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Alien War

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"The longest 20 minutes of your life."
―Alien War tagline
Alien War new logo

Alien War original logo (London).

Alien War, known as Alien Wars during the 2008 and 2012 reopenings, was a "total reality"[1] attraction in the United Kingdom themed around the Alien film series, chiefly the 1986 film Aliens. Created by John Gorman and Gary Gillies, the attraction originally opened at The Arches venue in Glasgow in April 1992, before having a short run as a mobile event at various exhibition centres around the UK (including The Bournemouth International Centre and the Aberdeen Conference Centre). On October 16, 1993, it moved to a permanent home in the basement of the London Trocadero, where it was opened by Sigourney Weaver.[2]

The London attraction closed after a flood in August 1996 and was never reopened. However, Alien War made a short return between December 1999 and January 2000 at the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre in Glasgow, in a modified form.



Alien War's creators, Gary Gillies (left) and John Gorman (right).

John Gorman and Gary Gillies came up with the concept of Alien War while watching an Alien and Aliens double-bill at a local theater and conceived of the attraction as a way to put fans "in an Alien movie".[3] The aptly-named Gorman, also an avid collector of Aliens props, realised the attraction would allow him to share his collection with fans in a more exciting way, recalling, "I thoguht to myself, instead of people just looking at the props, they could have these things around them in an Alien environment."[3] Gorman did not want to copy the then-popular laser-tag format, instead opting for a live-action interactive adventure, a cross between roleplaying and a fairground house of horror, that relied heavily on shock value, much like the films on which it was based.


During its six-month run at The Arches in Glasgow, the event attracted 100,000 visitors.[4] Following this success, the show began a nationwide tour, starting at The Bournemouth International Centre, where it ran from July 17-September 7 1993.[5] At the same time, Gillies and Gorman struck a deal with 20th Century Fox with the intention of taking the attraction worldwide, with venues in the United States, France and Tokyo planned.[3] There were also plans for similar Predator and Terminator-themed attractions.[3] However, other than the London venue, these plans ultimately did not materialize.

London TracaderoEdit

The permanent London Tracadero attraction was located in a specially-themed, futuristic street setting incorporating a cafe and a gift shop, which opened on September 4, 1993, just over a month before the attraction itself.[5] Among notable crew who helped to design and construct the set for the attraction were prolific Alien collector Harry Harris, programmer John Fisher, who created the Marine ECG readouts seen aboard the APC in Aliens, and lighting engineer Del Bennett, who likewise worked on Aliens.[6] Much of the vac-formed plastic set dressing used in the construction of the set was created using original molds made for Alien and Aliens, while some were actually pieces that had been used to build sets in Aliens. Keeping with something of a tradition of the Alien franchise, some of the set dressing consisted of recycled aircraft parts — several seats from Concorde were used in the set, now adorned with the Weyland-Yutani logo.[6]

The attraction itself held its "world gala premiere" on Friday October 14, attended by Sigourney Weaver (specially flown in on Concorde for the event), Lance Henriksen, Danny Webb, Ralph Brown, Brian Glover and Ricco Ross,[6] along with creators Gillies and Gorman. The opening was followed by a celebrity after party held at the Planet Hollywood restaurant in Leicester Square.[2]

The experience opened to the general public on October 16;[2] tickets cost £6.95 for adults and £4.95 for children.[5] Also opened at this time was the accompanying museum containing screen-used props and costumes from the movies of the Alien franchise.[5] Alien War London was around six times larger than the original event in Glasgow, which Gorman and Gillies described as a pilot to "test the water".[7] It also included more original props and scenery from the films.

A Trip Through Alien WarEdit

A group of participants were escorted on foot by armed Colonial Marines to view an "Alien Research Facility", an immersive, dimly lit set in the style of the films Alien and Aliens. The Aliens would inevitably escape containment and subsequently menace, chase and sometimes even capture both the Colonial Marines and members of the public. The adult Xenomorphs were realised by performers in suits while the Facehuggers were animatronic effects.

The ride started as an acted tour around the facility. After some time, an alarm would sound indicating some problems. The Marine (actor) in charge would then tell the group (around 10 participants) to line up against the wall, with various horizontal tubes running along it. The Marine would insist the participants get as close as possible to the wall. Then the alarm would die down, a long silence would follow. Then, from behind the participants a loud burst of steam (prop CO2) would blow, causing a scare.

Then the participants would be huddled into the back of a corridor. The Marine would stand in front of the participants. All the lights would go out in the corridor. They would flicker on, at which moment a Xenomorph could be seen at the end of the corridor. They would then extinguish, and by the time they flickered on again it was seen to be much closer. The Marine would begin firing at it. It would be seen to be getting closer and closer at every flickering on of the lights, which were switched off for most of the time.

The participants would be hurried through the complex being herded by the Xenomorph, who would randomly grab participants but not catch them. The participants would eventually be forced through an Egg chamber where the Queen was visible.

Then a sequence followed where everyone was sat in rows of seats in what represented some sort of drop ship waiting area, the Marine would defend one door for a short time before herding participants in an elevator. Again the lights would flicker and the doors would open slightly allowing the Alien to attack. Here somebody in front of the door would be taken by the Alien. This was in reality an actor made to look like a participant, who had gone unnoticed.

The Marine would end by yelling and pushing the participants to run along a corridor and out a door. As all the participants started running and burst out of the door they would realize they ran screaming and laughing out onto the street outside to the surprise of themselves and bystanders.



Alien War commercial poster

The Marines originally carried blank firing pistols for use in the attraction. However, for Alien War London, an innovative electronic system called Soundfire was developed to allow the Marines to use replica M41A Pulse Rifles that would sound sound like those used in Aliens. The system consisted of replica Pulse Rifles, many of which were constructed from aluminum by Bapty & Co., the armorers who had created the original weapons for Aliens, which were then fitted with infrared transmitters and small strobe lights (to simulate muzzle flash).[8] When the trigger was pulled, a signal was transmitted to receivers hidden in the set. A central computer would then play gunfire sound effects to speakers in the correct area of the set.[8] Despite being a technically advanced system, from a participants' point of view these effects were not particularly impressive; the method of producing the effect, particularly with regards to the strobe light "muzzle flash", was very obvious, and was entirely different from how the weapons would discharge in reality. The complicated electronics also suffered teething troubles in the first months after opening, meaning that the blank firing pistols had to be used for most early shows. The sound effects system was also used to play other effects, including the noises made by the Xenomorphs.

The show was seen in various guises and briefly featured an actor dressed as a Predator for a spell prior to it closing in Glasgow.

Original propsEdit

Many props from the films found their way onto the Alien War set. These included instrument/control panels and the two seats from the dropship, the sentry gun boxes and one of the USS Sulaco hypersleep chambers. Also used were original reflective Scotchlite stickers from Hadley's Hope, which had been found at Pinewood Studios. Alien War also had its own in-house workshop, headed by Martin Astles (who has since gone on to work as an effects technician on such films as Event Horizon). The workshop created creature suits, set dressing, marine armour etc. as well as carrying out running repairs of the attraction.[9]

Aliens propsEdit

Alien3 propsEdit

  • Ripley's costume
  • Fire axe
  • Building gargoyle
  • Prisoner overcoat
  • Welding mask
  • Commando uniform[10]

Alien WarsEdit

The attraction was renamed Alien Wars when it re-opened at its original home at The Arches Glasgow on December 6, 2008, running until August 30, 2009 in a modified format that was distanced from the 20th Century Fox film series.[11] It also opened at Liverpool at Wirral's Spaceport venue and ran until March 2010.


  • An Alien War "Privilege Card", allowing owners to buy two tickets to the attraction at the London Trocadero for the price of one, was included in the limited edition Alien Trilogy VHS box set in the UK. The pass also allowed owners (and their guests) to jump the queue.[12]


External linksEdit


  1. The Harry Harris Aliens Collection & Archive: About Alien War
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Dave Hughes, Lee Brimmicombe-Wood. (1993). Aliens magazine, Vol. 2 #19. Dark Horse International, 19. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Dave Hughes, Lee Brimmicombe-Wood. (1992). Aliens magazine, Vol. 2 #3. Dark Horse International, 44. 
  4. Dave Hughes, Lee Brimmicombe-Wood. (1992). Aliens magazine, Vol. 2 #13. Dark Horse International, 28. 
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 Dave Hughes, Lee Brimmicombe-Wood. (1993). Aliens magazine, Vol. 2 #15. Dark Horse International, 12. 
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 6.5 "The Harry Harris Aliens Collection & Archive - Harry Harris Interview". Retrieved on 2015-09-01.
  7. Dave Hughes, Lee Brimmicombe-Wood. (1992). Aliens magazine, Vol. 2 #13. Dark Horse International, 29. 
  8. 8.0 8.1 Geoff Topping. (1999). Sci-Fi & Fantasy FX International. Next Millennium Publishing, 41. 
  10. 10.0 10.1
  11. Blog entry "Alien Wars is back!" on Alien War Myspace Page (see talk page)
  12. Dave Hughes, Lee Brimmicombe-Wood. (1992). Aliens magazine, Vol. 2 #18. Dark Horse International, 13. 

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