When last seen in 1989's Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, and DeForest Kelley were huddled around a campfire, singing ''Row, Row, Row Your Boat.'' Neither critics nor audiences were amused. The $52 million in ticket sales, less than half of what the previous Trek film had earned, seemed sure to send the Enterprise into permanent dry dock.
But, at the urging of ex-Paramount chairman Frank Mancuso, Nimoy dreamed up one last story line, which he took to Nicholas Meyer, director of the lively Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. His premise for what would supposedly be the Enterprise's final voyage: The Federation has begun peace negotiations with the warlike Klingons, when suddenly...With Meyer directing, the film began shooting April 16 under heavy secrecy. But this much is known: For much of the movie, Captain Kirk and Dr. McCoy (Kelley) are together in prison and George Takei's Mr. Sulu is separated from the crew. Nimoy's Mr. Spock discovers a Vulcan love interest in Kim Cattrall's Lieutenant Valeris. And there have been hints that political intrigue within the crumbling Klingon empire bears a prescient resemblance to recent events in the Soviet Union.
Even though the studio insists Star Trek VI, to be released Dec. 13, will be the original cast's last flight, the final day of filming was remarkably unsentimental. ''By the time we finished the last scene, which extended longer than we expected, there was a sense of irritation,'' Shatner says. ''We raised a glass of champagne, but everybody was actually a little antsy.'' Despite unconfirmed rumors of Kirk's demise, Meyer insists all the main characters survive. Which suggests that, the box office willing, it may not be all that final. As Meyer admits, ''In a funny way, once you've killed a character'' as he dispatched Spock in Star Trek II ''and brought him back to life, there is no such thing as a final ending.''