I've watched Star Trek: Into Darkness recently and couldn't help but notice that Benedict Cumberbatch's character is not really that bad as they make it seem.

Sure in another dimension he was one of Kirk's greatest enemies, but in this space & time he is starting from the beginning. He was ordered by the Admiral who held his crew to orchestrate a terrorist attack, and yes he even mentioned something about superiority but these don't make him a true villain. The only thing that makes him the villain is ourselves who already know who he is.

Actually the way I remember, he even helped the Enterprise to help stop the Klingon war and for that he got "stabbed in the back" by Kirk just because he didn't trust him.

As far as I am concerned, what this character did in another time line is not important and should not be the reason to judge this character, and in this timeline he really is not that bad.

Is there anything I have missed while watching the movie?

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    I don't see a real question here... Maybe this is more suitable as a discussion. Head on to the chat area.
    – bobbyalex
    Commented May 23, 2013 at 11:58
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    Well the question would be: While we know that Harrison is the antagonist, was he necessarily a bad guy? Somehow this character seems very badly defined in terms of his motives and his sins to be portrayed as a great evil he was portrayed in the previous movie and series. And of course, is there anything in the movie that I have missed that really makes him a bad guy that must be stopped at all costs? Commented May 23, 2013 at 12:01
  • Is he an inherently bad guy that just does evil things for fun or is he a man doing evil things out of a motivation you could even understand? You decide, but the things he does are nevertheless "evil" (and could have been done differently by a "not-so-bad guy"). Yet the ambivalence of Khan and his motivations is a nice and interresting facet to his character.
    – Napoleon Wilson
    Commented Jun 1, 2013 at 21:36
  • @JohnnyBones There's no reason to reveal that Khan is part of this movie inside the question title. That's a major spoiler.
    – Napoleon Wilson
    Commented Oct 28, 2016 at 13:07
  • @NapoleonWilson - The movie is 3 years old. Should we take character's names out of every title on this site? Commented Oct 28, 2016 at 14:16

5 Answers 5


While he may not be the main antagonist in the scheme of the film. That role belongs to the Admiral for all his misdeeds during the flow of events.

Khan is still an antagonist no matter how you look at it.

Back in the 1990's, the Eugenics War occurred where it was a battle for superiority of normal humans vs these seemingly indestructible genetically modified super-humans. In the end, the super-humans lost and because of their rebellion, were sentence to float about space for the rest of their time in a cryogenic state, including their leader of the rebellion, Khan.

When the Admiral released Khan, his intention was for Khan to help ignite the Klingon war using his designs for warships like the Vengence. Meanwhile, Khan only agreed to the Admiral's demands because he knew the Admiral would kill the remaining super-humans if he didn't comply. All the meanwhile, Khan is putting his plan into place to get his comrades free and re-ignite the Eugenics Wars using this new technology of the era.

The only reason Khan complies with Kirk's demands is because he learns that his comrades will be destroyed when these missiles detonate upon impact. Which is also the only reason he saves Kirk as the warning was sent out to him long before the land party departed, alerting Khan to the fact that his old friends might be in danger.

From then on it becomes Khan using the crew of the Enterprise and make them sympathetic and curious as to the situation at hand, which is why the Admiral wanted Kirk to just fire the torpedoes and be done with it.

Khan then uses Kirk to get aboard the powerful war vessel that he helped the Federation design and once he is able to subdue everyone on board, unleashes literal hell up on the crew of the Enterprise with his intended target Earth, after getting his comrades.

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    and it is also a spoiler which you revealed now. As for the Khan's motivations they are somehow forced upon him. The uprising and the war should not have been used as a method to show him as truly bad just like they did in the original series. Commented May 23, 2013 at 12:53
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    @user1398593 Its a spoiler to talk about the movie at all, no sense in censoring everything in a discussion about the movie. On this site it is clearly stated that spoilers may be out in the open. The only time we actively moderate spoilers is when they're in question titles. As for his motivations, that is who the character was before the split of the universes into the Prime and Alternate. In the Alternate he is still just as evil, his revival just happens on different circumstances.
    – Tablemaker
    Commented May 23, 2013 at 12:58
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    @user1398593 - having Khan's name in the title and perhaps in the question would be a spoiler - but not in an answer. If you've not seen the movie, to start reading Q&A about it is rather your own fault if you end up seeing spoilers.
    – iandotkelly
    Commented May 23, 2013 at 14:11

Khan's character was cool, collected and methodical throughout the entire film, until he captured the new battleship built by the admiral.

Once that happen his true personality appears. He no longer needs Kirk's help to save his frozen crew. He starts by crushing the admiral's head with his bare hands, he breaks the leg of the admiral's daughter and then he transports everyone to the Enterprise to die with their crew.

I don't think there is any doubt that Khan was a dangerous enemy.

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    "dangerous enemy" != "bad guy"
    – Flimzy
    Commented May 24, 2013 at 7:56

For a more definitive answer to your question I suggest you view the Original Star Trek Series, more specifically Season 1, Episode 22: "Space Seed". In this episode you will see that the "Bad Guy" isn't as much a bad guy as he is self-serving, but becomes a "Bad Guy" in the Original Star Trek 2 movie.

Clearly, the character "Harrison" (in STID) follows the same path. His "Terrorism" is explained as a retaliation for actions he thought were done by the real villain in the movie. But, that said, "Harrison's" abilities and sociopathic tendencies make him a dangerous adversary to the Enterprise crew as well as the United Federation.


Well even in this version, he was banished from earth for leading an uprising during the Eugenics war. So he was a bad guy to begin with. (well it depends on whose side you are on in a supermen vs normal us war).

Also, remember the conversation with the older Spock when he says that Harrison is the biggest adversary that the Enterprise would ever face? So he might have been OK in the movie but even in this timeline he means trouble.

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    Yes, Spock said that he would become their greatest adversary, but this information alone should not make him that. It is the same as being judged for your future sins. As to what happened during the war, it shouldn't really make him a bad guy as this was during the war time. Also that war happened 200 years ago, so it shouldn't matter that much. Even today we have the "beyond all reasonable doubt" incorporated in our judicial system, but there is not enough reasonable doubt here to make him the real bad guy. Commented May 23, 2013 at 11:41
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    Eh whats the real question here? Whether he is a villain in the movie? Yes he is.. he tried injuring/killing members of the ships crew several times. Is he a villain due to circumstance? Maybe...
    – bobbyalex
    Commented May 23, 2013 at 11:45
  • Well I can agree that he is a villain since the movie portrays him as one. But I see him more of a guy that got in this process of Star Trek Inquisition. A sort of a person that got on the wrong place of a witch hunt. Yeah he tried to injure the members of the ships but if you look at it from the other side, the members of the ship tried to injure him first. All his actions were just reactions to what has been done to him. Commented May 23, 2013 at 11:50
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    @user1398593 And yet you could still differenciate good from bad based on the kind of his reactions. I know it's not always "black" and "white", but even if seen as a man forced into a "grey" situation, he is in his methods much more on the "black" side. But it might be true that his character is more ambivalent in this version, and the old Spock's unresponsible reveal about the other timeline might have fueled the conflict even further.
    – Napoleon Wilson
    Commented Jun 1, 2013 at 21:31

I also don't really see Khan as a villain. In all cases his actions could be seen as necessary, although I will admit they are fairly ruthless. He was forced into his role by Admiral Markus and co-operated with Kirk till Kirk proved himself untrustworthy. He killed Markus most likely because he saw that as the easiest way to rid himself of his most powerful enemy and the greatest threat to his people. Turning on Kirk and the Enterprise may have seemed necessary considering that Kirk had already betrayed him and it's highly unlikely that Kirk would ever allow him and his people to go free. So from a non-federation perspective his actions are quite justified in being the only way to free himself and his kind, though they were ruthless and calculating they were still understandable

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    Commented Oct 28, 2016 at 16:50

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