|At the beginning of Star Trek's second season a new character, Ensign
Pavel Chekov, joined the Enterprise crew. According to the network's
press release, Chekov was added because Pravda had complained about the
fact that no Russians were represented on the show. However, actor
Walter Koenig, who portrayed the young ensign, had a different take:
"Well, the facts are that they were looking for somebody who would appeal to the bubblegum set. They had somebody in mind like Davey Jones of The Monkees, and originally it was supposed to be an English character; however, in acknowledgemnt of the Russinas' contribution to space they made the decision to go that way."
The Russian accent comes naturally to Koenig, whose father hailed from Lithuania and spoke Russian at home.
Recently when Walter was asked which one of the Star Trek movies was his favorite, his response was Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. Leonard Nimoy directed this one and saw to it that all of the Star Trek characters, not just the "Big Three," were involved. Walter Koenig, whose character Chekov stops passersby on San Francisco streets to inquire about where he might find "nuclear wessels," was pleased. "Chekov was a delight for me in Star Trek IV," he reports. "He has been most succesful when he has been put in comedic situations - but I feel I'm up to handling anything that's written for the character."
Personally, I greatly enjoyed his interrogation when the transportor failed to lock onto him in time. Later, after having a tragic accident which resulted in a hospital stay that almost turned tragic, the whole incident begins to take on a Marx Brothers quality in comedic timing. Now if anyone important is out there reading this, please give Walter some juicy comedy roles! Also take note that the only movies I've paid to see in recent years have been Star Trek movies for the most part!
After Pavel finished school he received an invitation from Starfleet which was very flattering since Starfleet recruited only the best students. Pavel scored high on the Starfleet entrance exams, but then we always knew how really smart Chekov was! Pavel Chekov graduated from Starfleet Academy with the highest honors. His first assignment was on the USS Hannibal, a destroyer, for his cadet cruise. His duty was assistant navigator. The Hannibal was frequently assigned to the Klingon border, and several times they were engaged in direct combat. Chekov proved he could keep his head in these intense situations, and also proved again and again that he was a good crewman to have on hand under fire. At the end of his cadet tour, Chekov was promoted to assistant chief navigator.
Pavel returned to Starfleet Academy after the year's cadet mission was over. He chose to attend the year-long Command School, in which he again distinguished himself. Once he was promoted to the rank of Ensign, Pavel eagerly loooked forward to the ship where he would undertake his first five year mission. That vessel was to be the Enterprise. Under the command of James T. Kirk, this vessel was already legendary due to the engagements it had fought under its previous commanders, Robert April and Christopher Pike. Kirk was looking for a bridge crewman with just the qualitfications Chekov's record indicated that he has: skill, a cool head and efficeincy.
Chekov would learn a lot under Kirk's command, and he would come to recoginize that even in Starfleet one could find a family as they faced seemingly hopeless odds together and came out the other side because of their combined skills. It was during this five year mission that Pavel would encounter Irina again. She had joined the troupe of a wandering Guru named Sevrin who believed they knew the way to Eden. And Chekov would be there when Irina finally discovered that peace and tranquility could never be found by running away in search of them.
Chekov's loyalty would bring him back to the Enterprise years later even after serving aboard the Grissom. There was only one Enterprise, and it was an even more amazing place to be than Leningrad had ever been.
Walter has been attending conventions since the seventies, but in spite of his many group encounters with Star Trek fans, he doesn't have an easy answer to the questin of what attracts people to the series.
"I'm not sure there is a simple answer to that. I think it has to do with the very durability of the show, the fact that we have been around for so long. We represent something very stabile. I think the audience likes that feeling of stability. Mariages last far shorter than our show has. But we have remained constant. The seven members of this cast are still together. I think that is very comforting. Of course there are many other reasons as well. I think the show addressed topical issues; it has made socio-political statements that have been positive. It suggests that the future will be an affirmative future. And of course the stories have been intellligently written and dimensionally performed."
When Walter was asked a few years ago if he thought the fans were going a bit overboard by having huge conventions devoted to Star Trek, he responded with this comment,
"I certainly hope so!" he said, laughing. "As long as the fans are going overboard that makes our project viable and keeps us working, and that is certainly something that is very agreeable. I've enjoyed my association with Star Trek and always have. It's been a very interesting, stimulating and intriguing 25 years. I hope we continue to be worthy of your admiration, and we all extend our heartfelt thanks for your support."
So Star Trek fueled my imagination and I began to hope that the future would hurry up and get here! Well......I get sick in airplanes so I had hopes that maybe transporters would become a reality as a means of getting from point A to point B. And science fiction has always proven to be a special place to present moral lessons without sounding like a sermon.
Ok....I admit it, I'm a sucker for logic so Spock was always my favorite, but Chekov, Scotty and Sulu gave me hope for something more. Instead of having a crew made up of only "patriotic Americans", the world as we knew it had evolved. And, how evolved we were if we were now working side by side with Russians. I grew up during the Cold War, and I believe some of my current neurosis in life is centered in the belief that we were on the "Eve of Destruction." My school used to have these horrible drills where alarms would go off and we had to hide under our desks. Silly isn't it? Now how was a mere school desk going to save me from nuclear disaster? So Walter, thank you for calming my fears with that wonderful Russian character who was a friend, not an enemy.
Looking for interesting insights on Star Trek? Read Walter Koenig's