Star Trek IV's Catherine Hicks Hopes Her Romance with Admiral Kirk Will Finally Beam Her Up to Stardom

updated 12/08/1986 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 12/08/1986 AT 01:00 AM EST

When Catherine Hicks's agent told her she had an audition for Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, Hicks's immediate response was, "No way. I don't want to be in a Star Trek movie."

The next day her agent called again to ask, rather pointedly: "Who do you think you are? Miss Laurence Olivier?"

"He was right," says Hicks, aware that the demand for her talents doesn't yet match that of Meryl Streep. "I was in no position to be snotty. So I looked at the script. And it was great." Three weeks later the blond, blue-eyed beauty was cast as Dr. Gillian Taylor, a marine biologist of the present who helps two time-travelers from the 23rd century, Admiral Kirk (William Shatner) and Captain Spock (Leonard Nimoy), save the planet. Nimoy fretted that Hicks was too "perky" to play a scientist credibly. But Catherine convinced him. "I'm proud of my mind," she says. Frankly, Trekkies will be less interested in her mind than in the romantic scenes with the usually straight-arrow James T. Kirk. Speculation about a wedding in Part V has already begun. Don't count on it, says Hicks. "I don't want to be in the next Star Trek movie. I'm proud of the picture, but I've already done it once."

Whoops. She's starting to sound "snotty" again. Don't get Hicks wrong. She liked making the film. It's just that she's particular. At 34, the small-town girl from Scottsdale, Ariz, expects a payoff for laboring so long in big, bad Hollywood. She takes "acting" very, very seriously. Though she asks to be called "Cathy" in conversation, she pleads that her name be written only as the more formal Catherine. We are not in bimbo territory. "Life should come first," she allows, "but your responsibility to theater a close second." A more prestigious job for Hicks was the other film she co-stars in this year, Francis Coppola's Peggy Sue Got Married, in which she plays Kathleen Turner's school chum. Hicks admits that Peggy Sue has given her career "heat. Now people want to have meetings as opposed to auditions."

But a few months ago, Hicks purposely stalled her career. On Sept. 15, her 71-year-old father, Walter, died of a heart attack in Scottsdale. Catherine was in Baltimore, about to debut in a regional theater production of Noel Coward's Present Laughter, when she got the news. "It was terrible," she says. "I stayed up all night and walked the streets. But I had to open the play."

When the play closed six weeks later, Catherine, an only child, hurried home to be with her mother, figuring "Something broke and I'm here to fix it." Though her fiancé journalist Jeff Silverman, 35, lives in L.A. (where she rents a small apartment), Catherine says she plans to spend more time with her mother. Jeff is understanding. The two met when her manager introduced them four years ago. "We've been engaged going on two years," says Catherine. "No, we haven't set a date."

Hicks gets a lot of questions like that around her neighborhood, when she's out walking the family dog, a miniature schnauzer named Val. Ever since she returned to Scottsdale she feels the locals may be measuring her for a swelled head. "I try to assure them that I haven't changed," says Catherine. "Sometimes they ignore me. Maybe it's just good ol' desert rudeness."

She should know her town. Though Hicks was born in Larchmont, N.Y., where her father had an import-export business, Dad's health forced him to move to a dry climate—which is how Catherine ended up in Scottsdale at 1 Vi. Her father wanted her to be a psychologist ("He thought acting was sleazy, until I got into it"), but her mother sneaked her off to auditions. After graduating from the Actors' Conservatory at Cornell University, she moved to Manhattan. Within a year she was on Broadway, co-starring with Jack Lemmon in Tribute. Then came a string of TV movies, including Marilyn: The Untold Story, for which she won an Emmy nomination, followed by film roles.

How good is she? Says her mother, Jackie: "I didn't like her in Garbo Talks. She played cutesy. And it took her a long time to get out of her Marilyn role. I thought she did well in Razor's Edge, though Bill Murray wasn't that great. I liked Peggy Sue, but I'll tell you, I didn't like Kathleen Turner and Nicolas Cage. They didn't fit the parts. And I think it was obvious that they had false teeth."

"Mother!" interrupts Catherine.

"Well, they did. Or maybe caps."

As to whether Catherine has a future as an actress, Jackie, 69, says, "I don't know. The business is so iffy."

Catherine agrees. Being back home has made her sentimental for a less pressured world. "I'm sure people who stay in one place feel trapped at times," she says. "But I kind of envy them for staying with it."

Later, while driving her mother's Oldsmobile around town, Hicks passes the local picture show, where the marquee announces the next attraction: Star Trek IV. "Oh, my God," she exclaims as the realization hits. "I can't marry and settle down here. I'm an actress."

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