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WILLIAM SHATNER SEE SIMILARITIES BETWEEN `STAR TREK,' `RESCUE 911'

The only obvious similarity between the "Star Trek" saga and CBS-TB's hit show "Rescue 911," is the presence of actor William Shatner.

But Shatner thinks there's a deeper common thread in the success of both shows. Both, he says, dramatize people willing to risk themselves to help someone else."What you see in both is the goodness of man," says Shatner, whose Capt. Kirk character makes him the target of autograph seekers wherever he goes. "We see so little goodness in most TV, yet the goodness of man is a part of the human story that can be as easily dramatized as the evil."

It's goodness, Shatner says, that steadily gives "Rescue 911" (which airs tonight at 9 p.m. on Ch. 5) the best ratings of any reality-based re-creation show now on TV.

"We dramatize people who are willing to sacrifice themselves for somebody else," he says. "They either are sacrificing their time or risking their lives. So this show is not a part of the blackness that's part of the human soul. For a brief moment while we watch this, we see white. It's almost spiritual and that's why it moves you."

"Star Trek," he says, has similar sources of success.

"It just might be that this age has no mythology, no heroes. `Star Trek' provides a little of that. We have a sturdy band of people trying to complete a mission in each show or movie. They give people something to identify with."

And they just might continue doing it, even though everyone associated with "Star Trek" swore that the current movie, "Star Trek VI: The Undiscoverred Country," would be the last in the series.

"It's over unless this one makes a great deal of money - an $80 million gross or more," Shatner says. "If it makes that much, I wouldn't be at all surprised if we do another one."

The newest "Star Trek" picture has already grossed more than $60 million.

Would Shatner mind another go-around as Kirk? He'd love it.

"The role has been extremely good to me," he says. "I'd have done these movies even if they were called something else. Having a hand in creating them has been even more gratifying."

It's not as if Shatner is casting about for ways to spend his time and needs another "Star Trek" to keep busy.

Right now, he's in the midst of an unprecedented media triple, with a novel ("Tech Lords") on many current best-seller lists, a TV series consistently in the weekly top 20 and a top-grossing movie in release.

There are horses, too. Shatner and wife Marcy Lafferty breed them and show them, and the actor sponsors an annual charity horse show benefiting Ronald McDonald Houses.

Add then there's his play, "Harry and Arthur," which may soon go into production in Los Angeles, with an eye toward an eventual move to Broadway.

It's about magician Harry Houdini and Sherlock Holmes creator Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Shatner would direct and play one of the leads, "Leonary Nimoy says he'd love to play the other lead," says Shatner.

That would be one way to keep part of the "Star Trek" crew together if there's never a `Star Trek VII."

"It's simply a terrific bunch of people," says Shatner. "You just want to be around them."

But for now "Rescue 911" is his main source of inspiration.

"I'm often actually moved to tears when I see some of the stories," says Shatner, who is prouder of the lives saved by the show than anything else he's done.

"The show carries a number at the very beginning - the number of lives saved by people as a result of watching the show," he says. "The number was at about 75 the last time I looked and climbing. These are not people saved on the show, but people saved because of something they've learned from the show, like CPR or the Heimlich maneuver or just a small child who's learned to dial 911 in an emergency."

The count, Shatner said, comes from letters received by the show. "Those are just the ones who were moved to write," he says. "I believe there are many others who have been saved as a result of `Rescue 911' and we've never heard from them. I'd love to hear from them and I'd love them to write."