After Hours

Sci-fi rant: When did Trekkers jump the shark?

Once upon a time, Trekkies weren't the poster-children for science fiction fandom gone wrong, but instead were just another obscure subgroup with an immersive hobby. Then, in the mid-1980s, something went terribly wrong, and Trek fandom has been the rightful butt of uber-geek jokes ever since.

Q: When did Trekkers jump the shark?A: The Klingon Dictionary

Yes, Star Trek makes the list twice, but in this case we're talking about Trek fandom rather than the franchise itself.

Once upon a time, Trekkers (or, if you prefer, Trekkies) weren't universally mocked as basement-dwelling pointy-eared social reprobates who were more likely to have a working knowledge of fictional faster-than-light propulsion systems than they were the mating rituals of their own species. Though it may be hard to fathom, there was an era when Trekkers were seen as quaintly optimistic hobbyists fascinated by a vision of the future that saw mankind as better off socially, intellectually, and technologically than it is now, and who supported an amusing little sci-fi show that had a good heart and was boldly ahead of its time in social commentary, if not production values. Trekkers were no more unusual than folks who passionately followed a sports franchise or popular musical act, though they probably had better costumes.

Klingon DictionaryThe Klingon DictionaryThe Search for Spock

That was 1985. In December of 1986, Trek fandom had devolved to the point that William Shatner was dissing Trekkies on Saturday Night Live. In the 20 years since, despite some really solid TV from The Next Generation, Trekkers have continued their downward slide in the cultural caste system largely because they take themselves—and their show—way too seriously.

Whitewater TrekkieExhibit Awearing her NextGen uniform in the courtroomdoesn't existExhibit BStar Trek VIKlingon version of HamletExhibit CStar Trek-themed home theater roomRedesigning your entire apartmentVoyager

Even The West Wing took time out to lecture Trekkies and I'd be the first to repudiate the show for its haughtiness except - as it rightfully points out - there's a difference between being a fan and having a fetish. This is the image, in many ways rightfully earned, of Trek fandom.

The Klingon Dictionary blurred that line between pastime and obsession. And while this may earn me the title of bIHnuch ghobe' hoghobe'r, I can live with it. (No, I'm not translating that. Trust me, there are plenty of Trekkies out there who can explain it.)

Sure, if you're 12 years old and haven't discovered dating yet, learning a few Klingon phrases, mapping out the decks of an undescribed obscure class of starship, or just conjuring up the backstory of an unnamed background character from episode 38 is a bit of harmless pseudo-intellectual fun. If you're still doing it in your late thirties at the expense of holding down a job or developing a meaningful relationship, you need help. The kind the Klingon Dictionary just can't provide.

About Jay Garmon

Jay Garmon has a vast and terrifying knowledge of all things obscure, obtuse, and irrelevant. One day, he hopes to write science fiction, but for now he'll settle for something stranger — amusing and abusing IT pros. Read his full profile. You can a...

Editor's Picks

Free Newsletters, In your Inbox