Friday, July 08, 2016

Captain's Log: Nu Sulu

The upcoming release of the new nu Star Trek feature film has been accompanied by some unusual events.  The most shocking was the sudden death of one of its young stars, Anton Yelchin, who played Chekov in the nu alternate timeline.  But these days there's a lot of attention to a feature of the nu Sulu in the new movie: namely a scene indicating that he is gay, with a life partner and a daughter.

That this is the first openly LGBTQ character in a Star Trek story onscreen has been met with the ironic opposition of the actor who played Sulu in the classic universe, George Takei, a gay man who came out long after his last appearance in Star Trek.

Takei's reason is striking: while he welcomed an openly gay Trek character, a gay Sulu is contrary to Gene Roddenberry's vision of that character.

It's striking to me because Takei, who has become famous for castigating William Shatner as Captain Kirk, remains so loyal to Gene Roddenberry (even if, in this case, he may be mistaken.)   GR's reputation has fallen in recent years, it seems, as critics have dwelt on his shortcomings so thoroughly that they seem to define him, even as STrek's 50th anniversary gets closer.

The distance of Nu Trek from GR is perhaps another factor, as it is the first onscreen Star Trek without a real connection to GR's, especially now that Leonard Nimoy is gone.

The defense for the nu Sulu being gay by Simon Pegg and Zachary Quinto makes a lot of sense.  Takei does seem to not take into account that this is an alternate timeline. And it does make more of an impact that it is an established character. Update: Simon Pegg blogs about this and the new movie, via TrekMovie.

 As for why GR didn't portray a gay character, it's also worth mentioning that the image of a gay man with a life partner and child could not have been seen until recently, for such a family simply didn't exist, at least openly. Though bold and visionary, it would have been very difficult for most viewers to envisage, even in the far future.

But I keep returning to Takei's loyalty to GR and his vision, at least as he sees it. It is worth remembering then, that even with all the GR revisionism, many who actually worked with him--from Takei and Nichelle Nichols to  LeVar Burton of the Next Generation--continue their loyalty and admiration.

Some producers and writers who worked with GR have since complained about him (for allegedly hogging credit mostly) and reacted against his prevailing image. But actors who worked with GR have generally remained loyal, and many of them were in a better position to see his flaws that many of his critics today who never even met him.

As for the new film, I find myself guiltily uninterested.  It may be the first Star Trek movie I don't see immediately upon its release.  I reserve the right to change my mind about this, but I doubt I will write about it anytime soon in this space.  I am much more focused on the 50th anniversary, and the soul of Star Trek as expressed in the GR era, especially in the original series and Next Gen.  So there will be more Trek50 to come.

1 comment:

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