In the perennial fan battle between Star Trek and Star Wars, both sides point to extensive media tie-in products ranging from novels to Halloween costumes. Both sides are quick to note how their favorite product has insinuated itself into American –indeed WORLD – culture.
Former President Ronald Regan promoted his “Star Wars” defense system and in England, more people claim that they are religiously Jedi than claim they are religiously Jewish.
“Beam me up, Scotty” and “My God, Jim, I’m a doctor, not a…” are phrases that are endlessly parodied and repeated and are meaningful to most Americans. The character of Uhura inspired actor Whoopi Goldberg to break out of the only role African American had ever been portrayed as in television: the maid; Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. talked Nichelle Nicols (Uhura) out of quitting Star Trek because of her impact civil rights in the late 1960s.
THAT is the point I wish to make – Star Trek was a coherent (usually) attempt to alter the culture of this planet to make a better future. Star Trek quotes such as, “Gillian asked sarcastically, ‘Don’t tell me they don’t use money in the 23rd century,’ and Kirk told her, ‘Well, we don’t.’” reflect a philosophical shift and a dream.
Captain Picard explains in a round-about way to Lily Sloane in 2063 that, “…on Earth, war, poverty, disease, and the causes thereof have been eliminated.” Gene Rodenberry’s intent was to show a future in which Humanity reached its true potential. Warp drive had come about through the researches of one Dr. Zephram Cochrane and tested by using a converted Titan II nuclear weapon launch vehicle.
George Lucas wanted to lift us out of the darkness of a deep recession in the spring of 1978 – and he did an admirable job. But never at any point did Lucas wish to promote the idea that republics should be dissolved and emperors installed. His was a purely entertaining world where the laws of physics were happily ignored and spaceships made squealing-buzzing sounds and lasers made “bew-bew-bew-bew” sounds when fired in the vacuum of space.
Star Trek was propaganda wrapped in entertainment.
Star Wars was entertainment wrapped in money.
This also raises the point – which is better: propaganda or entertainment? Which reflects the “human spirit” better? Hmmm, maybe let’s not answer that questions.
Star Trek attempted something noble. Rodenberry had a dream, as much a dream as Martin Luther King, Jr., and Star Trek was the vehicle he used to promote that dream. He fervently believed that humanity’s destiny was – IS – out among the stars. He convinced others to believe that given time and wisdom, humanity could perfect itself and take its place as an equal among the aliens who had to be “out there”.
George Lucas had no such intent and while there may be people who claim to be Jedi, there’s still no proof that anything like The Force exists. In fact, George Lucas back-pedaled on that as well. In the first Star Wars movie (which now styles itself Episode IV: A New Hope), The Force is clearly metaphysical, mystic and magical. Then in Episode I: The Phantom Menace, Lucas makes it little more than some weird form of infection as when the future Obi-Wan Kenobi says, “...the reading’s off the chart... over twenty thousand. Even Master Yoda doesn’t have a midi-chlorian count that high!”
If someone in Star Trek ever got a midi-chlorian infection, then Dr. McCoy, Dr. Crusher, Dr. Bashir, Dr. Emergency Medical Hologram and Dr. Phlox would make SURE that they were cured so they could get back to the business of reaching humanity’s true potential!