Just before they went into warp, I beamed the whole kit and kaboodle into their engine room, where they'll be no tribble at all.
-- Scotty, explaining how he got rid of the tribbles ("The Trouble with Tribbles")
The knowledge resided somewhere in the back of my mind but surfaced rarely. I would notice Renee's pixie hairdo and imagine her ears pointing high like Dr. Spock's, and the awareness would come to me in the bubble of a pithy comment to myself: Ah, that would be appropriate, because she's into that. Renee is a Trekkie. But she didn't know about me. Around Renee, I would suppress my dirty secret; I'd go along with the flow of conversation so as not to make a fool of myself. Recently she caught me off guard and the truth was discovered: I had never seen an episode of Star Trek.
I was visiting Renee and her husband, Kip, when it slipped out. Renee looked at me the way one might behold a demon pawn delivering a message from Satan. In answer to her horrified expression, I said, "What's the big deal!? So? I'm sure I'm not the only one." Wrong answer.
"We're going to fix this," she announced to the room as soon as she regained her composure. Fix it, she said, as though my ignorance of interstellar television was a broken hinge. "I'll select some episodes, and we'll bring them over." Maybe she wanted to make sure I watched them, or perhaps she couldn't part with the DVDs for long -- regardless of the reason, she was going to supervise the viewing. We set a date, and I left feeling as if I had somehow offended.
Kip had discovered his wife's Trekkie nature when they first started dating. He told me about it: "We were watching an animated Japanese movie at the Ken and she recognized one of the characters' voices. She identified him as a two-bit background character from Star Trek: The Next Generation, and I thought, 'How cute! She's a geek!'" Kip's voice softened as he recounted this memory. I understand the sentiment; as far as people and personalities go, geeks are cool.
A geek is anyone with an obsessive passion about something. I often insist that I am a dork, second tier to the realm of geekdom, though I have certain things I am geeky about. During my generation (somewhere between X and Y), we watched the birth of "geek chic," as the latest gadgets came to convey status upon their owners. Coolness is nothing but perception anyway, and with dotcommers and video-game developers, those nerdy guys you knew in school are now those successful cats with all the money and flash.
The only downside to being a geek is that sometimes one can be so consumed with a particular passion that one becomes incapable of relating to a large portion of the population. This is the category in which I had placed computer programmers and Trekkies. But whereas I knew plenty of programmers and could knowledgeably stand behind my assessment of them, I had never encountered a real Trekkie before Renee. I always thought she'd fit in more appropriately with the mod/goth geeks, probably because I was unaware that in her closet, near her thigh-high, black, steel-toed boots, hung an Enterprise uniform. She made it herself, and, according to Kip, she has worn it to a lot of conventions -- those vast gatherings where fans have congregated for the last 30 years to dress up, recite dialogue, and meet the stars of the show.
I could understand how the weekly voyages of the Starship Enterprise might make for interesting viewing during the show's original run in the '60s, when man was reaching for the moon and television had three channels. But what compels a twentysomething woman to dedicate herself to the Enterprise today?
Renee has been a Trekkie for a long time. Raised by older relatives who watched anything with the word "star" in its title, she was addicted by the age of six. In middle school, when most preteens are looking to belong, Renee went to her first convention. "As a kid, it was just cool looking. In middle school, I began to understand all the social commentary," she said.
"So that's why you like it so much?" I asked.
"Well, that and the hot alien chicks, of course."
In addition to my record of zero interactions with Trekkies, I committed a double offense by judging the show's fans without ever seeing the object of their obsession. But in a weird way, I was proud of my accomplishment: avoiding something as ubiquitous as Star Trek takes some effort. Despite my success, cultural references from the show were ingrained in me from movies and other TV shows in the form of homage or spoof.
On the big night of the viewing, I was a teenage virgin all over again. It didn't take much to cross over to the other side, and once the first episode had been viewed, I could watch as many as I wanted without the stress of preserving my Star Trek virginity.
Kip, Renee, and Ollie (who tagged along, remote control in hand) arrived with a selection of cheese and snacks to go with the wine David and I selected for the evening. Renee had carefully chosen specific episodes, based on their significance, from the first and second seasons. First, she put on "The Trouble with Tribbles." From the title, I knew as soon as those furry little space creatures came on the screen that they'd be trouble. But guessing what kind of trouble was the wrong thing to do, as was mocking any portion of the episode.
Each time I laughed or made a mocking comment about any character, Renee shot me a scathing scowl. I guess I could understand; I mean, if anyone mocked my beloved iBook, I'd have a hissy fit on my laptop's behalf. But Star Trek is funny. Whether it's the soft-focus close-ups of William Shatner, the unbelievably short dresses and beehives on female officers, or the cheesy Styrofoam sets, just about every scene had me laughing out loud. Is it the campiness that people love? Was it this campy back in the day?