Launching her film career as Mr. Spock's sultry, pointy-eared protégée in Star Trek II should have orbited Kirstie Alley, 27, into starlet heaven. The movie is a smash (the $14.4 million opening weekend gross is the heftiest in history), she's a new Trekkie idol, and the critics keep beaming up praise for the wry way Alley's Lieutenant Saavik raises a Spockian eyebrow with her quips in their native Vulcan. But for Kirstie (a Scottish version of Christina), her new success is tinged with personal sorrow.

Last Oct. 23, after her fourth Star Trek II audition in L.A., her sister phoned from the family home in Wichita, Kans. A drunk driver had swerved into their parents' car. The freeway crash had killed their mother instantly and left their father in critical condition. In Wichita the next day, a Saturday, the grief-stricken Kirstie received word that Paramount had to see her first thing Monday for the final test. Since her mother's funeral was Tuesday, Kirstie told her agent, "No way." Her sister and brother tried to change her mind. "They kept saying, 'You've got to do it,' " she says. She phoned her agent in L.A. and said, "You call Paramount and tell them my mother is dead, my father is dying. And if they want to see me, I'll see them Wednesday." Then she added, "Don't candy-ass around. This is the greatest tragedy of my life. But if I get Star Trek, that will be my happiest day."

Paramount agreed to the delay, and the day after her mother's funeral Kirstie flew back to L.A. for the final audition. "I took a shower and a deep breath and I went in," she says. Determined that "they wouldn't see one ounce of grief," she had put drops in her eyes to hide the redness. After the reading, director Nicholas Meyer informed her, "Well, kid, you've got it." "All hell broke loose," recalls Kirstie. "I started crying, Nick started crying." She asked Meyer if she had been given the part "because they felt sorry for me." Replied Meyer, citing the film's cost: "Not $10 million worth."

Alley would not leave her father until he was out of intensive care. On Nov. 7, two days before rehearsals were due to start, she showed her semiconscious father, a lumber company owner, a photo of herself. "See this?" she said. "I have this great chance of being a movie star if you get out of here." Later that night her father, despite a punctured lung and broken ribs, ripped out his tubes and IVs. Much improved the next morning (he would leave the hospital 10 days later), Dad asked his daughter quizzically: "So you're going to be a movie star?"

Actually, nothing in Kirstie's background suggested it. As a child, she felt alienated, "like a 30-year-old in a 10-year-old body." Tall (5'7"), with an imposing personality some mistook for snobbishness, Kirstie dreamed of being "5'2", blond, blue-eyed and bubbly with big boobs." Amateur theatrics and art classes were a release, but she failed to graduate from Kansas State University and found herself doing interior decoration in Kansas—"a gutless wonder wishing my life away."

Two years ago she hit L.A. with $2,000 and three ambitions: "to be an artist, an actress and to cut one album." She credits Scientology, her faith during the past five years, for revving up her ambition. "There are jerk Scientologists just like there are jerks in everything," she admits, "but it's taught me that if you want something, you go get it and you work for it." In L.A., she won $6,000 on TV's The Match Game, hired an agent and eventually tested for Star Trek—a better plan, she says, than "doing drugs, screwing producers and hanging out."

Despite her street-smart talk, the high life for Alley means riding, tennis, racquetball, tending a friend's private zoo (kangaroos, otters, monkeys) in Palos Verdes and working at Narconon, the Scientologists' drug rehabilitation center in L.A. She leases a rustic three-bedroom house in Hollywood Hills, complete with small pool, which she shares with three cats and two girlfriends—secretary Terri Morris and barber Kallie Gross.

Kirstie has been dating ex-Hardy Boy Parker Stevenson, 30, for eight months. "I picked him up at a bar," she says. Stevenson, soon to start filming Stand On It with Burt Reynolds, praises her as "a remarkable girl, funny, bright and a terrific actress." Adds Kirstie: "He's good, honest and clean-cut, but we aren't talking long-term commitments yet."

For now, career is first. There is the prospect of Star Trek III, and she and pal Mimi Rogers (Tom Selleck's lady) are writing a screenplay about two women in their mid-20s having a last bachelor-girl fling. But since her parents' accident (Dad is fully recovered and retired), Kirstie longs more than ever for the security she knew as a child. "The family unit is as stable as anything on this planet," she says. "Without it, I don't think life for me would have much fulfillment."