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Tuesday, March 28, 2017

A Sendoff for Chekov

Actor Anton Yelchin died last year in a freak accident, a great tragedy for him and his family and loved ones. Having just seen Green Room, in which Yelchin delivers a fantastic performance, I feel even more badly that he's lost the opportunity to share even more of his talent with the world.

As Ensign Chekov in the rebooted Star Trek films, Yelchin didn't have much screen time, but he infused every moment with humour, personality, and grace. Chekov has always been one of my favourite Star Trek characters, and Yelchin's contributions to the three reboot movies helped me accept the films as "real" Star Trek, as well as confirming my love of the character himself.

If there's a fourth film in this particular series of Star Trek movies, I hope the producers of that film find a way to acknowledge Yelchin's role in their success. It seems to me they have three ways they can approach the loss of the actor:

1) Ignore it. Chekov simply fails to appear in the film, with no explanation, in much the same way that other characters vanished without a trace. .
2) Give the character a happy ending. In a scene at the beginning of the film, have the surviving characters discuss Chekov's promotion to science officer of another ship, while noting how young he is for such a post, a reflection of the character's already established status as a prodigy. This is a comforting option, and I'd be content with it.
3) Have Kirk and Spock, near the beginning of the film, commiserate about losing Chekov to another ship; from Kirk's point of view, he's lost a line officer with great potential, while Spock loses the officer he was mentoring. Then go about the adventure of the film, which comes to a successful conclusion, of course, and the characters celebrate with perhaps a bit too much smugness. But in the film's coda, Kirk and Spock receive the news that in an unrelated incident, Chekov has been lost in action. The surviving characters are reminded that space isn't just a lighthearted romp, that exploration is and always will be dangerous, and that the good and the young will die before their time. Ideally, the screenwriters, will be able to tie this revelation to the major theme of the film, so that it doesn't seem tacked on.

I think this last option, while painful, pays the most respect to Anton Yelchin and to the character he played. There is a counter-argument to be made - would the producers be exploiting the grief of the Yelchin family by doing this? Possibly, because we are talking about a tentpole movie, one meant to make hundreds of millions of dollars for Paramount. There's something to be said for letting characters and, more importantly, the people who portray them, rest in peace without further ballyhoo.

Whatever the producers choose to do, I hope they consult Yelchin's loved ones before they decide how to address the actor's absence. 

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