On a recent episode of the podcast The Sci-Fi Christian, the hosts (Matt Anderson, Daniel ‘The Other Guy’ Butcher and Koby Radcliffe) spotlighted their “Top 5 Childhood Influences.” It was a pretty cool episode and got me reminiscing about some of my favorites from my not-quite-misspent youth.
I list them below, honorable mentions first, followed by the top five, ranked from five to one*:
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea: The prototypical steampunk adventure movie. It was also my favorite ride at Disneyworld.
Close Encounters of the Third Kind: Spielberg's classic movie about an alien invasion that turn out to be benign.
Incredible Hulk: This was the second superhero series I saw. I think the recent movies (except for The Avengers) fail to capture the pathos of the character.
Mission: Impossible: I loved this uber-cool spy series that relied a lot on misdirection.
Six Million Dollar Man: The series about transhumanism before transhumanism was ever in the public consciousness.
Space: 1999: Yes, I know that the physics were improbable, the plots were often silly and the effects were occasionally dicey. But the designs of the Eagle transport ships were iconic, and still remain among my favorites.
Star Trek (TOS): This was probably the first live action science fiction series I ever saw. 'Nuff said.
Super Friends: More superheroes, I got exposed to other characters I might not have otherwise.
The Wild, Wild West (TV series): Another espionage series. It merged the iconic American Western with the British spy genre typified by the James Bond series. It also can be considered a proto-steampunk series as well as a good example of the Weird Western. It just missed making my top five list.
Wonder Woman I read a lot of comic books as a kid. This was the first live-action superhero TV series I ever saw, and loved the character.
#5 Tintin: When I visited my grandmother, she had copies of a kids' magazine that had serialized adventures of Tintin. I always found the stories to be rollicking good fun.
#4 Buck Rogers in the 25th Century: Like Space: 1999, Buck Rogers was cheesy good fun, but it had the distinction of being the first current SF series I could watch. It also helped that it connected me to sci-fi's history.
#3 Starlog Magazine: This comes toward the end of my childhood. Starlog was perhaps the first SF fan magazine that really opened m eyes to the breadth of fandom.
#2 Robert A Heinlein juvenile novels: I really got hooked on the possibilities of space travel and the fun inherent in sci-fi by reading Robert A. Heinlein’s novels like Have Space Suit Will Travel, The Rolling Stones, Rocket Ship Galileo, Space Cadet and Between Planets.
#1 Star Wars: And by Star Wars, I mean (for all you whipper-snappers) the original 1977 George Lucas-directed film that you all know and love as “Episode IV: A New Hope.” This was the one that sucked me into the glories of geekdom.
*For the purposes of this list, I am defining “childhood” as middle school and below.