It was the most spectacular intergalactic moment since Spock was resurrected from the dead in Star Trek III. At last week's ShoWest convention in Las Vegas, Patrick Stewart and William Shatner, Star Trek's two famed captains, announced plans for the long-awaited melding of their sci-fi series. ''The morning after The Next Generation aired for the first time (in 1987),'' began Stewart, ''I was gassing my car when someone stopped me and said, 'I loved your show are you guys making a movie?' But I knew that a (Next Generation) movie would have to have Bill Shatner.'' He then turned to Shatner and said proudly, ''In three weeks we will be sharing the same set.''
On March 24, Star Trek: Generations begins filming in L.A. But getting Generations off the ground has been more trouble than a Tribble. The seventh film in the Trek movie franchise (which has grossed more than $475 million in the U.S. alone), Generations will focus on Capt. Jean-Luc Picard (Stewart), who must rescue Capt. James Kirk (Shatner) from what a source calls a ''terribly destructive phenomenon that travels through space where past, present, and futures converge.'' One of the project's biggest stumbling blocks, however, has been trying to figure out who'll be joining Kirk and Picard on the bridge.
Shatner will most likely share space with some other Trek regulars, including Nichelle Nichols and DeForest Kelley, but not Leonard Nimoy. ''I was sent the script that (producer) Rick Berman wrote and was asked to direct as well as act in it,'' says Nimoy, who directed Star Trek III. ''I told Rick what my concerns were, he told me he thought there wasn't enough time to address them, and we parted company.'' Nimoy, who appeared in a two-part episode of Next Generation in 1991, won't elaborate on why he turned down the movie, and will say only, ''I just didn't respond to (the script). I wish them bon voyage.'' He adds, ''I am sad about it.''
Not all is shipshape with the younger crew, either. Every Next Generation cast member has been invited to participate in the movie, but only Marina Sirtis (Deanna Troi), Jonathan Frakes (Will Riker), and Whoopi Goldberg (who has had a recurring role on the series) have signed on. Brent Spiner, who plays Data, is still in contract negotiations with Paramount. ''Has every negotiation been signed, sealed, and delivered? No,'' says Berman. ''Am I confident that they'll all be in the movie? Yes.''
Despite a few cosmetic changes the crew will don spiffier uniforms director David Carson (who helmed the premiere of Deep Space Nine) insists the movie will stay true to Next Generation. Berman sees only one major difference: ''After seven years in TV, we couldn't resist one change there is a four-letter word in there.''
But that's not the only surprise. While Generations has been scripted to end with the death of Kirk, one production source says don't count on it. ''He's probably the most beloved character,'' says the source. ''Kirk may be stuck in the 21st century forever, if Shatner has an opinion.'' After all, there's always the possibility of an eighth Trek movie. ''We're not planning to do a sequel,'' says Berman, ''but we commissioned two original scripts and the other one is far from dead. When we see how this movie performs, we may start reworking the other.'' It sounds logical even to Nimoy. ''I'm not sure the fat lady has sung yet,'' he says of his involvement in Star Trek. ''Anything is possible in science fiction.''