This week- OKAY, EVERYONE, SETTLE DOWN. Yes, I've phased (phasered?) myself in the foot with this massive undertaking. No matter what, even if it's a tie, many of you will likely end up leaving bantha droppings on my virtual doorstep. Before I get into it (I'm writing this before knowing the outcome), let's just recognize that this is not meant to be the end-all-be-all definitive JoBlo opinion about any of this. This is just one guy trying to compare two beloved franchises that are pretty much impossible to compare. That said, with STAR TREK turning 50 this year and STAR TREK BEYOND hitting theaters next week, as well as STAR WARS back in full swing with ROGUE ONE landing this December and EPISODE VIII in production, it seemed like a good time to give this one a shot. Yes, one is science fiction, and one is fantasy. Yes, all of our opinions will be massively skewed toward whichever franchise we grew up with. Yes, I have a very bad feeling about this. Okay, gang, let's make the jump to hyperspace and boldly go where many, many geeks have gone before.
The Original Series The Animated Series The Next Generation Deep Space Nine Voyager Enterprise
A new series to premiere on CBS in 2017, possibly to be called Star Trek, because no one bothers to name things anymore.
Star Wars Holiday Special Caravan of Courage: An Ewok Adventure Ewoks: The Battle for Endor Droids Ewoks Clone Wars The Clone Wars Rebels
We'll eventually get an awesome live-action STAR WARS series, right? Right??
James T. Kirk, Spock, Leonard "Bones" McCoy, Montgomery "Scotty" Scott, Nyota Uhura, Hikaru Sulu, Pavel Chekov, Jean-Luc Picard, William Riker, Geordi La Forge, Worf, Beverly Crusher, Deanna Troi, Data, Benjamin Sisko, Kira Nerys, Odo, Julian Bashir, Jadzia Dax, Miles O'Brien, Kathryn Janeway, Chakotay, Tuvok, Tom Paris, B'Elanna Torres, Harry Kim, Jonathan Archer, T'Pol, Charles "Trip" Tucker III, Malcolm Reed, Hoshi Sato, Travis Mayweather, Dr. Phlox
Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Leia Organa, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Yoda, Chewbacca, Lando Calrissian, R2-D2, C-3PO, Gial Ackbar, Wicket W. Warrick, Nien Nunb, Wedge Antilles, Mon Mothma, Qui-Gon Jinn, Anakin Skywalker, Padmé Amidala, Jar Jar Binks, Mace Windu, Captain Panaka, Rey, Finn, Poe Dameron, BB-8, Maz Kanata, Ahsoka Tano, Saw Gerrera, Ezra Bridger, Caleb Dume / Kanan Jarrus, Hera Syndulla, Sabine Wren, Garazeb "Zeb" Orrelios, C1-10P, Kit Fisto
This is a tough one, but STAR TREK protagonists tend to be a bit predictable and not terribly varied, while STAR WARS characters are generally unique and more colorful (for better or for Jar-Jar). Also, Han Solo.
Khan Noonien Singh, Soran, General Chang, Shinzon, Dukat, Madred, Ru'afo, Armus, Sybok, Nero, John Harrison/Khan, Kruge, Mirror Spock, Moriarty, Lursa, B’Etor, Arik Soong, Lore, Valeris, Klaa, Dougherty, Ayel, Viceroy, Maltz, Marcus, Martia, V’ger, Dr. Korby, The Caretaker, Q, The God of Sha Ka Ree, the Borg Collective, the Borg Queen, various Gorn, Xindi, Na’Kurhl, Jem'Hadar, Suliban, Vidians, Species 8472
STAR TREK only has a few villains who spread beyond the fandom of the franchise. A non Trek fan might know Khan, the Borg, general Klingons and Romulans, and not much else. Where TREK shines, though, is in how interesting the villains can be, from a collective who think as one to amorphous beings to heroes' clones and evil twins to enemies who use seduction, mind control, and policy as weapons.
Darth Vader, Emperor Sheev Palpatine, Boba Fett, Grand Moff Tarkin, Jabba the Hutt, General Veers, Admiral Piett, Greedo, IG-88, Bossk, Darth Maul, Nute Gunray, Count Dooku, General Grievous, Jango Fett, Zam Wesell, Kylo Ren, Supreme Leader Snoke, General Hux, Captain Phasma, Asajj Ventress, Cad Bane, The Grand Inquisitor, Savage Opress, Dark Ahsoka, Durge, Aurra Sing, Mother Talzin
Obviously, STAR WARS has one of the most interesting and memorable villains of all time in Darth Vader, not to mention wildly popular characters like the Emperor and Boba Fett. In general, though, most of the villains tend to be fairly similar and one dimensional. Join the Dark Side, rule the galaxy, kill everyone, etc., so it's hard to give the rogues gallery of villains as a whole the win here.
While it may be the cause of some of STAR TREK's more bizarre episodes, the Holodeck and the vast array of planets our heroes visit allow for settings ranging from traditional sci-fi locations to Dickensian London and 1986 San Francisco to colonies governed by unusual tenets to the very ends of the universe itself. It's not quite Doctor Who crazy, but STAR TREK never lacks for new and interesting worlds and time periods to explore.
STAR WARS features some excellent locations, including the swamp planet of Dagobah, the forest moon of Endor, the city planet Coruscant, and the ice planet Hoth. That said, for as relatively few planets as we visit in the franchise, the novelty of "themed" planets wears thin before long. The volcano planet Mustafar and the water planet Kamino feel a bit underwhelming, the junk planet Jakku is reminiscent of the sand planet Tatooine, and the Wookiee homeworld Kashyyyk is a little too Endor to feel truly unique.
“Space… the final frontier.”
"Live long and prosper."
"To boldly go where no man has gone before."
“I have been- and always shall be- your friend.”
"Make it so."
"Beam me up."
“I'm givin' her all she's got, Captain!”
"Logic clearly dictates that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few."
"I'm a doctor, not a..."
"Set phasers to stun."
"Resistance is futile."
"Logic is the beginning of wisdom; not the end."
"May the force be with you."
"I have a bad feeling about this."
"No. I am your father."
"Strike me down, and I will become more powerful than you could possibly imagine."
"It's a trap!"
"These aren’t the droids you’re looking for."
"You were the chosen one!"
"When I left you, I was but the learner; now I am the master."
"I find your lack of faith disturbing."
"Help me Obi-Wan Kenobi, you're my only hope."
"The force is strong with this one."
"Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter."
"Do. Or do not. There is no try."
"So this is how liberty dies…with thunderous applause."
"Never tell me the odds."
"I love you." "I know."
The Starship Enterprise is perhaps the most recognizable ship in science fiction. Most of the Federation ships share a similar design, and few of the civilian and pre-Federation ships aren't all that interesting (though some of the freighters are pretty cool). The Borg and the First Federation boast some fascinating concepts, and the Klingons, Romulans, and other villainous races have some pretty great wessels, but the overall assemblage features a fair bit of repetition.
The Millennium Falcon, TIE Fighters, Imperial Star Destroyers, X-Wings, Y-Wings, AT-AT's, AT-ST's, Speeder Bikes, Landspeeders, Podracers (I know), Sandcrawlers, Imperial Shuttles, Slave I, and so much more. Hell, you could even argue the Death Star counts here. The vehicles in STAR WARS are sleek, varied, and among the franchise's most valuable assets.
Phasers and a vast array of energy firearms, photon torpedoes and other ship projectiles, tricobalt device, isolytic burst, phased polaron cannon, disruptor, bat'leth and various Klingon blades, KaBar combat knife, katana, bayonet, kar'takin, Ferengi energy whip, thalaron radiation, metreon cascade, trilithium resin, cobalt diselenide, aceton assimilator, the Borg Cube, the Doomsday Machine, lirpa, ahn'woon, ushaan-tor, mortaes, glavin, dreadnought and other self-guided missiles, Q firearms, red matter
Lightsaber, Force powers (push/pull, grip, lightning, mind trick, stun, etc.), various blasters, Wookiee bowcaster, thermal detonator, grenades, slugthrowers, disruptor, Death Star superlaser, Starkiller base superweapon, ion cannon, proton torpedoes, booma, electrostaff, vibro axe, dart guns, rocket/missile launcher, wrist rockets, flamethrower, turbolaser, turrets/gun emplacements
STAR WARS certainly boasts its fair share of tech, but it tends to be mostly focused on weapons, vehicles, and droids, where STAR TREK tech is more varied and permeates almost every aspect of the series (this is part of that whole sci-fi vs. fantasy thing).
The music of STAR TREK is excellent, with a memorable theme by Alexander Courage and scores provided by Jerry Goldsmith, James Horner, Michael Giacchino, and several more talented composers. Especially in the days of the original series and the motion picture, a legitimate score with heart and subtlety helped bring validity to the series.
As he's done with so many franchises, John Williams has made the music of STAR WARS known to anyone with even the most tangential knowledge of the series. From the main theme and the Imperial March to the Cantina music and the Duel of the Fates, STAR WARS would absolutely not be the same were it not for Williams' work.
More than most of the major franchises out there, STAR TREK relies on the patience and intelligence of its viewers. That's not to say the series hasn't had its share of unbearably silly moments, but the focus tends to be more on intrigue, character development, and fascinating concepts than keeping us on the edge of our seat. The new movies have stepped up the action game, but some of it feels forced and out of place for STAR TREK.
When STAR WARS is at its best, the combination of humor, action, tension, and excitement strikes a fine balance. Characters like Han Solo and Finn keep us smiling, while the films' inevitable lightsaber duels and multi-layered battle sequences seldom fail to please. Say what you will about EPISODE I, but that final lightsaber battle is still an excellent sequence.
STAR TREK definitely needs a point for the depth and philosophy which go into the series. While the franchise hasn't always been 100% committed to this, an existential crisis of self, the question of why we're here, and a larger question of our committment to those around us have always been the basis of STAR TREK, dating all the way back to the show's pilot and continuing into the recent films.
STAR WARS certainly has depth, particularly with the Force representing so many things to so many people (Yoda's "luminous beings" line always gets me). That said, the series tends to focus more on fantasy and the action of the moment than challenging us and asking hard hitting questions (not to mention the Empire-as-Third-Reich comparison, which gets old pretty quickly).
STAR TREK's influence on pop culture is not quite that of STAR WARS, at least not at the moment. Few of the many STAR TREK games out there have been memorable, and there aren't a ton of toddlers running around with Spock on their underoos There are roughly one quintillion novels dedicated to the franchise, though, so that's something, but where STAR TREK gains major prestige is in its influence on real life. Much of the tech throughout the series has inspired scientists to create versions of those ideas (as well as investigating ways of thinking which might lead to similar discoveries). While this is certainly true of other works of science fiction, few series out there have had quite the effect as STAR TREK has.
STAR WARS has spawned an insane number of video games, board games, card games, novels, toys, theme park attractions, Pez dispensers, chewable vitamins, toasters, and so much more. It's weird, but talk to any STAR WARS fan under the age of 25, and there's a good chance they consider the movies to only be a fraction of what STAR WARS means to them, with things like the Knights of the Old Republic games and the Clone Wars series being what they identify most closely with. They also love the prequels, but don't hold that against them; you also might (might) if you saw them as a youngling.
Aaaand there you have it. Feel free to leave all the "you forgot about this," "your opinion is wrong," and "you are the worst person on the internet" you can muster down below. Again, comparing two series nearing a century of combined history is an impossible task, especially when both franchises are very much alive and will continue to change over the years. STAR WARS is certainly the more well-known, bigger, generation-crossing series at the moment, but that could just mean it's nearing a breaking point (not that any of us wish that, of course). The closer STAR WARS flies to the sun(s), the more the franchise might oversaturate itself, making way for the less ever-present STAR TREK to reap the benefits of its recent renaissance. Either way, both franchises are sure to ebb and flow and allow for new fans of both as time goes by. I'm positive you'll let me know exactly how you feel down below, but let's just remember there's room for all of us in this big, beautiful world of geeks, nerds, and all points in between. STAR TREK BEYOND beams your way next Friday, July 22nd, and ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY lands Friday, December 16th. Live long and prosper, and may the Force be with you.
Agree? Disagree? Which do you prefer?
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