The Richard Arnold Project
Many years ago, when Gene Roddenberry was still alive and The Next Generation was on the air, there was a man who had great knowledge and great power. His name was Richard Arnold, he was Roddenberry's assistant, and he was able to have books and comics cancelled at whim, acting in Roddenberry's name if not necessarily always with his knowledge. He saw himself as Roddenberry's right hand, keeping the expanding Trek universe consistent with his vision of Roddenberry's vision.
And then Roddenberry died and Arnold was escorted off the Paramount lot by security. No job, no power, no insider status. And yet he still makes a living as a supposed insider while pushing his vision of Roddenberry's vision. Fortunately, the licensed Star Trek properties, especially the books, are doing just fine without him.
Arnold's current highest profile job is writing the Data Access column for Star Trek Communicator, the magaine of the official fan club. It's becoming regularly more difficult to understand how he manages to keep this job. So, this marks the beginning of the Richard Arnold Project, a study of some of his responses in his column. I may go looking for other classics in past columns, in which he has occasionally had to be corrected in parenthetical remarks from the editor, and in which he can reliably be expected to (a) glorify Saint Gene and (b) condescend to anyone who reads Trek books. I may also comment on future installments of the column. Or this may be a one-off, inspired by the brilliance of the Data Access column in Star Trek Communicator 151. We may never reach such dizzying heights again. If we're lucky.
Let's take a look at this issue's column.
The second question, from Steve Cramsie of Poway, CA, asks about a reference in the text commentary on the Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan DVD mentioning that there was supposed to be a scene in which Sulu mentions his coming promotion to captain. Arnold's reply begins, "This is one of those questions that opens a can of worms and requires tact to answer." He says that there was supposed to be such a line but that it was cut because it didn't aid the story or the plot. Takei has blamed Shatner for this for years, Arnold reports, but he adds that director Nicholas Meyer told him that "the line was not cut to slight George but to move the film along. He also said that Bill had nothing to do with the editing of the scene. Sorry, George!"So... let's go to George Takei's version of the story. On p.339-340 of the hardcover edition of To the Stars, Takei's autobiography, Takei reports that the scene was shot, but that Shatner deliberately played it badly, so that it wouldn't be usable. He says nothing about Shatner being involved in editing. Looks like Arnold is misrepresenting Takei's complaint and being condescending, too.
The third question, from Massimiliano Saporito of Sormano, Italy, notes that Leonard Rosenman swiped his end credits theme from the animated version of Lord of the Rings for the closing credits of Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, asking what Arnold thinks. Arnold replies that it's a common practice and provides the similar example of James Horner recycling Battle Beyond the Stars for Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. So far, so good. Then he asks, "how many times have you heard Trevor Jones's score for 1981's Excalibur used in trailers and wondered where you've heard it before?"It's almost certain that Arnold is thinking of "O Fortuna," that bit of Carl Orff's Carmina Burana that was used in Excalibur and has been used in trailer after trailer after trailer. It's a strong, evocative piece of music written by a composer who has been dead for some time and doesn't need to be paid. You hear Gustav Holst's "Mars, Bringer of War" from The Planets used quite often in the same way. I don't know about Jones's music.
In the fourth question, Daniel Mosier of Chesapeake, VA asks for the name of the Federation President in ST VI. Arnold replies, "The answer is... drum roll, please... 'the Federation President.' (Sorry, but anything from the books or games is unofficial.)"Technically, he is correct. However, it would be every bit as correct to say, "Sorry, no name was established for that character. In the script, he is simply referred to as the Federation President." And leave it at that. Or he could have said, "In her novelization of the movie, J.M Dillard created the name Ra-ghoratrei for that character, but as no name was established in the script or onscreen, that name is conjectural. On the other hand, the name is unlikely to be contradicted onscreen, so if calling him that makes you happy, knock yourself out." If another name was given somewhere else, he could have said, "There is no official name for that character, but in the novelization he was called Ra-ghoratrei and in (possible other source) he was called (possible other name). They're both equally valid conjectures, not binding on the writers of the movies and TV series, but you're certainly free to think of him as either one." So instead of being helpful and offering a friendly reminder about Trek licensed products not being canonical, he refuses to give any information and takes a potshot, seemingly out of nowhere, at the books.
In the eighth question, Thomas Pawelczak of Alden, NY refers to Arnold's saying that Starfleet is not a military organization and mentions Franz Joseph's Trechnical Manual to support his argument that it is. Arnold cuts the letter off and then goes into a rant:First, Roddenberry did indeed say Starfleet was not a military organization, but he said that long after TOS was over. There is a great deal of military terminology in The Making of Star Trek (which Roddenberry was involved in and aproved of): references to orders, captains, security, weapons, ranks, and starships named after historic American military ships. If it has guns and ranks, and fights wars, like, say, Starfleet, it is at least reasonable to say that Starfleet has a military component. We've seen it in action in every incarnation of the series.
"I needn't go any further in quoting your letter, as it only goes on to quote articles, chapters and paragraphs from an unauthorized work of fiction written in 1974 by an author who had nothing to do with the original Star Trek series. The fact that Star Trek's creator, Gene Roddenberry, stated repeatedly that Starfleet was not a military organization says it all. Anything else is only wishful thinking on the part of fans who cannot accept that Star Trek is what Gene said it was and not what the fans or the authors of the books say it is."
Second, by Arnold's reasoning, Deep Space Nine, Voyager, and Enterprise are not Star Trek, because Roddenberry was not involved in their creation or production. There are certainly fans who hold to that point of view. But they don't write columns for the official magazine, which does treat them all as part of the greater Star Trek universe.
Third, there's the tone. He cuts the writer off and then berates him and, by extension, anyone who reads or writes the books. It's hard to see how this meets the needs of the readers of the column.
In the final question of this column, Todd Walkenhorst of Lincoln, NE, asks whether Enterprise's Linda Park and Battlestar Galactica's Grace Park are related. I'm frankly amazed that this one made it into the magazine. Arnold's response is absolutely classic, the standard by which all others must be judged. he mentions that Park "(or more accurately, 'Pak')" is the Korean equivalent of Smith, a very common surname. Then he says, "So while it is a possibility that Grace Park could be distantly related to Linda Park, it's not necessarily the case. But who knows?"Who knows? Who knows?!
After showing off some knowledge of Korean names our Trek expert (firstname.lastname@example.org) blows off the question. Very helpful, Richard.
The only way his answer could be anything remotely in the neighbourhood of helpful would be if a sentence at the beginning had been accidentally cut off. Such a sentence might say, for example, "Using the connections I have that make me qualified for this job, I asked both Linda and Grace if they were related, and they didn't know of any close family connection." And then he could go into the very common name business. But he didn't. We don't know if he actually tried to find out. His response to this question boils down to the words "Who knows?" Which might well be the response to the question, why does he still get published?
(Now playing: Porter Hall, TN, "Don't Bury Me," Welcome To Porter Hall, TN.)