One day after our own Vic Holtreman had a chance to check out the nine minute Star Trek Into Darkness prologue (read his preview), Paramount Pictures has released the first official image from the highly anticipated sequel. While the image isn’t quite as revealing as the gallery of HD trailer screen grabs we collected from the Star Trek 2 trailer, it does add a new bit of speculation for footage associated with the Japanese trailer debut – specifically a shot that was reminiscent of the Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan finale.

Of course, for every mystery that we might solve, a new one usually arises and the new image is no exception – begging the question: who is John Harrison really?

Check out the new Star Trek Into Darkness image below (click to enlarge):

Let’s start with the good news.

The new Star Trek 2 image, which features Zachary Quinto, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Chris Pine could create context for the controversial closing seconds of the Star Trek 2 Japanese trailer – which depicts a black-blue sleeved hand and a blue Starfleet sleeved hand separated by a piece of glass. Many viewers immediately noted that the clip was a nod to the closing of  Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982) – where Spock locks himself inside a glass-walled Enterprise warp core, absorbing a lethal dose of radiation, to save the ship and the crew (not to mention setting up the plot of Star Trek III: The Search for Spock).

As a result, commenters and industry insiders began to wonder if a) the image could be taken as evidence that Cumberbatch’s villain is actually Khan and b) would director J.J. Abrams present Quinto’s Spock (or Chris Pine’s Kirk) with an equally uncertain future at the end of his Star Trek 2?

However, the image might shed doubt on speculation that Kirk and Spock are separated by glass in Trek Into Darkness – as that fitted black-blue sleeve could belong to Cumberbatch, who is trapped inside a glass prison cell at one point (wearing a tight-fitting black-blue shirt) instead of Kirk (wearing a black-blue jacket). Could Cumberbatch escape his cell, cause a lot of havoc, and end up separated from Spock by another piece of glass? Maybe there’s a connection we don’t yet know between Spock and the Cumberbatch character that could lead to a tender moment late in the film?

We’ll have to wait and see more footage for a reason behind his capture and the potential fallout but, for now, skeptical fans might be able to relax a bit with an alternate take on the clip – especially since Abrams isn’t likely to deliver a point-by-point recreation of the Star Trek 2 plot (whether Cumberbatch is playing Khan or not).

Now the bad news: the image also includes a head-scratching caption that further muddies Cumberbatch villain speculation – as the character is actually “named.”

Here’s the associated caption:

(Left to right) Zachary Quinto is Spock, Benedict Cumberbatch is John Harrison and Chris Pine is Kirk in STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS from Paramount Pictures and Skydance Productions.

It’s easy to dismiss the John Harrison name as nothing more than a placeholder for the villain’s true identity – or, at the very least, a less-recognizable alias the character uses in the film. However, Paramount’s choice to caption the official image with a potentially “fake” identity, instead of a real one, tells us one thing: whoever Cumberbatch is playing, his name will be recognizable – be it Gary Mitchell or Khan Noonien Singh. There would have been no reason to withhold the character’s true name this long if he was a new person entirely.

The Gary Mitchell character has come under a lot of scrutiny ever since Karl Urban dropped his name several months back but he’s not the most recognizable member of the Star Trek rogues gallery – meaning, why would Paramount go to such great lengths to hide the identity of a character that only regular Trekkies would remember? This isn’t to say that Mitchell wouldn’t be interesting, and the filmmakers could be trying to keep as much of his storyline under wraps as possible, but this is an all-new Trek universe – meaning whether Cumberbatch plays Khan, Mitchell, or a young time-displaced Captain Picard (kidding), the plot does not have to follow the same twists and turns.

As a result, the more that Paramount tries to keep Cumberbatch’s identity a mystery, the more it stands to reason that the final reveal will be worthy of secrecy – i.e. a new take on Khan. Remember, Cumberbatch himself referred to the Star Trek 2 role as “iconic” and “memorable.” By the time his identify is finally unveiled, complaints about Abrams revisiting a classic Trek villain will mostly be drowned-out by excitement for the final film’s release.

Of course, we could be entirely wrong and the filmmakers could be paving the way for an all-new name to terrify humanity…  John Harrison! Right, probably not.

For more Star Trek Into Darkness trailer speculation, check out episode 69 of the Screen Rant Underground podcast.

Follow me on Twitter @benkendrick for future updates on Star Trek Into Darkness as well as movie, TV, and gaming news.

Star Trek Into Darkness opens in theaters (regular and IMAX 3D) on May 17th, 2013.

Source: Paramount Pictures