4 Reasons 'Star Wars' Is Better Than 'Star Trek'
Star Trek vs. Star Wars. It's the original nerd feud, the spawning point for every great clash of fandom that was to follow. On one side are orderly lines of Stormtroopers, Bobas Fett (the official plural of Boba Fett), and obese men ironically dressed up as Princess Leia. On the other are serried ranks of unflatteringly unitarded ensigns and Klingon warriors who spend more money on spirit gum than car payments. It's an irreconcilable, unending conflict.
Except no, it's not. Star Wars won. I'm not just saying that because we're all huge Star Wars fans here at Cracked (as you can probably tell from our new series, Adventures in Jedi School). I'm saying Star Wars won because Star Wars won. Here's how.
Star Trek Is Accurate, Star Wars Is Timeless
The original Star Trek series is one of the most accurate predictions of the future there's ever been. Yeah, the warp drive seems like pie-in-the-sky bullshit, and most aliens probably don't look like people with putty on their foreheads or Majel Roddenberry.
"They don't? You're sure? Turn the space program back on, everyone! It's safe!"
But look at how much Star Trek got right! Aside from the tricorders and communicators both coming true in the form of smartphones, we got a peaceful end to the Cold War (predicted by a dirty Russian being allowed on the bridge) and an end to outright racial discrimination (as predicted by Bill Shatner's indiscriminate tongue). We're even well on our way to having a teleporter.
Not to be confused with Shatner's tongue, which teleports women to untold planes of ecstasy.
Meanwhile, nothing Star Wars predicted has come true because Star Wars never tried to predict one damn thing. We're not going to ever see a "real" lightsaber, a "real" Death Star, or a living human male as dashing as Han Solo. Star Trek dedicated whole episodes to exploring contemporary social issues like racism. The closest the original Star Wars films got to social commentary was giving the galaxy's only black man a cape. And really, that's just because Billy Dee Williams looks improbably good in a cape.
"This? I brought it from home, do you want to use it for the movie? Baby?"
Yes, Star Wars is less impressive as a work of science fiction, but it'll stay popular centuries longer than any of Gene Roddenberry's creations, including Wil Wheaton. All that incisive social commentary and all those dead-on technological predictions lead to episodes that age faster than a sunbathing chain smoker. No one's ever going to make a real lightsaber, and that means no one's ever going to watch Luke turn his on for the first time and think, "Big whoop, I've got three at home."
"This is ridiculous. No man can hold a lightsaber without a visible erection."
The technology and social attitudes that made the original series groundbreaking in its heyday make it seem dated and kind of silly today. The same is true of The Next Generation. Don't believe me? Watch the episode where they acknowledge the LGBT movement via the bulging crotch of Riker's pants.
Somehow this never became a cultural touchstone on par with Kirk kissing Uhura.
Young, crazy-in-a-good-way George Lucas was obsessed with myths. And myths are timeless. The first trilogy has all the elements of a classic myth: the hero rising from obscurity to confront a great, monolithic evil and save his people. Who cares if "laser sword that cuts anything" is exactly the sort of weapon an 8-year-old would invent to win some imaginary battle at recess? Luke needed a magic sword because mythic heroes need magic swords.
"If I had a gun, this would just be murder!"
Star Trek Is About Science, Star Wars Is About Fiction
This is Page 2 of Gene Roddenberry's pitch for Star Trek, and that's math you see. Roddenberry introduced his idea to the networks by calculating the number of stars and planets in the universe to point out how many planets there must be, and thus how many different alien species might be out there, lying in wait for a Kirkfuck.
That pitch set the pattern for Star Trek. It could get wacky, there could be Tribbles and androids having sex and aliens that are borderline anti-Semitic caricatures, but at the end of the day everything was based on some sort of consistent science, even if it was fictional consistent science.
No, friend, this isn't colorized Nazi propaganda. It's the Ferengi!
Star Wars has never been about the technology. How do lightsabers work? Crystals or some shit. How can they travel faster than the speed of light? Fuck you, that's how. George Lucas tried adding science to his fable exactly once, and we can all agree it was a disastrous mistake.
One more reason Qui-Gon had to die.
Every piece of technology in Star Wars -- from the Death Star's murdergun to Luke's landspeeder -- might as well be made with magic for all the explanation we're given. But Star Trek is laden with technobabble, because every new thing that happens needs an explanation. All that detail is wonderful for that tiny core of dedicated fans, but it's a lot harder to sell to a general movie audience.
Audiences Prefer PEW PEW EXPLOSION SOUND to Peaceful Negotiations
Can you imagine a Star Wars movie without some giant fight scene as its climax? I can't. Based on the six we have to judge from, I can pick out two predictions for the ending of Star Wars: The J.J. Abrams One:
1. Something real big will explode in space
2. There will be a dramatic lightsaber duel
Star Wars is about a series of wars in the damn stars.
But Star Trek -- at its best -- was about the triumph of reason and compassion and other noble virtues over brute force and violence. In one episode Captain Picard has a chance to wipe out the entire Borg race with a virus -- and he doesn't! Because genocide is wrong, even against creepy robot zombies threatening to end your civilization. The bad guy in the first Star Trek motion picture is an impossibly massive sentient space ship:
And no one blows it up! They teach it the human virtues of love and compassion and it evolves into a higher level of being. That's it. No exceptionally large spaceship in a Star Wars movie is ever more than 90 minutes of screen time away from exploding. I'm pretty sure Lucas specified that in the contract he signed with Disney.
"Also, at least two racial stereotypes per trilogy."
Come to think of it, I can't imagine a giant spaceship showing up in the next Star Trek movie and not exploding by the end. There's a reason for that ...
Star Trek Has Turned into Star Wars
Here's the good news: The name Star Trek will never go away. We'll get a new series of movies with a new company of actors as often as they get too old to be sexy. Any series this well-established is functionally immortal by Hollywood standards. But no producer is going to greenlight a somber, speculative Star Trek movie when he can just dress the franchise up as Star Wars instead. You kids want to see exploding planets? We'll blow up goddamn Vulcan:
"Tied, you bearded chucklefuck." -J.J. Abrams
You like big space battles with lots of lasers? Strap in, dickheads, because our fucking poster is made of lasers.
Cracked has already pointed out how Abrams' Star Trek is basically Star Wars, and it's just as true today as it was when that article was written three years ago. J.J. Abrams couldn't make Star Trek profitable again without skinning it alive and draping its severed flesh over the bones of a Star Wars movie. And he did such a good job of the space battles and pew-pewing and sword fights that Disney picked him to direct their first Star Wars movie. So on the plus side, Star Wars fans know they're getting a guy who can handle the material.