Walter Koenig (Star Trek’s “Chekov”): “I’ve spent my career playing half a character.”
June 4, 2007
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Denise Crosby did a QA session with Walter Koenig this past Saturday at Adventure Con in Knoxville, Tennessee. Crosby, who played “Tasha Yar” during the first season of Star Trek the Next Generation, was clearly excited to be talking with the original series’ “Chekov.” At some of these types of sessions, the stars get a brief introduction and move pretty quickly into taking questions. Unfortunately, us geeks are generally pretty lame: we are either going to ask stupid questions or questions that have been asked a million times. This time we managed to achieve a stunning degree of lameness in a short time: not only was the first question about how to pronounce Walter’s name, but the announcer even botched it when introducing him! (It’s KAY-nig. Like “Decay”-nig….)
Thanks to the comraderie between the two actors, we were spared such pain for the rest of the session. Koenig wanted to know about why Crosby left the show so soon. “I just got tired of saying nothing but ‘aye aye captain in every episode,” she said. “Oh really,” Koenig replied with a voice dripping with sarcasm. He turned to the audience and asked, “How many ways can you say Warp Factor Two? WARP factor two; Warp FACT-or two; Warp factor TWO!” Crosby said she wanted them to just make a model of her legs– that’s all you could ever see of her character back behind the captain and first officer! She’d go to work day after day and just stand there and not even get to say anything….
Koenig later described his most crushing moment. In the filming of Generations, he was pretty disappointed with his role as it appeared in the script. He asked for some changes and the Directors rewrote portions of it. Koenig felt that Chekov should have a scene where he mourns the loss of his captain– especially when you consider how long he’d been working with him. They shot the scene 8 times and he cried every single time. Koenig tried to tell us how moved the people were on the set. (Except for this scene… how often has he really gotten the chance to act?!) On the ninth time, the directors specifically asked him not to cry, but when the film was finally released, all of the extra scenes he’d asked for were of course cut out. Koenig didn’t think that they ever intended to use them in the first place: they just wanted to get his name on the credits. “I’ve spent my career playing just half a character” he said.
The next day I went by their booths to thank them for coming. I think I came off as yet another incoherent fan boy to Koenig. I was in shock at being able to talk to him and shake his hand. I wanted him to understand that we never thought of Chekov as just a “bit part”, but I don’t think I was successful. I did manage to hit it off with Crosby as she graciously laughed at my jokes and chatted with me. Both actors were pretty disappointed that none of us knew anything about the Star Trek: New Voyages fan films that they’d both participated in. It was really great to get to see them, though, and to learn more about the people behind these classic episodes and movies.