A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away… the ultimate intergalactic battle took place between two giants of the science fiction world: Star Trek versus Star Wars! It’s a fight for the ages.
So which one is actually best? There’s only one way to find out…
Clarity: Which is Star Trek and which is Star Wars?
Let’s draw the battlefield here.
Star Trek was created by Gene Roddenberry, first starred William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, George Takei, Nichelle Nichols, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan and Walter Koenig. It spawned numerous other TV series like The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and Discovery, as well as movies.
And Star Wars is the franchise set up by George Lucas, first hitting screens in 1977’s A New Hope with Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader, Han Solo, Chewbacca and Princess Leia. It’s since had plenty of other cinematic instalments including recent additions to the brand like Rogue One, The Force Awakens, and The Rise of Skywalker.
Both feature spaceships, aliens, and amazing adventures. Only one stars William Shatner. And only one has Han Solo. Both have outdated stereotypes and forward-thinking morals.
Star Trek vs. Star Wars: TV vs. cinema
Here’s an interesting place to start because Star Wars and Star Trek have, in a way, reversed journeys.
Star Wars started as a series of films, specifically A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. More movies followed, but, recently, interest in the films waned somewhat, largely thanks to curious decisions made behind the scenes. Directors were jettisoned, Luke Skywalker became an unwilling Jedi, and The Rise of Skywalker suffered from narrative cul-de-sacs that are probably best summed up with the quote, “Somehow, Palpatine returned.”
Yet on TV, Star Wars reached new heights. The animated The Clone Wars show, which ran from 2008 to 2014 with a brief revival in 2020, was hugely popular, expanding on the mythos in ingenious ways and becoming one of Cartoon Network’s highest-rated shows. Then, in the Disney+ era, series like The Mandalorian, The Book of Boba Fett, and Obi-Wan Kenobi have taken the internet by storm.
Star Trek, on the other hand, began as a TV series which then became so popular that the original cast were brought back for a run of films. The brand continued on TV, of course, and got millions of new fans across the world with successful programmes like The Next Generation, Voyager, and, most recently, Strange New Worlds. But, before Trek returned to TV with Discovery, there was something of a lull. Trek simply wasn’t cool anymore.
That’s when JJ Abrams stepped in and created the so-called “Kelvin timeline,” a new set of stories with the original Enterprise crew recast. Chris Pine was the new Captain Kirk. Zoe Saldana was Uhura. And Zachary Quinto was Spock.
Even those movies hit stumbling blocks. Still, they were also hugely popular and brought Trek to a new generation.
Both, then, have been successful on TV and in movie theatres. Going to the cinema is a special experience; but so too is watching something you enjoy at home, surrounding by the people and things you love.
Winner: No loser here; both are winners. Because TV and films are both as fantastic as each other.
Star Trek vs. Star Wars: Longevity
William Shatner shocked fans at a 2016 convention in Las Vegas when he said: “First of all, Star Wars created Star Trek. You know that?”
That is, despite the fact A New Hope didn’t come out until 1977 while Star Trek: The Original Series (TOS) debuted in 1966 and ran until 1969.
He then clarified that the success of Star Wars meant Star Trek continued beyond its initial three seasons:
“Every year there was the threat to be cancelled. The third year, we were cancelled, and everybody accepted it. At Paramount Studios, they were running around bumping into each other: ‘What do we got?! What do we got to equal Star Wars? This is a big thing! There was this thing that we cancelled, under another management, it was called Star… Trek? Let’s resurrect that!’”
True enough, Star Trek: The Motion Picture followed in 1979.
Nevertheless, with a history dating back to the mid-1960s and more than 800 episodes under its belt, there’s a clear winner here.
Winner: Star Trek, by just more than a decade.
Star Trek vs. Star Wars: Storytelling
Here’s the really important thing. How do Star Trek and Star Wars approach storytelling?
Both play the long game. As a show, Star Trek obviously has long-running themes that play out across seasons. But Star Wars comes in “Episodes,” too.
While TOS generally told one story each week, some new iterations of Trek have switched to long-form storytelling, i.e. Discovery and Picard largely ditched “monster of the week” plots and instead focussed on stories that unfolded across numerous episodes. (Saying that, Strange New Worlds is doing the opposite.)
Star Wars is surprisingly similar. Each film essentially tells a contained story and your enjoyment isn’t particularly hindered if you haven’t seen the previous Episodes. You can still enjoy Luke rescuing Han from Jabba the Hut, whether you know why Harrison Ford’s character was imprisoned or not. If you have been paying attention, though, it’s all the more satisfying.
At the aforementioned convention, Shatner expanded on the core difference between the two franchises…
“Star Trek at its best tells human stories. It’s philosophical. There’s humanity. There’s a principle involved. And it’s well done. It’s about people. Star Wars was grand, like opera. It was huge with great special effects. It was a marvellously entertaining film, but it wasn’t specifically about people the way those Star Treks were.”
In this way, Star Trek’s capacity to tell stories feels wider than Star Wars’. The latter has stuck largely to the same pattern. This is especially evident when comparing The Force Awakens to A New Hope – because the former is basically a re-tread of the latter! Star Trek is vastly different. It can do comedy. It can do drama. It can do space opera. It can do time travel. It can do parallel worlds.
Perhaps their respective territories are implied by their monikers: Wars means you expect battles, so there’s less chance for deviation. Trek equals exploration, and that means anything could be on the horizon.
Winner: Star Trek, for its capacity for change.
Star Trek vs. Star Wars: SFX
We’re including model work in this because SFX isn’t just CGI and CSO and other computer trickery. Needless to say, the models for both franchises are generally very impressive. You get the occasional slap-dash realisation, but these are few and far between. Everything is designed beautifully and the thought and craft that goes into them is spectacular.
So then, what about special effects?
If we go back to the 1960s and 1970s, the answer is obvious. Star Wars was a massive leap forward for cinematography. You can still watch the original trilogy and be amazed and captivated by everything you see.
And now? The lines have blurred. Star Wars still looks breath-taking. But have you seen modern Trek?! Wowsers. The stuff they achieve on the small screen is truly epic – that’s true for ships, planets, aliens and starscapes. Star Wars always had money; now Star Trek does too. That’s led to a level playing field.
Winner: It’s a draw! Try telling someone in 1977 that…
Star Trek vs. Star Wars: Villains
The problem with / great thing about (delete as applicable) Star Trek is that there’s not one consistent baddie.
That’s simply because the show has had so many iterations and stretched across so many (light) years that variety is key. There are recurring foes, like the Klingons, Borg, Tribbles, the Dominion, the Terran Empire and more, but it’s difficult to focus on just one. Even the Klingons have changed: compare the first ones we see to the ones from Discovery and the differences are huge.
Star Wars, however, has one iconic villain: Darth Vader. There’s Darth Sidious, i.e. Emperor Palpatine, too. Those are pop culture icons. Everyone knows them. Make a rasping noise and swish your hands around like you’re waving a lightsabre around and you instantly become Vader.
Oh, Star Wars has certainly had its duds too. Snoke was… well, what the heck was he all about?! And don’t get us started on Kylo Ren!
But overall, there’s a clear winner here.
Winner: Star Wars. You’re doing the heavy breathing thing right now, aren’t you?
Star Trek vs. Star Wars: Heroes
What’s the point of villains if you’ve not got a batch of heroes to cheer for too?
Star Wars’ original characters were pretty strong: Luke, Leia, Han, Chewie, C3PO, R2D2, Obi-Wan, Qui-Gon Jinn and Yoda. They were all cool. Lando Calrissian III was the king of cool, despite seemingly being a traitor.
And then things went off the rails. Rey is wonderful, if let down by some questionable choices. Two more characters were introduced in The Force Awakens who appeared to be key parts of the Star Wars mythos. Ultimately, though, Finn and Poe Dameron were absolutely wasted. How could Disney waste such amazing actors?! If you’ve been watching Moon Knight, you’ll have seen how astonishing Oscar Isaacs is, yet we can’t think of anything mind-blowing Poe did in any of the three most recent movies. It’s quite a disappointment.
Similarly, the heroes we grew up with were diminished. Luke had his ups and downs, but seeing him wallowing in apathy and drinking Thala-siren milk on Ahch-To was a real low point. Leia was arguably the only hero from the original trilogy who shone in The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi.
Star Trek’s heroes haven’t diminished. In fact, seeing Spock played by Leonard Nimoy again in the 2009 Star Trek movie was touching and fitting – a link between then and now.
The franchise has delivered a plethora of heroes for every generation. There are your captains: Kirk, Picard, Janeway, Sisko, Archer, Saru, Burnham, Pike, and… okay, perhaps not Lorca after all that unpleasantness, but still. Then there are the supporting characters, including Chekov, Data, Worf, Seven of Nine, McCoy, Georgiou, Number One and so many more. These are relatable people you can root for.
Winner: Star Trek. A controversial choice.
Star Trek vs. Star Wars: Quotes
Quotable quotes are always great, especially for kids in the playground.
Star Trek has a few decent ones. “Live long and prosper” is a good one, hailing from the Vulcans. It’s a neat philosophy too, hopeful and perfectly encapsulating Trek’s wider landscape. “Space, the final frontier” is ominous yet inspiring.
But beyond those, well-known quotes are almost non-existent. The hardcore fans can quote the third line said by Scotty in The Trouble with Tribbles, but casual viewers are more likely to know Kirk screaming “KHAAAAANNNN” from memes than they are Spock saying something poetic like “Logic is the beginning of wisdom, not the end.”
Whereas Star Wars has loads of quotable moments. “I am your father.” “May the Force be with you.” “Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi – you’re my only hope.” “Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger; anger leads to hate; hate leads to suffering.” “Never tell me the odds.” “I find your lack of faith disturbing.” “This is the way.” “These aren’t the droids you’re looking for.”
And let’s not forget when Leia’s “I love you” to Han is met with the arrogant but true-to-character, “I know.” Romance isn’t dead, huh?
Winner: Star Wars. Sorry, Trekkies, but don’t give in to hate. That leads to the dark side.
Star Trek vs. Star Wars: Which one has the better Lego sets?
Playability is always a factor. For kids and big kids alike, you want to actually build the cool things you see on screen. Notably, you want to make the Millennium Falcon and the Enterprise. And if you’re a child you want to make something your friends will swoon over,
Sure enough, you can buy a Lego version of the Falcon plus all sorts of other awesome stuff like R2D2, an AT-AT, Yada, Vader’s helmet, the Mos Eisley cantina, an Imperial TIE fighter, the Star Destroyer, the actual Death Star, and the Battle on Takodana! (Well, maybe not the last one. It’s rubbish.) But the others are great. The Death Star even played an important (ish) role in the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Spider-Man trilogy.
Meanwhile, Trek fans will already know true disappointment: there are no Star Trek Lego sets yet.
There are other Trek models, of course, including from industry giants like Eaglemoss and, just like Lego bricks, they hurt to step on. Nonetheless, they’re not Lego.
Winner: Star Wars. Mind you, if you want a decent Millennium Falcon, it’ll cost you.
Star Trek vs. Star Wars: Which one is your nan most likely to recognise?
Neither. Sorry, but she’ll call Star Trek Star Wars and Star Wars Star Trek. You might start doing it too.
Winner: Star Wars. No, wait, I mean Star Trek. Or do I? Hang on, what’s the one with Captain Picard exploring Tattooine? It’s that one anyway. That one wins this round.
Star Trek vs. Star Wars: The verdict
If we add up the winners, we can clearly see that… there’s no winner. Ah. Hmm. Of course, that means there’s no loser either. Does that pacify you? No? Not even in the slightest? Right.
Well, here’s the thing. You’re reading Lovarzi. We sell lots of cool stuff (even if we do say so ourselves), including popular Star Trek items like the Ships of Line scarf, Star Trek Folding Umbrella and Star Trek The Next Generation scarf. You’re here for Star Trek, and honestly, that’s where our loyalties lie too.
Make up your own winner, but at Lovarzi, there’s one GOAT when it comes to Trek versus Wars: it’s Star Trek. Live long and prosper!
Star Trek scarf – order now from the Lovarzi shop!
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