Idris Elba As 'Star Trek 3's Villain May Happen & If It Does, It Would Uphold The Franchise's Diversity
It's a day to rejoice: Apparently, it seems Idris Elba may be the next villain in Star Trek 3. Variety reported on Wednesday that Elba is a favorite to be the main baddie in Star Trek 3, quite possibly as a Klingon: "Early rumors suggest that Klingons would be the main villains in this movie, as they have not had a full presence in previous installments, but sources would not confirm if that was the case." Thanks for nothing, sources. Elba's all but imminent addition to the cast of Star Trek is a victory for the franchise's diversity.
Many casual Star Trek fans might not know that the series' original creator, Gene Roddenberry, had a vision of a series that looked forward to a future when race and gender were no longer barriers, valuing all life equally. This was a radical notion in 1966, as Devon Maloney pointed out in Wired:
He put Japanese-American George Takei, as Lt. Hikaru Sulu, at the helm; African-American Nichelle Nichols, as Lt. Nyota Uhura, in the communications chair; and even attempted to make the Enterprise’s first officer a woman (studio executives rejected that unsavory idea, so the alien Spock took the job). The equality on the U.S.S. Enterprise’s bridge was a watershed moment, both in television history and in Americans’ understanding of social equality.
It's not at all surprising to understand that Roddenberry faced pushback and resistance to his choices for casting; equal representation of people of color and women on television is still a dream, though shows like Empire, How To Get Away With Murder and Fresh Off The Boat are destroying that inequality. But that ugly resistance to change hasn't dissolved with time: just Wednesday morning, Deadline published an article including quotes from anonymous sources wondering if there was too much diversity on TV right now.
That's why, now more than ever, is visibility of minorities, people of color included, is important in lead roles. Not only would Elba be the perfect villain, his role in Star Trek 3 would do well to ease some of the bristling that came when Benedict Cumberbatch was cast as the villain Khan in Star Trek: Into Darkness. Khan, also known as Khan Noonen Singh, is one of the most iconic villains from the original franchise, and was, of course, an Indian man. He was played by the actor Ricardo Montalbán in the original series, who was not of Indian descent, but as Marissa Sammy at RaceBending noted:
It wasn’t perfect in the 60s when Ricardo Montalbán was cast to play Khan (a character explicitly described in the episode script of Space Seed as being Sikh, from the Northern regions of India). But considering all of the barriers to representation that Roddenberry faced from the television networks, having a brown-skinned man play a brown character was a hard-won victory. It’s disappointing and demoralizing that with the commercial power of Star Trek in his hands, JJ Abrams chose not to honour the original spirit of the show, or the symbolic heft of the Khan character, but to wield the whitewash brush for … what?
Cumberbatch played a fine villain, the fact that he was a white man playing Khan lessened the experience. Though we don't know if Elba will be Klingon or some other kind of evil, we do know that if he's cast in Star Trek 3 (which he better be), he will bring the series back to its tradition of representation and equality. And after that, hopefully, Idris Elba will bring that same breakthrough to the James Bond franchise.
Images: Getty (2).