star wars a new hope episode 4

Star Wars vs. Star Trek: Part 1

star wars vs. star trek

I write science fiction so I’m obviously interested in the genre. And I don’t think many people would deny that from a popular standpoint the two most influential franchises in scifi are Star Wars and Star Trek. They’ve spawned multiple movies, books, a great deal of artwork, and even conventions and amusement park rides.

I happen to enjoy both of these universes. I watched re-runs of the original Star Trek growing up and saw all of the Star Wars movies when they came out in the theater. I had toys as a kid from both franchises, though certainly more from Star Wars because the smaller action figures were great to collect and there were so many of them available. Plus, at that time Star Trek was just beginning to regain in popularity while Star Wars was really in its prime.

To boldly go…down the tubes

star trek - original crewOver the years my affections for both series have waned somewhat. I still enjoy them, but I don’t get exercised for months on end before one of the movies gets released the way I did for Phantom Menace when it came out, for example. Part of the reason my interest has dwindled is because I was not that enamored with the direction the later works took.

Picard, from the Next Generation, was an interesting change from Kirk and compelling in his own right, but the rest of his crew never really seemed all that interesting. Part of that is probably due to the acting, but part of it was that it seemed like the Next Generation took what I least liked about the first series, i.e. scientific moralizing, and made that a strong emphasis. It tried to explain too much, it tried to be too smart. At least that was my impression. I wish I could give examples of why I felt this way, but it’s been so long since I watched any of the episodes that I’m afraid I can’t offer any.

As for the new Star Trek movies, I haven’t seen any of them, but from the reviews I’ve read I have little interest. While they seem to succeed as movies  based on the response they’ve gotten and perhaps from a story telling standpoint are better than the earlier Star Trek movies (which isn’t saying much), I did not like the edginess they brought to this universe. Star Trek was never edgy. It was odd. It was strange. Occasionally it was even a little heartfelt and thoughtful, but it was never about pulse-pounding chases and explosions or deep psychological struggles. And so I’ve taken a pass on the newer fare.

What I really loved about the first series was the quirkiness of not knowing what sort of freaky planet they would discover in that episode and the interplay between the characters. Mostly, though, it was the characters. I mean, Kirk, Spock, and Bones had this wonderful interplay with each other to where there was a constant friction between them and yet at the end of the day you knew they would have each others’ backs and their differences made them an even tighter group than if they hadn’t had their little dust ups throughout the episodes.

star wars a new hope episode 4

Phantom plotlines

As for Star Wars, it was allowed to live in cryo-sleep for twenty years and I think that may be why it held up a little better with me. I could just rehash the great first trilogy over and over in my mind and relive those wonderful moments between Luke, Han Solo, and Darth Vader over and over again.

And then came Phantom Menace. And this for me, while not quite the beginning of the end, was certainly the end of the beginning. And the parts after the beginning just weren’t very good. This movie, while it had some great visuals, was ultimately a disappointment. And again, very similar to what happened with Star Trek, it was the lack of characters that was the chief offender.

We did have a young Obi Wan, but as good an actor as McGregor is (and he was the best of the bunch) he was no substitute for Alec Guiness. And Guiness’ older Obi Wan was probably the least compelling of the major characters from the original series (not that he wasn’t great, it’s just that the other characters were the ones who really carried the story). Lucas was so desperate to inject some life into Menace that he resurrected (or maybe rebooted would be a better term since they are robots) C-3PO and R2-D2. And while they were certainly bright spots in the otherwise lackluster prequels, their presence felt forced and reeked of desperation on the part of Lucas as a scriptwriter.

I think the plot was also really hard to care about and get invested in for the second series. We knew the Emperor was going to take over the universe at some point, but all of the scenes in the senate and the rather cliched career of Amidala as an idealistic politician made for rather dull cinema. It might have worked in a novel, but the actors and the script were not up to the task. Star Wars thrives on movement, action, changes of scenery, but like some bad documentary, the camera just kept swinging back to Coruscant for another round of debate, intrigue, and…just a whole lot of dialogue between uninteresting people.

Of course, you had the devolution of Anakin running parallel to the political stuff, but if anything that was just as uninteresting and took up even more screen time. Neither of the actors who played this important character were very good and the character ended up coming across not so much as a brooding, tragic figure, but more like a spoiled brat most of the time.

In a post not far, far away

I know it probably seems like I’ve focused on the negatives of the series in this post, but I actually do still like both of these series. You see, the original versions were so good that I still have interest in the films and stories even if the recent incarnations have let me down. And yes, I am cautiously optimistic that the new Star Wars movies will bring back some of the old magic from the original trilogy (though I’m less than thrilled at the choice of director as you might imagine from my take on the recent Star Trek films).

I touched on it a little here, but I’d like to dive deeper in the next post into what makes these two franchises work. I’d like to explore the different characteristics of the two series to compare and contrast them. And eventually I’ll wrap things up by telling which one I ultimately prefer and why.

But that’s all for now. Let me know in the comments what you think about these two series. Which one do you prefer and why? Or is there some other series that you think beats them both?

Until next time, live long and prosper, and may the force be with you.

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Comments (12)

  1. Jenelle May 28, 2014 at 12:06 pm

    I have always preferred Star Wars… probably because I didn’t grow up with Star Trek. We didn’t watch TV growing up, just movies, and the movies without the context of the show kind of just leave a little kid confused about why Kirk keeps dying and coming back to life – which is about all I got out of the movies… people tell me I’m wrong, and I’ve since accepted that is the case… but I can’t quite shake that first impression.

    I have now watched all of the series except DS9 and 1/3 of TOS (we’re working our way through) hooray for Netflix! Ahem.

    My favorite Star Trek so far is definitely Enterprise… which isn’t a popular choice, but it’s my favorite. I think because it is the least like Next Generation, which I found to be … eh. I mean, I liked the characters, but the plot wasn’t compelling for me. I felt like they were just sort of flying around haphazardly with no specific reason in general. The redeeming factor to the series was Q… 🙂

    Next would be Voyager.

    However, far better than Star Trek (in my opinion, if nobody else’s) is StarGate (not SGU, though… that was awful and I stopped watching). 🙂

    When it comes to Star Wars, I love the original trilogy. The prequel trilogy is horrible (though I do love the last scene in Revenge of the Sith, because it is the first time in the entire set where I felt like I was watching STAR WARS). I think it’s humorous that Ewan Macgreggor didn’t even like the prequel trilogy… he talked about it a bit in an interview on Top Gear and it was amusing, to say the least.

    I also love the books.

    And we’ve been watching the Clone Wars cartoon on Netflix, and I’m realizing why the prequels flopped so badly. They would have been far, far better as cartoons. It is quite enjoyable, which was a surprise, because I’ve kind of been opposed to anything from the prequel part of the story/universe.

    And now I’ve written a short novel… 🙂 it’s not like I have any opinion on this subject. At all. hahaha

    • Jenelle May 28, 2014 at 12:07 pm

      P.S. I do enjoy the new Star Trek movies… except I hate what they’ve done to Kirk’s character. But that aside, the movies are pretty awesome. If JJ can refrain from putting ANY lens flares into the new Star Wars movie, I think it is possible it could (COULD) be brilliant.

    • DJ Edwardson May 30, 2014 at 12:21 pm

      Oh StarGate! I forgot about that one. I think I only ever saw about six or seven episodes and it never quite clicked with me. It wasn’t that I disliked it, just that I somehow never “got” it. I thought the movie was pretty interesting, however.

      And I guess my assessment of the Star Trek mythos is a bit truncated as I never watched Enterprise (or Babylon 5).

      I did watch some of the Clone Wars cartoon and also liked it better than the movies, but there were other cartoons that drew me in more (Transormers Prime) and I don’t watch much TV so never had the chance to see it much.

      It’s interesting to hear you say that you didn’t watch TV growing up. In that respect I suppose we are on opposite trajectories since I watched a TON of TV growing up, but nowadays I hardly watch anything.

      Thanks for the long reply. I now feel like you would probably be a better candidate for writing this series than me, lol!

      • Jenelle June 3, 2014 at 8:04 am

        I loved StarGate from episode 1… but my husband had to get to season 2 before he was really “sucked in.” Most television shows don’t really start to “get good” until the second season. I think because it takes that long for the actors to figure out their characters and the writers/actors/directors to really all “click” together…. or something.

  2. Abbey May 31, 2014 at 12:49 pm

    The new Star Trek movies, while good movies, simply aren’t good Star Trek. Gene Roddenberry created Star Trek to be about exploring strange new worlds… to boldly go where no man has gone before…! (La la, la la la la la…) The new movies have completely taken the focus off of learning about the universe and what’s in it and changed it around to how many people can get beat up, shot at, and exploded without their attackers being blinded by the lens flare first? (Haha, okay, maybe it’s not that bad…)

    Oh, Star Wars… Star Wars… What really bugs me about the prequel trilogy (other than Anakin, whom I cannot stand) is that everything looks so technologically advanced, even though it takes place before the original trilogy.
    Why can’t they just let the franchise rest in peace? Though I must say, I am interested to see what they do with the new movie.

    • DJ Edwardson June 3, 2014 at 6:19 pm

      Abbey, I totally agree with you on both series. The new Star Trek movies do seem to have lost that wonder of exploration that the first series captured so well. They’re just sci-fi actioners set in the Star Trek universe.

      And yes, the advanced technology of the prequel struck a sour note with me as well. Here’s hoping they get it right in the next trilogy!

  3. J. L. Mbewe June 1, 2014 at 10:59 pm

    I loved Star Trek, Star Wars. and Stargate the movie. Not that interested in the TV shows. That said, It’s been forever since I’ve watched them. 🙂

    • DJ Edwardson June 3, 2014 at 6:23 pm

      You know now that you mention it, I’m not sure I would enjoy the original Star Trek TV series as much now as I did when I originally watched it. I think part of the draw of the original series was that it was sort of a novel idea (even when I watched it as re-runs). There just wasn’t really anything else out there quite like it. That said, I still have a soft spot in my heart for Kirk, Spock, and Bones…

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  5. Joshua Dotson July 25, 2015 at 10:17 am

    DJ a great informed post on two very popular film series. As you know I like Star Wars much better than Star Trek and I believe Star Wars has left a legacy on many people.
    The prequels were disappointing but I think they were still better than most movies, but they just simply didn’t match up to the originals.
    Star Wars has played a prominent role in film cinema and even Peter’s Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings was inspired by it.
    For me Alex Guinness was, with Mark Hamill my favorite actors playing my favorite characters Obi Wan Kenobi and Luke Skywalker. And I really enjoyed Ewan McGregor as Obi Wan in the Prequels. That’s pretty neat you got to see all the Star Wars movies in theaters. . I wish I could say the same.
    Blessings and great post DJ, Master of Science Fiction.

    • DJ Edwardson July 25, 2015 at 12:26 pm

      Joshua, thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts. I’m glad you have been able to enjoy these epic stories as well. I did not know the Lord of the Rings films were influenced by Star Wars, but both certainly do have that epic feel to them. Let’s hope that the upcoming films stay true to that spirit and bring this universe of stories back into the vein of what made them so wonderful in the first place, the timeless struggle of good and evil which mirrors the struggle that runs through every human heart.

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