Richard Arnold and the 1991 Lynch Interview


The following is a reposting of certain interesting sections from the five-part Rec.Arts.StarTrek post of Tim Lynch's 1991 face-to-face interview with Richard Arnold.   Arnold, once TNG's Research Consultant and Gene Roddenberry's right-hand man on issues of canon and continuity, is often referenced but seldom quoted directly online. 

In the following, we learn a bit about Arnold's role, and we get various interesting comments about Roddenberry's opinions on canon and involvement in the Trek non-canon.

The full interview text can be found here.


"TL: What exactly does a Research Consultant _do_? 

RA: Okay, the writers on this show, when they have questions, they can come 
to me...now to Guy as well, Mike Okuda, Rick Sternbach, [muffled]--there's 
several people who can answer their questions. I am probably most versed in 
original series "lore", if you will, and I'm very strong on Next-Generation 
"lore", as is Guy. Mike is really the tech person. Lorraine is the _science_ 
person, even more so than Rick Sternbach. Rick's is space science, Lorraine's 
is planetary science, if you will...earthbound science. And all of us always 
try to keep in mind some of Gene's original thoughts, like you shouldn't make 
anything too close to magic, let's not have easy solutions for anything, time 
travel is a cheat, you know, these are all the things that he's basically said 
over the years. So, the reason that I think we've become trusted-- 


[phone interruption] 


RA: I was saying about research...Gene trusted us enough to just let the 
questions come straight here. And...it's a matter of--it's informational 
only. That's all it is. When somebody from, let's say a licensee has a 
question about something, we'll tell them the correct spelling, we'll tell 
them the correct way to use a word or a term or whatever, but we don't say 
"you can or can't" anything. Now, I know that's...we've been accused of being 
very heavy-handed. Gene is the one who makes final determination of anything 
like that. And I know that that's been a leading problem with a lot 
of...employees of licensees, or "workers for hire", if you will, for 
licensees, that they think that those of us who deal with that put our stamps 
of approval or disapproval on something, which none of us do. None of us can. 
We give our input--that's what we're paid to do. So Research Consultant is 
*not* a vulture hanging over people's shoulders, which is the way a lot of us 
have been described. We do get very...emotional at times, if you will, in 
dealing with these people, but we can't tell them anything. We can...we 
can...help them, but we can't _make_ them. And that's where, then, it all 
ends up downstairs. So...I know that's the crux of a lot of the issues."

"If the books didn't automatically sell 150,000 copies every time they're published, 
whether it's...Chinese newspaper between the covers or not, that is the reason 
that they're so popular with the studio, is because they make _money_ for the 
studio. And for a long time, for several years there, nobody read them at 
this end. They were just published. Nobody cared how good they were, whether 
they were even in fact _based_ on Star Trek, they were just put out. And 
then...the Next Generation began. And Gene at that point in time decided, "I 
want a little more control." Because he'd heard enough complaints--at 
conventions, and through the mail, on books--and also, I know it came to his 
attention when people started asking "are you going to have such-and-such in 
the series?" or "are you going to use these characters?", and he had _no idea_ 
what they were talking about. And, of course, those of us...Susan and myself, 
who know the books, and anybody else here who knows the books were saying "oh, 
that's a character that So-and-so created," or "that was such-and-such." And 
he wanted to kind of get it back to _his_ Star Trek universe, not knowing then 
that he was going to have a four-year battle on his hands. Because--and it's 
one that's still raging, as you certainly know, being involved in the computer 
end of this--"

"And as long as Gene Roddenberry is 
involved in it, he is the final word on what is Star Trek. So, for us here-- 
Ron Moore, Jeri Taylor, everybody who works on the show--Gene is the 
authority. And when he says that the books, and the games, and the comics and 
everything else, are not gospel, but are only additional Star Trek based on 
his Star Trek but not part of the actual Star Trek universe that _he_ 
created...they're just, you know, kinda fun to keep you occupied between 
episodes and between movies, whatever...but he does not want that to be 
considered to be sources of information for writers, working on this show, he 
doesn't want it to be considered part of the canon by anybody working on any 
other projects. In other words, don't use other merchandise to base your 
merchandise on, use my Star Trek if you're going to call it Star Trek 
merchandise. And that's where the problems come in--is that the writers of 
the novels and the comics and so on became _far_ too important to fandom, so 
that suddenly they became spokespeople for Star Trek, which they never were, 
and they started saying, "well, who is he to tell me how to write Star Trek?" 
Not referring to myself, referring to Gene. And it's like "wait a minute--he 
created it." And this is when the sandbox theory came up, which we'll get 
into later."

"TL: Actually, some of the canon-stuff you were mentioning...One of the hordes 
of questions I'm sure that you're getting is "Exactly what _is_ part of the 
canon at this point?" 

RA: That's been stated so many times, including in "Starlog", and that 
certainly got a few letters my way. To Gene, anything that he did was canon. 
Now, I know he did the animated series, but we've avoided that ever since this 
new series began, because he never really thought that there would be any more 
live Star Trek. He really didn't. He knew that the fan phenomenon was 
happening, but like everybody else, he thought it'd just sort of peter out 
and die, and quietly go away--not that he wanted it to, certainly, because it 
was his income at the time, he was going to conventions and making speeches, 
you know, drawing twenty thousand people at different colleges around the 
country. But, it kept growing and getting bigger, and eventually, obviously, 
the new series, films, it was gonna happen. But this was in the early '70s, 
when it was--he could have _bought_ the property, at the time, for $150,000. 
And if he'd had the money, he probably would've, but he didn't think it would 
be a good investment at the time. [**phone break**] So aside from the 
original series-- 

TL: Is it *all* of the original series? I've been hearing just the first two 
seasons. 

RA: Very _firmly_, except where it's contradicted and then we have to kind of 
play with it...see, people can easily catch us, and say "well, wait a minute, 
in 'Balance of Terror,' they knew that the Romulans had a cloaking device, and 
then in 'The Enterprise Incident,' they don't know anything about cloaking 
devices, but they're gonna steal this one because it's obviously just been 
developed, so how the _hell_ do you explain that?" We can't. There are some 
things we just can't explain, especially when it comes from the third season. 
So, _yes_, third season is canon up to the point of contradiction, or where 
it's just so bad...you know, we kind of cringe when people ask us, "well, what 
happened in 'Plato's Stepchildren,' and 'And the Children Shall Lead,' and 
'Spock's Brain,' and so on--it's like, please, he wasn't even producing it at 
that point. But, generally, it's the original series, not really the animated, 
the first movie to a certain extent, the rest of the films in certain aspects 
but not in all...I know that it's very difficult to understand. It literally 
is point by point. I sometimes do not know how he's going to answer a 
question when I go into his office, I really do not always know, and--and I 
know it better probably than anybody, what it is that Gene likes and doesn't 
like.  And there've been times, for instance-- 


[knock on the door--scratch that subject] 


TL: I think we've pretty much covered the canon stuff. 

RA: Yeah. The novelization that Gene wrote himself, of Star Trek: the Motion 
Picture, he does not consider canon either, because he also went off on 
tangents, that he said that it's okay for individual writers to do that, and 
he certainly had some fun with it himself, filling in parts of the puzzle that 
he never would've been able to do on film, it would've been a ten-hour movie, 
but he doesn't want even that used for canon, because otherwise, where do you 
draw the line? Which books are accepted and which aren't? _The Making of 
Star Trek_, as a reference. Bjo's Concordance, as a reference, and even that 
has errors. And Allan Asherman's Compendium, _revised edition_. Not the 
first one, because Allan had a lot of supposition and...I literally made four 
hundred corrections in the first edition before it was revised with the films 
for the first time. And we took off the cover, "the most thoroughly 
researched volume in Star Trek of all time," because it wasn't--he basically 
took the Concordance, disseminated what information he could out of that, 
and...if he in fact reads this and decides that that's grounds for a lawsuit, 
we've got several dozen instances where he misspelled things the same way she 
had, where he used the wrong names where she had accidentally used the wrong 
names...for instance, for years, everybody wondered whatever happened to 
Susan...er...Howard, I think...the actress who was in "Day of the Dove," and 
it was because she had used the wrong name in her Concordance, and he used the 
wrong name also, just as she had referred to somebody as "somebody Johnson," 
and that wasn't that person's name at all, it was something else, it was 
because she had just typed in "David O. Lawson, Lt. Johnson, so-and-so as 
so-and-so Johnson," and she got the name confused, right. Well, there were so 
many instances of that that it was so obvious that he had just lifted all 
kinds of information from the Concordance even though he claimed he hadn't. 
And that was where, in the...because we weren't involved when the first one 
came out...when the second one was coming out, by then we were becoming 
involved. It was a simple case of going through and making all the 
corrections...it was a simple process to go through the book and find all 
the misspellings and make all the corrections, and Allan was very generous in 
giving me a thank-you at the beginning of the book, not specifically for 
anything in particular, but just for my contributions..."

"Novelists are not used to being rewritten. Another 
comment that I think is very essential that gets out is that Peter David, and 
Margaret Wander Bonanno, and Diane Duane, and everybody else that's involved 
in all of this, have never written for Star Trek. I'll take that back--Diane 
Duane had a story that came from one of her previous novels, that she and 
another writer, who was a writer in Hollywood and therefore they were able to 
get it in, bought by the show, then rewritten, changed dramatically, which she 
bitches about at conventions, and then that became "Where No One Has Gone 
Before." She's the only one with a legitimate connection. None of the rest 
have ever written for Star Trek. And they, they should not call themselves 
Star Trek writers because they're not. They are writers of fiction based on 
Star Trek for licensees, not for Paramount. And, I think I described it best 
in a recent letter when I said that Margaret Wander Bonanno--this is because 
somebody was writing in because of everything _she's_ been sending out--I said 
that Margaret Wander Bonanno has never written for Star Trek. At best, she 
has been a writer for hire for a publishing division, Pocket Books, of a 
publishing company, Simon & Schuster, that is owned by a parent corporation, 
Paramount Communications, that owns the studio, Paramount Pictures 
Incorporated, that makes the series Star Trek. That is as close as she has 
ever been. And for her to make such a fuss out of Gene wanting her work to 
reflect what he created...is, is scary to me, because it says that her ego has 
definitely gotten in the way of her talent. She can write--she just has not 
been able to write good Star Trek lately, and this certainly began with 
_Metamorphosis_...not Margaret, but Jean Lorrah. _Metamorphosis_ was the last 
straw for Gene. This was when this flurry of disclaimers started, because 
these books were all in the works, never approved by Gene--from proposal on it 
was no, no, no, no, no--and it was, the war was between Gene and the studio 
and the editors at this point. And suddenly, they started to cooperate, both 
Pocket Books and Paramount. And finally, we were getting the cooperation that 
Gene should have always had. There should never have been anything from the 
studio but, because of contractual agreements, "Yes, Gene." What they got was 
"but...but...but," which doesn't work, especially when it's your baby. You 
don't want people mistreating your children. And he sees both of them as his 
children. So, they then had to turn it back on the writers and say "well, 
you've _got_ to cooperate, because these are now the rules." But the studio 
and the editors at Pocket, and at DC, then started doing the same thing that 
the authors were doing, and that is, they were blaming Gene. Rather than 
saying, "these are simply the rules now, and you're gonna have to comply with 
them if you wish to write in the Star Trek universe," they were saying, "well, 
this is what Gene wants, so don't yell at us," you know, "he's the one who's 
rewriting your story." And you can ask me about any book, you can ask me 
about any specific storyline in _anything_ and I can tell you why the changes 
were being made...what it is about Gene's...vision, if you will, that it was 
distorting or it was changing. You have to remember that writing for Star 
Trek is like the famous comment about spelunking, caving--"leave nothing but 
footprints, take nothing but pictures." Do not change anything. When authors 
in books decide to change the universe to suit themselves, they've just 
screwed it up for everybody else who wants to write in that universe. And it 
would never be allowed on the series. And you can't have twelve different 
universes coming out a year in book form."

"[Gene] has said that he has more trouble dealing with the publication 
of one book than 26 episodes of Star Trek a year. And it shouldn't be that 
way. It really shouldn't. There should be a hell of a lot more cooperation 
at both ends. But, we're _getting_ it now! We're finally getting it--it's 
really starting to work out. But the problem is that, for a couple of years 
there, it seemed that every book was a battle. Not every book. We have found 
that there are some very strong writers--not necessarily the best, or the most 
talented in the style of writing itself, but that can tell a Star Trek story 
well, and even though in talking with the writers on this show, their favorite 
books have not been my favorite books, but when we talk about which are the 
best Star Trek books we agree on that. Which are the best written books, no, 
we don't agree on, because, as I've said, I'm not a writer--I don't 
know...character arc, I don't know...you know...setup and so on. But I know 
when I'm reading something whether I'm picturing Star Trek in my head or if 
I'm watching something where I have absolutely no idea what it is. Because 
our people aren't involved. And that's where any writer coming in, or anybody 
reading the network and knows about how this show works, anybody coming in and 
starting to pitch a story to our staff here, will be cut off cold with the 
question, "I hear a lot about your characters, but what about our characters? 
This show is about our team.""

"And, in going through those particular comics, 
the story is what's important, what it's saying, where it's taking you, is it 
necessary at all. And at times, I have questioned the level of violence in 
something and Gene's said, "no, that's fine, let them have it," and at other 
times, as a writer himself, he can say "this isn't necessary here, and I want 
it cut out." The pictorial violence was always a problem with the 
comics--that's being toned down, by the way. When Worf hits somebody with a 
blow that in the art would _kill_ a human, with literally explosion lines 
all the way around, the person being lifted off the ground, their neck being 
twisted around backwards...that's unnecessary, and Worf would be in the brig 
if he behaved that way. At times, the violence has been overboard, 
considering that Gene has always felt that the comic venue is one that 
children tend to get more involved in than they might with the show, for 
instance, even though the show is, you know, certainly available for anybody 
to watch. 


[phone break] 


Gene maintains...and I know that adult collectors are the majority of the 
buyers of the comics, but Gene has maintained for a long time that it is not 
safe to assume that, that kids won't be picking those up, and Star Trek has 
never been about violence--in fact, it's the antithesis of that. And, in 
order to...I'm trying to remember the way he put it...for _image_ reasons, he 
thinks that no version of Star Trek should be excessively violent. And that's 
why he's never really allowed the phasers to be sold as...as weapons, as guns, 
for kids to play with--'cause he doesn't like the idea of kids running around 
shooting each other with phasers when they're _only_ a defensive 
weapon--they're not an offensive weapon. And that's why he got particularly 
upset with FASA, because they were looking to build more and more and more 
battle scenarios into the role-playing game...they were looking for 
_enemies_...they were doing whole supplements strictly to build in another 
enemy to fight with, and that was _not_ what he wanted. And when he got a 
fight from them on it, when--and, of course, at the same time the studio was 
fighting back against Gene as well--that was when he just drew the line, that 
he would not have Star Trek sold as a war game any longer."