Star Trek 2 Villain Update

Continuing a mystery that has been fueled by fan speculation ever since the first film hit theaters, SFX is now offering an update about the villain in Star Trek 2. What appears to be a confirmation, however, could just as well be misdirection on the part of J.J. Abrams’ notoriously secretive production team. Read on to find out why.

At an international press junket for his upcoming Dredd 3D, Karl Urban is said to have let slip that Benedict Cumberbatch is playing Gary Mitchell. A name well-known to Trek fans, Mitchell appeared in the second “Star Trek” pilot, “Where No Man Has Gone Before” and was an Academy friend of James T. Kirk (or James R. Kirk, thanks to a canonical goof in that very episode).

Serving on the Enterprise, Mitchell and another crew member, Elizabeth Dehner, are exposed to a powerful energy while attempting to cross the Milky Way’s galactic barrier. Following the ordeal, Mitchell and Dehner begin to exhibit superhuman powers which grow exponentially until Kirk decides that, for the safety of his ship, he must maroon both crew members on the uninhabited Delta Vega (a planet that, itself, made an appearance in Abrams’ first Star Trek film.

Though solid details are few all around on Star Trek 2, set photos earlier this year revealed the look of Cumberbatch’s character, wearing what appears to be a form of Starfleet uniform.

While a lot certainly seems to line up with Cumberbatch playing Mitchell, readers of IDW’s ongoing “Star Trek” comic book series are no doubt going to be a bit more dubious. That’s because the first two issues of that series already adapted “Where No Man Has Gone Before” and effectively killed off Mitchell from the new timeline. It is of interest to note, however, that the comic book take on the episode specifically removes Dehner from the storyline, indicating that an appearance by her character is a bit more likely.

There’s always going to be debate of how canonical any tie-in is to what we’ll see on the big screen, but Abrams has been extremely protective of “Star Trek” as a property since taking over and, unlike in the past, we’ve seen very few takes on the new timeline in non-film media. What’s more, Roberto Orci is the creative director of the IDW series and has not only mentioned via his Twitter feed that the books have already offered several clues about the new film but, in a recent radio interview with Ask Mr. K.E.R.N., specifically listed Mitchell as one several characters that would definitely not be appearing (The others were Charlie X, Ruk, Yeoman Janice Rand and The Borg).

Late last year, persistent rumors suggested that the film’s villain would be Khan Noonien Singh (famously portrayed by Ricardo Montalban on the original series and in the feature film Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan). Those reports were recently denied by actor Simon Pegg.

Assuming Urban’s statement is not an intentional red herring, one possibility — albeit a rather speculative one — is that there was some miscommunication about the name “Gary Mitchell” when the actual character is “Gary Seven.” Played by Robert Lansing in the episode “Assignment: Earth” (originally intended as a pilot for a “Star Trek” spinoff), Seven is a man of mystery who, working for an intergalactic organization, attempted to prevent nuclear war on Earth in the year 1968. In a pre-Abrams series of “Star Trek” novels, Seven’s mission directly connects him with Khan during Earth’s Eugenics Wars and could, potentially, be the source of the original Khan sequel rumors.

Pushing speculation even further, cast member Peter Weller bears a decided resemblance to Lansing and it’s possible that he and Cumberbatch play Seven from two different time periods (or timelines), much like Zachary Quinto and Leonard Nimoy did in the original film.

Though hardly proof, the original reports from the set photos claim that Spock’s attempt to use his Vulcan nerve pinch on Cumberbatch’s character are ineffective, something that was also true of Seven in “Assignment: Earth”.

What are your thoughts on the matter? Share them in comments below! Whatever the case may be, Star Trek 2 also stars Chris Pine, Zoe Saldana, John Cho, Bruce Greenwood, Anton Yelchin and Alice Eve and hits theaters on May 17, 2013.