Star Wars vs. Star Trek

“You don’t know the power of the dark side! I must obey my master.” — Darth Vader

“And that is what it is to be human. To make yourself more than you are. Oh, yes — I know you. There was a time you looked at the stars and dreamed of what might be.” — Jean-Luc Picard

. . . . . . . Star Wars versus Star Trek. The ultimate duel, lightsabers out. Which one is better? It’s a question of a universe with evil in it to a universe where everyone’s just trying to get along. In other words, a Republican convention versus a Politically Correct Cathedral narrative. Which one do you prefer?

. . . . . . . Star Wars has always sought realism in its presentation of space. Meanwhile, in Federation-land, there’s something funny about a place without money or religion. I mean, money I can almost see, but no Krishnas in space! People have got to believe in something. Odds are, there’ll probably be more religion in the future than there is in this secular Twenty-First Century … religion has a neverending, timeless power that keeps on giving and giving.

. . . . . . . Star Trek shows everyone as equal. It’s the Declaration of Independence writ large! It’s the fucking American Dream taken to its extreme! Yet equality, in our real present world, is as ephemeral as the state of limited religion. We’re meant to hate the Other and to fight him, not hug him and pat him on the back for “jes being hisself.” That’s Bill Clinton’s shtick, not something the future ought to be emulating. Not my kind of future, anyway.

. . . . . . . Star Wars vacillates between being excited by evil to damning it. Well, make up your motherfuckin’ mind already. It’s either tantalizingly “good” in a retro-capable way or worth slamming back into the space trash compactor from which it first crawled an eon or so ago. I say evil is interesting, which makes it good. Good is so “a Holy Trinity heaven on clouds with harps” boring. Evil defines us. Our reaction to it — our embrace or rejection — makes us real. Even to turn down evil reluctantly is a kind of acceptance. If there’s a cute girl and you want to force your way with her, just thinking bad thoughts about her ass and breasts is a kind of torturous evil.

In any contest between Star Trek and Star Wars there’s the main characters to consider. Jean-Luc Picard, despite being a nagging goodie-goodie, is a bit of a badass. There’s an authoritarian streak a mile wide in Jeanny, and as he barks his commands (“Engage! Make it so!”) he clearly expects to be obeyed. Luke Skywalker is a ninny straightout. He’s the weakest part of the original trilogy, though he gets a little better as time goes on. He’s a goddamn pus-bag with his earnest expression and his “innocence being tested by the galaxy” schtick. With his blond hair, he could have been an Aryan superman (Catxman, though white, is not an Aryan himself); instead, he plays second fiddle to an outerspace ghost and a little green goblin based on Dagobah. Be yourself, man!

. . . . . . . Data is an interesting character. The android that seeks to be human comes across as an awkward child on a progressive path to revelation and/or nirvana. Brent Spiner, the actor, is a handsome man with a compelling physiognomy. He fits the part of Data to a T, in the same way that Darth Vader’s suit fits his calling to evil.

. . . . . . . Cmdr. William Riker is a bit of a stretch. The actor has somewhat of a command presence, and looks better with the beard he eventually grew, yet … there’s something wishy-washy about good Riker. He never “gels” as a character with, say, Picard’s distinctive characteristics. I think this comes from the fact that Jonathan Frakes, who plays Riker, is a less awe-inspiring persona than Patrick Stewart, who plays Picard. Stewart is just more there. He’s more fierce in his presentation of himself. He demands you notice him, and demands to be respected. Frakes is just kinda hangin’ around, in the personality department. He’s there, but he’s more a bystander than anything.

. . . . . . . The “dignity with power” motif sits well on Obi-Wan’s British shoulders. Alec Guinness gives Kenobi a sense of gravitas and purpose which fits in well with the Light Side of the Force. In any contest between the Light Side and the Dark Side — between Jedi and Sith — there must be a weighing: is gravitas more invincible than pure, sheer ambition? It’s like the immovable rock versus the invincible force conundrum. There’s meant to be a balance in the force in the Star Wars universe: it’s only a question of time.

. . . . . . . Time is handled differently in the two universes. In Star Trek, time is fluid, mutable. Racing through time is a common theme. When Kirk and company go back to Earth, they warp around the sun itself to make the effect known. In First Contact, when the Borg break through time and Data reports “Seven billion humans. All borg” it’s time for the Enterprise to make its not-the-first-time leap through time to right the wrongs and rectify the past. Star Wars is far more conservative. Just as Star Wars refuses the cheap trick of transporter technology, it likewise disallows time travel as an impossibility that bends the narrative just that much too far. For its realism-based doctrine, hyperspace is okay since it unifies the galaxy in space lanes of travel, but time travel and transporters make it a little too loosey-goosey, so to speak.

. . . . . . . Goals and objectives are different, too. In Star Trek, peace is the paramount goal, always. The Enterprise is a “Galaxy-class starship” which means it’s built for exploration as much as for space battle. It has photon torpedoes and phasers, yes, but it’s not meant to use them in every episode. Whereas in Star Wars, the empire looms large over everything, and the empire’s modus operandi is to seek total, dominant victory in every area of life. Criminals are like vermin in the wooden holes of the house that the Republic built, meant to be exterminated but hard-to-get-at. But you know the Empire would like to. It’d love to squash those motherfuckers flat, who dare to interfere with the Imperial Law and the lesser laws of commerce and travel. Jabba the Hutt would meet a stormtrooper-rifles firing squad, if the Emperor had his way. But the Star Wars galaxy is a realistic one: the gangsters sometimes get away. In fact, sometimes they build themselves tidy little stone palaces whose steel gates swing open only to admit the welcome visitor, and to bar away curious eyes.

. . . . . . . In the final analysis, liking Star Wars more is clearly the popular opinion. Even though Paramount owns Star Trek, and Disney owns Wars, that’s not why there’s a Millennium Falcon in Disneyland and not a galaxy-class ship. It’s because Disney goes with Coke and the storybook castle — the most popular items, in other words. And Disneyland recognizes that in any competition, hands down, Star Wars is going to win because it has the most evil, and thus is of the most interest to the stultified child of Western culture, who has been choking on “be nice” since childhood. All this stultified child really wants is a red lightsaber and revenge, in that order. Take it, youngling. Show no mercy!

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