Star Wars or Star Trek? The age old question that has plagued nerdom since the Seventies but the question while polarizing is not so simple as it first seems. For example are you asking which Franchize was more successful or which was your favorite? Similarly, are you asking which franchize has you favorite single movie, or which you enjoy more as a whole? Or, and this is my favorite question, Which fictional universe would you rather live in?
Now personally I enjoy discussing all of these questions and more. The reason being is that they are all equally polarizing, but if carefully considered an individual almost always has a different answer for each approach to the issue. I personally used to maintain that it was Star Wars to watch and Star Trek to live, simple as that. But it can be more complicated than that, for instance, What if you could choose what you station would be in the given universe? Captain of a star ship would be much nicer in the Star Trek Universe, but what could beat being the Emperor of the Galaxy? Of course the emperor was betrayed and murdered by his right hand aided by his rebel jedi son, but the argument could be made that you would never be so foolish.
And therein lies the polarizing factor. The Star Wars Universe (SWU) is filled with epic dramas that are shakespearean in scope and brutality. Not exactly a peaceful existence. The Star Trek Universe (STU) on the other hand is idyllic and near utopian, the inhabitants have to goto the fringes of society to find adventure and intrigue. Maybe not the most theatrical of settings but a far safer and happier place to live in. Both I think deserve a watch, and considering their huge success even outside the fanboy community, they both deserve more than a little respect.
To begin with I’d like to start with the SWU since I am much familiar with this body of fiction including the books. First of all, as that classic line goes it centers “A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away.” So when you see a “human” speaking “English” this is all just coincidence. What you are seeing are aliens from a bygone race, speaking a language called basic. And just like a movie set on Russia bit made in America you don’t here Russian you here English.(yes I realize that it is all made up anyways, but this whole post is examining fiction like it were fact so just spare me the criticism on that point)
In this galaxy there are many races mingling together in a society that spans almost the entire galaxy. Most species have achieved space travel and developed their own form of Faster Than Light (FTL) travel that is commonly referred to as Hyperspeed. And even most of the species who aren’t quite there yet are roaming the galaxy since the governing body have no issues with contaminating other cultures or even enslaving other cultures. The galaxy was once united as a grand republic until the Clone Wars when the head of the Galactic Senate seized control in a moment of crisis and formed the Empire. Meanwhile a small but persistent rebel forces grows and moves against the Empire. The climax of this struggle taking place at the Battle of Endor, when the emperor is slain by his right hand Darth Vader.
All of these event are made all the more complicated, at least on an individual scale, by the presence of a seemingly magical force aptly named The Force. Now this about covers what is in the movie to date and the “expanded universe” does go on to chronicle the events that follow for the next thousand years. Thought most of this will be rendered none cannon with the release of the newly announced Disney produced chapter of the saga. (which reminds me that I will need to make a post about that whole situation.) But until then…
So after the fall of the Emperor the galaxy was o violist not instantly free. There was a huge power vacuum and fairly long struggle to retake the galaxy in the name of peace and equality. Eventually a new government is formed and just when you think they will all live on in relative peace, the galaxy is invaded by a spaces from another galaxy. THIS is an interesting moment in the SWU that I want to devote more time at other date. But for now let’s just say that the SWU is a tough place to make a home in but, and this is a pretty huge but, you might just get lucky and be born with the ability to use the force… And that would be pretty sweet. Unless of course you are born in the age of the republic, an age when the birth records are carefully watched and most of the force sensitive people are raised in what is basically a huge monastery with the lifestyle included.
The STU on the other hand when down a little differently, it focuses on our own galaxy in 2063 after the Third World War we discover FTL travel using a device called a Warp Drive. We are immediately greeted by the vulcans who had been keeping an eye on us for some time waiting for us to achieve just such a goal, so as not to contaminate our race. Already we see a very different trend in this universe since the STU has the Prime Directive prevent any sufficiently advanced species from interfering with the affairs of other “primitive” species.
Instead of forming a grand government over the whole galaxy the Federation is eventually formed with Humans at it core. Most of the galaxies conflicts come from the varying racial tensions between the races in the federation and those who are not. Included but not limited to the Romulans, the Cardassians, the Borg, an apparently whales?…anyways. The state of things in the STU might be similar to the ancient days of the SWU before any galactic governments were formed.
The STU also benefits from seemingly superior technology. The droids of the SWU are definitely cool looking but clearly inferior to any of the AI in the STU; like Data, or the various Holo AI. And the Holodeck alone is a marvel of technology that any space faring society(or planet bound for that matter) would be jealous of. Not to mention the Teleporter. The STU’s crowning achievements in the Tech category however have to be the replicator and the antimatter reactor. The replicator can turn hydrogen, the most abundant substance in the universe into food, goodbye famine, as long as you have enough energy at your disposal. Which brings us to the anti-matter reactor, which uses the self annihilating nature of matter and anti-matter to generate a near endless supply of energy. All of this means free energy and food for anyone who is in the federation.
So… which is the better universe to live in? For me I have to ask, what are my chances of being born with the force in the SWU, and what is the life of an average non-force wielding citizen like? Probably not great on both accounts. In the STU on the other hand the average human citizen of a federation planet has pretty unlimited freedom and can pursue his interests until they no longer interest him. Taking this into consideration my money is on living in the Star Trek universe.
And as for watching the films, each franchise has their share of flops which are supposed to be cannon, so really I enjoy them both. Especially when I view them through this lens, I always find my self envisioning being in the various protagonists and antagonists positions and wondering what life I might make for myself in their shoes. Anyways I hope that all this adds an extra level of appreciation to your viewing experience.
And thats my take on Star Wars vs. Star Trek.