A FOTF exclusive interview with Star Trek: The Original Series legend Walter Koenig
Imagine emerging through a set of turbolift doors and stepping onto the bridge of the starship Enterprise for the very first time. There, dressed in your pristine Starfleet uniform you glance around the room at the legends that supervise each terminal.
At the helm is Mr Sulu, manning the communications terminal is the vivacious Lieutenant Uhura, monitoring the engineering console is Montgomery Scott, chief engineering officer, engrossed in his latest scientific analysis is Mr Spock, standing alongside the Captain’s chair stands the cantankerous Doctor Leonard McCoy…and sat in the Captain’s chair is the one and only Captain James T. Kirk.
Joining this crew of icons would have been a daunting prospect for anyone, and yet, in the second season of Star Trek: The Original Series, a fresh-faced Walter Koenig did just that and cemented his place in Star Trek fandom forever. After being cast as Ensign Pavel Chekov, Walter Koenig stepped out onto the bridge of the starship Enterprise and never looked back, and in doing so, developed a career that has spanned more than six decades. As well as becoming an accomplished writer, Koenig’s screen credits include roles in The Real Ghostbusters, Babylon 5, Futurama and Columbo.
At Showmasters’ glorious London Film & Comic Con 2019, I had the opportunity to sit down with the screen legend to discuss his wonderful career and delve a little deeper into his inspiration behind Star Trek‘s legendary Pavel Chekov.
Walter Koenig | London Film & Comic-Con
Phil: What does London Film & Comic Con mean to you?
Walter: It means I’m going to change my religion! It means an opportunity to meet a lot of very lovely people. Generally speaking, the people who come up to me at cons are Star Trek fans and they generally share the same belief that I do in preserving humanity. I’m all about saving, not only the planet but the vision of saving our own country, which is in desperate straits at this present time, but in any case, I love the idea of congregating with these fans.
Phil: Aside from being an accomplished writer, your role as Pavel Chekov has been the predominant performance of your career. How does it feel to be the custodian of such a beloved character?
Walter: Well, I’m an actor and actors love to be loved. So, I’m grateful that there is an appreciative audience, but it’s not the only character I’ve ever done, and I consider myself more versatile than to be singled out exclusively for that. But certainly, if it wasn’t for Chekov and if it wasn’t for Star Trek, I wouldn’t be here now, and I have enormous gratitude for the opportunity.
Phil: Your “Chekov accent” has been attributed to your father. Is that true?
Walter: Yeah, to an extent. Absolutely. My father was actually more Americanised than that, but he had certain reflections that I appropriated for the purpose of creating Chekov.
Phil: You reprised the role in the fan film series Star Trek: Renegades. This was described as the last time you will EVER play Chekov. Is now the right time to retire the character?
Walter: I believe so. Well, we did Renegades and then did the sequel to that and in the sequel, he is definitely retired. The sequel is now only available for the people who donated and helped make the movie happen, but he has his demise in the second movie.
Phil: What do you think of the current crop of Star Trek shows like Discovery?
Walter: I haven’t seen any. I’ve met several of the actors involved and found them to be very engaging folks.
Phil: If you had the chance to write an episode of Star Trek: Discovery would you jump at the chance?
Walter: I’m not really sure that would be a primary or driving principle for me. Star Trek is in my life enough without my expanding upon my current participation.
As a Star Trek fan, it was an absolute pleasure to chat with Walter Koenig at London Film & Comic-Con. Having been a pillar of the Star Trek community for so many years, I had no preconceptions going into this interview and was blown away by his devotion to his adoring fans. This attentiveness is refreshing, and even though he has retired his incarnation of the character, Chekov is still very much a part of him and that is abundantly clear. It is a great disservice for Walter to be remembered for just the singular role, but Chekov has touched so many people’s lives that his cultural contribution simply outweighs his other notable vocations.
Being a celebrated writer, Koenig also applied his literary talent to a cherished episode of Star Trek: The Animated Series and even though he is steadfastly opposed to the idea, I would have loved to have seen him add his literary sparkle to an episode of Discovery or Picard. His reluctance is understandable, but I cannot help but feel that the franchise would only have benefitted from his considerable talent and expertise.
Until his position changes, Star Trek fans of all ages will continue to treasure this icon of the screen and make the pilgrimage to events like London Film & Comic-Con. It is here that we can impart our thanks to him for his tireless devotion to doing what he does best…meeting his fans and bringing smiles to their faces.
And finally, I would like to extend my personal thanks to both Walter Koenig for giving up his time and granting this exclusive Future of the Force interview, and to Showmasters who invited Future of the Force along to attend their incredible London Film & Comic-Con event.
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Phil Roberts is the Owner, Daily Content Manager and Editor of Future of the Force. He is passionate about Star Wars, Marvel, Batman, Star Trek, Indiana Jones, King Kong, and the Ray Harryhausen movies. Follow him on Twitter @philthecool where he uses the force frequently!