I have always been a fan of science fiction. As a child I remember watching Lost in Space, UFO, and Space 1999. I watched The Twilight Zone and the Outer Limits with the same fervor that people today watch Game of Thrones. I remember sitting on the edge of my seat the first time I saw 2001: A Space Odyssey and heard HAL 9000, our first real foray into runaway AI, utter: “I can’t do that Dave.” But as riveted as I was in these stories, these are not the bedrock of my sci-fi fascination. The year I was born, Star Trek: The Original Series, would begin its final season of an all too brief run. I would go on to watch every episode over and over when it was in syndication. This made me a fan of The Animated Series as well. I was in my adolescence so this was right in my wheelhouse. I now had a strong foundation for what was about to happen.
In the summer of 1977 the sci-fi game changed forever. No longer would a toy flying saucer dangling from a string, rubber monster masks or giant foam rubber boulders work to hold our interest. Modern special effects were born with the overtaking of the Tantive IV by an Imperial Star Destroyer in the opening scene of Star Wars. Like most every nine-year-old boy, I was completely mesmerized and in my case hooked for life. I would be remiss if I did not give mention that later the same year Close Encounters of the Third Kind further stoked my growing love of the genre. I wanted more. Little did I know, just two years later, Star Trek: The Motion Picture would bring back my old friends and two of the greatest franchises in movie history would be competing for the attention of a very loyal fan base.
It is at this point that I have to pause and discuss said fan bases. Both are intensely loyal to their particular franchise. Both have great heroes and villains. Both have incredible stories, character interaction, music and let’s not forget special effects. Both have fan conventions where the faithful dress as their favorite character and immerse themselves in the makeup and even the alien languages. (I am talking about you, Klingon speakers.) Now I have never dressed as any character from any movie nor have I learned an alien language. I have never been to one of the conventions, although I would like to one day. But I still feel I am as much a fan as any of these people. But when I say I love both franchises, fans think I have committed some sort of sacrilege. No, it is not like that at all. These movies were brought to the theatre for our consumption, and I consumed.
I have never quite understood the blind allegiance to one franchise to the dismissal or even hatred of the other. They are alike in so many ways. Both are essentially morality tales. Both have the hero and villain dynamic. Both have deep back stories that touch all of the characters. We have the cowboy that needs guidance (Captain Kirk and Luke Skywalker). We have the former ally who feels wronged and turns evil (Darth Vader and Khan Noonien Singh). We have the sages (Spock and Yoda). We have strong women (Princess Leia and Nyota Uhura). There are iconic ships (Enterprise and Millennium Falcon). Even the music is instantly recognizable. So why can’t you love both? I do.
I love the close friendships that bind Kirk and Spock, Luke and Han, Data and Geordi, Sisko and Dax, and Janeway and Tuvok. Each of these relationships are unique in their own ways and for their own reasons. I love the fantastic seemingly brought to life with light sabers, tri-corders, communicators, warp drive, hyper-space and even tribbles. The language permeates our lives. “Make it so.” “Do or do not. There is no try”, “Beam me up Scotty.” It is all around us. You know something is huge when it becomes the subject of parody such as Spaceballs or imitation like Battlestar Galactica. There is merchandise everywhere, although I think Star Wars has the edge in market saturation. I also love how Gene Roddenberry and George Lucas embraced their fan bases. Fan fiction is encouraged and has become so important to the continued growth of both franchises.
I say, celebrate what is different in both. I think you will discover how much is the same. I also think you will realize how much they have and continue to influence each other.
There is much more to come from both franchises. The Force Awakens and Beyond gave us new reasons to keep coming back. We have a side story from Star Wars with Rogue One and a new television series from Star Trek with Discovery. I can’t wait.
In the meantime, I will continue to re-watch as many of these old shows and movies, in every incarnation as I possibly can. I will continue to laugh at what Dr. McCoy is not. Marvel at the duel involving Darth Maul versus Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi. Fight back a tear at the death of Spock and gasp at the words “Luke, I am your father.” I still do look outside my two stalwarts. I have begun my journey into Dr. Who. Yes, I know I am late to the party on this one, but I am slowly coming up to speed. I am hardly at the same level of fandom, but the Tardis ranks pretty high on the cool sci-fi scale.
So, in closing I would like to pass along some words to live by: “May the force be with you” or was it “Live long and prosper”? Either way, you will be very fulfilled.
Please feel free to leave me your comments on why you love both franchises.