Damon Lindelof Talks STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS, Spoilers, Why Keeping the Villain a Secret Is Important, and More

     March 12, 2013


With a little under two months to go before the release of director J.J. Abrams’ sequel Star Trek Into Darkness, it’s a bit crazy to think that the identity of the film’s villain character played by Benedict Cumberbatch has yet to be officially confirmed.  There are plenty of people who think they know who Cumberbatch plays (Khaaaaaan!), but no one from the movie has officially stated who this character actually is beyond the name “John Harrison.”  This has all been part of the plan from the get-go, hatched by Abrams and his creative partners, including screenwriter Damon Lindelof.

Both Abrams and Lindelof have a bit of a reputation for their penchant for secrecy when it comes to new projects, and the two have essentially mastered the “non-answer answer” with regards to the countless promotional interviews that are necessary for films on the scale of Into Darkness or Prometheus.  Lindelof recently spoke a bit about Into Darkness, revealing why it’s so important to them to keep the nature of Cumberbatch’s character a secret and talking about the theme of Into Darkness in relation to the first film.  Hit the jump to read on.

benedict-cumberbatch-star-trek-into-darknessSpeaking with Hero Complex, Lindelof directly addressed why the identity of the film’s villain has yet to be revealed:

“The audience needs to have the same experience that the crew is having. You’re Kirk, you’re Spock, you’re McCoy, so if they don’t know who the bad guy is going to be in the movie, then you shouldn’t know. It’s not just keeping the secret for secrecy’s sake. It’s not giving the audience information that the characters don’t have.”

Lindelof elaborated on the nature of spoilers and the eventual let-down that comes with knowing something too far in advance:

“[If I tell people who Cumberbatch plays, they know that they] would have a five-second rush of exhilaration followed by four months of being completely and totally bummed out that they can’t tell anybody else and that when it gets revealed in the movie, it will have been spoiled for them. That’s why they’re called ‘spoilers,’ they’re not called ‘awesomes.’”

As human beings it’s our nature to want to know everything, and the advent of the on-demand digital age has made the growing problem of “spoilers” even worse.  I’m firmly of the opinion that it’s much more enjoyable to experience the ride of a film or TV show without knowing all the twists and turns in advance, so the less we know about Into Darkness before its release date, the better.

star-trek-into-darkness-chris-pine-zachary-quintoLindelof also talked a bit about how the theme of Into Darkness relates the first film, speaking to the pic’s intriguing title:

“If the first movie was about meeting and introductions, this movie is about becoming a family. The title of the movie is not just about the mission that the Enterprise is going on but what happens when you get to know each other a little better and the hurdles you must jump over in order to truly become family.”

Head on over to Hero Complex to read the full interview, and sound off in the comments with your thoughts on why you think spoilers are good/bad/insignificant.  Star Trek Into Darkness opens in 3D and IMAX on May 17th.

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  • Michael Horne

    I think Lindelof has missed the point there. We now know one thing: John Harrison is _not_ the real name of the villain. So, that’s a spoiler right there. We also know another thing: the name of the villain is _the_ thing in the movie. Which it shouldn’t be. Nice one, genius.

    • Danny

      It’s possible the Star Trek crew knows that “John Harrison” isn’t his real name as well. Kirk did ask “who are you” to him in one of the teasers. So technically Damon didn’t spoil anything if that’s true.

      • cycek

        I hate Damon Lindelof’s guts.

    • Grayden

      WHO “Harrison” is, is neither the point of the film, nor the focus of it, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be a complete surprise to us. Well, some of us anyways. What he is, is a foil to engage our heroes; to put Kirk and the crew in a precarious situation and force them to act as one instead of individuals. To drive home the point of them being a family at this point and not just a ragtag crew thrown together because of the events of the first film. It’s refreshing to not know exactly who the villain is or the nature of their character, or see too much of their performance. It leaves something for when we actually go see the movie. I honestly don’t care who Cumberbatch is playing, though.

      • Steve

        “What he is, is a foil to engage our heroes; to put Kirk and the crew in a precarious situation and force them to act as one instead of individuals.”

        How is this different from any Star Trek villain? If the villain’s identity is neither the point of the film nor the focus, then there should be no need to hide it. I’m ok with having the plot kept under wraps. But standard issue details like who the actors are need not be kept so hush hush. Unless, of course, keeping it hush hush IS the point of the movie.

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  • Mike Jevons

    Could they have actually cast a British white guy as Khan? I hope not.

    • Christian

      What does that have to do with anything? Dr. House was played by a Brit, and he played an American so well most people were fooled.

      • Iwon2blue3cheese

        It’s different because Khan was a physically superior being, who was physically intimidating. House was based off of Sherlock Holmes, a tall skinny irritating Brit.

      • Steve

        Not to mention House was a re-imagining of a character. It’s the reason why the American series featuring Sherlock Holmes has a female Watson. But this is Star Trek, which, according to the JJ and the writers takes place in the same universe and honors the same canon as the other Star Trek series. The only difference is the timeline was altered at Kirk’s birth, thus changing up some of the details. Khan’s physical appearance, where he is from, his ethnicity, (if canon is being honored like the film makers claim) would not have been altered by the timeline change. He was Khan long before the timeline deviated. People who ask “What does that have to do with anything” are merely displaying their lack of knowledge about who Khan is and why he SHOULDN’T be a skinny British guy. If you have a problem with that, take it up with JJ and Bad Robot. They laid the groundwork for how this new timeline should work. We just want them to play by their own rules.

      • EVM

        @Steve — Indeed,and here,here, and, throw in a ‘huzzah’ for good measure. @Christian — You have been owned, sir.Palpably owned.

  • 2 Dimensional Mr Kippling

    hahaha oh dear, Damon Lindelof, you are such a bell end!!! really!
    You guys have gone thru so much hassle to convince the public that the villain is “John Harrison”, which i never bought myself (what great villain would have that name after all). But now after all that effort you go and make that stupid ass statement that confirms “John Harrison” is indeed not the real name of the villain and in doing so YOU are the one giving away “SPOILERS”, such a dick.
    LindeLOST’s involvement in this film is the one reason keeping me from expecting amazing things from this film….IMO :P

    • Christian

      Lindelof is a wild card. Although LOST is my favorite show of all time, he’s horrible at endings. As well, I recently watched Prometheus… yeah… that movie was a hunk of crap (once again, that ending). He can write, but god I swear, if Harrison is Khan, he will be a bigger laughing stock than he is today. He’ll be THAT guy who throughout his career tells people “A does not equal B” when in fact it does.

  • mike jevons

    marketing of this movie feel like trouble to me. this secrecy stuff is killing these movies.

  • The Blue Elephant

    I still believe it’s Khan.

    • Matthew

      Then you won’t be disappointed.

  • Matt

    So following his logic, the trailers should really show us nothing at all since they don’t want us going into the movie knowing something that the crew does not know.

  • mike jevons

    seldom has someone been given so much credit for doing so little as Damon.

  • schneebles

    Love the hate that Damon gets. It’s ridiculously over-the-top. Especially the hate for LOST. Go to his wikipedia page and see the list of the episodes he wrote with Carlton Cuse. It reads like a greatest hits list of LOST episodes. So much emphasis is put on plot points that you disagree with as opposed to the actual nature of the writing. Plot is one component. Pacing another. Dialogue another. Character development another. Style another. Damon seems to falter at endings a bit in the plot department. But his dialogue, pacing, character beats, etc, are usually pretty top-notch. (And don’t use Prometheus as an example, we all know the editing in that film was unbelievably choppy.)


    GUYS. I’ve been thinking about this for a while, and I think I may have cracked an answer, The whole point of breaking away from the previously established canon is so the writers wouldn’t be bound to what has come before. But at the same time, they have to maintan some level of familiarity with the old timeline so as not to distance their loyal followers as well as a casual audience. So what do they do? They make Khan not Khan. It’s simple, there were tons of other genetically enhanced beings aboard the Botany Bay, (Khan’s ship) so why couldn’t the villain be one of those other super humans? In this timeline, Khan might have died after all those years being frozen, and somebody else might have survived. (Harrison) Food for thought.

  • stinky pete

    I farted

  • weneedchangeinmovies

    IT ALL MAKES SENSE…….Kirk as a character arc in the trailers…..just like in kahn…..”harrison” is out for revenge involving his loved ones…they keep hinting one of the crew may die…this is a shit-bag version of WOK to please die hard fans and cuz they have no orginal ideas. i too and sick of the hush hush secrecy shit especially when it is always ways no big deal what the reveal is

  • Strong Enough

    All I know is he wrote the Lost episode “The Constant” which was one of the most brilliant conceived 1 hour of drama i have ever seen on TV or on film. He is a good writer. Definitely doesn’t deserve the hate he is getting.

    • Mark

      Fair or not, the hate he gets is equal to the amount of love he gets from apologists. And some of it may be that he gets some pretty sweet writing gigs like Star Trek and Prometheus but is inconsistent at best. People want brilliant for their beloved franchises. Not someone who thinks he’s the coolest guy in the room.

      • Strong Enough

        Don’t see his movies then he won’t get hired. you can’t complain then go pay a ticket to see his movie. you are only making him more successful. you’ll be missing out on a lot of good flicks though.

      • Mark

        I wasn’t aware that Lindelof was directing now. The movies he’s been associated with were collaborations. What people take issue with is his contribution to said collaborations. Prometheus had a great cast, looked amazing and had wonderful art direction, music, editing. The writing, however, was the weakest link. Saying that people should not go see “his” movies are ignoring the long history of the franchises he has been associated with lately. Personally I don’t see a need to boycott movies that he is involved with. I just prefer he become a better writer.

      • Strong Enough

        well you have two choices. stop whining, don’t see his movies, making them flop and then not get rehired forcing him to become a better writer or pay for his screenwriting classes. your choice

  • Tom

    The idea that revealing the name of the villain is a spoiler that will ruin the experience is so stupid that only Lindelof could have come up with it. Star Trek II reveals the name of the villain IN THE TITLE OF THE MOVIE!!! And guess what, it’s still the best Star Trek movie yet made.

    • Steve

      TWOK may not be the best example, although I agree with the gist of what you’re saying. Khan could be in the title of Star Trek 2 because the crew and audience already knew who he was. Using your example, however, Star Trek Nemesis featured a villain with a surprising identity: he was a clone of Picard. But that information was known going into the film. I don’t think keeping that villain’s identity a secret in the marketing would have helped Nemesis. It was a cool premise with a lousy script. A couple of examples of Star Trek movies that kept their plots secret were The Motion Picture (what V’Ger actually was) and The Undiscovered Country (the conspiracy and who was involved).

  • somejackball

    i’m down to either Gary Mitchell or Khan.. it’s one of the two. only problem with him being Khan though, is that Khan was never in Starfleet. so it’s anyone’s guess, i guess!

    my main hope and concern is that the writing is good.


    • Matt

      Don’t forget Robert April, although Cumberbatch lacks the required facial hair so maybe not.


    I would just like to point out how pointless the identity of the villain is. Whether his name is Kahn, Harrison, or Jane it really doesn’t make a fucking difference. The character’s gonna do what he’s gonna do and whether or not they interchangeably slap the name Kahn on him or not doesn’t really alter anything, now does it?

    • Steve

      Making him THE Khan would alter canon, which the film makers claim they would respect and honor, so yeah, it does kind of matter. Unless you don’t care for creative integrity.

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  • old hippie

    It’s broadcast episode two dammit. Forget Khan!

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  • tinypony

    I think by now it’s obvious that Cumberbatch is playing Khan. We can stop hanging on Lindelof’s every word, especially those of us who, like me, never saw the original series or movies.

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