Apparently everyone is terribly excited about the new Star Trek movie coming out. And I mean everyone. If you have evidence to the fact that there’s somebody who isn’t giddy at the thought of Kirk and Co’s next installment, please keep it from me.
A particularly exciting and intriguing element to the new movie is Benedict Cumberbatch’s casting as the villain. Cumberbatch’s career is really taking off at the moment, in large part due to his fantastic work in Sherlock. But there is quite a bit of mystery surrounding just who Cumberbatch is playing, the writers and producers have said that the villain comes from the old canon, so we’ve seen Cumberbatch’s character before. At the same time, the name given for Cumberbatch’s character is John Harrison, a name that’s never cropped up in the series before. The assumption therefore is that “John Harrison” is just a cover identity that Cumberbatch’s character is using. There have been quite a few cast and crew interviews and trailers released now so we have a bit of information to work with in figuring out who this baddie is. Let’s get sleuthing!
What do we know about John Harrison?
- Well, we know he’s smart, smart enough to be a worthy nemesis to Kirk and the Federation and to have developed an intricate plot against them.
- Revenge is a big deal. In the announcement trailer Harrison says “I have returned, to have my vengeance.” So we know what his primary motivation is.
- He’s got super strength/agility. There’s a bit in the trailers where Harrison leaps about beating the crap out of a bunch of Klingons, on the Klingon homeworld. His abilities seem superhuman. Also, in the spot aired in the Superbowl there’s this little exchange with Kirk: “I am better.” “At what?” “Everything.” This line also ties into the idea of Harrison being super smart.
- Family is a major theme. In the teaser trailer Harrison asks “Is there anything you would not do, for your family?” In the same trailer Kirk is warned by Captain Pike that if things keep going the way they are, everyone under his command will be killed. In many respects the Enterprise crew is Kirk’s family, so an attack on them is an attack on his family. Finally, in the advance footage revealed before christmas, Harrison shows up within the first few minutes of the film, where he approaches a father with an offer regarding his family.
- He’s got good resources. The offer he makes to that family implies either he has advanced medical knowledge, or that someone who works for him has advanced medical knowledge. It also implies that he’s got some kind of facility to work from and that Harrison has been building up his plans for years ahead of whatever events will unfold in Into Darkness
- He’s seen in a Starfleet uniform, albeit an unusual black one. Abrams has described him as a former Starfleet officer. That could be smoke and daggers but it seems likely to enough to be true.
Here’s the Top 4 possible candidates:
4. Charlie Evans
Who is he?
Charlie Evans first showed up in series one episode Charlie X. The plot is a little bit jungle book-y. Charlie is discovered on an abandoned planet where his ship crashed years earlier. Charlie was the only survivor and lived alone on the planet from the age of three. Years later he’s discovered by the crew of the cargo ship Antares. The Antares brings Charlie to the Enterprise which happens to be heading to the space station where Charlie’s closest relatives live.
Obviously Charlie is a special boy, and there is much speculation as to how he survived alone from such a young age. Charlie struggles to adapt to so many people, and also to his raging hormones as he suddenly encounters women for the first time since he hit puberty. A few mysterious incidents occur around Charlie until eventually it’s discovered that he has mad psychic skills, and he’s using them in a rather misguided attempt to get a pretty crew member to fall in love with him.
Charlie proves too much to handle and seems likely to destroy the Enterprise, until a mysterious race of super advanced aliens shows up, explains that they found Charlie as a toddler and gave him super powers so that he could survive on his own. The powers are too much for Charlie to deal with around other people though, so the aliens take him and disappear.
Why he makes sense as John Harrison:
Well while the psychic superpowers are a bit camp and the kind of the thing the makers of the new series are trying to avoid, it’s a pretty straightforward change that, in the alternate timeline, the powers Charlie is granted are those of super strength and intelligence. It could also work that in the new reality, Charlie gets off the planet earlier and lives in the federation for a while as John Harrison. His new abilities helping him develop vast resources. That’s the kind of taking from lore to please old fans/keeping things fresh approach that the team behind the New Star Trek series are aiming for.
It also makes sense that Charlie would hold a grudge against the federation, especially if he blames them for the shipwreck that killed his family.
This idea of family is what really makes Charlie Evans a contender.
Why it doesn’t work:
Charlie is too young. When Charlie is discovered by the Antares he’s just a teenager, a lot of his attacks against the Enterprise are just adolescent tantrums. Cumberbatch is obviously too old to be playing an adolescent. Plus, the events of the new series are set earlier than the events of the original series (in a different timeline), so at the time of Into Darkness Evans would only be about 6. There are other ways to make it work, like maybe Charlie wasn’t the sole survivor in the new timeline, but John Harrison was, meaning that the Charlie X episode was just an inspiration for the character, rather than the direct source. All the themes of vengeance and family, as well as the advanced abilities, would still work in this instance, but that’s an awful lot of tweaking to do to make it fit.
The biggest problem is that alien race, the aliens showing up, fixing everyhting and disappearing again might have worked in the 60s, but there’s no way any writer would get away with it now. It wouldn’t really work to try and include the alien race, but at the same time, it doesn’t really make sense for Into Darkness to be a Charlie X plot without them.
Odds of being our man: 15/1
3. Gary Mitchell
Who is he?
Gary Mitchell appeared in one of the very first ever episodes of Star Trek. In fact, the episode was made as a second pilot to get the show a greenlight for a series (the studio wasn’t happy with the first pilot and asked for another attempt). Gary Mitchell was psychically sensitive, he could pick up things telepathically, but only to a very minor extent. That is until he travelled outside of the galaxy aboard the Enterprise. The Enterprise encountered a mysterious energy field that killed several crew members and amplified Mitchell’s psychic abilities to fantastic levels. As the episode went on Mitchell’s powers placed him on par with a god, the power drove Mitchell crazy. It was only by burying him under a mountain of rubble that the Enterprise crew managed to stop him.
Why he makes sense as John Harrison
Gary Mitchell has superhuman abilities, as does John Harrison in the Into Darkness trailers. Also, another character from Mitchell’s original episode seems to pop up. In the original episode Mitchell isn’t the only one to develop superpowers, there’s also Dr Elizabeth Dehner. Her powers aren’t as powerful as Mitchell’s, but Mitchell sees her as an ally in his quest for the perfect future of humanity. Dehner is convinced to go along with Mitchell for a while, but ends up aiding Kirk which is what allows him to defeat Mitchell in the end. Dehner is a significant character in the story, now look at a picture of Dehner next to a still of Alice Eve’s character in the new movie:
Eve is wearing the same blue uniform of Starfleet science/medical officers, and her hair is styled very similarly, so it makes sense that Eve could be playing Dehner, adding credence to the Mitchell theory.
None of this is terribly strong evidence, until you look at the fact the Karl Urban has come out and said that Benedict Cumberbatch is playing Gary Mitchell.
Urban let slip in an interview about Cumberbatch that: “He’s awesome, he’s a great addition, and I think his Gary Mitchell is going to be exemplary.” So that should lock up all speculation, right?
Why it doesn’t work:
Mitchell’s special abilities are all psychic, as far as we’ve seen, Harrison is stronger and smarter, no psychic powers. As mentioned earlier with Charlie Evans, maybe they changed what the energy field does in the alternative future, but Mitchell’s powers were based on pre-existing psychic abilities, it’d be a bit of a stretch to whitewash over that.
As for Alice Eve, well her character is named as Carol Marcus, not Elizabeth Dehner, there’s no real reason to think she’s Dehner other than her haircut and uniform colour. Circumstantial at best.
The motives don’t add up either. Mitchell had no family connections and his motive was the advancement of a race of superior psychic beings, not revenge, revenge would be beneath him. The motives don’t line up at all.
How about Urban’s slip? Well obviously the studio rushed to deny Urban’s statement, but they’d do that whether it was true or not, what really matters here is who it was that made the slip. Urban is a huge Star Trek fan and made it his life’s goal to get into these movies, he knows the background better than anyone. He knows who all the past villains are, he knows what kind of things will stir up speculation in the fans. If anybody was to make up a name to mess with people, it’s Urban. Urban’s statement does keep Mitchell in as a realistic possibility, but it doesn’t really work on any other level.
Odds of being our man: 7/2
2. Khan Noonien Singh
Who is he?
Most people would be familiar with Khan from the second Star Trek movie, Wrath of Khan, where Khan, a superhuman from the twentieth century, who has been stranded on a desert planet, escapes to enact revenge on Kirk and the crew of the enterprise who stranded him on the planet on the first place. He’s the guy Kirk famously shouts “KHHHHAAANNNN!” over.
Khan originally appeared in the series one episode Space Seed. In the episode, the Enterprise encounters a drifting ship, the S.S Botany Bay. Onboard they find several people frozen in cryosleep, including Khan. Khan was a genetically engineered superhuman. According to Star Trek history, there were quite a few superhumans developed in the 20th century, but they all went a little bit mad. Given their superior intellects, many of these superhumans managed to rise up and become leaders of various nations. The most successful of these was Khan, who at one point ruled over a quarter of the earth’s population. Inevitably however the supermen began fighting each other, resulting in the Eugenics wars of the 1990s (yes the 1990s, the original episode was written in the 60s, thankfully our reality proved their predictions wrong). The supermen were eventually overthrown and Khan fled to space in a cryo ship, for the enterprise to discover 200 years later.
When the enterprise crew realised they had an ancient war criminal onboard, everyone began to feel really awkward. It proved too awkward for Khan who tried to take over the ship. The Enterprise crew prevails though and leaves Khan and the other people awoken from cryo sleep on Ceti Alpha V where they shall begin a new civilisation. Unfortunately however the orbit of Ceti Alpha V shifted and the planet was turned into a harsh desert world where Khan and his companions struggled to survive. When Khan escaped the planet 15 years later he was bent on revenge against Kirk, as seen in Wrath of Khan.
Why he makes sense as John Harrison:
In many respects Khan seems a likely villain, indeed, many sites will tell you that Cumberbatch *is* playing Khan. On the official IMDb page for the film Cumberbatch is listed as, not John Harrison, but as “Khan (rumored)”. Khan has the superhuman strength and intelligence to pull off everything we see Harrison do in the trailers, and also his motivator being revenge seems to line up with Harrison.
There’s also the family thing, in Wrath of Khan, we learn that Khan lost his wife on Ceti Alpha V, a major reason Khan wanted to get revenge.
Another point to note is Alice Eve’s character, as mentioned above, she’s named as Carol Marcus. Carol Marcus first appeared in Wrath of Khan as Kirk’s ex-wife and father of his son, so to introduce her as a love interest for Kirk during a film involving Khan would be a nice little nod.
Why it doesn’t work:
The biggest problem is, it doesn’t make sense in the new timeline. In the alternate timeline of the new Star Trek, Khan has never been confined to Ceti Alpha V, and for that matter, the Enterprise has never encountered the S.S. Botany Bay to release Khan from cryosleep. It is of course possible that another ship encountered the Botany Bay and released Khan, and Khan wants revenge against humanity for driving him out during the Eugenics wars, but that would be a HUGE coincidence. The chances of the Enterprise stumbling across the Botany Bay in the vastness of space were pretty miraculous, but for in the new timeline for Khan to be out and about 6 or 7 years earlier? That’s preposterous.
Also, as mentioned above, Harrison has great resources behind him and is a former Starfleet officer, or is familiar enough with Starfleet operations to fake it. Khan may be super smart, but can he really figure out everything well enough to have the necessary knowledge? Especially considering he can’t have been out for too long, as Cumberbatch is 10 years younger than Ricardo Montalban was when he first played Khan in the original series. So not only is it silly that Khan would look so much younger when awoken from cryosleep, but also he definitely doesn’t look like he’s aged a few more years while getting his plans together.
Ethnicity is also an issue. Khan Noonien Singh was a Sikh from Northern India. Cumberbatch does not make sense as casting to play an Indian.
As for Carol Marcus, it makes sense to introduce her as a love interest for Kirk, especially while exploring themes of family, but there’s no real reason she has to be tied to Khan.
As a character, Khan seems to work, but there just doesn’t seem to be a way for the writers to use him without it being inherently silly, and even if they did figure out a way to make it work, Cumberbatch seems like ridiculous casting to play him.
There is a theory knocking around that maybe the Botany Bay was found, only in this timeline, instead of waking up Khan, they woke up a different superhuman named John Harrison. But that theory doesn’t hold up at all, in Space Seed Khan was the only superhuman on board, he was woken up with 72 other people. 12 people died in cryo, but none of them were superhuman.
Odds of being our man: 12/5
1. Roger Korby
Who is he?
Roger Korby appeared in yet another series one episode, What Are Little Girls Made Of? It seems series one is where all the best human villains come from. Korby was a renowned medical archaeologist who went missing. After five years he was found by the Enterprise, on the planet where his last message came from. Two previous attempts to find him on the planet had failed. It seems a Korby and a small number of his team survived on the planet. But the Enterprise crew soon find that everyone on the planet is an android. Korby had discovered a machine which made android replicas of people into which their conciousness could be tranferred. The human Korby died of exposure four years earlier, but he lived on in android form. Android Korby sought to to replace humans the galaxy over with androids. But Kirk did that thing where he stops the bad guy again.
Why he makes sense as John Harrison
Well Korby was a genius with an intricate plot, also, being an android woulod give him superior strength, and possibly agility. Certainly Korby believed that he was “better”, as Harrison describes himself in the trailer. In this context “better” can mean better than the flesh and blood humans, or it could mean better than he used to be, before becoming an android.
Family was part of Korby’s story. In the original episode his fiancé, Christine Chapel, was on board the Enterprise and he requested that she beam down to the planet so they could reunite after the years of him being missing. Maybe Alice Eve is actually playing Christine Chapel, or maybe in the alternate timeline, Carol Marcus is his fiancé.
The offer Harrison makes to the father at the start of the film could very well involve android replacements.
It’s never really mentioned whether or not Korby was actually a member of Starfleet, or if he was a civilian scientist, but he could very well have been. Or he easily could be in the alternate timeline.
Finally, in the original episode, when Korby discovers the ancient alien machine, it is being tended to by a large android named Ruk. This android has looked after the machine for longer than even the android can remember. Now look at this picture of Joseph Gatt who has been cast in Into Darkness in an as yet unnamed role.
That man looks like an android. Under special skills on his CV, he lists “Looking like an android” right at the top. Ok you could say he looks like a a vampire or just a burly bald dude, but while Gatt’s character hasn’t been officially named, he is referred to occasionally as “GATT2000”, an android name if ever there was one. Also, take a look at what the original Ruk looked like.
Is Gatt not perfect casting to play that guy?
Also, in many of the shots in the trailers, Spock looks quite different, dark clothes (like Harrison wears) and an emo haircut. It’s possible that he looks different because he’s actually an android version of Spock! The opening 9 minutes of the film even introduces a scenario where Spock could do with an android version of himself, though that would be a fairly huge leap for the writers to make if that opening is why we end up with an android Spock.
Finally, a rather tenuous link here. Look up John Harrison, Cumberbatch’s character’s namesake. Harrison was a famous clockmaker who invented the marine chronometer, used for navigation at sea. So Harrison’s name is heavily tied to clockwork, clockwork men perhaps?
Why it doesn’t work
If Harrison is Korby, it means he’s discovered the android machine way earlier than he did in the original timeline, but that’s going to be a problem no matter who the villain is. Any villain they use from the original series, they are necessarily introducing them earlier in the alternate timeline. And the odds of Korby going to this particular planet, while slim, aren’t nearly as ridiculous of the odds of Khan’s cryo ship being found in the vastness of space.
Korby isn’t motivated by revenge, but by improving the human race. Still it’s pretty easy to write a new motive for him, maybe the reason he went off and discovered the alien machine is because in the new timeline, he got kicked out of Starfleet and went off exploring that part of the galaxy a bit earlier in his exile. The machine then presents him with a perfect tool to enact his revenge.
Android Spock? Really? We already have old Spock and new Spock from the last movie, would the writers really include another? Then again, shooting down the android Spock idea doesn’t really stop the theory that Harrison is Korby.
The biggest reason for Korby not to be our baddie, is because just “discovering” an ancient alien machine is a bit of a lame origin story. It’d work better if Korby invented the machine, but he didn’t. Still, they can get away with it, it might bother a few people but it’s not that big a deal.
What’s interesting about Korby is that it’s actually easier to shoot down the reasons for him not being John Harrison than it is to shoot down the reasons for it. There’s always a chance that we’ve been led down a completely wrong path and that Harrison isn’t an older character, just an idea inspired by a throwaway line in the old series. There’s also the chance that Harrison is not a character from the original series, but from the oft forgotten animated series. If that’s the case I can’t help you, my geek levels haven’t brought me to watch the animated episodes (yet).
But if John Harrison really is a character from the original series, Korby seems the most likely candidate.
Odds of being our man: 3/2