'Star Trek Into Darkness' Nine-Minute IMAX Prologue: Doom, Gloom, and Benedict Cumberbatch

Star Trek Benedict Cumberbatch Spoilers

Introducing a sneak peek at the first nine minutes of Star Trek Into Darkness in a special IMAX 3-D presentation for press Sunday night, director J.J. Abrams warned of the "doom and gloom" throughout his May 2013 sequel. "There’s a lot of intensity in this, and a little bit of gloom," he admitted, "but it’s also fun."

In true Abrams fashion, that's about all he said before he exited the theater, taking the truth about who the heck Benedict Cumberbatch is playing in Star Trek 2 with him. (The first nine minutes will debut in theaters on December 14, attached to select IMAX screenings of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. Read on for details, speculation, guesstimates, and wild theorizing about what's in store in Star Trek 2 based on the tease.)

What's revealed in the first nine minutes of Star Trek Into Darkness isn't so much telling as it is intriguing, moreso for the Trek fans out there who'll get every little familiar line of dialogue and nod to the O.G. Trek series, of which there are many. But fair warning, Trekkies: Judging from this tease and the footage Paramount has already released, Abrams knows that you're reading into every little clue — and he's playing you like a violin.

Here's why: Star Trek Into Darkness opens in a prologue, in a beautifully shot, blue-tinged London, Stardate 2259.55. A couple (Noel Clarke and Nazneen Contractor) wake up and drive their hover car to visit their child in the hospital. We don't know their names, or hear them speak, but we wonder; could their last name possibly, just possibly, be Singh?

Maybe, maybe not. Their sick child is a daughter (strike that, it's not a young Khan — or is it??*), bedridden by an unspecified illness. The father is approached by a stranger whose voice we hear first: "I can save her." It's Benedict Cumberbatch, and he's the villain, which we know because the camera closes in until his face fills the IMAX screen as Michael Giacchino's score swells with tense, ominous notes.

Cut to the crew of the Enterprise, who we find in the middle of their latest mission on the Class-M planet Nibiru, where Bones and Kirk are racing through vivid red-tinged forests being chased by members of a chalk-faced, spear-chucking indigenous race. From a cruiser flying in the skies above, Spock drops into an erupting volcano to save the planet as Uhura looks on.

Regrouping with the rest of the crew on the Enterprise — which is parked discreetly underwater in the middle of an ocean — Kirk wrestles with a familiar-sounding quandary: Save Spock by taking the Enterprise out of hiding, therefore violating the Prime Directive by exposing the inhabitants of Nibiru to technology they're not ready for, or sacrifice Spock because, as one character indeed utters, "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few."

Kirk asks what Spock would do if their situations were reversed. "He'd let you die," Bones replies, and the opening sequence closes with a cliffhanger.

More previously seen trailer-y shots close out the nine-minute sneak, with Cumberbatch growling lines like "You think you're safe? You are not" and "Is there anything you would not do for your family?" Alas, it doesn't offer any further details of the hands-on-glass shot that had Trek-watchers a'flutter watching the recently-released Japanese trailer.

At this point I've heard about a thousand differing theories as to whom exactly Cumberbatch's villain will turn out to be. My first thought during the nine-minute prologue was Khan, because YOU GUYS THEY QUOTE WRATH OF KHAN, but there's something about that idea that seems just too easy. I'm leaning toward an amalgam of Gary Mitchell and Khan, an idea so crazy it might just work in this new Abrams era of playing in the Trek sandbox without having to stay within previously established canon. Why not make the 'Batch some sort of Mitchell-Khan hybrid? Try this on for size: Benemitchell Khanderbatch. Has a nice ring to it, doesn't it?

It's worth noting that, while Star Trek Into Darkness was post-converted to 3-D, the 3-D footage went over well. There are a good many close-ups and scenes featuring brilliantly vivid, swirling pieces of debris and lava and even, at one point, a barrage of spears raining down around Kirk and McCoy as they run through the jungle in a sequence that so calls to mind Raiders of the Lost Ark that it's probably safe to call it homage.

*This is completely wild, "What if?" speculation, but how cool would it be if Abrams' Trek films did introduce Khan — only as a woman? Discuss.

Star Trek Into Darkness is in theaters May 17, 2013; look for the nine-minute preview attached to The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey in select IMAX screenings, full list here.

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  • Chris Auckland says:

    The new Abrhams Universe has only changed things since Nero arrived in the first film, therefore Khan is already in existance (he left Earth in 1996) so they can't change or merge him. Similarly, Gary Mitchell has already featured in the "canon" Star Trek prequel comics

  • I also clearly spelt Abrams wrong

    • Silas R. says:

      That's okay. Jen Yamato doesn't know when to use "who" vs. "whom," and she's apparently paid for writing this stuff.

      • Rogue Scholar says:

        Silas, If you studied diachronic linguistics (which I have) you'd know that whom was a problem as far back as Shakespeare's day and it should be left alone to die.

        • no one special says:

          Yes, thank you! Whom needs to be euthanized and be buried along with ye, thee, and thou. If 'you' can do double duty as subject and object (triple duty if we include plural) then 'who' can do likewise. But there are some deluded grammarians that like to ignore the constant change and development of the English language and thus would hide behind the mythical 'dumbing down' if you suggest killing 'whom'.

  • Lia says:

    I have seen the trailer. It's benedict's voice, for sure! i can't wait to see it. It will be a terrific spectacle.

  • Chris Fawkes says:

    Clearly the villain is british so not Khan or Mitchell

  • m0r1arty says:

    I'm saying that Benedict Cumberbatch's character is Merik from TOS: 'Bread and Circuses'

  • Mark says:

    Jen, while it's true that Abrams & Co. shook things up with the alternate timeline so they could play with cannon, you must remember that the timeline changed when Kirk was born. Therefore events that took place before his birth could not have been altered. Khan was exiled from Earth hundreds of years before Kirk's era and frozen in cryo sleep. That means Khan is not female. Khan also shouldn't be Caucasian and British, which Cumberbatch clearly is (Khan Noonian Singh was an East Indian dictator). I am seeing a lot of errant speculation about who Khan is/was on the Internet and it appears to be the result of a lack of knowledge (or nerdiness, depending on your POV) about the history of characters in the Star Trek universe.

    • Jen Yamato says:

      I hear what you're saying, I'm just not entirely convinced of how faithful Abrams & Co. would be to canon if it suited their purposes. I'm also inclined to think that even if Cumberbatch's character wasn't technically Khan or Mitchell, Abrams & Co. wouldn't bat an eyelash at using those familiar character storylines at least in spirit (i.e. a spiritual cousin-type riff on Khan's wrath, Mitchell's powers, etc.) and pulling a late-game JG-L in TDKR move.

      • Mark says:

        I couldn't agree more. In fact, given that these are the same minds who paired up Spock and Uhura, imploded Vulcan and killed off Kirk's Dad and Spock's Mom. I would expect there will be more shakeups with the Star Trek universe in this movie. I've long said that if Khan were used in the plot it would be far more interesting for Khan to be unfrozen and become an ally of Kirk and crew as they face off against an enemy for which Khan's tactical skills would come in handy. Khan could still double cross them in the end though, staying true to his dark side. I've also heard that Chekhov is wearing a "red shirt" in the preview. Can you confirm this? People with red shirts do not fare well in Star Trek. And for all we know red shirts are red herrings in the alternate timeline.

  • Paul says:

    Saying that it's not Khan because he is Caucasian is a bit silly.

    Think of how many people there will be in Britain in 300 years with Indian surnames and heritage but will look Caucasian.

    • Mark says:

      Are people really this ignorant about Star Trek cannon? Khan Noonian Singh as established by cannon is East Indian. He was played by a Latino actor, who was cast because he could pass for Indian. Khan (at leats the one who was from Earth's past) is NOT caucasian. So yes, casting someone white to play an East Indian character is indeed silly. If he's a completely new person who took the name of Khan, then that's an entirely different matter.

  • Logan 5 says:

    I cannot believe no one has thought of this... in this 9 minute clip... it would seem that a medical miracle is needed. And the villain is the solution. So... what technology is out there that could remove all disease? Borg technology! Look at the Into Darkness poster... it looks as though the classic trek logo is made within a type of Borg construct. In this timeline, the Borg could be introduced much earlier. This could be an origin story for the Borg, beginning on earth via Khan.

      • Oscar Goldman says:

        That poster could elude to the Borg! There’s something about the origin of the Borg that never quite made sense. Their origin could be from earth. Or at the very least, could be trying to assimilate the earth sometime in its past, now that one of the Federation’s main protectorates is gone in Vulcan. They tried once before. It could be an origin story, perhaps involving Khan, but doubtful. The Borg were supposedly a race created thousands of years prior according to Guinan and they are based on the humanoid structure. The 9-minutes of footage could be from earth or perhaps Mars, thousands of years ago. The slate is blank for JJ. He could do anything, and it's doubtful he would retread a story without totally reshaping it, much in the way he destroyed Vulcan. This speculation is what makes the waiting enjoyable.

    • Link says:

      I just noticed that at our local theater they are showing the Borg Episodes of TNG the DAY BEFORE Star Trek 'Into Darkness' opens. It occurred to me that this may not be a coincidence. I had the same thought as Logan 5 independently. A Borg origin story would be a perfect tie-in to this alternate Trek universe, with or without Kahn. I guess we'll all see very soon!

  • Vincent says:

    The ability to cure a comatose girl....hummm? Cumberbatch resembles a much younger Sarek. Also, Khan was dying when the original timeline enterprise encountered him. Who can say for a certainty whether or not a different crewmember of the Botany Bay has made his mark?

  • First of all, Logan 5 is not a moron for offering a valid opinion. Please keep it civil. Remember, we're all Trek fans here.

    There are several fallacies that this is Khan, some obvious from what we see here, others which I've read elsewhere online. First of all, Benedict Cumberbatch is in a Starfleet uniform. Khan wouldn't be. He wouldn't be rescued from the Botany Bay, join Starfleet, to take it over from within.

    Whether Kirk and crew have yet encountered the Botany Bay isn't clear. It has not been revealed in the "canon" comics from IDW, which I follow closely as both an avid reader and a comic store owner. However, a lot of online speculation runs rampant from the tease at the end of the Japanese trailer with the hands against the glass that this is a repeat of Spock dying. Fans are saying that Khan wants revenge for Kirk abandoning him on Ceti Alpha V, for the death of his family, etc. And yes, I did read someone posted "family", not wife. But none of that would have happened yet, even if Enterprise had come across the Botany Bay in space. Those events happen when Kirk is 50 years old, in the future (of the Prime universe).

    Mark (above) is right that the timeline remained uncontaminated up until the moment Nero and company arrived in the Narada from the future and attacked the Kelvin. This means that Khan's entire history, including his heritage, his culture, the country from which he came, and his role as a genetically enhanced dictator who fled Earth in a DY100 Class spacecraft in cryosleep must remain intact. Yes, Jen, it's possible Abrams and company could violate their own rules, but I guarantee you they'd lose thousands, if not millions, of original series fans. If I sat there and a totally reimagined Botany Bay appeared onscreen, I'd get up and walk out. No kidding. Where's the fun if they can just totally revise everything, including the events predating the attack on the Kelvin?

    Spock-A(brams) set forth the rules for the Abrams-reimagined Trekverse. The attack on the Kelvin by the Narada changed the timeline. Everything from that moment *forward* was changed. Prior to that moment, the two timelines were identical.

    Yes, this means that the events in the TV series "Star Trek Enterprise", and certain events seen in "Star Trek TOS", "Star Trek Voyager", and "Star Trek First Contact", where the crew(s) visited Earth's past, should be intact. That timeline was part of the Prime Universe at the time. It had not diverged yet. (Alternatively, it also explains the difference in age between Chekov-A and Chekov-Prime; same name, same parents, born years apart. Likewise, the upgraded technology and the new Enterprise as opposed to the original 12 Constitution-Class vessels from the Prime universe exists because the Kelvin scanned the Narada and sent the data back to Starfleet before being destroyed. Abrams admitted these to MTV interviewer Larry Carroll in 2009.)

    So who COULD the villain in the new film be in the revised timeline?

    Could it be Gary Mitchell? The "canon" comic books would suggest not, not to mention that Benedict Cumberbatch doesn't display Mitchell-like powers which he clearly has in the reimagined canon comic story. Any time Mitchell seemed drained of said powers, they came back stronger; therefore, it's not likely it's him. Now, I'm not worried about his being British. In the revised timeline, Mitchell's parents could have lived in England, and he'd have an accent. So I find no issue with that. It's simply not fitting in with the canon comic, which Abrams' writers have made a big deal about their dropping "clues" throughout the run, leading up to the film.

    Could it be Fleet Captain Garth of Izar? The comics have, as yet, to reimagine "Whom Gods Destroy", the story which introduced this tragic figure in Trek history. A great starship Captain, promoted to Fleet Captain, whose exploits were required reading at the Academy, his career is cut short by an accident that left him fighting for his life. However, an alien race saves him by giving him the ability to change his shape. The accident, the injuries and the *cure* shatter his mind, and he returns to take over the Federation as "Lord Garth", where he's finally captured and taken to an asylum for treatment. It is there that he encounters Kirk and Spock-Prime and attempts an escape. Is this movie, perhaps, telling the tale of that initial assault by Fleet Captain Garth upon the Federation? Benedict Cumberbatch does resemble actor Steve Ihnat. He is wearing a Starfleet uniform. He does seem to possess a great deal of physical agility, strength, speed and skill. Perhaps Lord Garth has arrived to take over the Federation in this new timeline for the first time, or has escaped from the asylum and -- having never encountered Kirk and crew before -- returned to Earth to exact his vengeance?

    Let's return to the idea proposed by Logan 5. The Borg. COULD the alien race that helped Captain Garth been the Borg? Perhaps what saved him were Borg nanites? However unlikely that idea is, the poster does suggest the Borg are part of the story. Perhaps this is an origin story for the Borg, and the little girl is (becomes) the Borg Queen?

    Who could our villain -- who is a doctor or a scientist, perhaps -- be? Could Benedict Cumberbatch be portraying the son of scientist Arik Soong as portrayed by Brent Spiner in "Star Trek Enterprise", making him the father of Noonien Soong, the creator of Data from "Star Trek The Next Generation"? With his (allegedly, perceived by fans) enhanced speed and strength, could he have been continuing his father's experiments into the augments? (Perhaps he named his son after Khan?) Yes, this is a long shot, but then again, at present, the identity of our villain is up in the air.

    He's not a Vulcan. So no, not a young Sarek. He's wearing a Starfleet uniform, and knowing that the writers are incredible Star Trek fans, whoever he is will be another "Easter egg" to fans. So, if it's the son of Arik Soong, we'd have a man who wants revenge against Starfleet for destroying his father's career, for imprisoning his father for decades, and for subduing his genius. Perhaps young Soong joins Starfleet, unaware of his father's history, learns what happened to him (the events in "Enterprise"), and returns for vengeance? Could he have encountered the Borg along the way or be using an army of androids against the Federation? Remember, all pre-Kelvin story material is intact. When we last saw Arik Soong, he was contemplating experimenting with enhancing human life with artificial parts, or creating androids. It was that work which inspired his grandson, Noonien Soong, to create Data. Perhaps Benedict Cumberbatch portrays the Soong who fills in the gap between the two?

    Personally, I believe it's Captain Garth. A threat from within. He's wearing the uniform. And the Japanese translation of "Star Trek Into Darkness" is "Star Trek Into Madness". Given Garth's Prime-universe history of being locked away in an asylum, that seems to be a strong indicator who the villain is.

    Either way, while the trailer looks cool, and I'm sure is deliberately misleading (two hands that are allegedly Spock's and Kirk's on opposing sides of the glass), the idea of the Enterprise being submerged underwater seems a little more than far-fetched. However, this technology IS supposed to be far more advanced than any seen even in the time of "The Next Generation", as it is from further in that timeline's future. So who knows? Maybe this Trek film will be better than Abrams' first outing into "the final frontier."

    • Mark says:

      Patrick thank you! Your exhaustive knowledge of canon has restored my faith in fandom.

      Up until now, I thought he *might* be Gary Mitchell. I entertained the idea that Mitchell would come to Earth and bring the Borg with him to show Starfleet (much like Q did) how vulnerable Earth is. Then, when things were looking their most bleak during the attack, Mitchell would blink and the Borg ships would be obliterated. It would be a nice call back to Cumberbatch standing inside what looks like a Borg hull overlooking London. It's the sort of God-like moment that the preview seem to suggest. "You think your world is safe. It is an illusion.... Shall we begin?"

      But your explanation about the comics would seem to rule him out.

      I think your theory about Garth is much more likely. And to complicate matters, you should check out Drew McWeeny's article over at Hitfix. His theory is that Cumberbatch is playing Robert April.

  • yomama says:

    haha, funny. y'all got yer panties in a twist 'cause some dude's makin' a movie from a tv show.

  • Voyager says:

    Charlie X! Charlie X!

  • Darl Edrick says:

    Star Trek, Volume 2 : Comic Book back story.

    Contained in this volume is the re-telling of the classic episode "Operation: Annihilate!" and an all-new, two-part story that takes place soon after the events of the first film! Star Trek writer/producer Roberto Orci oversees this original story set in the timeline leading up to the blockbuster film sequel!

    And just when you thought it was all about to make sense....

  • Scarilian says:

    I hate it how people suggest changing the gender of the character. It isnt a smart thing to do its just some weird fan obsession with wanting to see how Khan would look female... NO... just NO.

    The whole Volcano/Planet scene seems forced and idiotic. Why not simply teleport Spock into the volcano and teleport him out if anything happens. That would cause a lot less commotion and take less time meaning the inhabitance of the planet are less likely to die - instead we have a pointless chase scene along with a SPACESHIP HIDING IN THE WATER... seriously? its a freaking spaceship - hide it in space and beam them up - USE LOGIC!

    As for the villain... it is not Khan. Maybe someone inspired by Khan as a lead-up to the third film, however this is just not Khan. He doesnt have the same personallity traits or inspired speech.

  • Hildred says:

    fantastic issues altogether, you just gained a emblem new reader. What could you suggest about your put up that you just made some days ago? Any certain?