This Star Trek: Picard article contains spoilers.
In its third season, Star Trek: Picard has been all about voices from the past. Given the show’s title character, most of those voices have unsurprisingly come from the era of The Next Generation. But in the opening minutes of the Picard series finale, we hear a voice that goes back even further into Star Trek history: that of Original Series star Walter Koenig, who voices his character’s offspring, Federation president Anton Chekov.
“Do not approach Earth,” warns President Chekov in a transmission to Starfleet survivors, including the crew of the newly-revived Enterprise-D. “Signal of unknown origin has turned our young against us. They have been assimilated by the Borg. Our fleet has been compromised, and as we speak, our planetary defenses are falling. Sol Station is defending Earth as best it can, but we’re almost out of time. We have not been able to find a way to stop this Borg signal and unassimilate our young. But I know that if my father were here, he’d remind us all that hope is never lost. There are always possibilities. Until then, I implore you, save yourselves. Farewell.”
Even if the name threw you off for a moment, you certainly would have recognized Koenig’s voice. From the second season of The Original Series all the way to Star Trek: Generations, Koenig played Pavel Chekov, the Russian navigator of the Enterprise under the command of James T. Kirk. Of course, Pavel Chekov would be far too old to lead the Federation during Picard‘s 25th-century setting. So the voice you hear isn’t that of Pavel, but of his son Anton.
Anton’s final warning to survivors is followed by the sounds of chaos in the background, as an aide urges him to make his way to an escape pod. Then the transmission cuts out and we’re left wondering if President Chekov has met his end just as we were getting to know him. It’s possible we’ll never know — unless we meet him again in a potential Star Trek: Legacy? We’ll see.
The name Anton is a nod to the second actor to play Pavel Chekov, Anton Yelchin, who portrayed Chekov in the three Kelvin-verse Star Trek films, starting with the J.J. Abrams-directed 2009 reboot. Shortly before the release of the third and final (as of this writing) Kelvin movie, Star Trek Beyond, in 2016, Yelchin died in an automobile accident, cutting too short an already impressive life and career. Of course, the name has even deeper roots, as it first belonged to the great Russian author Anton Chekhov. These days, Chekhov is less known for his plays and short stories than for his maxim about narrative cohesion: if there is a gun on the wall in the first act, it must be fired in the third.
And in a clever way, Koenig himself set up a Chekhov’s gun for all Trekkers to see. Like many of the original cast who weren’t William Shatner, Koenig sometimes grew weary of seeing his character underserved by scripts, especially to make room for more Kirk. While The Wrath of Khan gave Koenig arguably more attention than he deserved, as Chekov was not yet on the show when Khan Noonien Singh made his only previous appearance in season one’s “Space Seed,” Chekov’s post-TOS career mostly involved looking for nuclear vessels and dressing like Little Lord Fauntleroy. Chekov even got cut from The Animated Series for budget purposes (even though Koenig did get to write one episode, “The Infinite Vulcan”).
So there was no surprise among Trekkers when, in a 2020 interview with Trek Movie, Koenig announced he had retired from his signature character: “To answer your question, I would not be very receptive to coming back as Chekov with these new iterations,” Koenig said, before placing a proverbial phaser on the wall. “That is not to say I wouldn’t mind coming back as another character. I would love to perform as another character in Picard or one of the other new Star Trek series.”
With the finale of Star Trek: Picard, Chekov’s phaser has finally fired and we are stunned.
Star Trek: Picard season 3 is streaming now on Paramount+.