Star Trek Icon Regrets Not Giving A Necessary Hug

By Chris Snellgrove | Updated

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At this point, the fact William Shatner angered many of his old Star Trek costars has become pop culture legend. That’s why we were surprised to discover that one of the stars he had annoyed so much over the years regretted not embracing the man who played Captain Kirk.

In an old interview, Chekov actor  Walter Koenig described how good the core cast felt when Shatner first walked onto the bridge in Star Trek: The Motion Picture and how he regrets not giving the man a hug.

A Heartfelt Moment On The Motion Picture Set

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This fascinating (as Spock might say) anecdote comes to us courtesy of an old Playboy feature on Star Trek: The Motion Picture that included plenty of great quotes from the cast. In a very sweet bit of this feature, Walter Koenig described how great it felt on the first day when Shatner walked onto the bridge; he described calling him “Kep-tin” in the familiar Chekov accent and how he wanted to hug Shatner as everyone ran over. 

“I got such a high, such a rush at that moment that it took all my self-control not to embrace him,” Koenig said. “It was such a lovely moment. I should have embraced him,” he added with regret. 

The Good Times Didn’t Last

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The story of Walter Koenig wanting to give William Shatner a hug is sweet on the face of it, but we can’t help but wonder if the Chekov actor still has regrets about not embracing his costar. That’s because, like many other Star Trek stars, he would later have an infamous clash with Shatner. This clash occurred in the very next film, the fan-favorite sequel The Wrath of Khan.

According to Koenig, the incident occurred when he and Shatner were both standing on the transporter pad. At this point, Shatner allegedly told Koenig to “move a little bit this way.” Shatner’s goal seemed clear: he wanted James T. Kirk in the shot more and less Pavel Chekov.

William Shatner Is Not Well-Liked

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Walter Koenig, perhaps still remembering how much he wanted to hug the other man a few years before, decided to tease Shatner, saying, “’I’m just doing what you would do, Bill.” The goal was to mildly rib Shatner over his well-known tendency to put himself first and foremost in every possible shot.

Shatner didn’t laugh, though: Koenig claims that he began repeatedly saying, “that’s neurotic,” and staring at Koenig, making the younger man feel so bad that he went home and had gut pain all night. Later, Koenig stated he wasn’t bitter about this moment but felt that Shatner was embracing the (now mercifully outdated) idea of a “Hollywood caste system” in which supporting actors had to know their place…that is, well below lead actors.

An Embarrasing Moment In Front Of The Press

In the years since then, Walter Koenig seemingly didn’t have many of his own incidents with William Shatner, though the Star Trek lead snubbed the man who once wanted to hug him brutally in 1989. During a press conference for Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, Shatner seemingly forgot Koenig’s name, calling him instead “the gentleman who plays Chekov.”

Koenig Wasn’t A Fan Of Shatner

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We may never know, but this snub may be why Koenig was so brutal himself when Michael Starr requested an interview for a William Shatner biography he was working on. “Unless you will have several photos in your book showing Mr. Shatner having sex with a horse, I must politely decline.” Instead of an outright snub, it’s always possible that Koenig was cracking a strange joke.

William Shatner’s Star Trek Legacy

Because of the later incidents, the fact that Walter Koenig wanted to hug Shatner while filming The Motion Picture is very bittersweet. It speaks to the kind of relationship these two Star Trek stars might have had if Shatner could only continue being a charismatic captain when the cameras weren’t rolling. Unfortunately, making it through a movie or show in this Paramount franchise without putting a few noses out of joint seems like one no-win scenario the Kirk actor could never find a way out of.

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