Going all the way back to the original release in 1994, I've always loved this first section of the movie, and have often felt that the rest of the movie (the TNG section) just doesn't live up to it. Captain Harriman is a complete weenie, but otherwise I've always liked this little vignette with the launch of the Enterprise-B. There are some great lines despite
the script obviously having to be retailored after Nimoy and Kelley bowed out, including one or two genuinely touching character moments with the TOS crew ("I was never that young..." "No... you were younger
"). Shatner's death scene is also infinitely more in keeping with how I'd prefer to see Captain Kirk breathing his last, as opposed to the almost pointless way he dies in the Veridian III scenes. Oh sure, in the latter case he's helping to save a pre-warp civilisation from Soran's probe obliterating them, but I just don't care much for the way he's almost arbitrarily wiped out -- and this was the remounted version after the original 'shoot him in the back' version was deemed unsatisfactory!
Am I alone in thinking this?
I agree wholeheartedly. Mind you, there were a few good moments later in the film, but this was arguably the best scene. I especially agree with what you say about Kirk's "death" at the end of the scene being better than the one where he actually died.
Kirk should die either saving the ship or going out kamikaze style similar to how his father sacrificed himself on the Kelvin or how Kirk in The Return "died" turning off the Borg machine planet after punching out Picard. Any other death doesn't fit him as a character.
Actually, I'd love it if in either STID or the next film, Orci and Kurtzman found a way to work in a few lines that retcon a version of the events in The Return and the other two novels in the Odyssey trilogy into canon just so Kirk didn't die such a terrible death. That's, however, likely to be wishful thinking on my part.