Alien 3 has so many inconsistencies and plot holes that it leaves not just the casual viewer asking question after question but for the hardcore fan too. Most questions asked have sparked debates that have lasted years, either in Internet forums or general chat among fans. Some questions asked do have an answer, which isn't either [fully] explained or explored within the film itself but rather through early drafts, storyboards, cast and crew interviews and the Alan Dean Foster Novel (also based on an early draft). Some, but not all, of the questions I'm asked I'm going to explore a little too, hopefully, give some insight on why the EEV crashed and so on. To answer some questions I've turned to the Aliens Colonial Marines Manual, and other sources, which are listed above.
If the Sulaco's sensors picked up the fire why didn't the ship's sprinkler system not kick in?
Well, from what we see in the opening sequence is that the Facehugger's body acid spills onto the floor and eats its way through causing the electrical fire. The smoke from this reaches the sensors which activate the Ships evacuation protocols. You'd expect the ships sprinklers or other fire prevention systems to kick in right? Well, they did or were. They malfunctioned due to the fire spreading quickly throughout the cryo-chambers sub-flooring before reaching the chamber itself. Electrical fires spread very quickly and can spread within walls way before you know what’s happening. It was planned at one stage to show the ship's fire prevention systems malfunctioning before the cryo-tubes begin to be loaded into the EEV. Of course, none of this was ever filmed and was only featured in an early Hill and Giler draft and the Alan Dean Foster Novel.
Flush-mounted fans began to hum within the ceiling, inhaling the swirling, thickening gas...Beneath the floor, something exploded. Bright, actinic light flared, to be followed by a spirit of sharp yellow flame. Darker smoke began to mix with the thinner gases that now filled the chamber. The overhead lights flickered uncertainly. The exhaust fans stopped. A nozzle emerged from the ceiling, rotating like a miniature cannon. It halted, focusing on the flames and gas emerging fro the hole in the floor. Liquid bubbled at its tip gushed in the direction of the blaze. For an instant, the flames were subdued. Sparks erupted from the base of the nozzle. The burgeoning stream died, dribbling ineffectively from the power heard. "Fire suppression system inactivated. Exhaust system inactivated. Fire and explosive gases in cryogenic, chamber."
There were other fire prevention systems on the Sulaco, but some of these had to be activated by a Senior Officer, for example, according to the technical manual the entire hull of the Sulaco is compartmentalised so any areas on fire could be opened to space. You are probably thinking, 'Hang on, why didn't the ship's computer do this in the first place???' again the Technical manual states that the system is ordered not to do this if that particular section is occupied by personnel and can only be overridden by a senior officer. With no one on board awake to override the command, the ship's 'Automatic Crisis System' continued as normal with the Evacuation procedures.
Why did the EEV crash land instead of landing?
This is one element (besides the deaths of Hicks and Newt) that has really played on lots of people's minds. Just why the hell did it crash? The EEV experienced malfunctions due to numerous factors. Factors again not explored [in detail] in the film itself. You know the fire on board the Sulaco had something to do with the EEV's malfunction but one or two of you have asked me for further explanations or theories. Again, I’m turning to the Alan Dean Foster novel and the Aliens Technical Manual to help you get a better insight as to why and what malfunctions were caused. Besides the question of why did it crash land other questions have included things such as why didn't the EEV have landing procedures and what’s the point of a life-support craft is it doesn't land and why did the EEV land on Fury 161...you get the picture...The Aliens technical manual tells us that once the EEV is separated and cleared from the mother ship, the EEV's onboard computer initiates the search and rescue procedures. It switches on a distress and location beacon while scanning the surrounding sectors of space for any vessel nearby for rescue and a suitable landing site. The EEV can also home in on navigation beacons from nearby colonies or space stations, in this case, the EEV picked up Fury 161's beacon and began to set course.
"...Hell of a way to make a landing."
The EEV In Free Fall
The EEV is designed to free fall from orbit until it reaches the lower atmosphere of a planet where it activates its thrusters to break the verticals fall before activating landing struts. There is only enough fuel on the EEV for one re-entry. Another thing the Technical manual states is that even with advances in technology life is still lost during an evacuation procedure and that even if one component isn't functioning properly it can jeopardise the entire evacuation process. In the film, this would be attributed to the fire on board the Sulaco once again.
It was originally planned to show the Sulacos destruction as the EEV's are being jettisoned. This whole sequence was scrapped even though the exterior models were built.
At zero two things happened with inimical simultaneity: ten EEV's, nine of them empty, were ejected from the ship, and the proportion of escaping gases within the damaged cryogenic chamber interacted critically with the flames that were emerging from the acid-leached hole in the floor. For a brief eruptive instant, the entire fore port side of the Sulaco blazed in fiery imitation of the distant stars.
Half the fleeing EEV's were severely jolted by the explosion. Two began tumbling, completely out of control. One embarked upon a short, curving path which brought it back in a wide arc to the ship from, which it had been ejected. It did not slow as it neared it's storage pod. Instead, it slammed at full acceleration into the side of the transport.
Further, in the novel, it tells of how the concussion from the blast caused damage to most of the EEV's sensitive instrumentation, this included the EEV's navigational and guiding system. Once the EEV reached Fury 161's atmosphere most of its systems had failed and so the EEV's thrusters and landing gear failed. The novel also says the EEV was supposed to land on the beach but due to the ever failing systems, it instead crashed into the sea at an acute angle. This is what caused the safety support to buckle and impale Hick's.
Why was the EEV floating?
You'll notice when Clemens looks out onto the sea the EEV is floating on the surface [The Assembly Cut]. As the EEV hit the water it deployed air bags so it would float to the surface. This sequence wasn't filmed but you can see the airbags themselves in the movie. The ariel shots of the EEV on the beach, which the Oxen pulled ashore, you get a good look at them.
No weapons on the EEV?
I've been asked about this a few times and have had debates about it with a friend of mine countless times. Firstly, it was Sigourney Weaver, who didn't want weapons in Alien 3. It was part of her agreement to do Alien 3 as she is against guns and didn't like the 'over-use' [her words] of weapons in Cameron's Aliens. So, as said in another topic on this blog, if there were no weapons on the prison planet that meant the EEV wouldn't feature any. If there were weapons on board the EEV, then the prisoners would have had access to them and with a weapon, they could have or would have used it on the Alien, etc., etc....
The Number three and bar-code were later removed
However, with that said who's to say there wasn't any on board to start with. The Technical manual states that the EEV has storage lockers, which contain survival rations and first aid supplies in case the survivors are in for a prolonged wait for rescue. Who's to say there were no weapons? Yes, it doesn’t say anything about weapons in the technical manual but to me, it's a possibility it did. The lockers, from what I’ve read, are located in the larger section of the EEV, the section which is damaged. This, in my opinion, backs up a fan theory that the supplies and any weapons, if on board, would have been lost at the bottom of the sea during the EEV's impact with the surface.
Well, that's it, for the moment, on this one. I do hope that this little article helps someone in some shape or form, and I'll probably add more to this sometime.