Two guys pulled on the Gorn wetsuit costumes on the Vasquez Rocks set of Arena in November of 1966. I was fortunate to spend 20 minutes chatting with Bobby Clark, the better known of the two, in Toronto in 2010. Clark asked why Star Trek mattered to me, and about the Gorn in particular. Then he pulled a life-sized Gorn mask out of a duffel bag and offered to sign it for me.
(The other actor in a full suit was Gary Combs, and a few close-ups were shot with William Blackburn wearing just the head.)
Arena is a quintessential TOS episode. It tells us that the person you were sure is an enemy may not be. It is a message shared with The Devil in the Dark and The Corbomite Maneuver, both of which also demand that we put aside fear and even genuine grievances to look at the other person’s point of view, and that we prove that we live up to our noble ideals.
Arena also tells us that we can, and must, rise above base instincts. Kirk put that into words in A Taste of Armageddon. Anan 7 has overseen the death of millions of people, and Kirk tells him: “We’re human beings with the blood of a million savage years on our hands, but we can stop it. We can admit that we’re killers, but we’re not going to kill today. That’s all it takes. Knowing that we won’t kill today.”
Bobby Clark had for a long time been entirely disconnected from our fandom and genuinely wanted to know why Star Trek and the Gorn mattered. I tried to explain that Arena is part of that fundamental Star Trek message. He listened and then said “I have something you may like” and he offered me the Gorn mask. He signed and dated it and charged me C$70, and it now resides in a glass case in my Star Trek room.
Bobby was right — I like the mask a lot. For him, the days on set were like a lot of others. He talks about those days here. After the gig, new journeyman jobs came along and he forgot the Gorn, but he helped create an episode that truly represents the message of Star Trek.
A good look at Bobby
Clark was in four TOS episodes, all in season two. In addition to the mask, I also bought an 8×10 from Mirror Mirror. Extras and stunt people avoided having their faces clearly seen on screen, as being recognizable in one episode limited the ability to appear in future episodes; Mirror Mirror is the only episode to give us a really good look at Bobby.