“Retro-Fittings”: Not Creativity In My Book

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We have learned that Star Trek’s “Sulu” is to be “re-imagined” as gay. Believing that to be “right…for our times,” Guardian writer Ryan Gilbey is clearly pleased by that writers’ decision. Interestingly, however, LGBT activist, and original “Sulu” actor, George Takei, is clearly not:

Screen capture of the Guardian, July 10, 2016.
Screen capture of the Guardian, July 10, 2016.

Mr. Takei’s disapproval obviously disappointed Mr. Gilbey and quite a few others:

“I’m delighted that there’s a gay character,” said Takei. “Unfortunately, it’s a twisting of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry’s creation, into which he put so much thought. I think it’s really unfortunate.”

Mr. Gilbey notes that Star Trek new writer Simon Pegg, who was central in the decision, “responded sensitively but persuasively,” quoting Mr. Pegg as saying:

“He’s right, it is unfortunate; it’s unfortunate that the screen version of the most inclusive, tolerant universe in science fiction hasn’t featured an LGBT character until now. We could have introduced a new gay character but he or she would have been primarily defined by their sexuality, seen as the ‘gay character’, rather than simply for who they are and isn’t that tokenism?”

Given who Mr. Takei is, I find that response (and there is much more of it here) to be not “sensitive,” but condescending and full of impatience with him for disagreeing based on his personal relationship with Gene Roddenberry, Star Trek’s original creator. And it is most definitely not “persuasive” to me as an author.

As to that latter, why? Because Mr. Pegg is ducking and deflecting there. Wriggle, wriggle, and try to change the subject, but how a new character might be perceived is simply not an acceptable reason to “retro-fit” – as Mr. Takei aptly termed it – an existing one.

That inventing a new character would have been tougher than simply “re-imagining” “Sulu” as gay is not the public’s problem. Tackling challenges like those are what writers are supposed to do. Mr. Pegg and the current group of “creative” minds at this incarnation of Star Trek flat out chose the easy route.

Indeed also unfortunate is how – from big budget filmmakers down to certain indie authors – lately so many seem able only to manage to “borrow” someone else’s original idea and manipulate it to suit their own purposes. I’ve held much the same opinion about calls for some “re-imagining” of “James Bond.” Summoning up actual originality “for our times” is something we ALL would like to see much more of.

Excerpt from "Passports," on the iPad app for Kindle. Click to expand.
Excerpt from “Passports,” on the iPad app for Kindle. Click to expand.

As a novelist, I can only applaud Mr. Takei’s stance. Even if his views went unheeded by the filmmakers, he spoke his mind honestly and caringly. I’d have to believe most authors would be humbled and genuinely touched to know they had been posthumously defended in such a manner by a well-regarded actor who knew you, is now an activist, and who had many years before portrayed your creation.

Have a good day, wherever you are in our world. 🙂

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