Sulu was named for the sea

Discussion in 'General Trek Discussion' started by T'Girl, Apr 27, 2013.

  1. T'Girl

    T'Girl Vice Admiral Admiral

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    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


    [​IMG]
     
  2. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    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.)
     
  3. Therin of Andor

    Therin of Andor Admiral Admiral

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    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.
     
  4. Ríu ríu chíu

    Ríu ríu chíu Fleet Admiral Admiral

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  5. Keith1701

    Keith1701 Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Wow, I didn't know this fact ~~~ Thank You.
     
  6. Shawnster

    Shawnster Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    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.
     
  7. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    "Takeover?" Don't tell me -- overzealous spellcheck for "Takei"?

    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.)
     
  8. Happy Xmas (War Is Over)

    Happy Xmas (War Is Over) Fleet Admiral Premium Member

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    I've heard the Sulu Sea story since the 1970s. Pan-Asian for almost as long.
     
  9. Sector 7

    Sector 7 Vice Admiral Admiral

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    If George said it, that makes it as official as can possibly be.:techman:
     
  10. ZapBrannigan

    ZapBrannigan Commodore Commodore

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    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. :lol:
     
  11. LoneDragon

    LoneDragon Lieutenant Red Shirt

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    That explains his fondness for seamen! :guffaw::guffaw:
     
  12. Ríu ríu chíu

    Ríu ríu chíu Fleet Admiral Admiral

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  13. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    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."


    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.)
     
  14. bbailey861

    bbailey861 Admiral Premium Member

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    Amen.
     
  15. GSchnitzer

    GSchnitzer Co-Executive Producer Moderator

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    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.
     
  16. FormerLurker

    FormerLurker Commodore Commodore

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    When George Takei was a guest at the Denver Star Trek convention in 1990, I asked him during his presentation what, if any, was Sulu's intended given name. He told me and about 3000 other people that GR had told him as early as 1966 that Sulu's given name was always intended to be Hikaru. Vonda McIntyre is simply the first to use it, and not actually the one who came up with it.
     
  17. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Given that it was 24 years after the fact, he may have been misremembering. Surely if Roddenberry had come up with Sulu's given name, it would've been mentioned in the series bible or The Making of Star Trek, or would've been mentioned by Roddenberry himself at some convention or other and been known about by fandom. But before McIntyre's The Entropy Effect came along, the leading theory in fandom was that Sulu's first name was Walter.

    The only way this claim could be true is if Roddenberry had decided to keep Sulu's first name top-secret for some reason, yet had taken Vonda McIntyre alone into his confidence. Which makes no sense whatsoever. So I think Takei just got different parts of his past mixed up, which is something human beings do all the time.
     
  18. T'Girl

    T'Girl Vice Admiral Admiral

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    This seems strange on Roddenberry's part. He deliberately choose a non-specific Pan-Asian Surname, and then choose a given name that is overtly Japanese.

    Perhaps Roddenberry should have made Sulu's first name "Ming." I've noticed that Ming is common to a lot of different Asian cultures and countries.

    Lieutenant Ming Sulu?

    Maybe?

    :)
     
    Last edited: Apr 29, 2013
  19. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    All the more reason for skepticism toward that claim. You're right, it makes no sense at all.
     
  20. Ríu ríu chíu

    Ríu ríu chíu Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    Wasn't "Walter" one of the Sulu first names that tended to pop up in early work? Kind of like "Penda" Uhura?