Like many of us, spnmom was deeply saddened by the death of Leonard Nimoy. He was family. A SciFi icon. Someone who had always been a part of our broader fannish community. spnmom was a Star Trek fan before she was a Supernatural fan, and felt the need express what that show meant to her and how that has translated into what our show means to her. The two are intricately interwoven. She is a fangirl after all. I hope you enjoy this personal story of crossing fandoms. It made me cry. I love fandom.
Please let spnmom know your thoughts or your own stories in the comments.
First, I would like to thank sweetondean for allowing me this indulgence and to use her forum. To boldly go where I have not gone before. Because there is nowhere else I would feel safe to express my deepest thoughts and feelings about how Star Trek, Supernatural, and how their cast have impacted my life. I thought about posting something on Facebook, but my sons most likely would’ve been embarrassed and/or mortified. :\
I can distinctly remember the moment, at age 11, when Star Trek stopped being a TV show for me and became so much more. I watched many sci-fi shows in the 60’s on our black and white TV, but I found Star Trek much more fascinating for some reason. Sorry, I couldn’t resist using one of Spock’s favourite words.
It was March 1967 when The Devil in the Dark aired. I went to watch it at the neighbor’s home on their colour TV, my first time seeing the show in colour! To use Supernatural lingo, it was a MOTW episode. A rock like monster, the Horta, was killing miners. Spock did a mind meld, as shown in the Hallmark ornament above and came to find out, the miners were killing it’s babies, these big silicon spheres! When Spock revealed this I recall having what I think was my first empathetic moment for a character in a TV show. And it happened to be an alien! It immediately made me feel sad and I felt a deeper meaning.
Now mind you, I don’t think most of us at age 11 were looking for deep things while watching TV. I know I wasn’t. And I probably didn’t have the vocabulary to even describe what I was feeling at the time. But I know I shed a tear for a TV show and that surprised me.
That is when my lifelong Star Trek connection began. Because somehow I knew it was speaking to me personally. Like I said, I couldn’t put words to what I felt back then, but later I would understand it had so much more to say than to just entertain me. There were moral dilemmas, choices and consequences, life and death decisions, underlying social statements, hidden meanings, parallels to the turbulent 60’s issues like civil rights and of course the prime directive. Should they intervene, share what they knew, let an outsider in on the ‘secrets’ (tell others about supernatural stuff?)
By now you must have realised how those same things I just mentioned are prevalent in Supernatural as well. I'll discuss more of that and other parallels of the shows later.
After hearing of Leonard Nimoy’s passing I dug out my Star Trek S1 DVD’s my son gave me awhile back, which I had never finished. By chance I had stopped on a disc that had a great piece from one of Mr Nimoy's interviews in 2003 about Star Trek. He was discussing the same episode I just mentioned and revealed that it was a particularly important episode for him personally, because it was “about something important to me. How we tend to demonise the things we don’t understand, or the people we don’t understand”.
His words spoke to me again, only this time not Spock’s words, but Leonard’s. And the introspection began in earnest. I realised that episode was my first real connection to a TV character and listening more closely to what they were telling or teaching me. I think I knew even then that I was watching the show after that with a different perspective. I couldn't share this with my friends. If I did say anything they gave me weird looks and thought I was acting odd! There was no ‘fangirl’ acceptance back then! So as others watched for pure entertainment, I buried my geek girl thoughts so as to be accepted by my friends.
But as I aged I did find myself analysing many other TV shows and movies (much to the annoyance of my family and friends I might add), being careful not to share too much. Then when I went to college, Star Trek was on in the late afternoons after class. I got reacquainted with my fangirl inside, but again, I didn't say too much. I mean come on. This was college in the 70’s. If I had gone on and on about how a sci-fi show episode with two enemy guys having black and white faces, but opposite halves reflected a social issue, my friends probably would’ve accused me of eating some ‘special’ brownies.
However, my secret was let out of the bag when James "Scotty" Doohan made an appearance at my college. I couldn’t contain myself and I turned into a total fan girl. I was a nervous wreck before his appearance, wondering what to wear, etc. He brought outtakes which were hilarious and gave me a sneak peak into the show behind the scenes. Afterwards I got his autograph and a kiss on the cheek!!! Or I kissed him. I really can’t remember which it was! A brain fart. (I’m sure anyone who has been to a SPN convention can totally relate!)
For the next several years my fangirl was subdued, occasionally making an appearance when there was a Star Trek movie. I did get goose bumps and indeed stood and let out a yelp in the full theatre when Kirk saw the Enterprise in space dock in the first movie. My husband just rolled his eyes and slunk in his seat. Then there was my total meltdown in the Wrath of Khan. I sobbed buckets and had to cover my face as I left the theatre. My husband said, “It’s just a movie!”
Spock’s famous quote, “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few” still gets me today. Can you say Supernatural parallel? How many times have Sam and Dean put others’ needs before their own? How many times have they saved the world or risked their life for mankind or humanity?
So more years pass and along comes Supernatural. At first I couldn’t put my finger on exactly what drew me to the show. Initially it was because Bobby was from my hometown, which I found fascinating. Oops, did it again. But soon I had an epiphany. OMG. Supernatural had the same undercurrents of social injustice, hidden messages and lessons, life questions that I had loved about Star Trek so long ago. Belief in saving mankind and a belief that things could be better.
There was true character development and interaction and humour between the characters, just like in Star Trek. There were humorous episodes and playful episodes. Remember Trouble with Tribbles? There was the Sam and Dean bond, reminiscent of Kirk and Spock’s relationship. And of course Bobby, their Dr. McCoy. And men who couldn’t say I love you or verbalise how much they cared about each other, just like on Star Trek. But wait, there were also episodes where Sam and Dean were under a spell or possession when true feelings, although sometimes warped a bit, were shared. Just like in Naked Time when the Star Trek crew was infected with a virus and Spock’s emotions came hurtling to the surface. Lest I leave this one out. How many times have Dean or Sam died and come back? How can one not think of Spock dying and returning, albeit via the movies.
Plus, duh, the obvious Star Trek references in many Supernatural episodes. Dean saying “let’s Star Trek 4 this bitch”, the Khan worm and young John Winchester telling Dean he could probably get reception on the Enterprise! I know Dean has mentioned the Vulcan mind meld. (There were others I can’t think of at the moment.)
Both shows had period and time travel episodes. Some of those are my favourite Supernatural episodes and City on the Edge of Forever with Joan Collins is a fabulous Star Trek episode. Another favourite of Leonard Nimoy’s. He said he thought it may have been the best episode of the series.
On that same DVD a snippet of an interview with William Shatner talked about how the show tangled with creatures more intelligent than they were so the show would use brawn to overcome them. The reverse was true also. When the crew came upon an alien with more brawn they used clever ideas to show human’s intellect to outwit their enemy. How many times have Sam and Dean had to do the same?
Through video clips and interviews I have come to understand that the set of Star Trek had some wonderful cast camaraderie, as does the Supernatural set. There were pranks and fun was had much of the time. The Star Trek family atmosphere grew stronger through the years, including cast from other Star Trek series because of conventions. How many past cast members of Supernatural are now best friends because of the conventions, even though they never acted together or met until a convention.
Finally, the lead actors. William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy developed a deep friendship over the years as have Jensen and Jared. William Shatner posted this after Leonard’s passing, “I loved him like a brother”. Sound like any other guys we know? Leonard was also quoted in the past as saying they were ‘like brothers’.
Shatner and Nimoy realised as the years passed how much their characters impacted others lives. They heard countless times how people became scientists, engineers or astronauts because they had watched Star Trek as a child. These people became the future! They listened to fans and there was a beautiful letter Leonard Nimoy wrote in response to a young girl’s question in a fan magazine back in 1968. She was bi-racial and had trouble fitting in. She wanted to know how Spock did it. His response is still relevant today in that he told her to be true to herself, whether that was popular or not. You can find the response at www.celebrity.yahoo.com
That reminded me of how Jared and Jensen both have said so many encouraging things to fans who’ve been struggling with depression or other issues. Jared especially has addressed this topic often.
Of course they all have done many, many conventions while breaking down the barrier between fan and cast by developing friendships. Not only stepping into our living rooms via a TV screen, but now entering the same room with those lucky enough to attend a convention. Giving of themselves in time and sacrificing family time to be with fans.
I fantasised about attending a Star Trek convention for years. But those early conventions had kind of a reputation of having crazy fans and they weren’t always treated with much respect by mainstream TV watchers. I didn’t have the guts, or anyone to go with for that matter. If I ever brought it up I again got a strange look in response. I simply couldn’t risk the condemnation from family and friends.
Then along came Supernatural. I began going to fan web sites, reading blogs and watching videos of conventions. Supernatural fandom encouraged and allowed me to release that inner fangirl that I had suppressed for so long. I made the leap and went to the first VegasCon. It was everything I’d hoped it would be and more. I regretted never going to a Star Trek convention, but by now they've grown so big I don't think I could get the same feel. Plus, some of the original cast is forever gone. But enjoy VegasCon I did. I even won a trivia contest! I guess binge watching 7 seasons of Supernatural on DVD and TNT for a a year helped, as I had only been watching about a year at the time I attended!
I believe Supernatural fandom and all fandoms owe a debt to Star Trek and the Trekkies/Trekkers. Without them going where no (wo)man had gone before, we might not be able to enjoy the SPN conventions and fan experience as we do now. The early Trekkies endured criticism, judgement and pretty much everything awful, but kept going in spite of it. Now multi-generations attend Star Trek conventions together. They cosplay together, plan family vacations around conventions and enjoy the company of an extended Star Trek family. They have created a legacy over almost 60 years.
Supernatural is in the infant stage of their legacy, but I have a feeling it will last long after the show is gone. The cast will stay connected, the fans will continue to converge on conventions, continue to write fan fiction and watch DVD’s or whatever future media brings. The SPNfamily is already multi-generational, and I have no doubt, it will continue to grow.
And crossover fandoms are growing. This can’t be more evident than when William Shatner started interacting with Supernatural and other fandoms. Live tweeting, messing with Misha ("Cupcake") and supporting many other Sci-Fi shows.
My life has truly come full circle!!!! So surreal that after nearly 50 years, my first deep encounter and connection to a TV show, Star Trek, should somehow now be interwoven with another show I've become deeply connected to, Supernatural. One led to the other, but now they're on the same plane! Mind boggling.
Thank you Star Trek, Leonard Nimoy and William Shatner, for the life lessons you showed me so many years ago, even though the impact took years for me to discover. They will live long in me and I feel they have helped me prosper. Possibly in ways I am still unaware of. I am trying at my age to live out Leonard’s advice to that young girl from the 60’s. To be true to myself. It’s not always easy, even at my ‘mature’ age. There are still incredulous looks, ridicule and a lack of understanding from some close to me. Not only regarding my selection in TV shows, obsessions (er… hobbies) but with career choices I have made. But that moment back in 1967 may well have been the beginning of a journey in life that I am just now understanding. It may have been what led me away from a medical career, eventually to social work and now working with the homeless.
I want to thank Supernatural cast, crew and fans for creating a medium that allowed me to be true to me and awaken those distant memories, while creating new ones. What a great meld it is becoming.
PS. By total happenstance I chose this to wear on the day of Leonard Nimoy’s passing before I heard about it.