Sulu’s Return In Star Trek Turned Him Into A Better Kirk


Warning: SPOILERS for Star Trek: Lower Decks Season 3, Episode 8 – “Crisis Point 2: Paradoxus”George Takei reprises Captain Sulu in Star Trek: Lower Decks season 3, episode 8, and the former Captain of the USS Excelsior essentially takes Captain James T. Kirk’s (William Shatner) place as a better mentor to Ensign Brad Boimler (Jack Quaid). Boimler was crushed when he learned that his identical double on the USS Titan, William Boimler, died suddenly. Bradward searched for meaning in death throughout “Crisis Point II,” his holodeck sequel to Ensign Beckett Mariner’s (Tawny Newsome) film, and this led to a nervous breakdown that brought Boimler face to face with Captain Sulu in a dream.


Although it was a perfect facsimile of Kirk’s cabin in the Nexus in Star Trek Generations, Boimler found Captain Sulu in Kirk’s Idaho ranch, which he claims he took off Jim’s hands when Kirk went “time traveling, or something.” Boimler confessed that his search for meaning in death in the holodeck came up empty, but Sulu offered sage advice that “the randomness in death is merely a reflection of the unexpected joys we find in life.” Not only are Sulu’s words profound, but they were extremely helpful to Boimler. In contrast, Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) didn’t get much philosophy out of Kirk in Star Trek Generations, although Jim did urge Jean-Luc to never give up being Captain of the Enterprise because as long as he sits in the Captain’s chair, he “can make a difference.” But Sulu’s advice to Boimler, even if it was merely Brad’s dream, was a genuine boon that gave him the perspective about life and death that he desperately needed.

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What Happened To Sulu After Star Trek: The Original Series

Sulu was helmsman of the USS Enterprise and Enterprise-A under Captain James T. Kirk throughout Star Trek: The Original Series and the first five Star Trek movies. He also became a father off-screen and his daughter, Ensign Demora Sulu (Jacqueline Kim), became the helmsman of the USS Enterprise-B. Sulu was piloting the Enterprise-B during the starship’s maiden voyage in 2293 when Kirk was presumed dead after he was pulled into the Nexus at the start of Star Trek Generations. Little is known about Captain Sulu’s career after Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country and his time as Captain of the USS Excelsior. However, Sulu was honored with a holographic portrait at Starfleet Headquarters, which is still on display in the 24th century.

Boimler’s dream when he was clinically dead in Star Trek: Lower Decks may not technically be a canonical return of Captain Sulu, but it was George Takei’s first time playing his iconic Starfleet hero since he guest-starred in the Star Trek: Voyager season 3 episode, “Flashback.” That appearance was set during Star Trek VI in 2293 Sulu was Captain of the Excelsior. The deluxe edition of the 2012 reference book Star Trek: Federation: The First 150 years comes with an audio introduction by Admiral Sulu (voiced by George Takei), who is Commander-In-Chief of Starfleet Command, but this ancillary material may not be official Star Trek canon.

Captain Sulu Makes Himself Different From Kirk On Purpose

Hikaru Sulu served under Captain Kirk for decades but once he got his own starship command, Sulu became a very different type of Captain from Kirk. Jim is famed (and notorious) for taking risks and leaping ahead “where angels fear to tread.” Whereas Sulu was more patient and by-the-book as Captain. This is because of the vast differences in the personalities of Kirk and Sulu, but it’s also a reflection of George Takei’s real-life issues with William Shatner.

Takei hasn’t always thought highly of Shatner, and when Sulu finally got out of Kirk’s shadow and became a Captain himself, Takei deliberately wanted Sulu to carve his own path. In Star Trek VI, it was Sulu and the Excelsior who rode to Kirk and the Enterprise’s rescue. Even in Star Trek: Lower Decks, Sulu took a funny dig at Kirk, telling Boimler that “the man could never relax.” Despite their years of saving the galaxy together, Sulu simply never grew as close to Kirk as Spock (Leonard Nimoy) and Dr. Leonard McCoy (DeForest Kelley) were.

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Boimler Dreaming Of Sulu, Not Kirk, Makes Sense

It’s no surprise that Mariner, who loves action, thrives on conflict, and is prone to taking insane chances, worships Captain Kirk. Beckett hews much closer to Kirk’s archetype. But it’s logical that Boimler dreamed of meeting Captain Sulu and not Kirk in Star Trek: Lower Decks, even though the scene was set in Kirk’s ranch as seen in Star Trek Generations’ Nexus. Sulu is a more fitting role model for Boimler. Both are Starfleet lifers who like to adhere to the rule book, are loyal and considerate of their friends, and are wary of the ‘Kirks’ in their lives, Jim for Sulu and Mariner for Bradward.

Mariner and Boimler are often projected as the Kirk and Spock of Star Trek: Lower Decks, and it’s true in that Beckett and Bradward are best friends forever like Kirk and Spock. Yet Boimler has also embraced a bit of his own Kirk-ness in Star Trek: Lower Decks season 3 when he became “Bold Boimler.” But in his heart and imagination, Boimler is much more of a Sulu than a Kirk, and he is a better Starfleet Officer than the tempestuous Mariner.

Next: Star Trek Delivers A Better Riker Doppelganger Story Than TNG Ever Did

Star Trek: Lower Decks Season 3 streams Thursdays on Paramount+.


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