Walter Koenig Explains the Shatner Hate
The 'Star Trek' alum dishes on the 'caste system' that ruled classic TV fare
Don’t count of Pavel Chekov to trash the academy’s newest members.
Sure, actor Walter Koenig had a vested interest in preserving the vision for the original series. But as soon as “Star Trek’s” original Chekov sat down to watch the J.J. Abrams’ “Star Trek” reboot, his fears were allayed.
It may have been different actors – certainly younger actors – portraying the iconic crew of the USS Enterprise, but the movies felt right to him.
“I liked both movies,” Koenig said at this month’s Steel City Con in Monroeville, Pa. “This is a different decade, a different time. That was the ’60s. These movies are right for the times.”
The newer “Trek” films are a reflection of today’s beliefs as well as modern storytelling, with its emphasis on action. That turned off some “Trek” purists. But don’t count Koenig among them.
“They are still ‘Star Trek,’” said Koenig, emphasizing that he has no commercial interest in the newer series. “The important relationships are still there. Of course, we have Spock fooling around with Uhura, but that’s OK.”
Koenig was invited to the set of 2009’s “Star Trek” and met Anton Yelchin, who played the newer version of the intrepid Russian navigator. Koenig half-joked that Yelchin, who was born in Russia, had trouble imitating Koenig’s questionable accent.
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“I thought it was delightful watching him work,” Koenig said. “There was no point in my trying to measure myself against it. There was 50 years’ difference.”
One of the big changes since that time is the evolution from what Koenig dubbed the “Hollywood caste system.” Unlike today, where ensembles rule, Hollywood was more interested back then with having just a few “stars” on a show or movie. The studios would then surround them with a supporting cast, or what Koenig calls “moving furniture.”
That system led to some infamous tiffs between star William Shatner and much of the rest of the cast. Koenig called Shatner self-involved, not because he was malicious, but because that’s how Hollywood expected him to act at the time. But that animosity didn’t spread to the rest of the cast.
“The rest of us got along well, mostly because of our mutually grumbling of Mr. Shatner,” Koenig said.
“’Babylon 5′ was really the best fun I’ve ever had on television. The character was complex. He was unpredictable… In ‘Star Trek’ it was never, `Keptin I see something terrible. And let me tell you how I feel about this.’”