Throughout all of geek history their have been the great debates. Who would win in a fight, Mighty Mouse or Superman? What’s the better time machine, the Delorean or the Tardis? Which is better, Star Wars or Star Trek? [Editor: could Pikachu ever battle Raiden?] I will not really be answering any of these questions, but I will be taking a look at a different side of the third question.
Let me come right out and say it, the new Clone Wars movie was good. Provided you take it for what it is. It is not Episode 2.5, it is not a stand alone movie. It is a straight to DVD quality movie that is intended to act as an introduction to a new Saturday morning cartoon. As such you have to hold it in the same light as Star Wars: Ewoks, and Star Wars: Droids. Now that’s out of the way.
In 1977 George Lucas was able to make a movie that was pretty much exactly what he wanted to make. Their were a few studio injunctions, but by and large it was his movie. It set him up financially to pay out of his own pocket for all future Star Wars movies. This allowed him to take his own vision and largely unmolested put in on screen. For better or worse Star Wars has been his child, with no other real daddies. Even in the “expanded universe” all major changes must be approved by him.
Eleven years before in 1966 Gene Roddenberry put Star Trek on TV for the first time, and geeks would never be the same again. As we all know the show only lasted three years, but spawned four spin offs and almost eleven movies. However there is one major difference. Roddenberry died in 1991 during production of Star Trek VI, and just after the start of the fifth season of Star Trek:TNG. This is where Star Trek began to stumble. TNG went largely down hill in its last few years (featuring such stories as Picard and Crusher psychically joined, and a Worf/Troi/Riker love triangle), and the people who gave us more Trek from there on in have been trying to give us their vision of Trek with various levels of success, and more often than not failure.
With the exception of First Contact, and some parts of Generations, the other subsequent Trek movies have been a complete let down. They were some one else’s vision of Trek, and not Roddenberry’s. I fear for the new “Young Trek” approach, but I’ll hold judgment till I see it next summer. Except for the last few years of DS9 all recent Trek shows have been crap. Voyager was a good mini series that dragged on way to long, and Enterprise is barely even Trek.
Both have an expanded universe of books, comics, video games, and more that have had varying degrees of success. As with Clone Wars these also have to be taken for what they are, attempts at trying something different for different audiences.
With two pieces of work that have been going since LBJ was President a certain amount of ups and downs can be expected. Trek has a larger body of work, which also leaves it open to more likely failures. Saying which is better than the other is the geek version of barroom arguments between Red Sox and Yankee fans. For my money when you put the best of one, versus the best of the other, they are pretty equally brilliant.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that I feel that Star Wars has been able to largely maintain its focus thanks to its one clear voice. Who knows what we could have seen from the “Final Frontier” had Roddenberry not passed away. Having seen what others have done with his vision, I some times wish that the series had died with him. Much the same way that I fear New Line Cinemas idea for an all new Lord of the Rings story in between The Hobbit, and the Rings trilogy.
American entertainment refuses to let things go when they’ve given us their best. We continue to beg fore more and more, so studios are more than happy to give it to us. Star Wars has been able to follow the voice of it’s piper for the last 30 years, Trek lost its leader 17 ago. When John Lennon was shot we all knew that the Beatles were never getting back on stage. Let us all remember the good times rather than hoping to once again catch a falling star.