I’ve spent my entire life in the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon. I say this as somebody who went to see Star Wars at its first re-release in California in 1978 and from then on looked at everything through a makeshift finger cockpit. Maybe it’s just me but the world of Luke Skywalker and Yoda seems like a tempest to the calm of the world of Captain Kirk and Data. I’m not saying one is better than the other; Star Trek just appeals to a different province of my brain (and is way geekier).
Star Trek was created before Star Wars. Gene Roddenberry’s baby was born in 1966 at the tail end of the Golden Age of Television. He based his concept on the stories of 19th Century Missourian pioneers: mid-western Americans who trekked to California hoping for a better way of life.
Because the original series of Star Trek mirrored Earth’s real history the writers were able to add into episodes an array of messages relating to xenophobia and tolerance. It wasn’t all about killing each other. When conflict befell the crew (and it did… sometimes) it was usually thanks to a dodgy misinterpretation of what someone was saying, which probably wasn’t too far from the truth.
George Lucas made Star Wars for the cinema from the start. Death and psychological torment were what he knew cinemagoers wanted to see. It was never going to be a thinking man’s film; you sat and watched and had your imagination laser blasted and then you went home. Far more a warring franchise than is Star Trek, even though it hints on occasion of the tragedy of genocide and racial prejudice.
Star Wars was inspired by ancient myths including works such as Beowulf and King Arthur. These are stories in which conflict is everywhere and the hero returns home triumphant but half-dead. True, there are moments of peace (notably in the extended universe productions) but these are always tempered with the threat of violence. In most of the films we’re thrown into the biggest battles right from the start.
Roddenberry observed humanity from a different angle than did Lucas. He was already expert at writing scripts for old-style Westerns and as such his Star Trek series soon developed into what was labelled by one of the directors Donald Beck as the ‘Wagon Train to the stars’; in other words, an idealistic search for humankind’s utopia from the confines of a spaceship.
The Star Trek and Star Wars franchises have produced films, television series, comics and video games but neither has stepped into every media. There are eight live-action feature films about Star Wars (one coming out in 2019), two anthology films, an animated film, animated TV series and TV films. Star Trek stories have been made into 13 cinema films (including three remakes), a hugely popular television series and lots of novels and comics.
What’s your preference: Star Wars or Star Trek? Or more accurately what part of your brain do you want to satisfy today: the good-against-evil or the adventure-into-the-unknown? The American space opera or the futuristic Gulliver’s Travels? You choose. Both are great at what they do but both a properly different.
As today is Star Wars Day – May the Fourth be with you – Snizl is giving away a Star Wars Stormtrooper Colour Changing Light. To enter this fantastic competition click here. Competition closes on 03/08/18
Good Luck – and May the Force be with you!