Alien: Covenant will enter production in Australia in the first quarter of 2016, under the direction of Alien and Prometheus helmsman, Ridley Scott. The project has clearly evolved over the four and a half years since its predecessor Prometheus opened in theaters - having gone through multiple titles over that time (recall that it was called Alien: Paradise Lost not too long ago), in addition to having changed from a movie that was going to feature no Xenomorphs to becoming the potential beginning of a new film trilogy that examines the origins of the Xenomorph and leads into the Nostromo's encounter with the creature in the original Alien.
Covenant, as based on a script most recently revised by John Logan (Gladiator, Spectre), follows the colony ship Covenant to what its crew believes is an extraterrestrial paradise - but which instead turns out to be the desolate and dangerous home world of the Engineers (the aliens who created humanity in Prometheus). There, the repaired android or "synthetic" David (played again by Michael Fassbender) is the "sole inhabitant" of the planet, according to the film's official synopsis.
So how long has David been hanging around on the Engineers' planet, then? Well, Oscar-winning costume designer Janty Yates - who's been collaborating with Scott on his films for more than fifteen years now (having won her Academy Award for Gladiator) - revealed to Collider that Alien: Covenant picks up "10 years in the future beyond 'Prometheus'" - and that this change in time will be reflected in the spacesuits worn by the Covenant's crew versus that worn by David, respectively:
“[Alien: Covenant is] not so much of a spacesuit movie. There are two different spacesuits in it. We are only carrying on one look from 'Prometheus', which is with David."
Noomi Rapace is expected to reprise her Prometheus role as Elizabeth Shaw in Alien: Covenant, though her screen time should be limited. Most likely, Elizabeth will only appear via flashbacks and/or recorded footage from the past, given the implication that she is no longer alive when the spaceship Covenant arrives - either due to a lack of supplies that would have been necessary in order to keep her alive on the Engineers' world for most than ten years, or possibly something more nefarious.
Meanwhile, David may be quite different by the time the Covenant's crew meets him. One imagines he has developed a severe God Complex or warped priorities over the years, becoming a more dangerous A.I. being - perhaps one in the vein of Hal 9000, in some ways. That would certainly be in keeping with the 2001: A Space Odyssey influence on the previous Prometheus installment, while at the same time leaving room for Alien: Covenant to play up the mystery surrounding what David has been up to over the past decade since last we saw him. (Experimenting and creating new biological weapons, perhaps?)
A ten-year jump served the film Dawn of the Planet of the Apes quite well, allowing the movie to work as both a sequel to Rise of the Planet of the Apes (which, like Prometheus, is a prequel of sorts) and a solid self-contained narrative on its own. It stands to reason that Covenant can also benefit from the time skip - providing it with a partial fresh start to kickoff a three-part storyline, but at the same time carry over the strongest elements and ideas from Prometheus.
That Scott has momentum on his side, coming off a critical/commercial success in The Martian, should only further help this new proposed Alien trilogy to get off the ground properly. Prometheus remains one of the more polarizing mainstream sci-fi films that has been released in recent memory, so Alien: Covenant could use that assistance in convincing fans that this is a smart approach to continuing the larger Alien franchise hereon out.
Alien: Covenant will open in U.S. theaters on October 6th, 2017.