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Friday, April 05, 2024

What Was Chekov's Greatest Feat?

In "The Best of Both Worlds," the USS Enterprise-D arrives too late to participate in the Battle of Wolf 359. Commander Riker, Commander Shelby, and the rest of the bridge crew see the wreckage of 39 Starfleet vessels floating in space. 

"The Tolstoy...the Kyushu...the Melbourne," Shelby intones mournfully as wreckage drifts across the Enterprise viewscreen. 

The Tolstoy Shelby mentions was originally intended to be the USS Chekhov or Chekov, according to different sources. Though you never see it close enough to distinguish, the modelmakers settled the question by spelling the Springfield-class ship miniature's name as Chekov. At the last moment, though, the showrunners realized it was a pretty somber event for the name-dropping of original series character Pavel Chekov, so Shelby's dialogue references the Tolstoy instead. 

Still, this leaves continuity nerds with an interesting issue to ponder: Because the USS Chekov exists canonically (it was seen on screen in an episode, the miniature has Chekov's name on it, and it appears the majority of the creatives who worked on the episode intended for the ship to be named after Pavel Chekov). What, then, did Pavel Chekov do during his career or in his civilian life to deserve this rare honour? There is no USS Kirk, USS Spock, or USS Scott. Chekov may be a legend by association, and he played a role in saving Earth and the Federation more than once, but surely Starfleet would recognize his superior officers before Chekov himself. 

Indeed, whether or not Chekov ever rose above the rank of commander is ambiguous. The last time we see him on screen, in the opening scenes of Star Trek: Generations, Chekov wears a commander's rank, though a reporter calls him "Captain Chekov." There are two ways to take this: the reporter mistook Chekov's rank, or knew that Chekov had just been promoted or was about to be promoted, but hadn't changed his rank insignia yet. I like to imagine Chekov had the right stuff to be captain one day, so I assume the latter. Indeed, some behind-the-scenes materials assert Chekov was supposed to be a captain in Generations, but that they couldn't find any more of the metal captain rank pins to affix to his uniform. 

For the purposes of this question, I'm going to assume that Chekov did indeed reach the rank of captain and that he had adventures of his own after leaving the Enterprise-A in 2293. 

We hear nothing at all about Chekov until the third season finale of Star Trek: Picard, set in the year 2402. As that finale opens, we hear the voice of President of the Federation, Anton Chekov (played by original Chekov actor Walter Koenig), quoting his father, Pavel, that "hope is never lost" even as he warns everyone to stay away from Earth, as it's under attack by the Borg. 

Pavel Chekov never said "Hope is never lost" in any of his onscreen appearances, though he might have said it "offscreen" at any time during his career, either as a fresh young ensign or a veteran captain or admiral. (Chekov jokingly refers to himself as an admiral during the hospital chase scene in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.) Even so, his son Anton uses the phrase in a way that suggests many of the people in his (very large) audience will understand the reference. 

I propose that sometime after 2293, Pavel Chekov--Captain Chekov of the Federation Starship Unrevealed at This Point in Time--led his crew on a historic mission with desperate stakes and impossible odds. Maybe he saved an entire civilization from extinction; perhaps he inspired the Federation with a brave act of sacrifice; maybe he wrote a great novel that included the words quoted by his son. 

We'll likely never know. I would be shocked if Chekov is ever seen again in visual media; Koenig's voiceover role in Picard was a surprising and very welcome gift, but I'm sure that's the last we've heard of the character (and even then it was an indirect reference). 

And yet, despite poor Walter Koenig getting less accumulated screen time or character development than the rest of the original series main actors, his character definitely leaves a lasting legacy in his universe, one that rivals those of even Kirk and Spock (as measured by the in-universe impact of those legacies). 

Nice work, Pavel. We'll probably never learn what you did, but you clearly made a difference to the people of your corner of the multiverse. 

1 comment:

Jeff Shyluk said...

Poor Larry Chekov, the inventor of the Post-It Note, forgotten and uncelebrated.