Star Wars versus Star Trek
TREK: A TECHNOLOGICAL TERROR
It’s never been a contest between Star Trek and Star Wars. Not really. Trekkies have always had it out for the legions of Star Wars fans partly because of the latter’s spectacular success. (That’s actual legions, by the way: hand-crafted Stormtrooper armor costs as much as a decent used car.) With that success has come devotion, and fans’ passion is the core of the issue: Star Wars vs. Star Trek is faith vs. logic. It’s magic vs. science. It’s Jedi vs. the Prime Directive. It’s myth vs. political allegory. And in the end, we as human beings just feel mythic story more deeply.
If you want to talk hard numbers: the last Star Trek movie and the last Star Wars movie were both made by the same guy, J.J. Abrams, which puts the focus on the properties themselves. Star Trek Beyond made a respectable $343 million domestically and overseas. Star Wars: The Force Awakens made nearly a billion, and still counting. That doesn’t touch the merchandising popularity gap between the two properties—Star Wars has made $32 billion since 1977, and adds another estimated $1.5 billion every year. Trek merchandise, on the other hand, is a relative drop in the moisture-farm bucket.
But the point here isn’t the money: it’s the reason that money is spent, and that brings us back to story.
There’s emotion in the Trek universe, sure, but it’s not really about that. Fans appreciate Star Trek, no question, but they do so cerebrally; Star Wars has always gone straight for the heart, and unlike Stormtroopers, the franchise hits more often than it misses. The world has embraced Star Wars in a way that it never did (and never will) Star Trek, and while that threatens the Trekkie-stalwarts, the devotion makes sense. Myths have always given rise to other myths, which is why every kid in the 70s and 80s made up new narratives with their action figures and X-Wings and Cantina playsets. It’s why kids wear Star Wars pajamas to bed, where they might snuggle up with a Chewbacca or Yoda doll. It’s why some grown adults have Star Wars toys in their grown-up offices.
A fun sci-fi story just entertains; myth becomes part of who we are as human beings, not just as consumers, not just as fans.
Has it been mentioned that Jedi is now an actual religion? Case closed. May the Force Be With You.
WARS: A GALAXY FAR, FAR BEHIND
“They used to say that if man was meant to fly, he’d have wings. But he did fly. He discovered he had to.”
The wise words of Captain James Kirk first started reaching viewers in 1966 when Star Trek: The Original Series first aired and changed television history. Gene Roddenberry’s vision of the future came to life; not as a utopia, but as a universe in which peace is the ultimate goal even if it never achieved; a future in which all genders and races working on equal playing fields, despite the time period in which the show was produced; making it far superior to its successor, Star Wars.
In addition to inspiring modern technology—cell phones, tablets, “hypospray” injections, and even NASA technology—the U.S. wouldn’t have half the actors and celebrities it has today if the Star Trek franchise didn’t exist. Actress Whoopi Goldberg has been famously quoted saying, “When I was nine years old, Star Trek came on. I went screaming through the house saying ‘There’s a black lady on television and she ain’t no maid!’ I knew right then and there I could be anything I wanted to be.”
The character who inspired Goldberg was Lieutenant Uhura, a main character on Star Trek, and one of many actors of color on the show, including her co-worker George Takei, a Japanese actor. Star Trek also featured the first interracial kiss televised in America, and dealt heavily with feminism, sexism, and racism throughout the series.
Commander Spock is another example of progressivism on Star Trek: a half-human, half-Vulcan character, and an inspiration to mixed-race children everywhere. A young fan wrote a letter to Spock that read, “I know that you are half-Vulcan and half-human and you have suffered because of this. My mother is black and my father is white and I am told this makes me a half-breed.”
Leonard Nimoy, Spock’s actor, replied, “Spock learned he could save himself from letting prejudice get him down. He found he was equal to anyone who might try to put him down—equal in his own unique way. You can do this too, if you realize the difference between popularity and true greatness.”
Star Wars may have a talking trash bin, an anthropomorphic dog, and incest, but… No, there’s no argument here. Star Trek is the greatest sci-fi franchise in history.