To the Stars

A member of the cast of the original STAR TREK television series and one of the first Asian American performers accepted by Anglo-American audiences, George Takei has a potentially fascinating saga to tell. Yet only hard core Trekkies, those inveterate STAR TREK devotees, would refuse to concede that he fails to tell it very well.

Takei’s take on the STAR TREK phenomenon is disappointingly dull and cluttered with minutiae. He clearly has a bone to pick, and the picking seems to have been a long time coming, with William Shatner. Takei’s insistent harping about Shatner’s alleged insensitivity to cast and crew members, however, results in diminishing Takei’s dignity. Backstage bitchery on the set may be the stuff of Trekkie heaven, but it is ultimately inconsequential to a wider readership.

Takei considers his portrayal of Sulu to have been instrumental in reversing Asian stereotypes in the media, but he appears to be oddly untouched by—and perhaps even unaware of—the painful struggles of such fellow Asian American performers as Mako, Jack Soo, and Bruce Lee, to find dignified work in Hollywood. Despite his moving (though all too brief) description of the anguish he endures watching late night reruns of “C” movies in which he himself played bucktoothed Japanese stereotypes, Takei sails easily through his acting career, and no one in the industry ever seems to voice an objection to casting him.

Takei’s discussions of STAR TREK and Asian American actors fall flat, but he is to be congratulated for relating the story of his own family, and therein lies the real strength of TO THE STARS. Takei’s description of his family’s courage in the face of their incarceration at Rohwer and Tule Lake concentration camps during World War II, and their struggles to achieve the American Dream afterward, is moving and enlightening. Remembered from a child’s perspective (Takei was only five when his family was sent to Rohwer), the story of the incarceration takes on a sharp poignancy that is also completely accessible to a nonacademic audience. Many readers, who would have otherwise remained unaware of this shameful chapter of American history, can thank Takei for awakening them to the realities of the incarceration and its impact on those American citizens whose lives were unjustly changed forever.