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With the release of the upcoming Star Trek Beyond, the long-lived sci-fi franchise is going to boldly go where it’s never gone before with the revelation that Hikaru Sulu — the helmsman of the Starship Enterprise played by John Cho — is gay.
Sulu’s becoming the first LGBTQ lead character in Star Trek history arrives just in time for the franchise’s half-century anniversary. The long-overdue moment will come in this month’s Beyond, where it will be established that Sulu is not only in a committed relationship with another man, but that the two have a daughter together.
According to Cho, who spoke about the decision to the Herald Sun, the reveal will be understated. “I liked the approach, which was not to make a big thing out it, which is where I hope we are going as a species — to not politicize one’s personal orientations,” he said.
While the Sulu of the original TV series was depicted as being straight, inspiration for the current Sulu’s romantic life may have come from the actor who first brought the character to life: George Takei, who played Sulu from 1966 through 1991, came out in 2005 after decades in the closet.
Although the franchise has featured guest characters who have hinted at same-sex relationships onscreen (and spinoff novels have featured gay characters), Sulu will serve as the first canonically onscreen LGBTQ character in the series — but, with the movie series likely to continue beyond Beyond and a new TV series launching next year, hopefully far from the last.
Star Trek Beyond opens July 22.