Star Trek Icon Unhappy With Movie Appearance

By Kevin C. Neece | Published

Walter Koenig is not known for his cheery demeanor or his enthusiasm. Among the original Star Trek cast, he is the one most likely to feel comfortable letting people know how he really feels about things. And it has long seemed that the less-than-fleshed-out nature of his character, Pavel Chekov, has stuck in the actor’s craw. This was especially the case for Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.

“I was absolutely f*cking miserable from day one on Star Trek VI. It was so disappointing to me… and I didn’t even have Harve Bennett to blame anymore. Ralph Winter is a charming, delightful, and considerate man, and I had considered Nick a booster of mine because he had written the best stuff in Star Trek IV as well as directing Star Trek II, but I found this script to be so totally devoid of any individuality for the supporting characters. “

Walter Koenig

For this film, Walter Koenig joined his fellow Original Series castmates for, as the film’s teaser trailer put it, “one last adventure.” But there was no adventure in it for Koenig, who found his role, along with those of the rest of the supporting cast, to be particularly bland and uninteresting. For him, there was no hope of any joy in what was to be his character’s final outing.

Mark A. Altman and Edward Gross, in their book The Fifty-Year Mission: The Next 25 Years, quote Walter Koenig as saying he was “absolutely f*cking miserable from day one” on the film, and going on at some length to say why.

star trek walter koenig
Walter Koenig in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country

The dialogue was, in his opinion, not distinctive to any of the characters, nor did it say anything about them as individuals, but instead could be said by anyone. To him, the lines for supporting characters could just be put together in one long chunk, cut up into pieces, and randomly handed to the various actors in the supporting cast.

It was as if you could literally have taken one long speech and taken a scissor to it, cut it into pieces, and handed it to us. For me, it was not a wrap-up at all. I thought, at last some recognition, some attention had to be paid to the supporting characters, and given their moment.

Walter Koenig

Walter Koenig has long been sensitive to the amount of quality screen time given to supporting characters in the Star Trek cast, and this film was no different. But it was particularly disappointing for the actor because he felt as though people from whom he had expected better had let him down.

It was one thing to feel like everything was the fault of Harve Bennett, who had been executive producer on the films before, but after Bennett’s exit, he had no one to blame but Ralph Winter and Nicholas Meyer.

It was difficult for Walter Koenig to see Ralph Winter, who he considered to be a delightful person, as responsible for a role he was not enjoying. Similarly, since Nicholas Meyer had written good dialogue for Chekov in Star Trek II and Star Trek IV, he was hoping for more of the same in the sixth film.

Unfortunately, in his estimation, there was no individuality to any supporting character—something he felt was exemplified by the general lack of first-person pronouns spoken by those characters.

There were no first-person personal pronouns; none of us ever said “I.” It was always “Keptain, there is a ship out there,” not “Keptain, I see a ship out there and I’m worried about this.” We were there as expository vehicles, and that alone, and that was really painful. My sense of ego and identity just cried out for some opportunity to express character, and it was just not available.

Walter Koenig

For Walter Koenig, the script contained no opportunity for any characterization and left his character and the other supporting characters in merely expository roles. With a sense that he had no way to explore his character or express any emotions, he found himself disappointed and unhappy for the entirety of the film. Because of this, he also felt the film was not a good send-off for the Original Series cast, and wished for a more satisfying conclusion to their run.

Walter Koenig would return as Chekov in Star Trek: Generations, but with the stipulation that his character be given some individuality. He must have felt he got it because he followed through with making the film, even though his character did not receive much screen time.

He would go on to appear in Star Trek fan films and on Babylon 5, in a role with which he was much more satisfied, but Star Trek VI will always be a project he remembers as frustrating and disappointing.