Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Walter Koenig on Chekov and Star Trek XI.

Walter Koenig was kind enough to answer our questions regarding the character of Chekov and Star Trek XI.

Trekdom: In 1967, Gene Roddenberry told the L.A. Times that he added the character of Chekov because a Pravda writer criticized the show for ignoring the Soviet Union’s role in the space race. Yet, as many fans know, Roddenberry and others had ulterior motives, such as wanting a “Davy Jones” that appealed to young viewers. Do you believe that the writers treated the character as a serious representation of future Soviet/U.S. cooperation in space? Or, would you say that they focused more on the “Davy Jones” aspect?

Walter Koenig: "It was a sensitive time in the socio-political landscape when Star Trek introduced a Russian character. From the first, the intention was to acknowledge the Soviet exploration of space and to send a non provocative message that if the world of Star Trek was going to embrace all of mankind then certainly a Russian in its midst was appropriate to that message. However, it is also true to an even greater extent that the show wished to expand its demographic. The eight to twelve year old group might not be impressed with an Earth United but they might be drawn to a character that superficially resembled one of its pop "faves". If you needed more proof, Gene Roddenberry was quoted as saying after the casting session that "Koenig's accent sucks but I think the little girls will like him."

Trekdom: Many scholars have criticized the character of Chekov as a “Russian buffoon,” arguing that, instead of depicting a future of international cooperation, Star Trek portrayed a U.S. victory in the Cold War by mocking Russian achievements (Chekov always claiming that X or Y was a “Russian Inwention”). Often, these writers go on to criticize Star Trek as an imperialistic and militaristic vision of the future. How would you respond to those arguments?

Walter Koenig: "It sounds like the ravings of Don Quixote wanna-bes. I think its preposterous to give so much significance to a television show whose principal objective was to entertain and build a following that would keep it on the air. To look for Machiavellian constructions is to joust at windmills."

Trekdom: Star Trek XI will be a “re-imagining” of the Star Trek franchise, and executive producer/director J.J. Abrams has stated that character of Captain Kirk will appear in the film (played by a younger actor). If the writers recast and re-imagine the character of Chekov, what would you like to see, and what advice would you have for the actor?

Walter Koenig: "I'd tell him to stay out of shadows and insist on dialogue that does more than simply advance the plot."

Trekdom: Are you optimistic about the future of Star Trek?

Walter Koenig: "I no longer speculate on the future of Star Trek. I obviously have no sense of how many lives it has. I have sent funeral wreaths on at least four separate occasions believing that a wooden stake had been driven through its heart and its internment was eternal. And still it rises, a bit paler perhaps over four decades but with no less a thirst. (I'm really straining for a metaphor here as if you didn't know) For what it's worth, if I knew of a way of collecting I'd wager substantial rubles that, in one form or another, it will definitely outlive me."