Thursday, June 30, 2016

Primary Fandoms

When I was seven or eight years old cable television either didn't exist or wasn't widely available. To watch television we needed an antenna and with that we could receive four channels: NBC, CBS, ABC, and PBS. There were two times when television went straight to ultra boring - when the president was giving a speech and Sunday morning. It was Sunday mornings that got me interested in SciFi.

While Saturday morning was cartoon time for the kids, Sunday morning was for the religious. All three of the big networks played church programs. Now, this was before mega churches and video sermons. The programming that was on was the service from a local church. If you were lucky, there was more than just one camera sitting in the back of the sanctuary with a wide shot of the altar/pulpit. Considering we often left the television off on Sundays until after church, the last thing my eight-year-old self wanted to see was more church. As George Carlin said, "Church was a weekly reminder that there was something worse than school."

With church on the big three we usually turned to PBS. This is the only reason I know what Nova is and it is what introduced me to Star Trek. It wasn't just that it was often the only thing to watch on Sunday mornings that wasn't church, I really enjoyed it. I loved Star Trek so much over the years that there was a time that I could literally identify the episode, by name, and give you a full plot synopsis by watching no more than ten seconds of any part of any original series episode. Even if it was just a closeup of Mr. Spock raising an eyebrow. Yes, seriously.

Star Trek, in its many forms, has always held a special place in my heart, like a first love. If you asked me what my fandom was, my unhesitating response, for many, many years would have been, "I'm a Trekkie!" [side note: fandom is a recent expression. It's sort-of like cosplay. It's always been there, we just didn't always call it that.] I will forever refer to myself as a Trekkie (or Trekker, depending on my mood) but I've recently been taking notice of which fandom I gravitate toward most strongly and, to my surprise, it's changed.

Way back in 1977 there was this little box office sleeper that was quietly released to theaters called Star Wars. You may have heard of it. I think it was the first movie I absolutely had to see. There were so many incredible things about the movie theater experience back then but seeing the lines wrapped around the building (we mostly had single-screen theaters back then) had to be the most spectacular to my young self. If that many people wanted to see this movie at any particular time it had to be good.

I love the original Star Wars and will forever raise it up as an example of great film making. From the story to the characters to the then ground-breaking special effects (up to that point no one had left the model stationary and moved the camera around it to create motion) it's absolutely amazing. I watch it now and can see its rough edges but still marvel that George Lucas and his team put so many firsts in that production. They literally had to invent new ways of producing special effects, some of which are still used today.

As great as it is and as great as it was I still identified myself as a Trekkie. Maybe because the fandom never got saddled with a catchy name, I don't know. What would you call a Star Wars fan, anyway? Star Warrior? Star Warian? Skywalkerer? At any rate, my placement of Star Wars as my number one favorite lasted maybe a year or two after its release if it ever was on top. I eventually settled back into my old, comfortable, Starfleet mindset.

In the early '80s PBS, yet again, introduced me to this odd little show from England called Doctor Who. I know it wasn't another Sunday morning find. I think it may have aired on Saturday afternoons. Anyway, Here was this show about this quirky guy with bushy hair and a looooong scarf around his neck traveling through space and time in... a British police box... that was bigger on the inside. This show was not some highly-polished, big-budget production. On the contrary, it looked quite cheap. But that was part of its charm. Being interested at the time in television/video production it was fascinating to see how they used ordinary objects and materials in unusual and unexpected ways.

I lost touch with the show when the local PBS stations started shuffling the schedule. It was also around that time that I really started to take an interest in girls. The latter was likely the reason I didn't fly my geek flag quite so high anymore. I lost track of The Doctor and eventually heard that the show had ended in 1989. It wasn't such a hard blow for me because I'd missed out on something like four doctors by that time and I'd settled comfortably back into my Trekkie seat in 1987 with the introduction of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

With a steady diet of Star Trek movies and television and Star Wars sequels I'd put The Doctor on a shelf to gather dust. I kept him around, to be sure, and when people asked I would politely tell them, "Yes, I know of The Doctor and enjoyed the show very much." I really didn't give him much thought until 2005 when BBC America, a channel that didn't even launch until 1998, announced that they were bringing it back.

By this time I'd done away with my self-consciousness and flew my geek flag as high as I could. I was uneasy about this rebirth (or should that be regeneration?). Would they maintain the spirit of The Doctor? Would the stories be any good? Would The Doctor be any good? I watched the first episode with trepidation. I didn't want to hate it but so many rebirths of so many shows had failed miserably. I needn't have worried. When I heard Christopher Eccleston utter the phrase, "Hello, Rose. I'm The Doctor. Run for your life." in that Doctor-esque calm and whimsy I was hooked again. This time, I don't think I've missed a single episode (thank God for DVRs).

As I look around my desk I see four Star Wars figurines, some The Walking Dead Funko pocket pop!s that I got in a grab bag, a Captain America Funko mug I won at work, a Darth Vader Mr. Potato Head, and a space marine action figure from Starcraft. Scattered about amidst all of that is a six-inch vinyl TARDIS, three postcard-sized pictures of the TARDIS (one looking in to the control room, one with the doors closed, and one with a cat peering inside), a photo of me stepping out of the Tulsa TARDIS, and a Funko pocket Pop! of the fourth Doctor (Tom Baker). But it doesn't end there. My current vehicle is a 2014 Jazz (darker) Blue Dodge Charger with a vanity plate that reads TMTRVLR (TARDIS was already taken). I think it's safe to say that I've changed my primary fandom from Trekkie to Whovian.

Live long and prosper, may The Force be with you, always know where your towel is, and Allons-y!

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