News dropped yesterday that even before Star Trek Beyond hits theaters, plans are already in motion to make a Star Trek 4. But with one cast member who will be unable to return, what does that mean for the future of Chekov? Anton Yelchin tragically died last month in a car accident, meaning that his portrayal of the Enterprise helmsman will not be able to be part of any future Star Trek films. So what is the plan to deal with the loss? Producer J.J. Abrams isn't saying anything for certain yet, but it certainly sounds like there are no plans to recast the role.
The early buzz surrounding Star Trek Beyond has been very good, so it's no surprise that Paramount would go ahead and green-light a fourth entry in the newest franchise before the current film has even been released. However, the first question that many would have is what happens to Pavel Chekov? Anton Yelchin passed away after production on Beyond had already wrapped up, so there was no way to write a send off into the current script. It's even possible they could simply recast the role with a new actor and move on like nothing happened. However, J.J. Abrams tells the Toronto Sun that he doesn't really see that as an option.
I would say there's no replacing him. There's no recasting. I can't possibly imagine that, and I think Anton deserves better. ... I have thought about [how he'll be replaced], we're working on it, and it's too early to talk about it.
So, while we don't know what will happen, it seems pretty clear what won't be happening. One way or another Pavel Chekov will be leaving the Enterprise, as the actor has had to do as well. This is likely the best choice. Recasting is always tricky, as audiences rarely accept new actors in film franchises after they've become comfortable with the first one. In addition, replacing Anton Yelchin and simply moving on would likely not be appreciated by fans. So, now that we know that Chekov will be written out, the question becomes: what is J.J. Abrams thinking in regards to a way to do that?
There are the simple ways to do it. Chekov could be transferred to another ship and simply not seen. Alternatively, if they want to pay tribute to him on screen, they could have Chekov be killed in the time between films, and open with a service for the character. They could even potentially make the character's death the thing that drives the plot of the new film, making Kirk and company search out the cause of Chekov's death.
Of course, there's also an interesting path the movie could take. The one thing that we know about the new Star Trek movie is that Captain Kirk will, somehow, cross paths with his deceased father. This implies that time travel will be involved in the movie in some capacity. Perhaps time travel will be the plot solution to the loss of Anton Yelchin. Perhaps the crew will attempt time travel as a response to Chekov's death, or the result of the time traveling could somehow mean the loss of Chekov from the timeline.
At this point, it's impossible to guess, but with science fiction the possibilities are endless.