In spite of finally seeing the first teaser trailer for the much-anticipated Star Trek Into Darkness, we still don’t have conclusive evidence of who Benedict Cumberbatch’s iconic villain will be. The two strongest contenders seem to be either Khan or the psychic Gary Mitchell — indeed, elements of the teaser trailer could be argued to support either possibility. And that’s assuming he’s not playing somebody else entirely and J.J. Abrams is just baiting us. Now a new still from the film has popped up online, and it could provide us some more clues as to who Kirk and company will be squaring off against next year. Check it out, then we’ll talk more below.
Note: There are no outright spoilers in this story, but we do get into some very specific discussion, so if you don’t want to know anything till Into Darkness hits next May, now’s the time to leave.
You can click the image below for a larger version.
The picture’s caption could offer a clue to Cumberbatch’s identity, but if so it certainly isn’t giving up that info easily. The caption for the image reads..
(Left to right) Zachary Quinto is Spock, Benedict Cumberbatch is John Harrison and Chris Pine is Kirk in STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS from Paramount Pictures and Skydance Productions.
John who? That name is either a Trek reference more obscure that I can recognize or — more likely — a red herring to keep us chasing our tails.
So, let’s consider the image itself. We’ve got an apparently imprisoned Cumberbatch, in a dark Starfleet uniform, talking to Kirk (Chris Pine) and Spock (Zachary Quinto). The “cell” Cumberbatch is in could be the Enterprise brig, an abnormally scenic airlock, or something else entirely. At the very least, the image suggests that Cumberbatch’s character is dangerous enough to keep locked up — and that certainly fits with the official synopsis calling him an “unstoppable force of terror” and a “one man weapon of mass destruction.” Those are some pretty bold claims, so what does it suggest that he can apparently be held inside a glass-walled cell? (Maybe it’s transparent aluminum.) Have Kirk and crew managed to “power him down” to where he can be held captive? Maybe he’s weaker or more powerful at different points in the movie. It’s also worth noting that the image of Cumberbatch in a cell definitely evokes a similar moment from the original Gary Mitchell episode. That cell didn’t work out too well for anybody…
The glass itself could also be a huge clue. When the teaser trailer came out last week, much was made of a shot that was included in the Japanese version, but not the domestic one. That moment can be seen below, with two people pressing hands on either side of a pane of glass.
That image will immediately bring to mind Spock’s sacrificial death at the end of The Wrath of Khan, and many argued that the shot strongly suggested Cumberbatch was indeed to be playing Khan. I, however, had a strong hunch that it was an intentional misdirect on Abrams’ part. After all, the longer he can keep us arguing about whether Khan is the villain, the longer our attention will be off of whoever Cumberbatch is really playing. And whether you love or hate Abrams’ take on the Star Trek universe, I don’t think he’s crazy enough to reveal his hand in that way. Showing a recreation of one of the most powerful and iconic moments in Trek canon would only give credence to the angry fans who think he’s arrogantly trying to remake the best Trek movie, one which does not need a reboot.
But here we have a shot of Cumberbatch, Kirk, and Spock on opposite sides of a glass wall. Can we just chalk that as a coincidence? I really don’t think so. Look again at the “hands” picture above. One hand is most likely Spock, given the Vulcan salute and the blue uniform. Most of us assumed that the hand on the other side of the glass was Kirk, either echoing or outright replicating Spock’s death scene from The Wrath of Khan. But the unidentified hand is wearing a dark shirt, very much like the one Cumberbatch is wearing in the trailer and the new photo. We have absolutely no context for that photo, but Abrams likely knew exactly how people would react to it. Many Trek fans took that bait, hook, line, and photon torpedo.
So, if that “Khan” shot is indeed just intended to reference, not out, Khan, that leaves Gary Mitchell as the frontrunner. His Starfleet background and incredible psychic powers fit perfectly with the things seen in the trailer and described in the synopsis. The nine-minute preview that our sister site got to check out also suggests that Cumberbatch’s character may have some sort of healing powers, and that definitely ain’t a fit with Khan. It might very well fit with Gary Mitchell, however.
It’s also worth noting that the trailer contains what appears to be a “missing man” flyby, as well as Kirk standing before a somber gathering. Perhaps a belated memorial service for Gary Mitchell? As some have pointed out, the official comic — confirmed as canon by the Trek writers — has already killed off Gary Mitchell. But this is Star Trek we’re talking about here…dead at the moment doesn’t always mean dead permanently. Especially if you’re a former Starfleet officer with a vendetta against Kirk and the powers of a god…