Sci-fi fans are divided on which is better: Star Trek or Star Wars? They’re both huge franchises with movies, TV shows, books, video games, toys, and comic books all revolving around adventures in space and battles between alien forces. But other than those vague similarities, they are completely different stories about completely different characters.
The truth is that there really is no definitive answer in the debate over which is better. There are some things that Star Wars does better than Star Trek and some things Star Trek does better than Star Wars. Here are 10 Things Star Trek Does Better Than Star Wars.
The science in Star Trek is far better laid out than the science in Star Wars, because the limitations have been set from the beginning. In each Star Wars movie, something new can be done with the established technology that couldn’t before. Nothing about how the Death Star or the Star Destroyers or the Millennium Falcon work is fully explained, and we learn new things about them all the time.
Meanwhile, the Holodeck is fully fleshed out. Communicators were actually invented a few decades after The Original Series aired (they’re cell phones). Transporters don’t always work and often lead to “transporter accidents,” which makes them feel more real, and a teleportation device like them will be invented for real by the end of this century, according to physicist Michio Kaku. Star Trek does science far better than Star Wars.
The moral compass of Star Trek is a lot stronger than that of Star Wars. In Star Wars, Anakin Skywalker is totally redeemed and remembered as a hero just because he saved his son’s life at the last second, while all the genocides and war crimes he was responsible for as Darth Vader are simply swept under the rug.
Meanwhile, Star Trek studies these issues in much more depth. The captain’s logic is sometimes questioned by the crew; the power structure is more democratic in Star Trek, whereas Star Wars is about a royal family placed in power merely due to their regal bloodline.
While Carrie Fisher did her best to fix the dialogue in George Lucas’ Star Wars scripts on the set during filming, it still came off as wooden and ham-fisted. Neither franchise is going for dialogue that accurately represents how real people talk to one another, since both are set in a heightened reality.
However, Star Trek’s dialogue flows a lot better than Star Wars’ dialogue and it hits the ear in a more satisfying way. And yet, Star Trek also has its fair share of catchphrases and universally applicable quotes: “Live long and prosper,” “Beam me up, Scotty,” “To boldly go...” etc.
While J.J. Abrams abandoned his Star Trek series to join the Star Wars saga, his contributions to Trek were much better. He remained true to the characters and style of The Original Series, while also modernizing them. He also modernized the look of the show, staying true to the iconic set designs while making it look and feel like a slick, big-budget 21st century blockbuster.
Abrams’s Star Trek movies made bold choices with tone and story and parallel universes, while still being faithful to classic Trek mythology. Plus, his lens flares were more suited to Trek than Wars. On the other hand, his Star Wars movie values nostalgia over anything else, so we’re left with a kind of soft remake of A New Hope full of call-backs. Time will tell if Episode IX is an improvement over The Force Awakens, but after the mess of The Last Jedi, it’s unlikely.
While Star Wars is entirely made-up, Star Trek is at least grounded in some reality. The Original Series premiered in 1966, right between the landmarks of the first person going to space and the Moon landing. As far as anyone was concerned, the future was all about space travel.
The wild sci-fi concepts of Forbidden Planet were quickly becoming a reality, so Gene Roddenberry set out to create a sci-fi series that was as grounded in reality – or “future reality” – as possible, and the result is startlingly effective. Roddenberry told stories about people visiting far-off planets in the distant future in a way that felt real.
The romantic storylines in Star Trek are a lot stronger than the ones in Star Wars. In Star Wars, the only romance that has ever worked is Han and Leia’s, and even that is built on unrealistic emotions. The Padme/Anakin romantic plot from the prequel trilogy is infamously and interminably boring.
Meanwhile, Star Trek has had a number of great romances over the years: Captain Kirk and Edith Keeler, Captain Picard and Nella Daren, Will Riker and Deanna Troi. The love lives of Kirk and Picard are far more complex than those of anyone in the Star Wars universe. Plus, the relationship between Spock and Uhura has been beautifully drawn in the reboot trilogy.
Don’t get me wrong, Darth Vader is possibly the greatest villain ever created. But on the whole, Star Trek has more great villains than Star Wars. Besides Vader, the only other great villains in the Star Wars saga are Darth Maul and General Grievous, who lack depth and are simply beloved for their cool aesthetic, and Emperor Palpatine.
The list of great Star Trek villains is endless: Khan, Q, the Borg, the Dominion, the Klingons, the Romulans, the Doomsday Machine, the characters from the Mirror Universe. The villains of Star Trek have depth and real motivations in addition to looking cool.
The Star Trek franchise is way more diverse than the Star Wars franchise. Star Trek: The Original Series had three women in its main cast, including a black woman, and a gay Asian man.
Star Wars, meanwhile, is about a bunch of white men trying to save a white woman who’s been captured by white men. There’s one black character in each trilogy. The new Disney movies have fixed this with a woman, a black man, and a Hispanic man playing the main characters. But even then, the Star Wars franchise has only been that diverse since 2015, while the Star Trek franchise has been that diverse since 1966.
The dynamic of Kirk and Spock that is central to what Star Trek is built on is greater than the character dynamics in Star Wars. Kirk thinks and acts out of emotion, while Spock thinks and acts out of logic. This makes them both best friends and strong adversaries.
The emotion vs. logic angle has been used beautifully to create drama in Star Trek, like Spock’s sacrifice at the end of The Wrath of Khan that Kirk never would’ve allowed. The character dynamics in Star Wars, on the other hand, are generally spiritual vs. skeptic, Force believers vs. non-Force believers, and it’s not as effective.
Star Trek: The Original Series aired in the 1960s, at the same time as The Twilight Zone, and it had the same striking sociopolitical overtones as Rod Serling’s classic anthology series. Star Wars movies have never had any overall social themes or made any points about our society. They’re pure escapism.
Meanwhile, Gene Roddenberry was using a distant future outer space setting to tell stories about our world. Episodes of Star Trek tackled current issues like racism, sexism, nationalism, war, and the establishment. Those stories have so much more meaning that the ones set in a complete fantasy land in a galaxy far, far away.