In American studies I was taught that when you’re casting a villain for a Hollywood blockbuster, you basically need a British chap, or at least someone who looks good in a dark cloak. Acceptable variations would be a believable Nazi or exotic terrorist. That’s of course because your hero will be the WASP chosen-one-guy from the ideal puritan society whose manifest destiny will be that of fighting against the corrupted persecutory Medieval (hence the cloak) forces of the Old World. So, if you feel the Nazi idea was already fully developed in The Blues Brothers and by Spielberg anyway, while exotic terrorists are not your cup of tea, you can always go for the British chap, cast a tall one and he will look great in the cloak recommended by the costume designer (I guess you’re starting to see where I’m going here).
Now, this very reliable notion has been hugely useful to me for a long time, but after all these years and Darth Vaders, and Hans Grubers etc. I’m starting to be obsessed by a question. How intentional is this? Are you unconsciously fighting the Past, maybe just trying to exorcise it, or are you deliberately following a tradition along with a Proppian scheme? It’s not just the movies. Take Eugenides. I wish I could ask Eugenides, Brown educated, aspiring great American novelist, are you subliminally blaming the culture and dna of ancient Greece (his version of the Old World as an hyphenated American) for Cal’s situation, or have you planned it all, hoping we would not notice? I wish I could travel backwards in time, to class, and ask (of course I would be careful not to cause any damage to the space-time continuum).
Anyway, as a trekkie and – er – admirer of Mr. Cumberbatch, I can say I’m perfectly happy with a tall British chap in what seems a faded black Starfleet uniform and silver billowing overcoat playing the new Star Trek villain (supposedly). It’s good old tradition, and deliberate or not, it will be interesting to watch because according to the Roddenberryan rules you always must consider the reasons of the villain before punching him (that’s Kirk), pinching him Vulcan style (Spock), and eventually stranding him on a class K planet, or killing him with your phaser or in the next self-destruction of the USS Enterprise (Picard, more subtle). Plus, it’s going to be big, it’s rumored they’re using IMAX technology.