Is being a geek
actually a form
by D. Trull
Beyond the rim of star-light
My love is wand'ring in star flight.
I know he'll find in star-clustered reaches
Love, strange love a star woman teaches.
I know his journey ends never --
His star trek will go on forever.
But tell him while he wanders his starry sea:
Remember, remember me.
These are the words to the original Star Trek theme song. Their 30-year mission: to boldly stay buried way the hell out of public circulation, where no one with a meaningful social life has gone before. And I know them by heart.
Does that make me a Trek geek? Maybe, but I myself am strictly down with my TOS homeys -- Kirk, Spock, Bones and Montgomery "Scotty" Scott the Scotsman. It don't mean a thing if the deck of the Enterprise ain't got that "ping." That brands me a heretic among the Klingon-loving DS9 apologists who comprise Trekdom nowadays, sparing me from assimilation into their Borg collective.
But not everyone is so lucky. A study at a British university has shown that a sizable number of Star Trek fans demonstrate the characteristics of full-blown clinical dependence. They can exhibit virtually the same behaviors as drug addicts toward the object of their fixation, including both psychological and physical symptoms of need. For some Trekkers, it seems, resistance is indeed futile.
"My research found that about five to ten percent of fans meet the psychological criteria of addiction," said Sandy Wolfson, a professor of psychology at Northumbria University. "They show withdrawal symptoms such as agitation and frustration if they miss an episode and develop higher tolerance levels, so they need increasing doses."
In a daring exhibition of geek-tolerant stamina, Wolfson interviewed countless Trek fans over a period of four years. Among her more severe case studies of Roddenberry substance abusers, she cited a fan who spends $10,000 annually on Trek merchandise, and a woman whose vacation was ruined because she was constantly obsessed with whether she had correctly set her VCR to record Voyager.
Okay, so it's no news flash that some people are really hung up on Star Trek. But keep your hailing frequencies open, because here comes the little extra twist: Trek addiction is good for you.
Wolfson indicated that the existence of a clinical dependency doesn't necessarily mean a behavior is harmful. It's her judgment that the one criterion setting Trek apart from heroin and crack is that an insatiable hunger for the exploits of the Federation can actually improve your quality of life.
"Even among the small group showing signs of addiction, it can be extremely healthy from a psychological point of view," Wolfson said. "Most Trekkies have made friends and even met spouses through their love of the series and they are intellectually challenged by the range of moral and ethical dilemmas presented in the show."
Dammit, Jim, I'm a writer, not a doctor, but I can't help thinking the logic behind Wolfson's psychobabble is more scattered than a tribble through a transporter. An addiction that's "extremely healthy"? You know, we have other words to describe that concept, like "avid hobby" and "recreational pastime." And it might be informative to learn what Wolfson's own favorite TV show is. No one would score a cushy four-year research grant just to chat with their Junior Starfleet buddies about warp drive mechanics, would they?
At any rate, the producers of Star Trek better be hoping the junkies will always keep coming back for another hit of what they're pushing, because the aging space-opera franchise seems to be running low on dilithium. In an effort to prop up its sagging ratings, Voyager has introduced a sexy new half-Borg, half-supermodel crew mate named Seven of Nine, and her pair of big and pointy attributes aren't ears. Recalling the intergalactic miniskirt explorations of James Tiberius Kirk, Paramount is hoping to photon-torpedo the politically correct, fancy-captain blandness of recent years, and beam down the action-packed excitement of the good old days. Just take another look at those words to the old theme song, for instance: they don't mention wussy stuff like the prime directive or Neutral Zone treaties -- they're about makin' sweet outer-space lovin'.
If Star Trek is in fact addictive, then like so many other mind-altering substances, it just doesn't seem to pack the same punch today that it did back in the sixties.
Source: Electronic Telegraph.
(c) Copyright 1997 ParaScope, Inc.