Leaving WonderCon 2013, with Star Trek Into Darkness coming out and Star Trek VII in the works, what better time to write about the infamous Star Wars vs. Star Trek debate. I’ll tell you where I’m going to end – there shouldn’t really be a debate. They are both different things with different purposes (until JJ Abrams that is). Care to read on? Ok…
My analogy is this – if Star Trek is your fruits & vegetables, then Star Wars is a desert. For that reason, Star Trek can be a bit trying at times – it is often a little bland, there are many courses of it (twelve movies and five TV shows), but it has some nutrients that a desert doesn’t have. And continuing with the analogy, Star Wars often serves up something amazingly tasty. And sometimes it’s a little thing- too much sugar with not enough base substance.
Star Trek’s biggest difference from Star Wars is that it presented us with a future to look up to. Much like a good parent or idealistic thinker, Star Trek challenges it’s viewers to look boldly into the future with the possibilities it possesses. Needless to say, many of Star Trek’s technology has inspired, led to, or organically come to be in our current technology…
We’ve already had the original series’ communicators (cell phones), PADDS (iPads), and of course with those voice activation, and GPS (I have taken notes on my phone and e-mailed them to myself and thought “should I start by saying Captain’s Log?). Now we have developed tractor beams, phasers, and cell phones are becoming able to, with the right apps and extensions, become mini-tricorders.
Star Wars has possesses nothing that tries to lead us to greater future. There isn’t much technology in Star Wars that isn’t generalized technology that any sci-fi movies posses. There is nothing specific that leads us to want to build a better society. Star Wars presents us with a gritty world at war. It’s not about where society can go – it’s about good vs evil.
And now I want to give a little shout out that Star Wars, like any good desert, is well prepared. It presents a compelling age-old storyline, top-notch special effects, and is something almost anybody wants to return to again and again. How often does anybody, especially a child, really really really want that broccoli – um, never. Star Wars was influenced by the great masters of film-making and has returned that same favor.
I haven’t ever heard a filmmaker say that they went into the business because of Star Trek. Though I have heard many scientists say that…
One of my favorite moments of Star Trek is from the film Star Trek: First Contact. Often Star Trek is best represented in is ideals through the TV shows and not the movies, but there is a moment when Captain Picard is on board the Enterprise showing a person from the past around the starship. She asks “How could you afford all of this?” He explains that in the future money doesn’t exist (at least not on Earth). We all live to better ourselves and our society. As much fun as Star Wars is, as much as I love Yoda and Luke (probably 10x more than any singular Star Trek character), that is something to live and strive for.
It’s inspired actual scientists and technology innovators. It’s first two shows are about exploring and understanding the universe around you (and the choices you face doing so).
Most people like Star Wars better. Of course they do. How often do you hear, at the end of a (sometimes fulfilling, sometimes a little bland) meal, someone go “oh, and now you’ve GOT to try this desert.” We love desert. And 95% of the time, that’s what our entertainment is – desert. It’s TV shows after work, or a movie on the weekend. You’d never take a date to get broccoli.
The Star Trek fans are the people looking for a bit something more. Who wanted a bit more than just entertainment.
This wouldn’t be complete, of course, without looking at the 2009 Star Trek. Often joked about as being more Wars than Trek (and director JJ Abrams now moving onto Wars itself), it takes the substance out of Trek and replaces it with frosting. Tasty, tasty, frosting.
I can’t hate the 2009 Star Trek. I was taken back and a little unsure when I first saw it, but ultimately grew to love it as a fine desert. And I understand why classic Trek fans are upset - they want a new serving of their favorite meal.
But you know what, Star Trek fans – the movies were almost always desert. Movies are desert. Almost always. Wrath of Khan – nothing there but revenge and a dish best served cold. The two most proactive thought-provoking films are The Voyage Home (or Greenpeace: The Movie), and The Undiscovered Country (my favorite in message –racism, and the length people will go when they are politically scared). And while they kept a bit of that idealism that is Star Trek (though 2009’s was wavering and I’m not sure about Into Darkness), it wasn’t ever 100% there. So JJ’s Trek isn’t a 100% departure from what many of Trek’s fans loved, but then again it has just that much less nutrition than the other meals.
Many people don’t - or don’t want to -think with any depth while being entertained. They don’t want to be presented with conflicts of society or lessons in getting along on a global, er, planetary sense. Star Wars is far more entertaining than Star Trek will ever be (ok, I haven’t seen Into Darkness but I don’t see it beating Empire Strikes Back). But that doesn’t mean that it’s better.
It’s just a different part of your dining experience.