‘Star Trek Into Darkness’: New Clips Raise Questions Over Cumberbatch’s Villain Status

Bryan Enk
Movie Talk
Star Trek Into Darkness
Star Trek Into Darkness

For the love of the galaxy, who is John Harrison, what exactly did he do and what does he want?

The plot and character details of "Star Trek Into Darkness" have been shrouded in typical Bad Robot secrecy since the film's inception, though no question regarding the sequel has been more maddening than as to the true identity and nature of its chief bad guy, played by Benedict Cumberbatch.

Is he Khan Noonien Singh, the vengeful genetically altered superhuman played by Ricardo Montalban in "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan" (1982)? Is he Gary Mitchell, a former Federation officer turned villainous rogue from the original television series? Or is he a character brand-new to the "Trek" canon, a clever narrative curveball designed to make ourselves go crazy with speculation when in reality he's ... well, really just a brand-new "Trek" character?

One new clip from the film makes for your usual kind of J.J. Abrams offering -- raising two or more new questions for every one older question half-answered. (Or something like that. Really, don't try to figure out the Abrams formula, for therein lies madness!) Our imprisoned villain (Cumberbatch) and incensed hero (Chris Pine as James T. Kirk) have a heated exchange ... well, heated for Kirk, as Harrison remains calm in that sinister way smart bad guys tend to practice.

Watch 'Star Trek Into Darkness' Clip -- I Allow It:

While admitting that we're unsure of the order of the film's events, we're assuming that Harrison has been locked up because of one or more of the terrorist attacks showcased in the film's trailers, which include him shooting up a Federation meeting and blowing up a bunch of buildings in both London and San Francisco. "I watched you murder innocent men and women," says Kirk. "I was authorized to end you."

It's here that Harrison reveals there's a lot more to his plan than just death and destruction. In fact, Kirk seems to be a key part of it. "I surrendered to you because you seem to have a conscience, Mr. Kirk," he says, appealing to Kirk as a man and not necessarily a Federation officer as he goes for "Mr." instead of "Captain." He then gives specific information to this man with a conscience, one that adds a whole new layer to his seemingly evil agenda:

"I'm going to convince you of the truth," says Harrison. "23174611 -- coordinates not far from Earth -- if you want to know why I did what I did, go and take a look."

[Related: New 'Star Trek Into Darkness' Video Features Kirk’s Dogged Foe]

Kirk asks why he should believe him, which prompts Harrison to switch back to appealing to Kirk's status as a Federation officer: "I can give you 72 reasons why you should listen to me -- they're on board your ship, Captain. They have been all along."

Is Harrison on some sort of twisted moral crusade? Are his terrorist actions against the Federation some sort of protest against some sort of Federation conspiracy, a top-secret project that's strictly on a "need-to-know" basis?

Do the coordinates he provided lead to ... the "Genesis Planet," the world created by the detonated "Genesis Device" in "The Wrath of Khan"? That planet was extremely unstable, as evidenced by its constantly shifting geography and ever-evolving indigenous life in "Star Trek III: The Search For Spock" (1984). An earlier clip from "Star Trek Into Darkness" features Spock on sort of unstable volcanic planet. ... Is this what the crew of the Enterprise finds when they travel to the coordinates provided by Harrison?

[Related: 'Star Trek Into Darkness' Trailer: Will Kirk's Mistake Doom the Enterprise?]

Watch 'Star Trek Into Darkness' -- Spock:

And speaking of Spock, he seems to be another key player in Harrison's plans, as evidenced by a second new clip that makes for a companion piece to an earlier clip in which Harrison gives a sinister character analysis of Kirk. In this new clip, Harrison emphasizes Spock's status as an outsider, a man constantly at odds with both his emotional human side and his logical Vulcan side. Harrison theorizes that this tug-of-war could tear Spock apart, with his only chance for survival being embracing one side over the other completely. Harrison vows to help Spock make that choice, which we have a feeling will lead to the Chief Science Officer making the ultimate sacrifice, which is alluded to in the volcano clip.

Spock possibly dying ... an unstable planet ... coordinates near Earth ... this is all starting to sound a lot like "Star Trek II," no? Which means we have to ask, once again:

Is John Harrison actually Khan?

Consider that, and accept that we just won't know until "Star Trek Into Darkness" finally hits theaters on May 17.