George Takei has revealed that he once pitched the idea of doing a gay-themed Star Trek episode, but it was shot down by the show’s executive producer.

Takei, who played Hikaru Sulu in the original 1965 TV series , is known in later life for his gay activism.

Speaking on Real Time with Bill Maher, the veteran actor revealed that he once pitched the idea that the show, famed for dealing with contemporary issues like racism, should deal with homosexuality.

Maher said: “When you were making that show, gay wasn’t even on anybody’s radar, but you pitched that idea. The same thing they were doing with other issues.”

Takei said: “Using a metaphor. [Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry] said ‘I know we do use metaphors to deal with contemporary issues’, but he was treading a very tight rope because of the fact that he was dealing with issues.

“Television is not known for dealing with contemporary issues.

“He said that if we pushed the envelope too far, then we wouldn’t be able to deal with any issues at all, and indeed – when we had the [interracial] Kirk-Uhura kiss – we were blacked out in the South, and our ratings plummeted.

“[I accepted it] because I knew the reality of television.”

He also mocked William Shatner’s ignorance of his sexuality, revealing that everyone else in the cast knew.

He said: “My colleagues did know I was gay, but they were cool about it. Except for one member of the cast [Shatner]… it went right over his head. He was the only one who didn’t know.”