On Thursday, the news broke that, in a nod to George Takei, Star Trek Beyond would quietly show the character of Hikaru Sulu as a married gay man raising a daughter. Cool! Only, George Takei disapproves.
Sorry, come again?
That’s according to The Hollywood Reporter, who got an exclusive with the actor. “I’m delighted that there’s a gay character,” Takei told the outlet. “Unfortunately, it’s a twisting of Gene’s creation, to which he put in so much thought. I think it’s really unfortunate.”
Takei’s reasoning is, as far as I can figure: According to the 1995 Star Trek novel The Captain’s Daughter, Sulu’s daughter Demora was conceived in “a one-night stand with a glamazon.” So making reboot Sulu a happily married gay man would mean that in the original timeline, Sulu was in the closet. Which Takei doesn’t like, having spent so many years there himself, and which logically wouldn’t fit with Gene Roddenberry’s vision of a more progressive Earth, where Sulu would’ve felt zero pressure to live closeted in the first place. Plus, Roddenberry just pictured Sulu as heterosexual.
So when John Cho cheerfully called Takei to announce the latest development with Sulu (which was the work of writer Simon Pegg and director Justin Lin), Takei didn’t go for it. “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, suddenly being revealed as being closeted.’”
So then Lin called him, and Takei tried again: “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, the man whose vision it was carried us through half a century. Honor him and create a new character. I urged them.” Apparently that was a no-go.
Takei also told The Hollywood Reporter that he’d had a conversation with Roddenberry about the prospect of somehow discussing the burgeoning gay rights movement on the show, even though he wasn’t out to his boss at the time:
But the show had recently seen its lowest ratings ever, with an episode featuring TV’s first interracial kiss between Captain Kirk and Lieutenant Uhura, which NBC affiliates in the South refused to air. While sympathetic to his star’s pitch, Roddenberry felt he was in no position to take those kinds of risks.
“He was a strong supporter of LGBT equality,” recalls Takei, now 79. “But he said he has been pushing the envelope and walking a very tight rope — and if he pushed too hard, the show would not be on the air.” Alas, the show was canceled the following season anyway.
Feels like woke sci fi bae Roddenberry maybe would’ve urged Takei just to roll with it and forget the existence of the Star Trek novels entirely.
Condolences to John Cho, who is probably still bummed out about that phone call and must feel at least a little envious of Zachary Quinto’s apparently chill relationship with Nimoy before he died. But seems like a good bet that he’s still got it better than Chris Pine, who has probably blocked every single one of William Shatner’s numbers.