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Kirk's ad boldly sends him to the top of rich list

For Captain James T Kirk, technology was a way to boldly go where no man had gone before. For the man who played him, it was more a way to become insanely rich.

William Shatner, who was forced to live in his camper van after the original Star Trek TV series came to an end, has made a colossal sum from becoming the voice and face of an online travel company.

Taking Mr Spock's Vulcan salute of "Live long and prosper" very much to heart, Shatner, 79, is now worth hundreds of millions of dollars courtesy of his starring role in the adverts for Priceline.com.

In 1997, when he was hired by the nascent travel comparison site, Shatner agreed to take shares in the company. The shares took a battering during the dot-com bust and were as low as $1.80 in 2000.

But they are now heading for $300, and while Priceline has never said how much he is paid or how many shares he holds, his personality, the adverts and the company are inextricably linked. Reports from Wall Street, therefore, have put his fortune at $600m.

The adverts have become an institution in the US, featuring the actor, who has never fought shy of self-mockery, as the Priceline Negotiator. He will stop at nothing to save customers money, they promise, including dancing, doing karate chops and zapping someone with a Taser gun.

His performances are widely available on YouTube. In one, in an ironic Post-Modern touch, the actor is marched into the Priceline office. "We are going to have to let you go," he is told by a representative of "the new Priceline".

"But who could possibly replace me?" asks Shatner. Enter Leonard Nimoy (aka Mr Spock). The two featured in several subsequent adverts.