For a long time, fans have been wondering which villain from the Star Trek canon screenwriters Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci and Damon Lindelof would be dusting off and refashioning for the sequel film to J.J. Abrams' alternate-timeline reboot (tentatively known as Star Trek 2). Rumors of Star Trek II: Wrath Khan villain Khan Noonien Singh being the main antagonist for Abrams' sequel have been floating around ever since the film's announcement - back when Benicio Del Toro was offered the role. Despite repeated claims from Abrams and his screenwriting team that Khan is not the villain in Star Trek 2, fans have been stalwart in their speculation that he is. But now, we seem to be getting confirmation to the contrary from an indirect source, who may have let the cat out of the proverbial bag. Scroll down for details.
[WARNING - POSSIBLE STAR TREK 2 SPOILERS!!!]
Karl Urban, star of the upcoming Judge Dredd reboot, Dredd, (and Dr. Bones McCoy in Abrams' Star Trek franchise) was giving an interview to SFX when he dropped the following tidbit about Benedict Cumberbatch (BBC's Sherlock), who took over the villain role after Del Toro walked away from the film:
“He’s awesome, he’s a great addition, and I think his Gary Mitchell is going to be exemplary.”
If you're not a longtime Star Trek fan:
Gary Mitchell appeared in the original Star Trek TV series, in an episode titled "Where No Man Has Gone Before." It is the third episode in the original series (but was made as a second pilot), and chronicles a tale in which the Enterprise crew discover the record log of a long-lost ship at the (literal) edge of the universe. While there, the Enterprise experiences a strange phenomenon that transforms two crew members - one being Kirk's longtime friend from the academy, Gary Mitchell - into beings of immense psychic ability. These new powers quickly corrupt Mitchell, who proclaims himself a god; when Kirk and Spock try to strand the power-crazed crewman on a remote planet, it results in a confrontation that claims lives, and forces Kirk to kill his old friend to save the universe.
The themes of "Where No Man Has Gone Before" looked at the quandary of what happens when a being is given god-like powers without the natural evolution of mind to provide adequate moral and philosophical orientation to balance and control said power. In other words: what happens when you're given power you are not mentally or emotionally equipped to handle.
The presumably re-tooled version of Mitchell that would be featured in Abrams' film would still make for an intriguing and equal parts sympathetic and fearsome villain; both a physical and mental match for the Enterprise crew, which is something the filmmakers have long hinted they would present. Furthermore, the story has big ramifications for the crew themselves - especially Kirk and Spock, who were at the center of the original episode and provided a lot of the thematic and philosophical subtext.
"Where No Man Has Gone Before" provided a juicy conflict between Kirk's human empathy and Spock's cold Vulcan logic, and was the first episode to delve into the fact that Spock is a half-breed being who secretly feels the emotion he pretends to be above. We can only hope the Star Trek 2 filmmakers pay homage to the opening scene of Spock vs. Kirk in 3D chess, which has since become an iconic part of the original episode (and would look cool in 3D, coincidentally).
If Karl Urban really did slip up, and Gary Mitchell is indeed the villain we are to see in the sequel, it would be an unexpected - but in this writer's opinion, very welcome - twist by Abrams, Kurtzman, Orci and Lindelof. Mitchell's story has enough parallels to the Khan storyline of the original series and original sequel film - a villain tied to Kirk's past, with notions of being a superior being, able to challenge the Enterprise crew on many levels - but will still be fresh enough to offer a Star Trek movie we truly haven't seen before - something The Amazing Spider-Man has struggled to do.
For the record, Orci recently told JoBlo that Mitchell was NOT the villain in the sequel film - so (if you believe that denial) this could turn out to be yet another rumor that never materializes as truth. Or, perhaps, the Gary Mitchell and Khan rumors have both been half-right, and the screenwriters are lumping the two characters into some kind of amalgamation? That would make all of the denials from the cast and crew half-true, since the character would technically not be Mitchell or Khan in full.
Look for confirmation or denial on this matter as we head into the jungle of Comic-Con 2012 - Star Trek 2 will be in theaters on May 17, 2013.