Bon voyage, nerd cred

23Dec08

I went to a comic-book convention once. It wasn’t my idea, but it was worth it to hear my friend Soapy say, under his breath while we were standing next to a display of Japanese manga comics, “Do you have any … tentacle rape porn?”

While I’m not a huge comics nerd, I’ve got some repute as a huge Star Trek nerd. (This isn’t without justification, though I was slightly appalled when this led to my ill-fated Star Trek Christmas.) So, I should have been pretty excited when I saw that the special guest of the convention was Ethan Phillips, who played Neelix in Star Trek: Voyager. And I was excited. But this was mainly because I immediately saw the comic potential of meeting him, acting like I’d never even heard of his role on Star Trek — which is of course the sole reason for his appearance at a nerd convention — and gushing about what a huge fan I was of his work as Pete Downey in the sitcom Benson. The only thing that kept me from doing it was that I didn’t think it’d be worth the half hour in line and ten bucks for an eight-by-ten glossy, but now I’m not so sure.

By the way, Ethan Phillips’s role in Voyager is intriguing in light of René Auberjonois’s earlier role as Odo in Star Trek: Deep Space 9, since Auberjonois had earlier costarred with Phillips as Clayton Endicott III on Benson. So, for a while, there was an interesting Star Trek-Benson connection going on, to the extent that I was a little disappointed when Scott Bakula was cast as the captain on Enterprise. I’d been hoping for Robert Guillaume.

Anyway, a couple of days ago, I was watching Bad Santa on television. that isn’t the optimal way to do it, by the way; I haven’t seen profanity so obviously overdubbed in a televised presentation of a Christmas film since the bowdlerized Die Hard 2‘s “Yippee-ki-yay, Mr. Falcon.” And lo and behold, Ethan Phillips popped up onscreen, and I immediately exclaimed, “Hey, it’s Pete from Benson!”

Not “Hey, it’s Neelix from Star Trek!” but “Hey, it’s Pete from Benson!” That this would be my gut instinct made me worry that I was losing my nerd cred. And this then led to a debate with my girlfriend over whether “nerd cred” is a ridiculous concept. (which of course it isn’t; nerds build their very identities on impressing each other with their complete mastery of their chosen subjects). But, of course, Ethan Phillips wore heavy makeup as Neelix, so maybe it’s just more natural to recognize him as Pete on Benson (where he wore considerably less, though let’s not fool ourselves — he probably had at least a little powder to keep the stage lighting from creating a glare on his bald head).

But a couple of days later, I watched Love Actually with my girlfriend, which features Alan Rickman in one of the roles. It’s really hard to watch Rickman in a Christmas movie without thinking of his iconic role as terrorist Hans Gruber in the original Die Hard. Apologies for the spoiler if you haven’t seen it, but Rickman’s role in Love Actually involves his contemplating an affair with his secretary. So, I kept imagining that his storyline would end with his wife, played by Emma Thompson, shooting him with a gun duct-taped to his shoulder blade or dropping him off a skyscraper. It was only after miming him (oh, spoiler alert again) falling to his death in slow motion for about the fifth time that I found out my girlfriend hasn’t even seen Die Hard. Or Die Hard 2. What’s wrong with this woman?

But, I also ask, what’s wrong with me? Rickman’s secretary in Love Actually is played by a German actress named Heike Makatsch, but I couldn’t get over how much she looked like the actress who played Seven of Nine in Star Trek: Voyager. And that’s exactly what I kept calling her: “the actress who played Seven of Nine in Star Trek: Voyager“. I called her that, as well as, “You know, the one with the creepy politician ex-husband who tried to make her go to a swingers’ club.” I didn’t say, “the actress who played Ronnie Cooke on Boston Public,” but it was at least a full day before I could remember that her name was Jeri Ryan, and even then, it was only because someone else told me.

I really am losing my nerd cred, or at least my Trek cred. On the other hand, when Majel Barrett recently passed away, I immediately exclaimed, “Oh no! Nurse Chapel/Number One/M’Ress/the voice of the Enterprise‘s computer died!” So hopefully it’s just my Voyager cred, which isn’t much of a loss anyway.

Still, I just know that instead of exclaiming, “Hey, it’s Captain Janeway!” I’ll be saying, “Hey. it’s Mrs. Columbo from Mrs. Columbo!” Instead of “Hey, it’s Tuvok!” it’ll be, “Hey, it’s Frank the doorman from Samantha Who? which I’ve never even seen!” And instead of “Hey, it’s Harry Kim!” it’ll be “Hey, it’s Garrett Wang from absolutely nothing!”

Actually, I suddenly feel better about myself. Seriously, whatever happened to Garrett Wang anyway? He’s probably basically reduced to doing tentacle rape porn or something now.



2 Responses to “Bon voyage, nerd cred”

  1. Have no fear. Being a “Benson” fan is extremely nerdy.

  2. Aw, dammit, you made me look up Garrett Wang on IMDB. (And he hasn’t done a whole lot.)

    Also, I saw (for the first time) the original opening for Benson on YouTube the other day. There’s nothing quite so comedic and heartwarming as starting your show each week by having attack dogs chasing a black man across a nice lawn.


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