It looks like at the very least, Star Trek 3 will continue the reboots’ tradition of casting strong actors. According to Variety, Idris Elba is in talks to play the Star Trek 3 villain, although there are no details on the role beyond saying he’s the film’s antagonist.
There are certainly some characters they could bring back from the series, although none will be as “big” as Khan, but Variety also reports that there are early rumors suggesting that Klingons are the main villains in the upcoming sequel. If this is the case, then perhaps Elba is playing a new character who is their leader.
But here’s the thing: Star Trek isn’t really about villains. Traditional blockbusters are about villains, and the cast of the U.S.S. Enterprise has had to face its share of bad guys, but those bad guys are not the essence of the show. Trek is about situational obstacles, and then it’s a matter of the crew coming together to solve the problem. That obstacle may be represented by a person, and it’s not to say that those people can’t be interesting, but Trek, unlike other franchises, doesn’t require a villain. That’s one of the reasons Star Trek IV is good—it’s a pure Trek story that doesn’t have a villain but also has worthwhile stakes.
That’s not to say I’m against casting Elba. Aside from the fact that I think Elba is a terrific actor, I can’t say he should lose a role I know nothing about. Maybe this role is perfect and we can trust that writers Simon Pegg (click here for what he had to say about penning the script) and Doug Jung know how to strike the balance between implementing a villain and keeping the film feeling like Star Trek. It’s a tough balance, especially since the previous two Star Trek films presented the series as off-brand Star Wars.
Elba will next be seen in Cary Fukunaga’s Beasts of No Nation. Star Trek 3 opens July 8, 2016.