If you thought the casting of the original Robocop Peter Weller in the Star Trek sequel was big news, then be prepared to have your socks knocked off. It was revealed yesterday that 35 year old British thespian Benedict Cumberbatch has been cast as the sequel’s villain. Cumberbatch is most famous for his current titular role in the BBC television movie series Sherlock, where he is just the most perfect specimen of the quirky Baker Street detective yet. The man is also familiar to movie audiences, the discerning ones at least, with his recent appearances in War Horse, which opened last week, and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, which will be released in Singapore on 9 February this year.
But the big question on everyone’s mind of course is, what villain is he going to play in the Star Trek sequel?
The big money is on one of Star Trek’s most memorable villains, Khan Noonien Singh. Prior to Cumberbatch’s casting, it was reported last month that Benecio Del Toro had turned down the villain role, and that Edgar Ramirez and Jordi Molla were in contention to replace him. It seemed almost certain that they were looking for someone to recreate the role originated by the late, great Ricardo Montalban.
Which makes Cumberbatch’s casting rather curious, to say the least. The tall, dashing actor carries himself a very palpable yet subtle gravitas which would be perfect for the role of Khan – a genetically enhanced dictator who was ruled the Earth, but his lanky, angular physicality doesn’t quite lend itself to the image of a iron fisted megalomaniac that Montalban presented. Perhaps the villain is being rewritten to accomodate this new casting decision?
Alternatives to Khan abound, of course. Cumberbatch could very well play a totally new character, like the first movie’s Nero. The way he looks now, he could easily pass for a Vulcan – perhaps a disgruntled survivor of the first movie’s genocide who believes that the only way for Vulcan to return to their former state is to expand aggressively. An emotionless, cold-blooded Vulcan Führer is a chilling thought indeed.
The less obvious possibility would be the beloved villain Trelane from the classic episode The Squire of Gothos, or the more infamous Q, Captain Jean-Luc Picard’s omnipotent antithesis from The Next Generation. Both these characters have similarities to Cumberbatch’s current role of Sherlock Holmes, a flippant, childish character whose antics belie undeterminable depths of power and knowledge. That being said, I’m sure Cumberbatch is versatile enough to not choose a role that so resembles the one he’s most recently famous for, but who knows, really.
Other casting news also include Noel Clarke, who appeared alongside David Tennant’s Tenth Doctor as Mickey Smith. While Clarke’s character is also not revealed, online speculation have naturally linked him – for better or worse – to some of the characters from Star Trek originated by black men.
These include Dr. M’Benga, whose experience in Vulcan physiology complemented Dr. McCoy’s, Richard Daystrom, the brilliant man whose only mistake was to build the M5 multitronic computer, a complex A.I. that evolved a self-preserving attitude and began killing people, or even a younger Cartwright, the admiral who was part of the conspiracy to sabotage peace talks between the Federation and the Klingon Empire. Of course, the other likely possibility is that Clarke’s character is totally new, but it would be a nice tip of the hat to the fans if he were one of these three. Personally, I would say he plays M’Benga, whose medical expertise would be in much demand following the destruction of Vulcan.
The casting of the Star Trek sequel has been very exciting thus far, what with Weller, and Entourage‘s Alice Eve and now Cumberbatch and Clarke. Production is said to start in a couple of weeks, and the release date is stil May 17th, 2013.