A long Facebook post by David Gerrold a few days ago captures my own feelings about Star Trek vs Star Wars, and since I can’t figure out how to link it, I’ll quote it below, and hope he doesn’t mind.
Trek debuted was I was the magical age of 11 — remember the cliche “the golden age of science fiction is 12”, which is to say, you are most affected by things you experience at around that age. I watched Trek in original broadcasts when I could (and I especially remember which episode I saw on the hospital TV when I was recovering from my appendectomy in early 1969), and I became obsessed with the show when it went into syndicated reruns beginning in late ’69, with episodes rerun on local stations every weeknight. I compiled lists of episode titles, planet names, stardates, and anything else I could write down, long before all this information was available in books, let alone on the internet.
But I did outgrow it, or at least recognized how basic it was compared to the far more sophisticated works by SF writers. I watched the ‘Next Generation’ series in the ’80s religiously, though I think I did miss one episode, in the last season, which I’ve never bothered to catch up on; and I’ve never watched any of the episodes a second time. After that I never watched any of the later series at all. I’d moved on. (I was mortified when, at my father’s funeral 10 years ago, an old family friend, who hadn’t seen me since I was 15, described me as a ‘trekkie’. He may as well described by younger sister as a Monkees fan, which she was, once.)
Re: Star Wars. I saw the first movie twice, because Grauman’s Chinese Theater (as it was known then) in Hollywood did not clear the theater between showings, and the friends I was with wanted to see it again. So we sat through it again. I’ve seen the subsequent movies once each, even the recent ones, more out of duty than any enthusiasm. Doubt I will bother with any of the new ones.
Here is David Gerrold:
I’m not a Star Wars fan.
I loved the first movie, I enjoyed the next two, but after that … no.
Star Wars is a triumph of special effects over logic. Thought has been sacrificed to action and eye-candy.
It’s fantasy with spaceships and light-sabres and a mish-mash of stuff that ultimately defies logic.
By contrast, classic Star Trek was about exploring the universe, about finding our place in it, about discovering what it means to be a human being. Yeah, TOS was quaint, under-budgeted, and squeezed out through the filters of 1966-style television. But despite that, it was the most ambitious series in American television, because it invited the audience to think about ideas.
At its best, classic Trek was a faint intimation of what real science fiction could be — the books, the stories, the sense of wonder — but at least it aspired to invite the viewer into the genre.
Star Wars … meh. It’s a dead-end. It’s a self-indulgent exercise in toy sales.
Who’s the most notable figure in the Star Wars universe? Darth Vader — a guy who betrayed his Jedi training, murdered the younglings, was an accomplice to the destruction of Alderaan — and oh yeah, we forgave him all that because he saved his son from the evil Emperor. (Hitler loved dogs, but I’m still not going to forgive him for the Holocaust.)
Who’s the most notable figure in the Star Trek universe? Take your pick, Kirk or Spock. Spock, whose commitment to logic is unfailing — or Kirk whose commitment to justice is equally unconditional.
In the SW universe, a handful of rebels overthrows a vast sprawling empire with unlimited resources — it’s a universe of endless war where some species have been written off as terminal bad guys.
In the Trek universe, a federation of many races and species works together in partnership to build peace and partnership. Yes, there are battles, especially in all the reinvented versions of Trek — but the underlying commitment is still peace and partnership among all races.
Real science fiction is a literature of ideas — a literature of transformation. It’s a literature of possibilities. It’s a genre where the reader is invited to think about the very substance of life and what he or she wants it to mean.
Star Wars uses the scenery of science fiction, but it’s not designed to take us out beyond its own limits, out where the sense of wonder kicks in.