It was probably the best kept secret in Hollywood… but the worst kept secret among Trek fans. Sherlock‘s Benedict Cumberbatch was revealed midway in the new film Star Trek Into Darkness to be legendary franchise villain Khan Noonien Singh. J.J. Abrams, who has not been shy at all about voicing his disdain for classic Trek, obviously underestimated our intelligence when he tried so desperately hard to keep John Harrison’s identity under wraps; of course, John Harrison just so happened to be the name of the Enterprise helmsman during Khan’s debut episode Space Seed in 1967. Strike one. Then the movie clip from the brig was released, and whether J.J. realized this or not remains yet to be seen, it was laced with Space Seed references galore that most hardcore Trekkers would pick up (the Jupiter coordinates, the number 72). Strike two and strike three, you’re out J.J..
Even Cumberbatch, who ever so gracefully captures a modern day essence of the enigmatic Holmes, had big shoes to fill from the late, great Ricardo “Ze Plane” Montalban in his portrayal, a task made much harder by the fact that with Nero’s timeline interference this new Khan would be very different from the charming, menacing, “Moby Dick” quoting Montalban we’ve come to know and love the past 45 years.
However, Cumberbatch in his infinite glory still managed to surprise us, even with high expectations already set, by pulling off a chillingly cold and much more Machiavellian Khan Noonien Singh that no doubt made Montalban, who passed away in 2009, smile down upon the great consulting detective turned cold blooded killer.
In any other remake or sequel, which this movie served as both in its own rite, it would be very difficult to compare the new to the old. With Cumberbatch’s performance, however, a great exception is made. How do we go about comparing these two brilliant actors? The best way would be to pick the top traits that define Khan and compare and contrast the portrayal.
MAJOR SPOILERS AFTER THE JUMP. IF YOU HAVE NOT YET SEEN STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS, TURN BACK NOW!!!
This article was first posted on June 6, 2013