A look back on Star Trek episode “Where No Man Has Gone Before” and reboot movie Into Darkness, and why they should have been the same.
I’m not going to lie: I had a difficult time deciding what tangent I wanted to take with Star Trek episode “Where No Man Has Gone Before”.
This is probably one of my favorite episodes, and I wanted to do it justice. I wanted to truly capture the emotions this episode stirs within me. So where did I end up? Well, if I can use an episode of Star Trek to talk about Taylor Swift, then I can use this opportunity to make a confession:
I’m sick and tired of Benedict Cumberbatch. And Star Trek Into Darkness (2013) is entirely to blame.
But before I inevitably anger some fanboys and girls, let’s give this episode a brief recap.
To make a long story short: the Enterprise investigates something mysterious (as they do), crewman Gary Mitchell gets super ESP powers (of course he does), he starts thinking he’s a god (naturally), all hell breaks loose (when does it not), and then Gary dies (unfortunate).
Also, Scotty is here (finally).
Yes, there’s a deeper meaning and metaphors and “absolute power corrupts absolutely”. But that’s not what we’re here to talk about. We’re here to talk about…
Good ol’ Benny C is an actor best known for playing the titular character of the acclaimed BBC series Sherlock. But that’s not all. Over the last few years, Mr. Cumberbatch has permeated contemporary pop culture. He’s Smaug in The Hobbit. He’s Doctor Strange in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
He’s Khan in Star Trek Into Darkness.
Now, I’m not saying B-Batch is a bad actor. But he’s everywhere which is just…annoying. It feels as if I can’t like anything without The Other Benedict (the one that didn’t betray the United States during the Revolutionary War) making an appearance. I live in perpetual fear of an announcement that he’s joined the cast of Star Wars.
And then there’s the whole, you know, Khan thing.
We all know the meme where Benadryl Cummerbund’s name is replaced with other multi-syllabic words with a similar cadence. Well, my personal favorite was Butawhiteman Cantbekhan. Why?
BECAUSE A WHITE MAN CAN’T BE KHAN.
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- Relive a little Star Trek fun with FoxTrot’s Christmas Cookie comic
- Watch: All I Want for Christmas by the cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation
(That absolutely warranted all-caps)
The iconic Star Trek character Khan Noonien Singh is an Indian man. Benedict Cumberbatch is very much a white boy. It was a bad and racist casting choice. Cumberbatch may be a good actor, but he was absolutely the wrong person to play Khan.
But what I’m saying here is nothing new; it’s already been discussed at length.
So what am I here to talk about?
I’m here to talk about what Star Trek Into Darkness could and should have been: a movie inspired by “Where No Man Has Gone Before”.
It should come as no surprise that I once frequented Star Trek chatrooms. And while director J.J. Abrams was lying that Cumberbatch would not play Khan, we were speculating as to who the new Big Bad would be.
The favorite theory amongst my group of Trekkies? Gary Mitchell, of course.
For starters, Gary Mitchell is a white man, which Cumberbatch is well-suited to play. Back in 2012, we’d naively and optimistically trusted Jar Jar Abrams, assuming he would not be ignorant enough to whitewash Khan. Oh, how wrong we were.
But, most importantly, Gary Mitchell is a great character with an interesting story. Not to mention, Mitchell and Khan are somewhat similar: they both have god complexes. Gary Mitchell has the ability to bend reality to his will; Khan is a genetically enhanced superhuman.
“Absolute power corrupts absolutely,” as Kirk says in “Where No Man Has Gone Before” (a phrase attributed to 19th century British politician Lord Alton). The theme applies to both characters but, with Mitchell, we get the added emotional weight of our antagonist being a longtime friend of Kirk.
Instead we were given a crude rehash of a film Trek fans have already seen and loved. It felt like cheap pandering to non-fans (“oh, we’ve heard of Khan!”) and a slap in the face to longtime fans of the original series.
We already had a Khan movie. We loved The Wrath of Khan. It was an iconic piece of sci-fi history that didn’t need a reboot, especially one as disrespectful as Into Darkness.
Give us something new. Something that would excite non-fans while also appeasing diehard Star Trek fans. Give us Gary Mitchell.
Or, at least, a Khan played by an actual Indian man. I nominate Sendhil Ramamurthy.