In the last week we found out Star Trek 2’s new summer 2013 release date, confirmation that it would be “made” in 3D and that Alice Eve (She’s Out of My League, Men in Black III) will be playing an entirely new character. With the film a year and a half away, it’s still making headlines with the latest reporting that Benicio Del Toro will actually be playing the long-rumored Khan in Star Trek 2.

[Update: Benicio Del Toro is no longer in talks to play Khan in Star Trek 2]

Del Toro was reportedly offered the villain role in J.J. Abrams’ sequel to Star Trek – for which Abrams is again directing – a month ago but there was no indication as to who he could play, outside of speculation of the commonly rumored villains of Star Trek 2. Since long before Del Toro’s name was thrown into the mix, fans have pondered the possibility of Khan being the film’s villain.

According to a scoop from our pals at Latino Review, this may be exactly the case. While on the prowl on another story, El Mayimbe – who’s usually spot-on with his scoops – says that Benicio Del Toro is in fact playing Khan Noonien Singh in Star Trek 2.

Del Toro as Khan pays tribute to the original Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan but it doesn’t exactly coincide with what was previously rumored about the Star Trek 2 villains:

“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.”

HitFix reached out to Abrams for comment and received a simple and firm two-word response: “not true.”

So, what does this all mean? Not that much at this point. Del Toro playing Khan will remain a rumor until otherwise officially confirmed and Abrams throwing out an obligatory denial also doesn’t mean much. Recall, director Zack Snyder denied rumors that Zod would be featured in his Superman reboot, then Warner Bros. announced the casting of Zod…

How would Khan’s story play out in Abrams’ Star Trek universe? The original Khan, played by Ricardo Montalban, first appeared in the 1967 fan-favorite episode “Space Seed” where the Enterprise discovers the SS Botany Bay, an old 20th century space vessel that’s home to a crew of cryogenically frozen people from Earth’s past.

Khan is awakened automatically during the encounter and while on board the Enterprise, reads up on 300 years of history of the United Federation of Planets, before reviving his crew in an attempt to take over the Enterprise. Kirk and co. learn of Khan’s past as the leader of genetically altered superhumans and by the end of the episode, they send Khan and his people to a planet they can colonize.

These events laid the foundation for the story of the second original Star Trek film which saw Khan return in force with a vendetta against Kirk and the Federation after losing his wife and most of his people on the planet they were abandoned on. Since Abrams’ version of the younger Kirk and crew takes place before the events of “Space Seed” could happen, there’s confusion as to how this would work in the new film. The only difference between the two universes in regards to this, assuming Khan is in fact the villain of Star Trek 2, is that he’s not met Kirk yet. He could however, have the exact same backstory and hatred of the Federation so the film could be re-telling of their first counter, but in an entirely new and different way.

To get geeky on this, Star Trek broke a lot of timelines from canon and while it’s the year 2258 but the time Chris Pine’s Kirk is in command of the Enterprise, in the prime Star Trek universe, Kirk doesn’t encounter Khan until 2267. So a younger Khan, played by Del Toro, fits for a new take on their first encounter.

Some say seeing a new Khan is unnecessary or too taboo, but why? The entire film is a new and different take on Captain Kirk and the crew of the Enterprise. What’s different about a new take on one of the franchise’s greatest villains?

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Star Trek 2 hits theaters on May 17, 2013.

Follow me on Twitter @rob_keyes.

Sources: Latino Review, HitFix