George Takei “Baffled” Paramount Never Made Sulu Series

In the 1991 film Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, George Takei finally got that promotion and was seen as Captain Sulu of the USS Excelsior. Since that time, the actor made it clear that he was ready to bring Capt. Sulu to TV in a new series, and in a new interview he says that he is "baffled" as to why it never happened.

 

Takei 'baffled' over no Sulu Series

Takei's comments come in an interview in the International Federation of Trekkers official publication "Voyages". In the IFT was behind a campaign to get Paramount to make an "Excelsior" series. A preview of Voyages interview with Takei is up at TrekToday, where Takei says this about the series idea:

It was a substantial idea. There was a huge following for it. And after all, Star Trek VI seemed to have opened the door for an Excelsior television series. But for whatever reason, Paramount didn’t pick up the idea. So despite that massive and heroic effort that was launched by all of the people, and I was absolutely convinced that the audience was there based on the reception of Star Trek VI, the idea didn’t go through. I was absolutely baffled [more at TrekToday]

Following STVI, Paramount created three additional Trek TV series: Deep Space Nine (1993), Voyager (1995) and Enterprise (2001). Takei did reprise his role as Captain Sulu of the Excelsior in 1996 in the Voyager episode "Flashback".


Trailer for "Flashback" — closest Takei got to his "Excelsior" series

While there was some fan talk of a Sulu series in the 90's, the IFT campaign for “Star Trek: Excelsior” really kicked in as Voyager was coming to a close at the end of the decade. In January 2000 IFT officially started their campaign (see announcement at AintItCool). This time was right when Star Trek had started to go into a decline in terms of ratings, ticket sales, and merchandising. The campaign argued that Paramount should look to Sulu as the savior, here is an excerpt:

The fans involved in the EXCELSIOR Campaign, some one thousand strong and growing rapidly, feel that the best way to resurrect the Trek franchise is to take it back to its roots. "There are 80 missing years in the stories of Star Trek. We've gone from the original crew into the next century to see its recent incarnations. There are a lot of missions and a lot of adventures in those 80 years," quips Haslage. The large and growing group of fans feels that a show focusing on original-era stories will be quite a money maker for the studio.

In the end, Paramount made the call to skip the 23rd century and go all the way back to the 22nd century by creating the prequel series Star Trek: Enterprise. The show ran for four seasons on UPN before being cancelled. 

Captain Sulu in other media

Although Capt. Sulu didn't make it to a TV series, he did appear in other media. Capt. Sulu featured prominently in a number of novels over the last couple of decades, including 2007's. "Star Trek Excelsior: Forged in Fire". Capt. Sulu has also shown up on some comics, including this year's "Star Trek: Captain's Log: Sulu". Takei also voiced three "Captain Sulu Adventures" audio books in the 90's. 


Captain Sulu never got a show in the 90's but he did appear in novels, comics and audiobooks

Capt. Sulu also appeared in a number of video games with voice work provided by George Takei. The latest of these was the 2003 Playstation 2 game "Star Trek: Shattered Universe." But it was the 1997 game "Star Trek: Starfleet Academy" (and the expansion "Chekov's Lost Missions") where Takei made his final official 'on camera' appearance as Capt. Sulu. Takei also returned to the role in the Star Trek New Voyages fan series episode “World Enough and Time” in 2007.


Clip from "Star Trek: Starfleet Academy" – Takei's last time (officially) suiting up to play Capt. Sulu

 

POLL: Was Sulu series the right call?

So should Paramount have followed Voyager with a Sulu series starring George Takei instead of creating Star Trek Enterprise back in 2001?

[poll=592]

 

Sort by:   newest | oldest
Dab
June 11, 2010 2:45 pm

Why not an Excelsior “reboot”? :)

Dab
June 11, 2010 2:47 pm

Could even feature “flashforwards” at the beginning of every episode of Takei as Sulu, telling the stories to friends or family, then return to the Excelsior timeline.

That One Guy
June 11, 2010 2:48 pm

Well… John cho is now free from Flash Forward…. One never knows what’ll happen. ;)

June 11, 2010 2:52 pm

I wouldn’t go so far as to say “instead of “Enterprise, but why not “in addition to?” for quite some time there were two concurrent Trek shows running, so why not then?

Having both Excelsior AND Enterprise running simultaneously might have helped keep the franchise out of the limbo it fell into after the cancellation of Enterprise…. I know I would have been more inclined to keep watching!

Surak1701
June 11, 2010 2:55 pm

Even though I’m not among the ST: ENT haters, I find the idea of a Sulu series fascinating, particularly as it would’ve been set in the Classic movie era, my favourite ST period. It could almost have functioned as a bridge between the original series and the new, setting up sequel storylines in a more organic way than what ENT was sometimes awkwardly shoehorned into doing. And to have a bona fide TOS star as the front, with that awesome gravel baritone! However, I suspect when Trek moves back to TV (as it surely will) it will likely be another interpretation of TOS, either a straightforward continuation of the Abramsverse (probably with the TOS characters recast again, since the movie cast would probably not be interested in a series) or another reboot.

boborci
June 11, 2010 2:56 pm

That’s a good point!!

June 11, 2010 2:58 pm

#4: Exactly. I would have loved Star Trek: Excelsior (heck, that’s the name of the fan series I produce! Shamless plug for starshipexcelsior.com!). But I loved Enterprise, too.

Well, I loved the third and fourth seasons, anyway. :P

June 11, 2010 3:05 pm

And (since all three of us at #5, 6, and 7 apparently commented within moments of each other), I’ll add that, much as I enjoy the Abramsverse, I think it would translate very, very badly to television.

ANY reboot, for that matter, would translate badly to television. It doesn’t FEEL right. Trek wouldn’t be improved by the reinvention of canon, as BSG so massively was. It would be more like the Knight Rider reboot.

Let’s do a few more movies with the Abrams team, especially my man Bob Orci. But when we’re done with those, let’s please get back to the far future, leaving *all* the weight of continuity (and reboot continuity, or reboots of reboots) far behind. Let’s tell new stories with new characters and maybe (purely as a bonus) with a few new and shinier gadgets.

I say this not as a fanboy (which I certainly am), but simply as a person who doesn’t want to be *bored* watching television.

Jonno
June 11, 2010 3:06 pm

I love George Takei. I really do.

That said, he was shockingly bad in that Voyager episode. I know the writing was bad but Takei was overacting to the point of distraction.

Maybe that was a one off, he was great in heroes – but in Flashback it was painful to watch. Really painful. You’d have needed a new bridge crew too. All of them were poor. Grace Lee Whitney looked like she hadn’t acted in 30 years.

Might have lasted 13 episodes or so, which is a shame as Sulu has always been one of my favourite characters.

Desstruxion
June 11, 2010 3:08 pm

I would love to see the new Sulu promoted in one of the upcoming Abramsverse flicks. That would give Paramount another chance at an Excelsior series (of movies preferably) to pick up where new Trek leaves off. Really want to see a new take on the Excelsior design.

June 11, 2010 3:09 pm

Could have been produced, direct to dvd like Futurama, while Enterprise aired. Maybe even an episode or two featuring Sulu; a time-rift story. Would have boosted interest… why not? During TNG’s run, the TOS crew was making features that did well.

Capt. of the USS Anduril
June 11, 2010 3:10 pm

Well, technically the last time Takei “suited up” to play Hikaru Sulu was Star Trek New Voyages’ episode “World Enough and Time”.

Ensign RedShirt
June 11, 2010 3:10 pm

#9

I sadly agree with you on all counts. Love George, but there’s no way he could anchor a series or a bunch of tv movies.

Adam E
June 11, 2010 3:13 pm

@2. Dab – awesome idea!

AJ
June 11, 2010 3:18 pm

There was a chemistry on Board Excelsior amongst the crew for the brief (two) times we got to see them. Takei as Captain Sulu needed no getting used to. We all knew that he’d earned his place in ‘the chair,’ and that he would be one of the last of the ‘old school’ skippers.

Takei made Sulu more and more interesting as the movies came along, and it does seem in hindsight that STVI has ‘spin-off’ written all over it.

“Coulda, shoulda, woulda.” Maybe Messrs Orci and Kurtzman can give Mr. Takei a juicy role as a flamboyant bad-ass Japanese mobster on ‘Hawaii Five-0″ ;-)

Scruffy the Janitor/Vampire Slayer
June 11, 2010 3:20 pm
I thought the Xindi arc was rather contrived. And the temporal cold war. I understand why they did both. TOS reflected 1960s Cold War/ Vietnam/ Civil Rights/ Real Life and the producers of Enterprise were trying for the same magic. They shouldn’t have done it. BUT ( hi Bob.O! ) BY having the Temporal Cold War, they tried to use interference in the space time continuum to correct mistakes made during TOS and shoehorn together the crazy puzzle that was pre Kirk Trek into something that could have worked. For instance: in 1967 no one had ever seen a Romulan because the writers and producers could not imagine the kind of instant communication we take for granted today, which is based on Trek tech. So the producers of ENT had to pretend that tech that we use every day was somehow NOT available to humans 200 years from now. So they fudged with “CANON” and blended it with “History” and made a compromise that satisfied nobody. They failed because they tried too hard to satisfy everyone. Personally, I loved 75% of ENT. I had hoped that they would have incorporated more of the “technology time line” laid out in “Federation” by the Stevens team. They researched HOW and WHY trek technology would have been invented in the first place before ever applying it to starships. Yeah I would have loved a SULU series. They could have moved seamlessly into TNG, and maybe even killed Kirk in a better way than… Read more »
June 11, 2010 3:21 pm

In defense of George, the Voyager episode was a complete and utter disgrace. Or, just par for the course from Berman and Braga and company. It was full of plot inconsistencies with the movie, and really had very little to do with Sulu. George did the best he could in a script that pretty much ignored him.

That said, George was very good in the New Voyages episode he appeared in. It was very clear then that Rick Berman hated the Original Series and anyone associated with it. Actions speak louder than words, and his actions were always clear. He refused to consider a return to TOS timeline at every juncture, especially after Generations. The DS9 Tribbles episode rightly pissed off Nimoy and Shatner, who were both very annoyed that they weren’t offered any kind of participation.

Would the Sulu series have worked? It might have been tough, given that he was pretty old and there might not have been a wide appeal. That said, maybe they could have done something like BSG, where Sulu was the old mentor for a mostly young cast? It would certainly, and ironically, offered a perfect chance to resurrect Captain Kirk. Shatner would have actually been saved by Takei!

Brody
June 11, 2010 3:25 pm

I would have preferred this Takei idea to any of the other awful Trek spinoffs.

I am not Herbert
June 11, 2010 3:29 pm

I voted “NO” for the Capt. Sulu series in ’01, BUT…

…they SHOULD have done it back in ’93, before DS9, IMHO.

Trek Lady
June 11, 2010 3:29 pm

I personally would love to see the reboot actors do a televsion mini-series, much like is done in Britian, where television isn’t necessarily the 22-24 episode full season we have in the USA. A special “made for television” mini-series of about eight hours, split up into either one or two hour sections would be great, and would not tie the actors down the the usual episodic television schedule. I don’t know why this hasn’t been considered. (Or maybe it has and I missed it.)

Jordan
June 11, 2010 3:33 pm

Wasn’t George “Captain Sulu” in ST New Voyages “World Enough and Time”???

Pretty sure Starfleet Academy wasn’t the last time we saw Captain Sulu on camera.

47
June 11, 2010 3:40 pm

Hey, how cool is this:
I agree with:

#4 and #7

#4 7

47

sweet

Lonzo5
June 11, 2010 3:42 pm

I think Takei could easily have held it down with the right supporting cast; now that I’ve been exposed to the idea I find myself just as baffled as George. He’s not the best actor in the world, but his character’s good and I feel as though ST:Excelsior would have kept things far more coherent than Enterprise (which I give a 6 out of 10, especially due to the depressing ending). I also think he’s more weighty as a captain than Scott Bakula, who strikes me as more of a lone wolf type character than a leader; it would have been great if they’d used a variation on the STVI theme for the opening credits, and perhaps (after the release of Generations) thrown in a few cameos with the Enterprise B and Capt. Harriman. It would also be cool to see how Jim and Scotty’s apparent deaths affected the former Enterprise crew. Perhaps Nimoy could have dropped in from time to time as Capt., then Ambassador Spock.

As far as reboots go, I think their best bet would be Star Trek: Stargazer, featuring a young Jean Luc, Jack Crusher, etc. It would portray an era not directly covered in any ST canon, opening the door for a great deal of reimagination and the introduction of a number of familiar, yet mysterious elements of ST history.

Gwark
June 11, 2010 3:42 pm

#7
Re-watch season one of Enterprise. I think you’ll start to like it, and the characters, a lot more on repeat viewings, just as many people have felt about DS9.

47
June 11, 2010 3:44 pm

#23

and one of the season finale’s would be the death of Jack Crusher… that could be a beauty

However, who would play a young Picard?

Jason
June 11, 2010 3:44 pm

anything would have been better than ENT

scott
June 11, 2010 3:45 pm

re: “I wouldn’t go so far as to say “instead of “Enterprise, but why not “in addition to?” for quite some time there were two concurrent Trek shows running, so why not then?”

I think it would have been too confusing to have two different Star Trek series on at the same time, set in two different centuries,

schnotty
June 11, 2010 3:48 pm

Not while Berman & Co. were running the show. TNG-era dialog coming out of TOS-era actors is just awful. Like the beginning of Generations? I can’t stand watching it because it was like my favorite guys were possessed. It wasn’t even them. “Just a shell of a man” or something to that effect.

Now that Berman & Co. are gone, I say hell yeah, bring on Sulu’s Adventures.

Dac
June 11, 2010 3:51 pm

The most important question here folks: What the hell was Dark Seduction Week?!?!

Thorny
June 11, 2010 3:56 pm

20… The miniseries idea really should have been implemented when Enterprise collapsed, while Paramount still had the production staff, sets, props, and costumes ready to go (which is how Stargate SG-1 got its standalone direct-to-DVD movies.) Now, the cost of starting up a new Trek for a limited run television program would be prohibitive. Enterprise was already looking cheap (not Stargate- or BSG-cheap, but cheap compared to its modern Trek predecessors) Even a short-run series like True Blood or Spartacus wouldn’t be enough for a high-cost series like Star Trek, They can only hope to make back their investment with a weekly series. But television is dying a slow death of cheap reality programming and hopeless market fragmentation across hundreds of channels, and I think a Trek television series is no longer financially practical.

Lt. Bailey
June 11, 2010 3:56 pm

ENT served it purpose and was a fine show, even though some may dissagree with me on that. I really enjoyed the show and they could have done more to fill in the gaps before TOS had it not met an early demise.

Star Trek TV nay have started with TOS and the Kirk era but Starfleet had to have some kind of history before Kirk came along.

However, I do agree that Paramount should have done a serie with Sulu in command of the NCC-2000. That would be or would have been a great balance to the 24th century series.

June 11, 2010 3:58 pm

It wasnt a good idea, trekkies are just crazy stalkers who want anything trek on the air. He’s not manly enough to be captain. The show would have sucked. No pun intended….

Thorny
June 11, 2010 4:00 pm

29… That’s because Koenig and Doohan were saying lines written for McCoy and Spock.

June 11, 2010 4:03 pm

I never really felt that Sulu was a strong enough character, or that Takei was a strong enough actor, to carry a series. I hate to say this, because I certainly have nothing against the guy. I acknowledge he is, and always will be, a part of Star Trek. But as the STAR of a continuing series, I just don’t know… That said, if there had been a Sulu Trek, I’d have tuned in to give him a shot. If he were surrounded by a stellar cast, that could have made a difference… If it were a real ensemble cast, like MASH… And if it had some brilliant stories, more like TOS than VOY… I guess we’ll just never know.

bgiles73
June 11, 2010 4:23 pm

How about an Excelsior Animated Series. George Takei can definately do some voice acting. An animated series would help to get kids interested and maybe generate some toy and video game sales. CBS and Paramount need to keep the momentum that was generated by the 2009 movie going. I honestly believe a couple of animated series would be the best approach for Star Trek on television at this time!

TonyD
June 11, 2010 4:35 pm

An Excelsior show might have been fun. I doubt Takei could have carried the show but if he was surrounded with a good ensemble and plots spread out among the rest of the cast it could have worked. Also would have been a great vehicle for other TOS cast members to make the occasional cameo.

Too bad Rick Berman was in charge of TV Trek at the time. It’s pretty clear to me he would have never allowed a TOS-era show as he always seemed to prefer moving away from that timeline in preference of his own concepts, unless of course he needed a ratings boost for one of his shows. With Berman at the helm a full-time Excelsior show never had a chance..

David G.
June 11, 2010 4:40 pm

It would’ve been really entertaining to have a Takei “Excelsior” series where the crew’s mission would’ve been to revisted some of the places that the Enterprise encountered during the original series.

If nothing else, I’d certainly pay for movie ticket even today for a one-shot film about the Sulu’s Excelsior checking back in on that 1920s gangster planet from “A Piece of the Action” to see what happened after McCoy left his tricorder on that planet….

David G.
June 11, 2010 4:42 pm

And P.S.: The Voyager “Flashback” episode didn’t even make any sense. It was all about an adventure that took place in Tuvok’s mind, so any of the dramatic threat depicted in the Sulu timeline sequence didn’t even matter to begin with.

Perplex
June 11, 2010 4:54 pm

An Excelsior series instead of Enterprise? Probably no, I am too much of an Enterprise fan for that. But I would put a possible Excelsior series above Star Trek Voyager any time!

Dom
June 11, 2010 5:02 pm

I always assumed the powers that be in the 1990s weren’t keen on anything to do with the original Star Trek beyond the occasional gimmick appearance, preferring the 24th century. So a Sulu show, while it would have been popular with fans and perfectly set up at the end of STVI was never going to get past Berman and co. As far as Berman appeared to be concerned, he buried TOS when he had James Kirk killed off.

Anyway, the Captain Sulu ship has sailed now and arguably George Takei is more famous for other things! TIme to move on!

Captain Otter
June 11, 2010 5:15 pm

I still say Enterprise was the right concept to follow Voyager. I know Ent had its missteps, but at its best, it was pretty darn good.

Now, if the poll had asked me if they should have done Excelsior instead of Voyager (as opposed to after Voyager) I would vote “yes.” Voyager is my least favorite Trek incarnation save for some of the fan-made shows. And heck, I admire the fan fic even though I don’t watch it. I have nothing positive to say about Voyage besides “thanks for the eye candy.”

Jonboc
June 11, 2010 5:25 pm

An EXcelsior based series could have been great. But considering who was producing Trek TV back in the mid 90’s, it could have also been very very bad. I don’t mind Berman and company doing their own thing with their own characters, but I don’t want them anywhere near the characters of classic trek. While I love Sulu, the absence of a series, at that time, was probably for the better.

June 11, 2010 5:32 pm
I’d really love to see Ronald D Moore take on a new Star Trek tv-series. He understands the needs of a good tv sci-fi opera. I really liked his bsg interpretation. His work with DS9 was spectacular. They need to bring that gritty/character-focused stories into a star trek tv series. I’m not saying that they should make a dark trek series, but perhaps a more gritty take that will challenge this idea of a perfect-utopia. I want it to have psychological layers that were not evident in Enterprise or Voyager. I know JJ’s interpretation of Trek isn’t much of an Allegory of our times. This is a critical aspect that most of Star Trek ALWAYS contained. I agree what Roger Ebert said about JJ Abrams-verse. “The Gene Roddenberry years, when stories might play with questions of science, ideals or philosophy, have been replaced by stories reduced to loud and colorful action” Go to the classic Trek episodes of “the drumhead” to “let this be your last battlefield”. This is something a Trek series must implement. It must be a figurative commentary of our times. I don’t want the new generation understanding Trek as a dumbed-down star wars with “space exploration”. Its gonna be much much more then that. JJ needs to do what Nolan did to the batman franchise. Add some serious psychological layers, instead of reducing the story to loud action and annoying star wars references. But i have nothing against the JJ-Team. I appreciate the effort they made… Read more »
ety3
June 11, 2010 5:37 pm

“Excelsior” should’ve been launched instead of “Voyager.”

skyjedi
June 11, 2010 5:43 pm

A Sulu series had to be the worst idea since Top Gun Star Trek idea, Harve came up with, and later got made by JJ. Horrible.

snoopytrek
June 11, 2010 5:46 pm

#9…Right! #13..said the same thing last time this subject was brought up.
#33..yep!

I’m not going to apologize for my comments, but…NOT THIS AGAIN! I have never seen a Trek subject matter so beaten to death or Mr Takei pulling out his defibrillator paddles to try and resurrect it through…i suppose the fan base…thinking the fans would start some sort of campaign to the studio or whatever…

Does he have no other life but to bash Shatner and this?

Mark
June 11, 2010 6:09 pm

the real reason there was no Sulu series …..was the great TNG series.
they at the time Paramount didn’t wanna go back…the mistake was when they did go back ST Enterprise was DISASTER so in hindsight a Sulu series instead of STE would of worked

mia bouvier
June 11, 2010 6:31 pm

CAPTAIN SULU!!!!

Hell yeah!!

George is awesome! I would have luvvvvved to see more of Sulu. Personally i am soooooo sick of Kirk and Spock. I had wished Abrahms was going to shake things up….a film featureing other characters instead of kirk and spock for another umpteen years…

Even in the movies…they had to make three in a row that were allllll about Spock, ST: 2,3,4…..ugh, enough!!!! i luv Spock but they blew some opportunities to open the world of Trek up abit…

CAPTAIN SULU!!!!

yes!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

=^^=
LS

NuSpock
June 11, 2010 6:40 pm

TO BOBORCI–regarding the Excelsior series, can you talk with the other members of The Supreme Court about reviving that idea? WE NEED A NEW STAR TREK SERIES!!!! and it’d be great to keep interest up in Trek in between films, and keeping the style of the new film series kinda but incorporating elements of Lost into it, and getting a lot of Lost’s showrunners to run the Excelsior series would help out everyone…oldTrek fans would have our new series, the new-to-Trek crowd could take a peek at the best of oldTrek to compare it to nuTrek, and one could bring in still new people by playing up Takei’s sexual orientation by turning Sulu gay in both the Excelsior series AND the new Trek movie saga, thus bringing in the gay community as fans too:)

ANYONE WHO AGREES WITH ME PLEASE KEEP THIS TOPIC GOING IN THE THREAD!!

wpDiscuz