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.

  • I actually agree with your point. If something was one person’s brainchild, that person should be the one to control it’s fate. However, Star Trek is owned by Paramount, not by Roddenberry or his estate. It’s a shame it couldn’t be.

    Of course, on the other hand, his vision of Star Trek wasn’t incredibly exciting either; everything was diplomatic, ships were there to explore in, and crew members learned more about the human condition every week. Not exactly gripping television.

    As wonderful as both these series are, Star Trek has a lot more failure simply because there is SO much of it out there. If Star Wars had to do a weekly serial, I promise you there would be episodes where we were cringing. Even Battlestar Galactica had episodes where it felt more like (as TardisCaptain put it) “JAG in Space”. It almost can’t be helped.

  • zohner

    I totally agree with your thoughts on The Clone Wars. Looking at it as it’s own story instead of something that fits into a larger picture is the only way that it can really be enjoyed. The comparison to the Droids and Ewoks cartoons was very appropriate.

    I also agree that a person should be able to control their creation, even if I disagree with where they take it. In some cases though, it’s best to have a person that you can bounce ideas off of that won’t just say “You are awesome. I wish that I was as brilliant as you. A gay hutt that speaks basic? Brilliant!” Sometimes a voice of dissension is the best thing that can happen to a franchise.

  • Squishy

    Star Trek always had a pretty good mix of action, and politics. Sometimes more of one than the other, but that was its thing. Most sci fi of its time was fairly shallow, and didn’t try to do much to raise the genre. If you want action sci fi there are many options out there. “Not exactly gripping television”? That’s what Star Trek is. It’s like complaining that there is to much dialouge in a Kevin Smith movie, or to much bashing of President Bush in a Michale Moore film.

    How long it’s been going is one of the main things that have brought it down. Anyone who can tell me with a straight face that after 18 years The Simpsons is anything more than a shadow of its former self is kidding themselves. The same thing is/was true for MASH, E.R., Seinfeild, Friends, Married With Children, and pretty much any show that has gone beyond about three or four years. Though that’s another post, “American TV’s unwillingness to let go.”

    You’re right, the “Gay Hutt” was by far the most annoying part of the movie.

  • zohner

    I’m going to disagree with you on the Seinfeld issue. I’m currently watching season 9 and it’s absolutely brilliant. I think that they ended on top which is how it should be. Nobody wants to see Willie Mays past his prime stumbling around in the outfield. The same is true with television and movies.

  • Michel Gieser

    For awhile,I thought i was afraid Star Trek was a passing away franchise. Then JJ Abrams came along. Nice touch. The scene with kid Kirk was a tad too quirky in the movie, though it was awesome in the movie trailer. Star Trek XI breathed new life into this favorite Roddenberry world. I’d like to see all of this Enterprise cast come back for much more outings. I spent my childhood years with the classic series. Heck, my dad got us a color Television just so we could enjoy Star Trek each and every Friday evening. At this point, I’m stuck on these new famous actors. In MHO, they have absolutely breathed life to their characters and made them their very own. I, for example, am looking forward to more.