I was 12 years old when the original Star Wars came out. I have a clear memory of sitting on the living room carpet with my then-best-friend Wendy, playing some game, when a commercial preview for it came on TV. “It’s too bad movies like that never get very popular,” I remarked. Shows how much I know about the entertainment industry.
I’ve been a sci-fi nerd since earliest childhood, as my brother, 10 years older, generally controlled the TV when my Dad wasn’t home to commandeer it. (Dad had a succinct, definitive opinion of science fiction programming and scary TV shows and anything that seemed a little sexy: “Garbage show.” You didn’t watch garbage shows when Dad was in the room.)
The original Star Trek series was my first cult fandom, though I was too young to remember its original run. It used to play in reruns (now called “encore presentations”) every weeknight at 5:00. My bro loved Star Trek, so I became very familiar with it. There was a time when I could answer any trivia question about Trek you might throw at me. Recently, I couldn’t even remember the name of the actor who played Kevin Reilly (Bruce Hyde, BTW). I am ashamed.
I discovered Doctor Who sometime in the mid-70s. We’re talking Classic Who, of course. I came in on Tom Baker’s 4th Doctor, and Sara Jane Smith was his companion. I remembered loving Sara Jane and wondering how they let somebody with such an obvious drug problem as Tom Baker appear on television. (Of course, I understand now that while Tom has indeed ingested a wide variety of chemicals in his life, in this case he was only playing the part of a very strange alien.) Doctor Who inspired my very first act of protest: when the local affiliate abruptly dropped the series – on a cliffhanger! – I wrote a letter of complaint to the station. When the show came back a few years later, this time on the PBS affiliate, I got into it again. Really, really into it. It used to air at 12:30 am, and I had to stay awake through EastEnders.
This was before we had a VCR, so I used to set my cassette tape recorder next to the TV and record the episodes. Not long ago I found a tape of “Four to Doomsday,” a 5th Doctor episode. Too bad I no longer have a tape recorder to play it on.
In college, I was all about Star Trek: The Next Generation. While living in off-campus housing, my niece Amy, who was living in the dorms, would come over on Friday nights for pizza and the week’s ST:TNG episode. Good times.
The 90s’ were the X Files years, of course. I shipped Mulder and Scully hard through nine seasons, only to experience a deep sting of betrayal when it was revealed near the end that they’d been sleeping together for years; it just hadn’t come up as a plot point. I won’t forgive you for that, Chris Carter.
Maybe that was what turned me off sci-fi in the first decade of the new millennium. I missed Farscape, Stargate (in all its iterations), Heroes, Battlestar Galactica. I skipped the Star Wars prequels, something that would have been unthinkable to my 11-year-old self. I know nothing of the Matrix movies, or the Star Trek reboot movies or anything involving grown men in tights and masks.
I did become briefly obsessed with a British series, “Primeval,” (mostly for my unwholesome lust for the nerdy character Connor; actor Andrew-Lee Potts became my Age-Inappropriate British Celebrity Crush for several years).
So now I’m hearing about an X Files revival, and a fantastic new Star Wars movie and a Star Trek series reboot … and I can’t bring myself to get too excited. Does that mean I’m growing up? God, I hope not.