The time was the early 80s, and Star Wars had introduced me to my childhood OTL: space travel science fiction, or “space opera.” I watched as much of this genre as I could possibly stuff into my young face. Fortunately it was a fertile time for the space drama: Star Wars, Buck Rogers and Battlestar Galactica (the original!) all took me to nerd-vana!
During one of my summers characterized by a near-criminal lack of parental supervision, I discovered the Holy Grail of nerd-girl-space-cartoons: Star Blazers.
With an intro like that, you’d think this was made sometime in the 1600’s, but Star Blazers was actually made in the mid-1970s in Japan, and 2 seasons were dubbed and exported to the states in the early 80s. I went all-in on this fandom, and it was not the cute little “I like this show because it makes me smile” kind of thing. It was the “if you make me miss an episode so-help-me-God I will end you,” kind of a fangirling.
For those of you unfamiliar with the series, here’s the quick lowdown: The year is 2199, some d-bag from the planet Gamilan has seeded the Earth with what look like giant radioactive potatoes, and the radiation will destroy the Earth in a year’s time. But a savior has come in the form of a beautiful woman bearing news of a planet that has a machine that can clean up the radiation. But this planet is far, far away, and will, coincidentally, require a year-long roundtrip! An unconventional Captain is charged with leading a rag-tag band of recruits (apparently most of which were culled from the house of the seven dwarves) across the galaxy to get the machine – but will they make it in time to save the Earth?!!!
And if that is not compelling enough (and I know it is for you, Bekah!) here are the 3 things that gave pre-teen Katy Grace a TV-boner for this show:*
1. Space and aliens and ships and crap.
Really, what else is there to say to a sci-fi nerd?
Things go boom!
There are space fighter skirmishes! Visits to planets familiar and alien! Life-threatening situations as a result of things that are total futuristic gibberish! State of the art space ship technology! Feats of heroism! Bell-bottomed uniforms! Surprise plot twists! Weird gender dynamics! Hot cartoon men in uniform doing soldier-y things! In short it has everything!
Which brings me to,
2. Two-Dimenional Crushing
Derek Wildstar is the second-in-command of the Argo, who is always butting heads with the crusty old captain. His older brother (who may have once been under the crusty captain’s command?) was killed in the war with Gamilan, so younger bro’ has a chip on his shoulder and a temper to match. And he is dreeeeeeeamy!!!
List of Derek Wildstar’s awesome qualities:
Badass rebel in charge – check.
Thick, tousled hair, perfect for running fingers through – check.
Arrow on uniform pointing to his junk – check.
He is the total package as far as a girl who has no idea that ‘package’ is a double-entendre is concerned!
And here’s where I have to confess that my formative crushes – Han Solo and Derek Wildstar – imprinted me with a type early on. I have only ever dated dark-haired, dark-eyed men (no blondes, sorry Susan!), and ultimately married one. While I know this imprinting might not happen to everyone, let’s just say I fear for the relationship prospects of the children raised on Teletubbies.
That’s pretty much what I’m afraid of.
3. A glimpse at my future self
If Derek Wildstar was my true love, then Nova, Wildstar’s love interest was my total point-of-view character. Despite the fact the she has no freakin’ last name, she is still awesome. She is a nurse (this was made in the 70s, so they didn’t know women could be doctors yet), she can handle a laser gun and she knows how to protect her man from the evil blue guy! (Whose name is Deslock. Yep, that is a thing I remember.)
Also, I was 11, so theoretically there was still a chance that I might grow up to look like this:
(Spoiler alert: Neither I, nor any other actual person, grew up to look like this)
Sure, the two of them never did anything on the show that Amy Grant couldn’t sing about, but in my dirty pre-teen mind imagined that behind closed doors they may have touched each other over their clothes! So bad!!!
Fandom in the age of Reagan
Right now you are saying “what an awesome show for nerds! You must have had an amazing time fandoming on the internet!” But here’s the thing you don’t understand: THERE WAS NO INTERNET. True story: if I wanted to talk about this show with anyone, that person either had to be in the room with me at the time or talking with me on a telephone that was attached to a wall. I shit you not.
And this brings up a very critical question:
If a nerd fangirls but the internets can’t hear her, is she still full of crazy?
The answer is yes. Allow me to demonstrate:
1. In order to approximate live tweeting the show 25 years before tweeting was invented, I forced my friends (who were not nerds) to sit there every damn day from 3-3:30 (aka prime pool time), and watch while listening to my commentary. Keep in mind, the summer is long and the seasons were short, so they would have to endure almost 2 whole rounds of the series before they were blessedly permitted to go back to school.
2. Our family was an infamous late adopter of technology (case in point: I’m still assessing whether this “cable thing” is really going to catch on before I subscribe), so we did not have a VCR until I was 16. Which meant that in the absence of gif technology to allow me to relive the best moments of the show ad nauseam, I recorded the show on a mother-fucking tape recorder. I then made my friends sit around and listen to it like it was some kind of goddamn radio program.**
You guys! Isn’t this awesome?! Next we’re going to listen to The Love Boat done entirely in Morse code!
3. And, in what turns out to be the craziest thing of all, because I had no way of communicating with other fans, I assumed that I was the only person in world who loved this show!
I was a fandom of one, and that remained the case until one fateful day . . .
San Diego Comic Con 2014
So, there I was scrolling through the Thursday events on my SDCC app, completely oblivious to the life-changing event that was about to take place, and what do I see?
Holy shit!!! Star Blazers? New movie release? Never before seen footage? What the blerg?!
I know what you’re thinking,”Whoa! 7:30pm! If this were a music festival, this slot would be reserved for the most awesome band of the day. This must be a very important panel!” Um, no. SDCC pretty much shuts down around 6:30pm , when a handful of remaining burned-out cosplayers in smeared makeup are forced to dodge the tumbleweeds that start rolling down the halls on the upper floor. I’m not sure why this is, but I suspect the attendees have to skeedaddle so they don’t miss their ride home.
So I was pretty much expecting me and the comic book guy from This Simpsons to be the only people at this event, and that I would have to draw faces on the tumbleweeds if I wanted to have someone to talk to.
So, where are you guys all from?
But as I neared the room, I saw that there was a whole line of tumbleweeds there, already made up to look like people! And upon further inspection, it turned out that the tumbleweeds were actual people standing in line for the panel!! Like 50 people! And more were coming! I finally found my fandom!!!
I struck up a conversation with the
tumbleweed real person next to me, just to make sure I was in the right place, and it turns out he watched the show growing up in Canada. With a starry look in his eyes he told me about seeing an elusive THIRD season of the show when he was in Japan!
Why you holdin’ out on us Japan!
We were ushered into the room where all 150 (?) of us were introduced to a remake of series called “Space Battleship Yamato 2199” (Japan: you suck at naming things). We got to see a montage of the season, and sat completely rapt in the expanded storylines and exponentially improved animation.
Yes, Captain Wildstar, I would still love to have your half-human, half-cartoon space babies. Rawr!
After the lights came up, I turned to my new pal and said:
Note: No I didn’t.
What a day! After 30 some-odd years of holding my fandom close to the vest, I finally had a people! And my people numbered over 150! I thought to myself,”this must be everybody, because there is no way more than 150 people have heard of this show.”
Which is what I thought, until . . .
Silicon Valley – the epicenter of nerdquakes
As a Bay Area resident, I feel it is my duty watch Silicon Valley on HBO so I am fully prepared whenever I inadvertently come into contact with members of the exotic species “nerdus techinicus.” Last week I was sitting there, enjoying their hilarious dysfunction and mad hand-job diagramming skills, when this happened:
Omigod! There was a Star Blazers reference made on a show chock-full of stereotypically-epic nerds who live and breathe computers?! What are the odds?!! Can you even believe it!
Okay, upon further reflection, it’s pretty believable – but it’s still awesome to see the object of my pre-teen fan-crazy on a hip, current show! (I suspect Mike Judge is a fan, as he is a nerd of roughly my vintage.)
Having said that, I have one little quibble: I’m not one to look a nerd-gift horse in the mouth, but everyone knows you arrange your Star Blazers VHS tapes chronologically, not alphabetically. You wouldn’t want to accidentally watch episode 12 (Certain Death! The Wishing Star of Orion, Hell-star!) before episode 3 (Yamato Launch! The Challenge of 296,000 Light Years!), amirite?
Thank God I’m not.
So it looks like Star Blazers is having a moment, and I couldn’t be happier! Now that I have the internet, I found all kinds of things! Like Stewie as Derek Wildstar:
And a Star Blazers themed “Keep Calm” meme:
And I found my new favorite “old skool fandom” description: Fangirl Recidivism!
But I have so many questions still: How do I get my hands on the English version of the series remake? Can I convince my son to watch it with me so I don’t look like some crazy-ass perv watching a cartoon dude that she crushes on?(which I’m totally not) Do I dare explore what I can guarantee are voluminous amounts of really, really dirty Star Blazers fanfic? Do you think Nova and Derek touch each other under their clothes? And maybe with the lights on? Oh my God, that sounds positively depraved!!!!
I know! *giggles maniacally*
Don’t worry, I’ll let you know what I find!
How about you? Did you watch Star Blazers? How did you pretend to live tweet it? What were your secret 80s nerd shows? C’mon, I won’t tell anyone!
* TV boners are a real thing. Just ask fans of Doctor Who.
** Dear Lisa, Jenny and Melissa: I am so sorry. Thank you for still talking to me.