Long a proponent of diversity in Hollywood, the Star Trek franchise has been making waves recently for a topic that will be covered in this summer's Star Trek Beyond: sexual orientation. John Cho recently confirmed that his version of Hikaru Sulu will be established as the franchise's first gay character, a decision made to honor the original Sulu, George Takei. While Takei was pleased that the typically progressive Star Trek would explore the subject, he felt it would have been better if the Beyond creative team had created a new character for this distinction, instead of altering a pre-existing one.
Simon Pegg, who co-wrote Beyond with Doug Jung, offered a detailed and thoughtful rebuttal to Takei's response, saying the move was made due to the audience's familiarity with Sulu; this would simply add another element to a character with a long history, as opposed to being the defining trait. Now, one of Pegg's fellow Enterprise crew mates, Zachary Quinto, has commented on Takei's statements.
Talking with Pedestrian.TV, the actor expressed disappointment over Takei's feelings, hoping that the positive reaction to the news would "strengthen" him in the long run:
“As a member of the LGBT community myself, I was disappointed by the fact that George was disappointed. I get it that he has had his own personal journey and has his own personal relationship with this character, but … as we established in the first Star Trek film in 2009, we’ve created an alternate universe. My hope is that eventually George can be strengthened by the enormously positive response from especially young people who are heartened by and inspired by this really tasteful and beautiful portrayal of something that I think is gaining acceptance and inclusion in our societies across the world, and should be.”
Both Quinto and Pegg have mentioned the alternate timeline of the Kelvin Timeline as part of their statements on the matter, with Pegg saying he wanted to illustrate that "we are all LGBT somewhere." One of the benefits of the reboot taking place in a parallel universe is that it provides the filmmakers with some leeway to alter certain aspects of the franchise as they move along. It's true that they haven't always made the best of this (see: Khan), but it is nice to see the modern films make strides and employ some changes that reflect Star Trek's standing as a trail blazer in the entertainment industry. Very few studio tentpoles feature main characters who are gay, so hopefully Star Trek Beyond will usher in an era of greater acceptance and pave the way for their contemporaries down the line.
There's no denying that this is a delicate situation, but Pegg, his co-writer Doug Jung, and Beyond director Justin Lin handled it with as much class as they possibly could. A major part of Star Trek Beyond is celebrating the property's 50th anniversary and looking back on its legacy. Creator Gene Roddenberry's dream was to depict a future where people (and aliens) of all walks of life could work together in unity and harmony, which seemed to be one of Pegg's goals. When Star Trek first went on the air, homosexuality was seen as too taboo for the mainstream, but times have certainly changed in the 21st century. It's important that blockbuster movies today are a representation of the world they're released to, and it isn't surprising that the Final Frontier was the one to take charge.
Star Trek Beyond hits U.S. theaters July 22, 2016.