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Shatner, Nimoy and 40 years of 'Star Trek'

By Douglas Cannon Hyde
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LOS ANGELES, California (CNN) -- William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy first appeared as "Star Trek's" Capt. James T. Kirk and his first officer, Mr. Spock, on September 8, 1966 -- 40 years ago Friday.

Nobody has let them forget it since.

Indeed, Shatner and Nimoy seem downright, uh, reluctant to answer questions about that anniversary. Perhaps they're tired of hearing fans ask them about time travel in "City on the Edge of Forever." Or Vulcan mating rituals in "Amok Time." Or what it was like to wear pointy ears for three years on TV -- and many more on film. (Watch Nimoy talk about John Wayne's strange comments -- 3:13)

After innumerable anniversaries, interviews, conventions, books, press junkets, red carpet arrival lines, DVD featurettes and commentaries, it's abundantly clear: They are so over "Star Trek."

If you ask them what still gets them fired up about the late producer Gene Roddenberry's creation after all these years, you get an answer that -- underneath the glibness -- is very telling:


NIMOY: Yeah. The big, the big bucks.

SHATNER: Money. The money gets you fired up.

TOGETHER: The biiiig bucks.


SHATNER: Yes, that was serious. We were very serious about that.

NIMOY: Yeah. But seriously, folks.

They aren't the only ones whose affections are waning.

The 40th anniversary finds the venerable sci-fi franchise at a crossroads. "Enterprise" was canceled after only four seasons and the last "Trek" film, "Nemesis," was a critical and box office disappointment. (Gallery: The legacy of "Star Trek")

There also have been suggestions that Paramount, "Trek's" studio, is milking the franchise dry. Even "Trek" producer Rick Berman acknowledged "franchise fatigue" before the demise of "Enterprise."

Some "Trek" critics have even said the unsayable: It's time for "Star Trek" to declare victory and leave the field of battle, while it still has some dignity left and before the brand name is further tarnished. (Watch Shatner and Nimoy wonder about the "Star Trek" cartoon -- 3:49)

Shatner and Nimoy, in their Mutt-and-Jeff way, don't buy it.

SHATNER: So you want Paramount to say we've made enough money?

NIMOY: Let's stop making money. Yeah.

SHATNER: Yeah, yeah.

NIMOY: The stockholders won't mind.

SHATNER: No, and we've --

NIMOY: We should stop making money.

SHATNER: Folks, we've made enough money, we're walking away --

NIMOY: We're going to take a break --

SHATNER: Yes. It's been a wonderful ride --

NIMOY: We're going on vacation --

SHATNER: And no more money.

NIMOY: Right. Off to an island someplace and just ...

SHATNER: We'll just handle the books in a different way and make it look like we made something.

NIMOY: Watch the sunset and forget about money...


NIMOY: And your investment? Oh, don't worry about it, you know.

SHATNER: It's going to be OK.

NIMOY: We'll get around to that someday.

SHATNER: You'll have some other shows.

NIMOY: Yeah, we don't want to make any more money. No.

Not that Paramount is listening to the critics. Plans are under way for another "Trek" film in 2008, with J.J. Abrams, fresh off his success with "Alias," "Lost" and "Mission: Impossible 3" slated to take over the reins. Word is the film will be about a young Kirk and Spock. Abrams gets the endorsement of the guys:

NIMOY: He's a talented person. He's talented.

SHATNER: He's going to call Leonard. He talked about calling Leonard for advice.

NIMOY: He's talented. We'll help him in any way we can.

SHATNER: As long as they meet Leonard's price.

Then there are the original episodes, the 79 shows fans got to know by heart through their endless airings in syndication. As part of the 40th anniversary celebration, TVLand will begin showing them in their original broadcast order in November. The show is also returning to broadcast syndication for the first time in 16 years. The episodes will begin airing on the more than 200 stations that own the rights starting September 16.

Perhaps the best news for fans -- though some purists may be upset -- is that the original episodes have been remastered in high definition and will include new special effects shots. (Watch Shatner and Nimoy talk about "Star Trek's" old special effects -- 3:49)

Not bad for a show that appeared to be dead on June 3, 1969, leaving Nimoy to join "Mission: Impossible," Shatner to take guest roles and "Saturday Night Live" to produce a great sketch about the show's demiseexternal link.

So why are we still talking about it?

Shatner has an answer that's he's probably been giving for 40 years. No matter how rote it sounds it's still undeniably true:

SHATNER: It's the characters, it's the uniqueness. [It's] Mr. Spock. It is the relationship between Spock and Kirk. It is the relationship that the three of us had, the compadres, the family. The levels of meaning of the show. The uniqueness of the science fiction at that time. It was all that and many other things, but the curious thing is, nobody really knows. So anything you say is as valid as anything we could say. 'Cause if we knew what it was --

NIMOY: We'd do it again.

SHATNER: And again. And to keep trying. And I haven't got it yet.

"Star Trek" is celebrating 40 years since its premiere on September 8, 1966.

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