‘Star Trek’ and ‘Star Wars’ – The Debate Continues
I’m just going to come out and say it…I like Star Trek better than Star Wars, and for three reasons: the physics that root the series in believability, the fact that it actually falls under the science fiction category (unlike Star Wars), and the optimistic message that runs through the Star Trek franchise.
To suspend my disbelief while watching a film, especially one set in space, there needs to be a certain amount of reason and logic that make the film plausible in my mind. Star Wars does not achieve that quota for me, and this is precisely why I find Star Trek more engaging.
The laws of physics are thrown out the window when it comes to Star Wars. Whenever I see a ship in Star Wars, I can’t help but be confused. In space, there is no air, no gravity, and no atmosphere. Space is a vacuum. So, when a spaceship or star destroyer (or any other vessel flies around in space), it takes the same amount of power to stop it as it does to start it. This means that the design of any space vessel would need to have boosters on all sides of the vessel where the power can go in any direction.
The design of all the spaceships in Star Wars are not believable and would not work, at least in reality; especially the ships that are used to fly in-and-out of a planet’s atmosphere and into space. Those would disintegrate on entering the atmosphere, and would definitely not work while flying around in space.
I guess the designs of the spaceships are supposed to look cool or something, but since space is a vacuum, they do not need to be aerodynamic in any sense. Therefore, the aerodynamic looking designs just annoy me the more I watch the films.
The original art director, Walter Matthew Jeffries (who is an aviation illustrator), designed the USS Enterprise (for Star Trek) along the lines of what Gene Roddenberry wanted. Gene’s guidelines included a list of what he did NOT want to see: no flames, no fins, and no rockets. Since space travel is dangerous and Starship Engineers would never put any important devices on the outside of the ship, Jeffries pushed for the hull of the ship to be smooth. This logical conclusion shows the scientific thought and reason that went into the design.
Another thing that bugs me about Star Wars is that ALL the planets in the Star Wars universe must have the same atmosphere and gravity for all the various life forms to live unencumbered and be free to roam without any respirators or the like. In Star Trek, the crew can only beam down to other Class M planets, which have the same type or close enough to Earth, so that the crew can actually survive on that planet. If the atmosphere is toxic, they will have to utilize respirators and suits that keep the individuals alive.
I know people always like the visual effects that come with Star Wars over Star Trek, but those effects of ships blowing up and these crazy things happening are not really possible. Since there is no air in space, no sound can travel, no fire can be kept, and no explosions can happen. The visual spectacle that is Star Wars just simply isn’t plausible, and it is for this reason that I am brought out of the films whenever I try to watch them. I am aware of watching a film instead of just being able to immerse myself in the world.
Now, I’m not going to say Star Trek is better than Star Wars or vice versa because that would be comparing apples to oranges. They both may be set in space and both have the word star in their titles, but the fundamental story plot points that underly each series are radically different.
Star Wars is not a science fiction franchise; it is basically a Western epic set in space. The main driving force for the franchise is good versus evil, where good always prevails. It is simple, clean cut, and does not have hypothetical fundamental science-based themes in the plot of the films, which is a characteristic to the science fiction genre. It is not about the science or the fact they’re in space—even Wikipedia classifies the film as an “epic space opera.” Star Trek is set in the future where science has evolved to a point where humans can beam to different locations with a transporter, and space travel is common. The whole show is submerged in a world of science and logic.
Many of the scientific advances seen in Star Trek may very well happen from communicators, to matter-antimatter generators, to phasers. Scientists at NASA say that many of these technologies have already been produced and will be reachable in the future.
One of the things that I find endearing and love about Star Trek is that it has an optimistic view of the future, a sort of utopia that humans might be able to achieve one day. A world in which there is no money because the quality of life is the same for everyone on planet Earth. A future that holds hope of peace and prosperity. With this hopeful message written into the show and movies, Star Trek is telling its audience that they can create a better world for the future. It gives hope to those who think humanity is destined for darkness.
Star Wars doesn’t have a message that is as deep as Star Trek. Yes, there are themes and other ideas expressed in Star Wars, but none as profound as the ones found in Star Trek. There just seems to be a point to Star Trek, whereas Star Wars is just an escapist cinema with shooting guns and good versus evil as the main plot point. Star Trek shows a world rooted in logic and credible science, while Star Wars is rooted in fantasy.
I realized as I was researching information for this article that Star Wars is set as: “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.” Does that mean that all the “people” in the film are not actually from Earth, but are aliens that look like humans? The more I try to make sense of Star Wars, the more confused I honestly get, and I just can’t get my nerdy ass to overlook these facts to enjoy the franchise.