Why was Sulu played off as a normal person but Chekov as a caricature?

Discussion in 'Star Trek - The Original & Animated Series' started by GalaxyX, Mar 19, 2014.

  1. GalaxyX

    GalaxyX Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    I remember reading somewhere that George Takei accepted the role of Sulu only because Gene promised him that he wasn't going to play a "caricature" asian stereotype, which ended up being true.

    However, it seems that they did not do Walter Koenig the same favor, and he ended up playing Chekov as a caricature of a Russian man. I remember reading his complaints somewhere, where he says that they had him say some strange things like "And I'm the czar of all Russias!"

    Anyone have any idea of why this discrepancy?
     
  2. BigJake

    BigJake Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Re: Why was Sulu played off as a normal person but Chekov as a caricat

    My guess: it was the midst of the Cold War. Having a Russian on the show at all was Making a Point -- and Chekov was serving the additional function of being Youth-Bait, hence the Monkees haircut -- so it was natural and much less threatening to play him over-the-top and for laughs.
     
  3. Melakon

    Melakon Admiral Admiral

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    Re: Why was Sulu played off as a normal person but Chekov as a caricat

    I was in high school when Chekov was introduced and I didn't like the character at all. All the "Russia this, Russia that" stuff didn't help either. He felt like a comic relief character to me, and was as out of place as Earl Holliman's Cook in Forbidden Planet. No problems with Walter though. I liked Sulu better, perhaps because he was there first.
     
  4. Timo

    Timo Admiral Admiral

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    Re: Why was Sulu played off as a normal person but Chekov as a caricat

    I guess it was a matter of the group dynamic, plain and simple. The bridge already had the dull and reliable straight guy in Sulu; when the new kid was introduced, the vacancy was for young comic relief only (spiced up with a bit of torturee-of-the-week), because there was a massive surplus of featureless yes-men on the bridge from one character already.

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  5. Lance

    Lance Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Re: Why was Sulu played off as a normal person but Chekov as a caricat

    Well, let's not forget that Sulu was a bit more weird to begin with (the hobbyist tendencies mainly, trying to convert everybody to whatever his latest fad happened to be), but I agree he was never on Chekov levels of being comedically over-the-top except maybe in Naked Time, and certainly once Chekov was introduced in Season Two then Sulu became the 'straight man' (so to speak ;)) at the helm, being the one who immediately reacted with amusement at all of Pavel's wacky antics (for example, in The Deadly Years).
     
  6. Commishsleer

    Commishsleer Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Re: Why was Sulu played off as a normal person but Chekov as a caricat

    Chekov was OK. I don't know what you guys are on about.

    Did you see some of the dull featureless characters in the other Trek series?

    At least he had some sort of personality.
     
  7. 2takesfrakes

    2takesfrakes Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Re: Why was Sulu played off as a normal person but Chekov as a caricat

    Look at THE VOYAGE HOME, where Chekov is actually called "a retard," outright. And his otherwise bumbling around the streets of Frisco, acting like someone who should be made fun of. In THE SEARCH for SPOCK, they had him dressed up like Little Lord Fauntleroy, for reasons, unknown. In WRATH of KHAN, he betrays our beloved crew, under duress. I don't think STAR TREK did Chekov any favours, really, except for - perhaps - in THE MOTION PICTURE.
     
  8. Commishsleer

    Commishsleer Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Re: Why was Sulu played off as a normal person but Chekov as a caricat

    I got no problems with Chekov until STV and STVI where he acted a bit stupid but frankly so did almost everyone else.

    OK the outfit in ST3 was stupid too but so was McCoys.
     
  9. BoredShipCapt'n

    BoredShipCapt'n Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Re: Why was Sulu played off as a normal person but Chekov as a caricat

    They also made him assault Mara in Day of the Dove, making him him both attempted rapist and torturee in the same episode.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
  10. HIjol

    HIjol Admiral and Consummate Peacemaker Premium Member

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    Re: Why was Sulu played off as a normal person but Chekov as a caricat

    Roddenberry wanted a "hip mod" angle, and Chekov was brought in as a kind of a Davey Jones of the bridge crew...I remember reading that shortly after he was cast...multiple references at Star Trek dot com and wiki among others...
     
  11. Commishsleer

    Commishsleer Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Re: Why was Sulu played off as a normal person but Chekov as a caricat

    Kirk assaulted Rand in one episode, I also think Riker assaulted Troi when he devolved. Of course there was that infamous episode in VOY where Paris kidnapped and made babies with Janeway. OK its getting too ugly now.
    Look I now realise I seem to be defending men assaulting women but its not OK under any circumstances. The only thing that mitigates it somewhat is that in all of those circumstances the the men were under the influence of something.
     
  12. Warped9

    Warped9 Admiral Admiral

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    Re: Why was Sulu played off as a normal person but Chekov as a caricat

    I don't recall David McCallum playing Ilya Kuriyakin as a caricature on The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and he was quite popular. Claudia Christian didn't play Susan Ivanova on Babylon 5 as a caricature either and she, too, was popular with the fans.

    Chekov was an okay character and came off acceptably when he was played straight, but there was a tendency to indulge in silliness. He was hard to take seriously. Of all the characters Chekov is one that hasn't aged well because of the leanings to caricature. The accent alone was too forced.

    On the flip side today a youthful character like Chekov could be played with attitude whereas Chekov is quite deferential and respectful of his superiors.
     
  13. GalaxyX

    GalaxyX Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Re: Why was Sulu played off as a normal person but Chekov as a caricat

    What's funny is that nuChekov's absurdity is ramped up to 11 in the nuTrek movies. Just ridiculous. There's other ways to create comic relief IMO.

    I feel sorry for Walter Koenig though.
     
  14. T'Girl

    T'Girl Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Re: Why was Sulu played off as a normal person but Chekov as a caricat

    I thought Takei "accepted" the role because he was a working actor and they offered to hire him.

    Worf.

    :)
     
  15. Nebusj

    Nebusj Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Re: Why was Sulu played off as a normal person but Chekov as a caricat

    Hey, he made out all right. After Star Trek went off the air he became an actor and a well-rounded person, with his own friends and keys and everything.
     
  16. Shawnster

    Shawnster Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Re: Why was Sulu played off as a normal person but Chekov as a caricat

    George Takei, a Japanese American actor, requested to not play a stereotype or caricature of a member of his own ethnicity.

    Perhaps Walter Koenig, a white American actor simply did not make such a request since his character was not of the same ethnicity as himself? Some people simply have more difficulty or get more offended at playing a caricature of their own ethnic group than that of a different ethic group.

    Especially when that ethnic group being mocked are those damn dirty Commies.
     
  17. scotpens

    scotpens Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Re: Why was Sulu played off as a normal person but Chekov as a caricat

    As previously mentioned, a lot of that was due to the Zeitgeist. When Cold War tensions were running high, there was a tendency to make Russian characters either supervillains or comic caricatures -- UNCLE's Illya Kuryakin being a notable exception.

    And the running joke of Chekov's ultra-nationalism, always claiming the Russians did this or that first -- well, back in the 1950s and '60s, Soviet propaganda did claim a few "firsts" for Russia that were not exactly historically accurate.


    Hey, just a darn minute. I liked Earl Holliman's Cook in Forbidden Planet. :p
     
  18. Cyke101

    Cyke101 Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Re: Why was Sulu played off as a normal person but Chekov as a caricat

    If you'll notice, very few of Takei's roles during and after that time were rarely any sort of caricature stereotype (by contrast, any Asian with a thick accent or evil streak or someone like Mickey Rooney in Breakfast at Tiffany's were a dime-a-dozen during that time period). Takei in Mission: Impossible was a guest IMF agent who, kind of surprisingly, left the martial arts to the other heroes; he was a romantic interest to Mrs. Livingston in "The Courtship of Eddie's Father" (and these days, being a sympathetic Asian American romantic lead in film/tv is still a rarity). And during his college lecture circuit, Takei would emphasize the importance of taking on Asian roles that weren't racist caricatures simply because there were so few Asian roles to begin with, nevermind positive ones -- submit to one caricature and you and others like you get typecast, and stereotypes are enforced instead of proper media represenation that a larger audience so often takes for granted, which, in turn, limit the roles that casting directors would even consider for someone like Takei. So if you as an ethnic minority do get a positive role, you try to make sure that you play the HECK out of it as a character first and foremost. The possibilities of the audience's imagination is challenged, just like how TOS dared the audience to imagine a senior staff like Kirk's.

    On a side note, and I realize that the show's famous for getting many distinguished Trek alumni, one reason why I dislike the Big Bang Theory is because Raj is often the target of just so much microaggression from other characters, and when he complains, they handwave it and dismiss it, as if his experiences don't really count (unless, of course, it's a Raj-centric episode).
     
  19. urbandefault

    urbandefault Commodore Commodore

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    Re: Why was Sulu played off as a normal person but Chekov as a caricat

    Speaking of caricatures, Raj's dad is Babu from Seinfeld. ;)
     
  20. Timewalker

    Timewalker Cat-lovin', Star Trekkin' Time Lady Premium Member

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