JJ Abrams
J.J. Abrams

Cumberbatch, who's having the time of his life playing a post-modern Holmes addicted to life on the edge in the popular BBC series, "Sherlock" (on the verge of its third season), told me that he's not much of a Trekkie but was instantly drawn to the script: "He's a terrorist and although there's a lot of destruction, he has his reasons and I hope audiences will sympathize with him."

Orci suggested that "Into Darkness" reveals Kirk struggling to find his way as captain of the Enterprise. Judging by the prologue and trailers, it reverberates with issues of life, death, sacrifice, and vengeance in both fresh and familiar ways. Orci added that the "Star Trek" origin story freed them to now explore hidden depths.

Then again, Abrams' maiden voyage three years ago was so successful in its design and execution that "Into Darkness" has only required minor tweaking and streamlining. The props and costumes are a bit more stylish (especially Harrison's coat made of wax cotton from Japan), and the signature communicator, phaser, and tricorder are merely 2.0 versions. Yet the Klingon weaponry is more badass while the foam rubber makeup is still very much old school as opposed to the silicon application for other aliens (now referred to as visitors).

As for ILM's VFX, supervisor Roger Guyett touted the futuristic London being sleeker yet still recognizable in its digital form (courtesy of designer Neville Page), and pointed out that the volcanic eruption is so much more believable and art directable, thanks to advances in fluid simulation and hardware-based rendering.

Finally, composer Michael Giacchino walked us through his creative process in scoring the prologue: "What's going on there is a lot of adrenaline and a lot of fear. These are moments that I have to catch so you're following the story every step of the way -- everything that J.J. wants you to feel and I'm there to yank you through."

However, when questioned about an apparent quote from James Horner's "Wrath of Khan" score, Giacchino was totally surprised: it was not his intention to reference "Khan."

It seems there's no escaping the beloved Nicholas Meyer "Star Trek" movie, but we'll have to wait and see to what degree "Wrath of Khan" informs "Into Darkness."