MOTW: What We Know about "Star Trek Into Darkness" Villain John Harrison

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Star Trek Into Darkness stars Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, and Zoe Saldana as the Enterprise crew as they face a new foe portrayed by Benedict Cumberbatch.
Photo Credit: Paramount Home Entertainment
May 13th, 2013

MOTW: What We Know about "Star Trek Into Darkness" Villain John Harrison

After the international box-office success of "Star Trek" in 2009, Paramount and director J.J. Abrams decided to make a sequel. It has taken four years to come to the screen, but "Star Trek Into Darkness" is finally set for a May 17, 2013 release. Shortly before filming commenced on the project, it was announced that British thespian Benedict Cumberbatch would play the primary villain, but no other information about the character was released until months later.

Sometime after filming ended, rumors and speculation began to grow that Cumberbatch's character was Khan, the devious villain who was at the heart of "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan" in 1982. That film is widely regarded to be the best of the Star Trek films, with Khan serving as one of the most memorable villains from the series' television show and movies combined. It would be a big risk to have Khan come in as the villain, but Abrams has never shied away from taking risks.

Abrams and screenwriter Damon Lindelof (who cowrote the script with Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman) were asked about the villain, but wouldn't reveal anything except to praise Cumberbatch in the role. Eight minutes of footage was finally shown to an enraptured audience at a Star Trek convention. Some of it featured the villain, who had up to that point only been known as John Harrison. Little else was known about the character except that he was a part of Starfleet and he had become disgruntled with the organization for unknown reasons.

Star Trek fans the world over busied themselves looking up information in the canon about a character named John Harrison. They found that the name only appears as a very minor character in the original "Star Trek" television series. Fans tried to come up with a possible narrative that would explain why such an insignificant character would suddenly be the center of attention in a major Star Trek movie. Some of them thought that naming the character John Harrison was simply a ruse to try and trick them into thinking the villain was not Khan.

It was announced that Paramount would reveal more footage at a convention in 2012, several months before the film was set to be released. The footage showed Harrison offering to heal the deathly ill child of a disheartened couple, which would seem to support the assertion that Harrison is highly intelligent. The couple had never laid eyes on Harrison before, so they asked him who he was; a question that everyone in the audience wanted answered as well.

Neither Abrams, Cumberbatch, nor the writers revealed much about the character, but the trailers and snippets in the months leading up to the movie's release have begun to slowly reveal more about Harrison. One trailer showed that he knows how to pilot a plane, while another showed he is good at hand-to-hand combat. Yet another trailer shows two characters putting their hands together on opposite sides of a glass wall, which mirrors an iconic scene in "Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan." This tidbit and the fact that another major player from that film, Dr. Carol Marcus, is in "Star Trek Into Darkness" only serve to make fans believe that John Harrison is indeed a cover for Khan.

Another trailer shows Harrison walking among the rubble of a fallen city that appeared to be a futuristic London. There is little doubt in viewers' minds that Harrison himself is responsible for the mass destruction, which is likely why Kirk and the crew of the Enterprise were called back to Earth. This sets the stage for a showdown between Kirk and Harrison, and Kirk clearly will stop at nothing in order to get his vengeance.

Films are often shown to critics days or even weeks in advance of release, so they have plenty of time to write up their initial reviews. These can make or break a movie's opening-weekend prospects, but they can also provide minor or occasionally major spoilers for a film. These spoilers can also affect a movie's box-office performance, which is why most critics try not to include them in their film reviews. Unfortunately, in the case of "Star Trek Into Darkness," a few Internet critics have spilled the beans about Harrison and his ultimate goal in the film. This sort of takes the fun out of seeing it, so anyone who doesn't want to know more than the officially released info about Harrison should ignore spoilers and prepare to be surprised on May 17, 2013 when the movie is released.