Walter Marvin Koenig (/ˈknɪɡ/; born September 14, 1936) is an American actor and screenwriter. He began acting professionally in the mid 1960s and quickly rose to prominence for his supporting role as Ensign Pavel Chekov in Star Trek: The Original Series (1967–1969). He went on to reprise this role in all six original-cast Star Trek films. He has also acted in several other series and films including Goodbye, Raggedy Ann (1971), The Questor Tapes (1974), and Babylon 5 (1993). In addition to his acting career, Koenig has made a career in writing as well and is known for working on Land of the Lost (1974), Family (1976), What Really Happened to the Class of '65? (1977) and The Powers of Matthew Star (1982).

Walter Koenig
Koenig at GalaxyCon Richmond in 2023
Walter Marvin Koenig

(1936-09-14) September 14, 1936 (age 87)
EducationGrinnell College
University of California, Los Angeles (BA)
Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theatre
  • Actor
  • screenwriter
Years active1962–present
Known for
Judy Levitt
(m. 1965; died 2022)
Children2, including Andrew
RelativesJimmy Pardo (son-in-law)

Early life Edit

Koenig was born in Chicago, Illinois, the son of businessman Isadore Koenig and his wife Sarah (née Strauss).[citation needed][1] They moved to the Inwood neighborhood of Manhattan when Walter was a child, where he went to school.[2][3] Koenig's parents were Russian Jewish immigrants from the Soviet Union; his family had been living in Lithuania when they emigrated, and they shortened their surname from "Königsberg" to "Koenig".[4]

Koenig's father was a communist who was investigated by the FBI during the McCarthy era.[5] Koenig attended Grinnell College in Grinnell, Iowa, with a pre-med major. He transferred to UCLA and received a Bachelor of Arts in psychology. After a professor encouraged Koenig to become an actor, he attended Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theatre in New York City with fellow students Dabney Coleman, Christopher Lloyd, and James Caan.[4]

Career Edit

Early work Edit

In Gene Roddenberry's first television production, the 1963–64 NBC series The Lieutenant, Koenig played a significant role as noncom Sgt. John Delwyn, who is recommended for Officer Candidates School by the series protagonist, Lt William T. (Tiberius) Rice, played by Gary Lockwood; (in episode 27, "Mother Enemy", aired on April 4, 1964). The plot twist, at the height of the US–Soviet Cold War, is that Sgt Delwyn's visiting mother is a prominent, and politically active, American Communist Party member. This sets up various interesting plot tensions involving Delwyn, Rice, and Rice's CO, Capt. Rambridge, played by Robert Vaughn.[citation needed] In 1964, Koenig portrayed a New York City juvenile gang leader in an adaptation of Memos from Purgatory for The Alfred Hitchcock Hour.

Star Trek Edit

I was one of only two people who auditioned for the part, which is quite extraordinary. Considering that this has so materially affected the last 35 years of my life ... a couple of hours after I auditioned I heard that I had gotten the role.[6]

Koenig began playing Ensign Pavel Chekov, navigator on the USS Enterprise, in the original Star Trek television series in the second season, and continued in the role in all of the films featuring the original cast,[7] including Star Trek Generations.[8]

One of only two actors to audition, he was cast as Chekov almost immediately primarily because of his resemblance to British actor and singer Davy Jones of the Monkees. Show creator Gene Roddenberry hoped that Koenig would increase the show's appeal to young people. The studio's publicity department, however, falsely ascribed the inclusion of Chekov to an article in Pravda that complained about the lack of Russians in Star Trek.[6]

As the 30-year-old's hair was already receding, costume designers fashioned a Davy Jones-style "moptop" hairpiece for him. In later episodes, his own hair grew out enough to accomplish the look with a comb-over.[9]

Roddenberry asked him to "ham up" his Russian accent to add a note of comic relief to the series. Chekov's accent has been criticized as inauthentic, in particular Koenig's substituting the "w" sound in place of a "v" sound (e.g., "wodka" for "vodka" or most famously "wessel for vessel"); Koenig has said the accent was inspired by his father, who had the same difficulty with the "v" sound.[5]

Koenig as Pavel Chekov in Star Trek

Most of Koenig's fan mail indeed came from children, and the high volume of letters contributed to him soon receiving a contract as a regular cast member; this surprised Koenig, who had been told that Chekov would be a recurring role.[6][10] When the early Season 2 episodes of Star Trek were shot, George Takei was delayed while completing the movie The Green Berets, so Chekov was joined at the Enterprise helm by a different character. When Takei returned, the two had to share a dressing room and a single episode script. This reportedly angered Takei to the point where he nearly left the show, although Koenig observed in a 2016 interview that, while sharing a dressing room with Takei and James Doohan, they recognised their status as supporting players, and "didn't think twice about it",[11] but the two actors have since become good friends, to the point that Koenig was the best man at Takei's wedding in 2008.[12]

The Chekov character never appeared in the animated Star Trek. Though the show's producers had decided not to cast him for budgetary reasons, and purchased his script for an episode of the series titled "The Infinite Vulcan", Koenig later confessed that he was upset at being left out of the cast.[13] "The Infinite Vulcan" makes him the first cast member to write a Star Trek story for television.

He received Saturn Award nominations for Best Supporting Actor in a Film for both Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. Koenig reprised the role of Chekov for the fan webseries Star Trek: New Voyages, "To Serve All My Days", and the independent Sky Conway/Tim Russ film, Star Trek: Of Gods and Men, both in 2006, and Star Trek: Renegades in 2015. According to the teaser for Renegades episodes 2 and 3, this would be the last time Koenig played the role of Chekov.

In the last episode of the third season of Star Trek: Picard, aired in 2023, Koenig voiced an audio transmission from Federation President Anton Chekov, implied to be Pavel's son; the name references Anton Yelchin, who played Chekov in the J. J. Abrams-directed Star Trek films.[14]

Later work Edit

Koenig in 1980

After Star Trek, and before the movies started, Koenig found some work as a writer. He submitted freelance scripts to a number of shows, and was the main writer on the show What Really Happened to the Class of '65?.[15]

After Chekov, Koenig had a recurring role as Psi Cop Alfred Bester on the television series Babylon 5. He was a "Special Guest Star" in twelve episodes and, at the end of the third season, the production company applied for an Emmy nomination on his behalf. He was slated to play Bester on the spin-off series Crusade, but the series was cancelled before his episode was filmed. The character name of "Alfred Bester" was an homage to the science-fiction writer of the same name.[16]

Koenig played "Oro" in two episodes of the Canadian science fiction television series The Starlost, which aired in 1973 on Canada's CTV television network. He filmed a few FMV sequences for a re-released copy of the game Star Trek Starfleet Academy for PCs.[citation needed] The game was later cancelled, but considerable footage from it was recycled for the film Game Over, with Koenig's dialogue dubbed over in order to retrofit his performance into the role of a computer hard drive.[citation needed]

Koenig's film, stage, and TV roles span fifty years. He has played roles ranging from a teenage gang leader (Alfred Hitchcock Presents) to Scandinavian fiancé Gunnar in the Gidget episode entitled "Gidget's Foreign Policy", to a Las Vegas entertainer (I Spy). He returned to space with a starring role in Moontrap and played a futuristic dictator in the video game Maximum Surge.[17]

During the early 1990s, he starred in a touring production of the play The Boys in Autumn, playing a middle aged Tom Sawyer, who reunites with childhood friend Huckleberry Finn. Fellow Trek actor Mark Lenard played Finn.[18]

Koenig at ComicCon in Dallas, 2007

In addition to acting, he has written several films (I Wish I May, You're Never Alone When You're a Schizophrenic), one-act plays, and a handful of episodes for TV shows: Star Trek: The Animated Series, Land of the Lost, Family and The Powers of Matthew Star.

He has written several books, including Warped Factors: A Neurotic's Guide to the Universe (an autobiography), Chekov's Enterprise (a journal kept during the filming of Star Trek: The Motion Picture) and Buck Alice and the Actor-Robot (a science fiction novel), which was re-released in 2006. He created his own comic book series called Raver, which was published by Malibu Comics in the early 1990s, and appeared as a "special guest star" in an issue of the comic book Eternity Smith, which features him prominently on its cover.[19]

In 2013, he released the graphic novel Walter Koenig's Things To Come with artist J.C. Baez, published by Bluewater Comics, which compiled the four issues of the miniseries of the same name.[20]

Koenig has taught classes in acting and directing at UCLA, the Sherwood Oaks Experimental Film College, the Actor's Alley Repertory Company in Los Angeles, and the California School of Professional Psychology at Alliant International University. In 2002, he directed stage versions of two of the original Twilight Zone episodes for Letter Entertainment.[21]

In 1987, Koenig directed his original one-act play The Secret Life of Lily Langtree at the Theatre of NOTE in Los Angeles. In 1989, Koenig starred in the science fiction film Moontrap as mission commander Colonel Jason Grant.[22]

In 1997, Koenig starred in Drawing Down the Moon, an independent film about a Wiccan woman who attempts to open a homeless shelter in a small Pennsylvania town. Koenig played Joe Merchant, a local crime lord obsessed with chaos theory who sends his thugs to intimidate her into shutting down the shelter.[23]

In 2004, Koenig co-starred in Mad Cowgirl, an independent movie about a meat-packing health inspector dying from a brain disorder, in which he played televangelist Pastor Dylan. The movie played the SF Indiefest and the Silverlake Film Festival, followed by a limited release in major cities. Mad Cowgirl was released on DVD on December 5, 2006.[citation needed]

In 2007, he reunited with fellow Babylon 5 star Bruce Boxleitner for the movie Bone Eater.[24]

Koenig received the 2,479th star of the Hollywood Walk of Fame on September 10, 2012.[25]

In 2013, Koenig ventured into the steampunk genre, starring in the short film Cowboys & Engines alongside Malcolm McDowell and Richard Hatch.[26] He played an evil newspaper tycoon in Blue Dream from director Gregory Hatanaka. In 2017, Koenig appeared in the 1980s throwback Neil Stryker and the Tyrant of Time from director Rob Taylor, battling puppet goblins as science officer Ray Nabroski.[27]

In 2018, he again appeared opposite Hatch in the science-fiction drama Diminuendo, which was Hatch's last performance before his death.[28]

Humanitarian work Edit

In 2007, Koenig was asked by the human rights group U.S. Campaign for Burma to help in their grassroots campaign about the humanitarian crisis in Burma. As detailed on his official website, he visited refugee camps along the Burma–Thailand border from July 16 to 25, 2007.

Personal life Edit

Koenig married actress Judy Levitt in 1965; she died in 2022.[29] In 1968, they had a son, actor Andrew, who died in 2010.[30][31] They have a daughter, Danielle, a comedienne and writer, who is married to comedian Jimmy Pardo.[32]

In September 2008, Koenig served as best man at the wedding of his Star Trek co-star George Takei to Brad Altman.[33]

Koenig was awarded the Inkpot Award in 1982.[34]

Filmography Edit

Year Title Role Notes
1962 The Norman Vincent Peale Story
1973 Starlost Oro
1974 Nightmare Honeymoon Deputy Sheriff
1979 Star Trek: The Motion Picture Pavel Chekov
1982 Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
1984 Star Trek III: The Search for Spock
1986 Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home
1989 Moontrap Col. Jason Grant
1989 Star Trek V: The Final Frontier Pavel Chekov
1991 Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country
1994 Star Trek Generations
1996 Sworn to Justice Dr. Breitenheim
1997 Drawing Down the Moon Joe Merchant
2006 Mad Cowgirl Pastor Dylan
2007 InAlienable Dr. Shilling
2009 Scream of the Bikini
2013 Blue Dream Lassie
2015 Star Trek: Renegades Admiral Chekov
2016 Star Trek: Captain Pike Admiral Harlan Sobol
2016 Surge of Power: Revenge of the Sequel Himself
2017 Neil Stryker and the Tyrant of Time Ray Nabroski (future)
2017 Nobility Frank Mooney
2018 Diminuendo Milton Green
2018 Who is Martin Danzig? Martin Danzig from Dial it Back Films
2019 Woman in Motion Himself Documentary
2020 Unbelievable!!!!! Fireman Frank

Television Edit

Year Title Role Notes
1963 General Hospital Charlie Turner Pilot episode
Credit Only
1963–65 Mr. Novak Alexsei Dubov, Jim Carsey, Paul Ryder 3 episodes
1963 The Great Adventure Cy Bedrozian Episode: "Six Wagons to the Sea"
1964 The Lieutenant Sgt. John Delwyn Episode: "Mother Enemy"
1964 The Alfred Hitchcock Hour Tiger Episode: "Memo from Purgatory"
1965 Ben Casey Tom Davis Episode: "A Rambling Discourse on Egyptian Water Clocks"
1965 Gidget Gunnar Episode: "Gidget's Foreign Policy"
1966 I Spy Bobby Seville Episode: "Sparrowhawk"
1966 Jericho Paul Episode: "Both Ends Against the Riddle"
1967–69 Star Trek: The Original Series Pavel Chekov Seasons 2-3 regular
36 episodes
1968 Mannix Recovery addict in meeting Episode: "Delayed Action"
1970 Medical Center Harry Seller Episode: "Between Dark and Daylight"
1970 The Virginian Paul Elrich Episode: "Crooked Corner"
1971 Ironside Leo Episode: "The Summer Soldier"
1971 Goodbye, Raggedy Ann Jerry TV movie
1973 The Starlost Oro
1974 The Questor Tapes Administrative Assistant TV movie
1976 Columbo Sgt. Johnson Episode: "Fade in to Murder"
1982 Bring 'Em Back Alive Toder Episode: "The Reel World of Frank Buck"
1990 The Real Ghostbusters Vladimir Pavel Maximov Voice
Episode: "Russian About"
1994–98 Babylon 5 Alfred Bester 12 episodes
1996 Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Pavel Chekov Episode: "Trials and Tribble-ations"
Archive footage from Star Trek: TOS episode "The Trouble with Tribbles"
2001 Son of the Beach General Dimitri Sukitov Episode: "From Russia, with Johnson"
2002 Futurama Himself Voice
Episode: "Where No Fan Has Gone Before"
2006 Star Trek: New Voyages Lt. Pavel Chekov Episode: "To Serve All My Days"
2008 Bone Eater Coogan TV movie
2017–18 Stretch Armstrong and the Flex Fighters Mr. Savic Voice
11 episodes
2023 Star Trek: Picard President Anton Chekov Voice
Episode: "The Last Generation"

Video games Edit

Year Title Role Notes
1994 Star Trek: 25th Anniversary Ens. Pavel Chekov Voice, CD-ROM version
1995 Star Trek: Judgment Rites Voice, CD-ROM version
1996 Maximum Surge Drexel Cancelled
1997 Star Trek: Starfleet Academy Commander Pavel Chekov Voice
1997 Star Trek Generations Voice
2003 Star Trek: Shattered Universe Voice
2010 Star Trek Online Pavel Chekov Voice

Bibliography Edit

  • Warped Factors: A Neurotic's Guide to the Universe
  • Chekov's Enterprise
  • Buck Alice and the Actor-Robot
  • Raver (comic book)
  • Walter Koenig's Things to Come

References Edit

  1. ^ "Walter Koenig Biography". Yahoo! Movies. April 20, 2011. Archived from the original on May 22, 2011. Retrieved December 17, 2012.
  2. ^ "INTERVIEW: Walter Koenig on his life before and beyond 'Star Trek'". Hollywood Soapbox. July 23, 2020. Retrieved January 17, 2021.
  3. ^ Thompson, Cole (April 15, 2016). "Famous Inwood Residents". | My Inwood. Retrieved January 17, 2021.
  4. ^ a b "Walter Koenig's Authorized Biography". Star Traveler Publications. Retrieved May 7, 2011.
  5. ^ a b Jesse Wente interview with Walter Koenig Archived July 6, 2011, at the Wayback Machine, Q, CBC Radio, August 28, 2009
  6. ^ a b c "Walter Koenig – Chekov in the Original Star Trek". BBC. Archived from the original on November 15, 2001. Retrieved May 7, 2011.
  7. ^ "Walter Koenig". IMDb, Inc. Retrieved January 19, 2020.
  8. ^ "Star Trek: Generations (1994) Poster Star Trek: Generations (1994) Full Cast & Crew". IMDb, Inc. Retrieved January 19, 2020.
  9. ^ Vejvoda, Jim and Phil Pirrello. "Star Trek: The Original Series – Season 2 Review.", September 18, 2009.
  10. ^ Davis, Lauren (September 7, 2013). "Gene Roddenberry's 1968 memo on improving Star Trek's characters". io9. Retrieved September 7, 2013.
  11. ^ "'Star Trek's Walter Koenig on Chekov's Haircut and Other Decades-Old Rumors". September 6, 2016.
  12. ^ Michael Weinfeld (June 5, 2008). "George Takei and partner plan to wed in September". USA Today. Associated Press. Retrieved 2008-10-24.
  13. ^ Mangels, Andy (Summer 2018). "Star Trek: The Animated Series". RetroFan. TwoMorrows Publishing (1): 28.
  14. ^ Martin, Michileen (April 20, 2023). "Star Trek Original Series Actor Returns To The Franchise". GIANT FREAKIN ROBOT. Retrieved May 20, 2023.
  15. ^ Shaw, Gabbi. "WHERE ARE THEY NOW: The cast of 'Star Trek: The Original Series'". Insider, Inc. Retrieved January 2, 2021.
  16. ^ "Guide Page: "Ship of Tears"". Retrieved March 11, 2022.
  17. ^ "Maximum Surge Packs Plenty of Star Power". Electronic Gaming Monthly. No. 75. Ziff Davis. October 1995. p. 27.
  18. ^ Loynd, Ray (August 4, 1990). "The Twain Meet Again in 'Boys in Autumn'". Los Angeles Times.
  19. ^ Eternity Smith (vol.2) #9 cover, Mile High Comics website. Retrieved July 28, 2012.
  20. ^ "MTV Geek – 'Star Trek's' Walter Koenig Shares What's Next For 'Things To Come'". MTV Geek.
  21. ^ "4 Letter Entertainment". 4 Letter Entertainment. Archived from the original on February 4, 2012. Retrieved December 17, 2012.
  22. ^ "Moontrap (1989)". IMDb, Inc. Retrieved January 19, 2020.
  23. ^ "Drawing Down the Moon (1997)". IMDb, Inc. Retrieved January 19, 2020.
  24. ^ "Bone Eater (TV Movie 2007) Poster Bone Eater (2007 TV Movie) Full Cast & Crew". IMDb, Inc. Retrieved January 19, 2020.
  25. ^ "Walter Koenig To Become The Last Star Trek Original To Land Star". August 29, 2012.
  26. ^ "Cowboys & Engines at". IMDB.
  27. ^ "Neil Stryker and the Tyrant of Time (2017)". IMDb, Inc. Retrieved January 19, 2020.
  28. ^ Richard Hatch's Last Director on His Unflinching Commitment and Seeing Their Film in His Final Days, February 10, 2017, retrieved May 16, 2018
  29. ^ Macdonald, Susan (December 21, 2022). "RIP Judy Levitt Koenig". Retrieved December 21, 2022.
  30. ^ Duke, Alan (February 25, 2010). "Missing actor's body found in Vancouver park, source says". CNN. Archived from the original on February 27, 2010.
  31. ^ Fisher, Luchina (February 26, 2010). "Andrew Koenig's Long, Losing Battle With Depression". ABC News. Retrieved January 7, 2015.
  32. ^ "Danielle Koenig". IMDb.
  33. ^ Michael Weinfeld (June 5, 2008). "George Takei and partner plan to wed in September". Associated Press. Retrieved October 24, 2008.
  34. ^ "Inkpot Award". Comic-Con International: San Diego. December 6, 2012. Retrieved May 20, 2023.

External links Edit