If you're one of those fans who was a little disappointed in the fact that Ridley Scott's highly anticipated Prometheus didn't really make all that many waves when it released back in 2012 worry not — because everything is kicking into high gear now as filming on Prometheus 2 is now well underway.
Filming on the Prometheus sequel — now officially titled [Alien: Covenant](tag:3648559) — began back in April in New Zealand, and Neill Blomkamp's Alien 5 waits still in the wings for its time to shine. It's not exactly in development hell, more like pre-production limbo.
Where's Our Alien Prequel?
One of the criticisms of Prometheus was the fact that it didn't connect dot-to-dot to the events of Alien, which was what a lot of fans were expecting.
There was of course no real need for the Prometheus series to be a direct sequel to that of Alien, it's fine if they just exist in the same universe, and Ridley Scott has since said that Prometheus was only intended to be a loose sequel to Alien.
But there was a lack of solid answers regarding the origins of the xenomorphs, and how that Engineer came to be on LV-426 in the first place, as Scott himself points out:
"The very simple question was: 'Who the hell was in [the ship found in 'Alien']? Who is sitting in that seat?' and 'Why that cargo?' and 'Where was he going?' I just kind of sat and thought about it for a while and I was busy, so I didn’t really do anything about it and then when they finally put it to bed in 'Alien vs. Predator' I thought, 'You know what? This is a good idea here.' The more I talked about it, I thought 'God damn...'"
The Alien & Prometheus Timelines
Before we get into the nitty gritty of where Covenant and Alien 5 are likely to fall, here's a (heavily) abbreviated timeline of the events as they unfold in the Alien universe.
Origins Of The Universe
3.2 Billion BC: An Engineer sacrifices itself in order to create the building blocks of life on Earth.
35,000 BC – 2996 BC: Engineers visit Earth, leaving instructions to find them when human civilization has matured enough.
18 AD: A lone Engineer travels to Earth to instruct humans, however he is seen as a threat, misunderstood by many, and is killed and crucified.
36 AD: Engineers learn of the fate of their ambassador and decide to exterminate all life on Earth using of the chemical agent A0-3959x.91–15. On their moon outpost LV-223 an outbreak of A0-3959x.91–15 infects and kills all Engineers, except one who remains in hibernation.
2089–2379: The Cinematic Timeline
2089: Elizabeth Shaw and Charlie Holloway discover the star map located on the Isle of Skye. Weyland funds the creation of the vessel Prometheus to follow the map.
2091: Prometheus begins its voyage to follow the Engineers to the distant moon LV-223.
2092: Ellen Ripley is born.
- December 25th, 2093: Prometheus arrives at LV-223. The events of Prometheus unfold. Shaw and David continue on the search for answers, to find the Engineers homeworld.
- Unknown date: The events of Alien: Covenant occur.
- 2122: The events of Alien occur. Ripley is the only survivor.
- July, 2179: The events of Aliens occur on LV-426. Ripley, Newt and Hicks are the sole survivors of the xenomorph outbreak.
- August, 2179: The events of Alien 3 occur on Fiorina-161. Ripley sacrifices herself to kill the xenomorph.
- 2379: The events of Alien: Resurrection occur. Ripley-Clone 8, Annalee Call, Johner and Vriess survive and return to Earth.
Given the lack of information available regarding Alien 5, it's a little difficult to estimate exactly where and when it will take place. The franchise has never been one to keep things simple — the only two movies in the series that occur within the same timeframe are Aliens and Alien 3, both occurring in 2179.
Alien occurred 57 years prior, back in 2122, and Alien: Resurrection didn't happen until a full 200 years after Alien 3. The massive gaps are due to Ripley being a) in cyro-sleep between Alien and Aliens, and b) a clone of the original in Alien: Resurrection.
But in terms of the next step it's useful to think of Aliens as the anchor point for the Alien side of things, as this is where Blomkamp's film will be picking up with Ripley's story.
It's previously been reported that Alien 5 will ignore the third and fourth films in the Alien franchise but — rather than disregard the events of Alien 3 and Resurrection as Ripley's cyro-sleep nightmares, as per the popular fan theory — Blomkamp says he's not writing off Alien 3 and Alien: Resurrection:
"I’m not trying to undo 'Alien 3' or 'Alien Resurrection.' My favorites are the first two movies. I want to make a film that’s connected to 'Alien' and 'Aliens.' That’s my goal."
Blomkamp's Alien 5 will take place after Aliens, but apparently won't undo or erase the events of the following films in the canon. Rather it seems like Blomkamp intends to make a sibling film of sorts, which has lead to some speculation regarding the possibility of an alternate universe setting being used. This is sci-fi after all, crazier things have happened.
Estimating A Time Setting For Alien 5
We do know that Alien 5 is set to feature Corporal Dwayne Hicks, face scarred from the xenomorph's acidic blood (as seen in the concept art). So there's certainly going to be some deal of canon shifting going on there. The concept art also makes it seem likely that Alien 5 will address one of the big unanswered questions from the canon: What happened to LV-426 after Aliens?
As far as estimating a place on the timeline for it to take place however, a lot depends on whether or not cryo-sleep or some other sci-fi plot device is involved. If such narrative devices are not used, given the ages of the cast and the concept art characters, we'd be looking at Alien 5 taking place sometime around 30 years after Aliens, which would take us up to 2209 on the timeline.
Not quite as far as Alien: Resurrection, but then we all know how that ended. (With us making voodoo dolls of Joss Whedon, that's how.)
Estimating A Time Setting For Alien: Covenant
The first official image of the Covenant crew patch (below) reads: "Weyland-Yutani," instead of just "Weyland." This gives us a little clue as to whereabouts Covenant falls on the timeline, as Weyland Industries didn't become Weyland-Yutani Corporation until the early 22nd Century, sometime around 2100.
Alien: Covenant was initially expected to pick up with Shaw and David directly after after the events of Prometheus — making it likely to occur around 85 years prior to Aliens, roundabout 2094 — but both the Covenant patch and the absence of a major character suggest it's going to take place a little later than that.
Because we know now that the Prometheus sequel will not feature Elizabeth Shaw, and since David is an android there's no real time limit on how long he could survive. What's to say that Alien: Covenant couldn't leap forward 30-odd years, ending up around 2120, and having a direct hand in the events leading to the Engineer ship crashing on LV-426?
How Covenant Can Connect Back To Alien
Could the Engineers present on the homeworld — realizing that their plans to destroy humanity have failed — attempt to do so again when David arrives on the scene in Alien: Covenant? This could provide a narrative vehicle for the crash-landing of the original face-hugger-carrying craft on LV-426, the event which set up the whole Alien franchise to begin with.
This could also provide an explanation regarding how exactly the Weyland-Yutani Corporation in 2122 knew about the xenomorphs in the first place, as evidenced by Ash in Alien. Could David be relaying information back to Earth about the Engineer's weapons? This is just one of the ways Alien: Covenant could be used to directly set up the events of Alien. After all, these are the gaps that still have to be bridged in order to bring the narrative full circle.
It is worth noting that Ridley Scott has never been one to pander to the fan-base, but he has said that though Covenant might not link up directly to Alien, the other sequels he's planning following this will. That — and the fact that there's apparently going to be a Ripley connection in Alien: Covenant — means it's looking pretty good for Prometheus 2 right now.