SCV In the Movies | Episode 22: Star Trek’s Bobby Clark (Gorn Commander) Reenacts Fight with Capt. Kirk at Vasquez Rocks
The Vasquez Rocks sequences in “Arena” were shot over two days in November 1966. Directed by Joseph Pevney and written by Gene L. Coon, this first-season episode (original air date: January 19, 1967) sees the Starship Enterprise pursue the attackers after a Federation starbase is destroyed. The Enterprise enters an uncharted sector of space where Captain James T. Kirk and the commander of the other vessel, the lizard-like Gorn, are transported to the surface of a desert planet (Vasquez Rocks) where they engage in a fierce battle. Kirk, of course, is the victor, carrying on to command the Enterprise for two more seasons and exploring many more alien planets, several of which were located in the Santa Clarita Valley.
At some point during the filming of this episode, William Shatner (Kirk) and Leonard Nimoy (Spock) got too close to an explosion and ended up with a life-long case of tinnitus — severe ringing in the ears. In an interview taped October 21, 2006, Nimoy told SCVTV the pyrotechnic incident took place on a sound stage, not at Vasquez Rocks. Had the explosion had been outdoors, they probably wouldn’t have been injured. Nimoy said someone forgot to open the stage doors, which is necessary to dissipate the impact of the concussion.
Nimoy may have been remembering different sequences earlier in the episode, not involving the Gorn commander. In an Aug. 4, 2012 inverview, Bobby Clark, who played the Gorn commander, said the scene where Kirk fires a round from a bamboo cannon at him was indeed filmed at Vasquez Rocks. Clark described it as a smoke bomb and said it did not involve real pyrotechnics.
Clark, a cowboy who worked as an extra and stuntman primarily in Westerns, moved to Saugus in 1969. His “Star Trek” credits also include the episodes “Mirror, Mirror,” “The Return of the Archons” and “The Apple.” Additional TV acting credits include “Cimarron Strip,” “The Virginian,” “Lancer,” “Kung Fu” and “Gunsmoke.” His long list of stunt credits, spanning the years 1966 to 1983, include “2001: A Space Odyssey” and “Poltergeist.”
In 2005, Shatner reenacted his fight with the Gorn commander at Vasquez Rocks for the Discovery Channel/History Channel documentary, “How William Shatner Changed the World.”
On Aug. 4, 2012, Clark reenacted his fight with Captain Kirk at Vasquez Rocks for an upcoming SCVTV special. The costume he wore in 1966 consisted of three-inch-thick rubber worn over a rubber wetsuit; it was fabricated and owned by Desilu Productions. For the reenactment, Clark used a replica mask made for him in Sweden.
Clark didn’t perform the “grunting” heard in the original; the audio was added later by a sound engineer.©2012 SCVTV