Sunday, 16 November 2008

I'm stranded on a frozen planet, get me out of here

If George Takei sticks around long enough on I'm A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here he stands to be a household name in the UK. In fact he may end up becoming better known than the character he played for so many years in Star Trek. On the basis of that flimsy premise Some People Are On The Telly dons its ill-fitting Captain Kirk t-shirt and Spock ears to look back on the life and times of a Trek stalwart, Lieutenant Sulu.

Hikaru Sulu first appeared on Star Trek in the second pilot episode Where No Man Has Gone Before. As Physicist Sulu he made his debut at the same time as Scotty and Captain Kirk. Only Spock has been in Star Trek longer, appearing in the first pilot episode with and entirely different crew which was rejected by the commissioning network.

When Star Trek was finally commissioned at the second time of asking, Sulu went from scientist to Helmsman of the Starship Enterprise. Sulu was one of a number of supporting crew members who were regulars throughout the series but didn't do much more than take orders and say "Aye Captain". The Star Trek hierarchy went something like this:

Kirk, Spock and McCoy did most of the talking and all the interesting stuff.

Scotty, Sulu, Uhura and later Chekov plus an assortment of guest stars did some of the talking and most of the work.

The security guards in red shirts did none of the talking and pretty much all of the dying.

So, while Sulu is fondly remembered, this is mostly for what is said to him rather than for what he said. The phrase "Mr Sulu, ahead Warp Factor One" is almost as familiar as Beam Me Up Scotty and enjoys the benefit of actually having been said on the programme unlike the latter expression which, contrary to common belief, never was. Still and all, it's not much of a legacy is it - being famous for taking orders and doing a lot of sitting around? However, the character endured throughout the run of the franchise and beyond. In that time there were some highlights:

In the first season episode The Naked Time, the Enterprise is infected with a virus and the entire crew get drunk with hilarious and deadly consequences. Sulu spends much of the episode charging around the ship's corridors topless with a fencing blade acting like a musketeer. His shining moment is on the Enterprise Bridge as he grabs the buxom Lieutenant Uhura around the waist promising to "protect" her (well you would wouldn't you?) Tragically he is cut short thanks to a Vulcan nerve pinch and a rare one liner from Spock: "Take D'artagnan here to Sickbay."

In The Enemy Within, Sulu is stranded on a planet which is about to get too cold for human life to survive. While Kirk struggles with his mysterious doppleganger while trying to fix the transporter, Sulu is progressively covered in fake ice spray until he is barely visible.

Perhaps his finest 50 minutes was in the classic second season episode Mirror Mirror. Kirk, McCoy, Scotty and Uhura beam aboard the Enterprise from another dimension. The crew are the same but in this universe they are not part of a peaceful benevolent democracy similar to the United States but an evil and brutal imperialist regime similar to the United States. Spock has a beard and is cruel and Sulu is the Machiavellian Head Of Security. Complete with scar across his face, Sulu leches over Uhura and contrives to depose both Spock and Kirk as the two struggle for control of the ship. Takei clearly relishes his chance to be truly evil and delivers with aplomb one of the best lines from the series as he reveals his nefarious plans to Kirk:

Perhaps because of these rare moments, Sulu's character endured through the three seasons of Star Trek and his services were recalled for the follow up series Star Trek Phase II which was ditched in favour of Star Trek: The Motion Picture. The movies allowed the character to develop. In Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home we learned that he was both in San Francisco and the Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country he finally took command of his own ship, the USS Excelsior. It was in that film as Captain Sulu, he dressed down a young ensign played by Christian Slater (then at the peak of his powers) who'd dropped in for a quick cameo. Years later, Takei would reprise his role in the Star Trek: Voyager episode Flashback which retold some of the events in Star Trek VI.

For a while, there was talk of a whole series chronicling Sulu's adventures on the Excelsior. A few audio plays were released but it never really amounted to anything. However, Mr Sulu is steeped in Star Trek lore and his inclusion on I'm A Celebrity is a smart move for both Takei and ITV. Star Trek remains hugely popular as evidenced by its constant repeats here in the UK. By all accounts he is a smashing bloke and his infectious laugh is legendary. More importantly, his presence will probably have his many followers rushing to the phones when it comes to the public vote.

Some People Are On The Telly doesn't usually do reality TV that much but is prepared to make an exception in this instance. We'll be tweeting matters IACGMOOH on our Twitter stream @spaott. The show is on Twitter too so why not join us there?


Contact SPAOTT

If you'd like to send us your comments, complaints, compliments or if you'd like to write for us, send your message to the following address: spaott [at] the-onion-bag [dot] com.

If you liked SPAOTT, why not try...

Some People Are On The Pitch
Football for the discerning enthusiast, featuring news, nostalgia, trivia - all served up with a decent side-order of humour.

The Onion Bag
Modern-day football shot through a comedy prism. Brilliantly surreal and always cuttingly satirical

SPAOTT Poll: Are the BBC right to axe 'Not Going Out'?

  © Blogger template Newspaper III by 2008

Back to TOP