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KOENIG, WALTER
(1936– ). American actor.

IMDB credits Unlike other fans of the original series, it would seem, I was not particularly thrilled by the 1967 addition of Walter Koenig's Ensign Pavel Chekov to the cast of Star Trek (1966–1969). Granted, he was a better actor than the man he largely eclipsed, George TAKEI (though that isn't saying very much), and granted, he added a frisson of youthful energy to a cast that otherwise was not particularly young (a point driven home in the episode "The Deadly Years" [1967], wherein Chekov inexplicably remains young while other crew members are mysteriously transformed into geezers). But Koenig's faux Russian accent was even more annoying than James DOOHAN's faux Scottish accent; Chekov's trademark witticisms—asserting that every important discovery or invention came from Russia—grew very tiresome, very quickly, until the writers wisely stopped including them; and it was impossible to overlook the fact that Koenig had manifestly been cast primarily because of his close resemblance to Davey Jones of the then-popular made-for-television rock group, the Monkees. Still, viewers soon got used to having him around so that, by the time the series was cancelled, he seemed just as central the show as the other characters, and hence became an essential presence in all later incarnations of the series.

Except one: as a cost-cutting measure, producers excluded Chekov and his voice from the animated version of Star Trek (1973–1975),  although they did allow him to write what turned out to be one of the series' stupider episodes, "The Infinite Vulcan"  (1973), wherein Koenig displayed his amazing wit by naming its alien the Retlaw (you can figure it out). Later ventures into television writing, including an episode of Land of the Lost based on a story by David GERROLD, "The Stranger" (1974), and an episode of The Powers of Matthew Star, "Mother" (1982), undoubtedly were equally unmemorable.  For better or worse, then, the post-Star Trek Koenig knew that he would have to rely upon his acting skills to earn his paychecks; however, although he did manage to land guest roles in 1970s series like Medical Center, The VirginianIronside, and Columbo, he was most attractive to other science fiction productions, seeking a touch of that old Star Trek magic. Thus, he made two appearances on the execrable and thankfully forgotten series The Starlost (1973), was more prominent as a recurring character on Babylon 5 (1994–1999), and starred in two obscure science fiction films, Moontrap (1989) and Deadly Weapon (1989). However, while his work was always respectable, one couldn't help watching and wondering why he didn't have a phony Russian accent.

That problem did not occur with the later films that people remember, the first six Star Trek films, even though writers struggled to find something for  Chekov to do in the films, since Koenig was now too old to portray an "Ensign," sitting at the console and dutifully responding to the orders of William SHATNER's  Captain Kirk. The only film that used the character well was Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986), exploiting Chekov's Russian accent by having him captured by suspicious twentieth-century submarine officers who suspect that he is a Russian spy.

After the films jettisoned the original Star Trek for the Next Generation—a transition Koenig contributed to by accompanying Shatner with Doohan in the opening sequence of Star Trek: Generations (1994), replacing Leonard NIMOY and DeForest KELLEY, who refused to appear—Koenig could still pick up some pocket change by doing Chekov's voice for video games (most recently Star Trek: Shattered Universe [2003]) and appearing as Chekov in unofficial, under-the-radar Star Trek productions (most recently the series Star Trek: Renegades [2015–2016] ); incongruously, the original series' former male ingénue is now its elder statesman, one of its few surviving regulars. It may not be the most fulfilling sort of work, but Walter Koenig knows very well that he is a lucky man, having belatedly hitched a ride on what turned out to be one of the most profitable five-year voyages ever made.

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