It was recently revealed that in the upcoming Star Trek Beyond, fans will find out that Lieutenant Hikaru Sulu, played by Jon Cho in J.J. Abrams’ franchise reboot, is gay. While many fans have been very supportive of the news, not everyone is happy with the character development -- specifically, actor George Takei.
Takei, who originated the role in the original Star Trek television series in the late 1960s, spoke with The Hollywood Reporter on Thursday, where he said he felt the decision was "really unfortunate."
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The 79-year-old actor, who is an staunch LGBT activist and openly gay himself, said he's "delighted that there's a gay character," but felt that it was a "twisting" of Star
Trek creator Gene Roddenberry's vision.
The decision to make Cho's Sulu gay came from actor Simon Pegg, who plays Scotty in the new series and wrote the screenplay for Beyond. Pegg and director Justin Lin felt that it would be a nice homage to Takei's legacy and his activism.
Takei, however, is familiar with the amount of effort and forethought Roddenberry put into the creation of all crew members aboard the USS Enterprise, and explained that the famed sci-fi author always envisioned Sulu as heterosexual.
According to Takei, he learned about the decision last year when he was contacted by Cho, who was excited 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, suddenly being revealed as being closeted.'"
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According to Takei, who publically came out in 2005, living life as a closeted gay man was a very negative experience, and the actor hoped that the world of the 23th century would be open minded enough that no one would ever have to live as someone they weren't.
Takei claims that he was lead to believe that Lin and Pegg would heed his advice and create a new character. However, the actor learned that would not be the case when Cho contacted him a month ago to tell him the character's sexual orientation would still be changed when the movie is released.
The news upset Takei, who said he's simply disappointed that Roddenberry's carefully thought-out creation would be altered. "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. [I urged them to] honor him and create a new character."
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While Takei's concerns are understandable, it's well known by fans of the original series that the rebooted franchise has diverged wildly from its source material, with a heavier emphasis on action sequences, fighting, sexuality, and even in the personality of its characters.
In fact, given the time-travel and parallel universe elements involved in the new series' complex timeline, it's possible that Cho's Sulu isn't even the same Sulu played by Takei, and could therefore be gay without it contradicting Roddenberry's original concepts.
Fans will be able to see how the film deals with Sulu's character development when Star Trek Beyond beams into theaters on July 22.
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