Strange Bedfellows: Star Wars vs Star Trek

Now that Star Trek and Star Wars are in bed together does the argument matter anymore?
Now that Star Trek and Star Wars are in bed together does the argument matter anymore?

By Ethan Harmon

If you haven’t noticed – and it’s hard not to notice at this point – the new Star Wars film is making its big screen debut at the end of the year. J.J. Abrams and his company, Bad Robot, are trying their best to build up enough hype to get people interested, while attempting to wash away the bad taste of the prequels out of the mouths of fans.

With just a single teaser trailer, and an official trailer on the way, it’s safe to say that the hype train is running at full speed. On the opposite end of the spectrum…Well, not opposite, but hardcore fans will beg to differ… Star Trek will experience a huge anniversary next year as it releases its third film following the disappointing Into Darkness. Of course, these releases are going to reinvigorate an age old debate: Star Trek or Star Wars, which is better? My question is, “Why does it matter anymore?”

Look, I get it. These are two franchises that have revolutionized television, film, pop culture, and almost every aspect of media. Simply say to a Wars fan, “do or do not, there is no try,” and there is a guarantee that a Yoda voice will accommodate a response. Tell a Trek fan, “engage,” and they will reply “make it so.”

At this point, it feels like splitting hairs especially since both franchises are in the hands of Abrams and his Bad Robot imprint. Both franchises are wonderful for different reasons, but they captivate audiences worldwide and send them on a journey into space, seeing new aliens, experiencing new worlds, and feeling a fresh adventure unfold. But die-hard fans of either series will fight to the death defending their favorite and explain why the other is the inferior narrative.

Okay, let’s say I bite and try to pick a side. Care to join me on a really annoying journey? I cannot remember which I saw first, but I grew up on both. My mother had me watching the original Star Trek series and the films Next Generation and Voyager, while my father would sit me down and have me view the original Star Wars films. This is just a bit of backstory before I dive into the nitty-gritty.

Let’s say, for the sake of argument, I wanted to defend Star Wars. No one can deny its grasp over the movie genre, after revolutionizing the way movies were viewed and how plots unfolded on the silver screen. Hell, the first film was Episode IV. This franchise gave us the Millennium Falcon, the Death Star, Vader’s horrible respiratory problems, Empire Strikes Back, “I’m your father,” the fantastical and bad-ass nature of the Force, and mother-flippin’ light sabers. Even with the failure pile that was the prequels, the franchise set box office records, and captured the imaginations of several generations.

Though certain parts of the story fell flat, it’s impossible to deny the incredible grasp Star Wars has had on media, culture, and fandom. Comic conventions are dedicated to it, people revere (for some reason) George Lucas as a god-like being, and even with disappointment from the prequels, people cannot help but feel excitement for the new films. It’s easy to find a reason to love the sci-fantasy (it’s sci-fi, but people want to split an already split hair even more) series.

On the other hand, Star Trek has outlasted Star Wars. And, we can argue this all day, but it’s hard not to admit that Wars took a lot of influence from Trek, and A Princess of Mars. Star Trek was the first show to truly create significant social commentary – Twilight Zone aside – by showing a future where humanity came together to explore the galaxies together. Sulu and Uhura became integral members of the Enterprise, and are now held in high regard. It was the first science fiction television series to truly bring families together to explore the cosmos together, and with subtle social commentary and well-written stories, became a household staple. It pushed sci-fi to the forefront of accepted and cherished genres.

After decades of not being on the air, Trek pulled millions to theaters to watch movies about a one-off character taking his revenge on Kirk, the search for a dear friend, and a voyage back home involving whales (if you didn’t see it, don’t ask).

And, arguably, Trek inspired more innovation in pop culture than Wars, i.e. iPhones, holograms, etc.

Now, here is my point. Picking a favorite should not be an issue. Both franchises have their ups and downs. Wars has the prequels, and Trek has Enterprise, and prequel series. Both offer amazing character-driven science fiction tales. These stories captivate our imaginations and take us on a journey to a final frontier, or a galaxy far, far away. Both have insanely large followings with dedicated fans, and both fan bases will defend their turn to the end.

Just because these franchises have differences – light saber this, Vulcan pinch that – they ultimately create the same experience. These stories allow us to escape into a different universe, where technologies beyond our comprehension are possible, beings never seen can be friends and enemies, and we all can surf the stars together on faster-than-light transports.

It’s time to bury this argument, dammit. As a fan of both, I’m tired of being pushed to a “side.” If a Star Wars fan takes a huge dump on Trek, I’m going to stick up for it, and vice versa. I don’t want to be stuck as a fan of just one. Both have inspired my writings and both are cherished stories to me. Wars and Trek are part of my childhood and they remain inspirations today. These stories have taken me on a journey, one that I’ve shared with friends and family, and I hope to continue to do so in the future.

Will I see Star Wars: Episode VII on opening night? You bet your ass. Am I excited to see the new Star Trek film when it hits screens next year? Hell to the yeah.

Let’s stop bickering amongst each other, and let’s embrace both franchises at what they have become.  These are beloved stories the world over, and just because some like one a little more than the other, it doesn’t mean the other is completely null. Our inner-nerd wants to like both, so let’s be open about it. We like both franchises and both are important to all of us. So, stop these stupid arguments about which is better, and go watch these shows and movies. They are made to entertain (and provide a moral), so go watch and have fun!