“The Naked Time” is a classic episode of the original Star Trek series that aired in 1966. The episode features the crew of the Enterprise being infected by a virus that causes them to lose their inhibitions and act out of character. George Takei’s character, Lieutenant Sulu, is one of the crew members affected by the virus. In the episode, Sulu is seen acting psychotically and grabbing Uhura, but she pulls away. Sulu’s character is also shown trying to sell Lieutenant Kevin Riley on the virtues of fencing.
When the script required Lieutenant Sulu to reveal that in his deepest self he sees himself as a swashbuckler, George Takei had to learn how to handle a fencing rapier in a hurry. When not needed on the set, he would practice fencing, frequently lunging at passing members of the film crew and sometimes pinking them. A delegation eventually called on Gene Roddenberry and threatened that the entire crew would quit if Sulu were ever given a sword again.
Takei’s performance in “The Naked Time” proved his comedy skills, and his character’s actions in the episode have become iconic in the Star Trek franchise. The events of this episode are repeated in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “The Naked Now,” where Riker references the incident as an in-universe historical event. Events are also mentioned in the TNG Season 6 episode “Relics.” Footage from this episode appears in the 2014 film X-Men: Days of Future Past.
Takei’s portrayal of Sulu was groundbreaking for its time, as he was one of the few Asian actors to have a prominent role on television. During the filming of “The Naked Time,” Takei pushed back on explicitly depicting Sulu as having exclusively Japanese interests. When the writer of “The Naked Time,” John D. F. Black, initially wrote the script, his idea was that Sulu would lose his mind and run around the ship swinging a Samurai sword. Takei liked the idea, and Sulu famously runs around the Enterprise shirtless, swinging a sword. But in the final episode, it’s not a Samurai sword—it’s a fencing foil, a change we owe to Takei.
In conclusion, George Takei’s character, Lieutenant Sulu, played a significant role in “The Naked Time” episode of Star Trek. Takei’s portrayal of Sulu was groundbreaking for its time, and his performance in the episode proved his comedy skills. The episode’s events have become iconic in the Star Trek franchise, and footage from the episode has been used in other Star Trek productions.