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Fair warning: This article discusses released information concerning the premise and casting of director J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek Into Darkness. Stop reading if you want to avoid any information and conjecture concerning plot elements not directly revealed in the official trailer.
Star Trek Into Darkness, the sequel to the 2009 film that rebooted the Paramount Pictures franchise by creating a new timeline, has many fans buzzing with questions. The new trailer has given us a hint of the mysterious villain played by Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy), said to be named “John Harrison.”
The film’s screenplay was written by Robert Orci, Alex Kurtzman and Damon Lindeloff. In interviews, Orci has said the villain is not a new character but rather someone who exists in established Star Trek canon. No character named John Harrison appears in any episode of Star Trek: The Original Series. Perhaps our villain uses an alias, or maybe the name “John Harrison” is simply a placeholder until Abrams and his crew are ready to reveal the man’s true identity.
The official premise of the film is that an “unstoppable force for terror” is found within Starfleet, resulting in Captain James T. Kirk leading “a manhunt to a war-zone world to capture a one-man weapon of mass destruction.” Assuming Orci wasn’t fibbing when he said our villain has appeared in Star Trek: TOS, here are some potential suspects that some fans have brought up.
As revealed in the first-season episode “Court Martial,” Ben Finney met James Kirk at Starfleet Academy. They became friends and Finney even named his daughter Jame after Kirk. While Kirk’s career rose quickly, Finney often found himself passed up for advancement and spent an “unusually long time” as an instructor at the Academy. Finally, he was assigned to the starship Republic, where he served alongside Kirk. Later, Kirk discovered an error made by Finney that would have caused the ship’s destruction if left uncorrected. As a result, Finney’s career was set back years, his reputation seriously tarnished. Finney refused to accept responsibility, blaming Kirk and Starfleet instead, leading to a plan for revenge years later when Kirk became captain of the Enterprise.
Although he comes from Starfleet and has a reason for revenge, Finney doesn’t quite fit the description of being a “one-man weapon of mass destruction.” Still, it’s a reboot universe, so who knows how he could be reimagined?
The titular character of the first season episode “Charlie X,” Charles Evans was an infant when his parents took him aboard a transport vessel that then crashed on a seemingly deserted planet. Years later, the 17-year-old Charlie was found alive and in excellent health, having apparently raised himself with help from the ship’s memory tapes. Charlie’s social skills were practically non-existent; he didn’t understand why his needs didn’t come first, often worried about ensuring that people liked him, and reacted angrily when he thought others might be mocking him. This made him a difficult passenger aboard Kirk’s vessel, but the situation became deadly when it was discovered Charlie could manipulate energy and matter. Through sheer force of will, the teen could remove a person’s voice, take control of their bodies, turn them into animals or simply disintegrate them.
Charlie certainly fits the description of how powerful our mystery villain is supposed to be, but he’s not a member of Starfleet and, even in a reboot universe, the character seems a bit young to be played by Cumberbatch.
EVIL JEAN-LUC PICARD
“Terror must be maintained or the Empire is doomed.”
The Internet is filled with strange ideas and hypotheses. One possibility that some have latched onto is that Cumberbatch is playing a young Jean-Luc Picard, who in the original timeline became captain of the Enterprise decades after Kirk’s final mission. Other than the fact that such a move would probably anger more Star Trek fans than it would interest, the character is too young to be the villain. According to canon, Jean-Luc was born in the early 24th century, more than 70 years after Kirk’s own birth, so they’re not exactly contemporaries.
On the other hand, in the second season episode “Mirror, Mirror,” Kirk and some of his crew were accidentally transported to a parallel universe where Starfleet was the military arm of the corrupt Terran Empire. In this place, Kirk’s crew ascended in ranks through assassination, and the one officer with any morality was a darker version of Spock who sported facial hair (leading to a trope shared by many evil twins in fiction). Perhaps Cumberbatch is the mirror-universe version of Picard featured in tie-in stories such as “Worst of Both Worlds” by Greg Cox and the novel Rise Like Lions by David Mack, a Picard who accidentally travels to the reboot Trek timeline and … wait … wait … No, this is just too strange, even for Star Trek. Moving on.
Khan was one of several people genetically engineered in the 20th century to be a greater breed of humanity. These people (later revealed to be called “Augments”) attempted to conquer Earth. Khan and several followers fled aboard a spaceship called Botany Bay, placing themselves in suspended animation. Centuries later, they were found by the Enterprise in the first-season episode “Space Speed.” With his augmented intelligence and superhuman strength, Khan tried to seize control of Kirk’s ship but ultimately failed. Yet they would meet again, making him unique as a recurring villain for the crew of Star Trek: TOS.
Although many have been suggested the film’s villain is Khan, this seems unlikely. Beyond it being a bit obvious, Khan is neither a one-man weapon of mass destruction (unless you’re speaking metaphorically) nor does he represent a threat that comes from “within” Starfleet. It would also be odd casting indeed for Cumberbatch to play the famous Sikh villain. Then again, perhaps Cumberbatch’s character is only an agent of Khan’s, who in this version of events chooses to orchestrate things from the shadows. And is it a coincidence that this new movie has Alice Eve playing Dr. Carol Marcus, a love interest of Kirk’s who was introduced in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan?
Introduced in the third-season episode “Whom Gods Destroy,” Garth of Izar was one of the most famous warriors and explorers of Starfleet, discovering many new worlds and winning many victories across the galaxy. Kirk remarked that he considered Garth to be a “model to follow” and that classes at Starfleet Academy considered the man’s career to be required reading. Years later, Garth was seriously injured, with much of his body destroyed, only for his life to be saved when the people of the planet Antos taught him to control his cellular structure. Now able to heal all damage to his body at will, the experience altered him, convincing him that he was the rightful master of the universe and that war was the only way to attain power.
Garth was stopped and brought to a Starfleet asylum, but years later he honed his abilities to “recreate himself into any form he wished.” He also used his brilliant mind to recruit other inmates as his followers, alter medical equipment into deadly devices and create a new weapon of mass destruction, “the most powerful explosive in the universe.” Garth intended to use his new powers and armament to destroy Starfleet, which he believed had betrayed him, and conquer all life. It was then that he finally met and fought Captain Kirk, whom he considered the finest military commander in the galaxy, second only to him.
Garth’s powers make him formidable and he was smart enough to create weapons of mass destruction all on his own with materials available to him. Perhaps a reimagined version of Garth would have followers acting as sleeper agents in Starfleet, waiting for his command to strike.
“Morals are for men. Not gods … Time to pray, Captain. Pray to me.”
Introduced in the second Star Trek: TOS pilot “Where No Man Has Gone Before,” Lt. Commander Gary Mitchell was a jovial helmsman on the Enterprise. While a cadet at Starfleet Academy, Gary became friends with an instructor Lt. James Kirk, evening introducing him to a “blonde lab technician”) whom the future captain “almost married” (fans have taken that to be a reference to Dr. Carol Marcus). During one of Kirk’s earliest missions as captain of the Enterprise, the ship penetrated the Galactic Barrier, a negative energy field that surrounds the Milky Way (at least, in the Star Trek universe). The encounter damaged the ship and caused Gary to mutate into an advanced human being, although Spock believed this was a new creature entirely and no longer the man they knew. Gary could sense the intentions of others, manipulate physical reality and shrug off phaser fire. He nearly brought Kirk and the Enterprise to an end before their voyages truly began.
Gary Mitchell has been a fan-favorite character for years, explored in several tie-in novels and even a comic book that teamed Kirk’s crew with the X-Men. What’s more, the IDW Publishing ongoing Star Trek comic series is said to be canonical with the new continuity, and Gary Mitchell has already appeared there. True, it seemed that Gary was dead by story’s end, but what if he’d already become too powerful by then and Kirk only believed he was dead? What if Gary revived, hungry for revenge and still powerful enough to be described as a living weapon of mass destruction?
When asked, Orci has said this villain is not Gary Mitchell. Then again, Karl Urban indicated it was during one of his own interviews. One could be fibbing to the press. Or perhaps both were and this truly is a brand new enemy. We’ll just have to wait and see when Star Trek Into Darkness arrives in theaters on May 17.