There's been a lot of speculation on who Benedict Cumberbatch is playing in Star Trek Into Darkness, with the most prevalent name being Gary Mitchell. This week it was announced he's actually playing someone named John Harrison, which triggered this particular thought.

Quite some time ago, Karl Urban let slip that Benedict Cumberbatch was doing a great job as Gary Mitchell in the Star Trek sequel, which became an oft-repeated headline across the Internet. It seemed as though the actor had really screwed up, breaking a vow of secrecy that everyone associated with the new film — and probably their ancestors and descendants as well if JJ Abrams had his way — had taken. But would Urban REALLY make such an elementary mistake?

So it seemed that Gary Mitchell was the likely antagonist of the film, with many believing that it could just as likely be genetic superman Khan Noonian Singh. And THEN we saw trailer and images of actress Alice Eve, who it seemed could be playing Dr. Elizabeth Dehner, also from the second Star Trek pilot which featured Mitchell, “Where No Man Has Gone Before.”

But THEN, came word that she was actually playing Carol Marcus, who audiences met in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan 30 years ago, and who turned out to not only be Kirk’s lost love but the mother of his son, David. So, inquiring minds want to know, why have Gary Mitchell as a villain yet bring in a tie-in in the form of Carol Marcus that has more of a connection with Khan? Added into the mix is that shot from the Japanese trailer with two hands separated by glass, forming the Vulcan salute (an homage to Spock’s death in Wrath of Khan); plus the trailer seems to show nothing telekinetic on Cumberbatch’s part, although he does perform some superhuman leaps that would be in line with Khan.

Into this ever-churning recipe of speculation came the announcement this week that Cumberbatch was playing someone named John Harrison, which could have easily be a cover name (though the creatives involved with the production insist that it isn’t). JJ Abrams also noted that there are “definitely nods to prior Trek lore in the film.”

With all of that in mind, one other thought comes to mind. One of the notions behind the rejiggered timeline as established in the 2009 film is that it would allow Star Trek history to unfold, but in different ways, some massive and some subtle. If we go with the idea that the Enterprise could still encounter many of the same situations that they did the first time around (and that’s certainly the premise behind IDW’s ongoing comic, which is overseen by the films’ co-writer Roberto Orci), in Star Trek Into Darkness couldn’t the Enterprise STILL encounter the space vessel S.S. Botany Bay — the ship filled with genetic supermen in suspended animation who fled Earth following the Eugenics Wars. But instead of reawakening Khan as Kirk and company had done so in the original timeline, they instead awaken…oh, say, John Harrison? This would allow the film to tap into Trek lore while taking the idea in an entirely different direction, leaving a sleeping Khan for a potential future adventure.

Does anyone else find that notion intriguing or in the realm of possibility? Would love to hear your thoughts on the whole John Harrison/Gary Mitchell/Khan thing.
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