Star Trek Didn’t Give Sulu A First Name, Here’s How He Got One

By Josh Tyler | Published

Hikaru Sulu's name

In the original Star Trek series from the 60s, George Takei’s character is called “Mr. Sulu” and that’s it. No first name. It’s only thanks to ancillary Star Trek novels that Mr. Sulu now has more to his name than just, well, Sulu.

It happened in The Entropy Effect by Vonda McIntyre. The book was one of the earliest Star Trek novels and in the process of writing it Vonda came up with Sulu’s first name: Hikaru.

Vonda McIntyre book

It seems no one had bothered to think of a name for him, before she was commissioned to write her novel. In an old interview with iO9 the now deceased McIntyre explains what happened this way…

“I couldn’t figure out how to write a love scene where the protagonists called each other by their surnames. So I gave Mr. Sulu a first name, “Hikaru,” which is from The Tale of Genji.”

Vonda McIntyre

The Tale of Genji is often regarded as the world’s first novel. Penned Murasaki Shikibu it chronicles the life and romances of Hikaru Genji, a nobleman in Heian-era Japan. Through episodic accounts and poetic interludes, it offers a deep exploration of Heian court life, love, and the impermanence of beauty.

Strangely, once Vonda decided the character needed one, it wasn’t the name she chose that anyone had a problem with, more that Paramount simply didn’t want Sulu to have a first name at all.

Sulu's name
George Takei as Sulu

So Paramount tried to get her to drop it. Luckily George Takei and series creator Gene Roddenberry took McIntyre’s side and the name stuck, eventually showing up in Star Trek feature films. Now we all know him as Hikaru Sulu.

Vonda McIntyre is one of science fiction’s true great female authors. A trailblazer in her time and she’s still worth reading today.