THE MOST disturbing news to emanate from Hollywood in quite some time is that Paramount Pictures will begin filming "Star Trek VI" this spring, once again forcing movie audiences to boldly go where we've gone five dreary times before.
Reportedly, all the members of the original cast are returning, even though they'd doubtless be better off, career-wise, leaving their phones off the hook and ducking their agents until the film is completed.
Running down the list of those all-too-familiar names, Oldsmobile shill William Shatner will again play loose-cannon starship commander Captain Kirk. Part-time store mannequin Leonard Nimoy returns as wooden science officer Spock, the galaxy's most irritating Vulcan.
DeForest Kelley will again stumble vacant-eyed through the role of medical officer "Bones" McCoy, prompting numerous cries of "Cut! Cut!" on the set as paramedics are summoned to determine if the veteran actor still retains a pulse.
In addition, James Doohan returns as excitable, Type A chief engineer Scotty, Walter Koenig returns as undiagnosed manic-depressive Chekov, Nichelle Nichols plays sultry control panel ornament Uhura and George Takei recreates his role as Sulu, who seemed to wear a startled "deer-in-the-headlights" look whether stumbling upon a Klingon raiding party or a hamburger from the ship's commissary.
Although plot details of "Star Trek VI" have mercifully not been released, you get the feeling most of the cast would eagerly defect en masse for more compelling work, such as the next "Police Academy" sequel or a high school production of "Kiss Me Kate."
The enduring mystery of the "Star Trek" TV series, of course, was how that band of misfits on the Enterprise managed to live together during its five-year mission without killing each other.
As it was, the bickering among the crew often spilled over into violence, reportedly everything from vicious food fights to full-scale phaser wars in the hallways.
Then again, consider the volatile chemistry of the crew.
Captain Kirk was a short-tempered tyrant with the classic Napoleonic complex. A narcissist given to wearing skin-tight uniforms to show off his well-developed biceps, he further alienated the crew by being enormously popular with women, whether earthlings, humanoids or gaseous beings.
Spock, Kirk's overbearing, pointy-eared second-in-command, prompted starfleet commanders all over the galaxy to reinstitute their policy of shooting aliens first and asking questions later.
Despite claiming to espouse the Hippocratic oath, "Bones" McCoy had (there's no way to sugarcoat this) the most sour personality of any physician ever. Most of the crew was afraid to ask the guy for a Band-Aid, never mind anything that might require actual medical attention.
Kirk would ask him to clean a simple infection suffered during, oh, a laser firefight on Romulus III, and McCoy would snarl his trademark: "For God's sake, Jim! I'm a surgeon, not a miracle worker!"
Then there was poor Scotty. Scotty's problem was that, whether he couldn't find a sharpened pencil or whether the Enterprise's main engine broke off and went spinning into space, he reacted the same way. Which is to say, the man absolutely went to pieces.
Everything was a crisis with Scotty, perhaps best remembered for this hysterical refrain from the engine room: "Captain, I canna' give ye any more power!"
Scotty, Scotty, Scotty . . . talk about a guy who needed a vacation.
As for the rest of the more prominent crew members, Chekov, Uhura and Sulu, all contributed to the surliness, raging jealousy and bitter in-fighting that was to dog the Enterprise for years.
Little wonder, then, that the first five "Star Trek" films were huge box office disappointments. Who in their right mind wanted to see these unsavory characters again?
Another chilling thought: This new film will again breathe life into that bizarre cult known as Trekkies, grown men and women who congregate in hotel ballrooms to wear fake pointy ears and give each other the Vulcan peace sign in between heated discussions about whether Chekov or Sulu was the better ship's navigator.
Whew. Note to Paramount: It's not too late to call the whole project off.
Please. We're asking you nicely.