While promoting Star Trek Beyond in Sydney, Australia, a surprising bit of news was revealed that had little to do with the plot of director Justin Lin’s upcoming film and everything to do with a famous franchise character. It’s been confirmed that USS Enterprise helmsman Lieutenant Hikaru Sulu is, in fact, gay. That makes Sulu the first openly gay character in the storied franchise. And it took until 2016 to make that happen.
As the Herald Sun reports, there’s a scene in Star Trek Beyond in which Sulu (John Cho) and his same-sex partner are shown with their daughter; the scene itself downplays the sociocultural importance of such a reveal. Sulu’s sexuality in the new film as an homage to actor and LGBT activist George Takei, who famously played Sulu in the 60s Star Trek series and the first six feature films in that franchise; Cho confirmed that writer Simon Pegg and Lin made the decision with Takei and changing social mores in mind:
“I liked the approach, which was not to make a big thing out [of] it, which is where I hope we are going as a species, to not politicise one’s personal orientations.”
Longtime fans of Star Trek might enjoy the irony that the future-set franchise is finally starting to catch up with modern demographics; Sulu’s sexuality is just as important as the appearance of African-American actor Nichelle Nichols starring in the prominent role of communications officer Lieutenant Uhura in the 60s series. This was the show that featured the first interracial kiss seen on TV, so it clearly has a long history of pushing social boundaries.
Now, before folks out there start criticizing Paramount or the filmmakers of pushing some kind of “gay agenda,” ask yourself this question: In a show about the far-flung future in which a team of intrepid space explorers do their best to interact with alien species, exotic cultures, and a vast array of different cultures in as peaceful a way as possible, wouldn’t it make less sense for zero gay humans to be present?
Pegg himself chimed in over social media:
Despite the celebratory atmosphere of Sulu’s pride and the film’s upcoming release, emotions were still raw about the loss of fellow Star Trek Beyond cast member Anton Yelchin, who died in a freak accident earlier this year. Here’s what co-star Karl Urban had to say about him:
“It’s bittersweet with the passing of Anton. It’s devastating losing someone in your family — this feels like it should be a time for celebration not just of the film but of him, his extraordinary talent and the beautiful man he was. I’m having a difficult time coming to grips with talking about him in the past tense — it’s very raw and very painful.”
For more on all things Star Trek, take a look at some of our recent write-ups below:
- The Smithsonian Channel Is ‘Building Star Trek’ to Celebrate the 50th Anniversary
- ‘Star Trek’: Bryan Fuller to Moderate Star-Studded 50th Anniversary Comic-Con Panel
- Final ‘Star Trek Beyond’ Trailer Hits with Rihanna’s “Sledgehammer”
- ‘Star Trek Beyond’ to Screen Early in IMAX via AMC Theaters Marathon
- The Official ‘Star Trek’ Fan Film Guidelines Have No Chill