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The Shat boldly goes on another trek

William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy in San Francisco in "Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home."

LOS ANGELES -- All right, now, we already know how Catherine Hicks felt about that tender little romantic moment in "Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home," the one where she shares a gentle kiss with Adm. James T. Kirk and after he says "Beam me up, Scotty," she leaps into his arms and travels with him to the 23rd century.

We remember the wistful tone in her voice when she said that she argued for the scene, "because every farewell should have at least one violin." We know all the mushy stuff. But here is William Shatner to explain the same scene:"You know, Kirk has always had a history of being a bit of a ladies' man. So this wasn't exactly his first kiss in 'Star Trek' history. Actually, it wasn't even so much of a love scene. Romance takes time, and he's in a big hurry to get those humpback whales back to the 23rd century. When you're saving the world, you don't have time to pause and think."

If Adm. Kirk has a girl in every spaceport, Shatner himself apparently makes friends less easily. When asked about what I presumed was the long-standing bond of friendship among the "Star Trek" gang, who are celebrating the 20th anniversary of the first televised voyage of Starship Enterprise, he responded with a rather detached analysis:

"The truth is this. Leonard Nimoy and I are very dear friends. We don't see each other too much socially, but we feel a certain brotherhood, a fondness. Both of us are fond of DeForest Kelley (who plays "Bones" McCoy, the space surgeon). But we see him less. We all had lunch today, laughing and scratching. We share 20 years, if not of soul-binding friendship, then of respect.

"The rest of the cast is more distant. Even while we were making the television series, we would work so hard, we didn't have time to socialize much, and in the intervening years, there was no real association. Making the film was a long, arduous process, and between shots, I preferred to spend most of my time in my dressing room, reading. I didn't see too much of the cast. There wasn't a lot of camaraderie. But with the three of us, it's very real."

Was the friendship between Nimoy and yourself threatened when he became your director for the past two movies? Suddenly one old friend was telling the other what to do.

"We cotton to one another," Shatner said. "We fought the good battles together. We would fight Gene Roddenberry (the TV series' creator) when he was wrong. There'd be a situation like when they wanted me to hold some object in my hand because they wanted to market it as a toy, and I would refuse. Leonard and I stuck together on those fights.

"Then came the day when Leonard was to direct. I was now alone as an actor against management, which Nimoy represented as the director. That was sometimes hard. But in another way it was good, because with Leonard directing, it was like the Enterprise crew had mutinied, and taken control of the ship: We were at last directing our own fates.

"None of us liked the first 'Star Trek' movie. It tried to be 'Star Wars' and forgot everything the original series stood for. Now, in these more recent movies, we have returned to the original inspiration."

It has already been announced that Shatner himself will direct "Star Trek V: The Final Frontier," which goes into production in 1987. That will put Nimoy back in the ranks of the actors and make Shatner part of management. What goes around, comes around. What will the next movie be about?

"In a way, I don't want to say," Shatner said. "There should be some surprises. Let's say it's about the things that grow more important as you grow older. It deals with an emotion that is universal, and our search to find it brings about a collision among us. An interfraternal conflict."

Will there be any end to the "Star Trek" saga, or will the movies continue indefinitely?

"They will continue to be successful, I think, as long as we value the franchise and are true to the heritage," Shatner said, "and that means we have to keep people thinking and entertained, and keep ourselves viable."

Will the series ever get more emotionally frank? Will there ever be a "Star Trek" movie in which the romance goes beyond that simple little kiss you shared with Hicks?

"For the first movie, I suggested an idea which was turned down, in which there was a female robot with no emotions, and I make love to her, because if she can be made to feel emotion, humanity will be saved. They didn't like that idea," Shatner said. "I did."

You could have asked her, I said, if it was as good for her as it was for mankind.

"Something like that," Shatner replied.

Roger Ebert

Roger Ebert was the film critic of the Chicago Sun-Times from 1967 until his death in 2013. In 1975, he won the Pulitzer Prize for distinguished criticism.

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