TV - Movies
The Off-Screen
Drama That
Changed Sulu From
Star Trek Forever
By HELEN A. LEE
"Star Trek" takes place in an enlightened futuristic universe, but that doesn't stop the franchise's actors from engaging in the petty celebrity conflicts of our current age. One bout of off-screen drama between William Shatner (Captain James T. Kirk) and George Takei (Lt. Sulu) changed the story and legacy behind Takei's character forever.
In Takei's 1994 autobiography "To the Stars," the actor writes that his co-star Shatner "radiated energy and a boundless joy" early in the "Star Trek" original series. However, Takei adds that Shatner's ego grew and he began stealing good lines away from his cast mates, and Shatner's self-absorption hit a peak during the filming of the second "Star Trek" film.
For "Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan," Takei negotiated with producers to have Lt. Sulu advance in rank during the story, and a scene was even filmed in which Kirk informs Sulu that he is now commander of the U.S.S. Excelsior. However, Takei writes that Shatner was so dull and disinterested during the scene that it was deemed unusable and cut from the film.
As a result of this drama, Sulu did not become captain of his own vessel until "Star Trek 6: The Undiscovered Country." Shatner later went on to minimize Takei's role in the franchise, calling his co-star a "day player" who was barely on set and was unwilling to play second fiddle; in 2021, Takei told Howard Stern that Shatner's behavior is "so patently unbelievable."