The Virginian-Pilot
                             THE VIRGINIAN-PILOT 
              Copyright (c) 1994, Landmark Communications, Inc.

DATE: Monday, November 21, 1994              TAG: 9411190080
DATELINE: NEW YORK                           LENGTH: Long  :  160 lines


CAPT. JAMES T. KIRK, meet Capt. Jean-Luc Picard.

Prepare to engage.

The torch is being passed in ``Star Trek: Generations,'' the $30 million production that hands over the movie franchise established by Kirk and the few crew members left from the original Enterprise to the TV cast of ``Star Trek: The Next Generation.''

But was the transition smooth or was it star wars? Stand by, we're going to the captains themselves.

Rumors of clashes persist between William Shatner, 63, who has boldly gone for 30 years, and Patrick Stewart, 54, who helmed the New Enterprise for seven years on TV. Stewart has top billing, but Kirk, reluctantly, gets ``the big scene.''

The least-kept secret in all Trekdom is the fact that Kirk dies in the new movie. Various versions of the script have bounced along the Internet for a year; the actual plot leaked long before Friday's opening.

One of the most emotional scenes in ``Star Trek's'' long history comes when the dying Kirk, lying in Picard's arms, mutters, ``Did we make a difference? Who am I to argue with the captain of the Enterprise?''

Shatner and Stewart gathered in New York last week to talk about themselves, each other and the film. It is Kirk, though, who is dead - and not so happy about it.

``I thought `VI' was the finale,'' Shatner said at the Righa Royal Hotel the morning after the New York premiere. ``Of course, I've thought each one was the last. When we made the first movie, we thought it would be only one. When we made `The Undiscovered Country,' everyone thought it was the farewell.

``Now, this does, really, seem to be the finale for Kirk. Playing that scene on the bridge was, yes, a little more emotional than the usual. I did think about all the years, and the fun, I've had there. Kirk will go on as a cultural phenomenon. I'll still have to live with him. Only the benefits will be gone.''

If Shatner sounds a little bitter, it's not because he wasn't given a royal send-off.

The convoluted plot has him dying not once but twice. He's called back from the Nexus, a kind of afterlife Shangri-La, to help Picard stop the evil Dr. Soran, played by Malcolm McDowell. The white-haired Brit, who worked with Stewart 30 years ago in the Royal Shakespeare Company, is most irreverent about it all.

``I enjoyed killing Bill,'' he said. ``I've wanted to kill Bill Shatner for a long time. I'd love to go back and kill them all, one by one. That would be a nifty living - killing off each member of the Enterprise crew.''

In the original scene, Kirk was shot in the back. On second thought - and hearing roars of disapproval from test audiences - Paramount ordered a reshoot.

McDowell, though, was not pleased about going back to the Valley of Fire in the Nevada desert. ``It looked and felt pretty ridiculous to me - like two old queens rolling in the sand,'' he said. ``We shot for nine straight days in the desert at over 100 degrees. I was told adding the new scene cost $6 million. Everybody else gets phased and they die instantly. It takes Bill Shatner two days to die. I'll admit it looked better in the finished film than it felt when we were playing it.''

Shatner concurred, saying: ``It was not a pleasant experience. I had to crawl through a mass of stuff, underneath a pile of metal. Just when we'd get it right, a plane would go overhead and ruin the whole scene.''

The plot goes from the 23rd century of the original series to the 24th century. ``In all likelihood, I'd just be dead anyway,'' Shatner said. ``They could have just had my picture on the wall and said he passed away. But the idea was ensuring that the new cast would get the best send-off. They wanted the old Enterprise crew to give them a boost this first time out.''

Besides Shatner, only James Doohan (Scotty) and Walter Koenig (Chekhov) accepted the invitation. Leonard Nimoy (Spock) and DeForest Kelley (McCoy) decided their roles were too small.

As for rumors of on-set feuds with his heir, Shatner said there was no conflict. ``The stories, from a certain segment of the press, were outrageous lies,'' he said. ``Patrick has become a friend, a love. He has a sense of humor.''

Stewart, though, acknowledged that it was not without some trepidation that he greeted the prospect of co-starring with Shatner.

``Bill has quite an ugly reputation, mostly from crew members,'' he said. ``On the record, he has made some negative remarks about `The Next Generation.' But we became friends after a convention in Las Vegas when I gave him a ride back to Los Angeles. They had sent the plane for me because I had an early-morning shoot. (During) the flight, Bill and I talked and laughed, and we ended up friends. I look forward to visiting his horse ranch in Kentucky.''

About those horseback scenes in ``Generations'': Trekkies might be shocked to learn their captains wore panty hose under their uniforms.

The two captains are markedly different. Kirk was always the action type; Picard is more sophisticated, cerebral. Brent Spiner, who plays android Data, put it this way: ``It's like Lucy Ricardo meeting Rob Petrie.''

Shatner defines the difference between Kirk and Picard with an anecdote:

``Let's just say if Kirk and Picard both had a villain cornered and they told him they were going to count to three before they shot him, Kirk would go, `One-two-bang!' Picard could go, `One-two-two and a half. I mean what I say.' ''

Stewart laughed at the story and said: ``Bill has it wrong in one sense. Picard would never get in the situation that he'd have to shoot in the first place.''

The night of the New York premiere of ``Star Trek: Generations,'' the audience booed and cheered when Shatner's name flashed on the screen. Shatner said he has rubbed some people the wrong way - Doohan has called him an egomaniac - but ``it's just that not everyone gets my sense of humor.''

Shatner then laughed when he recalled another story. He was hiking in remote country, got lost and tried to thumb a ride. ``A little old lady slowed down, took a look at me, gave me the finger, and yelled, `Beam me up, Scotty' as she stepped on the gas.''

Nothing, seemingly, could stop ``Star Trek'' - not the Klingons, not NBC, not the passage of time.

The brainchild of Gene Roddenberry, a former airline pilot and Los Angeles police officer who died in 1991, it was turned down by CBS before it finally debuted on NBC on Sept. 8, 1966, running against ``My Three Sons'' and ``Bewitched.''

Jeffrey Hunter had the captain's role in the pilot and could have starred in the series but turned it down. Jack Lord demanded 50 percent ownership of the show to take the role and was told to go where no man had gone before. Lloyd Bridges thought a space show would harm his career.

``Star Trek'' never made the Top 20, and at the end of two seasons, NBC announced its cancellation. A national write-in campaign netted 1 million letters; NBC changed its mind but put the show on Friday nights at 10, a time when most young fans would not be watching. At the end of the third season, the Enterprise was dry-docked.

Stewart dispels rumors that the cast of ``Next Generation'' was upset about that series' being canceled at the peak of its popularity.

``There is an element of risk in that the TV show is now gone and what if the movie isn't a success,'' he said. ``But it's a small risk. The show had some 30 million viewers a week. If only a third of them turn up at theaters, we have a huge hit.

``Personally, I was glad for the series to end. Seven years is long enough for anything. I know some members of the cast were not pleased that their roles are so small in this movie, but there will be other movies.''

He wants to avoid, at all costs, being known only as Picard. The night before, Stewart had realized a ``lifelong ambition'' - waltzing Leslie Caron around 54th Street in New York for a romantic comedy called ``Let It Be Me.'' He'll soon be seen as a gay interior designer in the comedy ``Jeffrey'' and on Broadway in his award-winning one-man version of Dickens' ``A Christmas Carol.''

``When I'm not in outer space,'' Stewart said, ``I will never play anyone in authority or in uniform.''

Nor is Shatner going quietly. He is starring in and producing ``TekWar,'' a sci-fi series debuting on the USA channel in January. His book ``Star Trek Movie Memories'' is out, and he will do several specials for his ``911'' TV series, a show, he said proudly, that ``has saved hundreds of lives.''

With science fiction, though, you can never count Kirk out. After all, Spock came back after an apparent death. Shatner is not willing to give up the character that has changed his life the past 30 years.

``With time warps and clever writers,'' he said, ``you just never know.'' ILLUSTRATION: Color photos by Paramount Pictures

In the new movie "Star Trek: Generations," Capt. Kirk is killed and

Capt. Jean-Luc Picard from the spinoff TV series takes over as the

focus of future "Star Trek" films.

Patrick Stewart, left, and William Shatner say they are friends and

enjoyed filming.

by CNB