Capulets and Montagues.
Boxers and Briefs.
Some rivalries are ages old and none is greater than the battle between Star Trek and Star Wars. Nerds have been arguing over the finer points of these scifi franchises for over 30 years now. It all started when the hugely successful Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope premiered in 1977. Lucas’s film a reached wider audience than Star Trek had been able to. Since Trek’s 3 year run on television had ended 8 years earlier, the show had found a strong fan base in re-runs and even prompted the production of an Emmy Award winning animated series. Avid trekkies were organizing conventions, publishing fan written fiction and generally living in their mom’s basements (hey– these are my people I’m talking about here). Then this new “Star” came onto the scene. Star Wars was popular with nerds, cool kids, your mom… everyone. It basically revolutionized the film industry and proved that a scrappy little space opera can make a TON of money. Soon all the Hollywood studios were clamoring to compete. Our friends over at Paramount realized that they already owned a scifi franchise with a built in fan base that might be able to match Star Wars spaceship for spaceship (and dollar for dollar). They were in the process of developing a new Star Trek TV show called “Star Trek: Phase II”. The pilot episode of which was quickly transformed into Star Trek The Motion Picture and thrown into theaters in December of 1979 (5 months before Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Backwas released). The gauntlet had been thrown. It was to be all-out war between these two franchises. They competed for our attention, devotion and for our allowance money all thru the 80’s, 90’s, & 00’s. Here is a quick breakdown of the dates
1966-1969 – Star Trek (The Original Series)
1973-1974 – Star Trek (The Animated Series)
May-1977 – Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope
Nov-1978 – Star Wars Holiday Special
Dec-1979 – Star Trek: The Motion Picture
May-1980 – Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
Jun-1982 – Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
May-1983 – Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi
Jun-1984 – Star Trek III: The Search for Spock
Nov-1984 – Caravan of Courage: An Ewok Adventure
Nov-1985 – Ewoks: The Battle for Endor
Nov-1986 – Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home
1987-1994 – Star Trek The Next Generation
Jun-1989 – Star Trek V: The Final Frontier
Dec-1991 – Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country
1993-1999 – Star Trek Deep Space Nine
Nov-1994 – Star Trek Generations
1995-2001 – Star Trek Voyager
Nov-1996 – Star Trek: First Contact
Dec-1998 – Star Trek: Insurrection
May-1999 – Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace
2001-2005 – Star Trek Enterprise
May-2002 – Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones
Dec-2002 – Star Trek Nemesis
2003-2005 – Star Wars: Clone Wars (animated series)
May-2005 – Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith
Aug-2008 – Star Wars: The Clone Wars
May-2009 – Star Trek (JJ Abrams)
May-2013 – Star Trek 2 (JJ Abrams)
I totally understand why the Hollywood types behind these franchises love the competition. It’s a friendly rivalry that generates press and sells more tickets. How can we really have an opinion about which is better if we haven’t seen them both? So let’s all go out to the movies so we can compare and contrast them fairly, right? Who wins in this scenario? Well, everyone does. The producers sell their films and merchandising. The actors get paychecks and future contracts. And we get some amazing Science Fiction films and TV shows (not to mention toys, books, comic books, models, games, clothes…). So yes– rivalry is good for business.
But why do some fans get all bent out of shape over “which is better”? Maybe it’s because to most of the world they’re the same thing! I don’t know how many times I was given Star Wars birthday cards when I was a kid by well meaning relatives who had no idea I was really a Trekkie. For that matter, they had no idea there was a difference between Star Trek and Star Wars. “Isn’t that the one with Darth Vader and Dr. Spock?” I’ve been dealing with this for years. You see, I got into Star Trek when the Next Generation premiered in 1987. But I didn’t see a Star Wars movie until A New Hope was re-released in theaters (with added scenes new special effects) in 1997! I grew up thinking of Star Wars as “that other space show”– far inferior to my beloved Star Trek. You see, Star Trek was beamed into my living room 5 times a week (well, once a week for TNG and 5 times for reruns of TOS). To me, Star Wars was just a movie at the video store that I never asked my Mom to rent. Aside from references to it on The Muppet Babies, I wasn’t really aware of it. But the Star Wars merchandising was (and is) EVERYWHERE! That’s one thing the Lucas people do much better than the folks at Paramount. They licensee the hell out of their product and make it very easy to find Star Wars candy, comics, underwear, etc etc at any big box store you walk into like Wal-mart or Target. As a Trekkie I can find this infuriating.
BUT– do I really hate Star Wars? Of course not! Now that I’ve matured a little I can watch those Star Wars movies (especially A New Hope) and appreciate them as really good films. There are some rich characters in Star Wars. George Lucas created a fascinating reality and it’s fun to get lost in. I see Star Wars as different that Star Trek. Not better or worse– but just different.
Recently, there’s been a lot of Youtube traffic from some of the Stars of these franchises going back and forth about the rivalry. It all started over on William Shanter’s youtube channel. He randomly started talking trash about Star Wars. Carrie Fisher responded to which Shanter fired back. Finally George Takei stepped in to talk some sense into the two of them (after all, he can’t let Shanter get all the press). Watch and enjoy George’s response…