Hikaru Sulu struck out in romance during Star Trek’s original run.
One of the criticisms of Star Trek: The Original Series is that Captain Kirk had a new love interest in nearly every episode and that he tended to ‘kiss and leave’. While Kirk certainly had multiple love interests, his fellow crew members also had romantic lives and some of them had quite a few love interests or none. One in particular, Hikaru Sulu, had no noticeable love interests on-screen.
Sadly, across the main cast, some characters barely got much to do outside of their character brief. One of those in particular was George Takei’s Sulu who spent most of his screen time at the helm and very few episodes hinted at his personal life, especially when it came to romance.
Looking at Hikaru Sulu’s love interests across Star Trek
Hikaru Sulu Romance in Star Trek: The Original Series
While Sulu was the main helmsman and a well-beloved character on TOS, he never got to have any on-screen love interests, yet his daughter, Demora, follows in her father’s footsteps to become Enterprise helmsman in Star Trek: Generations. Her mother never makes an on-screen appearance so there are plenty of options for Fanon – she was adopted, Sulu hired a surrogate, Sulu and Demora’s mother separated after her birth, and more.
George Takei was also maintaining a film career concurrent with TOS so some episodes did not feature Sulu, creating the perfect opening for him to have off-screen romances; yet he never appears to have a romantic life and is seen more often with his crewmates than anyone else. Does this mirror a franchise-wide problem where most members of Starfleet seem to be so dedicated to their jobs that their relationships suffer? After all, it took until the movies for Riker and Troi to marry even with years of romantic history.
Does the most well-known controversy around Plato’s Stepchildren reveal a behind-the-scenes reason Sulu never had an onscreen romance? As Amy Imhoff wrote for StarTrek.com, the kiss between Kirk and Uhura was one of just a handful of interracial kisses of the era and was, at the time, controversial due to this (as the question of consent seems to have been overlooked by contemporary audiences). Since almost every female one-episode love interest was Caucasian, did this mean that Sulu would not have been romantically paired with any of them?
The closest Sulu gets to a love interest in TOS is in the episode “Shore Leave” when a revived McCoy walks back out to tell Kirk and the others about the amazing medical technology available on the planet and has two women with him. One of the women goes to Spock and the other to Sulu. Since these women are not really there, projections from the planet, they may not count as true love interests.
In the mirror universe, Mirror Sulu attempts to seduce Uhura, not aware she is from a different universe than him. There is never a hint of similar feelings in the regular universe, raising questions if it is more of a power play, similar to Kirk and Mirror Marlena Moreau.
Hikaru Sulu Romance in Star Trek: The Animated Series
The closest Sulu got to an onscreen romance comes from The Animated Series, when in the episode “The Magicks of Magas-Tu”, the crew can access magical powers due to being in a different dimension. Sulu conjures a female companion and is walking off with her before Lucien, their host resumes his own form and scolds the crew.
TAS is noticeable for having very few love interests for any member of the crew. Was this due to the perception that children were the target audience, or did the much shorter run time of each episode send the most romantic plotlines to the cutting room floor? There might be more evidence for the former theory since when the crew returns to the same planet they visited on “Shore Leave” there are no equivalents to the women who brought a revived McCoy back to his crewmates and then went to Spock and Sulu in the original episode.
Hikaru Sulu Romantic Report – Not Obvious on-screen
Sulu did not have any on-screen love interests besides very brief scenes with partners who were not physical beings – one a projection from a planet, the other a magic-created figure. Yet Sulu has an adult daughter by Generations who has become a helmsman in her father’s footsteps.
If Sulu had been in more episodes, would writers have given him a love interest or mentioned a partner in dialogue? Yet even when writers had more time to focus on character development in the movies, most of that development went to Kirk, Spock, and McCoy. Demora Sulu is not even in a movie featuring the original main cast, but Sulu is proud of her for carrying on his legacy to another generation.
Hikaru Sulu Love Interests: 0 on-screen (2 energy/magical beings in female form) /1 off-screen (implied)