''I'd had this idea for a number of years,'' says William Shatner, poking at a dish of stir-fried vegetables in the New York Palace hotel. ''A scenario to do with Kirk and age and a young lady.'' It was an idea that Shatner who played the original Star Trek's spacely stud, Capt. James Tiberius Kirk intended as a screenplay. But when asked to write a Star Trek novel the first cast member to do so he went for it.
The outcome, The Ashes of Eden, is the first of a trilogy, reuniting the original Enterprise crew six months before Kirk's death in an adventure that bears all the trademarks of the 1966-69 TV series. As ever, Kirk is stubborn, determined, and ultimately right; Spock and McCoy pick up their verbal sparring without missing a beat; and the rest of the crew remain loyal to their captain no matter what. Kirk's advancing age figures heavily in the plot. And according to Shatner, his Eden love the seductive Klingon-Romulan damsel-in-distress Teilani is unlike Kirk's earlier romances. ''Because this could be the last one, it's all the more dear, all the more intense. The other ones,'' he says, dismissing three years of on-air philandering with a wave of his fork, ''they were just casual.''
A restless spirit facing retirement. Are there any parallels between the captain's and Shatner's own universe? ''Oh, I hope not,'' he smiles, and quickly lists the projects that keep him busy. Aside from the Trek trilogy, he's working on the next book in his best-selling TekWar series, a TekWar CD-ROM game due out in time for Christmas, and a movie he's directing called Virtual Hero, which is now in preproduction.
''The similarity between the fiction of Kirk and the reality of me is that youth is a matter of staying connected with youth,'' he says, sounding very Kirk-like. And, indeed, you get the distinct impression that he'd succumb to the lure of Eden and Teilani in a heartbeat.