Since it’s creation, the Star Trek franchise has always been a show about equality and diversity, using science-fiction and fantasy to take an anthropological look at our world and the social/cultural struggles that mankind still faces. Gene Roddenberry’s creation, revolutionary for its time, promoted a world in which mankind has evolved intellectually to recognize the folly of discrimination and prejudice, in which all people, human and alien alike, are treated as equals. These beliefs also applied to the Enterprise crew as well, with the cast of the original series being one of the most diverse group of actors at the time. Now, with the upcoming release of the third movie in the rebooted film series, Star Trek Beyond, the franchise has taken another step forward in revealing one of their characters to be a member of the LGBTQ community.
While certain characters in the Star Trek universe have hinted at being LGBT, the announcement of Hikaru Sulu (John Cho) as gay represents the first time a character has openly admitted their sexuality in the franchise. In an interview between Cho and the Herald Sun, the actor has stated that “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 decision to write Sulu’s character into a same-sex relationship is most likely a nod to George Takei, who played the character from 1966 to 1991. Originally closeted during production of the original Star Trek, Takei came out in 2005 and has since been an activist for LGBT rights, as well as a beloved sci-fi icon.
Surprisingly, Takei himself was not pleased with this decision, having urged Simon Pegg and the writing team to consider writing someone else instead of Sulu as gay. “I’m delighted that there’s a gay character,” said Takei. “Unfortunately, it’s a twisting of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry’s creation, into which he put so much thought. I think it’s really unfortunate.” Considering how this year represents the 50th year anniversary of the Star Trek franchise, it makes sense that Takei would want to honor Roddenberry’s vision and thus would be disappointed that Pegg and director Justin Lin chose to go in their own direction. However, you could argue that, since the rebooted franchise is the result of an alternate timeline, the writers now have the freedom to take these more updated versions of the original crew in a new direction. Nevertheless, with a new Star trek TV series launching next year, hopefully this Sulu’s sexuality will pave the way for more LGBTQ characters like him to exist in the near future.
Star Trek Beyond opens in theaters July 22