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Old April 27 2013, 02:40 PM   #1
T'Girl
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Sulu was named for the sea

I was reading through a wiki article on the Philippines and I came across this ...

The Star Trek character Hikaru Sulu is named after the Sulu Sea. According to Sulu actor George Takei, "[Gene] Roddenberry's vision for Sulu was to represent all of Asia, being named for the Sulu Sea instead of using a specific country-specific name."

Now I've run across multiple references that Sulu was not original intended to be Japanese, although he was of course played by a Japanese actor. Sulu was supposed to be "Pan-Asian." Sulu was eventual given a traditionally Japanese unisex first name, Hikaru.

The part that I've never encountered before is that Roddenberry deliberately choose to name Sulu after the Sulu Sea.

Or is that just George Takei making up an interesting "fact?"

The story I heard is that the character was going to be named "Zulu," (after zulu time). But it was thought to be racial insensitive, and they simply changed one letter to get Sulu.

Has anyone ever heard this Sulu Sea origin story before?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sulu_Sea


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Old April 27 2013, 03:32 PM   #2
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Re: Sulu was named for the sea

I've never before come across that "Zulu" story as far as I can recall. What I've heard was that Sulu was named in honor of Herb Solow (pronounced "solo"), the Desilu programming exec who bought Star Trek and oversaw its production. But I have heard that it was also derived from the name of the Sulu Sea.

And yes, Sulu was definitely intended to be pan-Asian. 1968's The Making of Star Trek says he is "of mixed Oriental and Filipino background" -- which further reinforces the idea that he was named for the sea in the Philippines -- although it also says his "cultural heritage is mainly Japanese." It seems to me that the character was conceived as generically Asian, but once they cast a Japanese-American actor in the role, that influenced writers to treat the character as Japanese.

(The name Hikaru was coined in the tie-in novel The Entropy Effect by Vonda N. McIntyre in 1981. It was finally made canonical in The Undiscovered Country a decade later.)
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Old April 27 2013, 03:39 PM   #3
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Re: Sulu was named for the sea

T'Girl wrote: View Post
Has anyone ever heard this Sulu Sea origin story before?
A group of Sydney fans took George Takei to out then-favourite restaurant called The Philippino in about 1984 and there was a huge banner on the wall, with a map of The Philippines, right behind us. The label "Sulu Sea" was in large letters and George told us that it had inspired his character's name.
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Old April 27 2013, 03:47 PM   #4
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Re: Sulu was named for the sea

Oh, my.
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Old April 27 2013, 09:44 PM   #5
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Re: Sulu was named for the sea

T'Girl wrote: View Post
I was reading through a wiki article on the Philippines and I came across this ...

The Star Trek character Hikaru Sulu is named after the Sulu Sea. According to Sulu actor George Takei, "[Gene] Roddenberry's vision for Sulu was to represent all of Asia, being named for the Sulu Sea instead of using a specific country-specific name."

Now I've run across multiple references that Sulu was not original intended to be Japanese, although he was of course played by a Japanese actor. Sulu was supposed to be "Pan-Asian." Sulu was eventual given a traditionally Japanese unisex first name, Hikaru.

The part that I've never encountered before is that Roddenberry deliberately choose to name Sulu after the Sulu Sea.

Or is that just George Takei making up an interesting "fact?"

The story I heard is that the character was going to be named "Zulu," (after zulu time). But it was thought to be racial insensitive, and they simply changed one letter to get Sulu.

Has anyone ever heard this Sulu Sea origin story before?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sulu_Sea


Wow, I didn't know this fact ~~~ Thank You.
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Old April 27 2013, 09:52 PM   #6
Shawnster
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Re: Sulu was named for the sea

I had heard this before, but I don't know if I heard it from a source other than a Takeover quote. I had also heard the Pan Asian idea and that us why Sulu used a foil in Naked Time as oppossed to a more traditional Japanese sword.
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Old April 27 2013, 10:13 PM   #7
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Re: Sulu was named for the sea

Shawnster wrote: View Post
I had heard this before, but I don't know if I heard it from a source other than a Takeover quote.
"Takeover?" Don't tell me -- overzealous spellcheck for "Takei"?

I had also heard the Pan Asian idea and that us why Sulu used a foil in Naked Time as oppossed to a more traditional Japanese sword.
No, he used a foil because he imagined himself to be D'Artagnan from The Three Musketeers. There's nothing pan-Asian about France. That was about writing him as an individual rather than defining everything about him in terms of his race. (Although "Shore Leave" fell back into race-based characterization by having him imagine a samurai.)
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Old April 27 2013, 10:19 PM   #8
Nerys Myk
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Re: Sulu was named for the sea

I've heard the Sulu Sea story since the 1970s. Pan-Asian for almost as long.
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Old April 27 2013, 11:33 PM   #9
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Re: Sulu was named for the sea

Therin of Andor wrote: View Post
T'Girl wrote: View Post
Has anyone ever heard this Sulu Sea origin story before?
A group of Sydney fans took George Takei to out then-favourite restaurant called The Philippino in about 1984 and there was a huge banner on the wall, with a map of The Philippines, right behind us. The label "Sulu Sea" was in large letters and George told us that it had inspired his character's name.
If George said it, that makes it as official as can possibly be.
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Old April 28 2013, 05:07 AM   #10
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Re: Sulu was named for the sea

Before the Internet, when it was harder to have tons of varied information on your (physical, wooden) desktop, an old writer's trick for naming foreign characters was to go to the Atlas or a globe and pick a place name from the relevant country.

That way you had a name at least plausibly related to the desired ethnicity, something you might otherwise have a tough time dreaming up.

Anyway, I never heard the Zulu story. It was always my understanding that Sulu (Sea) was picked off the map because it was Asian but not specific.

Incidentally, in the version of TOS dubbed in Japanese, Sulu is changed to Kato. And Scotty becomes Charlie for some reason. And they made up their own stories, and Kato was kind of the boss.
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Old April 28 2013, 05:09 AM   #11
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Re: Sulu was named for the sea

That explains his fondness for seamen!
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Old April 28 2013, 01:11 PM   #12
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Re: Sulu was named for the sea

^ SCORCH!
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Old April 28 2013, 02:10 PM   #13
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Re: Sulu was named for the sea

ZapBrannigan wrote: View Post
Incidentally, in the version of TOS dubbed in Japanese, Sulu is changed to Kato. And Scotty becomes Charlie for some reason.
Easier to pronounce in Japanese, probably. The "-ty" part wouldn't be pronounceable in Japanese; the corresponding syllable is pronounced "chi." So it would be sukachi, which would basically sound like "Scotchy."


And they made up their own stories, and Kato was kind of the boss.
I think that's a myth. Shatner once joked on Saturday Night Live that the Japanese name for the show is Sulu, Master of Navigation, and that joke has been misreported as a fact in a number of places. (It's actually Uchuu Daisakusen, "Major Operation in Space," which is a reasonably literal translation of Star Trek. Although in the movies it's generally just transliterated as Sutaa Torekku.)
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Old April 28 2013, 02:13 PM   #14
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Re: Sulu was named for the sea

Sector 7 wrote: View Post
Therin of Andor wrote: View Post
T'Girl wrote: View Post
Has anyone ever heard this Sulu Sea origin story before?
A group of Sydney fans took George Takei to out then-favourite restaurant called The Philippino in about 1984 and there was a huge banner on the wall, with a map of The Philippines, right behind us. The label "Sulu Sea" was in large letters and George told us that it had inspired his character's name.
If George said it, that makes it as official as can possibly be.
Amen.
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Old April 28 2013, 02:30 PM   #15
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Re: Sulu was named for the sea

Interview with George Takei is here:

http://progressive.org/mag_wx0508b06

Here's an excerpt:

Q: It’s hard to represent Asia since it goes all the way from Pakistan and India to South Korea and Japan.

Takei: And the name Kim is specifically Korean. Wong is Chinese. Tanaka is Japanese. So he was trying to find something that would suggest all of that part of the map. And so he found to the west of the Philippines a sea called the Sulu Sea. And he thought, ah, the waters of the sea touch all shores, and that’s how he came up with the name Sulu. And he said that this character would be a full-fledged professional, the brightest guy out of Star Fleet academy, a very good helmsman, eventually to become the best helmsman of the Star Fleet, and he would be part of this leadership team of the Enterprise. I was excited.

Because I’d been playing the stereotyped Asian roles. I desperately wanted that part.
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