'Trekkie' Archivist : Enterprising Fan Transports Himself Into 'Star Trek' Job

From Associated Press

When creator Gene Roddenberry has a question about "Star Trek," the man he turns to is Richard Arnold.

The information about "Star Trek," and the lore amassed over the past 22 years, is so vast that only the most dedicated Trekkie could possibly keep track of it.

Arnold has been the show's official archivist at Paramount Studios for the past two years, but for nearly nine years before that he was an unpaid but virtually full-time consultant.

"I might get a call from a game show asking which cast member first said, 'Beam me up, Scotty,' " Arnold said. "No one ever said that on any 'Star Trek' episode. The fans made it up, like 'Play it again, Sam.'

"I frequently get calls from merchandising and licensing. They'll want to know what actor played such-and-such a character and how can they get hold of him to sign a waiver. Television stations call a lot asking for help in designing a promotion campaign."

Arnold emphasized, however, that he is not the final word on the show. "I'm a consultant," he said. "I'm not hanging over anyone's shoulders. They can consult me or not."

"Star Trek" made its debut on NBC in 1966 and ran for three years. It has also been an animated series, four hit motion pictures have been made and a fifth is in the works, and the new TV series "Star Trek: The Next Generation" is an enormous hit in syndication.

"I was 12 years old when 'Star Trek' began," Arnold said. "I'd gone through 'The Hardy Boys,' even my sisters' 'Nancy Drew' books, and Edgar Rice Burroughs had gotten me into science fiction. I remember I spent one summer in a tent in the back yard reading. My mother thought there was something wrong with that.

"On TV I'd watched 'Lost in Space,' 'Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea' and 'Time Tunnel.' Then 'Star Trek' came on. The first episode intrigued me. The next episode was so good, I cried at the end. After that I scheduled my life around watching 'Star Trek.' I watched the shows over and over and over again. My mother couldn't understand that. I asked her if she ever went back to the same restaurant."

His mother, incidentally, finally began watching and was soon an avid "Star Trek" fan herself.

Arnold, who was born in the same hospital in Vancouver, Canada, as Jimmy Doohan (Scotty), ran a "Star Trek" fan club in high school and college. He moved from Canada to St. Louis in 1969 and went to his first science fiction convention with a cousin in downtown St. Louis.

"It changed my whole life," he said. "I went to the first 'Star Trek' convention in New York in 1971. I met Gene Roddenberry there and he was very kind to me. But I didn't know who he was until he was introduced at the convention."

That was the first of many "Star Trek" conventions he was to attend in following years. In 1974 he moved to Los Angeles to work as a hospital orderly.

"I still kept in touch with everybody, and Susan Sackett, Gene's assistant, began calling me for information," he said. "She knew my memory of the shows. If there was a question or a problem they'd call me. Eventually, it got to the point where I had an office, a parking space and my name in the Paramount studio directory. And I wasn't even on the payroll.

"I kept getting more and more calls. From publicity, from merchandising, from everybody. I was spending nearly all my time at the studio. Finally, Gene proposed establishment of the job of archivist and I went to work on July 1, 1986."

It is a job that you would think would make Arnold the envy of every Trekkie. But Arnold said they are such a compatible group that they help each other out. He frequently calls on other Trekkies when he is stumped.

"I'll call Denise Tathwell if I need to know dialogue from the first 79 episodes or the movies," he said. "Richard Barnett knows all about the toys and memorabilia. Guy Vardaman, who works on the new series as a stand-in, knows the dialogue better than I do. And he's worked with a lot of the guest stars."

Arnold also turns out the best-selling "Star Trek" calendars for Pocket Books.

Next up is the fifth "Star Trek" movie, which was postponed when Leonard Nimoy accepted an offer from Disney to direct Diane Keaton and Jason Robards in "The Good Mother."

The tentative start date for "Star Trek V: The Final Frontier" is Sept. 12. William Shatner will direct. Harve Bennett will produce.

"I think they'll keep making the movies as long as the original seven cast members want to," he said. "Leonard is becoming very hot as a director, and that could affect his availability. It's such an ensemble cast that if one actor was lost for any reason I don't know if the other actors would want to go on or how the fans would accept it."

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World