Star Trek Vs Star Wars: Can’t We All Enjoy Both?

enterprise-and-millennium-falcon

Star Trek vs. Star Wars. It’s the ultimate geek debate, our version of Coke vs. Pepsi or the Beatles vs. the Rolling Stones. Which ship is cooler, the Enterprise or the Millennium Falcon? Is the Galactic Empire more powerful than the United Federation of Planets? Who’s got the coolest aliens?  Most die-hard fans insist that while you can enjoy both, you have to pick one over the other. That may be an extreme position because frankly, both Star Trek and Star Wars can be enjoyed for different reasons.

In a way, it is unfair to pit both beloved properties against each other due to their differences. This Star Trek vs. Star Wars debate becomes more of an apples and oranges argument instead of the previous analogies. That is due to the fact that comparing Coke against Pepsi is just arguing over two soft drinks that are very similar to each other.

Now Star Trek and Star Wars don’t share many similarities. One of the few is that they are both sci-fi adventures, but Star Wars focuses more on a space fantasy set in another galaxy while Star Trek is considered more grounded and realistic. That is the core difference between the two and it is enough to set both properties light years apart from each other.

As we all know Star Wars is basically a mythological tale in a sci-fi fantasy setting. It’s got all these fantastic visuals and fight scenes with spaceships and weird aliens, but Star Wars in its heart is a morality tale about family and the hero’s journey. That is why the Star Wars films resonate so much with audiences.

kirk-and-spock-meet-darth-vader

On the other side of the equation, Star Trek is an optimistic look at humanity’s future where we are devoted to exploring the unknown for knowledge’s sake. Sure, the crew of the Enterprise will come across those pesky Klingons but Captain Kirk and the other captains aren’t military leaders but explorers. On the outside, their goals are to see what’s beyond the next star and the next one after, but the best Star Trek stories explore the human condition and are thinly veiled commentaries about what is going on today. And that is why Star Trek has a devoted fan base as well.

Some trolling fans will claim that Star Wars is more popular since it’s more in the public consciousness to the point that it is cool to be a Star Wars fan. But Star Trek is undeservedly looked down upon as being strictly for geeks. A closer look at Star Trek fandom shows that it’s appeal is widespread as well and has had a profound impact in our culture. The constant reminders of Star Wars as seen with all the merchandising and the new cranking out of films is not necessarily due to demand but Disney marketing. Can’t blame them though, the corporation spent billions to acquire the property and they want to get their money’s worth.

It’s fruitless trying to compare the two in a competition, Star Trek and Star Wars are appealing for different reasons. A well-rounded person will see the merits of both properties and enjoy them for different reasons instead of cooking up Star Trek vs. Star Wars scenarios. Still comparing the two live-action sci-fi giants is a fun exercise that shouldn’t be taken too seriously. Just be grateful that we all have the opportunity to enjoy two well-produced properties. So, sit back and be transported where no one has gone before in a galaxy far, far away.

Lewis T. Grove

Advertisements

Top 50 Star Trek Episodes, Part 3: Episodes 10-1

 

 

trek-cast

As we continue the celebration of Star Trek’s 50th anniversary, it’s only logical (pun intended) to countdown the top 10 episodes of the original Star Trek series. Strange as it sounds, it was both hard and easy to pick out the ten best episodes from the most phenomenal sci-fi TV series of all time. While the episodes listed in the three-part Top 50 countdown were classics in their own right, these particular ten stood out from the rest time and time again, and will probably continue to do long into the future. Most of these rankings may seem natural and obvious to many readers, but it’s just a testament to the strength and timelessness of these Star Trek episodes.

10. “Shore Leave” Captain James T. Kirk (William Shatner), commanding officer of the starship Enterprise, leads a landing party to an unusual planet where one’s private thoughts become reality. While this leads to many wish-fulfilling moments, such as Kirk’s reunion with a lost love, the planet’s nature creates dangerous situations like attacks from a medieval knight, a samurai and a fighter plane.

McCoy in shore-leave

At times whimsical with a generous dose of the perilous “Shore Leave” was one of the more unique episodes of Star Trek and predated the ubiquitous holodeck shows of the spinoffs, but better done. Not only did the episode place our heroes in offbeat scenarios, but “Shore Leave” provided some curious insights of our heroes.

9. “The Corbomite Maneuver” This episode is a classic example of how a First Contact scenario might play out between human and alien and how it can potentially lead to disaster. In reality, this was the second Star Trek episode produced for the actual series and it shows. The production of Star Trek looked a bit different like the velour uniforms and Spock’s (Leonard Nimoy) harsher makeup.

balok

Despite that, “The Corbomite Maneuver” is a standout classic because of the strength of its script. Upon encountering a mysterious alien presence Captain Kirk is forced to play a guessing game with the unknown alien who tests the Enterprise and its crew. Even though Kirk’s strategies are indeed impressive, what’s more unforgettable is the episode’s conclusion when the nature of the alien and its motive are revealed.

8. “The Trouble With The Tribbles” As one of the most popular episodes in any Star Trek, “The Trouble With The Tribbles” is also the funniest and for good reason. It’s still as much fun to watch today as it was 50 years ago (well, 49 to be exact, it first aired in 1967).

kirk-in-trouble-with-the-tribbles

The Enterprise arrives at a Federation space station visited by belligerent Klingons feuding with the Federation over the claim of a nearby planet. As Kirk tries dealing diplomatically with the Klingons and the bureaucratic station heads, adding to his headaches is an infestation of furry animals called tribbles. Loveable at first, the balls of fur over-multiply and besiege the station and the Enterprise. The episode is famous for its many humorous moments, especially the iconic scene where Kirk is buried in a pile of multi-colored tribbles as he gets to the bottom of a mystery involving the station’s contaminated grain stores.

7. “Space Seed” Here’s the landmark episode that introduced Star Trek’s greatest villain, Khan Noonien Singh, played with great aplomb and gusto by Ricardo Montalban.

Khan and his cohorts were genetically enhanced superman/despots from the 20th century who were cryogenically frozen and revived by the Enterprise crew. Once thawed out, Khan’s ambitious nature drives him into an escalating battle of wits with Captain Kirk. This culminates in Khan with his allies seizing control of the Enterprise and capturing the ship’s crew. Of course, it’s up to Kirk to free his people and defeat the genetically superior despot.

space-seed-khan-vs-kirk

Due to Montalban’s captivating performance, Khan clearly left a huge impact in Star Trek mythos and is why the villain was the clear standout in “Space Seed”. Kirk has faced many villains but Khan was his most dangerous and mesmerizing opponent. As we all know, Khan was so unforgettable that he had to return to Star Trek years later with the most popular Trek film Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.

6. “This Side of Paradise” What starts off as an intriguing mystery and quickly turns into a romance with an unlikely lead: Mr. Spock. “This Side of Paradise” opens with an Enterprise landing party investigating how colonists on a radiation-filled world are still alive. The answer soon comes in the form of symbiotic spores that infect the Enterprise crew.

spock-and-leila-in-this-side-of-paradise

The spores give the infected a feeling of unproductive bliss, including Spock who is now able to express his feelings with an unrequited love, Leila Kalomi (Jill Ireland) who he reunites with on the planet. Meanwhile the rest of the crew quickly abandon their duties and plan to spend the rest of their lives on the spore-infected world.

The focus on Spock and his newfound romance was an outstanding highlight thanks to Nimoy and Ireland’s excellent performances and a wonderful, romantic score. It was truly heartening to see Spock finally letting his hair down and experience a brief moment of happiness even though the plot’s conclusion was poignantly bittersweet.

Continue reading

Set Phasers to Fun: Celebrating Star Trek’s 50th Anniversary

enterprise-in-starfleet-academy-experience

Star Trek has gone boldly where no franchise has gone before. The iconic Trek celebrated its 50th anniversary on September 8th and the TV show has paved the way for science fiction and modern technology. It’s hard to pick a favorite series, movie, ship or character from the phenomenon that has survived five decades.

Star Trek (the original series), The Next Generation, Deep Space 9, Voyager and Enterprise. Has any other franchise produced five television series as Star Trek did?  Each show has had its own challenges led by different captains: James T. Kirk, Jean-Luc Picard, Benjamin Sisko, Kathryn Janeway and Jonathan Archer. There was also an animated series based on the original show back in the ’70s. Many stations are running Star Trek marathons and specials like the Smithsonian channel’s Building Star Trek. But it doesn’t end there. CBS plans to launch a Star Trek: Discovery, a new series slated for streaming on May 2017.

star-trek-mission-ny-069

The big screen has seen 13 films. Star Trek the Motion Picture, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn, Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, (Yes the even numbered films were better) Star Trek Generations, Star Trek: First Contact, Star Trek: Insurrection, Star Trek: Nemesis, Star Trek, Star Trek Into Darkness, and Star Trek Beyond. Surely, there will be more.

Getting back to Star Trek, the original show was light years ahead of its time. Modern technology is moving at warp speed and catching up to some of the gadgets used on the original series. iPads/tablets were always signed off on by Captain Kirk. Siri and talking computers are common now. Communicators are like flip cell phones. In fact, Think Geek is releasing a communicator cell phone for the anniversary. It works off your current bluetooth cell phone.

Denise Crosby and fan

Besides watching the specials, series or movies there are many events to celebrate the occasion. Star Trek conventions are drawing huge crowds. The cons are a lot of fun and resistance is futile at the vendors’ tables. The conventions feature actors from all the series and movies. Vendors have a huge selection of uniforms, props, collectables, shirts and other merchandise. One company, Simplicity Creative Group produces a Star Trek series of dress uniform patterns called Make it Sew. The Star Trek: Mission New York convention featured a mock-up of the original Enterprise bridge for photo ops and a virtual reality gaming zone.

star-trek-experience-next-gen-bridge

The U.S.S Intrepid is hosting the Star Trek: The Starfleet Academy Experience. Like the conventions it features original costumes and props from the series and movies. You receive a watch-like wrist band that keeps track of your tour. You can play games, beam up in a transporter and take photos on a replica of the Next Generation bridge. When you are finished you can have your quiz results, Starfleet diploma and a video of yourself beaming up in the transporter emailed to you. The Intrepid also features a life-size Galileo Seven shuttlecraft perfectly placed next to the NASA Enterprise shuttle.

The Experience and the con is just a sampling of how Star Trek’s 50th anniversary is being celebrated. The U.S. Post Office has released a new Star Trek inspired forever stamp series in honor of the 50th anniversary. These stamps were presented by Walter Koenig at the Mission New York convention.

star-trek-mission-ny-gadgets

Since 1991, Hallmark has released highly detailed Christmas ornaments of the Star Trek ships designed by Lynn Norton, as well as famous characters and scenes. For this year’s golden anniversary they released a gold TV pilot version of the U.S.S. Enterprise.

It’s music for your Vulcan ears, Star Trek the Ultimate Voyage is a live concert featuring a symphony orchestra playing a score set to footage from the classic Star Trek films and TV shows. The tour has played in over 100 American cities.

For fans who enjoy cosplay, M·A·C cosmetics has launched a Star Trek make up collection of astral hues. The cosmic women of Star Trek made the series immortal, their powerful sense of style sent space-age fashion to a new frontier and M·A·C lets you dress the part.

It’s not logical to miss out on the anniversary celebrations. Star Trek has flourished for 50 years. May it keep going strong. Live Long and Prosper Star Trek!

Article and Photos by Jim McLernon

Enterprise photo by José Soto

 

Star Trek: A 50th Anniversary Celebration, Part Two

classic-trek

Here we are celebrating Star Trek’s 50th anniversary, a milestone that many doubted would ever be reached. For good reason, Gene Roddenberry’s phenomenal TV show about Captain James T. Kirk (William Shatner) and the starship Enterprise should have been forgotten after it was cancelled after three seasons. However, Star Trek was special, it was more than weird, low-budget sci-fi trappings with empty fisticuffs. Star Trek concentrated on ideas, social commentary and characters. As long as each incarnation of Star Trek stuck to these core ideals it clicked with the general public and fans. But as with everything, Star Trek went through cycles and sometimes lost sight of what made it so reverential. Aside from the cancellation of the original series where fans went through a decade-long drought without any live-action fixes, another dark period happened more recently.

Burnoutvoyager

Oddly enough, Star Trek started to burn out and lose its edge story and character wise when it was at its peak in the mid ’90s. There was a feeling of overkill as Paramount Studios was all too eager to cash in Trek’s popularity. The show that suffered from this the most was Star Trek: Voyager with its formulaic scripts. Before the third spinoff was created, there was some griping about Star Trek: Deep Space Nine because it was considered too dark and strayed too far from what was perceived to be the core of Star Trek: exploring the universe in a spaceship. Due to these complaints and because Paramount wanted to milk the cash cow, a new spinoff was created that went back to the old spaceship formula for its new TV network UPN. Star Trek: Voyager was lauded for having Kathryn Janeway (Kate Mulgrew), as the franchise’s first lead woman character and for its basic premise of a lost Starfleet ship making its way back home, but apart from that the show had creative problems. It felt too similar to Star Trek: The Next Generation with familiar stock characters. What was worse, were the predictable stories that were riddled with plot holes. Why was the ship so pristine looking every week? We wanted to see the actual ordeal of being stranded and away from support. It didn’t feel realistic, especially with the way they always defeated the super-powerful Borg whenever they showed up. Still, Star Trek: Voyager had its highlights, particularly Seven of Nine (Jeri Ryan), an ex-Borg who filled in the Spock/outsider role.

By the time Star Trek: Voyager concluded its run and Enterprise premiered in 2001, the franchise was undeniably creaky and tired. The film series were now bringing in less and less profits, seemed listless and unfortunately, Enterprise suffered from the same problems. On paper, Enterprise had potential; the adventures of the very first starship Enterprise commanded by Jonathan Archer (Scott Bakula) and his crew as the first humans to voyage to the Final Frontier. The prequel/spinoff instead of truly exploring the foundation of the Star Trek universe literally recycled plots from Star Trek: The Next Generation and when it didn’t the stories were uninspired. Simply put, it did not feel fresh and relied too heavily on the trappings of the Star Trek universe. For instance, transporter technology was supposed to be largely untested, yet all too quickly the scriptwriters relied on it to get our heroes out of jams.

star-trek-enterprise-cast

The show’s creators Rick Berman and Brannon Braga tried jumpstarting the show in the third season, added Star Trek to the title, and created a season-long arc about a mission to save Earth from destruction by aliens. The storyline divided many fans who felt it was too violent and dark versus others who thought the moral dilemmas and high stakes were what the show needed. No matter where one stood in the argument it was clear that this version of Star Trek was influenced by current events, in this case 9/11.

 

It was only in the final season did the show find its moorings and actually became a true prequel, but it was too late. Just as with its ancestor, the original Star Trek, Star Trek: Enterprise was cancelled in 2005 because of low ratings. The film series quietly died also after Star Trek: Nemesis flopped in 2002. The general consensus was that the property was completely mined out and devoid of any new material. Many felt that unlike previous lulls and failures that it was time to let the franchise rest. As Star Trek approached its 40th anniversary it seemed as if it was truly gone for good because of a lack of any initiative to develop new material let alone celebrate the anniversary.

Star Trek 2.0: Dormancy & Rebirth

That perception is not entirely accurate. Although there wasn’t any new Star Trek content, it did live on. The merchandising, while not as prevalent as in the past, helped. Another shot in the arm were the numerous fan films that carried the torch for the original crew. It’s true the production values and acting weren’t quite up there with professional productions, but it was clear that these films were lovingly made and some of them are actually impressive. At the same time, Paramount (and later CBS Studios) tried to create new films and TV shows. For instance, one film was called Star Trek: The Beginning and would’ve taken place during the Romulan War and featured Kirk’s ancestor, Tiberius Chase. Sadly, the script never went anywhere. Others pitched ideas for new TV shows including one that would’ve taken place in the far future in the aftermath of a galactic catastrophe that crippled the Federation. However, all those developments went by the wayside when Paramount hired J.J. Abrams to reboot the franchise with a new film.

star-trek-2009

2009’s Star Trek retold the story of Kirk, Spock, McCoy and the original Enterprise crew. But now they were played by much younger actors and the entire Trek universe received an updated makeover. On the whole, the film and its sequels were a faster paced, action oriented version of Star Trek. The first rebooted film was a huge box office success and many loved it. The problem, which became more obvious in later films, is that these films were catering to non-fans who wouldn’t show the same brand loyalty as regular Star Trek fans. With an emphasis on quick action shots and explosive special effects, the three most recent films alienated many traditional fans who likened the new films as Star Trek For Dummies. That perception crystalized when the ill-conceived trailer for Star Trek Beyond was released last year.

The trailer was clearly made for adrenaline junkies who crave the Fast and Furious films with its in-your-face action clips and an obnoxious Beastie Boys soundtrack. After the poor reception, Paramount let the bad feelings simmer for too long and cemented the feeling that Star Trek Beyond would be another loud and empty action porn bonanza. The film was actually more thoughtful and respectful to the essence of Star Trek, but the poor marketing ensured that it wasn’t as successful as the previous reboot films.

It is still too early to render a verdict on the reboots. It may be some time before the fervor dies down and we can all look upon them objectively. But as of now, many are decrying that the reboots are not real Star Trek and want a return to the original universe.

Fortunately, that is about to happen as Star Trek returns next year to the medium it is best suited for, television. The excitement building up over the forthcoming Star Trek: Discovery only proves that Star Trek isn’t dead or fading from the public consciousness.

Star Trek: The Legacy

Other popular franchises may be getting more attention these days, but Star Trek has shown time and time again that it has appeal and staying power. The effect the film and TV series has had in pop culture is immeasurable. To dismiss the franchise at this point is foolish in light of its legacy, which is far spanning.

Star Trek helped make science fiction a mainstay in television and elevated the genre’s perception from low-brow, youth-oriented fare thanks to its imaginative and thoughtful episodes. That is why the original show (and Star Trek: The Next Generation) received Emmy Award nominations for best series. It helped lead other executives and networks to gamble more often on sci-fi series, some of which are stellar examples of the genre. But Star Trek has had more of a meaningful impact in our society.

WILLIAM SHATNER DEFOREST KELLY LEONARD NIMOY RODDENBERRY

As we celebrate Star Trek’s 50th anniversary, we should reflect on its greatest legacy which is how it inspired the world. There are countless accounts of how Star Trek had a positive influence among astronauts, doctors, engineers, scientists and everyday people like you and I. The show and its spinoffs helped us to learn not to fear the future but to embrace it. Thanks to Star Trek, many beneficial inventions like cell phones, 3D printers, medical scanners and more became a reality due to its fictional counterparts in Star Trek. More importantly, the show taught us about how to treat our fellow neighbors. Everyone knows how the show and its spinoffs were cultural  trailblazers with its focus on characters like Mr. Spock (Leonard Nimoy), Data (Brent Spiner), Seven of Nine (Jeri Ryan) and the Doctor (Robert Picardo). They were outsiders who had trouble fitting into their society due to being different. Past episodes dealt with prejudice as their plights touched upon civil rights, tolerance, respect and looking past outer differences and into the character of the soul. This belief can best be exemplified by the Vulcan IDIC philosophy of Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations. This more perfect future society is beyond our reach today, but we are laying the groundwork to make Gene Roddenberry’s optimistic vision a reality someday.

Enterprise-original

Star Trek will always be a part of our pop culture as it has been for the past 50 years. That is because it has so many aspects that are appealing to many different audiences. As long as Star Trek embraces its core roots, it will continue to live long and prosper. So may we all.

José Soto