Iconic Star Trek Character Exists Because Of The Monkees

By Zack Zagranis | Published

star trek commercial

Hey, Hey, we’re the Trekkies! Did you know that if you’re a fan of Star Trek’s grooviest Ensign, Pavel Chekov, you have the Monkees to thank? The original series creators were inspired to add the Russian heartthrob to the Enterprise after watching Davy Jones perform with the ’60s pop band.

Last Train To Vulcan

star trek monkees

First appearing in the Star Trek Season 2 episode “Amok Time” Chekov quickly captured a new demographic for Star Trek: tweens. Chekov actor Walter Koenig explained in a 2012 interview that his character’s biggest fans were “kids 8-12.”

Fittingly, by adopting their own Davy Jones, Star Trek successfully tapped into the same market that ravenously consumed The Monkees TV show every week

During its original three-season run, Star Trek was constantly on the verge of cancellation. As a result, Gene Roddenberry and the other creators were always thinking of ways to widen the show’s appeal.

It only made sense for Star Trek to look towards the more successful Monkees TV show for inspiration.

Nuclear Wessel

That inspiration came in the form of diminutive mop-top Davy Jones. Jones, who hailed from the U.K., was the closest The Monkees had to a Beatle. Given the Beatles’ status in the ’60s as global superstars, it’s no surprise that Jones became the de facto frontman of The Monkees.

This, in turn, put him on Roddenberry’s radar and led directly to Star Trek introducing their own version of The Monkees’ most popular member.

Gene Roddenberry’s decision to make Chekov Russian in the late ’60s was brave.

Tensions between Russia and America were high then, and Roddenberry’s decision could have caused the show to hemorrhage viewers. Somehow, the opposite happened.

Hair Or There

chekov khan

To this day, Koening maintains that Chekov’s being Russian has never really been that controversial. When it comes to a character designed to appeal to teeny boppers, it’s more about the look than the accent anyway.

Star Trek achieved Chekov’s signature Monkees look with a wig, as Koening’s natural hair wasn’t quite long enough for the Beatles shag that the character required.

According to Koening, he was eventually able to use his own hair on screen…for a while. The actor cheekily admitted that once his natural hair started to thin, the role would again require a hairpiece.

Of course, if decades of speculation are anything to go by, he was far from the only one who used a hairpiece while filming Star Trek.

A True Daydream Believer

Wig or not, young Davy Jones and young Chekov do share an uncanny resemblance. Not just the hair—which Star Trek and The Monkees essentially stole from The Beatles—but facial features as well.

Koenig may have been a decade older than Jones, but both men had youthful, cherubic faces. Add the brown eyes and thick eyebrows that both men share and you have more than a passing resemblance between the two.

The main difference between the two men was their positions in their respective groups. Despite the Monkees being an ensemble band with multiple vocalists, Jones was generally seen as the face of the band.

Chekov, on the other hand, may have been the hot new thing when he joined Star Trek in the second season, but it was still largely the Kirk, Spock, and Bones show.

Thank The Monkees

Chekov wasn’t even deemed worthy enough to be included in Star Trek: The Animated Series, a quasi-fourth season of the original show.

But even with limited screen time over the years, the character of Chekov managed to make his mark on the Star Trek fandom—something he couldn’t have done without the Monkees.

So the next time you say, “Where are the Nuclear wessels,” in your best Chekov voice, just remember, we wouldn’t have that hilarious scene from Star Trek IV if it weren’t for The Monkees and their short king lead singer.