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George Takei calls 'Star Trek Beyond' gay Sulu scene 'a whisper'

The actor who originated the role of Sulu has now seen "Star Trek Beyond" and he has both praise and criticism for the reboot movie.

George Takei speaks at the Star Trek convention in Las Vegas.

Amanda Kooser/CNET

"Star Trek Beyond" brought with it a different take on the character of Hikaru Sulu.

The role was originated by George Takei in the 1960s, but is now carried forward (debatably, depending on your stance on the reboot movies) by John Cho. The reboot version of Sulu is gay, we learned in "Beyond," the third of the new movies.

Takei has said publicly he is against the idea of Sulu being gay, and he had plenty to say about it here at the 50th anniversary Star Trek convention in Las Vegas.

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Takei recalled on Friday a private conversation he had with Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry. Roddenberry told him he was supportive of equality, but that his hands were tied as far as bringing up sexual orientations on the television show. The episode in which Kirk kisses Uhura faced a boycott by stations in the American South, which had a negative impact on ratings. Roddenberry didn't want to risk cancellation of the show.

"I'm delighted that the issue of LGBT equality is finally being raised, but Gene Roddenberry created all his characters as heterosexual because he had to. There is a lot of evidence of Sulu being heterosexual," Takei said. He brought up instances from the original series that involved Sulu displaying an interest in Uhura.

Takei would have preferred for the reboot filmmakers to create a new gay character. "Show the respect," he said. "Create a fresh, new original character. Be as bold as Gene Roddenberry would have been."

The scene in the movie is brief. Sulu walks up to his husband, who is with their daughter, puts his arm around him and walks away. It's a very low-key introduction to Sulu's private life.

"If you blinked, you missed it," said Takei. "There are others who are dealing with LGBT issues much more profoundly." He called it "a whisper of a scene."

Takei says he has agreed to disagree on the issue of gay Sulu with the movie's co-writer Simon Pegg, with whom he has exchanged emails. His unhappiness with that aspect of the new Sulu didn't detract from his enjoyment of the rest of the film. Takei praised "Beyond" as a "rip-snorting good space opera."