'Star Trek Into Darkness' Countdown: Why John Harrison Probably Isn't Khan

'Star Trek Into Darkness' Countdown: Why John Harrison Probably Isn't Khan

Feb 13, 2013

Within the Star Trek universe, I’m not sure if anyone can name one particular, definitive villain. We can name certain races that have been a thorn in the side of the Federation (like the Klingons, Romulans or Borg), but one specific be-all-end-all villain for Star Trek doesn’t really exist. There have been a few valiant efforts to make one that can give our captains the same kind of foil as other legendary fictional conflicts like Holmes/Moriarty, Skywalker/Vader or Batman/Joker. 
Maybe Q? I think he’s too beloved, and made for kind of a hero in several of his appearances. What about Gul Dukat? That’s closer, but because he was tucked away in Deep Space Nine, he and Captain Sisko didn’t really have a chance to make that conflict define all of Star Trek (though it certainly defined Deep Space Nine). How about the plethora of singular villains that the movies have given us?
Again, none of them really transcended their appearances there to help truly define Star Trek…
...except for one, of course.
No matter which way you look at it, if there’s one single villain that has managed to transcend only two appearances in Star Trek and become one of the most highly associated with the entirety of the franchise, it has to be the genetically engineered augment Khan Noonien Singh. First appearing in the original Star Trek episode “Space Seed” from season one, Khan was a warlord and dictator, ruling over part of the world in the Eugenics Wars of the late 20th century. After he and his kind were defeated, Khan and his closest followers escaped aboard a primitive spacecraft, the SS Botany Bay, went into suspended animation, and set adrift for nearly 200 years.
“Space Seed” starts when the Enterprise, commanded by Captain James T. Kirk, happens upon the Botany Bay and revives the crew. It’s not long before Khan throws his genetically enhanced weight around, seducing a young historian and instructing his followers to help him take over the ship of their rescuers. Khan is defeated (with a devastating combination of Kirk-fu and a giant space wrench -- see the “epic” battle below), but instead of taking he and his followers into custody, Kirk instead drops them off on a beautiful, uninhabited world so they can rebuild themselves and start a new life.
Then, 15 years later, the events of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan take place, where after enduring heavy loss he takes on his rather Ahab-ian quest to for vengeance on James T. Kirk.
Quite a story, huh? With the reimagined continuity now afforded by the events of the 2009 Star Trek film, it seems like Khan might be a character they’d want to revisit. And, like a bad cockroach, that rumor just won’t die.
EW “Naming” the Villain of Into Darkness
In a recent issue of Entertainment Weekly devoted to Star Trek Into Darkness,, the magazine's website made an error by teasing its cover photo as "Kirk & Khan," as seen in the image below which has since been altered to remove the Khan part.
It wasn’t very long before the rumor and apparent “leak” caught fire all across the Internet, with people claiming that Khan would indeed be the villain of the film. This has never been a rumor that I’ve personally believed, and just as fast as the rumor was blazing all over the place, a report from TrekMovie helped put the entire conversation in greater context by publishing a very small portion of the actual article found underneath that cover, written by Geoff Boucher. It reads, “Unconfirmed rumors suggest that Harrison also goes by the name of Khan, the genetically upgraded tyrant portrayed by Ricardo Montalban in a February 1967 episode of the original series, as well as in 1982′s big-screen Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.”
So, even within the magazine, there is no actual confirmation or true acknowledgment that this is the case. But beyond that, there are a few specific reasons that I don’t think Khan will be the villain in the film. Be warned, the following reasons may be spoilers if you’ve been avoiding images of the film, or haven’t seen the nine-minute prologue attached to The Hobbit this past December.
Why Cumberbatch Probably Isn’t Khan
For starters,  Cumberbatch in the above image and in others since has been shown wearing what at least used to be a Starfleet uniform, very similar to the threads worn by Captain Kirk in the 2009 film. That black shirt with the delta badge above the left pectoral is the shirt worn right below the departmentally colored outer shirt of the 2009 uniform. Basically, that appears to mean that Harrison was, or is, a member of Starfleet. In the picture above, you can clearly see that Harrison wears the Starfleet delta, and the shirt appears to be identical to Kirk’s from the 2009 film.
“BUT,” I can hear you say. “A NEW CONTINUITY MEANS HE COULD NOW BE A MEMBER OF STARFLEET!” While admittedly that possibility does exist, it’s best just to examine what we’ve seen established by Abrams’ first film. Yes, he went a little nuts in remaking Star Trek in his own image by updating sets, destroying long-standing planets, and what have you. When looking at each individual character, though, the changes made were minor. Kirk grew up in Iowa, and started to become the brash, confident Captain we’ve always known. While Spock’s emotional struggle was a little more outward than we’re used to seeing, that struggle between his human and Vulcan sides is a longstanding trait of his character. Bones was just as irascible as ever, and he even said, “Are you outta your Vulcan mind?!”
If writers Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman (along with Abrams) preserved the main characters basically as we’ve always known them, why would they all of a sudden make so many blatant changes to the backstory of Khan, an equally beloved character? So, they’re going to make it so that he was never asleep for 200 years, or he got out just long enough to enroll in Starfleet Academy, graduate, and then go ballistic? It doesn’t jive with me, or with what we’ve already seen. Beyond this fact, if you recall from the prologue seen in theaters this past December, Harrison offered to save a severely ill young girl from death. Since when is that ability within Khan's repertoire?
So then, who is he? It could be anyone’s guess at this point, but I’m sure that Mr. Abrams has us all right where he wants us and that’s within his den of secrets. It’s probably likely that Harrison will have a tie to a familiar Star Trek character, and perhaps that tie may be to Khan. But that’s a very, very different thing than actually being the character in question. In just a few months we’ll see, and if I’m way off on this after the movie comes out I’ll be sure to mention it.
Star Trek Book of the Week
This week’s book is actually an anthology of short stories edited by Keith R.A. DeCandido entitled Tales of the Dominion War. Since most of the epic conflict of the Dominion War was isolated to the episodes and characters of Deep Space Nine, Tales contains many stories from across a wider selection of Star Trek characters having to deal with the Alpha Quadrant invasion by the Dominion and the villainous Founders. Some of my favorites include a great short starring none other than Scotty and an elderly Doctor McCoy helping out in the face of an invasion of Earth. Other great pieces include characters like Spock, Mackenzie Calhoun and Jean-Luc Picard. There’s also a pretty interesting one fleshing out what Shinzon from the Nemesis film was up to during the war, leading his Reman troops in an assault on the Jem’Hadar.
If you like that era of Trek stories then this book should make for an enjoyable read, and even if you’ve never seen an episode of Deep Space Nine, it tells some cool wartime stories about how some of the best Star Trek characters deal with a full-blown interstellar war.
That does it for this week, be sure to come back here in a fortnight for the next Countdown to Star Trek Into Darkness!
The Enterprise Boldly Goes Into Darkness in 93 Days

Chris Clow is a geek. He is a comic book expert and retailer, and geeky contributor to GeekNation.comBatman-On-Film.com and ModernMythMedia.com. You can find his weekly piece The Geek Beat every Tuesday and the Star Trek Into Darkness Countdown every other Wednesday right here at Movies.com. Check out his blog and follow along on Twitter @ChrisClow.


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