You could say that all the awards in the 2012 Airlock Alpha Portal Awards are special, but even within these fan-chosen awards, there are some categories that are even more special.
They are called the Gene Roddenberry Award and the Rod Serling Award. The Roddenberry honor rewards lifetime achievement for an individual, while the Serling award acknowledges classic genre television that helped keep science-fiction, fantasy and horror alive and well years — and sometimes even decades — later.
Both awards can only be won once, but the Roddenberry award dates all the way back to the beginning of the Portal Awards, when it was simply known as the Lifetime Achievement Award, won by none other than the Great Bird of the Galaxy himself, Gene Roddenberry.
Since then, the award has been handed out to 11 other people including George Lucas in 2000, Joss Whedon in 2004 and J.J. Abrams last year. To get nominated, you have to have been someone who contributed greatly (or continues to contribute greatly) to the genre, and stand out as someone who would be honored in a hall-of-fame fashion.
This year, the four men and one woman vying for the 2012 entry all more than deserve to be here, and it will be a tough choice.
Edgar Rice Burroughs died long before many of us were born, but he is responsible for some excellent sci-fi novels in his lifetime, including the John Carter series. Don’t blame the recent Disney bomb on him, he has fascinated audiences since the turn of the 20th century not just with the Martian gladiator, but also for creating the character of Tarzan, who has been enjoyed by many generations since.
During World War II, he was living in Hawaii when the attack on Pearl Harbor came, and despite being in his 60s, he would work as a war correspondent for the media. However, he would die in 1950 after the war of a heart attack, his final resting place in the part of Los Angeles named after his famed creation, Tarzana, Calif.
DeForest Kelley was someone all Star Trek fans should know as the crusty old Dr. Leonard H. McCoy. After spending an entire career playing bad guys in westerns, Kelley took on the job of the kind but moody doctor who helped form the triad of Kirk, Spock and McCoy in the original series (and six subsequent movies).
Also, Kelley was not afraid to put his stamp of approval on “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” appearing as an old version of his character in the pilot, “Encounter at Farpoint,” during a time when much of the original cast avoided any discussion at all of the new series.
Kelley died in June 1999 of stomach cancer at the age of 79.
George R.R. Martin has quickly become one of the genre’s most-celebrated authors. The man behind what would become the HBO series “Game of Thrones” is popular for writing the book series that led to television called “A Song of Ice and Fire.” While many may be hearing of Martin for the first time, he actually has been writing science-fiction since the early 1970s, getting Hugo and Nebula nominations in 1973.
The failure of 1983 novel “The Armageddon Rag” almost derailed his entire career. But in 1991, he began writing the “Ice and Fire” books, with “A Game of Thrones” released in 1996.
What do the “R.R.” stand for by the way? Raymond Richard.
Steven Moffat is the current king of “Doctor Who,” but also spends a lot of time on his other popular series with Benedict Cumberbatch, “Sherlock.”
A former high school teacher, Moffat got his start writing a series about a school newspaper called “Press Gang” or ITV. He would, however, create the popular British comedy “Coupling,” which would essentially allow him to write his own ticket.
And he’s been doing that. Some of his early “Doctor Who” episodes were the series’ most popular, and it was almost a no-brainer to give him the showrunner role when Russell T. Davies stepped down in 2010. He has guided Matt Smith into two strong seasons, with a third ready to go this fall.
Finally, fans are still remembering the late Elisabeth Sladen, who played the popular “Doctor Who” companion Sarah Jane Smith.
Sladen first took on the role in 1973 when Jon Pertwee was still the Doctor, and would stick around for nearly four years, including the transition from Pertwee to Tom Baker.
She would come back to “Doctor Who” officially in the 2005 episode “School Reunion,” which led to a spinoff show, “The Sarah Jane Adventures.” She was still working on that series when she died of cancer on April 19, 2011.
The Rod Serling Award is an interesting award because it starts out with a charter class of three classic shows — all originals — “Star Trek,” “Doctor Who” and Serling’s own “Twilight Zone.” To get nominated, a show has to have been off the air for at least 10 years, and can only be admitted into this special class once.
“Dark Shadows,” the classic 1960s genre soap opera, got some extra attention this year with the Johnny Depp film of the same name. Unfortunately, director Tim Burton decided that this production would be far less serious than the original, and audiences were not impressed.
“Farscape” has been off for 10 years now, and it’s almost surprising. This was a series that initially helped put Syfy on the map, especially after it became one of the cable channel’s first botched public relations disasters. The show had been originally picked up for two more seasons, but after the first of those two seasons, Syfy (then the SciFi Channel) pulled the plug abruptly.
Fans cried out, and a television movie wrapping up the story was released, with talk that there could be some future revivals of the series on the way.
Before there was Scott Bakula fandom, there was “Quantum Leap,” where Bakula played a scientist who could travel in time by jumping into other people’s bodies. He set right what once went wrong, and helped keep science-fiction mainstream on network television in the late 1980s and early 1990s, even though he was always hoping that his next leap, would be the leap home.
“Twin Peaks” lasted just two seasons, but it’s hard to not recognize its impact. Before the whole “Who killed Rosie Larsen,” the world wanted to know, “Who killed Laura Palmer?” This series was created by David Lynch and Mark Frost, and while it didn’t stick around long on ABC, it set a standard for television series that cable channels picked up on first, and networks are still trying to catch up.
Finally, “The X-Files” has earned a nomination, and once again, it’s hard to believe it’s been a decade since there’s been a new episode. Many credit “X-Files” for leading to dark and brooding shows like “Fringe” on Fox, and that’s a good thing. “X-Files” also helped put the Fox television network on the map, and making it an early darling of genre fans, just before they started to bobble and drop just about everything else in the genre.
Finally, we have one more “special” category to talk about, and that’s Best Special Guest/Television.
Misha Collins plays the angel Castiel in The CW series “Supernatural,” and had his work cut out for him in “Survival of the Fittest.” In the shocking season finale of the show, Castiel finds himself trapped in the most unlikely of places alongside Jensen Ackles’ Dean in … well, you’ll have to just watch.
Alex Kingston is wonderful as River Song in the “Doctor Who” series, but she was really shining as a “newborn” so to speak in “Let’s Kill Hitler,” which we got to watch soon after learning exactly who Dr. Song was. And what about what is probably the best line in television all year: “Well, I was on my way to this gay gypsy bar mitzvah for the disabled when I suddenly though, ‘Gosh, the Third Reich’s a bit rubbish, I think I’ll kill the Fuhrer. Who’s with me?”
Jaime Murray had to take on two characters in the Season 3 finale of “Warehouse 13” as not only the devious H.G. Wells, but also a simple American high school literature teacher named Emily Lake. Murray shows why she is one of television’s most sought-after actresses, and why we love “Warehouse 13” so much.
Leonard Nimoy won this category last year for “Fringe,” and he’s back with “Brave New World,” played a different version of William Bell — one who is set on creating his own world. This new, much more sinister Bell is great leading into the final season of the show, especially his love of playing chess (with pieces in the shape of bells).
Finally, Nimoy’s replacement in the Star Trek franchise is up for his own television work. Zachary Quinto played a gay ghost in “American Horror Story,” and played a character so entertaining and interesting, the Portal Awards nominating committee couldn’t get him out of their minds. Talk about a departure from not only Mr. Spock, but “Heroes'” Sylar as well.
Keep reading Airlock Alpha over the next few days as we highlight more of this year’s nominees for the 2012 Airlock Alpha Portal Awards. And don’t forget, voting starts June 25 right here!