Stop Trying to Ruin the Mystery of the 'Star Trek Into Darkness' Villain

December 13, 2012

Star Trek Into Darkness

Just recently, the villain from Star Trek Into Darkness played by Benedict Cumberbatch was given a name. An official still from Paramount Pictures pegged the man as John Harrison. However, that didn't put to rest any theories about the "Sherlock" star taking on an updated version of the iconic villain Khan Noonien Singh from Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan or even a canon villain like Gary Mitchell (though this one apparently died in a comic book considered to be canon with the new timeline started in 2009's Star Trek). People are still trying to confirm whether Khan or another villain will be messing with the crew of the Enterprise this time, and I wish that everyone would just chill out and let J.J. Abrams keep his secrets.

First of all, there seems to be a lot of dissension among fans that having Abrams and writers Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman and Damon Lindelof use Khan as a villain is lazy and without risk. So for all intents and purposes, let's assume this is the case. It's pretty difficult to understand why taking on one of the most iconic villains in Star Trek canon, with one of the most rabid fanbases around, is anything but risky. Some have complained that Abrams is merely copying what Christopher Nolan did with The Joker by saving the most iconic villain in Batman's history for The Dark Knight.

First of all, the comparisons to The Dark Knight don't really seem to be all that insulting since many regard to be the best comic book film ever made, and also acclaim it as being one of the greatest films of the past ten years. In addition, Heath Ledger turned the performance into his career's best, and there are few who deny that the actor may be the best iteration of The Joker ever seen on the big or small screen. That all comes after complaints and naysayers about using The Joker again and even with Ledger's casting.

Star Trek Into Darkness and The Dark Knight Posters

So if Cumberbatch does end up playing Khan, why can't we just wait and see what Abrams and company do with the villain before getting all up in arms and self-righteous about it. Plus, just because Cumberbatch is playing a villain that everyone loves, but no one wants to see again, we're ready to completely disregard his performance? In this case, it doesn't matter of Cumberbatch is playing Khan, but rather how the writers and Abrams have handled the character and let the actor make it his own. This could be a completely different Khan that fans don't know because the entire Star Trek timeline is different now. Some people think that recent news that Alice Eve is playing Carol Marcus (an integral character from Wrath of Khan) is only more confirmation of Khan, but her dynamic with Kirk will be completely different since they have no relationship history (and thus, no offspring) going into this sequel.

But on the other end of the spectrum, what if Cumberbatch really is playing a character named John Harrison? And what if it isn't an alias? In fact, today Cumberbatch denied that he's playing Khan and described the John Harrison character to MTV:

"He's a terrorist; he operates as a terrorist. He has extraordinary physical powers, but also mental powers. He can sow an idea, which is as powerful as gunshots or close-hand combat, which he's masterful in. He tears into the fabric of both the world and the Enterprise family, and he leaves behind him a trail of devastation. It's quite exciting to watch.

Giving away the full motivation would ruin it, but it's personal. It's also political, I think. He's somebody who, at some point in the film, you should feel a certain amount of empathy towards his cause, if not his means. … There's no two-dimensional obstacle he presents purely and simply by the fact that he's opposing our hero. He has an interesting relationship with Kirk, and with Spock in a way," teased Cumberbatch. "He very much plays them off against each other. There's an element of shadow to him and Kirk."

Initially, Trek fans couldn't figure out who John Harrison was, but the film's writers had said their villain would be a canon character. With some hard work, it has been unearthed that Harrison was actually a minor recurring character from the original series who had various assignments and was often seen adorning the infamous red shirt. Funnily enough, Harrison actually appears in the episode Space Seed. For those who aren't Trek fans, that's the same episode which introduced Khan, a character who was a kind of a surprising villain when he showed up in Wrath of Khan.

Wouldn't it make more sense that instead of rehashing Khan as a character, the writers used yet another obscure character from the past and turned him into this original and fantastic villain, much like Khan has become today? In this case, that would mean we know nothing about the villain or his motivations, and that makes him potentially more terrifying than Khan as a villain. In addition, the name John Harrison has roots in history with John Harrison Suratt being one of the conspirators involved in the plot to kill Abraham Lincoln, and Abrams like injecting history like that into his films. Perhaps there's some kind of subtext there that both history and Star Trek buffs might be able to piece together.

Star Trek Into Darkness - John Harrison

But guess what? I don't want to know anymore about the villain in Star Trek Into Darkness, and I think everyone needs to stop trying to figure out every minute detail about films like this. In the age of information with every scrap of history, movies, television, and more being available at the click of a mouse, this culture has to know everything right now. Don't get me wrong, we're rabidly trying to figure out who's directing Star Wars: Episode VII and things like that, but when it comes to a filmmaker trying to keep a bit of mystery in an age that seems to open every Christmas present before December 25th, why are we so desperate to know this one detail? The only outcome will be outright criticism because of the revered Wrath of Khan or a shrug and "Let's see what they can do."

Even if the villain is revealed to be Khan or just John Harrison, we're still stuck waiting until next May to see how this all unfolds. I know everyone is excited, and Star Trek is such a delicate franchise for fans, both old and new alike. But when it comes to this desperate attempt to "unmask" the villain in Star Trek Into Darkness, let's just ride this out and let Abrams keep his mystery box closed for a few more months.

Find more posts in Editorial, Feat

Discover more around the web:

  • Linkfx
    it's JJ that's screwing it up. Not the fans. If he only shut up instead of being a tease and used some decorum like how Christopher Nolan deals with fans, no one would even care. JJ is horrible at dealing with secrets, like an annoying 12 year old.
    • we still know nothing so how is he terrible with secrets?
      • Linkfx
        it's terrible with how he responds to them...he's actually really good at keeping them. But I'm just suggesting it might be better if he doesn't even sidestep them, or uses a concrete response a la Nolan's "you know I can't talk about that" in regards to whether Batman will have a cameo at the end of Man of Steel.
        • Didnt he deny Talia was in the movie or did the actress deny it? Also Robin.
          • Linkfx
            the robin comment was made before he had even pondered the movie and he never made any mention of Talia that was Marion Cotillard who effed it all up.
    • He tries to keep quiet all the time, but people keep asking him questions at press events, and he just sidesteps questions and avoids direct answers about these kind of elements in his films. Even then, people take his words and read into them way too much.
      • Linkfx
        exactly, we are always going to read into whatever he says. Not that this topic requires anymore discussion because I agree with you, I just wish he wouldn't even address them at all a la Nolan so there would be nothing to read into. He's makes it too complex, too much of a focal point in his vaguery and decepetions that it risks overshadowing the rest of the film. He can't control how we respond to what he says, he is in control of what he says, therefore he is responsible for whatever nerd fervor he whips up, that's all i'm saying.
      • David Banner
        "I wish that everyone would just chill out and let J.J. Abrams keep his secrets". I suggest you go watch that TED talk JJ had, it's all about the secret, and how it effects us not knowing what it is. He seems to have played you well. Will Firstshowing follow this, not speculate or spread rumors? I think not, thats 50% of internet-movie-news. I guess we will have to go to other sites to get rumors and "inside-info" from now on then? I know I got a lot on latest Star Wars news on Firstshowing, I guess there won't be any of that either, just press-releases from now on this site? Is something missing from this article, something I am not aware of, was JJ attacked or something? Did I miss some rabid fan camping on his lawn, with rope and duct tape in his bags? What is the point of this article, are you asking millions of people to not try to figure out what the movie will be about, to not dream? Movie fans have done this over 100 years. JJ and his boys have 100% control on what's going on, he's handing out small bites to tease us, and keep us interested. Why do you feel you need to protect JJ's back? He's been in this business since he was 18-20 years old, he knows what he's doing, all is going after his plan with his next Star Trek movie. PS Thanks for collecting all rumors and possible identification of the villian in the new Star Trek movie, all in 1 article about not speculating who he might be. Clever.
      • So how is it his fault then?
      Wasn't there a huge shit storm over the "Bat", pics of Catwoman, and the Cave they used for the prison? Nolan did say nothing, but the fanboys still went crazy. It's the people not the director.
      • Linkfx
        yes they did go crazy, but they didn't have a director egging them on by continuously being vague. We saw the pics, went crazy and then went about our day, we weren't made to stew and ponder pointlessly on what is really a very simple thing to either completely avoid or address directly. Marketing is a game, and maybe I'm playing into it now by giving a shit, I know I am actually haha...but it shouldn't overshadow the film at least in my opinion.
        • DAVIDPD
          I can see it that way too. JJ's good at playing the game (*wink).
  • Xerxexx
    People are nosey these days. They need to know so they won't be surprised.
    • Jericho
      this is why i feel the internet ruins movies sometimes...
      • For me it ruins movies ALL the time. I always tell myself I won't follow movies that are in production but once I see the, "Set video reveals blah blah blah" article, I CAN'T RESIST LOOKING!!!!!!
      • David Darida
        Depends on a movie though...
  • Matthew
    Shame that people are up and arms. I read an interesting argument that knowing the the villain main identity will help draw those who don't watch Sta Trek at all into this movie. I am not a Trekkie but I did watch the first one and found it entertaining and visually appealing, so I'm onboard already for this one easily. But for someone who hasn't watched any, there would be some difficulty in someone explaining to them what this new one is about if they can't even determine who is bad or what is what... I hope that makes sense, I can see the argument on both sides, personally don't care but cool nonetheless.
  • BloodwerK
    Like many people I think The Wrath of Kahn is the best Trek movie ever and I think it'd be awesome if Kahn is the villian in this one. Even if, somehow, it sucks it won't take away from the other film in the least. People on the internet just want to bitch...
    • beevis
      WoK is a classic because of montolbans performance and spocks heroics at the end; but, i thought "undiscovered country" was a better overall movie.
      • BloodwerK
        I've actually forgotten which one that is. I get the names confused...
        • David Banner
          It's Star Trek VI, from 1991.
      • David Banner
      • castingcouch
        Those elements play a part. But it's a classic mostly because it's a very well written film. The screenplay is light years away from anything Orci and Kurtzman could do. Undiscovered Country had some very cringe-worthy moments. TWoK had none of those.
  • Middleagedwhiteguy
    The references to family make me wonder. In the 2009 movie, we were briefly introduced to Kirk's older step brother as Kirk blazed by in his step dad's "borrowed" antique sports car. Kirk passed him yelling out, "Hey Johnny!" I wonder.......
    • No one knows Johnny is Kirk's brother though. Originally he was supposed to call out to his step-brother in that scene, but since they got rid of the other scenes with him, they changed the name to Johnny (which is not the name of Kirk's sibling), and now he's just an extra character.
  • Cody W
    I really liked the first one and this looks good and all but this movie has "Overhyped disaster" written all over it.
  • relax
    Hmm..which meme to use here..oh yes.."First world problems"...
  • DarkRaven18599
    The only concern I have is whether Chris Pine is going to be able to hold his own in scenes with the brilliant Mr. Cumberbatch. Benedict can act!
  • bdkennedy11
    He's Q, not Khan.




Alex's Top 10 - 2016
1. La La Land
2. Paterson
3. Arrival
4. Captain Fantastic
5. 20th Cent. Women
6. Pete's Dragon
7. Jackie
8. Kubo & Two Strings
9. Everybody Wants
10. Wilderpeople
Click Here for Thoughts

Jeremy's Top 10 - 2016
1. Moonlight
2. The Handmaiden
3. High-Rise
4. Elle
5. Arrival
6. Kubo & Two Strings
7. 13th
8. Jackie
9. Toni Erdmann
10. The Witch
Click Here for Thoughts


Subscribe to our feed or daily newsletter:
Follow Alex's main profile on twitter:
For the news posts only, follow this acct:
Add our feed to your Feedly: follow us in feedly