Saturday, December 08, 2007

I’d met Walter Koenig at a couple of conventions, but this interview was conducted by phone. We talked about InAlienable, about the new Paramount Star Trek movie (and the new Chekov), and about the aforementioned independent Trek films, and future projects. He mentions his frustration with Star Trek VI, which he also writes about in his autobiographical book, Warped Factors. But in that book he also writes about the pleasure he took in working on Chekov’s scenes in Star Trek IV, and on his final Paramount appearance as Chekov in Star Trek: Generations.

I also asked him about Burma. Burma is ruled by a despotic military dictatorship that engages in repression and ethnic cleansing, resulting in the destruction of over 3,000 villages—more than were destroyed in Darfur in that better-known turmoil—and causing thousands of refugees to flee for their lives.

The political and human rights situation in that country flared into the news recently, but months before that, Koenig and his son, Andrew, had traveled to the bordering country of Thailand to meet with refugees driven out of Burma, in order to bring some badly needed public attention to their plight. Before the recent huge demonstrations led by Buddhist monks, and the subsequent arrests and killings and international attention, he was just about the only celebrity talking about Burma and the atrocities that had gone virtually unnoticed. But we’ve come to expect such foresight as well as courage, compassion and intelligence from the crew of the Enterprise.

An element that our conversation added to my impression of him, which was confirmed by reading Warped Factors, is that he is an acting and writing professional, comfortable with the vocabulary of those professions and what that vocabulary means.

Walter Koenig attended Grinnell College in Iowa and UCLA. He was an acting student at the famous Neighborhood Playhouse in New York before returning to Los Angeles. He’s acted in live theatre (including several plays with Mark Lenard, who created the character of Sarek), taught acting, and has written for TV and film (which means he is a member of the Writers Guild, so we also talked briefly about the writers’ strike going on at the time of our conversation.)

I’ve edited the interview to make my questions sound less dorky, and to organize the subject matter being discussed.

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