Interview: Walter Koenig On Joining ‘Star Trek,’ Shatner’s Acting, And Chekov’s Best Scene Cut From ‘Generations’

Walter Koenig interview - TrekMovie

We’ve already shared the news that Star Trek‘s Walter Koenig (Pavel Chekov) will be joining The 7th Rule podcast to recap seasons 2 and 3 of The Original Series. We talked to him about joining the podcast, his time on the show, the scene he wanted to see (and filmed) in Star Trek Generations, and more.

Note: This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Remembers warm welcome when he joined in season 2 (and that wig)

When asked when the last time he saw the show was, Koenig admitted he wasn’t sure.

“I have absolutely no idea when that was. I think I’ve seen a couple of episodes of different iterations of Star Trek, but not the original, in a long time.”

While he may not remember watching the episodes, Koenig keenly remembers what getting the job meant to him when he joined the cast for the second season in 1967:

“My very first thought about being on Star Trek was I’m getting a weekly salary. You know, humanitarianism, social conscience, all people should be respected, all of those good things which I thoroughly believe in were not foremost on my mind. At that juncture I was thinking about, I was going to have a baby at home, and I did have a wife, and the income was very—as small as it was. I mean, it was a joke—but that was the time.That’s the way things were then. But so I was very pleased to have an income.”

He described what it was like meeting his new castmates:

“I was very pleased to have a place to go every week, and everybody was friendly—almost everybody was friendly. Nichelle was great, she was the first one to come up to me, and was friends. And I wore a wig for six weeks because my hair was very short—I had made my own film, and I had cut my hair short. And so I went to Max Factor and I tried a bunch of wigs, and they settled on one. So she made a joke about a bird’s nest, and that was fun. And then DeForest was great. George wasn’t there, as you know. Jimmy was fine. Bill sort of gave me one of those (a slight nod). But it wasn’t insulting. It was an acknowledgment: I’m here. So yeah, it was fine. And  as time progressed, and I got to see what we were doing and what we were saying, and how we were dealing with the audience, how we were treating them, it felt good. I felt that I was part of something reasonably important.”

Nichelle Nichols, Walter Koenig, and Michael Barrier in Star Trek's "Catspaw"

Uhura (Nichelle Nichols), Chekov (Walter Koenig), and DeSalle (Michael Barrier) in “Catspaw,” the first episode of Star Trek Koenig filmed—in the first of a few different wigs.

Working with William Shatner and the Star Trek “caste” system

While talking about life on set during the making of the series itself, Koenig had an interesting view on co-star William Shatner’s manner of dealing with his castmates:

“You know, Shatner’s attitude was reminiscent of the attitude of the times. When we did Star Trek, it wasn’t a c-a-s-t, it was a c-a-s-t-e. We were distinguished by our position. If you were one of the three stars—and this was not Star Trek alone, this was most television series—you got billing at the top of the show, which may seem inconsequential, what does that really matter? But it reflects an attitude. And the attitude is: These are the people you have to pay attention to, these are the people you have to defer to. These are the people who you have to acquiesce to, the people who have the top billing. Our billing was at the end of the show, and not only at the end of the show, but in between the guest stars. Now that was really subordinate.

Did that bother me a lot? No. It was the way things were, that was the sign of the times. That’s the way the castes were set up. Nobody was was insulted. You had the two or three stars, and then you have the secondary players. And that’s the way it was set up, that was the structure of television. And so Bill was really only reflecting what was going on all around him.”

Star Trek: TOS cast

The cast of Star Trek, with its three stars in front.

But he admitted he was occasionally bothered by it:

“I’m sure there were situations that were not that way, and you had somebody who was a little bit more aware, cognizant, a little bit more sensitive to his fellow actors. BUT… it wasn’t as if he was being evil. It wasn’t anything other than what most people were doing. And, of course, I was the new kid on the block, so I wasn’t really expecting a great deal more than that. And I didn’t receive it, but it didn’t bother me. It bothered—well, it bothered me a little bit; once in a while, we’d have a scene with six of us, seven of us were together, and then Bill would step to the right five feet, and the camera would change, and it would be on him. And it was if we weren’t out there. But that was the game.

George had a different beef. His was more personal, and I respected him for it. But I don’t feel the same malice that he does.”

Koenig also recalled a difficult moment from the TOS movie era:

“I had one bad moment. And it wasn’t the TV show, it was one of the movies with Bill, in the second movie [The Wrath of Khan]. That was the only really bad moment that I’ve had in the whole history of watching Star Trek or being involved in Star Trek.

We were getting ready. You know, they discovered me and Paul [Winfield] and then we got on the transporter. And I was standing behind Bill on the transporter, we were all going to beam out. And Bill looked at me and said, ‘Move a little bit this way.’ He didn’t want me so much in the shot. So I said, ‘I’m just doing what you would do, Bill.’ (laughs) He said, ‘That’s neurotic! That’s  neurotic!’ And then he did a double take to look at me twice, as if looking at me twice is going to somehow cow me. So I went home and I had a severe gut pain for the rest of the evening. But I got over it.”

Transporter scene in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

Transporter scene in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

Praises Shatner’s acting… considers death of Kirk “travesty”

When it comes to William Shatner as an actor, Koenig has nothing but praise. He also has some strong feelings about the character of Kirk being killed off in Star Trek: Generations:

“I think it was a travesty! And you’ll forgive me for this harangue, I thought it was a travesty the way they killed Captain Kirk. It was so incidental: ‘Oh, by the way, you’re dead.; He should have died heroically,  I mean really heroically. He deserves it! And Mr. Shatner brought a great deal to that part. He was incredibly good-looking, he was a damn good actor,. totally committed to what he was doing. Don’t talk to me about overreacting, that’s crap. What are you looking for? You’re looking for a ventriloquist, somebody whose lips don’t move? You’re looking for somebody who imbues the character, who embraces the situation, who gives us all, who exposes who he is. And Bill Shatner brought that to the part every time.

I’m tired of hearing—I go off and I apologize, I’m tired of hearing about bad acting, overacting, I think that’s bull.”

He even brought up the oft-imitated line that’s generated a million memes from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan:

“And when people say “Khaaaaan,” who has the guts to do that? Who has the guts to thoroughly throw themselves into the part and expose themselves like that? So although we’re not buddies, nor shall we ever be, I certainly do appreciate his work and I’m grateful that he was there. Because I’m not sure we would have come back for the movies, if it wasn’t for—I know, Leonard had an extraordinary appeal to the audience. And certainly he was to be commended as well for the work that he did. But you gotta have that leading man of some kind. Sometimes he’s a bad guy, sometimes he’s a good guy. But you’ve got the personification of the good guy that you want to root for in Mr. Shatner and Captain Kirk, and I’m grateful that he was there.”

Chekov (Walter Koenig), Kirk (William Shatner), and Uhura (Nichelle Nichols) in Star Trek's "The Gamesters of Triskelion"

Chekov (Walter Koenig), Kirk (William Shatner), and Uhura (Nichelle Nichols) in their choke collars in Star Trek‘s “The Gamesters of Triskelion”

“Spectre of the  Gun” remains a highlight

When talking about the third season of the series, the actor brought up “Spectre of the Gun.” Roddenberry and NBC execs wanted the third season to feature more Chekov, which is why he had a more substantial role in the episode. He explained how the original plan was to shoot on location, but budget restrictions kept them in the studio:

“‘Spectre of the  Gun,’ which was shot in the third season, was written in the second season and the intention was to shoot it in the second season. Now that is a better reflection of Chekov’s participation in Star Trek than what we saw most of the time in the third season, because at that juncture, we still thought we had a show and that was going to go on and on, ad infinitum. But we didn’t shoot it. We were short on cash… and that’s also one of the reasons why there’s that old adage ‘necessity is the mother of invention.’ We ended up making a very interesting show, because we had to put it off and restructured the budget so that we can make it work. And in restructuring the budget, we played a little bit with the story. And to make the story more interesting, the whole thing being an illusion, we didn’t have to build real sets, we could get by with far less.”

Chekov (Walter Koenig) and Sylvia (Bonnie Beecher) in Star Trek's "Spectre of the Gun"

Chekov (Walter Koenig) and Sylvia (Bonnie Beecher) in Star Trek’s “Spectre of the Gun”

Wasn’t surprised by TOS cancellation in season 3

When asked if he had any idea people the Star Trek franchise would still be going strong over 50 years later, Koenig laughed, sarcastically adding:  “Of course! Didn’t everybody?” Koenig actually foresaw the end of the series before the third (and final) season even aired. He talked about knowing the writing was on the wall when the show’s time slot was changed:

“In the third season, Jimmy George and I did a shoot. We went on a magazine shoot for Kids magazine, it was either Teen or 16 or Fave or something … But while we were there, while we were astraddle the horse, we got news that guess what, we were being changed: Our showtime in the third season was not going to be eight o’clock Monday night. It was going to be 10 o’clock Friday night. As soon as I heard that—I mean, I was still astride my horse—and I knew that that was it, that we were done. I’m cynical by nature. And I knew that I would not have the same audience that I would at eight o’clock on Monday. They had brought me aboard for the very obvious reason of appealing to very young people, literally eight to about fourteen years old. And at Friday night at 10, they’re either in bed, the eight-year-olds, or they’re out at a party or at a date or something, the fourteen-year-olds. So at that moment, I knew that our fate was sealed, and that the third season of Star Trek would be the end.”

Fave Magazine with Walter Koenig, James Doohan, and George Takei on horseback

Fave Magazine with Walter Koenig, James Doohan, and George Takei on horseback (as they found out Star Trek  had been moved to a terrible timeslot)

Chekov’s emotional moment cut from Generations

Between 1979 and 1991 Koenig and The Original Series cast made six movies together and then it came time to hand the torch to the Star Trek: The Next Generation. He recalled the shifting plans for the TOS cast for 1994’s Star Trek: Generations:

“The initial plan was to use all seven of us: George, Jimmy, Nichelle, DeForest, Bill, Leonard. And then they said, no, no, we’re just going to use Bill, Leonard, and DeForest. And they said no. Well, Leonard and DeForest said no. They didn’t see any point of going on and doing Generations when it wouldn’t add to their characters. And, frankly, although I didn’t have that much character to add to to begin with so I probably could have used the exposure, I felt that this was not the way to sign out in a in a role that is obviously designed for the purpose of bringing in Next Generation fans who would might not otherwise be Next Generation fans but for their allegiance to the original cast. So it was really very calculated.

I felt cynical about it, and I saw nothing there that I thought would contribute to an understanding of my character. So I said, thank you, but no thanks. And frankly, the money was quite significant. But I have some pride in myself and I have some pride in what I do, and I just didn’t feel that we were bringing anything that had a great deal of merit. So I said no. And they called me and said, ‘What would change your mind?’ And I said, ‘Okay, I’ll tell you what’ll change my mind. You let me come up with a scene that will not undermine the story, that will not in any way subvert what you have going with Generations. And it’ll still be, you know, 97%, about Next Generation, but it’ll be a moment for Chekov, a moment where you get some insight into who he is.

We were there in an expository fashion—George, Nichelle and I most specifically—and most of the time, Jimmy, occasionally not so. But in an expository fashion means we were there to advance the story, to tell you what’s going in the plot. [In Chekov’s voice:] “Captain, there is a crazy-looking ship out there—no, no, Captain, there is a THING out there. We don’t know what it is, what do you think it is?” And then he goes on and he tells him how he feels, and you get a sense of the character, and you get a sense of what that thing means in our lives personally. And that’s why you have a captain, so you can identify with him… but we’re just the tool to help expedite that. So I wanted the moment. When Kirk gets blown out of the ship in the beginning of the film, there is a moment when you go back and look at it, where Jimmy and I stand together, and we say something on the order of… I don’t know what we say when we say something. And the reason I don’t know what we say is that we didn’t say what I had written.

So there was a moment between Jimmy and I, when we talk about the loss of our captain… there’s no more Captain Kirk. And that was painful. And if the truth be known, and I’m not sure I’m proud of this, but I had suffered a devastating loss in my life at this point, and I was able to bring that to that moment when Kirk gets blown out of the ship. And the only time in my life that I’ve ever brought forth tears was during the exchange between Scotty and Chekov. So they shot it. The writer took down what I had to say… and we memorized it. And we got on the set, and we shot it. And then they cut it out.

I should have known that! I mean—[sings] “Hello, Hollywood, da-da-da-da-da-da-da.” Everybody talks about Hollywood, and there’s a reason. So I wasn’t crushed. I think  even at that tender age—50 [laughs], or whatever I was, 40—I knew that such things happened. But that was the only reason why I did the film, was because I thought at last I got to say something about how the character should be played. And it’s just one moment, it’s not going to turn the plot upside down, twist anything, you’re not going to have to bring in other actors, you’re not going to have to have dialogue that explains why I’m saying this. I mean,  it’s generated from human compassion.”

Walter Koenig, William Shatner, and James Doohan in Star Trek Generations

Walter Koenig, William Shatner, and James Doohan in Star Trek Generations

Joining The 7th Rule

Koenig will start joining The 7th Rule with co-hosts Cirroc Lofton and Ryan T. Husk to review seasons 2 and 3 of The Original Series in December, and episodes will start coming out in early 2024. He says he’s looking forward to recording and talking about the episodes, and expects to be “learning something every day” because of it, and adds that he thinks it will be a fun experience.

Walter Koenig joins The 7th Rule podcast

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Interesting that uses “malice” to describe Takei’s beef with Shatner.

*that Koenig uses

Yeah that was interesting. I’ll have to listen to the interview, but I find it interesting that he really doesn’t have too much to say about Nimoy, but I’ve heard he could be pretty remote.

Dude was super in character and found it difficult to turn off, even around his family apparently.

At least once he ended up crying uncontrollably in his trailer because of this.

Leonard Nimoy says in his autobiographies that he felt it was crucial that he stay in character as Spock for the entire day, because he didn’t want to be fumbling around, trying to find the character, when the cameras were rolling.

So yes, he stayed in character all day long, and this was extremely hard on him. He gave everything to that character, and he deserves the acclaim he’s gotten for it.

a while back Koenig did an interview with the Inglourious Treksperts podcast where he mentioned he and Takei had an issue and don’t talk anymore.

Somehow that doesn’t surprise me. In recent years, Takei has been coming across as very petty.

right. You’d think George would be old and wise enough by now to know that when it seems like all you ever get is bad roommates, bad partners, bad bosses…maybe they aren’t the problem…

Sometimes if you are easygoing and genial, ‘takers’ sense it and take advantage, so that can lead to victimization and a righteous sense of being messed over. Would that still make him the problem, or is it the folks exploiting his nature? (just speculating, I don’t know much about Takei, having only lightly thumbed his bio.)

oh – don’t get me wrong. I’m not a Shatner apologist. It seems like Walter had much of the same perception and experience with Shatner that George did, I was just comparing the reactions (and of course, there are differences in what they experienced I’m sure, on multiple levels so it’s not a 1-1 comparison). I just appreciated Walter’s reflection that basically was like ‘look – we’re not buddies, and he could be a tool, but whatever, he got the job done and that’s what we were there for’ vs going out of his way to react in kind.

As someone who’s sympathetic to Takei’s politics I thought he was dead wrong on the way BEYOND — a film I don’t even much care for — handled the subject of Sulu’s sexuality. The character on TOS was pretty much neutered by his lack of development, and George’s claim that he always played the character as heterosexual in his own mind strikes me as a very odd thing for a gay actor to say, as it begs the question: if he had thought of Sulu as queer, how would he have played him differently?

Not really sure why that’s an odd thing to say. They only made Sulu gay because Takei is gay. Pegg said that. The decision became nothing to do with Takei’s craft anymore once he made it clear his Sulu was heterosexual and that informed his acting decisions.

Determining how a character interacts with other characters in terms of sexual attraction is a big part of an actor’s process. And it’s not hard to imagine how Takei would have changed how he reacted to certain characters, both subtly and in a way that would change whole scenes, if he was both of the mind that Sulu was gay or bi, and was empowered to act on that assertion. It could be seen as reductive to respond to his opinion by saying he didn’t have much of a character anyway, which has always been a sore point, so that’s all the more reason to weigh his contribution and acting decisions more heavily.

He’s not perfect, but he’s certainly not always in the wrong either, much like most people. It’s perfectly ok for him to be petty to his grave about some things like Shatner while being on firm footing when speaking out on political causes or even his objections to how Star Trek Beyond traded on his sexuality.

I don’t think Beyond traded on his sexuality at all (gay Trek fan here). I think Takei could have handled that much, much better.

Also a gay fan, and they 100% did. They decided to make Sulu gay because Takei is famously gay. They approached him and asked if he would be okay with that and he respectfully said no, as his acting decisions that informed his version of Sulu were often predicated on Sulu being heterosexual. He suggested they make a new character gay so as not to conflict with his artistic decisions regarding the character. They considered his POV… then did it anyway. When someone asked Takei his thoughts, he was honest, leading Simon Pegg to have to explain the convoluted reasons why the Kelvin incident magically caused Sulu’s sexuality to change. If Takei wasn’t such a high profile out personality, they’d never have done it. They were simultaneously good-intentioned and grossly commercial. They traded on his sexuality.

Just curious: Outside of a sort-of-fantasy woman in a TAS episode and hitting on Uhura twice, once when crazy and once when Mirror- and of course a daughter- did original Sulu ever have any romantic or sexual events? Ever even make eyes at someone? I think everyone else did.

he picks up a date at the end of Shore Leave iirc (one of McCoy’s ‘companions’)

Right! Thanks.

Beyond that and Shore Leave, it’s the deleted scene in TMP when he’s enamored by Ilia, and then TFF when he and Chekov are fascinated by the Klingon first officer. Pretty slim pickings, even when adding his daughter to this mix, but Hollywood had long been guilty of overlooking Asian men as romantic prospects. When John Cho was cast in the short-lived “Selfie” in 2014, that was the first time an Asian American male had ever been made a romantic lead in a TV series. That’s mind-boggling.

In any case, there was never a conversation about Sulu being gay until Takei came out, and he maintained that was not his intention when playing him, and no one connected to TOS ever hinted at it. So for Pegg and co to override that in the name of honoring him is actually using his personal life for brownie points while also bringing up all sorts of questions both in terms of story mechanics and the weight of an actor’s opinion on what makes their character who they are.

Takei has become a bitter old man and alienating friends and fans alike. He rants on X using the harshest lefty talking points but with no originality. He sounds hateful.
I tweeted hin to say that was a fan of him as an actor a person…and implored him to chillax the rest of his life which much shorter and spend his last days using whatever wealth he has to hit those bucket list items.

Great candid interview and article. Thanks for posting. Koenig sounds like he has a healthy attitude towards Shatner and that is probably a great way to look at life in general.

As for Shatner’s acting, everyone has their own opinion. It is good to hear Koenig’s take, even if it differs from my own. Btw, to be fair sometimes it is not always the actor’s fault. In Gamesters of Triskelion, why the director didn’t reshoot the scene when Shatner refers to Uhura, as “Ujira” really makes him look terrible. That said, I always get a laugh when seeing that episode.

Koenig said in world of st that show hada bad director, but that doesn’t explain why the line wasn’t looped.

I think Bill Shatner in his earlier roles (including the first year of ST) could occasionally rise to the level of brilliance; even Harlan Ellison once said as much. Somewhere along the way he prioritized stardom over pride in his craft (or at least perspective on it) and his performances became ripe for parody. But for my money, anyone who claims that even a latter-day Shatner can’t perform hasn’t seen Spock’s funeral in THE WRATH OF KHAN.

He’s very good in the first five or six episodes. He wrote in one of his autobiographies that the pace of production eventually forced him to rely more on his own personality (and I would add, schtick) rather than a carefully crafted performance.

I think he’s very good for considerably more than that. (“Balance of Terror” was #14, and I consider it one of his best, most restrained performances.) But he did slack off eventually, though I appreciate his candor in explaining why that happened.

the writing didn’t do him any favors either in S2 and especially S3

I part company with HE over his adulation of Shat in THE ANDERSONVILLE TRIAL. I’ve seen it many times, even own the DVD, but always find him to be the weak link in the show, basically channeling Kirk throughout. Jack Cassidy is excellent, but the real surprise for me was Cameron Mitchell, who manages a slow burn that just detonates when he at last gives Shatner’s prosecutor the go-ahead to question the witness on his own ethics based terms. I would kill to see George C. Scott’s take on the Shatner character (Scott directed this version), and I’ve always found Scott to be credible even in his most hammy performances (well, STRANGELOVE’s Buck Turgidson is not exactly credible but that’s a special case.)

Nicholas Mayer writes in his book “View From The Bridge” – that to get a great performance from Shatner, he put Shatner though many many takes – so that Shatner tired his “personality” out and just performed as Kirk in a more real manner.

Yes, I know. I have the book myself, and it’s a pretty good one. But it’s pretty obvious that kind of special handling wasn’t necessary with Shatner in the early stages of his career.

Shatner was a very well-regarded stage and screen actor before Star Trek.


…or The Practice/Boston Legal.

I’ve seen the rough cut of generations once upon a time from a tenth generation VHS source and it wasn’t good. I don’t blame the actors i blame the script. The released version is the best version. All those deleted scenes were deleted for a reason. But yeah limiting them to only 3 TOS cast members was insulting. I liked Malcolm McDowell but the way Kirk was killed is ridiculous, the time travel and nexus stuff makes no sense. They kind of made Kirk a joke to elevate Picard. Honestly Kirk’s last scene should have been second star to the right and straight on til morning. Its such a missed opportunity because Shatner and Stewart had good chemistry together but the poor script didn’t warrant it.

You could argue Picard doesn’t really come out of that movie much better. If you look at Picard’s action hero role in First Contact through the lens of how his character was handled in Generations, you can’t help but think there’s a bit of an attempt to beef up his machismo. In Generations Picard breaks down crying over a family loss, is hilariously electrocuted by a force field, loses a fist fight with Soran, and burns his hand making Kirk’s omelette.

This is not to say Stewart wasn’t wonderful and there’s something to be said for subverting what one might expect of a lead male’s role in an action film, but I definitely came out of that movie as a kid thinking Kirk got all the action and Picard just fiddled with some buttons and talked about his feelings a lot.

“You know, humanitarianism, social conscience, all people should be respected, all of those good things which I thoroughly believe in were not foremost on my mind. At that juncture I was thinking about, I was going to have a baby at home, and I did have a wife, and the income was very—as small as it was.”

I’m glad someone is telling it like it is and admitting it’s just a job, I’m sick of everyone pretending that Trek has to mean some deep philosphical thing to everyone and that everyone must always be in awe of it’s deep dive into the human condition nonsense.

Sometimes a job is just a job

Or at least saying the reason they took the gig was because of all those other issues when the fact is they took it for the job.

I’m guessing the majority will admit they took it for the job first; especially since a lot of the actors admitted they saw very little, if anything, of the show and never considered themselves fans of it before they got the role including most leads in the old shows like Stewart, Brooks and Mulgrew. Even the newer leads like Chris Pine sounds like he’s never watched an episode to this day lol. It was mostly just a vehicle to make him a star and work with Abrams. Frakes has outright stated he never saw a single episode of Star Trek until he got the job on TNG and he only auditioned for it because it sounded like it could be a hit with the name association. But later said once the show aired and he saw how much the legacy and stories meant to the fanbase along with his discussions with Roddenberry that he saw how important the message itself was and became more influenced by it. But he always stated working on Star Trek was the best job security in the world for him first and foremost and now 35 years later proved incredibly true for him lol.

Boy, did it ever. Arguably, the second banana who impressed precisely no one in TNG’s first season ended up getting more career mileage out of his association with the franchise than just about anyone. Perhaps it was the beard; you just never know in this life.

Thank you, I enjoyed that very much. Very balanced and sensible. A good man.

Excellent interview. Thank you.

I imagine Koenig would have better insight than I but I recall reading somewhere that Kelly was intending to do it but his failing health did not allow it. The idea that originally it was going to be all of them sounds reasonable especially considering that Nimoy bowed out because he didn’t think there was anything significant for Spock in it. Which would mean they would likely only have been in that opening bit.

Ideally they all should have been in it and all been in the entire film together. Whittling it down to just Kirk & Picard for the final act only was just not the way to go. The obvious story there would be those two & their crews needing to work together and overcoming the inevitable issues between them. This would have been particularly relevant between the two Captains. Who would both be thinking they were running this show and they both had valid reasons in thinking that. They clash at first but ultimately learn more about each other, learn to respect each other and how they each get things done and then solve the problem in the nick of time, of course.

Generations was a huge missed opportunity. The only thing I felt that worked was Kirk’s final line. “It was fun” was the perfect thing for him to say.

There was absolutely no need to have a TOS/TNG crossover movie, the idea was madness. The differences in the age of the cast and the 75+ year timeline gap? TNG was already a success after 7 seasons and the brilliant finale, they could have easily went straight into FIRST CONTACT and avoided the abomination that is Generations, we may have got an additional / different movie if they had skipped the 7th. How the writers of ALL GOOD THINGS & FIRST CONTACT wrote GENERATIONS I can never understand. If they had to go through the process of realising what does not work in a Star Trek movie to realise what does, then I am grateful but OMG it is awful I would put it on the same level as all “Nu-Trek” looks good/sounds good etc but really it is awful and not Star Trek. Awful awful awful

If you look at the opening of my Cinefex article on GEN, it starts with excerpts of ‘what not to do’ from the TNG writer’s guide — every single one of which is violated by the script of the movie.

They knew exactly what they were doing and yet they chose to do it anyway, and Berman let it all stand (or for all I know encouraged it.)

RDM stated on a number of occasions that he took full responsibility for the GENERATIONS script, feeling that in retrospect neither he nor Braga were at that point in their lives equipped to write about such weighty issues as human mortality. Perversely (and like your defense of THE FINAL FRONTIER), as opposed to so many I’ve never considered GENERATIONS to be an utter disaster on every level. For all its flaws and scientific illiteracy (even for Trek) I think it’s possessed of an impressive set- piece or two.

They were also given a laundry list from the studio on what the film should include and had to make it all work.

I get you; I find GEN (and I used to find INS) to be watchable in a Roger Moore/Bond kind of way; hating that it existed while still finding enough stuff to be sufficiently entertained.

Part of my problem with nearly all of the first 10 movies had to do with the usually incompetent/inferior projection when seeing them theatrically; except for one particular theater that did an awesome job showing TFF and another 2nd run theater showing TMP (rarity of rarities, screens that actually employed union projectionists instead of ticket-takers and popcorn poppers), I never was able to see any of these things in what I would consider to be decent viewing conditions, which became evident during cable viewings and then especially clear on laserdisc. With GEN and FC, both places I saw them, I was never even able to see any legs of anybody during the ship scenes because it all just murked black from the waist down. It was like most theaters in Silicon Valley must have operating at 3 instead of 15 for the foot-candles or lumens or whatever the standard was supposed to be for theatrical projection.

There may have been no need but a crossover feature was still not an abhorrent idea. They just failed to execute. One of the reasons it failed was it was marketed to make viewers think Kirk and Picard were going to be on screen together the bulk of the movie. When it just turned out to be bookends for Kirk that was a huge letdown for the audience. A lot of people felt they were lied to.

Those writers weren’t infallible either. They did write some not very good Trek. This film didn’t work well but then neither did the spectacularly overrated All Good Things.

The novel FEDERATION should have been the sorta-crossover movie, and it would have well and truly handed the torch. Book is absolutely epic, and if they just fixed some of the Cochrane stuff to keep the balance more between E and E-D era stuff, it could have been a great film, with a truly terrific ramming scene instead of the ludicrous one in NEM.

I still think THE FINAL REFLECTION would make an awesome standalone movie, and that’s coming from somebody who is not a fan of Klingons — but who loves that novel, which is kind of ‘K’hornblower in space’ but with just the right mix of political and social.

I’m pretty hazy on the details of FEDERATION after so many years but remember liking it a great deal when it came out, back in that long-ago era of my life when I had time for ST novels. In fact I liked just about anything the Reeves-Stevensons wrote, which is why their Vulcan arc on “Enterprise” was such a monumental disappointment to me.

I hadn’t read it in years, but my wife got it for 99cents on her kindle with PRIME DIRECTIVE, so have been reading them during her infusions. Along with STITCH IN TIME and FINAL REFLECTION, those have been super-bargains.

The R-S folk kind of occupy the Diane Duane niche for me, where at first I thought they could all do no wrong … then Duane did THE ROMULAN WAY and SPOCK’S WORLD and an utterly dismal mirror crossover book that made me realize nobody hits it out of the park every time.

I take it they wrote the eps that have the crew walking through a desert in the preview? (haven’t seen much of that season, just the Peter Weller ones, which seemed way too good to be ENT eps and what passed for a finale, along with the Mirror Mess.)

Yeah, when I read Duane’s THE WOUNDED SKY I thought it was the best damned Trek novel ever, full of wit and imagination that was both true to the show in spirit yet managed to add up to something unique and stylistically her own. I liked SPOCK’S WORLD to a lesser extent, but started to tune out once she got into all the Romulan culture stuff that I didn’t find particularly compelling, not to mention I was gravitating away from Trek fiction at that point anyhow.

There was, for my money, a lot to dislike in the Vulcan arc on “Enterprise,” including a terribly miscast Robert Foxworth and Joanna Cassidy. (I’ll say it again: Vulcans are hard!) But my main issue was the implication that Spock’s ancestors had lost their way, and that they needed a savior in the guise of a human starship captain to set them straight. FFS, really?!

I wish I knew somebody with your tastes back in the 80s … I couldn’t get anybody I knew to read TREK novels, and that one was IT for me for quite awhile. Just between that early crazy space battle, and then the philosophical discussions on the rec deck, and then that genuinely BIG (in all senses of the word) finish … even when WOUNDED SKY lays or generates an egg, it pays off well.

So ENT was able to get good guest actors, but in service to lousy parts? I could go nuts thinking of how terrific Cassidy could have been in any number of roles (even Janeway, though am actually glad she ducked that phaser blast.) That set of eps sounds so awful I don’t think I’d watch them even as a ‘well there’s nothing else on’ option — not that such a saying is even valid in this day and age.

Odd little find I came across, I think it was on TUBI … A tv movie called BLACK NOON from 71, a western version of THE WICKER MAN — done before that film was even written. Roy Thinnes is pretty bad in the lead role, but it does have that wonderfully cheesy ‘abc tv movie of the week’ ambience — meaning it is over in less than 75 minutes — that I’ve always been such a sucker for. It is not well-directed, but there are some clever turns in the script.

I wonder why with all the censorship restrictions on tv 50-60 years back that they could do so much stuff about devils and the like (SATAN’S SCHOOL FOR GIRLS, LOOK WHAT HAPPENED TO ROSEMARY’S BABY, SATAN’S TRIANGLE) … even so-called comedies like IT COULDN’T HAPPEN TO A NICER GUY with Joanna ‘Isis’ Cameron raping Paul Sorvino at gunpoint and then the serious issue films that usually featured Elizabeth Montgomery. Early 70s was a time when you could get smart films at the theater AND on the tube, even though the scale of the projects differed by magnitudes.

It just struck me that the emotional coda to THE WOUNDED SKY, where the sympathetic spider-alien scientist who sacrifices herself is ‘reborn’ in the form of her offspring, is a obvious homage to “Charlottes Web.” How did I ever miss that?

How did WE miss that? I remember Ms. Nichol letting me read most of that book out loud to my class in second grade, you’d figure the details would be burnished in memory.

That dusts off my memory bank a little. I read a number of the Trek novels back in the 80’s. I found myself liking most of them. I haven’t thought about them for ages and for the life of me I don’t recall which ones I liked better than others. And yes, a number of them would have made for really rich feature films I recall thinking. But honestly I was mostly fine with the features we got. And books are nearly always better than films anyway. So I never really complained about the stories used in the features.

Agree that Federation would have been a fantastic option. Probably. It is a great read. Probably a harder adaptation. It did come out not long after Generations so it has some Generations tie-ins, but IIRC, the writers were originally writing / pitching that story as the torch-passing film.

I also wish Picard S1-3 had just been adapting the Cold Equations books. Also fantastic and would have been much better and scratched all the itches.

Your opinion, albeit a perfectly valid one. But the reviews were overwhelmingly positive when it first aired, and feelings amongst fans and critics have budged very little in the decades since. At the very least, it’s stood the test of time.

I just checked the rating for it on IMDB and AGT still has a rating of 9.1. The episode is still just as incredibly popular as it was when it originally aired.

I don’t care about reviews. Reviewers opinions aren’t worth any more than anyone else’s. I recall watching AGT on my first rewatch of TNG 6 or 7 years ago. And what I recall from it remained the same. It was a mediocre at best story where there was never any peril, no characters grew in any way and Picard never figured anything out as Q had to hold his hand and spoon feed Picard what the audience already figured out way before that. Feel free to love it but it is far below TNG at its best and no surprise Generations was written by the same people.

Sheesh. I would have merely repeated “Your opinion, which is no less valuable than anyone’s, and that’s fine,” since you evidently have a problem with reading comprehension. But then I got to your last sentence, which is completely nonsensical. Ronald D. Moore wrote some of TNG’s best episodes, and is widely considered to be a huge part of its creative renaissance. So if you consider “All Good Things” to be substandard his participation *should* come as a surprise, irrespective of the fact that he also wrote GENERATIONS.

Geez… I never insulted you. Why come back at me with one? Looking at what you wrote it would appear you need to rethink who has the reading comprehension here. If someone is capable of writing something as “substandard” as All Good Things it is not beyond comprehension they would be capable of writing other substandard works. That does NOT preclude the ability to write decent episodes, however. I am aware he was involved in some of the better TNG episodes.

Try not to be so touchy.

You said “it isn’t surprising,” which implies (in regular human English) that since Moore was responsible for GENERATIONS that lack of quality of his work on “All Good Things” wasn’t an outlier. Again — even allowing that I agreed with your opinion of the latter — that’s nonsense, given the high regard in which his body of work on TNG is held. As to “touchiness,” note that I went out of my way to state that your opinion on “All Good Things” — while very much an outlier itself — was nevertheless just as valid as mine or anyone else’s. But at the end of the day, as always, you just can’t resist the urge to pick a fight.

Nope. You don’t get to backtrack your foolish comment by turning what was obviously not an absolute into an absolute. Lose the ‘holier than thou’ attitude. You made a personal jab. You don’t get off the hook by saying “your opinion is valid.” And I never claimed anyone’s opinion was more valid than anyone else’s either. He wrote a substandard ‘All Good Things’ and a slightly better but still sub standard Generations. “In regular human English” that does NOT preclude him writing other good stuff. His work on BSG is top notch. You are just making bizarre assumptions.

You also don’t get to accuse others of doing what you do. You were the one who made the personal jab. You knew your response to mine was antagonistic. It was you who was picking a fight.

Talk about infinite diversity! I never heard anyone did not like AGT, personally I think it is one of the all time great episodes of Trek and still the strongest final episode to any of the TV shows.

I could listen / watch Walter Koenig talk about Star Trek and other things all day. Does anyone remember in the 1990s there was a video cassette you could buy called A STAR’S TREK (was in the back of Sci-Fi magazines and my quarterly newsletter from the Star Trek fanclub!) I think it was Walter giving us a tour if his home on camera. Is that available anywhere?? I have GOOGLED it from time to time, I never saw it but would love to. Does not seem to be on Youtube and I assume it has never been available on DVD, I would love to see it.

What an excellent interview, well done Laurie! Look forward to listening to it as well.

I’m glad he got to do Bester on Babylon 5. Terrific role.

Very informative interview. Learned a lot. Great answers from Mr. Koenig.

Original storyline was going to be half the movie with the TOS cast then hand over to the TNG cast & all briefly come together at the end to solve the issue (black hole or something related to that!).But then the script was not good so they settled for cameos instead.

That REALLY sounds like a take on FEDERATION, though I don’t think it had been published yet. But I think that movie idea came out of writing a movie around the imagined poster image of the two Enterprises shooting at each other.

Ser! Dey put money in my pocket, den I just sit and talk.

Thanks for this.

I’m in.

This should be amazing.

I really love Walter, he’s such a sweet man and has a mature and healthy understanding of his relationship with Shatner (who I’m seeing next weekend in Ticonderoga, so excited), and I’m really glad Walter got his part in Picard. Of course his best role is in Babylon 5, and I am sure he’s proud of his legacy.

I think I remember reading that JMS had Patrick McGoohan in mind for Bester and for the rich guy played by Efram Zimbalist Jr. I think the way they wound up with Koenig for Bester was ideal (and much better than I expected — I easily picture him when enjoying the Bester novels when I came across them nearly two decades later), but I think EZ was a little off his game for B5, as that character just didn’t click for me at all. Not sure if it would have been better with McG or not, as he was pretty faded even by the time of THE PHANTOM, and I don’t remember BRAVEHEART enough to say how well he fared there, though he is ‘the guy’ as far as THE PRISONER (still my fave series along with THE WIRE and TWIN PEAKS) and COLUMBO go, and really does a lot to keep ICE STATION ZEBRA buoyant despite its ponderous pacing.

such a cool Prisoner reference in S1 of B5 when Bester says / does the “be seeing you” salute

My headcanon is that it is Secret Agent Drake in Ice Station Zebra, and he resigns over that mission, and then he gets taken to the Village and becomes Number Six

Geez, that’s a fresh take on it, at least one I never considered. It would actually have worked for me, because I saw ZEBRA first-run in the theater exactly one month before I turned 8 (early b-day present), and I’m pretty sure I saw a couple of PRIS eps shortly thereafter (only remember freaking over the balloon, it wasn’t till the late 70s when I actually got to see the show properly and in entirety on PBS.)

Even shot 30 minutes of a spoof film version, where it is about a high school student who resigns his attendance and winds up in a prison version of school. There was a local outdoor shopping mall called The Pruneyard that looked amazingly like Portmerion we shot at — even had nice foo dogs in front of one shop — plus another indoor mall called ‘The Village’ that we also used. (wish I had the footage … I remember getting PM’s voice-arch perfect while telling off a number 2: “Well, number we-try-harder, you’re out of luck, out of mind, and henceforth, out of service!”) On vacation in Hawaii, my mom and I stayed at a place that had a small private runway, so we tried shooting the opening shot of the car roaring at the camera, but couldn’t get the vehicle going fast enough to do it justice, and our version of a guardian — a kid we suckered into rolling around inside a beanbag chair — was pretty much a washout too, looking more like the beachball alien from DARK STAR. Never got round to shooting a rewritten version of the secret agent man song, though the lyric refrain we came up with was nice: they’ve given you a locker but taken ‘way your fame. Geez, I actually remember the lyrics, which almost track with the Rivers song:
Cruising down Drycreek in your lowrider, going here or there to have some fun, there’s bad news at your back, and deadends keep you off the track, odds are you won’t get to school tomorrow.

Yeah it was great he got to play an ancestor of Chekhov in Picard! Matalas confirmed he was originally suppose to appear in the scene but sadly lack of time and money killed that idea.

Sorry to disagree. I just rewatched PIc S3 and liked it rather better this time, but that Chekov tie-in (with dialogue cribbed from THE VOYAGE HOME, as if Koenig wasn’t pandering enough) was just sad.

Did you find any way to adjust the brightness and sharpness and contrast to acceptable levels? (not even trying to be funny, just wondering if it is even possible.)

It would take a major re-grading of the footage to accomplish that, and I sadly lack the skillz. 😝

What I thought that was awesome! I actually knew he was going to have a cameo months before the season aired. One of those smaller leaks that never got much traction for some reason. But I’m going to be honest, I didn’t realized some of the lines came from TVH. And I’ve watched the finale 3 times lol. Now I have to rewatch the beginning again. ;)

The warning of Chekov to space travelers to avoid earth and save themselves is virtually identical to that spoken by the Federation President in TVH. And it’s preposterous.

Why so preposterous? It could be a legal thing that this alert needs to be worded in this way during this kind of large scale emergency, no?

Enjoyed reading, thanks Laurie

Koenig exuded professionalism and class. I’ve always meant to add this show into the podcast rotation but never found the time. I’ll have to go back and start it up. Will be nice to hear Aaron before his sad loss.

One wonders if we’ll ever get to see that scene Walter created – or is it lost forever in a cutting-room floor SWEEP up?

I’m assuming this is the scene

First time I’ve ever seen the footage. An effective bit, well staged by Carson and Alonzo, and super effective work from Koenig (words I don’t think I’ve ever had reason to use before, except maybe on his role in the Ellison ep of the Hitchcock show and select Bester moments on B5.

Not sure where to drop mortality news here, but just found out CAGE director Robert Butler (who turned down doing KHAN because Bennett wouldn’t let him use coffee-stained uniforms and dingy ALIEN-style sets) and Harry Mudd creator Stephen Kandel both just died. Am pretty sure Kandel, who had a big hand in A PIECE OF THE ACTION, also wrote a MANNIX with that same title. Butler was Mister Great Pilot, having done them for BATMAN, REMINGTON STEELE and HILL ST BLUES, to name just a few. So far as I know, his career wrapped with some really bad SF things (James Goldstone seemed to wrap with a space turkey too, that Disney pilot EARTHSTAR VOYAGER, so maybe a kind of post-Trek cure at work?), but the interviews I read with him indicate a really sharp guy, and I will now belatedly look up those hours of interview he did for DGA or the Academy awhile back, because I’m sure they’re going to sound great.

(I just started watching some MANNIX eps on streaming and somehow managed to pick two Leslie Parrish episodes in a row, which is some trick given she only did three of them for a show with a 7 or 8 year run. And one of these had her wearing that same Grecian WHO MOURNS FOR ADONAIS gown again during the teaser, and that ep concludes with her seeming to hook up with William Windom of DOOMSDAY MACHINE fame. The pair were also in one of the suckiest WILD WILD WEST eps, NIGHT OF THE FLYING PIE PLATE, which i can proudly say I have never rewatched after catching it in syndication back in high school.)

Thank you for sharing this.

In THE GLASS TEAT Ellison referred to Kandel as “one of the more lunatic scriveners in Clown Town.” Given that “Mudd’s Women” was written as a possible second Trek pilot he conceivably has a more important role in the history of the franchise than is commonly acknowledged.

I met Robert Butler, along with Sally Kellerman, many years ago at the Director’s Guild in L.A., where they were screening both pilots and the NEW VOYAGES fan film “World Enough and Time.” (This was written and directed by Mark Scott Zicree, and imo is quite good if you’ve never caught it.) The thing that stands out in my mind from Butler’s talk was his utter perplexity at Trek’s cultural significance — it was just a job to him and not one he had even been all that interested to take at the time. For her part, Kellerman hadn’t watched WNMHGB since it originally aired, and claimed to be pretty impressed with it after all those years.

Goldstone didn’t think much of the show either, and the only reason he came back after the second pilot to do LITTLE GIRLS was somebody calling in a big favor as I recall.

There are a series of interviews with Robert Butler on Youtube and they are fantastic. Yes, he admits to being perplexed by the popularity of Trek. I think he said he found it very “wordy” with the characters posing/posturing all the time. I see what he means. It helps to be 10 and not behind the camera.

Well, I happen to like the wordiness. Not everything had to be a western, even in 1964.

Lots of good stuff is wordy. Not everything had to be a Western, even in 1964.

Great interview! It’s nice to hear more from Koenig lately and his honest critiques over TOS, Shatner, Generations, etc. I’ve always felt a little bad for him and the other cast members that wasn’t part of the big 3 because he obviously just wanted more to do and of course it would’ve just been nice to learn more about Chekhov in general. But he acknowledge that was just the time shows were made back then, but still.

Really looking forward to his involvement in The 7th Rule.

Glad to see he didn’t indulge in the usual Shatner bashing and actually had an appreciation for him without sugarcoating it. He always impressed me as a good down to Earth man and was glad to see he got the cameo in Picard.
FYI he was awesome as Bester in Babylon 5, my all time favorite rat bastard.

I agree with Koenig’s assessment of Shatner’s acting. The guy has Shakespearean theatre background and while his style might come off as cheesy for modern eyes I always thought that theatricality suited the Kirk character very well. Also on occasion Shatner knew to underplay the role as well as his reaction to the death of his son in Star Trek 3. He is an underrated actor.

I’ve always felt Shatner was underrated. He’s not the greatest but given the right role he can really shine. He was fortunate to have two in his career that truly suited him. James Kirk & Denny Crane. I’m glad he earned an Emmy for Crane.

Two Emmy’s, actually! One of his best performances was when Denny handles his final case, leaves the courtroom and when alone he deflates, all of his self doubt suddenly on display despite the bravado throughout the episode. My wife teared up with that scene.

That’s right. He got the guest star Emmy playing Crane, too.

If you look at some of Avery Brooks’ performances and Patrick Stewart’s, their theatrical training often rises to the surface. There were times when they could have pulled it back a bit but their performances were never at any time called out.

Agreed and I personally think that in sci-fi you need to go a bit theatrical to play the roles. It’s much more suitable for this genre and makes the already fantastical premises that much more interesting. I am not a big fan of more subdued sci-fi acting of modern days. They need to emphasize the craziness or weirdness of the situations.

Excellent interview, thanks much. I like how Koenig shows little to no malice towards his co-workers, and is candid about the business back then and his part in it. Sounds like a grounded, humble guy. Very nice.

As for GEN, I have a love/dislike relationship with that film. The way they took out Kirk was unforgivable, but I still watch it annually.

Ha, me too! “Dill. Dill Weed.” There are a ton of scenes I love from that film, as well as the score. Sadly overall, it missed the mark though, killing Kirk in that weak, shameful way and leaving him on a strange planet under a pile of rocks…

Interesting. Have you heard the Braga & Moore commentary about that on the disc?

It seems more obvious now following this interview that Shatner was not necessarily the devil people like Takei made him out to be. Self focused and a little detached at times but not the way Takei often describes him. Good for Koenig to be more balanced in his opinions. I think Takei is quite self righteous and poisonous and has no right to condemn Shatner the way he does. Takei is a hypicrite.

That makes a nice change from Takei’s constant whinging.