Saturday, September 3, 2016

"Boldly go" isn't so bold

A couple days ago I saw the movie Star Trek Beyond. I've seen a few episodes of the Original Series (premiered 50 years ago!) and of Next Generation. I was a pretty regular viewer of the series Deep Space Nine, Voyager, and Enterprise. I've seen many, though perhaps not all, of the 13 movies featuring the Original, Next Gen, and reboot casts. So, yeah, I saw the latest movie, though only after it came to a second-run theater.

I enjoyed it, though the violence was a bit too relentless (and some commenters have declared the emphasis of action over ideas and characters to be the reason why this one hasn't made a profit yet, which means it is possibly the last movie). I was quite captivated by the scale, complexity, and beauty of Starbase Yorktown. Quite impressive. It was a delight to see the repartee between Bones, Spock, and Kirk, and to see the other main characters – Uhura, Sulu, Scotty, and Chekov – have strong meaty roles.

Afterward I looked up the movie in the International Movie Database (IMDb), as I usually do, to read the quotes, goofs, crazy credits, and trivia. I was surprised when the trivia page talked about making Sulu gay. This was done in honor of George Takei, who played Sulu in the Original Series and has since become a gay-rights champion. Takei disagreed with the choice saying that was not Roddenberry's intention for the character (and in the late 1960s it could not have been). John Cho, who played Sulu, campaigned to make sure Sulu's husband was also Asian, even though an Asian man willing to play gay in Dubai, where they were filming, was difficult to come by.

I read that and thought: Wha? How did I miss that? A scene showing Sulu with his husband should have leapt off the screen at me. I thought through the movie wondering when I saw Sulu other than in his role as pilot and navigator or as a leader of part of the crew. It was in the middle of the night when I realized I had seen it, or might have seen it. There is a brief scene early in the movie where the Enterprise crew has made a stop at Yorktown and several crew members are shown in joyful reunion with family, which they hadn't seen in close to three years. Even so, I don't remember Sulu embracing another man.

And maybe my memory isn't faulty. I searched the web for "Sulu's husband" and got an image of a crowd that included an Asian man holding an Asian child, but no images of an actual embrace. And another site features John Cho saying the welcome home kiss was cut. How is one to tell that Asian man is Sulu's husband when we don't actually see them together? Bold new direction for the series? Hardly.

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