My husband and I are complete nerds. In fact, we were nerds/geeks long before it was fashionable to be nerds–complete with glasses and pocket protectors.
Back then our geekiness was expressed in watching science fiction shows in the midst of small town, rural America, shooting off model rockets and playing chess. Today our nerdiness has a more erudite flavor: spotting the old original Star Trek minor characters in old episodes of Gunsmoke.
While it’s easy to spot the Big Four–Kirk, Spock, McCoy, and Scotty–identifying Elaan of Troyius is not so easy. (She’s been in two episodes so far). Other notables include Kang, Stonn, Miri, Jahn (also from the episode Miri), Zarabeth, the Romulan Commander, and Sam Cogley, to name just a few.
Back in our younger days we used to play “Name that Star Trek episode” to see how quickly we could identify the episode. Now the game is “which character is that and which episode did he star in?” Sometimes it’s the voice or the shape of the eyes that identifies the character. Sometimes we have to watch the whole Gunsmoke episode and look the person up on IMB only to smack our heads in disgust that we didn’t recognize the character.
You’ll notice I named the characters, not the actors. It’s a peculiar habit we have of identifying with the character rather than the actor. My mom’s generation talked about their favorite actors and could name all the different movies they starred in. For us, it’s less about the actor (most of whom we might not even like as people) and more about how the character impacted or influenced our opinion of the episode. So when we spot Lenard Nimoy in Gunsmoke, we don’t yell, “There’s Lenard Nimoy.” We yell, “Hey, there’s Spock again.”
Most folks may think there’s no correlation between Gunsmoke and Star Trek, but they’d be wrong. Both series are about individuals dealing with the complexities of life in a not-so-safe environment. The series both used good, solid storylines that focused on individuals rather than society. Yes, society might be bad, might have misguided or wrong values, but here’s how John Ordinary dealt with it and made a difference.
Good storytelling is good storytelling no matter what genre.