The Geek Pit

People who know me know my geek-potential, which is quite high. So, to figure out how geeky I truly am, they ask me questions like: Ninja Turtles or Power Rangers? Pokémon or Digimon? Dungeons & Dragons or Tunnels & Trolls? Well, most of the time, I just ignore queries like those, but one question just keeps coming back:

“Aki, are you more in the Star Wars or the Star Trek camp?”

Frankly, I don’t even know. So, to see which of these two franchises can conquer my heart, I’ll have them duke it out in The Geek Pit: Star Wars vs. Star Trek! In a three-round epic battle, we will see which science-fiction brand is King of the Hill! A word of caution: I do not base this fight on any objective perception and empirical study, just on my bare gut feeling. So in case you’re not sharing my opinion…don’t try to find out where I live.

Round 1: Creativity

When it comes to science-fiction, I like my shows to be in some way original, and not just as some carbon copy of something I have seen a million times. Both Star Trek and Star Wars are the foundation of many of our modern sci-fi clichés, but what was their “catching phrase” when they came out, and which one was better?

When Star Trek aired in 1966, it had some very creative stuff: spaceships flying at post-light speed called “warp”, alien races that were either friendly or extremely deadly, and the technology to “beam” objects and living beings around. Later on, Star Trek discovered that their fanbase was largely made up of PhD’s and semi-scientists, so they could turn it up to eleven and add even more half-true technobabble, giving the franchise the reputation for being quite a “realistic” outlook on how our future could look. However, this made the show also very, very heavy and somehow even truly philosophical, which is not exactly what you want on your Friday evening while enjoying a cold beer.

Eleven years later, the first Star Wars movie aired. Before going into premiere, George Lucas organized a private presentation of the film for the crew and their friends and family. After the movie ended, George’s wife just said: “What an amount of bullshit” (or something like that). Well, miss Lucas, apparently science-fiction fans just LOVE bullshit, since the franchise is the best-selling movie series after James Bond and Harry Potter. What makes Star Wars stand out is the unique combination of science-fiction technology and space-faring heroes with classical fantasy elements like the quest of a Chosen One and an order of noble knights using a mysterious power (the Jedi and the Force). Definitely, Star Wars is a lot more epic than its rival: it has the bigger space-fights, the more dramatic one-on-one-duels and that gritty feel to it. All in all, the whole concepts and ideas behind this brand are more accessible to the broad public than Star Trek is.

Now, don’t get me wrong: I love my share of intellectual talk about the probability that a worm hole could end in subspace, causing a spaceship to be reduced to nothing but quantum particles. But let me tell you where Star Wars has the cutting edge when it comes to creativity and shaping the science-fiction genre, next to epic storytelling and revolutionary shots: lightsabers. Say whatever you want, but lightsabers are the coolest thing that ever came from a director’s mind. So, I have to say…Round 1 goes to Star Wars!

Round 2: Coming of age

Now, we all know that both franchises are old: Star Trek turned 43 this year, and Star Wars is just ten years younger. However, my question is: how did both franchises evolve over time?

The Star Trek franchise spawned six television series and about a dozen full-length feature movies, each exploring different parts of that big Star Trek cosmos. Until today, nerds fight about who is the best captain, and what ship was the most awesome. But in the end, all that matters is that Star Trek was one heck of a productive franchise in these last 43 years, and…the women on the show got more gorgeous! Nichelle Nichols a.k.a. Uhura from the Original Series was not THAT special, but just look at Jeri Ryan a.k.a. Seven of Nine. Damn, if all Borg looked that HOT, I would get myself assimilated ASAP!

Certainly, resistance to this IS futile...

Certainly, resistance to this IS futile...

Now, women are not everything (but, frankly, quite much), but Star Trek did quite some other stuff to keep itself alive, with its latest spawn being the new Star Trek movie. Even though most Trekkies (including me) are disappointed, the movie did manage to give Star Trek a young and more action-packed face. This franchise isn’t dead yet, even though it limits its presence mostly to telly shows and big-screen movies.

Star Wars, on the other hand, made sure to fully use every medium available, and did especially well on the novel and comic book market. Also, the “new” trilogy gave the whole saga an even more epic presentation, giving Lucas the chance to show the world what he really had in mind when he started filming the original trilogy way back in the seventies. Also, media coming out under the label of “Expanded Universe” keeps the cosmos of Star Wars growing and growing, elaborating on existing storylines and adding new ones. The television show “The Clone Wars” used quite an original animation style to depict the events between episode II and III, and novels and comics based around the movies just keep coming.

However, Star Wars didn’t change much in these 33 years. Where the Star Trek franchise actually at least tried to look like it changed (changing crews, ships and locations in the universe), the galaxy of Star Wars just remained the same for the ignorant observant. So, I’m afraid I have to cut Star Trek some slack here. Round 2 goes to Star Trek!

Final Round: Memorable characters

No matter how good your plot is, no matter how expensive your special effects are: if your characters are dull and boring, your story is an instant failure. Luckily, both Star Trek and Star Wars are rich with thrilling personas, races and factions. But which brand has the coolest of ‘em?

When it comes to Star Trek, most people will think of either Captain James Kirk or Captain Jean-Luc Picard, as they are the hallmark of the different captains. In pop culture, these two have become the reason for the geekiest of discussions: which captain is better? However, Star Trek has some other quite interesting characters, like Scotty, Data, Seven of Nine (forgive me, but…RAWR!) and the hologram Doctor. Unfortunately, most of these never really got into the common mass media, and stay quite unremembered outside of the nerd-o-sphere.

Enter Star Wars, a brand that managed to create the most stereotype of sci-fi bad guys, who’s most renowned quote gets abused so often in pop culture it’s not even funny anymore: Darth Vader. Who DOESN’T know him? His suit, helmet and voice are more than remarkable, and what bad guy can say he has a theme like him? Pure awesome! But we’re not done yet! Who’s green and never heard of grammar, but kicks your ass anytime? Oh yes, Jedi Master Yoda! Another character that gets quoted so often and somehow everyone tries to speak like the little gnome, but fails miserably due to being educated in linguistic structures. Even sidekicks like Admiral Ackbar made it into pop culture just because of one damn line!

So, I hate to break it to you, but this final round just has to go to Star Wars. I think we have a winner!

STAR WARS WINS!

But don’t worry, Trekkies, it’s not like I don’t like your stuff. If you just had light sabers and Force powers, instead of technobabble and Vulcans…

Signed,

Aki

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