The fundamental difference between Star Trek and Star Wars
Star Trek Into Darkness is opening tomorrow in the USA, which will mean midnight shows tonight.
There has been quite a bit of talk about Star Trek versus Star Wars recently, especially now that J.J. Abrams is guiding both franchises.
Certainly, there are some similarities; however, there is one key difference that we hope the director keeps in mind.
The world is good (Star Trek).
The world is bad (Star Wars).
That’s what sets them apart philosophically. A fan can certainly like both…we might feel like we are struggling against evil on one day (or imagining it could happen) and fighting for good on another. The original series of Star Trek and the original trilogy of Star Wars make this a stark difference.
Who are the good guys in Star Trek?
The Federation. They are the establishment, the superpower…they have the dominant technology and the lion’s share of the resources.
Who are the bad guys in Star Wars?
The Empire. They are the establishment, the superpower…they have the dominant technology and the lion’s share of the resources.
Certainly, Star Trek’s Captain Kirk doesn’t always agree with the methodology of the Federation. Kirk doesn’t like the bureaucracy which can slow things down. However, Captain Kirk does agree with the goals of the Federation…just not always on how to best achieve them.
On the other hand, Star Wars’ Luke Skywalker absolutely disagrees with the Empire, and wants to see them defeated and out of power.
As a fan, when you empathize with the two, that’s the dichotomy. In Star Trek, society is good and has lofty goals. The Enterprise crew fights for good. In Star Wars, society at the top is evil and has reprehensible schemes…the rebels fight against evil.
It’s pretty simple.
We can see this in a lot of ways. One of the obvious ones is the iconic weaponry. Star Trek has a phaser which can (and often is, especially in unknown situations) set on stun. It is designed to be used for non-lethal tactics.
The closest you can get to being non-lethal with a light saber from Star Wars is to just dismember someone.
If you think humans (and other intelligent beings) are likely to be good, you want your default setting to be stun. If you think they are likely to be bad, a light saber is more geared towards removing the threat.
What does Star Wars’ Empire do it when it discovers people who think differently and might oppose it? Build a Death Star and blow up the planet.
What does Star Trek’s Federation do when it discovers people who think differently and might oppose it? They leave them alone. The Prime Directive requires that societies be able to develop on their own (if they don’t know about a certain technology, Federation personnel can’t give it to them or tell them about it, even if it makes their lives better…that would change them and eliminate what might have happened). By definition, the Federation does not say that it is better than every other society…and it sees that more good is likely to happen than evil if people are able to choose their own paths.
There is the guiding principle, Mr. Abrams: fight against versus fight for.
Keep that in mind and we can love both of your visions for the two beloved universes.
This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle blog.