The world reacted with slight disappointment and resignation when it was allegedly leaked a couple of months ago that erudite heartthrob Benedict Cumberbatch would play Khan in the upcoming Star Trek sequel. The choice of villain seemed a bit safe, a bit lazy, and carried with it a troubling racial burden considering Khan’s original characterization as a genetically engineered Übermensch. Well, if one believes this new piece of information possibly slipped by co-star Karl Urban, the film’s producers must have been giggling maniacally as the Internet condemned their decision, knowing all the while that they’d concealed a far better role for Evil Sherlock.
Possible spoilers, or just another piece of deliberate misdirection to make you look a fool, follow.[/Film via SFX, header image courtesy KanaHyde]
As /Film notes in their coverage, Robert Orci once said:
It’s definitely a character that will make fans of TOS excited. Think along the lines of Harry Mudd or Trelane or Gary Mitchell or the Talosians or the Horta. Actually it’s one of those that I named.
Being a writer on the movie, along with the diabolically impish Damon Lindelof, he’d be in the best position to know, one would assume. Better than the unnamed inside sources which spoke “Khan.” Karl Urban, who plays Dr. McCoy, has now seemingly confirmed that previous little taunt. While promoting his upcoming Judge Dredd adaptation, Dredd, Urban was asked about Cumberbatch and Star Trek 2, to which he answered:
He’s awesome, he’s a great addition, and I think his Gary Mitchell is going to be exemplary.
Could he have been instructed by the film’s producers to make a faux-mistake in order to keep people gossiping? Yes, possibly. Fewer powerful creatives in Hollywood have more genuine nerd credentials than the Star Trek team, and their enthusiasm could manifest in pettily sinister ways like this. More likely, though, it was a tired actor searching for an answer to a fairly tedious question, too busy mentally mulling over a million other Actor Things to concern himself with whether or not he’d unleashed one of the most closely guarded casting secrets in recent memory.
Gary Mitchell was a one-episode enemy in the original series, just as Khan was before his apotheosis in the first Star Trek II. He was played by Gary Lockwood in “Where No Man Has Gone Before,” the second pilot and first episode broadcast, leaving him a canonically pivotal character who was since lost in the annals of Trek lore. A seemingly perfect cherry to be plucked by the writers.
What’s more, Mitchell’s story is that he was a helmsman of above average intelligence who gained psychic powers, including telekinesis, after contact with an alien anomaly (by now, probably one of several dozen Trek characters to whom that description applies). Ask yourself in what sort of role you’d cast Benedict Cumberbatch, the man who’s played Stephen Hawking, Sherlock Holmes, and a fiercely academic oiled-up lion tamer in a number of my dreams. If you answered “someone who can look very smart and serious while hurling knives at James Kirk with the power of his mind,” you’re probably onto something.
We’re still almost a year away from Star Trek 2, releasing May 17, 2013, so there will likely be a trailer coming eventually (or this week, at Comic-Con) which answers the question with certainty. It would have been hubris to attempt to keep Cumberbatch’s character, whomever it is, a secret for that long.
Oh, and go see Dredd too, I guess, to thank its star for his loose lips.