Simon Pegg is further explaining the much-debated decision to make Hikaru Sulu gay in the upcoming Star Trek Beyond — and he’s arguing that in some ways it’s a question of canon between the original universe and the one created with J.J. Abrams’ 2009 reboot.
Pegg, co-writer and star of the film, had previously defended the decision after original Sulu actor George Takei told The Hollywood Reporter the decision to make Sulu gay, rather than create a new LGBTQ character for the franchise, was “really unfortunate.”
In a blog post Monday, Pegg addressed one criticism from some fans and Takei, who argued that making Sulu gay in Beyond meant the character had been closeted all along (his character never had a love interest depicted onscreen, though a daughter appeared in 1994’s Star Trek Generations.)
Pegg argues that’s not the case. He writes the Sulu in the Abramsverse, played by John Cho, is not the same Sulu that Takei played in the 1966-1969 TV show and subsequent series of films.
“With the Kelvin timeline, we are not entirely beholden to existing canon, this is an alternate reality and, as such is full of new and alternate possibilities,” Pegg writes.
As a refresher, 2009’s Star Trek saw Spock Prime (Leonard Nimoy) and the villain Nero (Eric Bana) travel back in time, with Nero destroying the Kelvin (and killing Kirk’s father in the process), thus creating an alternative timeline.
Pegg goes on to explain that even things that happened before the Kelvin incident, not just those after it, might have even changed.
“‘BUT WAIT!’ I hear you brilliant and beautiful super Trekkies cry, ‘Canon tells us, Hikaru Sulu was born before the Kelvin incident, so how could his fundamental humanity be altered? Well, the explanation comes down to something very Star Treky; theoretical, quantum physics and the less than simple fact that time is not linear,” writes Pegg. “Sure, we experience time as a contiguous series of cascading events but perception and reality aren’t always the same thing. Spock’s incursion from the Prime Universe created a multidimensional reality shift. The rift in space/time created an entirely new reality in all directions, top to bottom, from the Big Bang to the end of everything. As such this reality was, is and always will be subtly different from the Prime Universe.”
Pegg also writes that he believes the creative decision to make Sulu gay is something that late Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry would have approved of.
“The Kelvin universe can evolve and change in ways that don’t necessarily have to follow the Prime Universe at any point in history, before or after the events of Star Trek ’09, it can mutate and subvert, it is a playground for the new and the progressive and I know in my heart, that Gene Roddenberry would be proud of us for keeping his ideals alive,” writes Pegg. “Infinite diversity in infinite combinations, this was his dream, that is our dream, it should be everybody’s.”
Takei, who was closeted for most of his career until publicly coming out in 2005, previously told THR he was “delighted that there’s a gay character,” but wished Pegg and director Justin Lin had created a new hero instead of using Sulu.
“Unfortunately, it’s a twisting of Gene’s creation, to which he put in so much thought. I think it’s really unfortunate,” said Takei, who added that Roddenberry had wanted to include an LGBTQ character, but was unable to because of the political and social climate of the era.
In a Facebook post Wednesday, Takei spoke out further on the subject.
“Some fifty years ago, even TV’s first interracial kiss, between Kirk and Uhura, caused our ratings to plummet as the show was censored across much of the South for that scene. Gene made a conscious decision to make the main characters heterosexual, and worked within those parameters to tell incredible stories that still challenged many cultural values of the time,” wrote Takei. “So the lack of gay characters was not some oversight by him; it was a conscious decision with which he grappled. I loved Gene as a friend, and I respected his decision and the context under which he created these stories. On this 50th year anniversary of Star Trek, my hope was to honor his foresight and bravery, as well as his ability to create discussion and diversity despite these constraints.”
The actor ultimately wished Pegg — and the new movie — his best.
“I wish John Cho well in the role I once played, and congratulate Simon Pegg on his daring and groundbreaking storytelling,” wrote Takei. “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.”
Star Trek Beyond opens July 22.