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George Takei

INTERVIEW

Exclusive: GEORGE TAKEI THANKS FANS FOR 40 YEARS OF 'STAR TREK' - PART 2

Captain Sulu would still be up for more adventures and boldly going as the HEROES star takes on NEW VOYAGES


Published 11/20/2007

George Takei, the actor most known to the entire world as Mr. Sulu from STAR TREK,  says that he is expecting a new renaissance for STAR TREK due mostly to the fans that will never let the worldwide phenomenon die. With a new prequel film in the works from ALIAS creator JJ Abrams, a new HD DVD set for the first series of the classic TREK and of course the fan web based series NEW VOYAGES, it's the franchise that keeps on giving even though ironically it was unceremoniously canceled during its initial run before Kirk, Spock and the crew of the Enterprise even finished their five year mission on network television.

iF MAGAZINE chatted with Takei last week about the future of the future. And, really who better to talk about the ups and downs of a forty-year franchise than someone that was in on it from the beginning?
 
iF MAGAZINE: Last year was the 40th Anniversary of STAR TREK and it seems like Paramount is sort of in the rear in terms of anything special for the occasion?
 
GEORGE TAKEI: That’s because they’ve lost touch. It takes STAR TREK fans to goose them a little bit. That fan series NEW VOYAGES is one of the gooses, and then of course JJ Abrams is a savvy marketer and went and goosed them with the idea of a new STAR TREK movie.
 
iF: They’re also just releasing the first season of the Classic STAR TREK HD DVD sets as well, which look absolutely amazing.
 
TAKEI: Aren’t they sensational? It’s fantastic. I’ve seen them and it’s science fiction becoming reality. Now you watch it and you see us using cell phones which of course we called communicators, and in our times now the cell phone is already becoming a bit outdated and something of a nuisance.
 
iF: The bridge’s view screen is also very reminiscent of a flat screen TV in today’s world.
 
TAKEI: Exactly. [Laughs] I was in London last month doing promotion for the release of the HD DVD set and some of the British people that had seen it were just blown away by it. I think STAR TREK is going to enjoy another re-galvanization brought on by this. Of course, with another new movie coming out, we are going to live much longer than we ever expected. We’re certainly going to prosper in many ways.
 
iF: I don’t think STAR TREK will ever really go away. Hasn’t it become something of a worldwide pop culture phrase that creates instant recognition?
 
TAKEI: Absolutely, I think some call it a "global phenomenon." I’ve done conventions on every continent except Africa. Africa is the only continent that I haven’t done a STAR TREK convention on. Certainly, I’ve done conventions all over Europe, two in Japan, one in Singapore, many in Australia, two in Latin America; so Africa is really the next continent we have to conquer.

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iF: How was filming for THE NEW VOYAGES?
 
TAKEI: The building that houses the sets for the series is in upstate New York in the Adirondacks; you don’t fly into Kennedy or LaGuardia, you fly into Vermont by Lake Superior and you go around the lake and go into the most rural area. You don’t have cell phone connection there. [Laughs] This guy James Cawley is beyond passionate as a STAR TREK fan, I think he’s an obsessed STAR TREK fan. He got this abandoned car dealership which is right next to a highway and built the set right there with the traffic zooming by every twenty seconds.  
 
iF: I remember at one time there was supposed to be a series with Captain Sulu and the adventures of the USS Excelsior -- whatever happened to that series?
 
TAKEI: It was a vigorous campaign. When VOYAGER was about to go off, Paramount sent out a notice to fandom asking for suggestions on the next STAR TREK series they wanted to see. The fans started writing in about a series with Sulu in command of the USS Excelsior, there was a gentleman named Russ Haslage in Ohio that organized a major Internet campaign. There was a flood of letters from every corner of the world advocating for this Excelsior series and then Paramount suddenly decided they didn’t want fan advice or participation and went ahead and did what they wanted to anyway with ENTERPRISE which was a disastrous failure. So Paramount can’t be counted on for any kind of intelligence, there are no signs of intelligent life there. [Laughs]
 
iF: Well, I would say they obviously forgot that it was the fans that originally brought STAR TREK back and made it a successful film franchise that has made them a lot of money!  
 
TAKEI: The people that really understand and love STAR TREK are no longer there. When Gene Roddenbery passed, that really was the end of STAR TREK, as we knew it. The series that came on immediately after was DEEP SPACE NINE, which was the polar opposite of Gene’s philosophy and vision of the future, so STAR TREK lost it’s way then and now the people at Paramount are all new people. Herb Solow who was the executive in charge of Desilu Studios is now a professor in Wales. We became very good friends and we had dinner with him and his wife before they left, and when I was in London last year I saw an article about a Professor Herb Solow! [Laughs] But, basically the people now at the studio have absolutely no connection with STAR TREK as we knew it, sadly.
 
iF: When ENTERPRISE ended it just left a void with nothing STAR TREK related on the air for the first time in years.  
 
TAKEI: Well, ENTERPRISE too was literally going in the wrong direction. Gene was always forward looking and in terms of drama he wanted the shock of the new: new life, new civilizations. When you go backward people start nitpicking at the cannon and the technology.
 
iF: If you had your chance to do something with Sulu now, what would you do with that character?
 
TAKEI: Certainly now, we’re forty plus years later from when STAR TREK first started, so I’m not the young buck I was when I started on STAR TREK at the age of 27. So there are physical limitations there and the audience has changed, but I love Sulu and I that’s why I did the NEW VOYAGES, particularly because the script was so wonderful. My love for Sulu is there and if someone comes up with a wonderful approach to Sulu given the passage of time and given the aging process we all go through I would be up for it. In the crew of the Enterprise, Chekov was supposed to be the youngest, but Takei was actually the youngest if you get my meaning. [Laughs] I think it is still credible that we could get Sulu into some vigorous drama.
iF: Of course he has a family to consider?
 
TAKEI: If you saw NEW VOYAGES he has daughters plural, but Alana was lost.
iF: By this point would he be Admiral Sulu, or be more like Kirk and not want to give up the Captain’s chair?
 
TAKEI: Well, the fun is where the Captain is at, but I don’t know if could you still have a Captain commanding a ship at that age? 
 
iF: Admiral Sulu could have to commandeer a ship to use for a mission or missions. 
 
TAKEI: Yes, and by that point in the future the medicine of that time would have made tremendous advances and not only the longevity but also the vigor of someone’s life could be extended. I still could see Sulu in the vigorous role.
 

Reader Comments

Les from Scotland sez....

It's dead Jim..... Maybe Enterprise flopped in the US but I am certain it was very popular over here! Good to see GT in Heroes!

11/22/2007 1:23:56 PM
steve adams from burbank Ca sez....

Ds9 was a great show,,, I'm sure George didn't really watch it like an average veiwer would. ^ I would have liked to have seen the Excelsior series workout instead of this stupid decision of going back to Kirk and Spock. ^ I would have loved to see a Ds9/ Voyager film. But as George says "the studio dosn care what the fans want anymore". I think this will come back to bite them in Dec 08. ^ The yound demo that Abhrams thinks he's going to bring in dosnt exsist. ^ Its the core fans you need to please. ^ Going backward is the wrong direction Abhrams.

11/20/2007 10:00:29 PM
Rhett Coates from West Point, Virginia sez....

George is apparently (and from all appearances) one of the most graceous and courteous actors in the entire entertainment industry. At conventions, he seems to be -- like the late Jimmy Doohan -- everyone's friend. That says a lot about his character, OFF stage, too. I would enjoy seeing George reprise the role of Hikaru Sulu in any S.T. adventure, just like he described such as story could be written to allow for the passage of time, developments between TOS era and TNG era, etc. As for DS9 and ENT, I enjoyed them both -- even with DS9's far darker take on the Gene Roddenberry universe, it was compelling drama, in episode after episode. THE CHARACTERS made that come alive, in that way. ST:Enterprise came alive during the 4th Season, when S.T. fans from TOS era took over the production, and made the show a true prequel to TOS -- complete with tie-ins to long-discussed discrepancies DURING The Original Series. I feel that show could have become another TOS-like series if Manny Coto & Co. had been allowed to keep going for a fifth season, and Paramount would likely have been astonished at the viewership had UPN actually advertised the show like Sci Fi Network is doing now. CHEERS, George. Your role on HEROES is also astonishing, and just as much FUN as Sulu was during all your years on Star Trek (yes, we noted -- with great delight -- the liscense plate on the back of the black car in your debut episode on Heroes: NCC-1701). THANK YOU for sharing your God-given gift of the talent of acting with the rest of us, in optimism and hope for humanity's potential -- on Star Trek AND on Heroes!

11/20/2007 4:40:01 PM
Muldfeld from North America sez....

I'm very sorry Mr. Takei hasn't properly given Deep Space Nine a chance because it's far closer to human nature and the pivotal issues of history which have only been brought to the forefront by the mainstream media after 9/11. Issues of religious faith, occupation (whether by America in Iraq, Israel in Palestine and Lebanon, Vichy France, or historic colonialism for centuries), terrorism, identity politics (through Odo, who illustrates, what I, as a Muslim, go through), war, religion, and the causes of conflict (with the Founders' brutality and aggression stemming from their insecurity, as with Stalin's Soviet Union's desire for a buffer zone, and persecution complex, as with Israel). Even the causes of conflict were not shown to emerge purely from evil, but conflicting interests. Gul Dukat wasn't evil and didn't even hate Bajorans as much as many other Cardassians, but did evil things. This showed how the cruelest acts can come from those who seem nice to some, especially their families, whether Osama bin Ladin, Milosevic, Hitler, or George W. Bush (who loves his family, but cares little for anyone outside his social circle, especially the poor). Deep Space Nine was the first show to get to the root causes of why there's so much trouble in the world. The original series, much of TNG (except a few episodes, especially Melinda Snodgrass' fantastic Season 3 episode on terrorism), and all other Trek series didn't dare move away from having perfect heroes facing petty alien races. In those lesser series, the conflict didn't confront the viewer who identified with the hero, but was among "the other". Deep Space Nine put the moral conflict among our beloved heroes, including Gul Dukat, and showed us how terrible even the viewer can be. It's sad that Mr. Takei has only viewed these series superficially. Deep Space Nine helped inspire Battlestar Galactica, which is the most politically insightful and dramatically realistic show, as well as later seasons of The 4400. Shows like these can have more positive effect on the culture than all non-DS9 Trek series!

11/20/2007 3:16:54 PM
RNS from Conn,USA sez....

To the point.paramount studio felt uncomfortable with Goerge Takei living a gay life style,every fans knew he secrets even at convention he would bla,bla,bla for a while and than in a hurry go to the bathroom watch the white mens pipi."oh boy" this guy was funny.anyway he is a great actor and should be giving the respect as a human being.

11/20/2007 11:19:30 AM
Tim from NY sez....

Nice interview (despite Takei's faulty recollections...DS9 was in the planning during Roddenberry's lifetime, the Captain Sulu campaign was very minor and not better-received by fans than the idiotic Shatner campaign is being received now, and Takei himself appeared on the first series to be made without Roddenberry's involvement), but I have to ask: Did anyone proofread it? Herb Solo should be Herb Solow, and Whales should be Wales...unless you're talking about a relative of Han Solo who works with whales.

11/20/2007 10:07:16 AM
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