There, I said it. I know the talk has been of simmering down the war Star Wars/Star Trek wars now that JJ has come to bring them all, and in the darkness bind them. I still have a TON of leftover problems about Star Wars, which I know all sorts of people will deride me for. I’ll attempt to spell them out here and now forevermore, so we can try to finally lay the issue to rest in the Geek community at large.
My contention is Star Trek was a better show from a plot perspective, but also, a better star to guide humanity. Star Trek is a hopeful view of what we might become as a species, plotting in significant technological milestones along the way in thoughtful, and often intentionally controversial ways. Star Wars missed the mark on most philosophical fronts, and was saved only by the charisma its leading characters imprinted on my young mind on the big screen.
Where to start attempting to prove such a ginormous point? Perhaps to say I was a huge fan of both franchises, to start. I may bash Star Wars, but I saw all the original trilogy movies in the theater as a kid, and loved the hell out them. I knew Han shot first; I saw it happen. I had the full Millennium Falcon playset, with all of the original cast toys as well. (Remember those slide out clear plastic lightsabers?) I loved those movies. Still do, though now with a tinge of resentment for the fraudster who helped create, and then ruin this cool fictional world he made the kids love.
Where did it all go wrong? Right about here, for me;
As I explained in my Fringe takedown, I really hate it when non-scifi types attempt to use the genre like the chocolate Miracle Max painted on the Dread Pirate Roberts’ pill, to make the medicine go down more easily. It was clear, after hearing “Naboo” and “Gungan” and… <shudder> “Jar-Jar Binks”, and all the other horribly bad made-up names Lucas was using, that he was now one of those non-scifi types. How do I know? Because I read hard science fiction, the good and the bad; the lesser writers always got caught up in cool-sounding names, forgetting the real point of a good scifi story. Seeing stupid sounding names in scifi is similar to seeing the name “Lorenzo Lamas” on an action movie; it is a clear indication of quality.
When Lucas was young he dreamed of epic space battles and battered, realistic looking starfighters that enraptured us all; after he was aged he gave us a ludicrous story that would have barely made the pulps, sounding more like someone trying to make a simulacrum of a scifi story without having to actually envision the scifi, or care about the subject material much.
Trek, on the other hand, was all about the science. The original series was crappily shot and had horrible actors, but as a kid I saw a brain transplant, and living machines, and beings with technology so great that they were as gods. I saw people using awesome hand-held lab machines to analyze atmosphere and blood chemistry, and using energy weapons to heat rocks and stun bad guys. The scifi elements were not used as the backdrop for something else, but the primary story itself. If there was a love interest, say between Kirk and a spicy Orion woman, it was ancillary to the ultimate plot points. The writers had a love of science and futurism, and you could feel it all the way through all the spin off series and movies. Even the shitty Insurrection movie, which was nearly unforgiveable in most respects, showcased a modicum of cool technology;
Example; was The Wrath of Khan about the struggle between those two men, or the horror of a weapon that could destroy planets and create new ones, and the crazy imbalance of power that would create in the Star Trek universe? I think the latter; the Ricardo Montalban stuff was just spice to that storyline.
Ok now the reverse proof; could you really say the same about the trade war embargo bullshit in Phantom Menace? Those two mushmouth talking aliens and the dumb plot the Emperor used to slip into parliamentary power in the Old Republic? Was the futurism really apparent there? I say no. The scifi was used as a ruse in those movies to schnooker us into watching them.
So let me enumerate the reasons why Star Trek is better than Star Wars. Feel free to rant about it while clutching your Boba Fett figurine to your breast, if it will make you feel better.
- Star Trek has actually inspired actual working technology (example, ion drive) while Star Wars has yet to explain to us how the damned lightsabers work.
- In Trek, the Geeks were the heroes–example; Spock (obviously, the only equivalent to a Geek God.) Hell, even Kirk; he beat Spock at tri-D chess after all. In Star Wars, the devil-may-care Han Solo types were glorified.
- Trek was thought out, and had few, if any, plot problems. This denoted careful consideration for the consumer, so better storylines, and a more reproduce-able product, hence the hours and hours more Trek material out there in the form of the spinoff TV series. Much different than the two supposedly clairvoyant twins not only hanging out at length with each other without knowing, but making out and somehow, still not knowing they are siblings;
Lucas had no idea where he was going when he started, and once I knew that, I distrusted him just like I distrust the Lost showrunners, or the Battlestar Galatica showrunners, (I could go on and on.)
- Star Trek philosophy made more sense.
Once robots started getting sentient, they had a legal trial and declared they were legitimate lifeforms, not collared sentient machines with “restraining bolts” to compel obedience, to be regularly mocked and misused.
Surely some robot would have contrived a way to get that bolt off and slay a couple hundred people, so at some point the supposedly wise Jedi types could step back and say, “I guess it is fucked up that we enslave living, thinking minds.”
But I digress. I could go on and on, but I think I made my point; Star Trek was devised by a nerd;
…and Star Wars by a dork;
There is a distinction there, and if anything, it is one of the most important ones this blog is trying to communicate.