It might be the greatest debate in the fandom. Not, not the one about Kirk or Picard, or even Janeway versus Tuvix. The question over the correct term for fans of Star Trek — are we Trekkies or Trekkers?
Some outside Star Trek circles might assume that these two terms mean the same thing and are interchangeable. This would be like “Game of Thrones” fans and “Thronies,” which means that they enjoy the HBO series and books by George R.R. Martin. But this is not the case.
‘Trekkie’ Was Not a Good Nickname in the 1970s
According to longtime Trek fan Chris Carlisle, there is a difference. At his fan site “I’d Rather Be Trekking,” Carlisle writes that the difference is this: In the late 1970s and early ’80s, the term Trekkie started to refer to those “weird people who dressed up and went to the conventions.”
This aligns perfectly with how The Calgary Herald wrote about Trekkies in 1975, saying that they were either “overfed” or “undernourished,” and even “smelly.” The newspaper said Trekkies stood in hotel hallways waiting to catch a glimpse of William Shatner or the other Trek stars as they arrived for conventions.
William Shatner’s appearance on “Saturday Night Live” in 1986 illustrated this scene. Captain Kirk famously told the fans to “get a life.” Those fans, portrayed by actors Dana Carvey, Jon Lovitz and Kevin Nealon, were as nerdy and geeky as anyone might imagine. At the sketch’s start, the audience is shown a Holiday Inn sign that says, “Welcome Trekkers!”
This sketch would eventually spawn a Shatner-produced documentary about Trek fans, called “Get A Life,” in which Shatner talks about the fans, conventions and the fun everyone has together.
Another documentary, this one hosted by TNG star Denise Crosby, took the outside world into some of the most interesting fan situations. Thanks to the 1999 film Trekkies, we learned that some people dress their dogs up as Trek characters, and others model their dentistry offices after the shows.
Perhaps It’s Generational
It seems that the negative connotation of the term Trekkie may have held true for the post-TOS and TNG eras but may be fading. It’s easy to find Trek stars and fans avoiding the use of Trekkie in those days — a great example was in 1991’s Star Trek 25th Anniversary Special, in which Leonard Nimoy specifically calls the fans Trekkers.
It looks like the tide may be turning from Trekker to Trekkie in recent years.
In 2008, Patrick Stewart defended the term Trekkie, telling Newsweek that “if you say the fans are weird, that means there is something essentially weird about the show, and there is nothing weird about it.”
Last year, while campaigning to play a Q in “Star Trek: Picard,” actress Rosario Dawson told Variety that she was a “Trekkie person.”
Walter Koenig told Daily Star Trek News all about his time with the franchise, which he called his “Trekkie run.”
Dominic Burgess, the veteran actor who portrayed Mr. Vup on “Star Trek: Picard,” told Trek Report that he too was a Trekkie and said he’d do “anything” to appear on a Trek show.
The BBC declared that “Trekkies are the greatest fans of all” in a lengthy article.
Anson Mount told Space.com that he was thrilled to play Captain Pike, as he is a Trekkie.
In what might be the last gasp of the term “Trekker,” Nimoy appeared on Saturday Night Live with Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto to promote their new film in 2009. Nimoy said that he had spent some of the best years of his life with “Trekkies… er… Trekkers.”
What Shatner Says
“No,” said Mr. Shatner. “They drive me to the event.”