Fifty years and an alternate universe later, the USS Enterprise is being piloted by an openly gay Hikaru Sulu, played by John Cho, in the upcoming movie Star Trek: Beyond.
The decision to portray the Enterprise helmsman as openly gay was a direct nod to George Takei, who played the original character on CBS’s popular 1960 science fiction series.
John Cho, who plays Sulu in the rebooted movie franchise, approved of the idea to calmly introduce his character’s same-sex partner and their daughter in Beyond, according to the Herald Sun.
“I liked the approach, which was not to make a big thing out it, which is where I hope we are going as a species, to not politicize one’s personal orientations.”
The breaking Star Trek news was first revealed by Melbourne’s Herald Sun and has yet to be confirmed by Paramount. Cho, however, seemed to indicate the decision to portray Star Trek’s Sulu as openly gay came from screenwriter and co-star Simon Pegg and Beyond director Justin Lin.
The Sulu character is said to be quietly portrayed as a “loving father,” who happens to have a same-sex partner, but the movie doesn’t make a big deal about it.
The news about the low-key reveal marks a breakthrough for the science fiction series that has always pushed progressive boundaries. The show has had bisexual characters in the past, but there’s always been a twist to make them socially acceptable, and the characters in question have been aliens or from parallel universes.
The decision makes John Cho’s Sulu the first openly LGBT character in Star Trek’s history.
Star Trek has always pushed social boundaries and challenged what was socially acceptable to show on television for mainstream audiences. In 1968, the popular CBS science fiction show aired the first interracial kiss on TV between Captain Kirk and Lieutenant Uhura.
That groundbreaking attitude is the same one that motivated Beyond director Justin Lin and screenwriter Simon Pegg to show the new Sulu as openly gay. George Takei, who played the original character, wasn’t able to show his sexuality during the show’s first three-year run.
Sulu was many things, including a fencer, the helmsman, a gymnast, and even a father, but he was never given a love interest. Takei came out in 2005 when he publicly revealed he had been with his partner, Brad Altman, for 20 years. The two married in 2008, Takei told News Corp last year.
“If I wanted to work as an actor I had to keep it a secret. Back then I couldn’t marry a white person, that was against the law here, miscegenation. But now I am married to a white dude so we have changed.”
In other LGBT news, there’s been speculation in Hollywood that Finn and Poe Dameron will be a same-sex couple in Star Wars: Episode VIII, and Elsa will have a girlfriend in Frozen 2.
Meanwhile, the cast and crew of Star Trek: Beyond are struggling to come to terms with the death of Anton Yelchin, who played the starship navigator Chekov in the last two movies of the rebooted series, Karl Urban told the Herald Sun.
“It’s devastating losing someone in your family. I’m having a difficult time coming to grips with talking about him in the past tense, it’s very raw and very painful.”
This year is Star Trek’s 50th anniversary and along with Beyond, the series will see a new book and a video game commemorating the show, while CBS is planning the next iteration of the science fiction television show to air in January 2017.
What do you think about the announcement that Star Trek’s Sulu will be openly gay?
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