The community does practice what Dr. Letamendi called “pro-social gatekeeping,” where “Ships” fans redirect those who “remember” problematic aspects of the show.
“A few times Tyler had to come in and be like, ‘Hey guys, we’re remembering a TV show. Maybe we remember the best parts!’” said Mr. Loller, a cast member who “played” the tentacled character Glurp, whose signature catchphrase — “Swiggity swaggity, let’s blow up gravity!” — has been printed on official franchise T-shirts.
“Some, in the beginning of the fandom, really wanted to treat it like ‘Game of Thrones,’” Mr. Loller said. “At first they were like, ‘We love it!’ And then they started to take it in this weird direction where they’re like, ‘Actually it was a really problematic show, and it was racist.’ And it doesn’t have to be! That’s the beauty of this.”
Where Does It Go From Here?
What can come from a fandom about a show that doesn’t exist? The answer, like everything else about “Ships of the Northern Fleet,” rests with the fans. One of the other few guidelines Mr. Nicol set up in the Discord, however, was that the “Ships” story could never be complete: “There’s always gaps. Always something unfinished,” he wrote. “As though when it comes to write it down there’s room for someone else to add to it, so no ONE story is ever my own.”
The core cast — most of whom didn’t know each other before “Ships” brought them together, and none of whom live in the same area — do have some shared dreams for the show. “Ideally, once people can travel again, if we can do an in-person Q&A table read at an actual event, that’s the top goal for me,” said Mr. Hampton, a musician and assistant director for Netflix who “played” young Meadow on the show.
The rest of the cast echoed Mr. Hampton’s desire to meet in person. And while most of them agreed that no one should make an actual live-action flying pirate ship series called “Ships of the Northern Fleet,” they also admitted that a show in some other format was intriguing. “I have this fever dream to film a mockumentary while we do that traveling and while we are in the same room,” Mr. Hampton said.
“It is my fervent goal to go to a convention in the future and see someone either cosplaying or wearing one of these shirts,” Mr. Nicol said, pointing to his “Ships” tee. In this vision, he would walk up to the fan and, leaning into “this weird nerd meta-subtext,” say: “‘Ships of the Northern Fleet’! Great show! Love the show!”