Was there always talk of a return before the first feature film was made?
No. When Gene Roddenberry called up in the Spring of 1969 and said itís been a pleasure working with you and I hope we do it again sometime, it sounded like the kind of salutation that one gives when something is over, you know. It was a nice gesture but certainly no one took it literally. Nor do I think that Gene did initially, although his perseverance and his tenacity were to be admired because I think after NBC cancelled the show Gene perhaps kept the rumours going that we would come back.
But for the longest time I donít think anyone believed that there was a chance in hell of this actually eventuating. When the rumours became stronger and there certainly seemed to be some factual evidence of a possibility of a return, that evidence kept dissolving. The first time I think ever was like in í75 when Gene wrote everybody a note and said, 'Weíre gonna come back Ė Iím gonna lose some weight, I hope everybody else does too' and nothing happened. He also wrote to everybody or called everybody with the exception of me and told them that we were gonna do a show, they were gonna do another Star Trek series etc. Etc.
When I called him and asked him why I didnít receive such a missive, he explained that the show that he had in mind was gonna take place five years before the series and since I was already playing a character whom I was nine years older than, and three or four years had already passed, I would be ending up playing a character who I was actually 19 years the senior to. So it didnít appear that I was gonna be in it but he mentioned that he would like to have me participate as Checkovís father, he mentioned that to me.
But anyway to go on - we went in for costume fitting and I was applauding myself about the fact that - this was another year later or two years later - that I could still fit into my uniform, and kind of snickering very self righteously about how I could and people could not. And I got home and I had not been home 15 minutes when I got a call saying weíll cancelling the final fittings, weíre not going forward. And this went on and on, even after we signed the contracts. We postpone.
We had this huge press conference at Paramount and Eisner and Katzenberg as well as Gene Roddenberry spoke. Leonard and Bill got up and spoke and everybody was very excited about the prospect of going into production. Robert Weiss was there, our director and of course it was postponed again. So it went on and on that way and after a while oneís tendency is to be a bit cynical and not in fact did we Ė until we actually began shooting that day... Not the first shot mind you, it was the third shot of the day when Kirk comes through the elevator door and Uhura, Sulu and Checkov rush up to meet him. We stopped for them to set the lights for that shot, and only then did I believe that we were definitely going to make this movie. So it was a long time coming.