Takei On Trek’s Diversity

In a new interview with Metro Weekly George Takei (TOS: Sulu) talks in depth about the diversity in Star Trek. Takei said that he he was proud to be part of the production with the first interracial kiss calling it “a real breakthrough.” But Takei also defended the series for not having a gay character saying that it would have pushed the envelope too far. Also in an unrelated bit, Takei revealed a bit about what we may see with John Cho’s Sulu in the new Star Trek.

Excerpts from the interview

METRO WEEKLY…[in] the mid 1990s, there was an effort to get a gay character onto Voyager or Deep Space 9, I believe.

TAKEI: I remember having a discussion with Gene Roddenberry. He was an extraordinary man, a real visionary. He used to tell the Star Trek cast frequently that the Starship Enterprise was a metaphor for Starship Earth. And the strength of the starship was its diversity, the crew coming together and working in concert. You saw not only the visual diversity of race and ethnicity, but we had a Russian at the time of the Cold War, when we were mortal enemies. We had a Russian as a trusted member of the team. [Roddenberry’s] view was that even that kind of adversarial position — intense, fierce adversarial position — can be overcome. The irony is today we have the International Space Station, a spacecraft out there, and once-mortal enemies, Russians and Americans, are working side by side.

Gene was truly an enlightened person, and he said, ”It’s silly, this homophobia and all this legislation and prejudice against equality.” But he felt that in order to make the statements that he had been making on Star Trek, it was important for Star Trek to be on, and network television is the most conservative medium of communication. If he pushes the envelope too far, the envelope gets burned up.


Despite no gay characters, the nuance of inclusiveness must have gotten through, as Star Trek’s gay following seems huge.

TAKEI: It’s been huge! They get the idea of diversity. We can all be part of this larger society and make our own unique contributions. That was Gene’s philosophy. Unfortunately, Gene passed away after The Next Generation was put together. The Next Generation was still with Gene’s participation, but after his passing a different group of people took over and they did not necessarily share Gene’s humanistic philosophy. David Gerrold, who wrote the script for ”The Trouble with Tribbles,” wrote a gay script, which he wanted to have done on The Next Generation. But that couldn’t be done because of the temper of the times. However, that script now has been filmed and is being put together by the fan manifestation of Star Trek [Star Trek: New Voyages].

METRO WEEKLY: If you’d been as publicly out in the 1990s as you are now, do you think producers and writers would have evolved the Sulu character into a father and made him a captain?

TAKEI: Well, that’s an iffy question, isn’t it? They knew I was gay, but I was not talking to the press. So I don’t know. It’s kind of tantalizing. But I do think that my character, becoming a father and becoming a captain, I’d like to think that would’ve been possible. Some of the people knew [I was gay], but they still made my character grow the way it did. If I had talked to the press back then, I don’t know. It’s a big if.


Takei also revealed a bit about John Cho’s Sulu

It’s a younger Sulu. As a matter of fact, he has some bravura heroics in this movie coming out. We know that Sulu’s passion is fencing and there’s a lot of fencing going on.

NOTE: This ties in to John Cho’s recent comments about Sulu being a ‘badass’ and doing a lot of training for action scenes

Full interview at Metro Weekly

TrekMovie.com tolerates a diversity of comments, but bear in mind we do not tolerate intolerance.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

It’s cool that he’s still showcasing his support in any way he can. He’s a strong guy to have in your corner when it comes to reinvigorating Trek.

Oh my!!

John Cho fencing? Sounds awesome!

George Takei is an awesome guy. I met him once at an Alzheimer’s Walk and it was nice to know that I had a member of the original cast that I could connect with, as we had both lost family to Alzheimer’s.

I met George the first in 1979 as a kid and gave him a drawing/cartoon of CAPTAIN Sulu. Years later (and much taller) I was tasked to pick him up at SeaTac Airport for a convention appearance. Imagine my surprise when we picked him up and he looked at me for a moment and said,”Arent you the young man who did that lovely picture for me a few years ago? I have it hanging in my living room.” I spent the next several hours hanging out with George and discussing politics and running. At another event a few years later it was around teh time of his birthday and my mom wanted him to have a Mt St Helens ash blown glass orchid from our Jewelry store. I gave it to him at the convention in one of our gift boxes. 4 days later my mom calls me and tells me she received a lovely hand written thank you letter and photo from George, not a general thank you, but in Georges hand complete with home return address and the admonition to ‘keep in touch’. Every time Ive run in to him over the (OMG) almost 30 years since then he has greeted me warmly. George is an original..a class act…and is not only what TREK is all about but what being a human being is all about.

First post of a long time TrekMovie Lurker!

Personally, I don’t see what possible bearing an actor’s sexuality should have in the development of a character, and feel it was simply opportunistic of Metro Weekly to ask the question. it strikes me more as gratuitously keeping sexual orientation part of the article, regardless of the relevancy to the subject.

I find it somewhat offensive that so many ‘entities’ wish to sensationalize Mr Takei’s personal choices. Leave the man be!

( Just my 2c)


cool story!

,,TAKEI: I remember having a discussion with Gene Roddenberry. He was an extraordinary man, a real visionary. He used to tell the Star Trek cast frequently that the Starship Enterprise was a metaphor for Starship Earth. ,,
I really like this philosophy from Roddenberry. I hope Abrams realizes this too. We need show real racial and ethnicity diversity among Enterprise crew in the new movie. That will give movie flavor that can be appealing to international movie audience.
to finish, i am still unsure about Cho(35+) as Sulu. He seems way too old to play young Sulu..

To George:

Hoorrah! It takes a couragous individual to do what you have done. Maybe we can incoporate some of these idea’s on starship Excelsior? Those could be “the voyages…”

To Hikaru Sulu, Captain of the Excelsior!
and George Takei, the one, the only!

#4: Great story about George Takei! It’s refreshing to hear that he is just as nice of a person as he appears to be in interviews!

#5: “Metro Weekly” is a gay & lesbian-geared publication; it’s only natural that at least a portion of their interview would revolve around the sexual orientation of the person being interviewed, and the possible impact of a G/L character on the Star Trek universe–and its impact on OUR universe…

It will be facinating to see if JJ puts any gay relationships or individuals or a gay arc into the movie. Particularly since it’s like “flavour of the month” to do so in many many TV shows and other movies these days.

Sulu fencing in the new movie. Good God! Could there be even more time travelling than we thought! ;)

“I remember having a discussion with Gene Roddenberry. He was an extraordinary man, a real visionary. He used to tell the Star Trek cast frequently that the Starship Enterprise was a metaphor for Starship Earth. And the strength of the starship was its diversity, the crew coming together and working in concert.”

This is the real Trek philosophy. Not canon or starship bridges or the color of console buttons.

As a former gay activist who’s come out of the ‘lifestyle’ I’ve learned alot about what really propells this behavior.Thanks for Your tolerance.

Takei truly is a class act isn’t he? Of all the original crew of Enterprise Takei-as-Sulu had the most unexplored potential, as I think ‘World Enough and Time’ demonstrated magnificently and it’s marvellous to see him in his ‘indian summer’ role in ‘Heroes’. Aah, if only Paramount had had the sense to make Sulu the Captain of the USS Voyager.

I entirely understand why homophobia was not directly tackled in TOS and even in the early years of TNG – the networks would have freaked out at that time. BUT, DS9, Voyager or Enterprise could have taken on the matter without much controversy. Don’t tell me Dawson’s Creek or the OC could do it, and not Trek.

Sure, the issue has been skirted around, but the fact remains that in 28 seasons of TV and 10 movies, there hasn’t been one confirmed gay character. That is a blight on a show that has tackled just about every other prejudice you could name, and I really hope that JJ Abrams fixes this. It is a situation whereby some people claim that homosexuality has been “cured” in humanity in the 23rd-24th centuries. And they can say that without anyone being able to point to anything to prove them wrong. I still believe that that is a problem.

I don’t buy for a second the argument that members of the crew just might be gay and why should it be “in your face”. The romantic life and attractions and past girlfriends, etc, of just about every member of the crew in TNG, VOY and ENT were in our faces all the time.

The new movie doesn’t have to revolve around a gay love triangle or anything like that, but if an academy staffer brings his or her same-sex partner to the graduation ball, then I will cheer (and breathe a sigh of relief).

While TNG never had a gay character, they did have a couple of episodes that made very strong statements about the subject. Check out “The Host” and “The Outcast”.

Awesome story!

Thanks for clearing that up re: Metro Weekly.

Agreed – but as Mr. Takei points out, just a grim reminder that even one man’s vision can be hindered by a network’s greed. And, each network is different.

Some network and production may be more tolerant towards it shows compared to others. My guess is this why some shows can do it, and others cannot. Take Bravo network and its programming, NBC and Will & Grace. ABC and Desperate Housewives. Anyone take notice if any Paramount production, TV or otherwise, or CBS property has included gay characters and not made a joke about it?

At any rate, Mr. Takei’s comments to me at least are a grim reminder that society (at least in the U.S) is largely based on greed and intolerance, no matter what the cost and who is hurt / exploited in the process. Regrettable when “who” is sometimes entire groups of people which simply exist and are different than others.

Back to Trek: I’m remembering DS9 addressed homosexuality with the first season episode, “Dax.” One of my all-time favorites.

WTF? Homo sexuality is just a disease which will soon be cured like any other.

To #18. Oh my.

Back in 17 I meant to type, “Some network and production companies may be more tolerant towards its shows..” Fingers are working faster than the brain this morning.. time to go to work..? ;-)

#16 is right, and I think that those two episodes sufficiently handles the topic, and handled it in a tasteful and appropriate manner. We need to remember that Star Trek is still a family show, and wether we like it or not, the gay topic is one better suited for mature audiences, not family audiences, so even with Star Trek, there should be a practical limit as to the extent that Trek handles topics. You dont want to come out with a gay-themed episode solely for the purpose of coming out with a gay-themed episode.

Remember the TNG episode “Angel One”? It dealt with a society where women were the dominant gender, and men were the submissive gender. It was a somewhat decent episode that made its point. If the Trek writers came out with that type of episode every three or four years, it would have been seen as agendizing the topic, eventually getting to the point where viewrs ask, “How many shuttlecraft does Voyager have??”

It’s true that Gene’s Trek was about addressing topics, but Gene’s Trek was NOT about agendizing.

I’ll second #5.

#15 a friend of mine once suggested that a way to ‘deal’ with Homosexuality in TNG would have been to have had one of our regulars (Picard or whoever) horrified by it being in the list of things that Romulans are allowed to kill their children for, as given in some third season episode. It would have fitted into that scene easily enough and entirely established the egalitarian nature of the Federation’s attitude to sexual orientation.

#23: “a friend of mine once suggested that a way to ‘deal’ with Homosexuality in TNG would have been to have had one of our regulars (Picard or whoever) horrified by it being in the list of things that Romulans are allowed to kill their children for, as given in some third season episode.”

A good idea – but to be fair to people I disagree with, there are quite a number of folks who are intolerant of gays who would nonetheless be just as horrified at the notion of *killing* children for their perceived sexual orientations.

“Homo sexuality is just a disease which will soon be cured like any other. “

Unfortunately, moronic bigotry probably won’t be. But we can hope.

#18 How does someone who posts on a Star Trek fan forum manage to miss the entire point of Star Trek altogether? Infinite diversity in infinite combinations! I suppose that infinite diversity inevitably includes bigots and ignoramuses.

They dealt with prejudice against sexual preferences by metaphor on Star Trek in the Next Generation episode “The Outcast”. Poster of comment 18 should go watch that episode.

“We do not need to be cured. How can you dictate how people love each other?”
– Soren, the sexually liberated J’naii, speaking moments before they rape her brain with drugs to make her ‘normal’.

#12 – PaoloM

Amen, brotha. IDIC is the core of Star Trek.

#18 – Don’t Care

Actually, they’re working on a cure for bigotry instead.

#15–You’ve obviously missed some episodes, particularly DS9 (which most directly explored a homosexual relationship in “Dax”). TNG also dealt with it, although less directly–probably a sign of the times. It is extremely common in the novels as well.

#18–While anyone may have an opinion, I’m not sure you “get” Star Trek. To think that such an ignorant and intolerant attitude to have prevailed in Mr. Roddenberry’s universe is so far off base it’s in another quadrant!

“Homo sexuality is just a disease which will soon be cured like any other.”

I think the poster of this messages has it all wrong… Homo phobia is just a disease which will soon be cured like any other (I hope).

I really wish some people would join the 21st century. Roddenberry so preached tolerance and diversity (remember IDIC?) as the one of the show’s major philosophies; I just don’t see how someone can love TREK and still not get it.

I do find it interesting that the books and the internet voyages have been far braver in addressing this issue than has the film-side of the franchise. Supposedly, (and I guess which story you believe) Ensign Hawk in “Star Trek: Nemesis” was originally intended to be a gay character (he is/was in the novels… but of course, that isn’t considered canon). Perhaps someday soon.

#4–that was the coolest story I’ve yet read about how classy Mr. Takei is. Takei has always been one of my favorite actors and have enjoyed attending any convention that he was one of the guest stars.

I just finished listening to the audiobook of his autobiography: “To The Stars”, an entertaining and emotionally powerful story read by George himself, I recommend it to any Trek and Takei fan.

Homosexuality was the focus of a couple of episodes in TNG and DS9. Once again Takei is speaking without having all the facts.

Many years ago, I had lunch with George Takei. He was in London, and myself and a colleague went to meet him with a view to him being a motivational speaker at an event we were working on. He realised very quickly we were both Trekkies, and the pretense of the lunch being about work was dropped. We then proceeded to have a hugely entertaining couple of hours where he talked at length about Trek’s impact on his life and career.
Needless to say, the speaking project didn’t happen, but he was extremely friendly, down-to-earth, and decent, and if I remember correctly, even picked up the bill.


I haven’t missed those episodes – none of them depict a gay character. I like ‘The Outcast’ as allegory, although it falls down by depicting “the cure” as 100% successful. If it were a true allegory, it would at least have hinted that “reparative therapy” can lead to psychological damage.

DS9’s ‘Rejoined’ was certainly Trek’s boldest venture in this area, but neither Dax nor Kahn were gay characters, per se. The novels aren’t canon, and frequently violate it, so I’ll leave those to the side.

I just want confirmation that gay people exist in the Trek future. This could be done very easily, without feeling tacked on. For example, in the new movie, young Kirk could try his charms on a young woman, who tells him “Sorry, you’re not my type.” We could see Kirk’s stunned face turn to a smile as the woman’s girlfriend arrives and takes her hand. That could be a funny Kirk character bit, and still achieve something important.


Exactly right.

I don’t think in this day and age being gay should be a trek “episode topic”. Just casually show us that a gay character exists *somewhere* in the 23rd century!

I believe (and certainly hope) that in 300 years someone’s sexual preferences will be non-issues.

#33- They did, however, at least for a time,explore a same-sex relationship. Nothing in that episode suggests that such a relationship would not have been tolerated due to a belief that homosexuality is a disease, or that it is immoral, intolerable, etc. In fact, nothing was made of that aspect of the relationship at all. The two people loved each other without any regard for the status of their gender.

I don’t see how anyone could believe that homosexuality would not exist in the future. It is more accepted now than it has been since the time of the Roman Empire. What would cause that to change?
My wife and I both have close siblings who are openly homosexual or bisexual. Even the oldest of our family members recognize that being uncomfortable with that is a thing of the past, and the young children in our family do not recognize that there ever was an issue, and more importantly, that people who choose to love within their own gender are any different from my wife and me.

It is obvious to me that Mr. Roddenberry’s universe doesn’t exclude anyone…If these people to whom you refer feel that homosexuality has been cured by the 23rd-24th centuries, I do not see that their opinion has ever been justified by anything done in Star Trek. For such a ridiculous opinion (inconsistent with everything Star Trek stands for) to be accepted, they would have to prove it to me, not the other way around.

Infinite Diversity In Infinite Combinations

Trek was marketed as a wagon train to the stars, but everyone seems to think that the spirit of Trek was preaching a social-leftist utopia on everyone. But to me, Trek was at its best in episodes like The Ultimate Computer or The Tholian Web.
More dealind with events and less dealing with issues. Besides, counding skin colors and sexual preferences is racist, bigoted and displays the worst of humanity, not the best.

IDIC all the way, man :)

Takei was the first Trek actor I ever got to meet in person, and he’s always just awesome. I remember once when I was a guest at I-Con, he was in the Green Room doing a radio interview about his biography (at a time when there were multiple Trek-actor biographies coming out) and I still smile at some of his turns of phrase; he’s a witty guy. One exchange I recall pretty clearly (quoted from memory, so apply grains of salt):

Interviewer: Does your book include lots of dirt about Bill Shatner?
Takei: Well, my book is the truth. Some people look at truth and see it as “dirt,” some people see it as “light.” I do think my book sheds some light on Bill.

I don’t care if Takei is gay, straight, or anywhere in between. I met him briefly several years ago at a mall in the OC, and he’s one of the nicest guys I’ve ever met. My wife and I received a framed photo he sent us for our wedding, that reads, “Congratulations on your wedding day!”.

I don’t need to agree with all his political views to respect the guy. And I’ll tell you, I respect him a lot!

Sulu’s going to kick ass with a sword! Sweet!!!

“but after his passing a different group of people took over and they did not necessarily share Gene’s humanistic philosophy”

I guess if a lie is repeated long enough, people begin to believe it. There’s no hard evidence that the NextGen, DS9, VOY, or Ent episodes were any less “humanistic” than TOS. One of the things that separates Trek (in ALL it’s forms) from all other Scifi is it’s emphasis on inclusion, optimism, and humanism. Many stories in the later series’ and many of the casting choices (afro-american commander, female captain, etc) reflect this.

People may prefer TOS over the other series, but there is no basis in saying that it was more “humane” than the others.


Well, Nimoy and Kelley for example are (were as for Kelley) very good friends of Shatners. And although there’s never only one camp to blame, Shatner didn’t need to shed any “light” on Takei in his own biography, nor does he need to constantly rehash those old stories that only suggest Takei’s never coped with envy.

Apart from that, I like what Takei says in the above article about diversity and Roddenberry’s vision and I think this is one of the main reasons for the enduring success of TOS.

So much for IDIC.

I’ll never understand them touting the “first interracial kiss” on Trek. This is the same episode where Parmen makes Spock laugh, cry, and flamenco dance and makes Kirk whinny like a horse with little Alexander riding on his back. The kiss was but one of several “humilations” perpetrated on the crewmembers. As Kirk kisses Uhura, his eyes burn with intense hatred. There was nothing uplifting or inclusive about the scene at all. That’s not to say that Roddenberry’s personal opinion of interracial relationships wasn’t positive – we know it was – but all the episodes aired (including the abridged “Alternative Factor) were never allowed to promote that cause.

I hate the fact that homosexuality is even an issue of discussion. Eventually, our society will evolve to the point where gay people have just as many rights and will be just as highly respected as everyone else. Just like women gaining the right to vote and the Civil Rights Act, there will be legislation that will end this nonsense. The Constitution says We the People, and as Kirk once said in a bad episode with a great monologue, to paraphrase: “look at those three words, bigger than all the rest…they mean NOTHING unless they apply to everybody!”. Not We the Straight People. Not We the White Males. WE THE PEOPLE. It simply boggles my mind that it’s even discussed whether or not gays can get married, whether or not they choose the lifestyle…irrelevant. ANY Star Trek “fan” who believes that homosexuality is immoral, won’t exist in the future, should not be depicted, etc…is NOT a true Star Trek fan at all. Clearly these people have missed the entire point of the whole frickin’ vision of the show.

Anyway, it’s awesome that we’ll see some Sulu-fencing action. I always loved that aspect of his character (wild, adventurous) and I glad they’re exploring it more with the new film.

I should also add that Takei’s comments are even more eloquent than usual.

#42– I do prefer TOS, but because of the magic in the main characters’ interactions. You are correct, IMO, that some of the criticism of the later series as going outside of Roddenberry’s vision is reaching. For instance, DS9 and ENT were often criticised as being too militaristic, but Roddenberry’s vision was of humanity as a whole, not that the entire universe had adopted their ways. No matter what their own philosophy was, the Federation would have to contend with the counter philosophies of others, and sometimes, that would inevitably lead to conflict. The only thing I can say with confidence that Gene probably would not have approved of was the existence of Section 31 in his benevolent Federation, and the complacency of its leaders over its actions. Then again, if he knew what we do about the state of affairs right now in the world, he may have done something like that to address it. Star Trek, then and now, has never shied away from the frontline of social issues. He was the one who started us on that path.

I think De Kelley forgave the TOS Shatner by the time of the movies. Shatner told a story of Kelley not speaking to him for years after Shatner laughed at how Kelley’s dog had died (died in a nasty way at that.)

I think most of the cast (except Doohan) got over their S-hat-red. I wish George could. It’s silly to think of these two sitting in their rockers at the old farts’ home exchanging harangues.

“Any Star Trek “fan” who believes that homosexuality is immoral, won’t exist in the future, should not be depicted, etc…is NOT a true Star Trek fan at all.”

Well, I guess that excludes me, then; I believe that homosexual acts are intrinsically immoral, but that doesn’t make me “homophobic” or want to burn gay people at the stake…homosexual people are human beings too, and I respect them just as much as I would anyone else. At the same time, that does not mean I sanction their behavior… I believe it is wrong…and I’m not going to pretend I don’t.

Having said that, I find it extremely offensive and tiresome to be constantly reminded of how “intolerant,” “bigoted,” and “prejudiced” I am, and being told I’m not a “true Star Trek fan” for refusing to affirm gay people in their happy okay-ness really irks me… I understand that you have a strong opinion in this matter, but that doesn’t give you the right to act like a jerk.

Oh, and the tidbit about the new movie looks nifty…I can’t wait to see Sulu kick some butt!

George Takai is a class act and down to earth human being. I remember back in 1984 during the opening weekend of Star Trek 3-TSFS. I was standing in line at the Royal Theatre in San Francisco along with about 20 other fans, for the first showing on Saturday. I was reading a novel when I heard someone yell out loud, “Hey Sulu!”. I looked up and see this jogger that had run by stop and come back. It was George! He was in the city that weekend for a Star Trek Creation Convention. George stopped, signed autographs, and chatted with us for about 15 mins before resuming his jog. It was pretty cool to interact with him in a regular setting outside of the usual convention circus.