#2. An Episode of Star Trek
Lucasfilm, Disney, NBC
I've often heard Star Wars and Star Trek described as the Democrat and Republican camps of geekdom, which I've never agreed with because there actually are some basic differences between the two sci-fi franchises.
Star Wars is ultimately a story about the opposing forces of rationality (science, technology) and the unknown (the Force), perfectly embodied by the Jedi, who are basically laser sword-fighting alien wizards. The original Star Trek, on the other hand, concentrates almost entirely on technology and progress, emphasizing how they will usher in a brand new multicolored, multi-limbed galactic renaissance. Consequently, there's very little mysticism or supernatural belief in it.
Except for the impromptu masses held in Kirk's bed.
But that's not to say that everything about Star Trek was always hopelessly logical. Just look at the 18th episode of Season 2, "The Immunity Syndrome" (1968), where the Enterprise receives a barely audible distress call from the USS Intrepid, a ship piloted by a crew of 400 Vulcans. Before they can go to their aid, though, the signal suddenly goes off, and we cut to a visibly shaken Spock telling McCoy and Kirk, "The Intrepid ... it just died."
He later explains that he somehow felt the 400 Vulcans aboard the Intrepid dying all at once, despite it having been established that Vulcans are only touch telepaths. And yet Spock was still able to feel their immense psychic turmoil thanks to some mysterious link between him and his kind. Or, in other words, he felt a great disturbance in the Force.
That's right. Some fans have noticed the eerie similarities between Spock's lines in "The Immunity Syndrome" and Obi-Wan Kenobi's famous quote that he utters after Vader blows up Leia's homeworld of Alderaan: "I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced."
"Almost as if they all killed themselves after accidentally looking at hardcore Ewok porn."
So in both of the Star universes, we get a character who defies all logic by sensing a mass extermination that was seemingly hurled through light-years of space directly into his mind, and which then ends up delegated to the vague realm of "Maybe it's magic, maybe it's something they are born with (maybe it's Maybelline)." No one from the Star Wars production team has ever confirmed this connection, but the evidence is definitely there and looking more damning than your hot cousin in a skimpy bikini.
Then again, maybe it was an accidental ripoff? Whatever you might think of him, George Lucas is obviously a huge sci-fi fan, so it stands to reason that he could've borrowed from one of the greatest sci-fi shows ever without realizing it. That, however, can't be said about ...
#1. The John Carter Novels
So ... the John Carter movie.
Sorry, sorry! I didn't realize there were any Hollywood executives in here!
Yeah, one of the most hyped-up movies of 2012 really failed to deliver, didn't it? Somehow, the tale of a hopping Taylor Kitsch fighting Martians like a more deranged Bugs Bunny received really mixed reviews and didn't even come close to making back all the money sunk into it, despite its incredibly badass source material.
Edgar Rice Burroughs' 1917 book A Princess of Mars, which inspired the movie, was actually one of the first and greatest examples of the Swords and Sandals in Space genre, eventually influencing some of the most famous examples of modern science fiction. And you can bet that that also includes Star Wars, to an almost uncomfortable degree.
In fact, when you listen to a basic summary of Burroughs' world, it almost sounds like a drunken, typo-prone 13-year-old trying to describe Lucas' movies. For example, in the [Something] of Mars books, Martian chieftains were given the title of "jed," while the equivalent of their lieutenant was referred to as a "padwar." (The movie, shockingly, never uses those terms.) You can already see the amazing similarity between that and Star Wars with its warrior Jedi and their student padawans, and that's not even mentioning the Sith, which in Burroughs' world was the name of an evil species of giant hornets.
Which in Lucas Land were made into evil, sentient prunes.
But that's not all: The Star Wars banthas seem to be named after the Martian banth, a sort of hairless alien lion (alion). Conversely, the yeti-like wampa from The Empire Strikes Back is based entirely on a Martian creature called an apt in everything but its name, from their white, hairy appearance to their snowy environments and the two horns/tusks on their heads:
Michael Whelan, Lucasfilm, Disney
Finally, there are the boobs.
The most famous boobs in Star Wars obviously belong to Princess Leia while in her Slave Girl outfit (though in all fairness, her only mammary competition was probably Porkins). Well, even that design traces back to the John Carter novels and the heroine Dejah Thoris (Lynn Collins in the movie) as depicted in the art of Frank Frazetta.
Who sadly and thankfully never learned what the real purpose of armor is.
George Lucas never tried to deny that without Burroughs' books, Star Wars would never have that distinctive feeling of an archaic-futuristic world of science and sorcery, teaching the world a valuable lesson that the only difference between "ripping off" and "being inspired by" is about 60 years.
Cezary Jan Strusiewicz is a Cracked columnist and editor. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.