April 7, 2015 - Comments Off on In Process | Gene Roddenberry Curator’s Conversation: UCLA Sets Phasers to Stun

In Process | Gene Roddenberry Curator’s Conversation: UCLA Sets Phasers to Stun

In Process is a new blog series that highlights the activities and experiences of current archival studies students in the Los Angeles area. Check in every two weeks, for grad students' insights and fresh perspectives on new and emerging trends, issues, and events in the field.

By Mary Priest

If you happened to be at UCLA on March 11th, you might have faintly heard a familiar television theme song drifting from the corner of the Young Research Library. Passing by the glass doors of the presentation room, you would have seen the main screen displaying the image of a spacecraft labeled with registry number NCC-1701. Had you entered through the doors, you would have been greeted by William Shanter's “space, the final frontier” monologue, complete with the “wooshing” sound of the Enterprise flybys. Amongst the anxious buzz of the multi-generational crowd, you might have even noticed a short, blonde MLIS student bouncing with joy and snapping iPhotos like an overly-excited tourist. Hi guys; that's me.

Working in the Center for Primary Research and Training in Library Special Collections, I'm surprised at how often I'm discovering untold stories through quickly scribbled marginal annotations and notes from the back of a photograph. The Curator's Conversation series at UCLA gives the curators a chance to share these finds with people who might not even know the collections exist, let alone what narratives construct them. One such collection that was apparently not getting the right amount of attention was the Gene Roddenberry Star Trek Collection. In case you need a little hint, Gene Roddenberry was the producer and screenwriter who is worshiped as the creator of the original Star Trek series.

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That name needed no explanation among those in attendance, however. The room was filled with dozens of attendees who were eager to see the production memos, costuming notes, fan mail, casting considerations, and untold stories of the collection. An equally keen looking grey-haired woman in a yellow top was seated in the front row. She would later be identified as Jean Aroeste, a former UCLA librarian and Star Trek writer who penned the episodes “Is There in Truth no Beauty?” and “All Our Yesterdays.” Peggy Alexander, the Special Collections Curator of Performing Arts, took to the podium and a hush fell across the audience as she began presenting an entertaining compilation of materials from the collection. Alexander began with early ideas about the concept of the show itself, pulling a quote from one memo which stated “the time could be 1995 or even 2995 -- close enough to our time for our continuing cast to be people like us, but far enough into the future for galaxy travel to be fully established.” Alexander revealed that the lead role was for Captain Robert T. April, who would be joined by Mister Spock, a side character with “a red-hued satanic look and surprisingly gentle manners.” Audience members giggled as Alexander revealed a number of memos to Roddenberry which discussed issues of Shatner's weight and strategies for bringing the issue to the actor's attention. Letters of praise and suggestions from fans (most notably, Isaac Asimov) are also a part of the collection.

Star Trek

The presentation concluded with a group sing-along to Star Trek theme song. But it doesn't have lyrics, you say? Think again, my “trekker” friends. Buried in the depths of the Roddenberry Collection is a contract, which stipulates that the song's composer, Alexander Courage, would receive royalties every time the song aired. Roddenberry also wanted in on these royalties, so he added his own lyrics to the song. Ultimately, Roddenberry cut these lyrics himself but was still legally a co-writer for the song and was entitled to half of the royalties. After these lyrics were revealed by Alexander, one audience member cried out, “ I've been looking for these all my life!” Don't worry your little Vulcan minds, I won't make you spend your whole life looking for them. Here you go:

Beyond The rim of the star-light My love Is wand'ring in star-flight I know He'll find in star-clustered reaches Love, Strange love a star woman teaches. I know His journey ends never His star trek Will go on forever. But tell him While he wanders his starry sea Remember, remember me.

I know, I know, this is a super-rad collection and you all want to check it out now. Excited audience members at the event (myself included) had the same reaction. Here's the link to the finding aid on OAC: http://www.oac.cdlib.org/findaid/ark:/13030/tf5z09n9vr/?query=gene+roddenberry

For those of you who are interested in more Curator's Conversations, the next one is being held on April 14th from 12-1pm in the YRL Presentation Room at UCLA and will feature Special Collection's growing punk archive. So go, explore strange new archives, seek out new stories and new collections, and to boldly go where mostly just curators have gone before.

Mary Priest is a future archivist and current graduate student in UCLA's MLIS program, specializing in archival informatics. She holds a Bachelor’s in English Literature from Cal State Northridge and Shakespeare is her homeboy. When she's not busy with classes and/or celebrating awesome archival finds, she is gluttonously overstuffing her “to-read” shelf on Goodreads.  

Published by: Los Angeles Archivist Collective in In Process

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