One of Star Trek’s best-known characters, Hikaru Sulu, will be depicted as gay in the forthcoming blockbuster Star Trek Beyond.

American actor John Cho, who is reprising his role as the third officer and senior helmsman aboard the Enterprise for the second time having appeared in 2013’s Star Trek Into Darkness, will this time be playing Sulu as an openly gay character with a same sex partner.

Speaking to the Herald Sun, the 44 year old South Korean-born actor said that the portrayal was intended as a tribute to Takei, who is himself openly gay.

John ChoJohn Cho is reprising his character Hikaru Sulu in 'Star Trek Beyond', this time as an openly gay character

“I liked the approach, which was not to make a big thing out it, which is where I hope we are going as a species, to not politicise one's personal orientations.”

Star Trek Beyond, which is released on July 22nd. The franchise is also celebrating its 50th anniversary, and has long been a vehicle for change on film and television – back in 1968, it famously featured the first ever interracial kiss to be broadcast on American TV – and it’s hoped that this decision regarding the sexual orientation of Sulu will be received as part of that same groundbreaking tradition.

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However, the actor George Takei, who originally played Sulu in the Star Trek movies in the ‘70s and ‘80s, has described the decision to portray the character as openly gay as “really unfortunate”, arguing that it constitutes a “twisting” of the original intention that Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry had.

The 79 year old actor and LGBT rights activist told the Hollywood Reporter: “I’m delighted that there’s a gay character. Unfortunately, it’s a twisting of Gene’s creation, to which he put in so much thought. I think it’s really unfortunate.”

Rather, Takei would have preferred director Justin Lin and actor/co-writer Simon Pegg to create a brand new gay character rather than tamper with existing ones. Furthermore, he let his feelings be known to the cast, but he feels ignored.

“I told [Cho], ‘Be imaginative and create a character who has a history of being gay, rather than Sulu, who had been straight all this time, suddenly being revealed as being closeted,’” he said.

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