I loved the first movie, I enjoyed the next two, but after that … no.
Star Wars is a triumph of special effects over logic. Thought has been sacrificed to action and eye-candy.
It’s fantasy with spaceships and light-sabres and a mish-mash of stuff that ultimately defies logic.
By contrast, classic Star Trek was about exploring the universe, about finding our place in it, about discovering what it means to be a human being. Yeah, TOS was quaint, under-budgeted, and squeezed out through the filters of 1966-style television. But despite that, it was the most ambitious series in American television, because it invited the audience to think about ideas.
At its best, classic Trek was a faint intimation of what real science fiction could be — the books, the stories, the sense of wonder — but at least it aspired to invite the viewer into the genre.
Star Wars … meh. It’s a dead-end. It’s a self-indulgent exercise in toy sales.
Who’s the most notable figure in the Star Wars universe? Darth Vader — a guy who betrayed his Jedi training, murdered the younglings, was an accomplice to the destruction of Alderaan — and oh yeah, we forgave him all that because he saved his son from the evil Emperor. (Hitler loved dogs, but I’m still not going to forgive him for the Holocaust.)
Who’s the most notable figure in the Star Trek universe? Take your pick, Kirk or Spock. Spock, whose commitment to logic is unfailing — or Kirk whose commitment to justice is equally unconditional.
In the SW universe, a handful of rebels overthrows a vast sprawling empire with unlimited resources — it’s a universe of endless war where some species have been written off as terminal bad guys.
In the Trek universe, a federation of many races and species works together in partnership to build peace and partnership. Yes, there are battles, especially in all the reinvented versions of Trek — but the underlying commitment is still peace and partnership among all races.
Real science fiction is a literature of ideas — a literature of transformation. It’s a literature of possibilities. It’s a genre where the reader is invited to think about the very substance of life and what he or she wants it to mean.
Star Wars uses the scenery of science fiction, but it’s not designed to take us out beyond its own limits, out where the sense of wonder kicks in.
I’m with you, David! My son is a big Star Wars fan, and has been since he was three years old (he’s 19 now). And we’ll be there when Episode 7 comes out. But I’m hoping for something more than we got with the prequels.
And I’m especially looking forward to the possibility of a new Star Trek show, which apparently wouldn’t happen until JJ Abrams is through with the movies.
I’m especially interested in whether Paramount/CBS might use Netflix or some similar service to distribute such a show. Imagine being free of network interference. Imagine someone like David Gerrold (!) or Dorothy Fontana or Ron Moore or Manny Coto returning to the fold so we can see a positive view of the future again instead of all the downer versions we’re seeing these days.
Thank you, David, for articulating so perfectly the biggest difference between Star Wars and Star Trek. I am a fan (more or less) of both franchises. However, while I do enjoy Star Wars, I want to *live* in Star Trek.
Mel Croucher once wrote an interesting article where he compared Star Wars with hans Christian Andersons The Snow Queen http://archive.org/stream/thegamesmachine-09/TheGamesMachine_09_Aug_1988_djvu.txt
Quite an interesting read.
IMO neither Star Wars nor Star Trek are really Sci-Fi either in the narrowest sense: Star Wars is a western set in space with fantasy elements, while Star Trek is more accurately described as space opera, though it does fit within the broader parameters of speculative fiction.
FWIW those hankering for more material like the original ST series should check out these:
This Kickstarter project is an independent Star Trek movie about the Battle of Axanar:
Another project along similar lines is “Star Trek Continued”
(they have shot three episodes so far)