Or: The Lesson of the JJ Abrams Star Trek Reboot.
So, in recent days, I've been hearing about how there's a very good chance that Mystery Science Theater 3000, one of my favorite television shows, may be coming back to television, and with brand new episodes, featuring a new cast, to boot. There's even a Kickstarter for it, which includes the best news of all: that series creator and original lead character Joel Hogson is directly behind the effort.
As a long-time fan of the series, I really must say, this is great news! It's been sixteen years since the series was canceled and eleven since it finally went off the air. I think it's great that one of my favorite shows stands a very good chance of coming back to television.
So, with all that in mind, will I be chipping into the Kickstarter? Well, that's a matter I'm seriously debating in my head right now. As I was saying before, I think this is a really great thing, something that the world needs right now. We need a new generation of MiSTies, as we called ourselves, and what better way to start than with a new show guided by the great Master Hogson himself, right?
While those are certainly good enough reasons, there are as many I can think of to not chip in. The first one that comes to mind, and I'm sure the one I'm going to hear first from the readers I actually get to talk to, is that I don't exactly have the funds to do something like that right now. While I can admit that it's a conveniently accurate excuse, it's not really the one that's holding me back right now. I know it's in poor form to say this, but I'm like so many members of my family, if not my species, in that I'm prone to making poor decisions like this.
One of the bigger demotivators for me is that I was there for the end of the original series, and I'm the sort of fellow that will want this Next Generation, if you will, to be like the original, especially since Joel himself is involved, and I know that can't happen. Things are very different now than they were even in 1999, let alone how they were in 1995, or 1993, or 1988. This new version of my favorite show can't be like it was in the original version.
Another thing that's holding me back is that back at the very end of the series, and in the few years immediately after cancellation, I wrote quite a lot of fan fiction for the series. There was even a point where I created my own fan series as a spinoff, and it lasted quite a while, all things considered. I wrote way more “episodes” of the series than I can remember. I do remember how it got started, of course. There was this guy who was a fan of the Nickelodeon series Rugrats who also had a thing for the Mystery Science Theater community, and it seems he'd taken a liking to my work and that of a few others in particular. I learned about this one day in 2000, I think it was, when he came to me and asked me to write a script for an episode based on the first Rugrats movie. Because there were already several versions using the characters from the series itself, plus the fact that by then I'd decided that I needed to change my style if I was to continue with that particular form of writing, I did my version a little differently. My take was that it was just me going in alone, of my own free will, to riff on the movie in an abandoned movie theater that I'd somehow managed to secure a lease to and renovate into a somewhat functioning venue.
After that and a handful of other fan scripts along those lines, I actually had people coming to me to work on collaborations or even riff on their fan fictions. That was probably the biggest ego boost I've ever had, there, and it certainly helped that I'd managed to keep it going until the middle of 2003 or so, when I found myself in a situation where I had to give it up.
For the longest time, the thing that I'd felt the worst about was having to stop in the middle of a series I was sort of collaborating with someone on as a result of that. I'd always meant to get back to it at some point, but could never, and still have never, managed to really make enough time to do it properly.
One interesting thing that's kept it in my mind is that for years afterward, I'd kept getting fan mail from my work in the genre, usually from people referencing sites that I'd either forgotten about or didn't know my work was even on to begin with.
So, what does that have to do with my being reluctant to chip into getting a show that I like and has inspired me back on the air after so long an absence? Well, as I'm sure several of my readers might know, back in 2012, I finally decided to try my hand at getting back into my old hobby of fiction writing in general, and more specifically, my “J. Michael Shearer's Theater” series specifically. It's been a learning process these last three years or so. Getting back into the swing of all this has been harder than I would have anticipated, to the point that I'm reminded of the adage about how one can never go home again.
It occurs to me, of course, that this is perhaps not what the saying was intended to mean. At the same time, though, I cannot deny that times have changed; things are different now. Us old-schoolers, we “greybeards”, as some might call us, can't go back and have it the old way any more. As much as I want for this to happen, to the point that I'm even willing to put my own money into it, there's an undeniable part of me who knows that trying to go back to this is unlikely to go as well as I'd want or even hope.
Perhaps this, too, is the lesson of the Abrams Star Trek reboot series that started with the 2009 film. While they were certainly good movies, I've come to see that they were not really meant for those of us who were, are, fans of the original series and its movies, or grew up starting with the Next Generation as “our” Trek series on television. This is not an entirely bad thing, of course. Star Trek, like Mystery Science Theater, needs a new generation of viewers and fans. That generation is young now, in their teens and early twenties now, just as I was when the original, or in Trek, the Next Generation were going strong.
So, here's to a new generation of fans for some great classic shows that seem to be coming back for a new generation! Perhaps I'll even be able to support one of them in the near future.
Join me, won't you?