[Editor's Note: This article previously referred to the "Star Trek" character Harrry Mudd as "Harvey Mudd." Thanks go to reader Owen Edinger for catching this embarrassing little typo.]
The trailer for J.J. Abrams' Star Trek Into Darkness arrived last week, and predictably it offered no answers as to the sequel's many mysteries. Chief among those mysteries is the identity of Benedict Cumberbatch's villain, rumored to be either genetically-modified soldier Khan, originally played by Ricardo Montalban, or Gary Mitchell, the Enterprise crew member with godlike powers, introduced in the episode "Where No Man Has Gone Before," and originally played by Gary Lockwood.
With this new production still (click through for higher resolution), via Coming Soon, Paramount has slyly revealed that the "real" name of Benedict Cumberbatch's character is actually "John Harrison." Who is John Harrison, you ask?
There's no major character in the Star Trek universe named "John Harrison," although there was a crew member named Harrison, played by Ron Veto, who appeared in the first season of the original series and who earned a commendation from Captain Kirk at the end of the episode "Space Seed," the first appearance of the villain Khan, who went on to be the antagonist in the second Star Trek movie, appropriately subtitled The Wrath of Khan.
So is Benedict Cumberbatch playing an all-new character, or is this a veiled allusion to the possibility that he's playing Khan himself? Or is it, more likely, total misdirection from a studio tapping into Abrams' famed propensity for keeping the mystery alive as long as possible? This strikes us a eerily similar to the news reports claiming that Marion Cotillard would be playing an all-new character named "Miranda Tate" in Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight Rises. And we all know how that turned out, don't we?
If Cumberbatch really is an all-new character, there would be no reason to keep his identity a secret this long, since beyond his name everything about the character would still be a mystery. No, CraveOnline is laying odds that he's a familiar name – albeit not a familiar face, given the recasting – to Trek fans everywhere. We're still hoping it's Harry Mudd.
One way or another, we'll all find out for ourselves when Star Trek Into Darkness opens in theaters on May 17, 2013.