In the battle of the fandoms, Stephen Colbert wields a mighty force. Even in space.
Fans of Comedy Central's "The Colbert Report" have marched forward on his behalf many times before. All he has to do is casually mention how nice it would be to have something — or, more accurately, everything — named after him to get hundreds of thousands of his eager followers swinging into vote-box-stuffing action. Colbert has already had his name slapped on a minor league hockey team mascot (Steagle Colbeagle, for the Saginaw Spirit), a trapdoor spider (Aptostichus stephencolberti), a Ben & Jerry's flavor ("Americone Dream"), any number of animals in zoos and scientific studies, and even a Virgin America jet ("Air Colbert").
His latest conquest? Node 3 on the International Space Station, thanks to the naming contest for it that NASA just held which included a write-in option, something they now may be regretting. The first two nodes are named "Unity" and "Harmony" and until very recently it was assumed that the third would become "Serenity." Not only does it fit the theme, but "Serenity" is the name of a spaceship in Joss Whedon's beloved-but-canceled TV show Firefly and the subsequent movie Serenity. And the early voting numbers confirmed overwhelmingly that no one is better at organizing online campaigns than Joss Whedon fans.
Except for the Colbert Nation.
"Colbert" won with over 230,000, beating "Serenity" by over 40,000 votes. Another write-in suggestion took third ("Myyearbook," with 147,637) and "Gaia" came in fourth with 114,427. But NASA may not be a democracy. NASA's human space flight chief, Bill Gerstenmaier, appeared evasive about Colbert's ascendency on Colbert's show on March 10. "Well, we're going to have to go think about that," he said.
"That's NASA's problem," Colbert said to him. "You guys think too much."
|The Colbert Report||Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c|
|Space Module: Colbert – William Gerstenmaier|
The poll's rules stated from the beginning that NASA would not be bound by the winning votes. And early responses from the agency imply that they're leaning away from it, possibly even naming one of the station's new space toilet after Colbert instead.
Now, there are few more loyal "Firefly" fans (also known as "Browncoats") than me. I've supported the show and the movie and the fan initiatives and the annual "Can't Stop the Serenity" charity showings.
But, NASA, the people have spoken. If you wanted "Serenity" you should have named it "Serenity" and announced it, maybe brought Whedon and some of the Firefly actors down to smack it with a bottle of Cristal and a nice photo op. When you hold a contest in the hopes of getting public attention, you really can't complain when you actually get some.
And, frankly, you need it. It's all well and good to bond with fans who already support you but you could really use the shot in the arm this would give you with the non-science-fiction-fan public, which is most of it. You bring Colbert down for the naming ceremony, you'll get more positive attention than you've gotten for 30 years.
"Unity," "Harmony" and "Colbert." Suck it up NASA, and paint it on. You can make it up to the Browncoats by giving us one of the new Orion spacecraft in 2014.
They have learned a vital lesson, though. Monday NASA began the final stage of their "Name the Mars Rover" contest. There is no write-in option.