Are there any other words that carry such connotations of complete and utter nerdiness? Dungeons and Dragons might come close.
As it happens, I am just a few months older than Star Trek. Unlike many others, I didn’t grow up watching Star Trek. I lived in the country with two channels, and there was virtually no science fiction on either one. Being able to catch an episode of Trek when I went on vacation was a big deal.
I grew up reading Star Trek. In particular, I loved Alan Dean Foster’s adaptations of the animated series. The later ones were particularly fun, where Foster only used the episode as a jumping off point for a longer story.
And there was a magazine with an unlikely and impossibly long title, All About Star Trek Fan Clubs. The first issue had a short episode guide and laid out the sort of basic information that now you’d pick up from Wikipedia. But of course, there was no Wikipedia then.
While the Trek captains have received a lot of discussion, make no mistake: my favourite character was the science officer.
There was something cool about Spock. Of course, I wasn’t alone; Mr. Spock was the most popular character for a long time (often to the detriment of stories – Spock ended up solving plots far too often).
In retrospect, I think a large part of the attraction was that Spock was a highly intelligent character. At the time, there weren’t a lot of those to go around in pop culture. Around the early 1970s, how many characters can you name who were really, really smart besides Spock? Sherlock Holmes. I’m missing others, but it certainly wasn’t like now, where the success of CSI and all its procedural crime drama offspring has put a lot of very smart characters as main characters in drama. Spock was pretty appealing to all those people who got tagged “the smart kid” in school.
If there had been no Trek, I would probably still be a scientist. But I cannot guess how much of my mental architecture has been shaped by science fiction generally and that show especially.
I lost touch with Trek somewhere between the third and fifth television series, when it seemed they just ran out of stories worth telling. Russell T Davies said much the same thing about Doctor Who before he pulled off a completely glorious revival of that show.
Today, a new Star Trek movie opens. I am hoping that writer and director J. J. Abrams will pull off for Trek what Davies did for Doctor Who: take everything we loved about the old series and stick a great big swodge of 2009 in it. The advance reviews are uniformly enthusiastic, and, for the first time in a long time, I’m genuinely excited about the prospect of watching Star Trek.
Because what’s better than a brand new hero?
An old hero who hasn’t lost it.