Thursday, January 04, 2007

The Golden Age?

So let's see...Doctor Who is moving towards its third season after smashing its competition in the ratings, Joss Whedon is writing a new Buffy comic that picks up where Season Seven left off, 'The Invasion' is finally coming out on DVD with animated versions of the missing episodes, and this summer sees the third installment in the Sam Raimi-directed 'Spider-Man' series and a live-action 'Transformers' movie. As some point, the question has to be asked: Is this the best time to be a geek ever?

The gut instinct says, "Yes!" Doctor Who Christmas specials alone seem to demand it. But hold, I say to myself. It is far too easy, as a geek, to fall in love with the new and shiny and neglect the memories of yesteryear. Let's look at some of the other candidates, first.

The 1960s: Doctor Who first starts, Star Trek makes its appearance, lots of big-name sci-fi writers are doing the work that will make them legends, and oh yes, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby are working on some comics for that company that keeps switching names. "Marvel" sounds better than "Timely" or "Atlas", though... It's a pioneering time, and very impressive, but much of the work is more pioneering than great in its own right.

The 1970s: Two words: Star Wars. It's a point at which a quantum leap occurs in special effects technology, changing audience expectations of what science-fiction is capable of and raising the standards for all subsequent geek TV and movies.

The 1980s: Comic books are now available in special shops instead of having to grab what you can on newsstands, and home video means you can actually see old Star Trek episodes without having to just tune in while they're showing repeats and hope it's not one you've seen a thousand times before. 'Crisis on Infinite Earths' finally blew the lid off of stodgy old DC, and movies like 'Terminator', 'Aliens', and the Indiana Jones series keep raising the bar for "cool".

The 1990s: A strong candidate for 'Golden Age' status. Sci-fi TV finally explodes, with Babylon 5, Highlander, X-Files, two Star Trek series at once (NextGen and DS9--one of the best things about the mid-1990s was that Voyager hadn't happened yet), Xena, Hercules, and even some cult gems like Forever Knight all jostling each other on the airwaves. The Simpsons were in their prime, Neil Gaiman was doing Sandman, Bone was coming out, and the Internet was just starting to flex its muscles. Doctor Who was producing the New Adventures, the finest TV-tie-in line ever written, and we even got a TV movie and the hope of a new series someday. Hong Kong action movies started to hit it big in the States, which meant that the bar for "cool action sequences" was about to be notched up to a height only Jackie Chan could leap over. Oh, and the Playstation came out.

So, what is it about now that manages to trump that stellar line-up? It can't just be seeing K-9 come back (maybe that it was in the same episode where Anthony Stewart Head played a villain...nah, still not enough.) Ultimately, what makes now better than any of the thens mentioned above, and what makes this truly the Golden Age of the Geek, is what I call:

The Archive Factor.

Because let's face it, that's the big difference between now and any previous time. We've finally made our voices heard, and archives of all the classic geekery has been made available to us. Monty Python, Highlander, Star Wars, Star Trek, the Avengers, the other Avengers, Spider-Man, the Hulk, Looney Tunes, Doctor Who, Rocky Horror, Shaun of the Dead, all three X-Men movies, the non-Special Editions, every era of Transformers, the Muppet Movie, the best years of the's all available to you, as close as a DVD or a trade paperback. The newest video game system, the Wii, has in addition to its own line-up of games, a feature that allows you to download classic video games and play them all over again. What was once ephemeral, something to catch once or miss forever, is now archived to enthrall future generations of geeks in addition to their own, newer, equally exciting stories. Geek culture now welcomes casual viewers, because the world has finally caught up to the rest of us. Is this the best time ever to be a geek?

No. Because in ten years' time, it'll be even better.

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