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Hikaru Sulu

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For the alternate reality counterpart, please see Hikaru Sulu (alternate reality).
For the mirror universe counterpart, please see Hikaru Sulu (mirror).

"Captain Sulu, Captain Kirk, Doctor McCoy. They all belonged to a different breed of Starfleet officers."

- Captain Kathryn Janeway, 2373

Hikaru Sulu was a Human Starfleet officer in the 23rd century. He served as the physicist and helmsman aboard the USS Enterprise under Captain James T. Kirk during its historic five-year mission and later as helmsman aboard the USS Enterprise-A. He was later promoted to captain and served as the commanding officer of the USS Excelsior. He was widely regarded as a tactical genius, and an expert on Klingon culture and society.

Hikaru Sulu was born in the city of San Francisco, Earth, in 2237. (TOS: "That Which Survives"; Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home; Star Trek Chronology)

The five-year mission

Hikaru Sulu, 2265

Lieutenant Sulu in 2265

In 2265, Lieutenant Sulu was assigned to the starship Enterprise, serving as the head of the astrosciences department. (TOS: "Where No Man Has Gone Before") By 2266, Sulu had transferred to the operations division and was assigned to the helmsman station with responsibilities as shift tactical officer. (TOS: "The Corbomite Maneuver")

In 2266, Sulu, along with most of the other Enterprise crew members, came under the effects of the Psi 2000 intoxication. During this period he fancied himself the reincarnation of D'Artagnan, imperiling other crew members with a fencing foil. (TOS: "The Naked Time")

That same year Sulu traveled back in time to visit Earth's past. The Enterprise was accidentally sent into the past by a near collision with a black hole. The ship was detected by the US Air Force. Captain Kirk and Sulu beamed down to retrieve the photographic evidence of the Enterprise. (TOS: "Tomorrow is Yesterday")

Explosion in sulus face

Sulu's command console explodes in his face in 2267

In 2267, Sulu and the rest of the Enterprise crew were overcome by the effects of the spores on Omicron Ceti III. Again, along with the rest of the crew, Sulu desired to leave Starfleet to live on the planet, but was cured of the spores influence and resumed his duties. (TOS: "This Side of Paradise") The same year, Sulu was injured when a technical malfunction caused his console to overload in his face. Sulu was shocked unconscious by the explosion. Dr. McCoy diagnosed a heart flutter and decided to give him a dose of cordrazine, after which Sulu recovered immediately. (TOS: "The City on the Edge of Forever")

When the young Ensign Pavel Chekov was assigned to the Enterprise in 2267, he took over the position of tactical officer from Sulu. The two became life-long friends. (TOS: "Catspaw"; Star Trek V: The Final Frontier)

Both the helm and navigational stations were able to access weapons and shield functions, and so accordingly both helmsmen and navigators in all three seasons of the Original Series, including Chekov and Sulu, shared this "tactical" officer function.
Hikaru Sulu 2269

Lieutenant Sulu in 2269

In 2269, the crew of the Enterprise had been reduced in size by spiroid epsilon waves emanating from a planet that was the location of the Terratin colony. While in miniaturized state, Sulu broke his leg from a fall on the bridge. Dr. McCoy, assisted by Nurse Chapel, treated his leg. (TAS: "The Terratin Incident")

In 2270, Sulu, McCoy and Uhura were trapped in the holographic recreation room, when the ship's computer began exhibiting aberrant behavior following the Enterprise's passage through an energy cloud. (TAS: "The Practical Joker") Later that year, the Enterprise entered an anti-matter universe. The crew experienced accelerated reverse aging, and Sulu was reduced to infancy. Following the vessel's return to normal space, Sulu and the other crew members were returned to their normal ages, by use of the transporter. (TAS: "The Counter-Clock Incident")

Later career

Continued service aboard Enterprise

Upon the Enterprise's return to Earth in 2270, the vessel entered dry dock to undergo an extended refit and Sulu was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Commander. In 2273, Enterprise Captain Willard Decker was relieved from command by then-Rear Admiral Kirk. (Star Trek: The Motion Picture)

Hikaru Sulu, 2270s

Lieutenant commander in 2273

Sometime before 2285, Sulu was promoted to commander and accepted an assignment teaching at Starfleet Academy. During this time he "served" aboard the Enterprise, now a training vessel, under the command of Captain Spock. Later that year, in response to the threat from 20th century genetic tyrant Khan Noonien Singh, Sulu served as conn officer aboard the Enterprise. Following the incident, the Enterprise was officially retired. (Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan)

In the novelizations for both Star Trek II and Star Trek III, Sulu was to become the commanding officer of the USS Excelsior when he returned from the Enterprise's training mission; however, because of the Genesis incident, Admiral Morrow had his orders rewritten, and command of the Excelsior was given to Captain Styles instead.

However, Admiral Kirk and his senior staff stole the Enterprise from Earth Spacedock to save their friend Spock, who had given his life to save the Enterprise following the encounter with Khan. His katra, implanted in Dr. McCoy, was successfully merged with his body on Vulcan. Their mission was successful, but the Enterprise was sacrificed orbiting the Genesis Planet. (Star Trek III: The Search for Spock)

In 2286, Sulu piloted the Klingon Bird-of-Prey, HMS Bounty, as the Enterprise crew returned to Earth to face certain court martial. Upon their arrival, they found Earth under attack by an unknown alien probe, which was later determined to be attempting to communicate with the long-extinct humpback whale. The Enterprise crew traveled back in time, to Earth's 1986, in an attempt to locate a humpback whale and to thus save Earth from destruction.

Huey loading cloaked BoP

Piloting a Huey 204 in 1986

While in the past, Sulu, Scott and McCoy were assigned to convert the cargo bay of the Bounty into a whale tank. To accomplish this, the three visited Plexicorp, a plexiglass manufacturing plant.

There, in the Plexicorp yards, Sulu discovered a Huey 204, an aircraft which he had a nostalgic admiration for. He described it to its pilot, as like something he flew in his Academy days.

Sulu was able to borrow the Huey to carry the enormous panes of plexiglass, that Scott and McCoy procured, and hauled them across San Francisco, to Golden Gate Park. Upon his return to the helm of the Bounty, Sulu had difficulty remembering how to fly the Bird-of-Prey after being used to flying the Huey.

Following the dismissal from their court martial, and while en route to their new assignment, Sulu was counting on being assigned to the USS Excelsior. He was pleased, however, to be assigned to the newly-commissioned USS Enterprise-A. (Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home)

Sulu phaser

Sulu in action on Nimbus III in 2287

One year later, while the Enterprise was still in spacedock, she and her crew were assigned to resolve a conflict on Nimbus III; the planet of galactic peace. There they found Sybok, Spock's half-brother. He commandeered the Enterprise and traveled to the center of the galaxy, where he hoped to find "Sha Ka Ree". Sybok was able to coerce Sulu to his cause an served as his liaison, leading search parties of Sybok's followers to find Kirk, Spock, and McCoy who had escaped from the ship's brig and following Sybok's orders as he had Kirk's. With Kirk back in command of the Enterprise, Sulu again followed the captain's leadership. (Star Trek V: The Final Frontier)


Sulu in Tuvok's memory

Sulu on the Excelsior during the battle with Kang in the Azure Nebula

In 2290, Sulu was promoted to the rank of captain, and offered command of the USS Excelsior. Lieutenant Commander Janice Rand was assigned as the ship's communications officer at Sulu's request. (VOY: "Flashback") While he displayed a more authoritarian manner once taking command of the Excelsior, contrasting his more easygoing, laid back demeanor shown previously, he was still very loyal to both his new and his old crew.

In 2293, the Excelsior, nearing completion of a three-year mission cataloging gaseous anomalies in the Beta Quadrant, encountered a subspace shock wave resulting from the destruction of the Klingon moon Praxis. The Klingon Empire was thereby forced to negotiate peace with the Federation. Following the assassination of Klingon Chancellor Gorkon, Captain Kirk and Dr. McCoy were accused of the crime, and sentenced to lifelong prison sentences at Rura Penthe. (Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country)

In violation of Starfleet orders, Sulu decided to mount a rescue of Kirk and McCoy. Ensign Tuvok confronted Sulu about the breach of orders, but to no avail.

To conceal the Excelsior's approach to Qo'noS, Sulu ordered the Excelsior through the Azure Nebula, and it was there that the vessel encountered a Klingon battle cruiser, commanded by Captain Kang. To evade Kang, Sulu ordered that the volatile sirillium gas in the nebula be ignited. Shortly after, the Excelsior was attacked by three Klingon battle cruisers, and Sulu was forced to turn back. During this battle, Dmitri Valtane was fatally injured. Sulu never entered the incident into his official log. (VOY: "Flashback")

Some details of this incident as presented on-screen may be considered erroneous due to the memory virus infecting the area of Tuvok's brain containing these recollections. For example, the apparent death of Valtane as depicted in "Flashback" seemingly conflicts with the fact that at the end of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country Valtane is seen alive with the rest of Excelsior's crew when Sulu congratulates Kirk, an event which occurs after the death depicted in "Flashback" would have taken place. While it is possible that Valtane had a twin brother who also served on the bridge, as he was apparently seen standing beside Sulu and sitting at his post at the same time, it is also quite likely that Valtane was simply resuscitated soon after the virus left his body in a similar manner to the crew members of Voyager.

The Excelsior, however, played a key role in the Khitomer Conference shortly thereafter, by assisting the USS Enterprise-A in its battle with General Chang's prototype Bird-of-Prey, and by preventing the assassination of the President of the United Federation of Planets. (Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country)

Sulu's career was honored by Starfleet with his holographic portrait being placed in Starfleet Headquarters. It was viewed at one point by Kathryn Janeway, who felt it looked nothing like an image of Sulu from Tuvok's memory that she also saw. (VOY: "Flashback")

Relationships and family

Sulu and female

A female companion

While visiting the planet Megas-Tu in 2269, Sulu learned to master their powers of magic. Utilizing this magic, he conjured for himself a beautiful female companion. As the two prepared to leave the bridge, Uhura wished him "good luck", only for the female companion to suddenly change form into Lucien, who scolded the crew for misusing the magic. (TAS: "The Magicks of Megas-Tu")

Demora Sulu

Demora Sulu, 2293

Demora Sulu

Sulu had at least one daughter, Demora, who was born in 2271, and later assigned to the USS Enterprise-B in 2293. She held the same position as her father, at the ship's helm. (Star Trek Generations)

The script for Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home called for a scene shortly after Kirk told his crew to break up because they looked like a cadet review, Sulu encountered a young Japanese boy who mistook Sulu for his Uncle Akira. Sulu tells him that he must be mistaken, and then asked the boy his name, which was revealed to be Hikaru Sulu, Sulu's great-great-grandfather. The Japanese boy was hired for the movie but was too shy to play his part and the scene could not be filmed. This scene was retained in the novelization of the movie. The novelization, like the ones for the second and third films, also maintained the – apparently abandoned – minor storyline that Sulu had been promoted to captain, but was delayed from assuming his prospective command because of involvement with Kirk.
According to Sulu's character file in the Star Trek: Starship Creator computer game, Sulu had a wife named Yoshiko, who was Demora's mother. There was no indication of a date of divorce or death, so if the information is accurate, Sulu is still married as of Generations.
The novel The Captain's Daughter, on the other hand, indicates that Demora was the product of a brief encounter with a mysterious woman named Ling Sui and that Sulu was not even aware of his daughter's existence until eight years later when Ling Sui died of Sakuro's Disease. The Lost Era novel Serpents Among the Ruins apparently supports this story since it also mentions Demora's mother having died of Sakuro's disease, though other aspects of the novel are contradicted by "Flashback".

Pavel Chekov

Chekov became Sulu's closest friend among the Enterprise officers after joining the bridge crew in 2267, and they often shared jokes, observations, and opinions with each other while on duty. Both of them were at a loss to figure out what was going on when the Enterprise kept changing course back and forth between Vulcan and Altair VI, but by the time Captain Kirk finally settled on Vulcan they were a step ahead of him and already had the course change ready to lay in. Chekov looked over at Sulu with a smile when Kirk used the corbomite bluff against the Romulans, which suggests that Sulu had filled him in on what "corbomite" was, since Chekov was not on the bridge the first time Kirk used that trick. They both expressed surprise at Scotty's attraction to the bookish Mira Romaine, although Sulu wondered aloud if Scotty had even noticed her brain yet. (TOS: "Amok Time", "The Deadly Years", "The Lights of Zetar")

Sulu and Chekov also confided in each other. Prior to the appearance of the Beta XII-A entity, Sulu was apparently the only member of the senior staff who knew that Chekov had no siblings. When Chekov was the only member of an Enterprise landing party not afflicted with rapid aging, he complained bitterly to Sulu about the large volume of tests to which he had been subjected by the medical department. Sulu tried to make him feel better by reminding him that at least he was going to live. (TOS: "Day of the Dove", "The Deadly Years")

Sulu & chekov

Sulu and Chekov mutiny against Lester-Kirk

When Janice Lester switched minds with Captain Kirk, Sulu and Chekov formed a united front against her after she ordered the executions of Scotty and Dr. McCoy, both reminding her that the death penalty was forbidden and later refusing her orders to place the ship in standard orbit at Benecia by simultaneously taking their hands off the controls. This act of joint defiance threw Lester into a rage that almost broke the transference between her and Kirk. (TOS: "Turnabout Intruder")

During shore leave rotations while the Enterprise-A was brought up to working condition, Sulu and Chekov decided to take their leave together and go on a hiking trip. Ironically they wound up getting lost, though Sulu with characteristic good humor told Chekov that they were still making good time. When Sulu lied to Uhura about being caught in a blizzard as an excuse for not being able to find their way back to the pickup zone, Chekov rolled his eyes but gamely (though unsuccessfully) tried to support his friend's claim by blowing into the communicator. (Star Trek V: The Final Frontier)

Although it is not mentioned in the finished version, Sulu and Chekov took their hiking trip in the vicinity of Mount Rushmore. A deleted scene on the DVD shows them visiting the monument, which has had a fifth face added since its original carving.

There is only one known instance of open conflict between Sulu and Chekov, and it was neither one's fault. When the interphase region near Tholian space drove Chekov temporarily insane he snapped and attacked Sulu, who happened to be the closest person to him. Several members of the bridge crew quickly restrained him and kept Sulu from being seriously injured. Sulu later told Spock that Chekov had exhibited several spasms of pain beforehand. (TOS: "The Tholian Web")


Early in the five-year mission, there were hints that Sulu found Uhura attractive. When she temporarily took over the navigation station during combat with a Romulan vessel in 2266, he paused a moment to check her out as she sat down before returning his attention to the battle. While under the effects of polywater intoxication that same year, he made his way to the bridge armed with a sword and grinned when he saw Uhura, declaring her a "fair maiden" (despite her protest that she was neither) and promising to "protect" her. Nothing apparently ever came of his romantic interest in her, but they did eventually become friends. Uhura was willing to keep his secret when he didn't want to admit to being lost while on a hiking trip in 2287. (TOS: "Balance of Terror", "The Naked Time"; Star Trek V: The Final Frontier)

In the mirror universe, however, Sulu's crush on Uhura was much more blatant, and very dangerous for the Uhura of this universe when she found herself trapped there. Mirror-Sulu made no secret of his attraction; he openly propositioned her on the bridge when Kirk and Spock were absent, insisting that she would "change her mind" about him if she gave him a chance. Uhura later took advantage of mirror Sulu's lust when she needed to distract him for a moment, briefly pretending to return his interest and then slapping him in the face and drawing a knife once the moment had passed. (TOS: "Mirror, Mirror")

Personal interests

Hikaru Sulu performs body throw on Agmar

Sulu performing an impressive body throw on Agmar

Sulu was an avid botanist and spent much of his off hours tending to his rare and delicate plants which he had collected from all over Federation space in the Enterprise's botanic garden. (TOS: "The Man Trap")

Sulu's passion for botany is also touched upon in TOS: "The Naked Time" and in the opening sequence of TOS: "Shore Leave".

By adulthood, he was a recognized expert on the subject of antique firearms and small arms, especially Earth projectile weapons. (TOS: "Shore Leave"; TAS: "The Slaver Weapon") He also enjoyed swordplay, in particular fencing (although he was once asked if the purpose of fencing were actually shish kebab) with this activity reminding him of some of his favorite characters of Earth history, namely the French musketeers and the Japanese samurai. (TOS: "The Naked Time")

Sulu was also an advanced judo practitioner and capable of defending himself against opponents much larger than himself. (Star Trek III: The Search for Spock) His judo skills impressed even his captain. In 2269 during a mission to Phylos, Sulu was attacked by a Phylosian named Agmar. Using a body throw self-defense technique, however, Sulu easily disposed of the assailant. Afterward Kirk asked Sulu to teach him that particular technique. (TAS: "The Infinite Vulcan")

He was an excellent pilot and was familiar with many types of vessels, both historic and contemporary. (Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home)



Background information

Sulu was played by George Takei. After his appearance in Star Trek VI, there was a fan-based campaign to start a TV series based on the adventures of his crew during his stint as captain of Excelsior, but it never drew enough support for Paramount to start production. [1] [2]

Sulu's given name, Hikaru, was canonically established in Star Trek VI, though it had been used in fan circles since it was introduced in Vonda N. McIntyre's 1981 novel The Entropy Effect. McIntyre created the name, taking it from The Tale of Genji, because she needed to write a love scene featuring Sulu, and she "couldn't figure out how to write a love scene where the protagonists called each other by their surnames." [3] Hikaru was also given in the script of Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home as the name of the young boy whom Sulu later realizes is his great-great grandfather.

Although it has no canonical basis, "Walter" is often given in various references as the character's middle name. Before Hikaru was canonically established as Sulu's first name, Walter was a popular choice in fandom as an alternate. The name seems to have been first suggested by Takei himself as a tribute to his friend Walter Koenig.

Sulu's first name was given as "Itaka" in the Star Trek newspaper comic strip. Its use was based on information from the fan fiction USS Enterprise Officer's Manual by Geoffrey Mandel and Doug Drexler and published by Interstellar Associates in 1980.

"Hikaru" is a Japanese name that can mean "light" or several other words, and is quite commonly used for both males and females. 'Sulu' is taken from Sulu sea and it is also the name of a province in the Philippines.

In the Japanese version of Star Trek, his family name was changed to 'Kato', a common surname. Also notable is that his name cannot be truly Japanese, as the Japanese language, while syllabic, does not contain the "L" phoneme in any form. It is not out of the question that Sulu was born of a Japanese-Filipino couple, taking on a Japanese-given name with a Filipino surname, nor is the fact that most American names are mixed-and-matched, and will likely continue to be diversified for the next four hundred years.

It has been conjectured by Michael Okuda and Denise Okuda in the Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home text commentary that Sulu is an anglicized version of the Japanese word tsuru, the word for the red-crested crane, a national treasure of Japan and symbol of leadership, courage, and long life.

However, in the book Inside Star Trek: The Real Story, production executive Herb Solow states that Gene Roddenberry named Sulu after him, as a joking tribute to his surname, which can be (incorrectly) pronounced as "Sulu".


According to the Eighth UK Story Arc, Sulu was raised with a deep-rooted fear of the supernatural. His mother's name was Shimizu Hana according to Excelsior: Forged in Fire and "Iron and Sacrifice" in Tales from the Captain's Table.

In Dwellers in the Crucible, Sulu was sent undercover as a Romulan into the Romulan Star Empire after the Romulans kidnap six Federation hostages. While preparing for his mission, it was revealed that Sulu had a tendency to talk in his sleep. He eventually made his way to Remus and managed to send a short coded message to the Enterprise.

Three of Sulu's later adventures (during and post-Excelsior) are chronicled in the audio-only Simon and Schuster Audioworks Captain Sulu Adventures series: Transformations, Cacophony, and Envoy.

According to William Shatner's novel The Return Sulu retired and entered politics, eventually being elected President of the United Federation of Planets.

Sulu features prominently in the novels The Kobayashi Maru depicting his academy days, Prime Directive wherein he works outside Starfleet, The Entropy Effect wherein he considers another career, and Home Is the Hunter wherein he is sent back to ancient Japan. In the DS9 novel Day of Honor: Armageddon Sky, an aged Starfleet officer identifying himself only as "George" is strongly hinted to be Hikaru Sulu.

According to the audio introduction to Star Trek: Federation - The First 150 Years, Admiral Sulu became the Commander in Chief of Starfleet Command.

In Star Trek Online, Hikaru Sulu's great-great-grandson Akira Sulu is on Earth Spacedock.

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