Sulu's Husband In 'Star Trek Beyond' Helps Expand The Star Trek Universe For Good
News that filmmakers had decided to reveal that Sulu is a gay man in Star Trek Beyond hit just weeks before the film was released in theaters. The decision was met with both cheers and dissents, the later most notably from the man who originated the role in the series, George Takei. Since then, there has been more than enough debate and conversation about the merits of having Sulu's sexuality addressed in the film, but there haven't been a lot of details about what role, if any, Sulu's partner actually plays in the film, such as who plays Sulu's husband in Star Trek Beyond and what he actually does. But now that the movie's out, I've got the info, and it is good.
Spoilers ahead! First thing's first: Sulu is actually married — though explicit confirmation does not come from the film itself. The husband, credited as "Ben" on IMDB, doesn't actually have lines and is never named in the movie. He's only seen briefly welcoming Sulu after the Enterprise docks at the Yorktown space station at the beginning of Star Trek Beyond . He is not explicitly referred to as Sulu's husband in dialogue, nor do the two share a kiss on-screen (they are, however, shown embracing upon their reunion). According to Beyond's co-writers Doug Jung and Simon Pegg, the lack of PDA was an attempt to show a more realistic family reunion. "I think it was really important to represent this was a normal family reunion that happens without a lot of fanfare," explained Jung in an interview with Buzzfeed.
Another reason for their lack of PDA: their young daughter, who is obviously big part of the family reunion. In the absence of any explicit dialogue or displays of affection, the most telling on-screen clue about the nature of Sulu's relationship is that he has a young daughter, shown in a photo on the bridge before Sulu reunites with his family in Yorktown. Eagle-eyed viewers will also catch the wedding ring on Ben's finger, confirming that Ben and Sulu are, in fact, married, but that's a minor detail likely to be missed by most audiences.
It's an interesting choice, making Sulu's daughter part of what gives his relationship status away. The filmmakers obviously gave a lot of thought in how they wanted to portray Sulu's sexuality. As the first openly gay crew member in the Star Trek universe, Sulu breaks important ground in Beyond, and, as Pegg noted in his official statement on the announcement, it was important to them to avoid creating a token gay character. Some fans might be disappointed by the fact that the movie avoids having Sulu and Ben show PDA and doesn't give Ben any lines, but others will likely be happy that, by, introducing Sulu's sexuality into the narrative in such a nonchalant way, filmmakers make it a natural part of the Star Trek universe.
The debate on whether or not Sulu's sexual orientation is portrayed effectively in Star Trek Beyond will likely continue for awhile, with fans arguing for both sides. Yet one thing all Trekkies will likely agree on is how important it to see Sulu have a daughter. The fact that the character has a husband and a daughter is a major reveal, and it's important for many reasons. Other than the fact that Sulu's a bomb pilot and really good with a sword, fans haven't gotten to learn much about him. The introduction of his family ads a brand new layer to the character, and it also ups the stakes dramatically in the third act of the film, when (slight spoiler alert) the Enterprise crew must rush to save Yorktown — aka save Sulu's family. Is it a plot device? Sure, but at least it's one that matters.
Regardless of where you stand on the sanctity of canon or the narrative importance of Sulu's relationship, one thing that cannot be argued about the reveal of Sulu's husband and daughter is that it is not in keeping with the original vision of Star Trek. "We're executing [Gene] Roddenberry's intent, I think: infinite diversity in infinite combinations. It's very much a part of the ethos in Star Trek," actor John Cho told The A.V. Club. And he's right.
The introduction of Sulu's husband and daughter in Star Trek Beyond, no matter how brief, is a perfect example of the future the Star Trek movies represent: one where diversity of all kind is accepted, embraced, and, most importantly, normalized.
Images: Paramount Pictures; artemisfowls/tumblr (2)