We’ve all been speculating wildly about who Benedict Cumberbatch is playing — and who he isn’t — in Star Trek Into Darkness for months now, still without any conclusive proof that he’s Khan or Gary Mitchell or a team of Tribbles operating a lifelike human replicant body. Alice Eve’s role in the upcoming Trek sequel only became the focus of much hubbub in recent weeks, with many — ourselves included — convinced she was playing Dr. Elizabeth Dehner from the Original Series episode featuring Mitchell, “Where No Man Has Gone Before.” The reveal of her actual identity caught many — ourselves included — off guard, and spurred an entirely new round of debate about the roles of herself and Cumberbatch. Well, new interviews with the pair have provided a few more hints, so buckle up: here we go.
WARNING: POSSIBLE SPOILERS AND SPECULATION ABOUND BELOW!
The folks at Geek Tyrant have shared several intriguing quotes from the actors, and first up is Cumberbatch on the nature of his villain, the possibly-red-herring-named “John Harrison.”
He is fed into the crew of the Enterprise and creates a lot of shadow play between Kirk and Spock. He is an awesome single-handed weapon of mass destruction but also a master mind-player and manipulator who plays with their roles and loyalties and understanding of what’s right and wrong. As far as his own purpose, beyond the terrorist means, he has a noble cause, which will hopefully resonate with the audience.
There are couple of interesting things to examine in that quote. First is that he says Harrison is “fed into the crew of the Enterprise.” It’s not quite clear what “fed into” could mean in this context. Based on the official synopsis and images from Into Darkness, we know that Harrison is either enlisted in, or has some other important tie to, Starfleet. We’ve seen him in a black version of the Starfleet uniform in the trailers. I had speculated before that this could add fuel to the Gary Mitchell rumors, but it’s certainly not a sure thing.
What really intrigues me is this: will Harrison be known as a villain from the get-go, or will Kirk and the rest only discover his true motives further into the film? I’d been presuming the former, but it could be interesting to see a supposedly loyal Harrison who catches Kirk, Starfleet, and the rest off guard in some disastrous way.
Also, he again describes Harrison as both a master manipulator and a “single-handed weapon of mass destruction.” Does that mean Gary Mitchell and his godlike psychic powers? Is it intended to be taken literally or is it just a bit of artful exaggeration? Another interview with Cumberbatch (embedded below) suggests it may be the latter. He describes Harrison like so: “He’s incredibly adept at close-hand combat and weaponry, as well as psychological warfare. So whenever he’s in a tight spot, it’s never really as out of control as people would presume.” That makes it sound more like Harrison is just very, very good at his job, but not necessarily in a way that involves beyond-human abilities. Some would argue that that’s a strike against Mitchell and for Khan, but it’s still just speculation at this point.
Cumberbatch also delved into the gray morality of the film, suggesting that Harrison will not be easy to dismiss as simply evil.
I think the gray moral areas are sort of exacerbated by the metaphor of Starfleet being a superpower, of being a force for the greater good, and what Harrison brings into the world is the alternate argument of the underdog, and what he’s fighting for. So, like a lot of modern day parallels, while the means may be abhorrent and and disgusting in their violence and destruction, often the cause, or the impetus, is a noble one.
I’d love to see this sort of nuance and complexity in Star Trek Into Darkness, a level of thoughtfulness that has always been part of the Trek legacy, but which was largely shoved aside for pure spectacle in Abrams’ first film. I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed.
Finally, Alice Eve gives some insights into the role and approach taken to her character of Dr. Carol Marcus, who, in the original timeline, was the mother of Kirk’s son, David. After joking that she’s a little too young to be the baby mama of Kirk’s full-grown spawn (Eve is 30 years old), she discusses where Marcus is at this point in her career.
She’s obviously highly qualified, highly intelligent. She’s a weapons expert. It’s my version of her, and J.J.’s version of her, because J.J. split the universe in 2009 and allowed for any eventuality to happen in this new incarnation. There was an element of artistic license we were all given in our interpretations, as well as the story’s reincarnation
It’s unclear how much of a factor Marcus will play in the new movie, if she’s being set up as a long-term romantic interest for Kirk, or even if she’ll survive the movie. It does sound like they’re staying true to her origins as an extremely intelligent, capable woman, one who could genuinely take Kirk down a peg or two when she wanted to. And that’s good to hear.
Star Trek Into Darkness opens on May 17, 2013.