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The first set photos from J.J. Abrams' Star Trek reboot sequel have been released by Paramount. The photos show Trek newbie, Benedict Cumberbatch facing off against Spock and Uhura on what has been described as a "space barge".

Supposedly, Cumberbatch is playing an existing Trek villain, but Paramount and Abrams have not been forthcoming regarding exact plot details or the exact identity of this villain. The set photos don't really clear up the issues all that much. In fact, it blows speculation wide open, as the character is likely not the shoe-in villain, Khan.

Star Trek 12 - Benedict Cumberbatch battling Spock
Benedict Cumberbatch's unidentified character battles Spock in this set photo from the Star Trek reboot sequel.

A very close examination of the photo shows a Starfleet insignia on Cumberbatch's black undershirt, so it is possible that he is a Starfleet officer or someone involved with Starfleet. This doesn't rule out the idea that Khan is going to be in the movie; Kirk could have supplied Khan's crew with clothing. It is also possible that Cumberbatch isn't Khan, but rather one of Khan's second-hand men. Peter Weller may be portraying Khan, even though that would seem to conflict with his identity as a "C.E.O." that was given by his agent. Alice Eve could also be playing Marla McGyvers, and a set on a "space barge" is still consistent with the Botany Bay. So we still can't rule out Khan as the villain, but I think there are much more likely possibilities.

Star Trek 12 - Benedict Cumberbatch battling Uhura
Benedict Cumberbatch's unidentified character faces off against Uhura in this set photo from the Star Trek reboot sequel.

Star Trek ongoing comic by IDW - issue #2 featuring Gary Mitchel
These comics are supposed to be canonical in the new timeline, and they've already covered Gary Mitchel.

Let's start by ruling out the obvious:

I don't see any pointed ears on Cumberbatch in either picture, so he definitely isn't Spock's half-brother Sybok. He could still be a follower of Sybok, but I don't think that's likely. The lack of pointed ears also means he's not a Romulan.

Despite a lot of speculation that he's Gary Mitchell, he isn't Gary Mitchell!. At least not if you believe Roberto Orci, J.J. Abrams, and IDW comics when they say that the ongoing Star Trek comics are supposed to canonical in the rebooted universe. These comics already told the story of Gary Mitchell, as well as retellings of the original series episodes "The Galileo Seven" and "Operation: Annihilate!" So Gary Mitchell is supposedly off that table, even though Alice Eve could have been Dr. Elizabeth Dehner, and the idea would have been a good one.

He's also clearly not a Klingon... Or is he?

New speculation: The Trouble with Tribbles: the Movie

I've already proposed several ideas for plots for this movie based on previous casting news, and as much as I like the idea of a re-imagining of Garth of Izar as the villain, I am now firmly in the camp that this movie will be closely related to the Original Series episode "The Trouble with Tribbles".

It makes sense from a marketing standpoint. Tribbles are one of the most iconic Star Trek symbols, so it makes sense that Abrams and co. would be taking advantage of that to make the movie recognizable. If that is the case, we will likely be seeing Klingons, and Cumberbatch is probably one of them.

Klingon spy Arne Darvin from 'The Trouble with Tribbles'
Klingon spy Arne Darvin from "The Trouble with Tribbles".

"But wait!" you say, "Cumberbatch doesn't look like a Klingon in these set photos!"

You're right. He doesn't. That's probably because he's playing the Klingon spy Arne Darvin disguised as a human. Peter Weller's C.E.O. is likely to be a space station commanding officer, possibly the commander of Deep Space K-7, Nilz Baris. We might also be seeing a character like Harry Mudd or Cyrano Jones, as well as some actual Klingon characters (possibly Koloth, Kang, or Kor). I don't have enough information about the cast to say for certain that this will be the case, but given the information we have, it makes sense.

A "space barge" set also makes sense. It might be a barge containing the quadrotriticale and/or tribbles.

And look, Cumberbatch even has a silver jacket, similar to Darvin's gray one. Except shinier.

Is this a good idea?

Meh.

It's not as horrible an idea as rehashing Khan, but if this is true, I'd still be disappointed that Abrams isn't doing something a little more original. I was really hoping for a genuine space-exploration adventure movie. Something in which the environment or nature is the enemy and the crew must solve a galactic mystery of some sort. I would have preferred that episodes like "The Immunity Syndrome", "The Doomsday Machine", and "Devil in the Dark" had been the primary inspirations for the movie, but that the actual plot and characters would be something original.

After all, (and I've brought this up before) the whole point of rebooting the franchise (according to Abrams) was so that the writers would not feel constrained by the original canon:

"One of the reasons we wanted to break with the original Star Trek timeline was it felt restrictive"
   - J.J. Abrams

But if you're not going to follow-through with this and do something genuinely new and creative, then what was the point? Why throw away over 40 years of history so that you can just rehash the same stories and characters again? Such a waste. I'm sure Abrams and co. will find a way to make this movie fun and interesting, and it's still possible that they will do something completely creative that will blow my mind. But a reboot to Star Trek has so much potential, and I just can't help but feel like Abrams is squandering this opportunity.

But hey, at least there's not hints of any more annoying time travel plots yet!

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