A few months ago I had a conversation with GTG co-founder Rae Redford and mentioned that I am probably the most “stereotypical geek,” of the entire GTG team.
We all agreed, upon launching the site, that geekiness extends to any pursuit and describes a certain unmitigated passion for whatever it is we love. That makes us all geeks in our own right.
I’m not saying anyone is a “bigger” geek. We all wear the label proudly.
But we are all geeks in different ways.
I’m the sci-fi geek. I attended Star Trek conventions in the ‘90s and laughed way too loudly at Jonathan Frakes’ jokes. I argued that Han and Leia deserve a spot on the Most Romantic Couples list. And I’m not above rating movies based on how many Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) stars appear in them.
That is to say, I like the most “stereotypically” sci-fi geek stuff.
Comet TV pretty much fills any gaps in classic sci-fi TV shows I want to watch right now.
When Sci-Fi Channel Became SyFy
The Sci-Fi Channel (and, later, Sci Fi) used to air classic science fiction shows and movies. It won awards for the widely regarded Battlestar Galactica remake. Programming like Farscape, Stargate SG-1, and Dr. Who delivered what traditional science fiction fans loved to our TV screens.
In 2006, the channel rebranded as SyFy and started shifting away from classic science fiction and Japanese anime shows to air everything from Law & Order to professional wrestling. Nothing against these shows, but they are not classic science fiction. To the channel’s credit, Dr. Who launched during the re-branding but moved over to BBC America in 2009.
As time went on, there was very little traditional Sci Fi or Fantasy and Horror left on the SyFy channel, save for original movies like Sharknado. (And did the world really need that concept – much less six sequels?)
Enter: Comet TV
Hiding in the 400s on Verizon FIOS in New York, my family recently found Comet TV. I ventured out of my office upon hearing Scott Bakula’s voice and the familiar opening chords of Quantum Leap, the late ‘80s, early ‘90s time travel series.
“What.. channel… is this?” I asked my husband.
“It’s called Comet and it’s GREAT!” he said.
Since then, the familiar voices and theme songs of Stargate SG-1, Sliders, and the Battlestar Galactica reboot fill my home. My mind jumps back (like a time traveler) to launching my freelance writing career in the ‘90s, creating fan fiction for ‘zines, and having spare time (before kids and a business) to actually watch TV.
Overhearing the familiar plot lines and actors’ voices has caused me to confront some inner demons of my past, because my 20s were a tumultuous and uncertain time.
It’s also caused me to laugh at the primitive special effects and cringe at some of the themes. It also reminded me how far we’ve come as a society and how science fiction creators of the ‘60s, ‘70s, and ‘80s led the charge of acceptance for all.
Case in point: I found myself captivated by the Quantum Leap episode where Sam leaped into the body of a man with cognitive challenges. The episode uses words we aren’t used to hearing today, but Al – Sam’s holographic best friend from the future – shares words of advice to Sam that almost go without saying today. Acceptance – of everyone – has always been part of geek culture, and specifically, the sci-fi community.
There are plenty of anachronisms and things we’d consider politically incorrect – or just plain wrong – in 1980s and 1990s science fiction. But the shows also paved the way to greater understanding and were truly a product of the time in which they were created.
Much like John Hughes ‘80s movies or or the best sci-fi and fantasy movies of the ’80s, the science fiction TV classics GenXers grew up with aren’t perfect. But they reflect the culture we lived in.
And seeing these shows or hearing them in the background while I work brings a sense of comfort and serenity to this crazy time.
Mostly, I’m remembering my geek roots fondly.
Watching these shows back then made me embrace being a geek. It helped me recognize that my interests were not “mainstream,” but that they were nevertheless okay. I figured out who I was. I realized I was someone who would always imagine the impossible and work to figure out what it would take to make the impossible (or, at least, improbable) a reality.
That, to me, is the heart of where science fiction takes us. It is the power of fandom.
Sharing Fandom Across the Generations
Comet TV was an unexpected surprise as we scrolled through all the free premium channels FioS is offering during the pandemic. It was like a hidden secret on our TV that was there all along – at least, we think it was. (Check your local listings to find the cable channel in your area.)
When the free programming offer ends, FioS can have their HBO, but I hope they let us keep Comet TV!
While SyFy delivers some fun programming, Comet TV gives my husband and I (along with other GenX sci-fi geeks) a channel to share our favorite shows and our geek passions with our kids. Whether they’re watching or not, they will grow up with the characters we loved, once again in our living room.
It’s nice to relax with the shows I enjoyed when life was simpler. If I could have chosen three or four of my top sci-fi shows from back in the day and created a new TV channel based around those shows and others like them, Comet TV would be it.
Sadly, right now Comet’s programming is limited with maybe 11 shows and a list of mostly unimpressive horror movie titles. But it’s free to most cable subscribers, so there’s that.
I’d like to see it expand or even rotate through all the classics, dating back to the original Lost In Space and Battlestar Galactica, plus Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Firefly, Doctor Who, Farscape, and other cult classics. But we’ll see.
For now, between CBS All Access (all Star Trek, nearly all the time), Disney+ (the Mandalorian plus all the Star Wars movies) and Comet, if you’re a traditional sci-fi geek like me who grew up in the ‘80s, you won’t lack the means to watch or stream most of your favorite sci-fi franchises.