Pravda and Star Trek (1967)

Mr Pavel Chekhov – US Born Walter Koenig – (1967–1994)

On occasion, the average viewer would be mistaken for interpreting many of the logical diatribes of the Vulcan character Spock (played by Leonard Nimoy) as originating straight out of a book written by Marx and Engels! It seems to me, that the series creator Gene Roddenberry – right in the midst of the height of the Cold War, the Space Race and the Hippy Era – managed to infiltrate mainstream American culture with a science-fiction series designed to ‘entertain’ and ‘distract’ the audience from the realities of everyday life. This is not to say that Star Trek denies the reality of existential existence, but as a particularly clever manifestation of political propaganda disguised as ‘entertainment’, it offered a distinctly ‘Socialist’ interpretation of a future world yet to happen, with its roots very much in the present time of its creation. Even today, millions of people around the world who would – without hesitation – describe themselves as ‘capitalist’ – nevertheless spend hundreds of hours of their lives consuming the Star Trek franchise, which by and large has maintained the left-wing trajectory of Roddenberry’s original Socialist vision. What is even more remarkable about this is that Leonard Nimoy (whose parents fled the fighting and social upheaval in and around Russia during the Revolutionary days), often made anti-Russian statements, and was certainly no Socialist. On-set Nimoy is recorded as continuously claiming that he wasn’t being paid enough, and was always at the centre of various individualistic disputes with management. Furthermore, in his 1995 book entitled ‘I Am Spock’ he states that his (Jewish) parents left Russia to escape violence. In fact, his parents came from the Ukraine-Poland border which is not ‘Russian’ and is inhabited by ethnic Ukrinian Roman Catholics. Today, this area lies within the neo-Nazi controlled ‘Maidan’ regime of Western Ukraine, but as Pope Pius the 11th and 12th had committed the Catholic Church to supporting Italian fascism from 1922, and German Nazism from 1933, catholic controlled parts of the Ukraine were dangerous places for Jewish people to be. Indeed, following the Nazi German invasion of that area in 1941, many thousands of Ukrainians actively assisted the Hitlerites in the perpetuation of the holocaust – killing millions of Jews, homosexuals, Romany, disabled and Communists, etc. After the war, and at the request of Pope Pius 12th, Winston Churchill granted 10,000 of these Ukrainians (who had formed a ruthless SS Division), political asylum in Scotland rather than face Soviet Justice, using the cover story that they were innocent Polish Refugees.  Of course, Nimoy says nothing about these events because he is seeking to ‘demonise’ the Russian people in as few words as possible. The Jewish people of the Ukraine were the victims of Ukrainian fascism and not Russian Socialism (the Soviets would go on to found the world’s first Jewish autonomous state in 1934, etc). Again, how Roddenberry persuaded Nimoy to state over and over again the Communistic-sounding ‘The needs of the many out-weigh the needs of the few’ is a minor miracle, considering what appears to be his anti-Socialist perspective. However, as a Socialist I love Leonard Nimoy as a human-being who brought to life one of the greatest (meaningful) and Revolutionary characters Sci-Fi has ever known.  

Mr Pavel Chekhov – Leningrad Born Anton Yelchin – (2009-2016)

Did Pravda publish an article criticising Star Trek in 1967 for not having any ethnically ‘Russian’ characters? I cannot find such a statement on the Russian language internet, or in the Soviet Archive material. This would suggest such an article a) was never published in Pravda, b) was once published in Pravda but has not yet come to light, or c) was once existed but has been destroyed in the upheavals of the 1991 counter-Revolution. I suspect no such article would have been written because it contains no ideological import for the Socialist cause. The USSR was comprised of many different nationalities with Russian being just one. Emphasising the ‘Russian’ ethnicity of a character would have opposed the concept of ‘Internationalism’ if it had originated within the USSR. On the other hand, there is always the possibility that Gene Roddenberry was a Soviet-friendly Communist and that the character of Pavel Chekhov (played by Walter Koenig) could have been a product of discussions between Roddenberry and his Soviet contacts. Although Roddenberry makes reference to a Pravda article no one seems to have read, he could be referring to a conversation he had with Russians (or even fellow American Socialists), and perhaps even ‘believed’ that Pravda had published such an article. This was a time (c. 1967) before the US hand landed on the Moon (in 1969), whilst the USSR had placed the first satellite, the first animal, the first man and first woman in space, and were sending unmanned probes all over the solar system.  I did find, however, that after introducing the ‘Chekhov’ character in 1967, Gene Roddenberry DID wrote a letter to Mikhail Zimyanin, editor of Pravda, informing him about the introduction of a new character, at the same time that he made a press release on NBC (according to Russian language sources).

English Language References: 

https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/russian-crewlette/

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/oral-history-star-trek-180958779/

Russian Language References: 

https://ru.wikipedia.org/wiki/Павел_Чехов

YouTube: I Am Spoke – Leonard Nimoy 

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