This is the latest installment in a series of "Character Insight" articles regarding the rich history of characters in the Star Trek universe. An audio version will appear on the This Week in Trek podcast, available for direct download here.
Welcome back to Character Insight! This week, our subject is Lieutenant Hikaru Sulu from TOS.
Sulu serves as the helmsman aboard the Enterprise, although he also takes shifts as tactical officer. Sulu started as the head of the astrosciences department, but he had already switched to the role of helmsman when the series picks up the story.
Sulu is a regular presence on the bridge and a regular member of away teams, at least when he is serving as a tactical expert. However, Sulu also brings a bit of comic relief in certain episodes such as This Side of Paradise. In The Naked Time, an intoxicated Sulu runs around the ship with his shirt off and a fencing foil, like a swashbuckling buccaneer. (As George would say, Oh My!)
Sulu has various hobbies that come up frequently during his adventures on the Enterprise. Sulu is an expert in antique firearms and swords, and enjoys various types of swordplay. Sulu also is an avid botanist who spends much of his free time caring for rare plants from various locales journeyed to by the Enterprise.
Unlike the other characters of TOS, who stick with the Enterprise until retirement, Sulu progresses to Captain of the Excelsior during the movie series. Sulu plays a critical role in saving Kirk and his former crewmates in The Undiscovered Country. Sulu is also revealed to have a daughter Demora in the movies, and she also becomes a helmsman aboard a new Enterprise.
Sulu's name was changed in the Japanese version of Star Trek to Kato because the Japanese language does not include the L sound. Sulu's first name was not confirmed until Star Trek VI, and there was much speculation as to what it could be over the years.
The best episodes featuring Sulu include: The Naked Time, from season 1; The City on the Edge of Forever, from season 1; and Tomorrow is Yesterday, from season 1.
Our notable quote this week comes from the Voyager episode Flashback in season 3:
Captain Hikaru Sulu:
Ensign, you're absolutely right. But you're also absolutely wrong.
You'll find that more happens on the bridge of a starship than just
carrying out orders and observing regulations. There is a sense of
loyalty to the men and women you serve with - a sense of family. Those
two men on trial, I served with them for a long time. I owe them my
life, a dozen times over. And right now they're in trouble, and I'm
going to help them. Let the regulations be damned.
Tuvok: Sir, that is a most illogical line of reasoning.
Captain Hikaru Sulu: You better believe it.
Actor: George Takei played Sulu, and he has a 50 year acting career spanning from General Hospital all the way to Heroes, and a recent appearance on The Apprentice. John Cho took over the role in the 2009 reboot, and he is best known for the comical Harold and Kumar movies and shorts.
Until next time, live long and prosper...