Here's the thing: I am a Star Trek nerd in a Star Wars world. Star Wars mania has been a powerful force for decades now, taking over the love for practically all other franchises, and that’s totally fine with this Trekkie. I've never shied away from being the underdog. This week, however, my faith has been tested. Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens hits theaters in mere hours, the culmination of months, if not years, of excitement. Meanwhile, the trailer for Star Trek Beyond , the third film in J.J. Abrams' reboot franchise, hit the web on Monday, but it's gotten overshadowed by all the frenzy surrounding SW. The talk surrounding the release of the next Star Wars film has engulfed the entertainment world, and rightfully so. It’s an exciting time for fans, nerds, geeks, and noobs the world over. But for Star Trek fans, this is a rough time, even as we celebrate the other series' massive success.
I became a Trekkie as a kid. Star Trek: The Next Generation had hit the syndication channels and become a major success as a result, much like its predecessor, Star Trek: The Original Series. My brother, on the other hand, has always been a full out Wars geek, with toy versions of the Millennium Falcon and action figures of the main characters as well as multiple Stormtroopers. Our sensibilities would often butt heads, and we'd retreat into our geeky caves, content to try and use the force or boldly go away from one another. This hasn't changed much over the years; the ongoing conflict between Star Wars and Star Trek is a nerdy space battle that, fans know, will never end. Despite each fandom’s fervor, there really is no way to measure which series is better that doesn’t end with one group flinging (nerdy) insults at the other.
And what fandom you associate with can say a lot about you. Whether you’re a Wars or a Trek person (and of course, one can be both) really depends on what you want to get out of your science fiction. Star Wars is at its heart, epic mythology. Heavily influenced by Joseph Campbell’s The Hero with A Thousand Faces, the series dives into the traditional hero’s journey, with familial conflict reaching Shakespearean levels, and and ancient, mystic religion grounding the story. It tells of galaxies far, far away and a long time ago, too distant to have anything to do with us plebeians here on Earth.
Star Trek, on the other hand, has always taken place in our universe. Premiering in 1966, Gene Roddenberry’s original series depicted his vision for an ideal future in which humanity has ceased engaging in war, poverty had been eliminated, and humankind was free to explore the galaxy. I loved Trek for being so grounded in reality, or at least a version of it. It was our future, our world, and our possibilities. I've always liked Star Wars, but while it's fun, exciting, and emotional, it was always too far away and long ago for me to truly connect with. Yet with Star Trek, I hopefully imagined that its story could one day come true.
Fans on both sides have their reasoning and preferences. Star Wars’ main conflict comes from the irrevocable differences between the light side of the force and the dark, good vs. evil at its heart. Star Trek, however, isn't as black and white. With its prime directive, culture clashes, and numerous civilizations, the humans of Trek aren't always the “good” guys, which is one of the most dynamic things about the series. The ships have also been a big topic among fighting fans. Star Trek's Enterprise is sleek, functional and futuristic, while Star Wars' Millennium Falcon is a rusting, clunky lived-in ship that's less of a museum piece and more of a working machine. Even scientists have weighed in on the matter, with Neil DeGrasse Tyson and Bill Nye preferring Star Trek over Star Wars for adhering to as much known science as possible.
But, like any geek, I’ll embrace just about anything that takes place in outer space and features the pew-pew firing of lasers. Which is why, despite my Trekkie leanings, I diligently lined up for and saw the three prequel Star Wars films, and like so many others, was mildly disappointed by them. Thankfully, throughout those years, there was plenty of Deep Space Nine, Voyager, and Enterprise to enjoy instead. Even better, in 2009, J.J. Abrams rebooted The Original Series into a successful Star Trek film that managed to reflect the beloved original characters without impersonating them. For awhile, it seemed, Trekkies, not Star Wars fans, were in the lead.
Yet that moment was short-lived. 2013’s Star Trek Into Darkness was widely criticized for rehashing a beloved movie (1982’s The Wrath of Khan) instead of telling an original story, as well as its gloomy, serious atmosphere that felt devoid of color and fun. What it tried to make up for in explosions and action sequences, it lacked in the diplomacy, politics, and inter-species interaction that made Trek great (and there was absolute zero exploring). As for the next film in the franchise, Star Trek Beyond, its fate is unclear. On Monday, the trailer for the 2016 film hit the web, and it seems to be a big change from Darkness. It feels instead more like Fast and Furious meets Guardians of the Galaxy. Prime example: there are motorcycles flying through the air set to the Beastie Boys. And while The Force Awakens is undoubtedly a feminist film, the Star Trek Beyond trailer didn’t even see Uhura speak, only scream in silence.
Star Wars, of course, is not always perfect either, as the prequels showed. But I can't help but wonder if the upcoming probable success of Wars’ new trilogy means that Star Trek will suffer in some sort of universe balancing requirement. While one reigns, can the other not succeed? Maybe it's not quite that simple, but I do know that the day after I saw the questionable Beyond trailer, I, with my Trek-loving heart heavy, went to the screening of The Force Awakens. I loved it, guys; it's one of the best Star Wars movies in the franchise, featuring adorable new robots, a female hero and a female villain, humor, heart, and a great introduction to the new characters that will take over the franchise. My eyes widened as I watched the Millennium Falcon rise up again out of a heap of junk; my heart soared when R2-D2’s lights blinked on once again. I teared up when Leia and Han embraced. I couldn’t help but be impressed.
And while I can't say that I’m converting to Team Star Wars (heck, no!), I can say my love for that series has increased by a few notches. Still, I'll always be a Trekkie at heart, and although there’s no doubt that The Force Awakens is going to be a huge success both critically and financially, I'm confident Star Trek will makes its return. Sure, it may be the underdog in this battle, but there's the upcoming CBS series to look forward to, plus the possibility that Beyond will turn out great. So for those of you who, like myself, are balancing love for two series right now: as long as the Force is with us, we'll all continue to boldly go where (few) have gone before — fandom equality.
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Images: Paramount Television (2), Giphy, Paramount Pictures, Disney