|Adventures in the Big Empty
by Geek Jane
Jane As Couch Potato, or, What Geeks Watch
I've noticed a trend in what I and geek friends like myself like to watch, in the realm of movies and television. As a general rule I try not to watch too much tv, since it's a colossal waste of time when there's laundry to be done, but now and then I end up planted in front of the boob tube. It's hypnotic, television is...it's all too easy to sit and watch for hours on end and not even notice the time pass. If you don't know what I mean, look at someone else's face while they watch television, especially something like MTV. Scary, isn't it? That slack-jawed, dull-eyed look is the same one you sport when you flip on the set.
Geeks love science fiction. It's an inborn trait. Many geeks are fans of Star Trek, whether it be the original James Kirk wearing a girdle to Captain Janeway who sounds like one of the Chipmunks, Trekkies everywhere abound in the geek world. Along with ST, ST:TNG, ST:DS9 (a disturbing trend also being that geeks have even made their own acronyms for the shows to speed typing in newsgroup messages), a huge variety of sci-fi shows are very popular. After speaking with a few of my geek friends, some of the more popular shows are Babylon 5, Space Ghost Coast to Coast (and the follow-up show, Cartoon Planet), seaQuest (back when it was cool to like seaQuest), Earth: The Final Conflict, Sliders - I know there are a million more I didn't mention.
You see, a few years back, geeks just like you and me went into the television series business, knowing what fanatic geek-people will watch, and from that concept spawned a huge number of programs for which thousands go home and plant ourselves in front of the box religiously. Many of them feature notoriously bad acting and silly episode plotlines, though occasionally a brilliantly executed arc plotline will emerge over the course of a season, or even years. But it doesn't matter! We must watch, we must find out what happens next, even if the aliens are really made from a sheet of tin foil being shaken in front of a blue screen (though I will admit special effects in the last ten years have gotten much better). One of my favorite shows back in the day was one that ironically I can't remember the name of - it's about those two cops, one is an alien and his race are those ex-slave people who have spots on their heads, they drink rotten milk and melt when they touch salt water? You know the one. You're probably humming the theme song right now.
I used to think V was the stuff back when I was a kid, a geek-in-training at a tender young age. The whole concept of aliens that look like big lizards coming to Earth and eating people, yet easily blending in with the populace with the utilization of some cheesy rubber masks, was mind-boggling for a nine year old. I would sit mesmerized while the evil plot unfolded, feeling adoration for the one vegetarian alien who was nice to the Earthlings (Willie!) and wondering when I would have to start digging a hideout in my back yard. Recently I saw a rerun of my coveted show...it was SO bad! The acting was terrible, barely stomachable, in fact. The costumes (especially Diana's) were laughable at best, so dated and ridiculous. It was a little disappointing to go back and find something not as cool as I had once thought. However, there are programs that, regardless of the passing of time, retain their quality.
I'm feeling nostalgic...it happens when I get rambling about the early 80's...
My favorite sci-fi show of all time is indubitably Dr. Who. To be specific, Dr. Who - the Tom Baker Years. Tom Baker, the fourth Doctor, was my idol, I coveted his scarf, his curls, even his googly eyes and crooked teeth. Tom Baker was the man. My father actually taped every single Dr. Who episode during Tom's reign (1974-1980 in case you were wondering), I would watch them all day while visiting him. Dr. Who as a show had, by far, some of the worst alien costumes and special effects I had ever seen (the aforementioned shaking piece of tin foil being one of them), but the storylines were always infectiously appealing. Who would be Dr. Who's assistant now? Would it be a boy or a girl? Will they get captured? Will K-9 save the day? Why does K-9 have that suction cup between his eyes? So witty they all sounded with their British accents, how mysterious this "BBC" affiliation. Then Tom Baker left (waa) and next came Peter Davison. He was somewhat acceptable because he was familiar as Tristan from All Creatures Great and Small. He fell out of favor when, in the first episode, he unraveled the scarf to find his way around the TARDIS (sob!), not to mention he had those stupid question marks on his lapels. He didn't last long, though, and my interest in the series continued to wane. Then came Colin Baker. I hated Colin Baker, with a passion. I haven't watched Dr. Who since, except to see reruns of Tom. One of my most poignant memories of Dr. Who was, of course, the Daleks. Who can forget them, or their irritating voices? Not just irritating, but the sort of incessant din that drives one to commit criminal acts. I always thought to myself that they should just run up and kick the stupid little trash cans over, before they could extend their lame little transistor radio antenna arms and shoot lasers at them.
"EX-TER-MIN-ATE-EX-TER-MIN-ATE" *boot!* *clunk*
My favorite moment in a Dr. Who episode: The TARDIS makes a bumpy landing, as usual. The Doctor (Tom Baker) says something to the effect of, "Let's see where we've landed," and hits the button for the view screen. The view screen slides open, revealing nothing but a stone face. The next shot is a close-up of Tom, a jubilant goofy-eyed look on his face, as he exclaims, "Oh, look! Rocks!"
One of the most entertaining shows that has endured for a number of years (and has a huge cult following to prove it) is Mystery Science Theater 3000 , which in Geek Speak is MST3K. The first time I saw it I thought it was a joke, these three silhouettes sitting in front of a huge movie screen making fun of an old black and white film. After about ten minutes I was hooked. I don't get to see it as much as I would like, but I always enjoy it. One of my favorite MST3K s was the movie The Mantis, about a huge praying mantis terrorizing a town. I think it ate a bus at one point. In any case, I think the show is so popular because they say the things that you are thinking. Such as, When Nasty Monster is pursuing Running Screaming Woman, she will always fall down and get maimed, all the while holding her hand to her head and shrieking. How lame is that? Or, Nasty Monster always sneaks up on anyone investigating a Noise They Heard In The Dark. I always want to scream, "No, stupid! Don't unlock the door and go outside without a flashlight!" They do it for me. Hail to the MST3K guys! Or, robots. Whatever those other two are. I found a nifty screen saver for MST3K on the Scifi web site, enjoy!
That's all the time I have for flying my tachion-wave-propulsed jet-cycle down memory lane today.
Thanks as always for reading, and thanks to those readers who sent me email! I feel validated! A credit to one gentleman (From MIT, no less - Geek Spawning Capital Of The World) who sent me a message informing me that the "Elephant Never Forgets" logo (see Chapter One) is in fact Memorex. Thank you, as the lack of that tidbit of information has been bugging me for ten years.
Peace, love, and T-connections for all,
Tell a friend about Geek Jane!
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