In London’s Royal Observatory Greenwich on the evening on Monday 24th April the world’s leading audiobook retailer Audible launched its latest full cast dramatisation in an interstellar style fitting of its extraterrestrial subject. Beaming a transmission from the domed roof of the Peter Harrison Planetarium, Audible sent a digital signal containing Alien: River of Pain from our pale blue dot into space, towards the 55 Cancri system and its five exoplanets forty one light years away, around the same distance from Earth as to LV-426.
Following on from the success of Audible’s previous audio drama Alien: Out of the Shadows and based on Christopher Golden’s novel of the same name, River of Pain is set just prior to James Cameron’s 1986 film Aliens and tells the story of the Hadley’s Hope colony and the tragic events that left young Rebecca Jorden, better known as Newt, the only survivor.
Prior to the planetarium’s first dedicated transmission to another world, the invited guests were given a tour of our humble galaxy by one of the Royal Observatory’s resident astronomers, Tom Kerss, under whose guidance the visitors sat beneath the dome of the planetarium and were transported across space.
Briefly stopping at science and science fiction’s favourite local hotspot of potential life, Jupiter’s icy moon Europa, the audience were then whisked away and shown glimpses of other wondrous stars and planets across our small corner of the universe, so many of which we are now finding harbour the potential to support life. Whether that life will be a friendly altered reflection of our own, or a horror waiting for us, we cannot yet know.
“[In the Milky Way Galaxy] there are four stars for every human being that has ever lived.” – Tom Kerss
There in the dark, watching the orbit of unfamiliar worlds around a distant star Audible played the opening of a new chapter in the Alien saga. With an incredible cast of voice actors and high level of immersive sound effects the audience was brought to another world, a planet-sized moon in the Zeta² Reticuli system, previously known as LV-426 and now christened Acheron after one of the rivers of the underworld in Greek mythology.
Forty three years after the loss of the USCSS Nostromo, the Weyland-Yutani Corporation is building its colony on Acheron, terraforming that inhospitable world orbiting a distant gas giant, the story beginning with a very familiar broken transmission…
Final report of the commercial starship Nostromo, third officer reporting. The other members of the crew – Kane, Lambert, Parker, Brett, Ash, and Captain Dallas – are dead. Cargo and ship destroyed. I should reach the frontier in about six weeks. With a little luck, the network will pick me up. This is Ripley, last survivor of the Nostromo, signing off.
Director Dirk Maggs who brought Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere and the later seasons of Douglas Adams’ The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy to BBC radio pulls together an impressive cast to bring the lost history of LV-426 to life with Anna Friel of Limitless and Pushing Daisies and Marc Warren of Hustle and Terry Pratchett’s Hogfather playing Newt’s parents, Anne and Russ Jorden.
Only briefly seen on screen in the extended director’s cut of Aliens as they trekked out across the unexplored surface of the planet under company orders and discovered a wrecked alien craft near the colony, River of Pain tells the story of the Jordens and their fellow colonists trying to build a new life for their family, pioneers of deep space.
Joining them are Alexander Siddig, formerly Star Trek: Deep Space Nine’s Doctor Julian Bashir, playing a very different character, Doctor Reese, dedicated to the goal of obtaining an alien specimen above all else, while original Aliens cast member Bill Hope returns as Lieutenant Gorman, fresh out of boot camp and promoted beyond what his experience warrants thanks to his ties the company, a truth not lost on his fellow marines.
Already having some experience fighting Xenomorphs and their historic nemeses in Paul W S Anderson’s Alien vs Predator, Arrow’s Colin Salmon returns to the world of Alien as Colonial Marine Captain Demain Brackett, having to deal with both external threat and trouble with his new commanding officer in the form of Life on Mars’ Philip Glenister as the ruthless Sergeant Draper.
Fortunately Brackett has loyalty within his own squad, with former Bionic Woman Michelle Ryan as Lieutenant Julisa Paris, continuing the Alien franchise’s signature of having tough and capable female characters front and centre: “She is as focused and on it as they come… She takes no crap!”
Alien’s ultimate hero still maintains a presence, as interspersed with events on LV-426, are insights into Ellen Ripley’s awakening from her fifty seven year hypersleep, revisiting her nightmares during her psyche evaluations.
Poised to answer the many questions left by Aliens about the colony before Ripley and her squad of ultimate badasses touched down, Alien: River of Pain will bring audiences back to the world of the Alien franchise before May’s theatrical release of Ridley Scott’s Alien: Covenant.
Alien: River Of Pain will be released on Alien Day, 26th April 2017, priced at one credit for Audible members, £19.79 for non-members or free with Audible’s 30-day trial