August 28, 2011

POSSIBLY IRRITATING ESSAY: Star Trek vs Star Wars – the Real Future Factor

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!



Becky said...

Can't believe I never made this connection before, but you have a really good point, showing human potential for good and being better than we are/were was much the Trek way of doing things where as Wars only shows more of our fall from grace and innocence and while the old films also show how humanity will keep fighting for what we perceive as right and our own freedom, it's more heavily influenced by the times it was made in its focus where as Trek while also started in hard times chose to have a multi-racial cast that fought for peace and the betterment of humanity as a species and in their moral actions in relation to other species encountered. It's much of what Doctor Who does now, after the restart. He plays judge over all and tries to bring out the very best in everyone no matter how evil they may be but he fails sometimes and other times it is the human companion that actually saves the day showing out potential there as well. All in all a valid point. How did you feel about the new film in relation to your assertion here? Just wondering. :)

GuyStewart said...

Sorry it took a bit to get back to you: school's started and I'm BUSY! Ugh! Anyway -- New Trek was a grand idea and I love it! I just look at it as a "new series". I don't care that it's an alternate timeline -- ST was ALWAYS playing with "what ifs" and the reboot is just one more "what if". They haven't lost the desire to show us a "good" future. So I STILL love the series. In fact, they played with some other things, too: Kirk is STILL a good captain even after losing his father implying that no matter the circumstances, the good in us will come out and be victorious if we allow it to. Also, it indicates a sense of real "destiny". Despite the disparate, in fact, down right ALTERNATE lives of ST:TOS and ST:The Reboot (ST:TR), the Crew gets together! Destiny, in fact with a capital D! Thanks for the comments! (YOU THERE -- keep writing!)