Damon Lindelof Admits That Whole Khan Thing in ‘Star Trek Into Darkness’ Was Mishandled
The mystery box is working out pretty well for J.J. Abrams right now on Star Wars: The Force Awakens, thanks to a sizable fan base that doesn’t want to know too much about the exciting new franchise installment and the marketing geniuses at Disney and Lucasfilm (though they could stand to slow it down just a little). But that wasn’t always the case — it wasn’t long ago that Abrams’ mystery box backfired with Star Trek Into Darkness, and now screenwriter Damon Lindelof is admitting they made a pretty big mistake.
Lindelof is also handling mystery a bit better these days, with The Leftovers becoming one of the most incredible, must-see dramas on television in its current second season. It seems like the writer has learned a lot from his time working with Abrams on LOST and the Star Trek films — less is more, perhaps.
Speaking of which, Abrams and Lindelof endured some serious backlash for Star Trek Into Darkness when they cast Benedict Cumberbatch as a new version of classic Trek foe Khan, only to perpetually deny that casting to fans and press alike. The more they denied the involvement of Khan, the worse things got, particularly since everyone knew who Cumberbatch was playing.
In an interview with Variety, Lindelof readily cops to the mistake:
When we did Star Trek Into Darkness for example, we decided that we weren’t going to tell people that Benedict Cumberbatch was playing Khan. And that was a mistake, because the audience was like, “We know he’s playing Khan.” That was why it was a mistake. But J.J. [Abrams] is telling us nothing about the new Star Wars movie and we love it. I’ve not come across a single person who’s like, “I wish I knew a little bit more.” We are like, ‘Thank God he’s protecting us from all the things that will be revealed in the movie theater.”
Lindelof also discusses the difficulties of reserving big reveals for the actual viewing experience — not an easy feat when websites and trades are constantly reporting on every little detail or set photo, and cameos are no longer surprises because we know about them a year in advance:
We’re in a media culture where the audience is so sophisticated and they can crowdsource and Reddit this information — if they get a twist, you know, like the Edward James Olmos [twist] on “Dexter” or what happened recently on “The Walking Dead,” the audience basically crowdsourced exactly how [that twist could have happened] within hours of it airing. By the time it airs a month later, the audience just goes “Duh!” That’s not the storytellers’ fault. It’s just the sophistication [of the audience’s ability] to figure things out. It’s like, we’re up against this incredible creative algorithm.
Abrams and Lindelof have both grown quite a bit since that whole Star Trek Into Darkness snafu. Star Wars: The Force Awakens looks like Abrams’ most promising effort in years, while Lindelof has ditched the forced, manufactured twists and fantastical mysteries accessorized by characters in favor of real, poignant character drama that uses mystery as an accessory.