The Year the Geek Stars Died
This has been a devastating year for geeks.
We, perhaps more than any other group, honor actors in our genres. Even if you only had a small role in one geek-friendly movie, you may find yourself interviewed by a fanzine, or invited to be a guest at a con (convention).
Every year, we lose people we consider part of our community. We regret the loss of each and every one, and lament the unfairness if they don’t appear in the Oscars In Memoriam presentation.
This year (and we are only in September) has been one of the most striking…we feel a disturbance in the Force.
Why is that?
Part of it may be that geek-friendly actors and other moviemakers are continuing to work later in their lives…and to appear in more mainstream works. There is no longer a fast and hard divide between “our” actors and “respectable” ones. Oscar winners now routinely appear in science fiction and fantasy movies (and increasingly, in TV shows). There may be a higher awareness of them (creating more media coverage), and longer resumes.
Another part is all of the media outlets. Older movies are easier to see…and more geek TV shows and movies are being made.
Here are some of the biggest stars who we have lost this year (but who we will always have with us on our screens)…any of them could have headlined a convention:
- Leonard Nimoy, Mr. Spock from Star Trek (and so much more). Spock is one of my fictional heroes…as is the case for many geeks. That was due in large part to Leonard Nimoy…who, in a true rarity in a geek-friendly role, was nominated for three Emmys for the part. That’s only a small part of Nimoy’s contributions (which include directing Star Trek movies and hosting In Search Of…)
- Yvonne Craig, Batgirl on the 1960s Batman (and who also appeared on Star Trek…quite a few actors did both shows). While there was pushback about the addition of Batgirl, the character was inspirational for many younger viewers. Craig was also memorable in that Star Trek episode
- James Horner, one of the most important geek movie scorers (along with Bernard Herrman and John Williams), whose work includes Avatar, Jumanji, and Aliens
- Rod Taylor is best-known to geeks for starring in George Pal’s adaptation of H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine, but also starred in The Birds and was a voice in Disney’s 101 Dalmations
- Gary Owens was most recognized as the announcer on Laugh In, but did a lot of voice work, including Roger Ramjet, Space Ghost, and the Blue Falcon (as well as an appearance as “1950s Batman”)
- Grace Lee Whitney was Yeoman Rand, one of the stars of the original Star Trek
- Christopher Lee: from the 1960s (Hammer star, The Avengers) straight on through the 21st Century (Count Dooku in Star Wars, Saruman in Lord of the Rings), Lee was one of the biggest geek stars. Just listing roles would take up too much of this post, but we don’t want to omit The Wicker Man and playing a James Bond villain
- Rowdy Roddy Piper certainly is best known to geeks as the star of John Carpenter’s They Live, but has several other geek-friendly credits, including guest appearances on the TV series Robocop, Highlander, and Superboy, and the movie H*ll Comes to Frogtown
- Dean Jones was reported dead while this post was being written. Jones is most associated with Disney live action movies of the 1960s, including Blackbeard’s Ghost and The Love Bug. Dean Jones also was part of the worlds of Batman, Superman, and Jonny Quest
There were certainly other losses this year…we list many of them here:
We recognize the contributions that each and every one of them made to the geek universe, but the number of headliners we have lost this year feels…unprecedented.
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