"You will always be a part of two worlds. And fully capable of deciding your own destiny. The question you face is which path will you choose."
JJ Abrams's ambitious Star Trek reboot desperately tries to have it both ways. Not confident enough to choose its path, it straddles between affectionately campy homage and its own franchise. Like Bryan Singer's Superman Returns, it is too afraid to boldly chart its own destiny, but refusing to be a true extension of the original franchise. While it portends to separate itself from the Star Trek mythology that inspired it, the picture completely counts on said mythology for any and all emotional impact.
A token amount of plot: Born on the very day his father died aboard a star ship, James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) is adrift on Earth, unable or unwilling to decide what to do with his life. Fate intercedes when Captain Christopher Pike (Bruce Greenwood) challenges him to live up to the courage shown by the George Kirk so many years prior. Meanwhile, on the planet Vulcan, the half-human, half-Vulcan Spock (Zachary Quinto) is torn between his destiny as a Vulcan, and his desire to embrace his human side and join Starfleet. Their destinies will soon intertwine, and the rest of our favorite USS Enterprise crew members will join in a maiden adventure that will test and define them and their novice crew.
For the record, Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, and the rest of the gang are all in ship-shape form. While Karl Urban comes on a little strong right out of the gate as Dr. McCoy, his character works better once he actually has more to do than complain. With the exception of one first-act scene, Pine keeps the frat-boy rebel cliches to a bare minimum. Quinto gives an impressive interior performance when the script isn't forcing him to give on the nose speeches and engage in plot-mandated emotional outbursts (although I will concede that the follow up to said outburst is an affective and moving scene). The rest of the gang is barely sketched in, but our memory of the original actors does most of the work for us. Sulu's (John Cho) main character beat is cribbed from Galaxy Quest, although he does gets a major action scene. Chekov speaks in an ultra-thick Russian accent for comic relief and little else, making him the prime candidate to die in the sequel. Scotty (Simon Pegg) shows up fully formed, while Nyota Uhura (Zoe Saldana) is allowed to take her character in some surprising directions.
Taken on their own, many of these characters are paper thin, and the film depends on our affection for their prior legacies in order for us to care about what happens to them. Further more, great pains are made to allow the plot to both set out on its own course while allowing to the prior Star Trek continuity to remain intact. While I won't reveal the details, the film eventually becomes the equivalent of an 'elseworld', except the characters are pretty much the same as they are in the regular Star Trek universe. The film lacks the courage to either stand firmly within Star Trek continuity or completely break free and tell its own story. As it is, we are stuck wondering why we should care about the exploits of basically the Enterprise crew of 'Earth-2'.
Let's put aside the film's lack of courage in picking a path and my distaste for the concept of the 'multiverse'. Taking as its own thing, does the film work? Not really. The villain, played by Eric Bana, is the least interesting adversary in any tent pole adventure film that I can remember. While he is given token 'motivation' against Spock, it doesn't make much sense (had Spock actually been indirectly responsible for Nero's grievance, it would have made more sense and helped the drama), and he is given so little to do that the character becomes 'insert antagonist here'.
Despite the huge budget and attempt at scope, the film is shot mainly in close up, leaving the film feeling more claustrophobic than epic. While the film never, ever stops moving, there is actually very little actual action. Said action beats fail to excite because most of the action involves people running in panic from one room of a star ship to another, or arbitrary scenes of one ship annihilating another (one-sided slaughter isn't action, it's just violence). Plus, much of it is shot and edited in that super-tight, million-edits a second fashion that only Steven Spielberg, John Singleton, and Martin Campbell seem able to avoid. Only a pointless but frightening chase involving a snowy monster and a swashbuckling duel involving Sulu atop a giant drill elicit any sense of excitement. By the time a climactic phaser shoot out occurs, I couldn't help thinking how much more emotionally involved I was in said shoot out at the end of, yes, Galaxy Quest.
There are countless comic callbacks to the original franchise, but most of them feel so forced, out of place, and on the nose that they take us right out of the picture. Various lines of dialogue, action beats, and character moments are rudely inserted from previous films and television episodes. They do not feel organic and imply Abrams's lack of confidence in his own ability to please the Trek fans without resorting to 'oh, that's from that movie/episode' moments. Furthermore, the insertion of the fabled 'Kobayashi Maru' test takes up valuable screen time while seemingly missing the point of the original story. In this variation, Kirk is a cocky punk who cheats out of entitlement, rather than a stubborn refusal to fail. Ironically the best nod to the original show is the subtlest, involving the unspoken destiny of Chief Engineer Olsen.
The biggest 'callback' (this could be considered a spoiler) involves the second act appearance of a major character from the prior franchise. Without going into details, said character becomes an hour long deus ex machina. He constantly offers helpful plot exposition, tells the characters exactly what they need to do in order to progress, and then tells the characters what they should do once the film is complete. Said character comes off not as one imparting wisdom, but rather as one who has already read the script. This element by itself kills much of the dramatic tension in the third act of the picture.
In the end, despite fine acting, several moments of potent drama, solid production values, and high ambitions, Star Trek comes off as a 'Star Trek for dummies' variation on the fabled story. Similar to X-Files: Fight the Future, this film is Star Trek for people who have never seen the shows or the movies, and furthermore need their characters drawn in broad strokes and the philosophies explicitly explained in monologue. Maybe if I had no prior knowledge of the franchise I could take it all at face value and simply acknowledge that it is a broadly drawn big-budget B-movie with an incredibly weak villain and some poorly staged action beats. But because the film continuously reminds us of its legacy, I have no choice but to judge it in comparison to its predecessors. There is potential for a solid franchise with these actors, after all the even-numbered sequels are almost always the best. But, despite all the pomp and circumstance, J.J. Abrams's Star Trek remains merely another disappointing odd-numbered Star Trek picture.
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Star Trek and Star Wars present alternative scenarios of space adventure. The two streams are dominant in this setting of storytelling anf have offered various forms of media productions for decades that manage billions of dollars of intellectual property, providing employment and entertainment for billions of people around the world.
This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it.(June 2014)
Star Trek was introduced as a live-action television series in 1966 that lasted three years. Star Trek: The Animated Series commenced in 1973 (based directly on the original series) but lasted only two seasons with a combined total of 22 episodes. With the subsequent publication of novels, comics, animated series, toys and feature films, Star Trek grew into an enormous media franchise.
Star Wars was introduced as a feature film, Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (1977). A novelization titled Star Wars: From the Adventures of Luke Skywalker, based on the original script of the film, was published about a year earlier. Upon the release of the first film, Star Wars quickly grew into a popular media franchise.
Star Trek has its origin in television. The franchise was conceived in the style of the television Western Wagon Train and the adventure stories of Horatio Hornblower, but evolved into an idealistic, utopian prospect of future human society. Inspired by Gulliver's Travels,Star Trek's main focus is of space exploration and a galactic society consisting of multiple planets and species, where conflict occasionally occurs. Star Trek occurs in the relatively distant future, specifically the 22nd through 24th centuries, with occasional time travel and interdimensional travel. The Earth of the Star Trek universe shares most of its history with the real world.
Star Wars has its origin in film, despite the novel based on the film's original script having been published a year before the film itself. Star Wars mainly belongs to the space operasubgenre of science fiction that was inspired by works such as Beowulf, King Arthur and other mythologies, world religions, as well as ancient and medieval history. It depicts a galactic society in constant conflict. Though there are periods of peace, these are only documented in novels, comics, video games, non-feature films and other spin-off media. Star Wars is set "a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away", although many characters are human, occasionally use Earth metaphors and exhibit human character traits.
Although both Star Trek and Star Wars populate various forms of media, not all types have been produced that are mutual to both franchises. Star Wars has not produced any live-action television series while Star Trek has produced six live-action television series.
Star Trek likewise has not produced any television films; whereas Star Wars has produced at least three live-action television films outside the Star Wars film saga. The Star Wars Holiday Special, Ewoks: Caravan of Courage and Ewoks: Battle for Endor are all live-action television spin-off films set in the Star Wars universe, but not considered part of the official Star Wars canon.
- ~513 hours (Star Trek television) + ~25 hours (Star Trek films)
- ~84 hours (Star Wars films) + Star Wars canon series + expanded universe films and TV productions.
Similarities and commonalities
Aside from having the word 'Star' in their respective titles, the two franchises share many similarities and commonalities.
Both stories depict societies consisting of multiple planets and species. The main galaxy in Star Trek consists of various planets, each inhabited by different species, united into a single state, the United Federation of Planets. Star Wars depicts a galaxy that is mostly part of a single state known as the Old Republic, inhabited by humans and countless other species, which later became the Galactic Empire and was again later reformed into a new society called the New Republic after a series of wars.
Both franchises promote philosophical and political messages.
The main philosophies of Star Trek convey the morals of exploration and interference and how to properly confront and ethically resolve a new situation. Creator Gene Roddenberry was inspired by morality tales such as Gulliver's Travels.
The main philosophical messages of Star Wars are the ethics of good against evil and how to distinguish them.Star Wars preaches against totalitarian systems and favors societies that offer equality. In an interview on the Star Wars 20th Anniversary UK Programme aired in 1997 referring to the mythology of the original Star Wars trilogy, Patrick Stewart stated "A belief in one's own powers; especially one's own powers to do good because the underlying morality of Star Wars is a very very positive one."
There have been actors from both franchises who have appeared on common television series such as The Outer Limits.
Both franchises also derive significantly from history and ancient mythology, including Greco-Roman mythology. Many planets and alien species in Star Trek, for instance, are named after ancient Roman deities. Several episodes from various Star Trek television series, such as "Who Mourns for Adonais", are directly based on ancient Greek-Roman themes and settings. The series also make references to Ancient Babylon and its mythic folklore. The Klingons and their warrior culture are a representation of the 12th century Mongols.
Much of Star Wars' story plots and character developments are based on ancient history, including classical Greece and Rome, such as the fall of the Old Republic in Star Wars, followed by the rise of the Galactic Empire, which parallels the fall of the ancient Roman Republic followed by the rise of the Roman Empire.
A 1983 documentary on the making of Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi was hosted by Leonard Nimoy who also made mention of Lucas's original plan to do two other trilogies preceding and proceeding the original trilogy.
J. J. Abrams, director and producer of Star Trek (2009) and Star Trek Into Darkness (2013) and producer of Star Trek Beyond (2016), directed and produced Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015). Star Trek (2009) and Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015) are each the first entries in expected trilogies. These films received favorable critical and commercial response and revived interest for both franchises. In addition to Abrams, actors such as Simon Pegg starred in both series.
Star Trek: Nemesis (2002) was poorly received and Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith (2005) had capped off the prequel trilogy, which overall had a mixed to positive reception.
The newer films of the two franchises filmed major scenes in the United Arab Emirates. The desert scenes on the planet Jakku in Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015) were filmed in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, while scenes for cities in the film Star Trek Beyond (2016) were filmed in the Emirate of Dubai.
The two franchises now offer almost all forms of media ranging from novels, television series, comic books, toys for younger audience, magazines, themed merchandise, board games and video games, as well as fan works. These include canonical and non-canonical works, including works made both by series producers and fans jointly.
Estimated financial comparisons
Despite the difference in the numbers of films, the profit made by the Star Wars film series exceed the profit of the Star Trek film series by almost five times, while the entire franchise outgrosses the other by four times. It is difficult to accurately judge the total worth of each franchise as television series, memorabilia and video games must be taken into account.
|1979||The Motion Picture||35||139||104|
|1982||The Wrath of Khan||12||96||84|
|1984||The Search for Spock||18||87||69|
|1986||The Voyage Home||24||133||109|
|1989||The Final Frontier||30||70||40|
|1991||The Undiscovered Country||27||96.9||69.9|
|2009||Star Trek (reboot)||140||386||246|
|1977||A New Hope||11||786.6||775.6|
|1980||The Empire Strikes Back||23||534.1||511.1|
|1983||Return of the Jedi||32.5||572.7||540.2|
|1999||The Phantom Menace||115||1027||912|
|2002||Attack of the Clones||115||656.6||541.6|
|2005||Revenge of the Sith||115||848.9||733.9|
|2008||The Clone Wars||8.5||68.6||60.1|
|2015||The Force Awakens||306||2058||1752|
|2017||The Last Jedi||200||1321||1121|
|Franchise||Year of inception||Total Revenue|
|Star Trek||1966||$10 Billion (as of 2016)|
|Star Wars||1977||$42 Billion (as of 2015)|
Critique and commentaries
Science fiction writer David Brin criticized Star Wars at the time of the release of The Phantom Menace, arguing that while the Star Wars movies provide special effects and action/adventure, audiences are not encouraged to engage with their overriding themes. Among his issues with Star Wars and George Lucas, whom he accused of "having an agenda", is that the Star Wars galaxy is too "elitist", with arbitrary rulers on both the evil and good sides, replacing one another without any involvement of the population. He criticizes both sides of the Galactic Civil War as part of the "same genetically superior royal family". He finds the Star Wars universe flawed with additional forms of absolutism, such as justified emotions leading a good person to evil - for example citing the idea that Luke Skywalker killing Palpatine would somehow turn him to the dark side, despite the act potentially saving millions of lives.
Among the many other flaws he sees with Star Wars is that Anakin Skywalker becomes a hero in the ending of Return of the Jedi simply because he saved his son's life, while the atrocities he committed during his time in power go largely ignored. In contrast, he argues that, despite its flaws, Star Trek is "democratic" and follows genuine issues and strong questioning.
William Shatner argues that Star Trek is superior to Star Wars. According to him, "Star Trek had relationships and conflict among the relationships and stories that involved humanity and philosophical questions." Shatner believes that Star Wars was only better than Star Trek in terms of special effects, and that once J.J. Abrams became involved, Star Trek was able to "supersede Star Wars on every level".
Tim Russ, who played Tuvok on Star Trek: Voyager, claims that it is difficult to find common enough elements to be able to compare the two. Among those common elements are their similar settings of unique characters and technologies. He echoed Shatner that Star Trek reflects common human issues, the morals of exploration and considers ethical questions. Star Wars in his view is a classic medieval tale dressed up as action-adventure, and that embraces the Eastern philosophy of inner-strength. Russ concludes that despite both their success and popularity, Star Trek comes out as the better of the two, as it is set in "our" galaxy and therefore people can relate better to it, whereas Star Wars takes place in another galaxy. He acknowledged that he could be biased.
Jeremy Bulloch is best known for his role as Boba Fett in the original Star Wars trilogy. He is a huge fan of Star Trek: The Original Series. He argued that while both franchises are popular, Star Wars comes out as the superior, for its soundtracks and special effects.
Contrasting the focus of the two franchises, contributor J.C. Herzthe of The New York Times argued, "Trek fandom revolves around technology because the Star Trek universe was founded on ham-fisted dialogue and Gong Show-caliber acting. But the fictional science has always been brilliant. The science in Star Wars is nonsense, and everyone knows it. But no one cares because Star Wars isn't about science. It's epic drama. It's about those incredibly well-developed characters and the moral decisions they face. People don't get into debates about how the second Death Star works. They get into debates about the ethics of blowing it up."
John Wenzel of The Denver Post highlighted two differences in approach, noting the "swashbuckling" and "gunslinger" style of Star Wars compared with Star Trek's "broader themes of utopian living, justice and identity" and that the spiritual aspect of Star Wars contrasts with the balance of emotion and logic seen in Star Trek.
Billionaire Peter Thiel told Dowd "I'm a capitalist. Star Wars is the capitalist show. Star Trek is the communist one". He further stated "There is no money in Star Trek because you just have the transporter machine that can make anything you need. The whole plot of Star Wars starts with Han Solo having this debt that he owes and so the plot in Star Wars is driven by money."
Archived footage in Trek Nation showed Gene Roddenberry saying, "I like Star Wars. It was young King Arthur growing up, slaying the evil emperor finally. There's nothing wrong with that kind of entertainment - everything doesn't have to create a philosophy for you - for your whole life. You can also have fun."
Influences on each other
See also: Star Wars sources and analogues
The two franchises have a "symbiotic relationship" stated Shatner, who credits Star Wars for launching the Star Trek films. He repeated this sentiment at a 2016 Star Trek fan convention in Las Vegas by stating "Star Wars created Star Trek". He clarified this statement by explaining that at the time of the release of the first Star Wars film (A New Hope), Paramount, then under new management, was struggling to come up with something that could compete with it. A Star Trek relaunch was the choice. Since then, public interest has returned to Star Trek. "It was Star Wars that thrust Star Trek into the people of Paramount's consciousness" he stated.
The documentary Trek Nation features interviews where both Lucas and Roddenberry praise each other's respective franchises, with the former stating that Star Trek was an influence while writing the original screenplay for Star Wars. He explained that while both franchises were so "far out", Star Trek produced a fanbase that "softened up the entertainment arena" so that Star Wars could "come along and stand on its shoulders." This is also acknowledged by Shatner, who went as far as to call Star Wars a "derivative" of Star Trek.
A few references to Star Wars have been inserted into Star Trek films. For fleeting moments, one can see ships and droids from Star Wars in both Star Trek (2009) and Star Trek Into Darkness (2013). Some Star Trek films and television episodes used the Star Wars animation shop, Industrial Light & Magic, for their special effects.
When Roddenberry was honored at a Star Trek convention late in life, a congratulatory letter from Lucas was presented by an actor dressed as Darth Vader. A few years earlier, Roddenberry had contributed an entry in honor of Star Wars and Lucas at a convention honoring the latter.
Shatner was a presenter at Lucas' American Film Institute Lifetime Achievement Award ceremony in 2007 and did a comical stage performance honoring Lucas.
At a live concert, Shatner dressed as an imperial stormtrooper singing 'Girl Crush' alongside Carrie Underwood and Brad Paisley.
In 2011, Shatner, Carrie Fisher and George Takei posted a series of humorous YouTube videos satirizing each other's franchises.
In a 2016 interview, Shatner commented that Captain Kirk and Princess Leia eloping and running off into the sunset would be the "perfect union" between Star Trek and Star Wars.
Shatner has also posted a number of humorous tweets on his Twitter account mocking Star Wars. Amongst them were commemorating the 35th anniversary of the poorly received Star Wars Holiday Special. It was then that Star Wars actor Peter Mayhew posted a "retaliation" tweet congratulating Shatner for the directing of Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, another poorly received film.
Both franchises are set to grow throughout the next decade.
Star Trek was rebooted with a series of feature films starting with the Star Trek reboot (2009), which was followed by Star Trek Into Darkness (2013) and Star Trek Beyond (2016) and a number of sequels are set to follow. A new television series based in the original timeline, subtitled Discovery, serving as a prequel to the original series, debuted on CBS All Access, an online streaming platform, in 2017.
Star Wars picked up from where Return of the Jedi left off, with The Force Awakens the first in the new trilogy, and The Last Jedi following two years later. Additionally, more spin-off media is also underway after the debut of Star Wars Rebels, a television series set in between the Star Wars prequels and the original trilogy, and an anthology of stand-alone Star Wars films, starting with Rogue One, which was released in December 2016, and Solo following in May 2018.
Further information: Star Trek fan productions and Star Wars fan films
Aside from official works by the producers of Star Trek and Star Wars, many fan films and webisodes set in the two universes of the franchises are also constantly produced and posted on the Internet by fans, but are not officially considered canon in relation to either franchise.
- ^Richard Ho (May 14, 1999), "Trekkers VS Lucasites", The Harvard Crimson
- ^ abcdForbeck, Matt (18 April 2011). Star Wars vs. Star Trek: Could the Empire kick the Federation's ass? And other galaxy-shaking enigmas. Adams Media. ISBN 1-4405-2577-3.
- ^"Star Trek vs Star Wars: the space battle that will never end".
- ^ScreenPrism. "What was "Star Trek" creator Gene Roddenberry's vision for the series - ScreenPrism".
- ^Empire of Dreams: The Story of the Star Wars Trilogy. Star Wars Trilogy Box Set DVD documentary. 
- ^ abLucasfilm (15 October 2012). Star Wars and History. Wiley. ISBN 978-1-118-28525-1.
- ^See David Alexander, Star Trek Creator. The Authorized Biography of Gene Roddenberry and interview with Roddenberry in Something about the Author by Gale Research Company and chapter 11 of Trash Culture: Popular Culture and the Great Tradition by Richard Keller Simon
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- ^"Star Trek And the New Myth of the Machine as Seen in the Talosians, Trelane, and the Organians". Ken Sanes. Transperancy.
- ^"Leonard Nimoy hosts 1983 Return of the Jedi set visit in this awesome, long-lost clip". Trent Moore. SyFyWire.
- ^Ali Jaafar. "Star Wars: The Force Awakens Helps Abu Dhabi Build Road To Somewhere - Deadline". Deadline.
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- ^"Business of 'Star Trek': Franchise celebrates 50th anniversary". CGTN. July 26, 2016. Retrieved February 24, 2017.
- ^Chew, Jonathan (December 24, 2015). "Star Wars Franchise Worth More Than Harry Potter and James Bond, Combined". Fortune. Retrieved February 24, 2017.
- ^ abcBrin, David. ""Star Wars" despots vs. "Star Trek" populists".
- ^ abcdEditor, Gazelle Emami Deputy Features; Post, The Huffington (15 September 2011). "William Shatner: 'Star Wars Is Derivative Of Star Trek'".
- ^"'Star Wars' World With a Sense of Humor". The New York Times. 29 October 1998.
- ^John Wenzel (11 October 2009). ""Star Wars" vs. "Star Trek": The final frontier of marketing is an expanding universe". The Denver Post.
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- ^ abTrek Nation (2010 documentary)
- ^Dominguez, Robert (1999-05-17). "William Shatner's Trek Never Ends The Actor-author Keeps Seeking New Challenges While Feeding Fans' Hunger For All Things Kirk". New York Daily News. Archived from the original on 2012-01-12. Retrieved October 14, 2011.
- ^"William Shatner Says Star Wars Created Star Trek".
- ^Pagliery, Jose (6 August 2016). "Captain Kirk thanks Star Wars!". CNNMoney.
- ^Rosenberg, Adam. "William Shatner: 'Star Trek' owes a big thanks to 'Star Wars'". Mashable.
- ^"George Lucas on how Star Trek helped Star Wars".
- ^Child, Ben (2013-09-10). "Star Wars droid R2D2 spotted in Star Trek Into Darkness". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2016-12-13.
- ^"Archive". Industrial Light & Magic. Retrieved 2016-12-13.
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- ^"William Shatner Dresses as 'Star Wars' Stormtrooper, Sings 'Girl Crush' at CMAs".
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