As LGBT fans of the Star Trek franchise celebrate the inclusion of a gay character in the upcoming Star Trek Beyond, the actor who originally portrayed the newly-revealed homosexual has expressed his displeasure over such plans.
In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, activist George Takei, who played Starfleet Lieutenant Hikaru Sulu throughout the entirety of the flagship television show and its multiple latter spin-offs, says that the choice to make Sulu gay in the latest sequel of the ongoing JJ Abrams update is disrespectful to Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry’s vision.
“I’m delighted that there’s a gay character,” the 79-year-old expressed to the publication. “Unfortunately, it’s a twisting of Gene’s creation, to which he put in so much thought. I think it’s really unfortunate.”
Although most will surely find Takei’s reaction surprising, especially as the change is meant to be a nod to his own homosexuality, he actually makes quite a bit of sense when it comes to the overall Star Trek narrative, as well as the story that Star Trek Beyond is trying to sell. In Beyond, fans will also be introduced to Sulu’s daughter, Damora, a character whose conception was noted as being a one-night stand between Sulu and a “glamazon” in the 1995 Star Trek novel, The Captain’s Daughter.
“[Damora’s mother] is a very athletic, powerful and stunningly gorgeous woman,” Takei explained. “That’s her mother.”
Because of the timeline of Abrams’ film collective, which takes place before the events of the Star Trek television series, Sulu would have had to been a closeted gay man for the add-on to work, something the late Roddenberry would have never wanted, as proved by his and Takei’s many attempts to have a realistic scope of the world at large in his fictional one.
Back in 1968, while attending a party at Roddenberry’s home, George tried his hardest to actually have the screenwriter create a gay character for the original Star Trek series. Unfortunately, due to low ratings following a “controversial” episode that saw the Caucasian Captain Kirk (William Shatner) passionately kiss the African-American Lieutenant Uhura (Nichelle Nichols), Roddenberry was afraid to rock the boat, or in this case, the USS Enterprise, once again.
“He was a strong supporter of LGBT equality,” George explained, “but he said he [had] been pushing the envelope and [was] walking a very tight rope — and if he pushed [much harder], the show would not be on the air.” Ironically, the show still met its end just one year after the episode aired.
Unlike the public, who came to learn of the Sulu being gay element just recently, Takei has had knowledge of the inclusive move for about a year. Actor John Cho, who plays the younger version of Takei’s fictitious counterpart in the revived film series, called him personally to share the news.
“I told him, ‘Be imaginative and create a character who has a history of being gay, rather than Sulu, who had been straight all this time,” Takei relayed.
In spite of his advice, the plan to change Sulu into a same-sex loving space traveler went on as scheduled. A latter phone call, this one from Star Trek Beyond director Justin Lin, was filled with promises that the creative spin would be good for gay moviegoers. Once again, Takei saw things differently.
“I said, ‘This movie is going to be coming out on the 50th anniversary of Star Trek, the 50th anniversary of paying tribute to Gene Roddenberry,” he explains. “Honor him and create a new character. I urged them. [Lin] left me feeling that that was going to happen.”
Alas, that feeling would turn out to be nothing more than false hope.
Following months of silence from all connected to the onscreen project, George suddenly received an e-mail from comedian Simon Pegg, who pulls double-duty as a screenwriter and as Lieutenant Commander Montgomery Scott in the film.
“[He was] praising me for my advocacy for the LGBT movement and for my pride in Star Trek,” George explains. “And I thought to myself, ‘How wonderful! It’s a fan letter from Simon Pegg. Justin [must have] talked to him!’”
Apparently not, as just a month ago, an e-mail from Cho on how to field questions on Sulu being gay eventually made its way to Takei’s inbox. Understandably, George replied that John was on his own with that one.
“I really tried to work with these people when at long last the issue of gay equality was going to be addressed,” Takei stated. “I thought after that conversation with Justin, that was going to happen. Months later, when I got that email from Simon Pegg, I was kind of confused. He thinks I’m a great guy? Wonderful. But what was the point of that letter? I interpreted that as my words having been heard.”
Star Trek Beyond, which features one of the final film appearances of late actor Anton Yelchin, hits theaters on July 20.
[Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images]