Interview: Walter Koenig Talks New Memoir, Closure With William Shatner, And Putting Chekov Behind Him

Walter Koenig appeared as Pavel Chekov in Star Trek: The Orginal Series as well as in seven Trek feature films. The actor has just released Beaming Up and Getting Off: Life Before and Beyond Star Trek, an update to his 1998 autobiography Warped Factors. TrekMovie spoke to Koenig about the new book and his time in the final frontier.

What prompted you to do the update to your autobiography?

Well, I was approached by Jacobs Brown Publishing and it sounded like a fun project. Writing an autobiography is a lot different than writing fiction. I don’t have to worry about story structure. I don’t have to worry about relationships. It’s just all from memory, and I can just go in chronological order. I enjoy the process of writing, so when they approached me, I was otherwise at liberty as they say and said, “Sure!”

The 1998 autobiography got positive reviews and was lauded for its honesty, perhaps even brutal honesty. But was there anything you held back for this one?

Not really. I was pretty candid. It’s not masochistic. It’s not like I am pointing to failings in my character that I have burdened with over the last two decades and finally decided that I would therapeutically put it down on paper. Over twenty years have passed and there have been events and situations and people that were introduced into my life that were not there previously. Also, I felt looking back and evaluating how I felt then with how I think now might be interesting for folks. We all transition during the course of a lifetime and develop attitudes and habits and philosophies, etcetera, that may have been incipient early on but develop to a way leading one’s life. Although I don’t think what I have written is terribly profound, it is the current state of my mind and what I project as far as the future is concerned.

In that vein, have your views on Star Trek and your time with the franchise changed in that last two decades?  

Yeah, I think it has. I was always very pleased when we were shooting the show and the motion pictures, to be identified with Star Trek. I thought we were putting forward some very trenchant socio-political philosophies that needed to be articulated. I think we did that by projecting problems that were current into the future where it was more admissible. I was always pleased that we were dealing with issues of mankind and humanity and how we can achieve a better moral society and be inclusive of all races, creeds, sexes, philosophies, etcetera.

But there was always something a little nagging in the back of my head and that was while we shooting the shows and the feature films I felt this is current and part of my life and I could, without reluctance, take a bow or two for whatever small participation I had in the show. But I have been somewhat detached from the creative process for quite a while now. So, when I go to conventions and people tell me how much they not only love the show but how much affection they had for my character, I feel a little awkward, a little uncomfortable.

That is really dealing in the past. I don’t want to wallow in the past. I want to be a creature of the present and the future. I don’t think I am done. God knows the industry may not have the same sentiment, but I don’t think I am done. And I don’t just want to rest on past laurels. When I go to make public appearances, I would love to be able to present a current list of accomplishments and unfortunately, they have been in less abundance [laughs] before I wrote the first autobiography.

Walter Koenig as Chekov in TOS “Spectre of the Gun”

Speaking of conventions, your updated memoir has a recent story regarding yourself and a candid conversation you had with William Shatner backstage. Your first memoir also had a few candid Shatner stories as well, do you think this recent, and somewhat awkward moment backstage at STLV, is going to be as good as you get for closure with Bill?

No, we don’t have closure. But yes, I was candid, and what you see in the memoir reflected my sentiment at the time, and they do now. Mr. Shatner comes from a different place and a different philosophy and different set of values. He argues that he is not at fault and not guilty of any social misdemeanor, and I say misdemeanor and not felony because it never achieved that status. They were just little things along the way that were disappointing and disillusioning, but not enough to change my life or go to bed tossing and turning thinking about Bill Shatner. In the book, I also acknowledge his talent and acknowledge his availability and responsibility in making Star Trek the success it was. He was an enormous part of the reason why Star Trek continued through three seasons on television and the six movies.

But yes, there are a couple of stories. And in the new edition of my book, there are anecdotal stories I tell about Bill. But I don’t think they are mean or vicious. I think they are more funny than anything.

Your first memoir was Chekov’s Enterprise, about the making of Star Trek: The Motion Picture. That project went through a lot of changes early on, including the Star Trek: Phase II television series concept, which you were also signed up for. Do you ever think a new television show would have been more fulfilling to you as an actor?

More fulfilling? I don’t know. It is pure speculation. When Gene [Roddenberry] called us all in the spring of ’69 and thanked us for our participation in Star Trek and hoped we could all work together again someday, that was not prophetic, that was just a salutation and a punctuation mark to say our careers involving Star Trek were over. So, I don’t know what would have transpired if we had gone back to doing a television series.

I had some fairly rewarding experiences doing the original series. Many times, I just sat there read a readout on my console. I don’t exactly consider that an artistic achievement. As a matter of fact, I left the show in the third season for a month to do a play, because I felt a little frustrated with the amount of participation I had on the show. In the third season, my contribution was relatively minor. A play gave me a chance to do a leading role and be on stage every day and be on stage opposite Jackie Coogan.

So, it didn’t portend well that if we came back and did a series in the ‘70s that I could anticipate greater involvement. As for the feature films, Star Trek II and Star Trek IV were really high points to me and I am certainly grateful I had the opportunity to perform in both of those films. But I don’t do a lot of reflecting on “What Ifs.” I am pleased with the way things turned out.

You highlighted two of the Star Trek films. Do you have regrets about the other films where you had less to do?

I didn’t have much to do in Star Trek [The Motion Picture]. I had less to do in Star Trek III and [Star Trek] V. And that’s okay. I didn’t have any problem coming to work knowing that the part would be very modest. I thoroughly enjoyed being on the set and working with my compatriots and getting to perform even in a minimal way. I was glad to be there. I was a little frustrated and would have loved to do more.

Star Trek VI was a different situation. With VI I was culpable with my less than present attitude with which I approached the work. I really thought Star Trek VI was our last film. I was bitterly—and I use that word understanding the drama of it—I was bitterly disappointed because since it was going to be our last film, that there should be a curtain call for each of the supporting actors. We should each have some small moment that gave us some insight into who these characters were and would wrap up their stories. That was not forthcoming. It was treated like just another episode without that sense of finality.

Whether I was justified in feeling that way is really a matter of conjecture. As a consequence, I took that to work every day, and boo on me for feeling that way. My first responsibility was to be a professional and to be conducting myself in a manner that reflected that. I don’t think anyone was aware of how I felt. I didn’t throw tantrums, but I was unhappy. I was unhappy that myself and George [Takei], Nichelle [Nichols], and Jimmy [Doohan] didn’t have a little more to do. We were from the start, expository characters. When you belong to an operation like Star Trek that receives such high regard and the recognition extended beyond oceans, you want to feel you are making a contribution that is comparable and commensurate with that kind of popularity. Maybe it is just a little selfish on my part and egocentric and a little neurotic, but that is the way I felt.

You were happy with how much you had to do in Star Trek II, but you were also involved early on, giving the script a review to make sure it fit with the show. Did you ever feel guilty that you didn’t point out that – contrary to the script – Khan never met Chekov on the show? 

That’s a great question because the fact of the matter of fact is in the script for Star Trek II when Spock dies, I called up the new producer Harve Bennett and he didn’t even want to talk to me because I was an actor and I was calling about acting problems. But I explained to him—because I got an advance copy of the script—that there was a fault in the story structure that had to be addressed. I said you cannot have Mr. Spock die in the second act. Along with Captain Kirk and the Enterprise, these three elements are quintessential to Star Trek. They are synonymous with what Star Trek is and you cannot eliminate one of those and not have it be the dramatic ending of the story. And to my utter surprise and bewilderment, nobody had mentioned that to him.

So, he was impressed enough to have me do a “Trekkie run” on the rest of the script and tell him what other missteps there were from what we had established on the Star Trek series. And one of the things I recognized right off the bat was that Chekov had never met Khan because I had not been in the first season of the show when he made his appearance. So, as industrious as I was and as committed as I was to pointing out Spock can’t die in the second act, I was determined not to mention that Chekov didn’t meet Khan as described in the script. I didn’t want the possibility that they would say, “Oh, in that case, we will give the part to Sulu.” [laughs] Yeah, I was aware of it. Never, never did I feel guilty about it. I was prepared to suffer the hostility of fandom over this inconsistency.

Walter Koenig as Chekov in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

You are one of the very few Star Trek actors with a Star Trek writing credit – for the “Infinite Vulcan” – during your time with Trek, were you pitching story ideas?

I certainly wouldn’t have done it during the television series days. I was the new kid on the block coming in during the second season. Everything was in high gear. The machinery was functioning very smoothly. It didn’t even cross my mind to do that. There was a moment or two, such as in “Spectre of the Gun” I thought there was a flaw in the logic of the story, and I did bring it up to the story editor. At that juncture, I had more integrity and I mentioned to the story editor that it was illogical for Chekov to be alive before we had discovered it was all an illusion and to my surprise, the story editor said, “We figured that out but we said screw it!” [laughs] That was the only literary contribution I made, and they just ignored it, which I was just as happy about.

After Star Trek V, we seemed to be at an impasse regarding what the next Star Trek film would be about. There was a lot of behind-the-scenes conflict going on and wars being waged over the story of Star Trek VI. Mr. Bennett wanted to junk the cast and start over with a new concept, with new fresh faces. None of us were terribly pleased with that. During that time Nick Meyer was proposing a story that included the original cast. The head of Paramount concurred there was still one more in us. Even though we were all growing a little older, they believed the audience was still up for another Star Trek story with the original cast.

During that period, I wrote an outline for an alternative Star Trek story and submitted it to [Paramount CEO Frank] Mancuso and he tried to call me back and missed me, and then we never made contact. But I did include that at the back of my autobiography. The movie that we actually did was very well written by Nick Meyer, and it was successful with Star Trek fans. They wouldn’t have been happy with mine because I killed off just about everybody except Spock and McCoy. Again, I thought that was the end of our participation, so I felt that was a reasonable ending.

Moving forward to something a bit more recent, a few years back I moderated Q&As for a series of Star Trek movies at a theater in Santa Monica, and when you were the guest for one of them, you chose that day to reveal your true self…

[Laughs] And you want to know what it was like?

Well, I guess I was wondering, why after so many years did you decide that was the time to lose the toupée?

I think it was around 2011. looked at the mirror one day and said what is this 70-year-old man doing wearing a hairpiece? First of all, the hair that I had left was growing more conspicuously lighter in tone and my hairpiece was a real contrast with the real hair on my head. The reason I ever wore the hairpiece, beyond some vanity, was pragmatic. I was supposed to be the youngest member of the crew. The studio wanted to promote the idea of this younger character who could be identified with younger fans.

So, I kept it on and then it became habit. But then the moment came where the vanity was unbecoming and misplaced. Because I have problems with self-esteem, it was a little difficult to do. I was anticipating the first gasp of “Oh my god, look how old he is!” Actually, it was uncomfortable doing it that first day when I was asked to speak at a screening of one of the Star Trek movies with a full audience in attendance. But once having done it, I thought I made the proper choice and decided not to go back to wearing that hairpiece again.

CBS is developing multiple Star Trek projects. At one point there was even some consideration to bringing back Nichelle to play Uhura for one of their new Short Treks. I know you returned to the role of Chekov for some independent films a few years back, but would you consider it for official Star Trek, if approached?

I did a couple of low-budget feature films regarding Star Trek before CBS put the kybosh on that kind of thing. And my stipulation for Star Trek: Renegades was that we killed off Chekov. It’s not that I have any antipathy for him. I have great affection for all of my time I spent on Star Trek and for the character. I did [Star Trek New Voyages: Phase II “To Serve All My Days”] because it added some dimension to the character. My frustration was always I never really got to fulfill the character and so when I was approached to do that, I decided to do it, even though it wasn’t under the most professional circumstances. And when I did Renegades, I told [producer] Sky Conway, that would be it. I had exhausted everything I needed to say about him that needed to be said.

To answer your question, I would not be very receptive to coming back as Chekov with these new iterations. That is not to say I wouldn’t mind coming back as another character. I would love to perform as another character in Picard or one of the other new Star Trek series. That would be great.

Walter Koenig as Chekov in Star Trek: Renegades

Can you talk about any possible acting projects? I believe you are attached to something called Savage Midlife.

Savage Midlife is kind of fun, but it is one scene and totally different than anything I have got to do. They have cast my wife opposite me. These are folks I have worked with before up in Oregon where we will shoot. But we are also very aware of the circumstances of getting that done with the virus, etcetera. There is another science fiction project that Sky Conway has asked me to appear in, which would be fun. It is not Star Trek and certainly not Chekov. It is a part I can sink my teeth into, and that is what I am looking for. This is what I was trained to do and spent six decades doing. There is a third project which would be really fun to do, playing a cranky old guy who is very funny.

You have remained active on the convention scene. When in-person events return, do you expect to continue with public appearances this year?  

Well, I had six conventions planned for this year, and I was drawing the line there. As I mentioned before, it becomes a little awkward to feel all this praise and affection for something I have not contributed to greatly over the course of so many years. And there are a lot of people out there who have no idea who I am. They see this 83-year-old bald guy walking around and they say, “Who is that?” Because their focus is on anime, superheroes, or game players. That’s fine, but I don’t know who those folks are. So I feel I am a little out of date.

However, without the opportunities to do them because we are all in quarantine, I miss them a little. So, if the opportunities to do them are there next year, I would certainly like to take advantage of it at least to the degree I had limited myself to this year, maybe five or six.

Walter Koenig at STLV 2018

Updated autobiography out now

Walter Koenig’s updated memoir Beaming Up and Getting Off: Life Before and Beyond Star Trek is available now. You can pick it up at Amazon in hardcover and e-book.


Keep up with all the interviews at TrekMovie.com.

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Dave Holley

I met Walter at Destination Star Trek in London 2012 and wow what a gentleman- had a great conversation and photo with him – could have spent hours with him.

GarySeven

I will always be amazed that William Shatner could not recall Walter Koenig’s name in a press conference in 1989 for a Star Trek V. He had worked with Koenig for over 20 years by that point.
https://youtu.be/g0Kv9d9SuG8

T'Pol's Beard

I’m impressed he could remember anyone’s name but his own, frankly.

Linda Haunes

Haven’t you ever forgot someones name when you were introducing them? I have. It’s embarrassing but it happens. Geez.

Therizino

I have seen a guy forget his wife’s name he was married to for 40 years. The look she was giving him did not help him any.

Andy

Never, ever!

Tiger2

Wow that was painful! And you can tell he literally could not remember him. Yes, it could just be age or nerves, but hearing how he’s treated most of them over the years, no one would be shocked if he really just forgot it.

Like most here I grew up watching Kirk and that character was probably my gateway into Star Trek as a kid. But the more I hear about William Shatner, I have less and less respect for him. I came across a youtube video where Wil Wheaton actually recounted the day he got to meet William Shatner and was totally dissed by him. This was also during Star Trek V and they were shooting both productions side by side. He tells it really well but it makes you realize just how egotistical some people can be, especially when their entire persona is built around one franchise, movie or show they think will live or die because they participate in it.

The video is literally titled William F^cking Shatner if you want to have a listen.

AllenWrench

Oh, the infamous press conference. Also the worst looking one in memory. Proves why you should never have actors appear in costume anywhere but on camera. Without that cinematic look, it just looks tacky. ‘Trick or treat!’

Denny C

He appeared on Conan O’Brian years ago and couldn’t remember the name “Star Trek.” So Conan said, “Star Trek?” Shatner, without missing a beat replied, “That’s the second thing that goes.”

Jack

Maybe he just didn’t want to pronounce it incorrectly? And it’s not like Walter’s name had been on the scripts for those 20 years. The guy was just another one of many actors on the bridge.

DIGINON

He had known Koenig for more than 20 years. He should not only have known his name, he should also have known how to pronounce it.
Not only was Koenig a co-star of many years, this was a press conference for Star Trek V which Shatner had directed. As director, Shatner should know the names of his actors (even the ones that he doesn’t even have scenes with).
I hope that he simply had a mental blackout in that moment. Everything else would reflect very badly on him.

Leonard McCoy

Very thoughtful reflections. And he looks distinguished without the hairpiece — losing it was a good call. Hope to see him at a con one day.

Linda Haynes

I’m sorry but he looks so much older without the toupee.

AllenWrench

He’s 83. It’s okay to look old when you’re 83.

Corylea

Exactly!

the dogfaced boy

He wore a wig in his first few episodes as Chekov too, so there was that angle for wearing the toupe.

Steve Gennarelli

I got to see Walter at a small convention near Binghamton NY 15 years ago…A very kind man and a very charming speaker. I would enjoy seeing him appear again in any “Star Trek” production.

Jim Lancaster

I just finished reading his autobiography, and it is excellent! He has led a fascinating life and writes very openly about himself and his experiences. His writing is witty, engaging, and often laugh-out-loud funny. Highly recommended reading!

Methusalah

I can’t help myself to say this, but the title of this book does sound like an adult male films star’s tell-all autobiography. :-)

Koenig is GREAT PEOPLE. Still so sorry about his son,

Trek in a Cafe

“ I was prepared to suffer the hostility of fandom over this inconsistency.” I love this man!

T'Pol's Beard

And yet if any current producer were to say that, they would be raked over the coals! I think, ultimately, you gloss over inconsistencies if you think it will serve the story. It’s harder as a fan to justify, if you’re not in love with how the story turned out, though.

I just wish more fans would appreciate what writers and producers are TRYING to do, even if they don’t always succeed.

Tiger2

Because it’s the producers JOB to note and think about these things. Actor’s jobs are to stand on the mark and say the line the best way they can. But yes it happens all the time.

And I can’t blame Koenig at all. TWOK was literally the only time the character just got to do something on his own away from the others and stand out a little. I would be upset too if those scenes were taken from me.

T'Pol's Beard

No, it’s not their job to obsess over the details of canon. Their job, first and foremost, is to craft a story. If they have to gloss over a few continuity details to tell it, they should do so, and not care about nerd rage.

Continuity details are not the be all end all. Those who think so are what spawned toxic fandom.

I would say that it’s definitely part of the job.

Google the question “What is the best plotted novel in the English language?”

You’ll likely find it’s by Jane Austen. Arguably, what’s made Austen’s novels so enduring is that they hang together in the characters, the story and the minutia.

While making a conscious creative decision to let something go for something else essential in a new story is fair, not making the effort to know, or just having stories that are incoherent in their own internal structures is appropriate to criticize.

As examples: Brian Miller’s recent interviews show that he didn’t understand at a fundamental level the history of the Many Worlds multiverse in Trek (even if he had some cool ideas that may have worked); Discovery’s writers room conflicts and changes in showrunners have left both seasons with incoherence and inconsistencies in both plotting and characterization (understandable under the circumstances, but still unfortunate).

jerodast

I disagree. Any producer OBLIVIOUS to the issue would show that they are not thinking about story consistency and are also not familiar with Star Trek’s long history – a sign they are not a good shepherd for the franchise’s latest production. They would be raked over the coals.

On the other hand, someone who said “oh sure I recognize that, I know the series back and forth, but that detail wasn’t worth going into on film because of the bigger themes being developed” would reassure that they understand both the backstory and that Star Trek is more about character and big ideas than minute plot details. They would totally have some people QUESTIONING the decision, but not the outrage you get when an outsider comes along like “durr this is my movie and I’m ignorant of anything past”.

ML31

I enjoyed the story that he did not expose the inconsistency because he feared losing lines and screen time. That’s an actor for you! I think I recall hearing that story before. It dinged something in my memory banks. I had forgotten all about it.

Faze Ninja

Chekov was one interesting dude from TOS. He was a Russian on the Enterprise.

Russia and the United States have always had a adversarial relationship throughout history. Star Trek proves we will go beyond those pretty squabbles to create a better future for humans.

I really like this guy and his story is very touching.

William Shatner is not the guy I would talk to on a Saturday night. This guy is my drinking buddy lol. Like to see him again on Star Trek.

The River Temarc

“Russia and the United States have always had a adversarial relationship throughout history.”

They most certainly have not. Set aside WWII and the 1990s. Tsarist Russia had reasonably good relations with the US. In particular, Teddy Roosevelt mediated an end to the Russo-Japanese War in Portsmouth, NH. John Quincy Adams was also ambassador to Russia during the Napoleonic Wars; the Smithsonian Quarterly had an interesting article a few years ago about how he convinced Russia to break with Napoleon’s Continental System (i.e., banning trade between Britain and continental Europe), which was a victory for US diplomacy at the time, since the US was trying to stay neutral.

Faze Ninja

Russia and US relations are at their worst point since the cold war. Don’t tell me otherwise. I appreciate the history lesson. Russia is not behaving like a civilized country. The US is not a neutral country anymore.

I learned about the Russo-Japanese War from the Japanese perspective. Japan is better than Russia. Maybe the bilateral relationship could improve sooner.

China and Russia are partners in crime.

odradek

Governments are governments, but as a nation Russia belongs to the ones I admire most. Russian literature, music and art rank among the best in the world. Russians are great people.

Faze Ninja

You admire Russia, I admire Japan… We got something to love.

Disinvited

Faze Ninja,

Re: Russo-Japanese Imperialism

The official Japanese version has been sanitized to eliminate their numerous war crime atrocities. You will find a more balanced view from the Koreans where neither Imperialist comes off looking “good.”

Faze Ninja

Disinvited,

I listen to a podcast called the History of Japan on Spotify. I learned more about the Russo-Japanese war from that. It does talk about Korea at the time of the war.

The Russians and Japanese went to war over China not Korea really. Koreans do play somewhat a role over the course of the war. Port Arthur and all that.

Japan and Korea do share a rich history. Modern Korea under North and South Korea perspectively. Japan did learn from their imperial past.

Disinvited

FAZE NINJA,

One source, especially a podcast, does not an adequate history lesson make. Neither will this missive, but here’s a small sample of some of the nuances that you missed:

The Russians were looking for an ice-free Pacific shipping lanes accessible port, and did not limit the scope of that search to China. They ran the TransSiberian RR and would lay track to and through any number of Asian nations to any Pacific port that they could acquire to that end; be it in China, Korea, etc., and negotiated on several fronts to that end.

The Japanese people had been fully indoctrinated into European racist Social Darwinist thinking and believed themselves the rightful superiors and rulers of all the “other” “inferior” Asians and used it to justify all sorts of horrid acts in pursuit of that psuedo-scientific “right.”

The Koreans might have an opinion or two on that.

Faze Ninja

I know and the Chinese.

Silvereyes

I suggest you study the war also from the Russian perspective before you pass judgment. Saying Japan is better than Russia is an unjustifiable comment regardless. Perhaps English is not your first language and the subtlety of what you wrote escapes you…

The River Temarc

Maybe no more Chekhov, but after seeing that RENEGADES photo, I gotta say: Walter Koenig playing Mikhail Gorbachev, anyone? Pair him up with Boris Lee Krutonog as Putin and, I don’t know, Costa Ronin as Yeltsin, and you’ve got a three man show…

Faze Ninja

The three Russian dictators, brilliant. Putin is a terrible person, feel bad for the Russian people. Russia was never a democracy and probably never will be.

Mikhail Gorbachev was the leader of the Soviet Union before it collapsed. Yeltsin was pretty descent.

If Russia was a normal country, then that wouldn’t be so bad LOL

The River Temarc

Dictatorial comedy worked well in THE DEATH OF STALIN (starring our own Captain Lorca as Marshal Zhukov) and even JOJO RABBIT!

I’m sincerely surprised that folks are focusing on the Russian dimension given that isn’t Koenig’s ethnicity.

Let’s not typecast him.

(BTW, I’m with odarek in terms of appreciating Russia’s great cultural heritage. I sincerely grieve nonetheless the governments it’s had through much of its history. To Ninja, I suggest that you read some of the accessible Russian histories. Doing that, as well as travelling in Russia has helped me come to understanding.)

Faze Ninja

I’m aware of Russian history but that doesn’t change my opinion of Russia as a country. I would love to visit Russia one day.

Trek in a Cafe

Ok, I’m just going to interject that I have been in the same room as both of them! (Koenig and Gorbachev, 30 years apart)

tom riker

it’s too bad that he’s so melancholy… i get it but he’s no different than all these other actors who were supporting characters on popular shows… they show up for work and read lines for a few years and decades later fans get excited to meet them. even though many of those actors didn’t really participate in the creative process. but i think many enjoy the fan experience. i know some actors personally who do. they get a kick out of it. he seems to be a creative guy that needed or needs more outlets.

tom riker

when did short treks consider doing one with nichelle nichols’ uhura? i missed this bit of news.

Tiger2

I read this on another site, but believe it or not that Short Trek is what gave us the Picard show! :)

Basically this was going to be in the first season of those stories and someone came up with a story of Picard meeting Uhura and she was going to give him an assignment of tracking down the Borg. I don’t know the time frame if it was before Q Who or not but wanted Stewart and Nichols so I’m guessing the story was suppose to happen much later on? Anyway Stewart had said no when they approached him so that idea died before it started. That’s when they got the idea of doing a full on show instead and wanted to see if he would be interested in doing something bigger. And the rest was history!

But it also proves that Short Treks are open to anyone or character, so the possibilities are endless. I doubt we’ll ever see Nichols play Uhura again but we could see Uhura herself or anyone do those.

tom riker

yeah im shocked they aren’t (or maybe they will) going back to classic trek characters… goto quark or garak or bashir or geordi or whoever is on voyager… you can do cool 15 minute story of where these characters are now. fans would love it and i’m sure there’s ton of writers who would love to take that on. have ira behr write a short trek. they could use the short treks to open up the entire trek universe and update fans. i know it’s a low budget thing by reusing sets and existing cast but still would be super fun.

Tiger2

I think it will happen eventually. I think originally Short Treks was mostly done to keep Discovery on people’s minds being off the air for so long and to promote second season. But season 2 they really broadened the stories a bit more so my guess is in time they will start doing short stories around VOY, DS9, ENT etc.

But a lot of people also point out these stories are mostly built around the sets they have lying around so that’s probably a big factor too. But I’m guessing as the franchise expands they will bring in more past characters in time. They can do SO much with it, especially characters who may not make it on Picard or other shows.

Legate Damar

Even if it would be expensive to recreate old sets, they can always bring back old characters in animated Short Treks.

Tiger2

True as well. Would give anything for an animated Enterprise Short Trek to show off bits of the Romulan war if its not feasible in live action.

Who am I missing, it’s just Shatner, Koenig, and Takei left. Shatner would want millions, and it seems highly unlikely Walter and George would want to be in the same building with him. Can’t really think of any other minor TOS character who needs fifteen minutes of fame in their twilight years….

Tiger2

Not sure if this was a reply to my post but if it was I was talking about the CHARACTERS, not just the original actors who play them. Yes, I think with the TOS cast, their time is done. But as we seen just recently with Discovery and now SNW we are probably going to see more TOS characters in the next few years since the Kelvin movies. And its nothing wrong to introduce them in a Short Treks, especially if they won’t it make onto the other shows any time soon.

I would love to see a side story of how Kirk and Bones met for the first time for example. Normally I WOULDN’T care about seeing things like that in a show and feel its just more fan minutiae. But something like Short Treks is designed for things just like that as we saw with Spock and Number One first introduction.

Something has to be off on that, Ms. Nichols has been in declining health for years now….

Tiger2

This was back in 2018 and Nichols was still acting then. She was in that Star Trek parody movie with Snoop Dog and other Trek actors that same year in fact.

But yes I think since then her health has gotten much worse.

DIGINON

It sounds pretty farfetched but maybe whoever pitched it wasn’t aware of Nichols’ health.

Tiger2

As I just said, she was STILL acting at that time. On IMDB, she had 2 acting credits in 2018 and another one just last year (although I’m guessing that was shot earlier maybe). She was working pretty regularly up through 2017. So it’s not that far fetched.

And we’re talking a 15 minute short which she might have only been in one scene since it really sounded more Picard focus.

Matt

Not gonna lie – only saw Walter Koenig’s photo at the top of the page, not the headline. My first thought was he died.

Phew, good interview

Legate Damar

That was my first reaction too. I was pretty relieved once I realized it was just an interview.

Tiger2

In so many ways I always felt bad for so much of the TOS cast, especially Koenig. He got the bare minimum to do out of all of them. They give Kirk and Spock so many memorable lines but the only memorable lines Chekhov got was when he did the comedy relief stuff in TVH and TUC. He has great comedic timing, I wish they played off that a little more at least.

But like he said, the character was there for decades why can’t they give the guy ONE scene to just have a strong moment in the last movie? The movies really frustrated me because they gave them all a little more to do but they never bothered to at least develop their character. Why not one subplot where Chekhov meets his parents, have a girlfriend, visits his old roommate at the academy days, something!?! I can’t tell you five pertinent things about Chekhov other than he’s Russian. I’m still convinced that guy is a virgin!

I understood why it was done in the TV show because it was the 60s. But by the movie era these guys should’ve been given more. I also found it weird they will bring in new characters to develop like Saavik, Decker or Sybok but leave most of the crew in the cold outside a few lines and scenes to interact in.

The River Temarc

“Why not one subplot where Chekhov meets his parents, have a girlfriend, visits his old roommate at the academy days, something!?!”

Because those things are likely to be extraneous and shoehorned into the plot?

Tiger2

Funny Kirk and Spock got stuff like that often. And those were just examples. Just gives these people a development of ANY kind.

It’s no excuse. These people were treated like wall paper for decades.

Faze Ninja

From Russia with love.

Mike Thompson UK

That’s why a lot of writers have brought it up over the years, writing for seven actors is difficult for a movie, maintaining a good story and still giving the leads prominent stuff or else they would not agree to do. i.e Nimoy in Generations. I accept they wanted more and it caused problems.

A lot of it was the ‘star’ model of the 60s. Shows were written for that, but TNG showed another approach was possible with other actors each carrying an episode or two a season.

Shatner worked 6 days a week on Star Trek and ruined a marriage. Other bridge crew worked a few days a week and felt their craft wasn’t utilized.

Clearly, 90s Trek found a better way to work. But the short seasons of serialization in Discovery and Picard seem to have swung the pendulum back to having everything centre on a single star.

I really hope that SNW can go not only beyond Pike, but beyond the triumvirate to make the other characters have enough time to become real.

Tiger2

Yeah, I mean its not that hard. Look at movies today, especially comic book movies. They stuffed 30 characters in Infinity War and while they all didn’t get arcs obviously they still found ways for all those characters to shine and great moments for them.

There are tons of ensemble movies out there that give characters a lot of meaningful story development and character arcs, even if they are on screen for a minimum time. As said, I understand when the show was on that’s how a lot of TV worked back then but that still wasn’t true of every show. Mission Impossible was on during the years of Star Trek and that had an ensemble cast and utilized all the characters if not every week.

But the only point that was being said is what Koenig said, he knows he’s not the star, he didn’t expect to get any story lines, but you can still develop the character for peep’s sakes and tell us something about him in a few lines. You can still give him one strong emotional scene in a room with Kirk or Spock dealing with a crisis at hand. You can show a scene of him doing something as a character to just understand who he is, what he likes, etc. Chekhov was still the weakest link in the Kelvin movies IMO but he was given more to do in those three movies than Koenig was given in six of them.

I just always felt bad for them. On one hand they all became famous and relatively rich because of their association with Star Trek but as he said his actual contribution was peripheral when they all wanted to do more. I’m glad all the other shows gave their casts a lot to do. Even if some still got short changed week to week they were all well developed and got multiple episodes where their characters was the focus of the story to learn more about them and multiple character arcs throughout the shows.

You’re not wrong about Discovery and Picard, but we still at least learn about all the characters even if they are not all given the focus every week like the other shows.

Disinvited

Re: Chekov’s girlfriend

I’m not sure how all you Herberts forgot this, but we met Chekov’s old flame in THE WAY TO EDEN, and through her some of his back story, such as his first name.

VOODOO

I’ve always enjoyed Walter’s honestly and the fact that he is an intellectual. He shouldn’t be so hard on himself as he is a much bigger part of Star Trek than he gives himself credit for.

Jim Davis

Surprised no mention of his epic work on Babylon 5 here.

I’d be very okay with him discussing that, as well.

Faze Ninja

Chekhov is my Russian friend.

Like to see more Star Trek characters from Slavic countries like Ukraine, Russia, or Eastern Europe.

odradek

I would love to see some Czech involvement into Star Trek. First Czechs have done some legendary beautiful TV productions in the past and second they seem to have a very strong fandom. The Klingon dictionary for example was translated in only three other languages: Italian, German and CZECH.

Absolutely agree, I’d like to see more Slavic and even some Central Asian characters.

Ross

Just wonderful

I will add this to my collection and hope it’s got some quality pages on Babylon 5 as well as Trek.

Danpaine

As with a number of the original cast, he’s always been a class act. And as others have pointed out, there is a palpable undercurrent of melancholy in his comments. Nice interview.

PaUl

He used to moan so much in Starlog every time a new Trek movie came out he would nearly always mention he was not the star of the show! Its tiresome as he got way more to do than the other 3 supporting cast not sure how much screentime he actually wanted LOL!

Back in the day I chatted with Walter at a Boston trek convention while he was pursuing the merchandise tables. Unlike some of the other actors, he is quiet, unassuming and just such a nice man. Later that day he did autographs, took questions and a performed a non-Trek play called “Actors” with Mark Lenard. Walter is a class act. To Walter: We don’t see “An 83 year old bald guy” we see a guy we loved in several TV shows and movies, who made a real contribution to two franchises, a guy at home in his own skin and a guy who tells it like i is. As I said, a class act. Really enjoyed this interview.

Silvereyes

He’s not going to bed tossing and turning thinking about Bill Shatner, but he’s still talking about it more than 50 years later. And he doesn’t appear to mind talking about those stories with Shatner as long as it helps sell his book. I’m sure Shatner isn’t perfect but everyone has his or her personality and that’s life. He needs to stop complaining and deal with it.

Seems to me he has. For a lot of people, dealing with some of life’s unpleasantness doesn’t mean ignoring it.

Methusalah

I think for him it’s more informational, and I’m OK with that. Takei on the other hand — he got rather unhinged and got a little nuts over his obvious literal hatred for Shatner.

Bill Huseman

Nice interview. I loved watching Walter in Star Trek and I wished he had more roles as Chekov to play. I also loved him when he played Mr. Bester on Babylon 5.
I actually met Jimmy Doohan in person but I wished Walter was at the convention as well.

A great actor in my book.

Walter, thank you. No one could have played the parts like you did. God Bless.

Bill

Kev-1

Thought Chekov’s role in TMP was pretty good, comparatively. They cut his scene when Ilia empathically eases his pain. He did get around the ship more than Uhura or Sulu. Understand why he wanted a beefier part though; the secondary characters weren’t used a much in TOS. That show pretty much took place from Kirk’s POV — he did most of the logs and the preamble. Even so, Uhura, Sulu and Chekov made the show richer, and not just because of youth/diversity. Even without a big role, actors can make a big impression. Never been to Russia, but think Koenig carried off Chekov’s accent believably, which was a big responsibility. As for Khan, saw him explain that away as Khan meeting Chekov in the Enterprise’s bathroom (head) and not giving him TP or something. Was pretty funny.

Andy

Thanks, Walter. He seems to have really matured, eh? And how wise he is!

Jason Bernal

He was good in Star trek but really came out as bester in Babylon 5 I loved how he played the bad guy.

Mark Musselwhite

I’ve met Walter at several conventions over the years and found him to be witty and gracious and seemingly interested in his fans. Which, when compared to William Shatner, makes him stand out even more. God I hate William Shatner

Dr Zaius

He was awesome as Bester in Babylon 5. My favorite rat bastard.

Shaddak

Be seeing you, Mr. Garibaldi

Methusalah

Yep — thanks for reminding me of that!

Jack

The Khan thing is easy – Chekov was a night shift security guard outside his quarters. Or something.

I wish they’d all let this Shatner stuff go. Again, not one of them has ever said that Shatner was rude, unprofessional, treated them badly onset or was ever anything less than polite and pleasant in person. The beefs were all about a supposed behind-the-scenes request for more lines – that none of them directly witnessed. They’ve all said this.

“Maybe it is just a little selfish on my part and egocentric and a little neurotic, but that is the way I felt.”

Yep. And you’ve told us repeatedly.

He’s also griped about Shatner not getting that it was an ensemble show, like TNG – except that’s not true, either. The only ensemble on TOS was Kirk, Spock and McCoy – and that’s the way it was written. That’s not Shatner’s fault.

I’ve been rewatching TOS and was surprised to see how little I miss Sulu or Chekov when they’re not in an episode.

I’d been a big fan of the supporting players until they started with this Shatner-bashing 25 years ago or so, just to sell books and get the spotlight at conventions. I now wish they’d all just get a life. Takei seems to have dialed it down a little in the last couple of years.

ML31

From my point of view, Takei was the one who looked bad in his “Shatner feud”. For a while he wouldn’t make a public comment without bringing it up. And I really feel like he did it mostly out of ego. He did it because he was selling a book or because he felt he needed his name mentioned out there or something. Regardless of what really happened (and we only have what the actors have claimed to go on) Shatner is the one who has publicly looked like the better man in that Shat-Takei thing. Even offering to hash things out with him and getting refused. I actually have less respect for Takei after that.

Jack

Me too. I get frustrated with Takei. I’m glad he’s found a voice and an audience, but I don’t think he needed the Shatner stuff to get there.

That said, Shatner could have just let it go. I know that he was asked about it a lot, but he could have handled it better (among other things, he called Takei “psychotic” and complained about Takei’s roast performance in both a book and in his stage show).

I’d read an interview with Takei in the Edmonton Journal, of all places, from 2-3 years ago, where he was asked about Shatner and actually had a gracious, dignified answer — that it was all, basically, water under the bridge and the important thing was Star Trek’s lasting message. It was a pleasant surprise.

Takei’s reaction to the gay Sulu thing in Beyond also bugged me a little. I get how personal it was to him, but I’d wished he hadn’t been quite so over-the-top about them “twisting” Gene’s creation.

Tbmichael

I enjoyed the audiobook of his autobiography in the 90s because he read it himself. Same with George Takei

I had the pleasure of meeting Walter twice. Once was at a convention several months after STAR TREK V had come out. To my utter surprise, he was wandering around the dealers’ room, perusing the merchandise. For the most part, people were quite respectful of him and not pestering him a lot, with the exception of a small group of young guys who followed him around making jokes about Chekov always getting injured and screaming. To his credit, Mr. Koenig put up with them in a far more gracious manner than I ever would.

Then something remarkable happened.

A little boy – he couldn’t have been more than perhaps 6 years old – approached Walter with his father. The boy asked Walter if he was Mr. Chekov. And in the blink of an eye, Walter BECAME Chekov. He kneeled down so that he was at eye level with the boy, and went straight into Chekov’s Russian accent. He spent at least 10 minutes with the boy, answering questions about what it’s like to work with Mr. Spock and Captain Kirk, how scared was he of Khan, what do he and Sulu and Uhura like to do when they’re not on duty, and how do the phasers work on the Enterprise. It was one of the most charming, magical things I’ve ever seen, and, truth be told, I felt just as excited and happy as that little boy. Pure class act, and he gave that kid the memory of a lifetime.

I feel badly that Walter feels a little disillusioned and disappointed with his level of contribution to the franchise (which I personally feel he underestimates). I’m an actor myself, and I completely understand how he feels and where he’s coming from. Part of it is ego, yes. But another part of it is the frustration which comes from knowing that you can do more and wanting to make a meaningful artistic contribution to whichever endeavor you may be working on, but is being held back. After being directly associated with a franchise like that and feeling as though he’s getting more praise than he feels is due because of what he feels to have been limited participation, then yeah… I can see how that can lead to a certain degree of discomfort and even detachment.

The second time I met Walter was shortly after he starred as Chekov in the New Voyages episode, “To Serve All My Days”. It was a remarkable, amazing performance, and I asked him what prompted him to do it. He said that he saw it as a way to flesh out Chekov and put some form of closure on the character. I told him that, as an actor, I acknowledge how frustrating it can be to be pigeonholed as just one character (…or type of character) and how limiting that can be to a fuller, more varied career. But I also told him that he has the love and adulation of generations of fans across the world, who hold him up as a great example of a person, and thanked him for the memories and inspiration. He seemed to appreciate that. He grinned, thanked me, and signed the photo I chose for an autograph with, “To Richard – friendship always, Walter Koenig”.

Markinva

Thanks for sharing that story.

Danpaine

Very cool interactions, congratulations and thanks for sharing.

Oh, by the way, if no one else knows, Walter played CAPTAIN Chekov (commander of the Enterprise-B following John Harrison stepping down after the Tomed Incident), alongside Nichelle as Captain Uhura (commander of the Excelsior, after Sulu gets promoted to the Admiralty), and Robin Curtis as Commander Saavik, Uhura’s Exec. It was in a special anniversary episode of the fan series, Starship Excelsior and the episode’s title is “Tomorrow’s Excelsior”. It is not a filmed episode (sadly), but an audio drama. Look it up – it’s easily found on YouTube. It’s nothing short of marvelous. Walter, Nichelle, and Ms. Curtis deliver beautiful performances. It’s very much worth a listen. Enjoy!

Danpaine

Thank you for that, Richard. Never heard that was done.

Corylea

I never really liked Chekov, and I didn’t think Koenig was a very good actor, but Walter Koenig seems like a lovely person. I guess that makes him kinda the reverse of Bill Shatner. :-)

Carrol R Sous

What a lot of people are not saying is that he also worked on Babylon 5. On Babylon 5 he played a psychic and he pretty much was a villain and I grew to like the villain but if he wants to write something that’s bothering him then let him that’s what freedom of speech is about. You may not agree with him but he has a right to express how he feels

JoeTrekFan

Great interview! The film retrospective must’ve been the one you did in 2009? The 70mm film series if I recall correctly. That would interesting to do again provided the film prints are showable and when the pandemic lessens to where we can go to the movies again.

I can’t help look at Walter and think about his son that died awhile back. When I saw him on the news, the whole story was shocking and so sad.