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NYCC: George Takei on meeting Harlan Ellison, missing Leonard Nimoy & fencing snafus on 'Star Trek' set

By Brian Silliman
George Takei

The U.S.S. Enterprise would not have gotten far without Hikaru Sulu at the helm, and Sulu only worked because of the man who portrayed him. George Takei blazed new trails as the character in the Star Trek franchise, appearing in the original series, the first six movies, and even Star Trek: Voyager.

Takei's career expands well past those stars however, as he has acted in such projects as MulanKubo and the Two Strings, Archer, has played a version of himself on The Simpsons, and even ventured to the galaxy far, far away with roles in Star Wars: The Clone Wars and the recent Star Wars: Visions. Oh my! 

Takei held a live panel as part of New York Comic Con 2021 and SYFY WIRE was there to learn from the legend himself. 

“I missed you all so much,” Takei began, as the crowd gave him a rousing welcome. He wasted no time in sharing gratitude for the fully-vaccinated audience, mentioning how he was surprised that so many others are currently “fighting to die.” 

“We Star Trek people, and we who look to the future with optimism, we know better,” he said. “We live long and prosper. And we are gonna stay healthy.” 

Takei said he personally spent the pandemic working on another book. Titled “They Called Us Enemy,” the book is about him being imprisoned by the U.S. during World War II due to racial bias. At the other end of the creative spectrum, he’s soon going to begin working on a new movie with Mel Brooks. He’ll play an animated cat general who fights for a character played by Ricky Gervais. He referenced his recent work on Star Wars: Visions, joking that he’s loyal to Star Trek, but that he’s also “trying to pacify the Star Wars people.” 

A fan asked Takei about the famous sci-fi writer, Harlan Ellison, who wrote the script for the famous Trek episode “The City on the Edge of Forever.” Ellison was famously unhappy with what was done to his script for that episode, and Takei remembers seeing him on the lot “having a rant about someone I don’t know.” He said that he saw him again later, and found Ellison to be perfectly nice. 

There’s one particular episode of Star Trek that Takei was is especially happy with, and it involves a virus that releases inhibitions. It is of course “The Naked Time,” the Season 1 episode where he breaks out his fencing foil. “It was absolutely powerfully written, a tense and dramatic story, and also very science fiction. For me, it was the most fun episode I ever worked on.” 

He’s started fencing lessons a few weeks before filming the episode, but practiced himself on the side. While doing so, he frightened fellow actor James Doohan (Scotty), who thought he was being attacked. Takei said that he was written up for “attacking actors” and is now on record for having attacked James Doohan with a fencing foil. “I was minding my own business,” Takei joked. 

When a fan asked about the dearly departed Trek actor Leonard Nimoy, Takei couldn’t express his love for Nimoy fast enough. “He was an extraordinary man, and an amazingly loyal friend,” he said, recalling seeing Nimoy in the play Equus before doing the same role himself. Nimoy told him that he was better, but Takei maintained “that was an outright lie.” 

Another fan brought up Takei’s work in the Broadway play Allegiance, which once again dealt with anti-Japanese resentments and racism following the attack on Pearl Harbor. “We were completely helpless,” Takei said, adding that his new book deals with the same historical period and his personal experience in it. He said growing up, he learned that he had to be “participatory in a participatory government.” 

Takei learned about democracy at a very young age, and as he said, he knows all too well “how fragile it can be.”

Click here to check out all of SYFY WIRE's continuing coverage of New York Comic Con 2021.