George Takei Tried to Convince the Team Behind Star Trek Beyond to Not Make Sulu Gay

Image: Hikaru Sulu via Memory Alpha
Image: Hikaru Sulu via Memory Alpha

While the creative team—and the man currently playing Hikaru Sulu, John Cho—of Star Trek Beyond may have decided that including a scene of Sulu with his same sex partner wasn’t a big deal, George Takei had a different response.


The actor who originated the role told the Hollywood Reporter, “I’m delighted that there’s a gay character. Unfortunately, it’s a twisting of Gene’s creation, to which he put in so much thought. I think it’s really unfortunate.”

Cho called Takei to tell him about the move, and Takei tried to explain his misgivings. “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.’”

While Takei’s timeline doesn’t work out—Beyond is in an alternate universe and a prequel—his point may be that Sulu’s existed in the public consciousness so long that having him “come out” in this chronologically late movie seems like he was closeted before.

Takei also told the Hollywood Reporter that he said a similar thing to director Justin Lin, arguing that the best way to honor the 50th anniversary year of Star Trek was to create a brand new character, rather than changing an existing one. After his exchange with Lin, he was left “feeling that that was going to happen.”

A feeling that got even stronger when he got a letter from Simon Pegg, the writer of the film, “praising me for my advocacy for the LGBT movement and for my pride in Star Trek.” It was only when Cho asked what he should do when he was asked about Sulu being gay that Takei realized no change had been made.

“I really tried to work with these people when at long last the issue of gay equality was going to be addressed,” Takei added. “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.”


Honestly, the weirdest part of this story is that it was announced that this was in honor of Takei, who desperately didn’t want it. It’s a weird way to give a nod to one of the original cast members.

Katharine is the Associate Director of Policy and Activism at the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the former managing editor of io9. She writes about technology policy and pop culture.


Michael Crider

I thought it was pretty strange when I first heard it. Of course Takei is a well-known gay activist, but Trek is also pretty well-known for avoiding LGBT issues (at least in the main series), and Generations confirmed that the character had at least one heterosexual relationship and had a daughter.

Making Sulu gay is bringing elements of the actor into the character. That’s not unheard of, of course... except that now it’s a new actor. And once again the rebooted Trek movies are fumbling, if not outright ignoring, the established series.

I can see why Pegg and Lin would want a positive LGBT depiction in the new movie, given Trek’s rather poor track record in that one particular area of social commentary. So why not make Captain Kirk bisexual? Both the original and rebooted Kirks have been show to embrace mixed race, mixed species, and even polyamorous relationships. He is, to put it bluntly, a galactic-scale horndog. It’s not really stretching the character to think that he might be attracted to guys, too.

Just my two slips of gold-pressed latinum.