Even less surprising than the big reveal midway through the running time of 2013’s Star Trek Into Darkness was the collective groan from fans who had figured it out years earlier, when Benicio del Toro was still part of the cast. The annoyance with Benedict Cumberbatch meticulously enunciating the words “My name is Khan” wasn’t because this was among the simpler cinematic twists to untwist, but that the filmmakers had insisted that the obvious was not the case. This is called “jerking the fans around,” and it does not often result in audience goodwill.
In a genuine shock twist, however, Damon Lindelof—who co-wrote the STID screenplay with Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman—just copped to the fact that they kind of messed that one up.
“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,” Lindelof explained in a recent interview with Variety. “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.’”
False equivalency? Kind of. Abrams not giving away key plot points is not the same thing as shouting down people who have intuited that Luke Skywalker is the dude with the metal hand in the Force Awakens trailer, even though that that’s clearly who it is. But whatever. It’s nice to see some accountability.
“We’re in a media culture where the audience is so sophisticated and they can crowdsource and Reddit this information,” Lindelof went on to say. “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.”