If it ain't broke, don't fix it!
The rumor mills are ablaze with the idea that the next Star Trek movie (being directed by J.J. Abrams) will feature Khan as the primary villain. Benicio Del Toro was originally planned to portray the villain, but contract negotiations broke down, and Del Toro bailed from the project. Maybe Toro realized that reviving Khan is a creatively bankrupt concept and didn't want to be a part of such an uninspired and contrived movie. If so, good for him.
The idea of bringing back Khan for the next Star Trek sequel is offensive to me on many levels. First and foremost, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan is an exceptional movie, and there is absolutely no need to revisit that film's premise or the Khan character. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. There are plenty of examples of broken Star Trek villains that could use a reboot: Sybok (Star Trek V: The Final Frontier), Garth of Izar (TOS: Whom Gods Destroy), or even the Gorn (TOS: Arena) were all handled poorly in their original incarnations and would have been much better material for improvement and refinement.
Secondly, the whole idea of throwing away 40 years of history and rebooting the franchise was so that they wouldn't be constrained by the original timeline and events, and they would be free to tell new and interesting stories:
"One of the reasons we wanted to break with the original Star Trek timeline was it felt restrictive"
- J.J. Abrams
So if you're going to abandon the 40 years of history that Trekkies know and [mostly] love, but then rehash the same characters, events, situations, and conflicts, then all you're really doing is slapping all of us Trekkies in the face. The only reason many of us accept the new Star Trek movie despite all its flaws is because we recognize that it was not intended to erase or reset the timeline. We are willing to accept that it's a new and different Star Trek. We were interested in seeing what kinds of new and interesting stories would be brought to the table. What kind of strange new worlds Star Trek would be able to show us. But if you're going to take all of the space adventure out of the formula and just steal concepts from the original cannon, then you're not following the Star Trek motto "boldly go where no one has gone before".
Thirdly, there are some misguided "fans" who are claiming that since the Botany Bay and Khan are still adrift in this new timeline, that this one lose thread must be dealt with in the new movies. They argue that Kirk and Khan are destined to meet. No. The only destiny that needed to be fulfilled in the new timeline is that the crew would be united. That happened. All other bets are off.
The Botany Bay had been floating around in space in the original timeline for over 200 years before the Enterprise found it at random in space. If any of the conditions of the Enterprise's tour of duty have changed in the new timeline (like - I don't know - a new launch date, new captain or crew, any changes in its assignments), then it won't be at that location at that time in the new universe, and there is no guarantee that the Enterprise would rendezvous with the Botany Bay at all. Ever. And if the Enterprise doesn't do it, then considering how big space is, how long the Botany Bay has been adrift, how short a distance it's radio beacon can transmit, and the fact that many aliens exploring the galaxy with warp drives and subspace communications might not even recognize a primitive earth radio signal, then it is very likely that the Botany Bay would remain adrift for another 200 years or more.
Remember, this ^ is now just as likely in the new Abrams-verse as this ^
Finally, Abrams seems insistent on casting an Hispanic actor to portray Khan simply because Ricardo Montalbán was Hispanic. Apparently, nobody in Abrams' production crew ever bothered to watch the episode that Khan originated in. Because if they did, they would have noticed that despite Montalbán's ethnicity, the character of Khan was supposed to be of Indian descent! He's a Sihk. His soon-to-be-wife even paints a portrait of him wearing a turban. And I think (but am not 100% sure) that Kirk and Spock describe him as being a Central Asian warlord. If you're going to revive the character Abrams, why not get the details right and cast an Indian actor?!
Khan may be joined by another rehashed Trek villain. But this one's from Enterprise?
In other Star Trek 12 rumor news, actor Peter Weller has been cast to play a secondary villain.
This villain has been described by Peter Weller's agent as a "C.E.O.".
"Of course J.J. Abrams is very tight-lipped about his projects but I do know that it’s a substantial role and that Peter is playing a C.E.O."
- Peter Weller's agent
Most people are speculating that the agent meant to imply that Weller would be portraying a starship's executive officer (i.e. second in command). "C.E.O." (Chief Executive Officer) could refer to the second in command of a ship, but that title is usually just given as "Executive Officer" and abbreviated as "X.O.". So if Weller's agent was correct in his use of the term "C.E.O.", then he is likely referring to a "corporate C.E.O.".
But that's just crazy. There aren't corporations in Star Trek!
Well actually, there are!
And on top of that, Peter Weller has already portrayed a character on Star Trek who was the C.E.O. of a corporation. Weller portrayed John Paxton, the C.E.O. of a lunar mining company, in Star Trek: Enterprise's penultimate two-parter "Terra Prime". In this episode, Paxton was using his moon colony as a front for the episode's titular terran racial purity terrorist organization (akin to the Ku Klux Klan of space).
Hrm, where have I seen themes of racial purity in Star Trek? Lots of places, actually. One of them, however, is the story of Khan. So Paxton and Khan might have a natural synergy.
My suspicions for the plot of Star Trek 12
So here's how I think Star Trek 12 might go down.
Peter Weller is somehow reviving his role as John Paxton (who would now have to be like 200 years old), who, being obsessed with human racial purity, finds and revives Khan Noonien Singh and unleashes him in some diabolical plot to overthrow the Federation and Starfleet and establish a policy of isolationism for the people of Earth. He is probably spurred into this decision by the recent attack by Nero, which closely mirrors the plot of the Xindi from Enterprise, who were also going to try to destroy the Earth because they blamed Earthers for the future genocide of their people. Wow, I never realized just how similar the new Star Trek movie was to Enterprise until now!
A virus constructed out of genetically-engineered human DNA causes the cosmetic transformation of the Klingons in Star Trek: Enterprise.
Another major rumor regarding the Star Trek 12 movie is that it will involve Klingons. The involvement of Klingons doesn't necessarily negate the possibility of Khan appearing, or of Weller reprising his role as Paxton (or a similar role). In fact, Star Trek: Enterprise also had a major story arc that revolved around genetically engineered superhumans similar to Khan. In Enterprise, those same supermen ended up getting themselves involved with the Klingons and the Klingon attempts to create their own genetically-engineered super-Klingons resulted in the physical transformation that removed their cranial ridges and made them look more human.
So Khan and Klingons already have an indirect relationship in existing Star Trek canon (if you accept Enterprise as canonical), and Abrams and co. might decide to integrate this relationship into the new movie. Hopefully this isn't the case, as it would probably result in the movie becoming an over-complicated mess of multiple plot lines similar to X-Men 3. Khan, Klingons, and Weller's villain might be too much for a single two-hour movie to do justice to. But it is possible.
Alternate ideas for Weller's character that don't involve Khan
But if the Khan rumors aren't true, then obviously the movie's plot would be different. It would still be possible that Weller would be reprising his role as Paxton. But without Khan, that seems much less likely to me. But there are still other ways that Paxton could portray a corporate C.E.O. and still be a villain in the new movie.
1.) The most likely alternative (again assuming that the characterization of Weller's character is a "corporate C.E.O." is correct) would be that Weller could be portraying someone involved in the Orion Syndicate, which is essentially Star Trek's "space mafia". Weller could be the C.E.O. of a seemingly-legitimate space corporation that he is using as the front for an interstellar crime network.
2.) This seems very unlikely, but one of my favorite ideas for the Star Trek sequel (if it must have a singular villain) would be a movie about Garth of Izar. Garth was a highly-decorated former Starfleet captain who was driven insane by a radical medical treatment given to him by aliens. In his insanity, he attempted to commit genocide against the very aliens who had healed him and was exiled to the Elba II asylum for the criminally insane. He appears in an episode of the Original Series (TOS: Whom Gods Destroy), in which he attempts to hijack the Enterprise.
Garth of Izar would make for a much more compelling and interesting rehashed villain.
The backstory for Garth's insanity could, of course, be changed (and probably should be) if used in the context of the rebooted universe. Perhaps his insanity this time is the result of witnessing the destruction of Vulcan from the previous film. Although this might be a bit repetitive since the last movie dealt with a villain who had been driven insane by witnessing the destruction of a world. Regardless of how Garth becomes unstable, his would be an interesting story in the newly rebooted Trek mythos because it would force a young, inexperienced James Kirk to face off with a veteran (but unstable) Starfleet captain. The movie could also pay homage to Star Trek II by putting Kirk and the Enterprise in a dogfight with a fellow Starfleet ship (under Garth's command) that could mirror the battle between the Enterprise and the Reliant. Furthermore, this would reverse the roles of Kirk and villain from The Wrath of Khan in that Kirk and the Enterprise crew are now the ones who lack experience, whereas the villain would be an experienced tactician; and instead of Kirk and the villain hating each other, Kirk would admire Garth for his accomplishments as a Starfleet captain, would be sympathetic to his fall from grace, and would be hesitant to use lethal force (at least initially) in the hopes that Garth can be saved and rehabilitated.
The Wrath of Khan managed to reinvigorate an old Star Trek foe and worked incredibly well. There's no reason why Abrams can't take other existing Trek villains and be successful with them.
3.) Or maybe Weller plays a space-bank executive who sells sub-prime space-mortgages to Federation colonists and causes the collapse of the galactic space-economy, and Kirk, Spock, and co. have to come to the rescue. It's possible.
And even though none of those ideas would be the intellectual, nature-as-the-villain space exploration adventure that I was hoping Star Trek 12 would be, they would all be better ideas than rehashing Khan as a villain. I can still hold out hope that Weller, Alice Eve, and Del Toro replacement Edgar Ramirez will be playing Klingons or something like that, and that Star Trek 12 will be offering a positive representation of space exploration and the myriad wonders that the final frontier contains.
Update December 19, 2011 9:30 AM
Stumbled onto this old post from BadAssDigest.com, in which an informant from Abrams' production staff had supposedly leaked information about the villain in the new movie. This informant says that Khan will not be featured in the new movie, nor will the movie feature a traditional villain role. The informant goes on to say that a character from the original series' first season will appear as the focus of the movie's plot, and goes on to list five possible villains:
- The Talosians: telepathic aliens featured in the first series pilot, "The Cage" and also appeared in the series' only two-parter, "The Menagerie".
- Gary Mitchell: Kirk's academy buddy who gains superpowers and becomes unstable, from the second pilot "Where No Man Has Gone Before".
- Trelane: a god-child, and possibly a member of the Q Continuum, from the episode "The Squire of Gothos".
- Harry Mudd: a snake-oil merchant who is the only recurring "villain" in the original series (unless you count the Talosians), as he appears in "Mudd's Women" and "I, Mudd".
- The Horta: silicon-based life forms whose eggs are harvested by unawares miners for their valuable mineral resources, appeared in the episode "Devil in the Dark".
These comics are supposed to be canonical in the new timeline, and they've already covered Gary Mitchel.
Well, if this informant is correct, then I can say with almost absolute confidence that the referenced "villain" in this new movie will be the Horta. Gary Mitchel would have been a good idea, but the new IDW ongoing comics are supposed to act as a lead up to the new movie, and they already covered Mitchel in their first issue. The Talosians and Trelane would be very interesting and would allow for some great character-building moments with their ability to alter perceptions of reality, but both would probably be too intellectual for the casual movie-goer. I think I can confidently say that these three "villains" will not appear.
Combining this informant's claims with the already-known casting of Peter Weller and Alice Eve, and Weller's agent saying that Weller will be playing a C.E.O., I think the best odds are on the Horta or Mudd. Harry Mudd could potentially be involved in a plot revolving around Tribbles and Klingons, being that those two things are some of the most instantly-recognizable Star Trek icons, and Weller could be playing the Executive Officer of a space station. But I think the Horta idea is a slightly better fit, since Weller could likely be playing the C.E.O. of a mining company that encounters the Horta and calls the Enterprise for assistance.
The one lose thread is: who was Del Toro supposed to be playing? Well, my guess would be that he was going to portray a Klingon, who could still be fit into the movie's story. Possibly Kang, Koloth, or Kor. Perhaps the human miners and Klingon miners are both competing for the same minerals (Horta eggs).
I don't know how reliable this report can be, considering that it is from over a year ago, and the script supposedly wasn't written until last month.