Fans and scholars of Star Trek, owned by CBS Television Studios, and Star Wars, owned by the Lucasfilm division of The Walt Disney Company, compare the franchises' merits while merchandisers compete to sell rival products. Media critics and analysts have compared and contrasted the two works in particular because of their great impact and similarities. The franchises are both large bodies of work that make up billions of dollars of intellectual property, providing work and entertainment for millions of people.
- Star Trek was first introduced as a television series going back to the mid and late 1960s. With the publication of novels, comics, animated series, toys and feature films, it grew into a full scale media franchise. Before that it was simply a television serial and known only as such that lasted only three seasons.
- Star Wars was first introduced as a feature film in cinema going back to the late 1970s, when the first film, Star Wars, came out in 1977; though a novelization based on the film's earlier script was published a year before the film. Star Wars quickly grew into a popular media franchise shortly after the release of the first two films and novels.
- Star Trek has its origin in television and was only known as a television series. The franchise was conceived in the style of the television Western Wagon Train and the adventure stories of Horatio Hornblower but adopted in the idealistic, utopian prospect of future human society. Star Trek 's main focus is giving a fictional depiction of space exploration and the system of a galactic society consisting of multiple planets and species. Conflict occasionally occurs.
- Star Wars is an epic space opera was inspired by works such as Beowulf and King Arthur, and the origins of myth and world religions. Star Wars is a story that depicts a galactic society in constant conflict. Though there are periods of peace, this is not documented in the feature films but can be found in the comics and novels and spin-off films.
Aside from having the word 'Star' in their respective titles, the two franchises also share many similarities:
- Both stories depict societies consisting of multiple planets and species. The main galaxy in Star Trek consists of various planets, both human and non-human, united into a single state known as the United Federation of Planets. Star Wars depicts a galaxy that is mostly part of a single state known as the Old Republic, inhabited by both humans and countless other species, that later became the Galactic Empire and later reformed into a new society called the New Republic.
- Both franchises promote philosophical and political messages, though Star Wars not as much as Star Trek. The main philosophies of Star Trek convey the ethics of exploration and interference and how to morally deal with a new situation when faced by it. Creator Gene Roddenberry was inspired by stories like Gulliver's Travels that implied a morality tale. The main philosophical messages in Star Wars are the ethics of good against evil and how to distinguish one from the other. The philosophy of Star Wars also preaches against the totalitarian system and preaches in favor of societies that give equality to citizens.
- There have been few actors who appeared in films of both franchises.
- In the book Star Wars vs. Star Trek Tim Russ, who played Tuvok in Star Trek: Voyager, argues that while both franchises are spectacular, Star Trek comes out better than Star Wars because it has a setting in humanity's future and can connect with the audience better. Russ further goes to acknowledge that his former role as a Star Trek character could be a factor in such judgements.
Influences on one another
- The two franchises nonetheless have a "symbiotic relationship", states William Shatner, who credits Star Wars for the beginning of the Star Trek films. The documentary Trek Nation features interviews where both George Lucas and Gene Roddenberry praise one another's respective franchises, with the former stating that Star Trek was an influence while writing the original screenplay for Star Wars.
Criticisms of both franchises
- Star Wars has been repeatedly criticized by various people for what they see as its violent nature and its mythical portrayal as "a contradiction of religious values". In a two-page essay Steve Johnson, a contributor for the Chicago Tribune, gave his perception that "Star Wars is overrated". A guest critic on Decent Films Guide raised many issues he feels that Star Wars poses, especially around its growing commerce as well as other issues regarding morality and violence.
- Star Trek has been criticized by academics, journalists, critics and fans for its promotion of pseudoscience. David Kushner is a journalist and author who has written for various publications, including The New York Times. He has been critical of the use of pseudoscience in Hollywood and criticized Star Trek for this reason. Author Mark Juddary in his book Overrated: The 50 Most Overhyped Things in History includes Star Trek amongst the list.
- William Shatner was a presenter at George Lucas' AFI Lifetime Achievement Award ceremony. In 2011, Star Wars actress Carrie Fisher and Shatner posted a series of humorous YouTube videos satirizing each other's franchises.
Both franchises are set to grow in the next few years.
- Star Trek was rebooted with a series of feature films started in 2009 which was followed by a sequel in 2013 and a number of sequels set to follow.
- Star Wars is set to continue by storyline from where Return of the Jedi left off and is being aimed to be at least a sequel trilogy of films before the decision to make more films has been accepted.