The Conversation

Nerd pecking order disrupted by mainstreaming

In response to What is the Pecking Order of Nerdy Things?:

You might have to adjust your pecking order a bit in the matter of Star Trek: TOS, or create a separate entry for Star Trek: The Reboot.  Just think, we'll soon have a generation of kids who grew up knowing Chris Pine as Captain Kirk, while William Shatner is the old guy trying to sell them discount travel packages.

The nerd-factor differential between TOS and the JJ Abrams Reboot is instructive.  Besides the slick production values of a big-budget film and the use of young actors - who seem so much younger than their original counterparts, even when they're roughly the same age Shatner and Co. were in the late 60s - the other big difference is that Reboot Trek doesn't seriously dwell on its science, either real science or Trek hardware.  Whatever keeps the plot moving is what happens, even when it means Old Spock could see the destruction of his homeworld with the naked eye, from his cave on the ice planet where Kirk just happened to be nonsensically exiled from the Enterprise, landing within a mile of Old Spock's campground.

The Original Series was stewarded by serious sci-fi writers, and people who admired them.  It tried to be reasonably consistent with astronomy and physics as understood at the time, and also consistent with the fanciful technologies created for its futuristic society.  (And then it proceeded to do some very silly things with its plots, especially in the third year.)  That level of serious consistency, coupled with its larger-than-life characters, is what makes it seem nerdy.  Abrams' very entertaining Star Trek is more mainstream, less technobabbly, less nerdy, more youthful, and playing to an audience that has already embraced the Trek universe at a cultural level - everybody knows what a Klingon is.  I'd have to put Trek Reboot's nerd score right up there next to Star Wars... which is, as it happens, about to be taken over by the same guy.

If you want to extend your scale into the negatives, let's talk about Doctor Who, and maybe the people obsessed with video-game settings like Mass Effect or World of Warcraft.


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