Trek Wars

29 08 2011

I’ve recently had a conversation with someone who told me that they can’t tell the difference between Star Trek and Star Wars.  It blew my mind of course, but does make sense due to the fact that she had never seen either of them.  It got me thinking though about what the differences and similarities are.  For example:

Location:

Star Wars – In a galaxy far, far away

Star Trek – The milky way galaxy

Timeframe:

Star Wars – A long time ago

Star Trek – In the future

Robots:

Star Wars – C3PO, R2D2, droids, etc

Star Trek – Mr. Data

Parting Salutation:

Star Wars – May the force be with you

Star Trek – Live long and Prosper

Weaponry:

Star Wars – Light saber

Star Trek – Phasers

Ships:

Star Wars – Millennium Falcon, Death Star, Star Destroyer, X-wing Fighters, etc

Star Trek – USS Enterprise, USS Voyager, etc

Faster than light travel:

Star Wars – Hyperspace

Star Trek – Warp Speed

Format:

Star Wars – 7 movies, 2 Animated Series, 6 seasons (so far), 91 episodes (so far),  various specials

Star Trek – 11 movies, 6 television series, 30 seasons, 726 episodes

 

These are superficial differences and don’t mean anything to people who have never seen them.  In order to really help people who haven’t seen the shows, the deeper thematic differences need to be explored.

Star Wars

Star Wars has sometimes been called  Space Opera, but that term has a negative connotations.  I like to think of it as Fantasy Science Fiction.  The major fantasy element is “the Force” which works like magic despite the series’ attempt to couch it with a scientific explanation.  Another aspect of Star Wars that places it in the fantasy genre is the clear delineation between good and evil.  You’ve got the good side of the force with the Jedis and the dark side of the force with the Sith Lords.   There is an overarching allegorical story with a beginning, middle and ending that includes the victory of good over evil.

The science fiction elements, of course, are enveloped in the technology that is employed and the fact that it takes place for the most part in space and involves aliens: two major science fiction themes.   Where this falls short of being pure science fiction (in my opinion)  is the fact that Star Wars is not grounded in human history.  What makes true Science Fiction poignant is its connection with what we are and where we are headed.

Star Trek

Star Trek on the other hand is pure Science Fiction.  It deals with the future of mankind.  The overall point of the series is Gene Roddenberry’s vision of an optimistic future where the problems of society man has faced from the beginning are either overcome or are on their way to being overcome.  There is no beginning, middle and end.  Science Fiction is episodic in nature, each episode explores different themes dealing with mankind’s struggle.  There is a lot of social commentary there as well as political and religious.

The lines between good and evil are fuzzy just as they are in real life.  Even the villains that come off as strictly evil at first blush turn out to either have some positive qualities or are metaphors for social problems.

Not all science fiction has the rosy hue that Gene Roddenberry’s creation has; in addition to utopian futures, science fiction can also give us dystopian futures.  These often come in post-apocalyptic futures often caused by human civilization mis-steps.

 

 

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2 responses

30 08 2011
David Montgomery

Fascinating…Star Trek fits the normal science fiction definition, but Star Wars by attempting to “couch” the magic with science kind of makes it science fiction too. I think a major difference is where the two start. Star Trek starting as a tv show kind of forces (no pun intended) it to be episodic. Where Star Wars started a movie which kind of forces (pun intended) it have a defined story arc.

May my comment be with you…always.

31 08 2011
Mister Pold

Science Fiction finds its origins in the episodic format of short stories, that is what makes it such a great genre for a television show. Many of the episodes from the original series and the animated series of Star Trek were adapted from science fiction stories. While fantasy also has some history as short fiction, the most notable are presented as sagas that fill multiple books. Take for example: The Chronicles of Narnia, The Lord of the Rings, His Dark Materials, The Dark Tower, Harry Potter, etc. This works well for films because you can produce multiple films increasing revenue and drawing crowds to the next film. It can also work in television, but relies on the ability to finish the story for it to work well as it did in the television series Lost.

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