Changing an iconic character always has the potential for controversy. Changing an iconic character from a franchise with as devoted a following as Star Trek is an especially dicey proposition. The upcoming Star Trek Beyond recently won kudos from some and consternation from others when it was revealed that John Cho's Hikaru Sulu would become the franchise's first openly gay character.
One surprising source of consternation was former Sulu actor George Takei, who is himself openly gay. Takei had harsh words for what he saw as a betrayal of the original character, saying that he found it to be "a twisting of Gene’s creation, to which he put in so much thought. I think it’s really unfortunate." Screenwriter and actor Simon Pegg offered a defense of his movie's take on Sulu, saying, "I know in my heart, that Gene Roddenberry would be proud of us for keeping his ideals alive." Pegg's comments put the ball back in Takei's court, but it looks like any potential feud will end there.
Takei took to Facebook to further explain his position on Pegg and company making Sulu a gay character, and while he still generally disapproves of the idea, he at the very least has extended an olive branch to the Star Trek Beyond crew. Takei started by emphasizing that his problem was not with there being a gay Star Trek character; it was with taking a character he believed to be straight and changing him:
"Let me be clear: I am not disappointed that there is a gay character in Star Trek. On the contrary, as I made clear, I am delighted that the Star Trek franchise has addressed this issue, which is truly one of diversity. It is thrilling to know that future generations will not see LGBTs go wholly unrepresented in the Trek universe. On the specific question of Sulu being gay, when I was first approached with the concept, I responded that I hoped instead that Gene Roddenberry’s original characters and their backgrounds would be respected."
Despite disagreeing with Pegg's approach, Takei offered an olive branch to him and Cho:
"Star Trek has always pushed the boundaries and opened new opportunities for actors, including myself. I am eternally grateful to have been part of this incredible and continuing family. I wish John Cho well in the role I once played, and congratulate Simon Pegg on his daring and groundbreaking storytelling. While I would have gone with the development of a new character in this instance, I do fully understand and appreciate what they are doing—as ever, boldly going where no one has gone before. Star Trek will live long and prosper."
While it seems that Pegg and Takei will never completely see eye to eye on the new approach to Sulu, they are both in agreement as to what the Star Trek universe represents: diversity. Takei has mentioned repeatedly that Roddenberry had expressed a desire to include gay characters in the TV show but "felt constrained by the sensitivities of the time." For Pegg, that time is over and the new timeline of Star Trek Beyond offers the opportunity to add new elements of diversity where they weren't present before. Fans can decide for themselves how they feel about the new Sulu when the movie hits theaters later this month.
Star Trek Beyond opens in U.S. theaters July 22, 2016.
Source: George Takei