Star Wars vs. Star Trek: Part 2
In part 2 of this series, let’s take a look a what it is that makes these two franchises so interesting and compelling. If we’re going to compare and contrast these two universes, what are their strengths? What makes each of them distinct?
Don’t mess with the wookie
One of the biggest differences between the two franchises is the fact that Star Wars was born on the big screen and Star Trek came to us first on the small screen. Don’t miss this distinction. It’s huge.
Star Wars arrived with groundbreaking special effects, lavish costumes, an epic cinematic score by John Williams, and a grand good vs. evil plot where the fate of the universe hung in the balance. Because of its cinematic origins the aliens, sets, and costumes tend to be more varied and original than Star Trek where most alien races simply look a whole lot like humans wearing makeup and prosthetics. Somewhat akin to aliens, robot characters also seem to play a much more pivotal role in Star Wars and seem to have more personality than Star Trek (the notable exception being Data from Next Generation, though arguably he didn’t really have that much personality).
So when it comes to atmosphere and production, I have to give the nod to Star Wars. And given the budgetary and time constraints of TV over movies, I really can’t fault Star Trek on this one too much. They did the best with what they had, but even when they made the transition to the big screen, there just wasn’t as much material and variety there as there is in the Star Wars universe.
Man Your Battlestations
When it comes to action, again we see very little of that in the first Star Trek series and often the battles were not often lethal. That’s not necessarily a bad thing and even Star Wars battles were bloodless affairs, but still, there is considerably less action in most Star Trek installments than in Star Wars. Again, I’d chalk this one up to the fact that most the body of work for Star Trek is as an episodic TV series and Star Wars is essentially set in the midst of an intergalactic conflict.
That said, the ship to ship battles in Star Trek were often rather involved an interesting and seemed to have a bit more strategy to them than the “Never tell me the odds” full-throttle space duels of Star Wars. Some might prefer the more tactical conflict of Star Trek to the flying laser beams and acrobatic lightsaber duels of Star Wars, but here again, when it comes to action, I’d say that Star Wars ups Star Trek here again even if you throw in the movie versions. Most of Star Trek centers around space travel and combat is the exception not the rule for the series as a whole.
Phasers set to fun
What about when it comes to more light-hearted moments and just sheer entertainment? How do the two series fare on that front?
I’d say that both series have spawned their share of quotable lines and memorable scenes. For Star Trek, I think Scotty’s quips from the engine room are certainly some of the more memorable ones. “I’m given’ it all she’s got, Captain!” was a refrain that is still stuck in my head. Bones was also known for his no-nonsense quips and clever remarks, Spock often being the object of his sharp tongued observations. I think the overall tone of the series was a touch campy and didn’t take itself too terribly serious and this made for some fun moments.
Star Wars had Han Solo and C-3PO, both of whom provided two very different sources of humor and many chuckle-worthy moments. Han in particular seems to be the master of clever one liners while C-3PO is everyone’s favorite robot to feel sorry for. Even Princess Leia and Yoda, generally more serious characters, come across as humorous from time to time.
While both series have their moments, overall the scenes from Star Wars come across as more iconic and fun. R2-D2’s auditory antics, Luke’s awkward coming of age moments, and Han and Leia’s constant banter are just more prevalent and constant in the series and pull the viewer in more consistently than Star Trek’s techno-jargon filled scripts. While Star Trek’s wit invokes smirks, the Star Wars characters seem to be simply having a jolly good time. The two series are closer in this regard than on the other points, but Star Wars gets the slight edge here for consistently giving us moments to laugh about and cheer for.
You cannot escape your destiny
So when it comes to production, action, and entertainment, I think Star Wars wins in every area. It’s not that Star Trek has nothing to offer, but Star Wars rises above it in these areas. But that’s not all there is to a movie. I’ve saved the two most important aspects until last and those are story and character. I’ll discuss those in the next installment of this series.
In the meantime, what do you think? Are there points surrounding these three areas which I’ve missed? Or how does Stargate, the other series mentioned in some of the comments to the first post fare in these areas? Or if you have some favorite quotes from either series, I’d love to hear them in the comments. Let me know what you think!