No look back at the year in nerd culture can be complete without one of the most interesting developments in quite some time for fans of "Star Wars" and "Star Trek."
William Shatner took to his YouTube channel in September to declare, once and for all (reminiscent of the movie "Fanboys"), that "Star Trek" is superior to "Star Wars." In the midst of that, he took a few shots at Carrie Fisher (who appeared at Dragon*Con at the same time he did a few weeks earlier).
Fisher defended "Star Wars," and Shatner did not go unscathed either. "Shat" had a retort to Fisher, as well. George Takei, meanwhile, urged peace between the "Star-people," since they have a common enemy: "Twilight."
This debate for the ages inspired us to settle it once and for all, with you, dear Geek Out readers, as the judges. Meet "Team 'Star Trek": Michael Saba and Ashley Strickland. And "Team 'Star Wars": Topher Kohan and Nikki Rau-Baker.
Without further ado, we commence the ultimate battle!
Ashley Strickland begins, with the logic of Spock, describing what makes "Star Trek" special ...
It’s hard not to love "Star Trek" - intellectually fascinating, overflowing with characters with whom you can relate and fanning out in numerous directions of intriguing moral dilemmas while preserving a utopian integrity.
"Star Trek" paved the way for sci-fi and fantasy to be taken seriously. Unlike other sci-fi, it was not motivated by militaristic war until "Deep Space Nine," which even then poses questions about the duality of terrorism versus freedom fighters. Roddenberry introduced space as a final frontier that needed to be explored by a diverse but unified group of aliens and humans. Curiosity, rather than control, is their mission. Their utopian society is accepting, encouraging and peaceful, to a point. The members of the Starship Enterprise reflect personal struggles of moral justice, often helping one another to discover the best possible solution. It is sci-fi at its best, laying the groundwork for movies such as "Star Wars" to even exist (although SW is sophomoric at most in comparison).
"Star Trek" is driven by characters, rather than flashy weapons and fight scenes. They are engaging, endearing and lack perfection - their flaws make them likable.
From the incomparable captains, like brash Kirk, calculating Picard and the fearless Janeway, to the crews that keep those same captains in check, "Star Trek" never focuses solely on one person, rather how those people exist around one another. Spock, Scotty, Bones, Uhura, Chekov and Sulu could never be confused as foils for Kirk - they stand on their own, empowered, while accentuating Kirk’s character.
Picard’s leadership alone is worthy of intense admiration, but he also succeeds because of the myriad individuals that comprise his crew. We are exposed to all sides of the "Star Trek" characters, and they each have a deliciously long time to develop, so they become woven into our lives - a part of the family.
"Star Trek" brings together the most diverse of races and ideas and has them functioning on one spaceship. It is the fine juxtaposition of camaraderie and conflict that keeps Star Trek’s many incarnations so intriguingly convivial.
Nikki Rau-Baker calls upon her Jedi powers to make the case for "Star Wars"...
On Halloween of 1978, I donned my homemade R2-D2 costume, and that was the beginning of my fascination with "Star Wars."
Being a child of the '70s, "Star Wars" left an indelible mark on my life. Space pirates, lightsabers and the dreamy Luke Skywalker drew me in. But it’s the life lessons that kept me hooked. The choices that we make now affect not only our generation, but the generation we leave behind.
"Star Wars" brings us the future but with the gritty realism of the everyday struggles we all face. There isn’t an idealized version of the future that "Star Trek" tries to portray where people live in a perfect society with self-cleaning clothes and androids who can play the violin. The heroes do what they can to help each other
There are some who say that "Star Trek" has more social commentary. I would argue with that. In fact, through the Jedi Order we learn about tolerance, compassion and understanding in a chaotic world. Master Yoda and Obi-Wan teach us about sacrifice for the greater good.
The world of "Star Wars" delves deep into the spiritual realm with the Force. It teaches us to recognize that everyone, no matter how far gone they may seem, still have a chance at redemption and that is a story worth it’s weight in gold-pressed latinum.
Michael Saba fires the first photon torpedo at "Star Wars"...
After seeing "Star Wars" for the first time, my brother and I spent an entire month running up and down the hallways of our house, imagining that we were Han and Chewie scrambling through the narrow corridors of the Millennium Falcon. I wanted to live in that universe, but that was because I was a child.
When you take a look at other kinds of sci-fi and genre fiction, you inevitably realize just how simplistic the "Star Wars" take on the military-themed space opera was. It’s about on par with a pulpy daytime soap, dripping with a Manichean, good-versus-evil philosophy where the show’s secular (Empire vs. Rebellion) and spiritual (Sith vs. Jedi) realms square off with all the subtlety and charm of Rock-'Em-Sock-'Em Robots.
Once you’ve seen the original series "Star Trek" episode "The City on the Edge of Forever," there’s no going back. Loosely based on the titular classic Harlan Ellison novel, it was a stark and brutal commentary on the Vietnam War, drug use, peace activism and how good intentions are often the surest path to hell.
It’s illustrative of the biggest difference between the two franchises: You can change the name of the characters, locations or even the films themselves in the "Star Wars" series, and it’ll still be a modestly goofy and outsized take on the hero’s journey monomyth. With Jawas and Ewoks.
"Star Trek" gave us something different: An idealistic vision of what a multicultural (and multispecies) future utopia could look like, and what this speculation tells us about the here and now. It’s science fiction as social commentary in the grand tradition of Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke and Robert Heinlein.
"Star Wars" gave us lasers, lightsabers, and action figures – in other words, science-fantasy. Maybe Harrison Ford said it best after reading a script for "A New Hope," dense with unpronounceable jargon and fantastical characters: “George, you can type this s-, but you sure as hell can’t say it.”
Topher Kohan "Strikes Back"...
Really? You believe for one second that all "Star Wars" gave us is “science fantasy?" Wow, I would never want to see what you thought Einstein gave us. Yeah, I just did that: I compared "Star Wars" to Albert Einstein, he gave us the theory of relativity. If you ask me, that is as much “science fantasy” as anything you see in "Star Wars."
Do you believe that "Star Trek" is not military-themed? How about "Deep Space Nine" or the neutral zone. It has as many oh-my-God-we-are-about-to-be-attacked episodes as any sci-fi show on the air. Ever. Now I will give you that if you look at the "Star Trek" universe as a whole, there is a big story arc, more so than in the six "Star Wars" movies. But that is only because they let anyone write for "Star Trek."
Strickland unleashes her Vulcan death grip on "Team 'Star Wars' "...
"Star Trek" may not have “the Force,” but that’s because it didn’t need a vehicle with a name motivating it forward. Acceptance is widespread, not something that is shared amongst a few robed figures. All of the characters have a chance at redemption, and the captains and their crews offer these chances to friend and foe alike.
"Star Wars" and "Star Trek" portray two separate futures. Gene Roddenberry envisioned a future that one would hope isn’t idealized in its themes of equality and acceptance, even if it is clean and imaginative in other aspects. But let’s not forget, "Star Wars" includes droid armies in our future. A society that creates machines that can mindlessly kill others bears no equality or acceptance.
Things are black and white, or blue and red rather, in "Star Wars." You’re good or bad, and you can’t take the middle road. Moral complexity is what creates a society of acceptance in "Star Trek." The gray areas, the flaws and our inherent diversity from each other is, in fact, uniting.
"Star Trek," in many ways, has and continues to inspire our future, and not just in a societal way. The tablets, communicators and other devices used in "Star Trek" inspired the social media and technology we use today. Children that watched this show did more than wear a costume each Halloween or fight with plastic lightsabers in the backyard – they took it a step further and invented prototypes for devices that would shape and change the way we live.
While "Star Trek" is not as strictly militaristic as "Star Wars," it does include thematic elements, battle scenes and decisive foes – no sci-fi series of this caliber would do well without it. But it is not the main focus, unless, as I alluded earlier, you include "Deep Space Nine." The action in "Star Trek" instantly captivates, but the philosophy of it remains with you longest.
The story still continues for "Star Trek," and not just “anyone” can write for this ever-evolving franchise. Roddenberry’s creative team shapes and evolves like any writing team, adjusting when there are conflicts and taking the story where it needs to go. Captain Kirk can’t guide the Enterprise through space alone – he needs his crew. And "Star Trek" was never just Roddenberry’s property. As Nichelle Nichols personally told me, it was the writing and production team as a whole that produced what millions still love today. It doesn’t rely on an animated series to keep it going or capture young viewers – "Star Trek’s" movies and TV series are good enough to do that on their own.
Kohan executes Order 66 to terminate "Team 'Star Trek' "...
Well, I would argue that today, there is a larger audience for "Star Wars" because of the animated series and if the "Star Trek" audience is based on movies, well … SW ranks as one of the highest grossing movies of all times and one of the greatest movie trilogies of all time.
I would rather have a "Clone Wars" on TV than the show "Enterprise." If that is what “Roddenberry’s creative team” is creating, then all Trek fans should be bowing at the feet of J.J. Abrams for saving your franchise from utter destruction.
In the world of good sci-fi movies, there is no conversation. The original "Star Wars" trilogy rules supreme. If you add in the TV shows, and you have to if you are talking about "Trek," then I put the three prequel SW movies up against the last three "Trek" series all day long, and again SW will be king!
The Force will always be with us, but we will not always live long and prosper!
Rau-Baker finds "Team 'Star Trek's'" lack of faith in "Star Wars" disturbing...
Maybe if "Star Trek" had the Force, they could more effectively defend themselves against the random tragedies that seem to beset them. The wormholes, cosmic dust waves, giant blobs of oil and angry rocks are just a few of the things that could be tamed with the Force.
On the topic of machines that kill, let’s take a look at the Borg. They fly around in their giant metal cube assimilating species and even take the beloved “I’m-from-France-but-speak-with-an-English-accent” Captain Picard into their collective. But they are not mindless; instead they have a hive mind where diversity is frowned upon.
Things in the "Star Wars" universe are not always black and white (or blue and red as has been said). Characters struggle with moral dilemmas just like anyone else. When Obi-Wan duels with Anakin, it’s not something as simple as “he is going to be bad, so I have to kill him." During the duel, Obi-Wan even says “You were my brother, Anakin. I loved you.” That right there shows the humanity that exists in "Star Wars."
"Star Trek" may have inspired some tech, but "Star Wars" has spawned an entire religious movement. The Jedi Church has become a widely recognized and accepted form of religious expression with some people listing the religion on their census forms. I’m not saying that I will go out and start wearing a cloak and carrying a lightsaber to work, but it is pretty interesting that the philosophy of "Star Wars" has inspired people to follow the Jedi code.
Just as the story continues for "Star Trek," so it does for "Star Wars." With the films, the books and video games, the world of "Star Wars" is ever growing and continues to offer the fans new material to enjoy.
Shields up, Strickland prepares to engage to warp speed, but not before one last volley...
George Lucas has said that he was writing "Star Wars" during the heyday of "Star Trek’s" syndication. He watched the show and even attended "Trek" conventions. “ 'Star Trek' expanded your mind in terms of what was possible,” he said. “The story is what makes it work.”
Simply, without "Star Trek," you wouldn’t have "Star Wars." "Star Trek’s" foundation and philosophy has and continues to give us “infinite diversity in infinite combinations.” It inspired the science fiction and fantasy that has come after its pioneering days on television in the 1960s, boldly going where no one had ever thought possible and paving the way for future stories.
You’re welcome, George.
Kohan prepares the Death Star to fire at "Team 'Star Trek'"...
You are 100% correct in that "Trek" might have inspired Lucas to move his tale to the stars, but to say without "Trek," there would be no "Star Wars" is like saying, with no Ford, we would not have cars.
Lucas took a timeless story, and put it in a universe that is ever-growing and expanding. All the time, exploring new corners of it, be it his or Her Universe.
I am glad we have both for fans to watch and pick what they like to see, and for me, and all fans of good storytelling, that pick is and will always be "Star Wars."
May the Force be with you.
Who won this battle royale? Let us know in the comments!