Two Pillars of Sci-Fi

March Nerdness 2014 – Sci-Fi edition – The Champion is…


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Obi Wan Kenobi versus James Tiberius Kirk. If this were hand to hand combat, there is no doubt that Obi Wan would win. Even Old Ben would win. Kirk’s shirtless might would be no match for a Jedi with the Force no matter his age.

Obi Wan Kenobi versus James Tiberius Kirk. They both have six syllables.
Obi Wan Kenobi versus James Tiberius Kirk. They both have six syllables.

So let’s consider the franchises from which they hail. The two pillars of Sci-fi, Star Trek predates Star Wars by more than ten years. One could argue that no Star Trek means no Star Wars. Yet, production of Star Trek The Motion Picture was delayed after Star Wars came out so that film makers could adjust to all the special effects ingenuity that Lucas brought forth in 1977.

Two Pillars of Sci-Fi
Two Pillars of Sci-Fi

Really, comparing Star Trek to Star Wars is somewhat of an apples to oranges concept. Star Trek has always prided its franchise as being grounded in science. From the time that Star Trek the television series went off the air (1969) to when the film opened in theaters (1979), many of the technological advances featured in the show were a reality including electronic doors, hypodermic injections, talking computers, weapons that stun, and personal communication devices. If you include all the Star Trek series and films, they’ve predicted the following technological advances we have today:

  1. The communicator (cell phones)
  2. PADDs (iPad)
  3. In-ear coms (blue tooth)
  4. Voice interface
  5. Transparent aluminum
  6. Tractor beams (tractor-beam-like forceps to move atoms around)
  7. Hypospray (jet injectors)
  8. Replicators (3-D printing)
  9. Holodeck (Oculus Rift)
  10. Tricorder (apparently this one is close to development)

Star Trek, aside from being more grounded in science, is also a story of exploration where the spacecraft and subsequently battles are nautical in nature. Its stories concern themselves with discovering new cultures, solving crises, and often addressed political issues relevant to the time. Uhura is a pioneer as a strong black woman on television. Woopi Goldberg, who appears in the Next Generation series, recalls seeing the stunning Nichelle Nichols on screen and shouting, “I just saw a black woman on TV and she aint no maid!” The series featured the first inter-racial kiss between Kirk and Uhura. I personally love the story that network wanted a kissing and non-kissing version, but Shatner and Nichols purposefully flubbed all the “non-kiss” takes of the scene to force the network to air the kissing version.

Star Wars is often hailed as modern day American mythology. Its story, especially the original films, draws upon themes and motifs that are central to Western culture. Luke Skywalker’s story is very much a bildungsroman and Lucas has proudly declared that his works are derivative of the ideas found in Joseph Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces. The Force is very much like a religion. Before the introduction of the forgettable midi-chlorians, the Force is comparable to Buddhism and Jedi Knights are very much like Samurai. It is a classic battle of good versus evil. Sure, the prequels try to implement political satire, but ultimately the audience just craves clashing lightsabers. It’s the action and adventure that makes the Star Wars franchise so successful. That and Han Solo’s snarky remarks.

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My point is, both Star Trek and Star Wars are epic. Arguing over which is better is like arguing over whether baseball is better than football. Sure, you can argue for whichever one you appreciate more. But what’s the point? If you don’t like watching baseball, don’t. And don’t hate on people who say it’s America’s pastime. It is. Without Star Trek, there is no Star Wars. That doesn’t mean it’s better than Star Wars.

But friendly banter about the two franchises can be entertaining. If you don’t already, follow both William Shatner and Carrie Fisher on Twitter and you’ll be privy to some clever wordplay. What’s ironic is that the same man who has rejuvenated the Star Trek franchise has the Star Wars one firmly in his hands. Perhaps J.J. Abrams will one day say, “Can’t we all just get along?”

Perhaps Shatner and Fisher should kiss and make-up.
Perhaps Shatner and Fisher should kiss and make-up.

But for the purpose of March Nerdness, Star Wars wins. Obi Wan Kenobi defeats James Tiberius Kirk. No question about it.

 

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Jason

I've been a comic nerd since Spider-man and his Amazing Friends and the Super Friends. So someone please explain to me, when did Aquaman become so cool? Also, why isn't She-Hulk in more media?