With ‘Star Trek Beyond’ opening in about a month, any publicity should be good publicity… right? But last week, waves were made when it was revealed that Hikaru Sulu, played by John Cho, would be revealed to be gay. There were supporters of the move as well as detractors. But what no one saw coming is that the original Sulu, George Takei, who is gay himself and has been a vocal advocate for LGBT rights, was one of the critics. Takei felt the change was a betrayal of sorts, of the original vision of ‘Trek’ creator Gene Roddenberry.
Screenwriter Simon Pegg, who meant the revelation as a tribute to Takei, responded with a lengthy response. Now, he’s released an even lengthier one, via his official website.
You can read it in its entirety below:
Well, this has been interesting. What was initially intended as a moment of progressive affection has drawn comment and debate from the unlikeliest corners. What is heartening is that the vast majority of comments have never questioned the decision to include an LGBT character in Star Trek, just whether or not it should be existing characters or new ones. Those who have whined about the secret agenda of the liberal left, spreading ungodly perversions, through the evil mouthpiece of homosexual Hollywood, can go fuck themselves (apologies to serial masturbators if you find that offensive, we get so little support from the mainstream media).
The main thrust for those who aren’t keen on our LGBT Sulu, seems to come down to two things. Firstly, why Sulu? It’s a good point, I mean it could have been anybody: Kirk is a pansexual fun seeker; who knows why Bones got divorced? Nobody said Spock and Uhura were exclusive; Chekov is just permanently horny and let’s face it, there’s more to Scotty and Keenser than meets the eye. The fact is, we chose Sulu because of George, there was something sweet and poetic about it. Introducing a new gay character had its own set of problems, as I mentioned before, the sexuality of that character would have to be addressed immediately and pointedly and the new characters in Star Trek Beyond have enough on their plate, without stopping to give us the intimate details of their personal lives. We were concerned it might seem clumsy, tokenistic or worse, too little too late, raising and exasperated, “finally!” from those who’ve been waiting for representation for the last 50 years.
So why persist when George Takei wasn’t keen? The thinking behind embracing an existing character was that it felt as though it retroactively put right something that had long been wrong. By the time, we mentioned it to GT, the idea had taken shape, it felt good, interesting and worthy of thought and conversation. We were disappointed that George didn’t see it that way but, truth be told, Sulu Prime seemed to be missing a very important point. With galaxies of respect to the great man, this is not his Sulu. John Cho does not play a young George Takei, nor does he play the same character George Takei played in the original series. He is a different Sulu. This brings me to the second point of contention, Canon.
With the Kelvin timeline, we are not entirely beholden to existing canon, this is an alternate reality and, as such is full of new and alternate possibilities. “BUT WAIT!” I hear you brilliant and beautiful super Trekkies cry, “Canon tells us, Hikaru Sulu was born before the Kelvin incident, so how could his fundamental humanity be altered? Well, the explanation comes down to something very Star Treky; theoretical, quantum physics and the less than simple fact that time is not linear. Sure, we experience time as a contiguous series of cascading events but perception and reality aren’t always the same thing. Spock’s incursion from the Prime Universe created a multidimensional reality shift. The rift in space/time created an entirely new reality in all directions, top to bottom, from the Big Bang to the end of everything. As such this reality was, is and always will be subtly different from the Prime Universe. I don’t believe for one second that Gene Roddenberry wouldn’t have loved the idea of an alternate reality (Mirror, Mirror anyone?). This means, and this is absolutely key, the Kelvin universe can evolve and change in ways that don’t necessarily have to follow the Prime Universe at any point in history, before or after the events of Star Trek ‘09, it can mutate and subvert, it is a playground for the new and the progressive and I know in my heart, that Gene Roddenberry would be proud of us for keeping his ideals alive. Infinite diversity in infinite combinations, this was his dream, that is our dream, it should be everybody’s.
Ultimately, if we love Star Trek, we are all on the same page, we all want Gene’s idea of a tolerant inclusive, diplomatic and loving Universe to become a reality. For those who have joined this debate in the spirit of discussion and forward momentum, it’s been a pleasure to see your reactions. For those who have seen it has an opportunity to sling abuse, or be rude and presumptuous, please take a long hard look in the mirror and remember we are discussing the personal details of a fictional spaceman. In the words of Martin Blank, who are you mad at? Because it’s not me.
I am so excited for you all to see Star Trek Beyond, whether you’re a 50 year veteran or this is your first time around. We made it with love and we made it for everyone.
Will this be the last word on the subject? Sadly, probably not. But as Pegg expressed, hopefully additional discussion will be in the spirit of “forward momentum.”
Considering that the idea of a humanity at peace, embracing quality and diversity has always been a hallmark of ‘Star Trek’ it seems a bit odd that such a fuss has erupted.
At any rate…
‘Star Trek Beyond’ directed by Justin Lin and starring Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, Simon Pegg, Karl Urban, John Cho, the late Anton Yelchin, Sofia Boutella and Idris Elba beams into theaters on July 22.