Star Wars: Star Wars or Star Trek?

Screenshot of Peter Mayhew as Chewbacca and Harrison Ford as Han Solo from ‘Star Wars: Episode IV-A New Hope’. Copyright goes to Walt Disney Studios and Lucasfilm.

Hey! Hallie here!

I’ve only really talked about my love of Star Wars on this blog when it comes to the Sci-Fi content I geek out about. While my love of the Star Wars franchise runs deep, it definitely isn’t my only interest in the Sci-Fi genre. Star Trek is another franchise that’s always caught my interest. These two franchises are often compared and have been seen by many as opposing teams for Sci-Fi lovers to align themselves with. It feels like most geeks have to face being asked “Do you like Star Wars or Star Trek?” at least once. This question has caused quite a few arguments I won’t get into here. I’m especially avoiding the entire debate over whether Star Wars is even Sci-Fi because, really, who cares? My aim here is to compare the two series to look at their strengths and weaknesses.

Characters and Morality:

The concept of morality in Star Wars is simple. Especially if we’re talking about the original trilogy. There’s good and evil. That’s about it. All of the characters fall into these categories. The good characters are either Jedi or part of the Rebel Alliance. Among the most moral are characters like Luke Skywalker or Obi Wan Kenobi. They aren’t very tempted by the dark side (When they are there’s never an actual threat of them falling to it), they fight for the greater good of everyone, and they’re indisputably good. Those outside of the Jedi, however, can seem a bit shakier when it comes to moral alignments. Of course I’m thinking of Han Solo, who joins the good guys only for a good chunk of money. That said, Han can call himself a scoundrel all he wants, but it’s pretty clear he’s actually a really good guy. He starts worrying about Luke’s well being after only a few hours of knowing him and every time he makes an attempt to leave the Rebel Alliance in order to pay his debt back to Jabba, he quickly decides the Rebels need him more. So actually not that morally complicated. The bad guys are similarly simple. They’re all Sith or Empire aligning. Palpatine has no other personality traits aside from being “evil”. Anakin gets a bit more by starting out as a good guy with a bit of a rebellious streak before his rebelliousness turns him to the dark side. Still, though, there’s never really an internal conflict with Anakin once he becomes a villain. It’s almost like he turns into a robot until Luke can get through to him at the very end of his story. But is this moral complexity important to Star Wars? Not really. The point of Star Wars is the journey of the hero. It’s less about the hero’s internal conflict and more about the hero growing and maturing in the face of evil. In Star Wars a regular kid becomes a powerful Jedi and a princess who is underestimated by most becomes a war general. The point is to root for likable, relatable characters as they grow to face the great evil lurking over them.

On the other hand, morality in Star Trek can get a lot more complex. For one, the sense of clear good and clear evil doesn’t exist in Star Trek. There have been plenty of times where a Star Fleet ship has had to make a morally ambiguous decision because the difference between right and wrong was blurred. The Borg have participated a lot in these storylines. They’re considered the closest to evil any alien race encountered by Star Fleet has come. Their only goals are to either assimilate more people into the Borg, or to destroy those in their path. If they’re so evil, fighting them off, as the Jedi do to the Sith, seems like the right thing. Especially since all of them are basically one being operating in a hive mind. Except all of the Borg actually are individuals, and as series like ‘Star Trek: Voyager’ prove, they can choose to make morally good decisions. Aiming to fight or destroy them, despite how evil they often are, can still be morally wrong. Subjects like this pop up all the time in Star Trek. In fact, some of the most fun dives into morality happen when the plot focuses on the Prime Directive. The Prime Directive prohibits Star Fleet ships from interfering with the development of other civilizations. Meaning that, if a certain alien species hasn’t developed enough to at least understand the technology found on starships, Star Fleet isn’t allowed to interact with them for fear that it will alter their development. However, what happens when an underdeveloped civilization is in need of help? Can characters as good as Captain Picard really stand by while others are suffering? Sometimes, yes. In fact, Picard in particular is one of the strictest characters about keeping to the Prime Directive. All these moral questions are exactly the ones Star Trek aims to focus on. Characters don’t grow to face the evil they’re against. In fact, growing is much more subtle in Star Trek because all of the main characters are already capable and experienced Star Fleet officers. Their development occurs when their already solid beliefs are challenged by a complicated problem.

Action and Adventure:

Star Wars has fight choreography. What else could you want? Lightsaber battles have gotten better and better as the series has gone on. And even if you take out the lightsaber battles you’re left with a ton of action sequences, often involving some back and forth blaster fire. Each Star Wars movie has endeavored to introduce at least one new planet with life forms and scenery that set it apart from other introduced planets. This gives the characters a large amount of places to explore. And, given the fact that it’s a war we’re talking about here, we get to see tons of battle sequences. Star Wars gives us TIE fighters and X-wings going head to head in space battles. Huge Imperial Dreadnoughts have shown up at inopportune times to face off against Resistance Bomber ships. On a planet’s surface, AT-AT Walkers have towered over small speeders. There’s always tons of action in a Star Wars movie. The lightsaber battles might be the highlight, but there’s really never a dull moment.

Star Trek isn’t about the action as much. A few series have attempted more action sequences, but that isn’t really what this show does. Each starship has a security team that will sometimes have to use their expertise to protect the starship they serve, and all of the main characters have Phasers that they can set to either Stun or Kill in order to protect themselves. But most Star Fleet officers tend to prefer using their words to resolve conflicts. Most of the tension in Star Trek either comes from a mystery left unsolved or from a diplomatic back and forth between a starship captain and a potentially dangerous party. However, adventure is a huge part of Star Trek. The point of every starship is to explore as much of the galaxy as they can and to take notes while they’re doing it. In some instances, mostly when Q is involved, a crew discovers an entirely new galaxy let alone a new planet. What Star Trek lacks in action sequences it makes up for in intrigue and exploration. Even if the green screen on a new planet they discover is noticeably bad.

So which is better? Objectively, neither one. They both specialize in very different things. Do you like a quicker pace, action sequences, and more relatable characters? Star Wars will probably capture your interest more in that case. Do you like deep plots, philosophical debates, and complicated characters? Steer towards Star Trek. My personal opinion changes depending on the day. Sometimes Star Trek is too slow for me and I don’t feel the characters develop substantially enough for me to completely understand them. But sometimes Star Wars is too simple and the fight scenes are too constant to keep my interest. In other words, don’t let anyone tell you you’re wrong for liking what you like. Don’t go around judging other people for their opinions, either. Let’s just all admit there are good things that can be found in all of these franchises!

Don’t do anything fun until I get back!


One thought on “Star Wars: Star Wars or Star Trek?

  1. I have learned to appreciate Star Trek, Star Wars, Doctor Who, Sapphire & Steel and The X-Files for each having something of intrinsic value, whether it’s similar enough or different enough. Because the best attribute in being a science fiction fan is that it can give us the best regard for diversity. As many new SF shows are still making themselves known from Manifest to La Brea, I’m always quite happy to approach each one with a fairly open mind. Thank you for this article.

    Liked by 2 people

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