Simon Pegg might be known for his comedy and his acting, but he is indeed a serious writer. And when he was tasked with developing what would become “Star Trek: Beyond,” it was a job he took quite seriously.
It’s not just finding the right story, and knowing the characters. But Pegg had to understand the new universe J.J. Abrams created with the 2009 “Star Trek” film, and how that played into the rest of Trek canon. And how even if Hikaru Sulu wasn’t gay in what is now known as the “prime universe,” how he could indeed have his sexuality adjusted in “Beyond.”
“With the Kelvin timeline,” as CBS and Paramount are now calling the AbramsVerse, “we are not entirely beholden to existing canon,” Pegg shared on his official website. “This is an alternate reality and, as such is full of new and alternate possibilities.”
Those possibilities were created when the Romulan Nero jumped back into time and destroyed the USS Kelvin, which James Kirk’s father George served as XO. Although it’s likely that this particular incident happened before Sulu was born (it’s not actually clear if Kirk is older than Sulu), it’s still hard to imagine how the introduction of a future Romulan ship would somehow change someone’s sexuality.
“The explanation comes down to something very Star Trek-y,” Pegg said. “Theoretical, quantum physics and the less-than-simple fact that time is not linear. Sure, we experience time as a contiguous series of cascading events, but perception and reality aren’t always the same thing.”
When Spock Prime arrived from the future in the 2009 movie, it created what Pegg said was a “multi-dimensional reality shift.”
“The rift in space-time created an entirely new reality in all directions, top to bottom,” he said. “From the Big Bang to the end of everything. And such this reality was, is and always will be subtly different from the Prime Universe.
“I don’t believe for one second that Gene Roddenberry wouldn’t have loved the idea of an alternate reality. This means, and this is absolutely key, the Kelvin universe can evolve and change in ways that don’t necessarily have to follow the Prime Universe at any point in history, before or after the events of ‘Star Trek'” in 2009. “It can mutate and subvert, it is a playground for the new and the progressive, and I know in my heart that Gene Roddenberry would be proud of us keeping his ideals alive.”
Pegg has found himself on the defensive in recent days after the revelation of Sulu’s sexuality was met with some pushback from the most unlikely of sources: openly gay actor George Takei, who originated the Sulu role in the “Star Trek” television series. Takei felt the move was unfortunate, and had pushed for Pegg and “Beyond” director Justin Lin to instead introduce a new character and allow him or her to be the first openly gay character.
“The fact is, we chose Sulu because of George,” Pegg said. “There was something sweet and poetic about it. Introducing a new gay character had its own set of problems, as I mentioned before, the sexuality of that character would have to be addressed immediately and pointedly. And the new characters in ‘Star Trek: Beyond’ have enough on their plate without stopping to give us the intimate details of their personal lives.”
But Pegg knew Takei didn’t like the idea of making Sulu gay even before “Beyond” went in front of the cameras. So why persist?
“The thinking behind embracing an existing character was that it felt as though it retroactively put right something that had long been wrong,” Pegg said. “By the time we mentioned it to (Takei), the idea had taken shape, it felt good, interesting and worthy of thought and conversation. We were disappointed that George didn’t see it that way, but truth be told, Sulu Prime seemed to be missing a very important point.
“With galaxies of respect to the great man, this is not his Sulu. John Cho does not play a young George Takei, nor does he play the same character George Takei played in the original series. He is a different Sulu.”
Pegg isn’t upset that debate has erupted within the fan community about Sulu’s sexuality. However, he isn’t too keen on the position a small minority of fans have taken.
“Ultimately, if we love Star Trek, we are all on the same page,” Pegg said. “We all want Gene’s idea of a tolerant, inclusive, diplomatic and loving universe to become a reality. for those who have joined this debate in the spirit of discussion and forward momentum, it’s been a pleasure to see your reactions.
“For those who have seen it as an opportunity to sling abuse, or be rude and presumptuous, please take a long hard look in the mirror, and remember, we are discussing the personal details of a fictional spaceman.”
To read Pegg’s full blog post, click here.
“Star Trek: Beyond” premieres July 22.