When I say “life is strange”, I could be pondering the nature of mortality, and the passage of time, or I could be referencing the fact that a character of Star Trek is based off of one of the Monkees.
Because, on the surface, it just doesn’t seem like there could be any two television shows or pop phenomena more opposite than Star Trek and The Monkees. Star Trek is a thoughtful, mature science fiction with a grown-up audience in mind, and a rather non-commercial agenda. The Monkees, on the other hand, is a fast-paced, goofy, ridiculous piece of psychedelia with little philosophical grounding made to appeal to the rowdy, rock-and-rolling teenaged fans of the Beatles. But there are some similarities between the two shows.
As we’ve seen Star Trek can have a touch of whimsy at times, and The Monkees occasionally delves into deeper themes. Both star tight-knight found-families of endearing characters. But the best known and most well documented intersection between Star Trek and The Monkees, (other than Micky Dolenz’ bizarre fondness for comparing the rock group to Spock…), is the character of Pavel Chekov.
As many fans know, the navigation seat at the helm console was filled by a variety of “navigators of the week” for the first season of Star Trek– which corresponded chronologically with the first season of The Monkees. By the second year of both shows, the Monkees had become a sensation with hordes of young fans throughout the country and the world.
Gene Roddenberry, creator of Star Trek, decided that the show needed a new character to appeal to this younger demographic. He used Davy Jones, the short, British Monkee who was popular with many young women, as a model for this new Character. He was even going to make the young navigator British, according to some reports. But he decided to do something far more groundbreaking, and make Chekov a Russian on Cold War-era American television.
You’ve probably figured out by now that Chekov is my favorite Star Trek character. He’s young, and kind of short, but he aspires to be great. Even though he joined the crew late, he manages to fit right in with everyone else on the bridge. He’s a mischief maker, with all his jokes about things being inwented in Russia. He looks up to Captain Kirk like a father figure. I see a bit of myself in Chekov. Sometimes, seeing the way he reacts to things helps me understand the way I react to things a little better. He’s someone I can root for.
It’s all Chekov’s fault that I’m in this mess, too.
My brother watched The Monkees for awhile while I was in high school, but I thought it was dumb at the time, (and probably bad because it was made in the 60s but I have recovered from that belief). Then, after I started watching Star Trek again, and found out the backstory of my favorite character, I decided to give The Monkees another chance. Oops. Now, only two short years later, I have made my own tablecloth poncho, briefly met Micky Dolenz, and listened to Headquarters for approximately a year straight. Plus I’ve been dragged deep into the world of 60s rock. I guess I’ve got The Monkees to thank for Pavel Chekov, and Chekov to thank for getting me into the Monkees.