
– Whether programmed or not, Bishop II is a believer in the Company’s attempts to acquire the xenomorph. He’s willing to lie and beg in order to convince Ripley to give him the specimen.
– Certain tie-in materials with Alien 3 (for example, the official trading card set) refer to Bishop II as Michael Bishop or Michael Bishop Weyland. This has led many fans to believe, and possibly rightly so, that Bishop II may be a descendant of Sir Peter Weyland (portrayed by Guy Pearce in Prometheus and Alien: Covenant).
So, is Bishop II a never-before-seen model of android or the human face of the greed and arrogance that makes up the Company? Let’s proceed into the Alien franchise’s expanded universe to see what further answers we come up with.
Bishop II in Books, Comics, and Video Games
When it comes to appearances by Bishop II, or characters similar to him in the Alien EU, sightings are not extremely plentiful, but they are present. While Bishop II himself does not make any appearances in Dark Horse’s prolific line of Aliens comics (beyond the official Alien 3 adaptation), characters that share his dark, mysterious nature and inhuman abilities do make a few appearances, most notably Dr. Paul Church of the Aliens: Labyrinth miniseries (written by Jim Woodring and illustrated by Kilian Plunkett). The lead researcher on the Innominata space lab, a facility plagued by mysterious deaths, it is revealed that Church is the survivor of his own devastating encounter with the xenomorph species and had received a full biomechanical makeover afterwards. Fanatically devoted to his research, incredibly manipulative, and gifted with android-like speed and agility, Church comes off as a distant cousin of Bishop II and proof positive that the merging of android technology and the human body is not unheard of in the Alien universe.
There are a few notable sightings that bear specific resemblance to Bishop II in the various Aliens video games that have been released in recent years. In 2010’s Aliens vs. Predator video game for X-Box 360 and PlayStation 3, players who chose the “Marine” campaign found themselves pitted against Karl Bishop Weyland, a senior director for the Weyland-Yutani Corporation and the man in charge of the company’s excavation of an ancient Yautja (or Predator) Pyramid. According to Xenopedia – The Alien vs. Predator Wiki, Karl Bishop Weyland is an android who often claims to be the descendant of Charles Bishop Weyland, a character that appeared in AvP: Alien vs. Predator. (In the film, Charles was the founder of Weyland Industries, but it’s debatable as to whether the film and character are canon, as both Prometheus and Alien: Covenant seem to ignore them.) In the game, Karl refers to being hundreds of years old, which seems to indicate that he is the complied consciousness of previous Weylands, including Charles. While Karl is dispatched by the game’s Colonial Marine hero character during the climax, the final scenes of the “Marine” campaign reveal another Weyland (perhaps another Karl or someone else?) picking up where Karl left off, indicating that multiple Weylands may be present throughout the galaxy, working in coordination and, in some ways, achieving the immortality or escape from death that both Charles Bishop Weyland and Sir Peter Weyland sought in their individual ways.
In 2013, Aliens: Colonial Marines‘ first-person shooter video game was released, which played loose with canon, serving as a direct sequel to Aliens and even retconning Hick’s controversial death at the beginning of Alien 3. Aliens: Colonial Marines also introduces us to another spot-on doppelgänger of Bishop II, this time going by the name Michael Weyland. It’s unclear if Michael Weyland is the same individual as the Bishop II character who appeared at the ending of Alien 3, but the plot of Aliens: Colonial Marines has the character intercepting the Sulaco before it reaches Fury 161, abducting Hicks (The video game suggests that the body of an unidentified man is actually mistaken for the marine in the third film.) and subjecting him to a torturous integration in order to gain the corporal’s knowledge of the xenomorph species from his experiences on LV-426. Ultimately, Hicks kills Michael, who is revealed to be an android like Karl, but the corporal’s comments suggest that Michael may, in fact, be an android decoy of an actual human named Michael Weyland.
Just a year later, in 2014, the most definitive answer to the identity of Bishop II was offered in the licensed book, Alien: The Weyland-Yutani Report. Formatted as an in-world technical review of the xenomorph species and the company’s encounters and attempts to acquire the alien, the book has a detailed breakdown of the events which occurred on Fury 161, including several paragraphs devoted to Bishop II or, as he’s known in The Weyland-Yutani Report, Michael Bishop. According the company’s own files, much of what Michael Bishop stated in Alien 3 about himself was true. He did design the Bishop android, along with two other separate lines of androids. He was indeed “very human,” but also a “strong proponent of human enhancement, creating and personally utilizing a number of his innovations – bone strength plating, circulatory nano upgrades, and second-system adrenaline reinforcement, among others.”
The Weyland-Yutani Report goes on to confirm that, as suspected, Michael Bishop was a believer in the Company’s attempts to acquire the xenomorph, having volunteered to lead the rescue team sent to retrieve Ripley from Fury 161 and, apparently, having also considered his failure to convince her of “the xenomorph’s importance” as his greatest professional regret.
So, what does all of this mean? Is Bishop II a human a named Michael Bishop who possibly has android decoys at his disposal? Or is Bishop II merely one android in a legion of synthetics across the galaxy who share the same face, as well as the memories of the founder of Weyland Industries and every Weyland that followed him? Obviously, it must be acknowledged that various licensed products and stories discussed in this piece were developed separate of one another and by individual creative parties. There’s very little likelihood that there’s any grand continuity or connection between these pieces or the Bishop II-like characters that have appeared in them.
While that may all be true, it also doesn’t change the fact the question of Bishop II’s mysterious identity continues to be an enduring enigma within the franchise, being returned to again and again in ancillary material, attempting to explain the character’s origins or mine its presence and power as the “human” representation of corporate greed, power, and arrogance that controls much of everything in the Alien universe. Perhaps, one day, an ambitious filmmaker will be allowed to tackle this question and give us some epic connection between these various appearances and an answer to the truth behind Bishop II. (A story of the company’s founder living on for hundreds of years via a downloaded personality in a synthetic body almost sounds like something that naturally belongs with Ridley Scott’s exploration of the antagonistic and creation-obsessed android, David, played by Michael Fassbender.) But, in the end, perhaps its best that the mystery remains and that Bishop II functions as a fluid figure of the evil corporation Ripley finds herself pitted against. Each fan and viewer can speculate and theorize to their heart’s content and, as the Alien franchise has proven time and again, for true horror to take hold, the film need only suggest the terrifying on screen and allow the audience’s mind to do the rest of the work.