It’s been quite a whirlwind 24 hours for “Star Trek Beyond” and everyone’s favorite helmsman, Hikaru Sulu. Yesterday, reports hit that the fan favorite character, played by John Cho in the current trilogy, would be revealed as openly gay in the upcoming “Star Trek Beyond.” It was a character decision that Cho was fully on board with, though in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, the original Sulu, George Takei, expressed how “unfortunate” the change was since it meddled with franchise creator Gene Roddenberry’s original vision. Fortunately, actor and “Beyond” screenwriter Simon Pegg is here to put out any potential controversy that could erupt from the battle between the two Sulus.
In a statement released exclusively to The Guardian, Pegg “respectfully disagreed” with Takei and defended the decision to change Sulu’s sexual orientation in the upcoming sequel. The screenwriter and his team always wanted to include a gay character in the “Star Trek” universe (mainly because the show and movies have always been so progressive from the beginning), and they felt like using a pre-existing character to do so was a more respectful and impactful way of doing so than just introducing a brand new original gay character.
Pegg explains, “We could have introduced a new gay character, but he or she would have been primarily defined by their sexuality, seen as the ‘gay character’, rather than simply for who they are, and isn’t that tokenism? Justin Lin, Doug Jung and I loved the idea of it being someone we already knew because the audience has a pre-existing opinion of that character as a human being, unaffected by any prejudice. Their sexual orientation is just one of many personal aspects, not the defining characteristic.”
By revealing such a beloved character is gay, the screenwriting team also wanted to show that “there had been an LGBT presence in the Trek Universe from the beginning” and prove that “a gay hero isn’t something new or strange.” Pegg stresses that the film does not suggest Sulu was ever in the closet, but simply that the role of his sexual orientation hasn’t come up story-wise until “Star Trek Beyond.”
As for Takei’s belief that turning Sulu gay changes Roddenberry’s original vision, Pegg responded, “I don’t believe Gene Roddenberry’s decision to make the prime timeline’s Enterprise crew straight was an artistic one, more a necessity of the time…The viewing audience weren’t open minded enough at the time and it must have forced Roddenberry to modulate his innovation.”
You can read Pegg’s entire statement here. Fans and moviegoers will get to see just how “Star Trek Beyond” handles the character beat when the movie opens in theaters July 22.