News Feature: So Who IS Benedict Cumberbatch Playing In STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS?

PrintE-mail Written by Iain Robertson

Ever since J.J. Abrams and writers Robert Orci and Alex Kurtzman announced that the villain in their new movie would be one with which fans were familiar, and that Sherlock star Benedict Cumberbatch would be playing him, speculation has been rife amongst fans as to which character he'll be playing. 

Theories have suggested Cumberbatch will be playing practically every villain the Enterprise ever encountered. The most popular names that keep appearing are Khan (denied by Simon Pegg) and Gary Mitchell (let slip by Karl Urban). Other names bandied about include Garth of Izar, Gary Seven, and even Star Trek: Generation's Tolian Soran. 

So, naturally fans were a little taken aback this week when Paramount revealed the character's name to be the less than overwhelming John Harrison. 

Harrison is not an established character in Trek lore, and this has led many to believe that either the character undergoes a name change in the film, or that it is a fake name released by Paramount's marketing department in order to keep the character's name secret a little longer.

 However, earlier this week, Kurtzman spoke with and, along with confirming the character’s name, revealed this interesting tidbit:

“Well without revealing too much what I can tell you is that in the same spirit as “can the Enterprise be under water? What does that mean? How are we going to justify this? How are we going to explain it?” We went back and we talked a lot about things that made us want to make the first movie in the first place as fans. And what do we feel was successful for the fans. A lot of that had to do with honoring the history — honoring the show. But we also want to come up with a way to make the stories feel fresh and unpredictable. So without revealing too much, we applied the same thinking to Harrison.”

So what does this mean? How can a non-established character by consistent with honouring Trek’s history?
 Well, I have a theory. 2009's reboot showed us how, in the new alternate timeline, familiar characters, and even worlds can have new fates: Spock's mother Amanda dies when Vulcan is destroyed, Pike ends up in a wheelchair as a result of his treatment by the Romulans and not from a radiation leak as he did originally, and so on. What if Abrams and co were to that, and to take an existing character’s fate, namely that of Gary Mitchell, and apply it to Cumberbatch's John Harrison?

In the original episode, Where No Man Has Gone Before, Mitchell, an old friend of Kirk’s, is altered when the Enterprise attempts to leave the galaxy, developing god-like powers. As his powers grow, he becomes more detached from humanity, until he becomes a threat to the ship, and Kirk is forced to confront him.

Could the same fate befall John Harrison? There’s several hints been given that this could be the case:

The recently released synopsis refers to the crew of the Enterprise facing ‘unstoppable force of terror from within their own organisation’, implying the character is from Starfleet. The trailer also shows Cumberbatch in Starfleet uniform. Mitchell was an officer on the Enterprise.

The synopsis also talks of a ‘one man weapon of mass destruction’. Mitchell would definitely fit that bill. It’s also been implied that he’s close to Kirk and Spock, which, again, fits with a Gary Mitchell type character.

Cumberbatch’s voiceover in the trailer talks of Earth as being ‘your world’, implying that, either the character’s not from there, or, like Mitchell, he no longer feels part of humanity.

The fight scene in the trailer, showing Cumberbatch beating what appears to be a group of Klingons, suggest he possesses superhuman abilities. Again, this could fit in with a Mitchell type character.

The name John Harrison isn’t as exotic as those normally associated with Star Trek villains, but then neither is Gary Mitchell.

The scenes of destruction shown in the trailer don’t show any ships attacking Earth. Mitchell would have been able to inflict this level of damage without the use of technology.

The trailer shows what appears to be a memorial service. Could this be for Harrison, presumed dead and then resurrected? Early reports on the IMAX preview footage however suggest Harrison may already have powers at the opening of the film, which may discount this one, unless the memorial scene is a flashback?

There’s also the question of Alice Eve’s character...

During production she’s been speculated, like Cumberbatch to play a number of characters, primarily either Janice Rand or Christine Chapel. However, say they’ve confirmed she’s actually playing Carol Marcus, the scientist who, in the primary universe, invents the Genesis device, and, more importantly, is the mother of Kirk’s son David.

However, her look in the trailer is remarkably similar to that of Elizabeth Dehner, another character from Where No Man Has Gone Before. In the episode, Dehner also develops god-like powers and helps Kirk defeat Mitchell. Could Eve’s character be an amalgamation of the two, a love interest of Kirk’s who develops similar characteristics to Harrison?

Like I said, this is just a theory, but it would seem fit the available facts. Knowing the notoriously secretive Abrams, it could well be May before we find out much more.

Trailer #1

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STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS will open in cinemas on May 17th 2013.

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