Star Wars is enjoying more popularity than ever before. The Last Jedi has given us renewed faith in the franchise’s future, even as director Rian Johnson confirms he’ll be creating an entirely new Star Wars trilogy. And there’s an entire galaxy of spin-off movies heading our way.
Star Trek is also having a resurgence. Star Trek: Discovery has proven to be a hit series for CBS, and it looks like acclaimed director Quentin Tarentino is taking over the captain’s chair for the next Star Trek movie.
Because these franchises are different, many fans overlook how many things are similar between them. Some of these similarities are not an accident, either, as Star Wars has more than a few “homages”… or, if you’re feeling blunt, more than a few things ripped off from Star Trek.
Now, before the haters’ heads explode… we’re not saying that Star Trek was the first to come up with all of these ideas. But it was responsible for making the public aware of these ideas when the show debuted in the 1960s, and when its fame exploded due to 1970s reruns, Star Trek primed the pump for Star Wars‘ success.
Don’t believe us? Then come check out 15 Ways Star Wars ‘Ripped Off’ Star Trek!
15. Warp speed/hyperspace
Warp speed is a concept in Star Trek that is similar to phasers. That is, previous science fiction literature had featured vessels capable of moving faster than light, just as there had been previous references to lasers. However, Star Trek elevated the idea of “warp speed” firmly into the minds of the public, and its successful ’70s syndication helped make warp speed a famous concept.
Trek‘s depiction of warp speed was a clear predecessor to the portrayal of hyperspace in Star Wars. Obviously, both serve as an explanation for how characters travel long distances through space. Interestingly, both are known for the difficulty this travel causes ships: Scotty became famous for “giving it all she’s got, Captain,” while the oft-broken hyperdrive became a major plot point in Empire Strikes Back.
14. The Final Frontier
Star Trek famously showed our favorite crew exploring “the final frontier.” The original series of Trek really lived up to this idea: we see Kirk trying to cross barriers at the edge of the galaxy, for instance, and he often plays fast and loose with the Prime Directive. This is acceptable because, like Earth’s original frontier ex plorers, the Enterprise was typically outside of anyone’s jurisdiction or judgment.
Star Wars follows this example by setting much of the drama outside of civilization. Battles occur on places like Tattooine, Hoth, Endor – all of which are remote and normally outside of the Empire’s control. Thematically, it fits the characters well: just as Kirk is right at home on the boundaries of the galaxy, Luke Skywalker and friends fit right in on the scoundrel-filled fringes of known space.
13. Special Phasers
“Set your phasers to stun!” It’s impossible to hear this famous phrase and not think about Star Trek. Obviously, the idea of lasers that could stun or kill had been around in science fiction books and movies for years. However, Star Trek made the weapons and their effects famous on a global scale, and Star Wars quickly pays homage to Trek in its first movie.
Normally, Stormtroopers shoot to kill… or they would if they ever managed to hit anything. However, when they capture Princess Leia, they knock her out with a blue stun blast. The blue color for Star Trek‘s phasers had been well-established by then, and the prominent blue stun beam that knocks Leia out early in the movie is clearly biting Star Trek‘s style!
12. The Expanded Universe
Star Wars eventually came to have the most famous Expanded Universe of them all. A complex array of books, comics, games, and cartoons all gave us additional Star Wars stories and characters, helping the galaxy breathe and expand. However, none of this would have occurred without Star Trek.
Star Trek had books expanding its universe before the original show even left the air. In addition to official literature, fans created their own stories, creating some of the earliest fanfiction (and even giving us the term “Mary Sue”).
By the time Star Wars branched out into media to expand their own universe, Star Trek had spent over a decade illustrating that rabid fans were willing to buy new stories featuring their favorite characters.
11. The Deadly Damsel
When Star Wars debuted, Princess Leia was a standout character. Played by the late, great Carrie Fisher, Leia was notable because she was not just a damsel in distress. Despite being a princess needing to be rescued, she quickly establishes herself as a take-charge, blaster-wielding woman who is a natural leader.
Some Star Wars fans are convinced that Leia was unique in this way. However, Gene Roddenberry once again beat George Lucas to the punch. Star Trek was filled with strong female characters, including mainstays like Lt. Uhura and cameo characters like Orion women (who were actually as deadly as they were beautiful).
Interestingly, the first Trek pilot even featured a female character (known only as Number One, and played by Majel Barrett) as the second in command of the ship. NBC pushed back, thinking that the public wasn’t ready for such a powerful woman!
10. The Planet-Killing Super Weapon
The biggest threat when Star Wars debuted wasn’t the hulking form of Darth Vader. Rather, it was the Death Star, which was a giant vessel/station combo capable of destroying entire planets. This was treated by many fans like a relatively novel sci-fi concept, but it turns out to have been old hat by about ten years!
In Star Trek, Kirk and crew had to take on a weapon known only as the Planet Killer. It was a giant vessel that fueled itself by consuming planets. Obviously, it looked very different from the Death Star, but there’s an interesting similarity (besides the “destroys planets” thing): like the Death Star, this vessel could not be significantly damaged from the outside, and only a large explosion deep within its bowels was enough to take it out of commission!
9. The Space Cowboy
Han Solo might just be the most popular Star Wars character of all time. Much of this is due to the charming performance of Harrison Ford. The rest is due to the character: Han Solo is a cocky, swaggering space cowboy who lives by his own rules, lives for adventure, and is able to warm the heart of an iron-willed space princess.
To put it mildly, there’s a lot of Captain Kirk in Han Solo. While Kirk was nominally a military man, he became famous for throwing fists, disregarding directives he disagreed with, and romancing women from one end of the galaxy to the other.
8. Alien First Officer
Obviously, Chewbacca and Spock look very different. However, they serve the same narrative function. Specifically, each of them serves as an alien first officer for the human characters to play off of.
Chewbacca was played for laughs more than Spock, but much of the humor centers around how Wookiees perceive the world differently. This ranges from ripping opponents’ arms out to Chewie’s intense fear reaction when they first land in the trash compactor.
Spock was the protype for this: as a Vulcan, he saw many things very differently than his human colleagues. And for both Chewbacca and Spock, the human interactions with these characters helps expand the boundaries of these fictional worlds by placing an alien in the center of most of the action.
7. Space Wizards
The Jedi are at the corner of the Star Wars mythos. They are essentially space wizards, wielding powers, and abilities that most people don’t understand. We get glimpses of that in the very first movie, with characters dismissing The Force as “hokey religion” and “sorcerer’s ways.” Interestingly, the Jedi and their powers are an amalgamation of different Star Trek characters.
The Enterprise crew had a tendency to encounter the same kinds of beings. Characters like Charles Evans and Gary Mitchell represented humans who learned to wield powers that were like we’d see Jedi use, including moving things with their minds, performing mind tricks, seeing the future, and controlling energy.
These abilities scared the “normal” crew members, and the show used characters like Charles to underscore how important it was they learn to control them, lest they become evil (as happens to Vader in Star Wars).
There’s one fundamental aspect of Star Trek that Star Wars stole: the fans! Part of what made Trek exciting when it premiered was that there was not much in the way of high-quality sci-fi TV or movies. For science fiction fans, it was pretty much literature or bust, which is why Roddenberry went out of his way to hire veteran sci-fi novelists to write scripts for the show.
Interestingly, George Lucas himself is the first to admit that Star Trek helped Star Wars out in a major way. Lucas has admitted before that Star Wars stood on the shoulders of Star Trek. When Lucas finally met Gene Roddenberry, Lucas admitted that he’d stop drafting the Star Wars script every day to watch Star Trek.
5. Emphasis on Human Drama
Get any Film Studies professor drunk and they’ll let you in on a little secret: Star Wars isn’t really science fiction. There’s not really much special emphasis on technology or futurism; instead, Star Wars mostly comes down to the relationships (friends, family, lovers) between different characters. This is a large part of the charm of Star Wars, but it’s also something Trek did first!
While Star Trek‘s effects seemed revolutionary at the time, they didn’t have the budget to do everything Roddenberry wanted. Most Star Trek stories centered around human drama. For example, Kirk having to let his love, Edith Keeler, die to save the future is not presented as a cold time-travel story; instead, it’s a human story to how we react to grief in the face of impossible decisions. You can see that mirrored in Star Wars with the way that grief shapes the lives of many heroes.
4. Freudian Ship
While Star Trek had a large crew of main characters, most of the action focused on Kirk, Spock, and McCoy. Over the years, shrewd viewers noticed that they aligned with Sigmund Freud’s division of the human brain. Freud argued our brains have the id (the part of us that represents passion and desire), ego (the super rational part of us), and the superego (the part of us that mediates id and ego and figures out what we can and can’t do).
Obviously, McCoy is id, Spock is ego, and Kirk is superego. However, this same template basically applies to Han, Leia, and Luke. Han is all id, primarily concerned with what he wants. Leia is all rational ego, trying to find what’s best for the Rebellion. And Luke (aided by the Force) is able to intuitively figure out what needs to be done, serving as the superego.
3. Desert planets on the cheap
Star Wars has had many iconic locations, but Tattooine is definitely the most famous. This is the desert planet that brought us Luke Skywalker, and it’s where we see Luke meet a wild assortment of alien beings. It’s also not a very original idea!
Star Trek often featured desert-like planets. The most famous example is in the episode “Arena”, in which Kirk fought against an alien lizard monster known as a Gorn. This was actually filmed in California as a way of saving money and making viewers think they were transported far, far away.
For the first Star Wars movie, George Lucas did the same thing by shooting in Tunisia— it saved him a lot of money and wasn’t that far away from England, where much of the rest of the movie was shot. At this point, the viewing public was ready to believe that deserts were alien planets thanks to Star Trek!
2. Depiction of Large Empires
Star Wars has always been a bit of a paradox. On one hand, it represents an advanced universe of lasers, spaceships, and interplanetary exploration. At the same time, the governments that we see are remarkably old-fashioned, even by our standards. The Old Republic is based on the government of ancient Rome, right down to eventually being replaced by an Empire led by a single individual. Later, the First Order’s iconography and speeches by General Hux are clearly meant to be reminiscent of Nazi Germany.
While interesting, this was also nothing new in sci-fi. In fact, it was a regular motif on Star Trek for the crew of the Enterprise to find planets that were based on antiquated governments, right down to planets based on Ancient Rome and Nazi Germany. If Kirk and Crew had never visited these planets, the Old Republic, Empire, and First Order may have looked very different!
1. Cartoon Expansion
Perhaps the most unexpected thing that Star Wars copied from Star Trek was the expansion to cartoons. After the regular show was canceled, Star Trek enjoyed a brief revival of the franchise via an animated series. This show continued the adventures of our favorite characters while introducing new characters, planets, and ships to this universe.
Star Wars copied this early on via the animated segment in the terrible Holiday Special. This animated segment gave us our first onscreen look at Boba Fett. Star Wars would later expand to cartoons such as Droids, but it really hit its stride with the Clone Wars cartoon and the sequel series, Star Wars Rebels.
Now, the sheer amount of Star Wars cartoons vastly outweighs the runtime of the movies, but none of it may have happened if not for Trek boldly going into the animated world.
Did we miss anything from Star Trek that inspire by Star Wars? Beam over to our comments!
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