Ensign Pavel Chekov (portrayed by Walter Koenig and Anton Yelchin), a Russian officer aboard the starship Enterprise, was not an original character to the series. Chekov didn’t appear on the show until the second season. However, aired In the middle of the Cold War, with the Soviet Union holding strong in Eurasia, why did Gene Roddenberry choose to add a young Russian character to the show? While nobody really knows for sure, the rumor is that an editorial in the communist newspaper Pravda had criticized the lack of a soviet crewman aboard the U.S.S Enterprise.
Originally, Roddenberry was looking for a young, Beatles/Monkees type guy to draw in the younger crowd. He wanted a fresh, spirited Englishman. Chekov did appear on show with the signature “mop-top” hair-do inspired by the Beatles and Monkees. But rather than being an Englishman, Chekov was distinctly Russian. Herb Solow, who was the Vice President of Production of Desilu Studios, explained that Pravda had criticized Star Trek as being “typically capitalistic” and questioned why there was no Russian aboard, claiming that Russia was doing quite well in the space race. Supposedly, Gene Roddenberry loved the idea of a Russian, and thus the character of Pavel Chekov was created. Roddenberry even wrote a letter of apology to the Soviet Union for not having a Russian character on the show originally, yet he never heard a reply.
However, there is still question as to whether or not the Pravda actually did publish an article criticizing Star Trek. There has been no proof that such an article existed. After all, Star Trek didn’t even run in the Soviet Union during its original run. Not even Gene Roddenberry admitted to seeing the actual article, just that he had heard it from somebody else (a specific person was never identified). In “Star Trek Memories” by William Shatner, he merely stated that the whole thing was just a publicity stunt. Whether the article existed or not, Gene Roddenberry genuinely believed there was.
By Ezri Thomas
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