Sulu took over at the helm of the USS Enterprise because the originally-assigned helmsmen, McKenna, was ill with lungworm. As the fleet went to warp on its maiden voyage, Sulu forgot to disengage the external inertial dampener, leaving the Enterprise in Earth orbit for several moments as the rest of the fleet jumped away. Though embarrassing, the extra time afforded by this delay caused the Enterprise to enter the Vulcan system after Nero's assault had destroyed the rest of the fleet.
Sulu participated in a space-dive along with James T. Kirk and Chief Engineer Olson to disable Nero's drilling rig as it drilled to the core of Vulcan. He was a skilled fencer and used his training in Hand-to-hand combat and a retractable sword to fight Romulans on the drilling platform, saving Kirk from a potentially fatal attack by one of the Romulans. Subsequently, Kirk endeavored to return the favor, diving into a free fall to save a falling Sulu.
Having been present when Pike appointed Kirk first officer, Sulu pointed out it was Kirk's right to sit in the command chair. During the battle for Earth, Sulu carefully manuevered the Enterprise into Saturn's orbit, where the planet's magnetic rings would shield the ship from the Narada's sensors. He sped the Enterprise after the Romulan vessel when it left the Sol system in pursuit of the Jellyfish, firing all the phaser banks to disarm its missiles. When the Narada was being sucked into a black hole, Sulu fired all phasers and photon torpedoes at the ship when Nero refused Kirk's offer for help. Sulu was present when Kirk was promoted to captain, and remained the ship's helmsman under his command. (Star Trek)
"He has lungworm, sir. He couldn't report to his post. I'm Hikaru Sulu."
- - Hikaru Sulu to Captain Pike
"So what kind of combat training do you have?"
- - James Kirk and Hikaru Sulu
|Helmsmen of the starships Enterprise|
|Enterprise NX-01:||Mayweather • Hutchison|
|USS Enterprise:||DePaul • Hadley • Hansen • Kyle • Leslie • Mitchell • Number One • Rahda • Spinelli • H. Sulu • Uhura • Walking Bear|
|USS Enterprise-A:||H. Sulu • Valeris|
|USS Enterprise-B:||D. Sulu|
|USS Enterprise-C:||Castillo • Fredericks|
|ISS Enterprise (NCC-1701):||H. Sulu|
|USS Enterprise (alternate reality):||McKenna • H. Sulu|
According to his dossier at the official Star Trek movie website, as with his prime timeline counterpart, he is listed as having been born in San Francisco. Also referenced therein, Sulu was top of his class in astrosciences and advanced botany and founded Starfleet Academy's European Swordsmanship club. His prime counterpart was the ship's chief of astrosciences in the pilot before becoming the helmsman in the series proper, and had expertise in botany and fencing.
In the novelization of the film, while confronting Kirk about how he had been able to return aboard the Enterprise, he mentions having a doctorate in astrophysics and a master's certificate in interstellar navigation, not to mention having completed a wide assortment of advanced seminars in subspace theory and related disciplines, and therefore could handle whatever explanation Kirk might give - though he recants this conclusion upon hearing the truth.