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film news

Speculation: Is this the villain's motive in Star Trek Into Darkness?

Posted by Patrick Sauriol on Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Whether you like the idea behind J.J. Abrams' "mystery box" concept to marketing his movies or not, one thing's for certain: he wants to keep the spoilers a secret until opening day. I learned this firsthand when, four years ago, I broke exclusive news about Abrams' Star Trek reboot. I was the first to publish the details on several key moments in 2009's Star Trek movie, including Kirk's test of the Kobiashi Maru test simulation, a catastrophic attack on Starfleet and young Spock meeting old Spock. I also had other more sensitive details about the movie's story up my sleeve, waiting for publication.

And then I learned how badly Abrams wanted to keep the spoilers a secret. When I published the first wave of Star Trek story spoilers, my source told me how bad the heat was getting for them. They also had a change of mind, telling me that they didn't want me to reveal anything further because Abrams had asked everyone in the production to keep their lips locked, not out of fear for jobns but because he pleaded with his teammates that he wanted to maintain the impact of these secrets for as long as possible.

My source respected that, and in my own way I do too. I decided to hold on to the big story spoilers that I had learned from that source, and right up to the day that Abrams' Star Trek movie opened in May 2009, I honored that request.

Star Trek Into Darkness keeps the same lockdown approach to its spoiler material, but at the same time it teases the fans with a siren's call to try and figure out what the puzzle is. Today's reveal of the new teaser trailer proves that: at the 1:07 mark there's a hidden message on the wall asking people to check out, a viral site connected with Star Trek Into Darkness.

Abrams and his team wouldn't be putting something like that in their trailer if they didn't want to play a marketing game with us. The thing of it is, I know from my own experiences that if one of us online were to correctly guess -- or reveal through inside sources -- the big mysteries being teased about Star Trek Into Darkness, Abrams et al wouldn't be happy campers.

So instead of revealing deep dark secrets about Star Trek Into Darkness, I'd like to do something different and offer my own speculation as to what may lie behind the movie's biggest secret: who is the character that Benedict Cumberbatch is playing, this "John Harrison" person that "detonates the fleet"?

I think that the trailer that came out today teases the die hard Trek fans. Perhaps Abrams is offering us clues, or perhaps it's misdirection to throw us off the trail. Let's examine:



-- There are two voiceovers in the trailer, the first delivered by Bruce Greenwood's Captain Christopher Pike. Presumably Pike is talking to Kirk about the young captain is exceptionally bravery but there isn't an "ounce of humility" in him, and one day he's going to pay the price for that by leading himself and his crew into certain death.

-- The second voiceover is by Benedict Cumberbatch's mystery villain character talking about how our heroes "aren't safe," and then ending with a cryptic question: "What wouldn't you do to protect your family?"

So, let's theorize:

-- Suppose the rumors that Cumberbatch is playing Khan aren't entirely accurate. We've seen spy photos showing Cumberbatch's bad guy fighting with Spock hand-to-hand, which suggest he has at least equal strength to a Vulcan. What if Cumberbatch's "John Harrison" is a genetic superman like Khan was, who also had superior strength and stamina? If that's true, then where is the real Khan and why is Harrison here instead?

-- Let's further imagine in this alternate timeline created by the arrival of the Romulan Nero in 2009's Star Trek, Khan and his spaceship of genetic superpeople were intercepted by someone other than Kirk and Starfleet. Suppose it had been the Klingons that found the S.S. Botany Bay drifting in space, and instead of reviving Khan and his augmented people, they kept them in cold storage. Or maybe it's Starfleet that has them; that detail isn't particularly important (though it's now believed that, at some point, Harrison and Kirk visit the Klingon homeworld in Star Trek Into Darkness.)

-- Furthermore, let's imagine that John Harrison was one, if not the only, member of the Botany Bay that was freed. Let's also imagine that Harrison found his way into Starfleet, perhaps brought in under the mentorship of a Captain Pike character played by Peter Weller (who, strangely, we haven't seen one image from the film yet of.)

-- In this scenario, Harrison and Kirk share similar introductions to the world of Starfleet. Kirk's career is jumpstarted by Pike while Harrison's is jumpstarted by Weller's character. Both are on the fasttrack to having careers of distinction within Starfleet.

-- Then let's imagine that something happens that sours Harrison's appeal toward Starfleet. Maybe he was playing a cherade all along and waiting to be in the right moment so he could launch a sneak attack and cripple Starfleet -- "detonating the fleet" so to speak -- so he could hatch a plan to steal back Khan and the other frozen superpeople, resuscitate them and introduce them to the 23rd century.

Doesn't that idea line up well with what cryptic words Cumberbatch says at the end of the trailer? Wouldn't his character do anything that he could to "save his family"? It also explains why someone like him is wearing a Starfleet uniform and has super strength like Spock -- he's one of Khan's own people, seeking to reunite himself with his long-lost family.

And it also matches up with this image below from the trailer showing what appears to be tubes containing people. Sure, it comes directly after a scene showing a Starfleet honor guard folding a flag, which is suggestive that Starfleet officers have died. Your mind's immediate reaction is to think that these tubes are coffins -- but as other sites online have noted, what coffins have windows on them that appear to be lined with frost?

Star Trek Into Darkness trailer cryopods?

So, in a nutshell: John Harrison is a dark mirror of James Kirk. Harrison is honoring his mentor, Khan, by trying to do anything he can to save his "family" and be reunited with them. Kirk, in turn, must learn through the course of events in Star Trek Into Darkness that he must also be willing to sacrifice himself so he can save his adopted family, the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise.

The Harrison/Kirk parallel matches up nicely with what dialogue is said in the trailer, and it also answers the questions lingering about Harrison being "Khan". He's one of Khan's people, not Khan himself. Hell, if the writers of Star Trek Into Darkness wanted to get super nerdy, perhaps Weller's character gave Cumberbatch's augmented villain a real Starfleet identity to hide his genetic superman heritage, like the "Harrison" ID. Again, as other Trek sites have noted, there's a minor character named "Harrison" in the original "Space Seed" episode that introduced Khan. Bob Orci and Alex Kurtzman, the writers of the movie, are big Trek fans and it wouldn't surprise me to see them do this kind of subterfuge/wink at the audience.

One other point: I also think that Harrison has some kind of genetic medical knowledge that he barters with the father character played by Noel Clarke. In the IMAX preview footage we learn that Clarke's daughter has some kind of medical problem, and Harrison introduces himself as someone who can help the distressed father. And then in today's trailer we see Clarke's character crying, dropping what appears to be a Starfleet graduation ring into a glass of water.

Star Trek Into Darkness Noel Clarke

Did Clarke's character make a deal with the devil to save his ailing daughter's life, and in return for that, grant John Harrison the means to "detonate" the fleet?

I'd love to hear your thoughts on it.

Daltons chin dimple
Posts: 12800
Posted: 4 years 40 weeks ago

 Those definitely look like stasis pods rather than coffins to me.  The folding flag / missing man flypast in close cut to that image strike me as misdirection.

JJ knows that Khan is a favourite so I really can't help but think this is some kind of Nu-Trek Alt-Universe take on the whole Botany Bay incident and aftermath.

Maybe the Harrison / Khan stuff is like the Eve / Moneypenny misdirection in Skyfall press and publicity?

....says "Kill Bond, NOW!"
Posts: 417
Posted: 4 years 16 weeks ago

Okay so I ready your review of the film first, before I read this. I think you need to re-read this article then go back and re-read your review, lol

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