It’s true and everyone seems to know it: there’s a rivalry, sometimes clear, sometimes disguised, which overcomes both the fans of Star Wars and Star Trek alike. Some people tend to like Luke Skywalker, others to admire Captain Kirk. Yet one question remains: are the universes of both productions really that different? Are there so many differences between the Empire of Darth Vader and the United Federation of Planets?
Travel with us through this Playmountain article and discover what are the essential differences between the two of the most beloved franchises of the Universe.
:: Star Wars: The Myth of the Hero and Fantasy
The George Lucas’ production, Star Wars, is designed to be told as an epic; a legend, like a flash from the past that fades with the passage of the ages. The classic opening narration – “a long time ago, in a galaxy far away” – sets the tone of the adventures of Luke Sywalker and his intergalactic troupe of heroes who, being myths, turn on a “key” inside the Human unconscious, an archetype which, according to Carl Jung, every person – in any culture and time – has and shares with others.
Star Wars is about the past. It’s something that has happened, therefore, has a revelatory character. It does not advocate the Future, and rightfully so carries the character of a myth. Myths, according to writer Joseph Campbell, are vital for civilizations to learn from the shadows of the past and, therefore, to prepare a better Future by developing their ethos.
Campbell, incidentally, was studied by Lucas, who thoroughly read the book “The Hero With a Thousand Faces” before creating his fantastic universe. In Star Wars there is a Galactic Empire, powerful, militarized, mechanized and technological. There are also different worlds that teem with magnificent and diverse beings. And there is the Force: the ancestral knowledge about the forces of nature – the unique voice that unites us and that is responsible for the movement of ocean water, the warmth of the sun, the creation of life, of everything. The counterpoint between technology and that “inner knowledge” – the Force – is perhaps the most responsible for the mythical character of Star Wars.
The figure of the Jedi, who, in the midst of all the technology, believes in the ancestral knowledge of the Force and uses it to bring order to the universe is the representation of the inner quest inherent in most of the Asian cultures on Earth. And the Jedi Knight is the mirror of Jung’s Hero Myth: a supposed common man who finds himself special and that, aided by a wise guide, adds something to himself – that is, get something -, gathers troops/friends, struggles and returns victorious,full of glory.
The path of Luke Skywalker illustrates that myth because it realizes the phases described by Campbell in his work: Departure, Initiation, Return and End of Journey (the last two steps only happen at the end of the trilogy). He is the son of Anakin Skywalker, one of the most powerful Jedis ever to exist, and Princess Amidala. Here lies an allegory with the deities of antiquity: as a Greek hero, Luke was born of the relationship of a Semi-God or God (Anakin / Darth Vader) with a mortal (Amidala) and, as such, is chosen, acquires power, faces monsters and returns to his homeland. As you see, Star Wars is totally oriented to the iconography of the myth, the legend, in which the plot was based. Former cycles complete and new ones begin. Order emerges from chaos, from Evil comes Good. Manichaeism, of course, permeates the saga of Lucas.
There is another interesting factor: despite the military and the technology, there is no concern to explain this paradigm. The viewer does not realize how the Death Star works, which fuel the X-Wing fighter uses, how a light saber “lights,” or how the star ships make the jump to hyperspace. The scientific rigor is not the theme of the saga, but mere detail upon which the myth of Lucas is designed and built. In fact, this peculiarity leads many to suggest Star Wars as a series of Fantasy, not Science Fiction.
:: Star Trek: The Brilliance of the Human Mind and Technology
Although it also has mythical characteristics, the universe of Star Trek is essentially directed to the brilliance of the human mind to overcome their own obstacles. The series deals with how mankind has survived the so-called technological adolescence – by which we teetered on the brink of nuclear holocaust – through his intellect, his power of reasoning that transcends himself ever since the appearance of Homo sapiens. Except for the traditions of the Vulcan Spock, there is hardly anything like the Force in Star Trek.
Mankind beat hunger, prejudice and war, and launched itself into a new stage of evolution: the conquest of Space. Unlike Star Wars, it is a utopia that tries to advocate the Future, to show positively how things will be on the 23rd century. Gene Roddenberry did not bother to change the paradigm of the series in a form of legend or myth, but sought to show a possible Future in which technology and warmongering serve peace, and where different Earth and alien races live in harmony despite the social differences, and cultural and racial backgrounds. From chaos comes order as with the world of Luke Skywalker, but as a glimpse of what’s to come – not as a shadow of the past.
Unlike Star Wars, science is almost mandatory in Star Trek. All facets of technology seek to be explained, since there is a scientific rigor that almost does not exist, for example, in the Galactic Empire. The Enterprise needs the dilithium crystals to function and can only accelerate to Warp 10, the teleporters have a fixed radius of action and move the particles – organic or not – from point A to point B in a given time interval. The technology in Star Trek seeks to be shaped by a possible reality of physics and mathematics. This is another one of the essential differences between the two universes.
Despite the odds, there are mythical elements in Star Trek. Captain Kirk, for example, is a typical Greek hero, an Argonaut, although this feature is not as clear as it is with Skywalker. The captain of the Enterprise, like Odysseus, King Arthur and Luke, is chosen because of his innate courage, his human curiosity and exceptional intelligence. He is taken in a unique position to represent mankind in a universe full of mysteries to unravel. The Myth of the Hero, in Kirk, also exists, though not so obviously.
What now? Star Trek or Star Wars? KIRK OR LUKE?
All of the above. Both productions, contrary to popular belief, reach the same point, have the same message, despite all the differences highlighted here. They believe in the individual and in the expansion of our own limits. If we get to this stage of evolution, it is due to our “hunger” for discovering the unknown, to overcome our obstacles, our wish to transcend the everyday life, to show how we are worthy of our existence in this world and the desire to be a hero. That is what we are: heroes of our own history, each in his personal quest.
Watch these two great stories and soak up the best in each. But remember that the greatest journey of all is inside of us, in the universe that dwells within.
Tags: ancestral knowledge, archetype, better future, captain kirk, carl jung, Darth Vader, different worlds, forces of nature, galactic empire, George Lucas, hero with a thousand faces, joseph campbell, Luke Skywalker, luke sywalker, ocean water, opening narration, Star Trek, united federation of planets, universes, warmth of the sun