Walter Koenig

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Walter Koenig
Koenig at a ceremony to receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in September 2012
Born Walter Marvin Koenig
(1936-09-14) September 14, 1936 (age 78)
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
Residence North Hollywood, Los Angeles, California
Education Grinnell College
Alma mater University of California, Los Angeles
Occupation Actor
Years active 1962–present
Known for Pavel Chekov, Mr. Bester
Home town New York City, N.Y.
Television Star Trek, Babylon 5
Spouse(s) Judy Levitt
Children 2

Walter Marvin Koenig (/ˈknɪɡ/; born September 14, 1936) is an American actor, writer, teacher and director, known for his roles as Pavel Chekov in Star Trek and Alfred Bester in Babylon 5. He wrote the script for the 2008 science fiction legal thriller InAlienable.

Early life[edit]

Koenig was born in Chicago, Illinois, the son of businessman Isadore Koenig and his wife Sarah (née Strauss).[1][2] They moved to Manhattan when Walter was a child, where he went to school. Koenig's parents were Russian Jewish immigrants from the Soviet Union; his family lived in Lithuania when they emigrated, and shortened their surname from "Königsberg" to "Koenig".[3] Koenig's father was a communist who was investigated by the FBI during the McCarthy era.[4] 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 the Neighborhood Playhouse with fellow students Dabney Coleman, Christopher Lloyd, and James Caan.[3]


Star Trek[edit]

I was only one of 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.

Koenig, on being cast as Chekov[5]

Koenig played Ensign Pavel Chekov, navigator on the USS Enterprise, in the original Star Trek television series (starting in Season 2) and in all of the movies featuring the original cast (including Star Trek Generations). One of only two actors to audition, he was cast as Chekov almost immediately primarily because of his resemblance to British actor/musician Davy Jones of the Monkees; show creator Gene Roddenberry hoped that Koenig would increase the show's appeal to young people.[5][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.[7] (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.[5]) 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"); Koenig has said the accent was inspired by his father, who had the same difficulty with the "v" sound.[4]

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.[5][6] When the early Season 2 episodes of Star Trek were shot, George Takei (who played Sulu) was delayed while completing the movie The Green Berets, so Chekov is 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, but the two actors have since become good friends, to the point that Koenig was the best man at Takei's wedding in 2008.[8] The image of their two characters manning the helm of the Enterprise became iconic.[9]

Koenig's Chekov character never appeared in the animated Star Trek due to budget reasons, however, he is credited with writing an episode of that series titled "The Infinite Vulcan", making him the first "original 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 his role of Pavel 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, due out in 2014.

Later work[edit]

Koenig at ComicCon in Dallas, 2007

After Chekov, Koenig had a starring role as Psi Cop Alfred Bester on the television series Babylon 5. Koenig was the "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. He also 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 also filmed a few FMV sequences for a re-released copy of the game Star Trek Starfleet Academy for PCs.

Koenig's film, stage and TV roles span fifty years. He has played everything from a teenage gang leader (Alfred Hitchcock Presents) to Scandinavian fiance Gunnar (Gidget) TV Show: COMBAT! s.1 ep.12: "The Prisoner" (1962) Minor role as soldier on guard duty, to a Las Vegas entertainer (I Spy). He also had a short role in the 1976 Columbo episode "Fade in to Murder". He returned to space with a starring role in Moontrap and played a futuristic dictator in the video game Maximum Surge. The game was later cancelled. During the early 90's 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. In addition to acting, he has written several films (Actor, 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 also 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.[10] 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 4 issues of the mini-series of the same name.[11]

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, Koenig directed stage versions of two of the original Twilight Zone episodes for Letter Entertainment.[12]

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.

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.

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.

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

Koenig received the 2,279th star of the Hollywood Walk of Fame on September 10, 2012.[13]

In 2013, Koenig ventured into the steampunk genre, starring in the short film Cowboys & Engines alongside Malcolm McDowell and Richard Hatch.[14] He also played an evil newspaper tycoon in Blue Dream from director Gregory Hatanaka.

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 July 25, 2007.

Personal life[edit]

Koenig married Judy Levitt in 1965. In 1968 they had a son, actor Andrew Koenig, who committed suicide in 2010.[15][16] They have a daughter, Danielle, who is married to comedian Jimmy Pardo.[17]

In September 2008, Koenig served as best man at the wedding of his Star Trek co-star George Takei to Brad Altman.[18]


  1. ^ "Walter Koenig Biography (1936-)". Retrieved 2012-12-17. 
  2. ^ "Walter Koenig Biography - Yahoo! Movies". 2011-04-20. Retrieved 2012-12-17. 
  3. ^ a b "Walter Koenig's Authorized Biography". Star Traveler Publications. Retrieved May 7, 2011. 
  4. ^ a b Jesse Wente interview with Walter Koenig, Q, CBC Radio, August 28, 2009
  5. ^ a b c d "Walter Koenig - Chekov in the Original Star Trek". BBC. Retrieved May 7, 2011. 
  6. ^ a b Davis, Lauren (2013-09-07). "Gene Roddenberry's 1968 memo on improving Star Trek's characters". io9. Retrieved 7 September 2013. 
  7. ^ Vejvoda, Jim and Phil Pirrello. "Star Trek: The Original Series - Season 2 Review.", September 18, 2009.
  8. ^ Michael Weinfeld (June 5, 2008). "George Takei and partner plan to wed in September". USA Today. Associated Press. Retrieved 2008-10-24.
  9. ^ William Shatner's Star Trek Memories — documentary film, released 1995.
  10. ^ Eternity Smith (vol.2) #9 cover, Mile High Comics website. Retrieved July 28, 2012.
  11. ^
  12. ^ "4 Letter Entertainment". 4 Letter Entertainment. Retrieved 2012-12-17. 
  13. ^ "Walter Koenig To Become The Last Star Trek Original To Land Star". August 29, 2012. 
  14. ^ "Cowboys & Engines at". IMDB. 
  15. ^ Duke, Alan (February 25, 2010). "Missing actor's body found in Vancouver park, source says". CNN. Archived from the original on February 27, 2010. 
  16. ^ Fisher, Luchina (February 26, 2010). "Andrew Koenig's Long, Losing Battle With Depression". ABC News. Retrieved 2015-01-07. 
  17. ^
  18. ^ Michael Weinfeld (June 5, 2008). "George Takei and partner plan to wed in September". Associated Press. Retrieved 2008-10-24. 

External links[edit]