In honor of our Star Trek Movie Marathon and May the 4th celebrations everywhere, please enjoy this excerpt of Star Wars vs. Star Trek by Matt Forbeck, out from Adams Media. Read on as he pits starship captains against smugglers, Jedi against Starfleet commanders, to see who will come out on top. Don’t miss our signed copy giveaway going on right now!
Men—Masters of the Universe
The men of Star Wars and Star Trek form the bulk of the heroes of both series. That’s partly because each series was created in the sixties and seventies, back when the women’s rights movement was just cresting, and part of it is due to the fact that the vast majority of people who consume science fiction—whether in film, book, comic, or game form—are young men. While more women and girls devour science fiction today than ever before, it’s still a field that boys and men dominate.
Despite that, both Star Wars and Star Trek did a lot to step outside of what their original audiences expected from them. Setting stories in a distant future (or a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away) forces a narrative distance between the viewer and the story. Filling that distance with fictional years allows viewers to be a lot more open minded and forgiving about strange new things (planets, civilizations, girls) than they might otherwise tolerate. That’s why the first interracial kiss ever shown on a U.S. television drama appeared on an episode of Star Trek—between Captain Kirk and Lieutenant Uhura. Even then, though, the two of them had to be telekinetically forced into locking lips.
The guys of Star Wars run the gamut from swashbuckling pulp heroes to yearning farm boys to wise teachers. The men of Star Trek, on the other hand, tend to be a bit more reserved, scholars rather than scoundrels, people sent out to explore the galaxy, not exploit it.
To figure out which of these people are the best at what they do, we’re going to pluck pairs of them from specific points in their times and pit them against each other.
The Wise Old Men: Ben Kenobi Vs. Captain Picard
With age comes wisdom, or so we should all be fortunate enough to discover if we’re lucky enough to live that long. Before the older men take their final voyage to the Undiscovered Country, they hope to bequeath a bit of knowledge to the heroes slated to take their places. Let’s take a couple of these wise men and pit them against each other to see how well they manage.
Occupation: Crazy old wizard
Datapoint: Actor Alec Guiness (Obi-Wan Kenobi) celebrated his sixty-second birthday while filming Star Wars: A New Hope in Tunisia/Tatooine.
Snapshot: Obi-Wan Kenobi, as he was once known, has been hiding out on Tatooine for the past nineteen years, watching over Luke Skywalker from a distance. He’s led a solitary life, keeping himself and Luke secret from the Empire for that entire time. He appears to have succeeded, despite the fact that placing Darth Vader’s infant son with Vader’s own half-brother might have seemed a too-obvious hiding place. Kenobi’s ward doesn’t know him well at all, but Obi-Wan believes the boy will come through for him in the end. He holds on to that belief because he doesn’t have much else left.
Captain Jean-Luc Picard
Occupation: Starship captain
Datapoint: Actor Patrick Stewart (Captain Picard) was forty-seven when he took command of the Enterprise in the Star Trek: The Next Generation pilot episode “Encounter at Farpoint.”
Snapshot: When Picard assumes command of the starship designated NCC-1701-D, he takes on a new challenge with a fresh crew in the latest model of the Enterprise, the previous versions of which were all destroyed. Despite that unfortunate streak and his untested crew running a ship filled with 1,014 souls—including hundreds of civilians—Picard seems confident in his ability to mold his officers into the finest bridge crew in Starfleet. His primary protégé is Commander Will Riker, a career officer who serves as his second-in-command.
Kenobi enters Ten Forward, the first known bar on any of Star Trek’s Enterprises, and asks around for a fast ship. Data states that the Enterprise maxes out at just shy of Warp 10, but that doesn’t mean anything to a man used to blasting his way through hyperspace.
“In how many parsecs can she do the Kessel Run?” Obi-Wan asks.
While Data tries to explain that a parsec is a unit of distance, not time, Picard comes in to confront the intruder. Kenobi waves a hand at Picard and then points to Data. He says, “That’s the droid you’re looking for.”
The strong-willed Picard ignores the Jedi mind trick and summons security to deal with the situation. Kenobi offers to buy Picard a drink, but this gesture means nothing at a bar at which the drinks are all free. It all goes bad when Lieutenant Worf puts a hand on Kenobi. Ben’s lightsaber leaps out, and Worf loses an arm.
Picard calls for the ship’s computer to wall off the part of the bar that Kenobi’s in with a force field. Stumped for a moment, Kenobi slices through the floor instead and disappears into the lower levels of the ship.
Result: Draw—for now.
Next: The Rash Young Men…
The Rash Young Men: Luke Skywalker vs. Commander Riker
Most science fiction shows feature a rash young man the fans can identify with. He’s often the viewpoint character for much of the shows or films that include him, and he tends to have a mentor he’s destined to supplant, affirming the natural order of things—or at least the status quo.
Occupation: Farm boy yearning to see the galaxy
Datapoint: Mark Hamill first stepped into the role of Luke Skywalker in Star Wars: A New Hope at the age of twenty-five.
Snapshot: Luke is a whiny kid who’s been itching for years to leave his sandy home of Tatooine behind. When the aunt and uncle who raised him are killed, he decides it’s time to finally grow a pair and strike out to find his destiny. Despite the fact that he’s possibly the most powerful Jedi since his father, he has almost zero training and is more likely to hurt himself with his father’s lightsaber than save the galax
Commander William Riker
Occupation: Starship first mate—sorry, “officer”
Datapoint: Jonathan Frakes, who played Commander Riker in Star Trek: The Next Generation, is eleven months younger than Mark Hamill.
Snapshot: When he accepts his commission as Captain Picard’s first officer on the newly christened Enterprise-D, Riker is a young man going places fast, and he’s just hit his peak. He turned down his own command so that he could serve under Picard on the Enterprise, apparently not realizing or caring that that would mean he’d have to wait for Picard to either retire or die until he had another chance at his own ship.
Commander Riker beams down to Mos Eisley for a bit of R&R and is delighted to discover he’s stumbled into a wretched hive of scum and villainy. While he’s boozing it up at an unnamed cantina, a young farm boy bumps into him and spills his drink all over Riker’s freshly pressed uniform. When Riker insists that Luke apologize and bring him a new drink, Luke panics. He gave all his money, including the title to his landspeeder, to Obi-Wan Kenobi and can’t find the old man anywhere.
Still unwise in the ways of the Force and never having done more than wave his hand-me-down lightsaber back and forth, Luke goes for his blaster rather than his blade. As a trained combatant, Riker stops Luke cold, strips him of his weapon, and tosses it aside.
Unwilling to surrender, Luke attacks Riker, but the older, better-trained man knocks the farm boy flat. Afterward, Riker dusts off his hands, winks at a bug-eyed alien he assumes is female, and orders another round for himself and the young man on the floor.
Result: Riker delivers a commanding win for Star Trek.
Next: The Scoundrels…
The Scoundrels: Han Solo vs. Captain James T. Kirk
Not every leader goes by the rules. Some, instead, run their ship by the seat of their pants, relying on their skill, ingenuity, and sheer dumb luck. These are people who are only too happy to bluff, cheat, or lie their way through a problem when no other way will work. Only when those options have been exhausted do they resort to weapons—or fists.
Datapoint: Han was the star of one of the first series of Star Wars novels, beginning with 1979’s Han Solo at Stars’ End by Brian Daley.
Snapshot: Han Solo is a professional smuggler with a long history of avoiding any Imperial entanglements. Along with his copilot, Chewbacca, who owes Han a life-debt, he’s modified his ship, the Millennium Falcon, until it’s become the fastest freighter in the galaxy. Solo’s seen a lot in his day, and the first thing he’s learned is that rules are for suckers when the Empire’s writing the rulebook. Recently, Jabba the Hutt placed a price on Solo’s head for dumping his precious cargo rather than being arrested by the Empire, making Solo desperate to make enough cash to save his skin.
Occupation: Starship captain
Datapoint: James T. Kirk was born on March 22, 2233, in Riverside, Iowa.
Snapshot: When James T. Kirk takes over the Enterprise from its previous captain (Pike), he’s a tender thirty-one years old, the youngest person to ever be given command of a Federation starship, not to mention a vessel as large and important as the Constitution-class heavy cruiser USS Enterprise. Having proved himself a top student at Starfleet Academy, he accelerated through Starfleet’s ranks by a combination of smarts, skill, and sheer inventiveness, along with his refusal ever to admit defeat.
Cocky doesn’t begin to describe his level of self-confidence.
Captain Kirk meets Han Solo in Docking Bay 94 of the Mos Eisley spaceport. Solo and Chewbacca have been going over the Millennium Falcon, making sure it’s ready for a quick getaway. They know that Jabba has a price on their heads, so they’re nervous about strangers wearing uniforms.
Kirk knows a smuggler when he sees one. He enters the bay with an away team of red shirts ready to back his play. Solo sees them and sends Chewie into the ship while he parlays with Kirk.
Under other circumstances, Kirk and Solo might hit it off, but Kirk’s away team is twitchy, and Solo’s suspicious of anything in a uniform, even if he doesn’t recognize it. As soon as the red shirts raise their phasers, Solo leaps to the side, and Chewie opens up with the Falcon’s belly gun.
Kirk manages to dodge the blasts, but the red shirts get mowed down. In the chaos, Solo dashes into the ship before Kirk can retaliate, and a moment later the Millennium Falcon races away, leaving Kirk scowling up after it.
Result: Solo edges out Kirk here, though he doesn’t beat Kirk so much as evade him. If we’re talking about the Special Edition version of Solo, Kirk might be able to take him out, but real fans stick with the original version in which Solo would win—because Han shoots first.
Next: Earlier Legends…
Earlier Legends: Qui-Gon Jinn vs. Jonathan Archer
Before they became the kinds of legends whose stories are bandied about the entire galaxy, every leading man had to start somewhere. Every story has a beginning. Some even have prequels, and some of those prequels have heroes of their own.
These men served as mentors to or heroes of the people in the original tales. They helped form the original stories, even if they never appeared in them or were only mentioned in passing, but they have stories of their own that deserve to be heard too.
Occupation: Jedi Master
Datapoint: Fans first encountered Qui-Gon in the movie Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, which premiered on May 19, 1999.
Snapshot: Qui-Gon isn’t your Jedi’s Jedi. Though a powerful and influential man, he’s a loose cannon who encourages his padawan (student) Obi-Wan Kenobi to trust his instincts rather than remove all emotion from his life. He could have been part of the Jedi Council, but he clearly wouldn’t want to be a part of any club that would have him.
Occupation: Starship captain
Datapoint: Archer took command in the Star Trek: Enterprise pilot episode “Broken Bow,” which first aired on September 26, 2001.
Snapshot: Archer is already a legend when he’s made the captain of the first starship capable of reaching Warp 5, the Enterprise (NX-01). As a test pilot, he’s dreamed of exploring space for years, and now he finally has his chance. He’s not going to let anything stop him.
Nothing ever has.
Archer encounters Qui-Gon while exploring Naboo, and the Jedi immediately takes Archer and his ship to be minions of the Trade Federation, there to capture or kill Queen Amidala. He draws his lightsaber to warn Archer off, but the Federation captain doesn’t scare so easily. He draws his phaser and fires. Qui-Gon deflects the phaser beam with his lightsaber. It takes him a moment to realize it’s a beam rather than a bolt, but that doesn’t fool him into lowering his guard. Instead, he angles his lightsaber to reflect the beam back at Archer. Anticipating this, Archer lets his finger off the trigger and dodges away. Even Archer can’t outrun a beam of nadion particles traveling at the speed of light, though, and the beam catches him and knocks him unconscious. Good thing he had it set on stun.
Result: Qui-Gon delivers a stunning victory.
Next: Seasoned Veterans…
Seasoned Veterans: Anakin Skywalker Vs. Benjamin Sisko
There’s a moment in time when a man has already come of age but he’s not ready to be shuffled off to the old “heroes” home (or a teaching job at the Jedi Academy or Starfleet Academy) quite yet. He’s in his prime and is ready for any kind of challenge, whether he knows it or not. The specter of his ultimate destiny still looms far off, and he can ignore that for now and do his best to be the hero he once was, and hopes he can be again.
Occupation: Jedi Knight
Datapoint: A total of four actors: Hayden Christensen, Jake Lloyd, Sebastian Shaw, and Matt Lanter have played Anakin Skywalker (not counting his Darth Vader years).
Snapshot: Having served as Obi-Wan Kenobi’s padawan, Skywalker is a full-on Jedi Knight who’s already become a hero of the Republic. He’s struggling to master his emotions, though, as his frustrations with the galaxy around him mount.
Occupation: Starfleet commander
Datapoint: Actor Avery Brooks, who portrayed Sisko in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, was born in Evansville, Indiana, in 1948.
Snapshot: As the recently appointed commander of a space station inherited from the Cardassians, Sisko’s head whirls with cataloging and analyzing the various factions vying for fortune, power, or freedom in the newly discovered Gamma Quadrant. He considered resigning from Starfleet instead of taking this job, but instead he’s learning to come to terms with his wife’s death at the hands of the Borg, his status as a single father, and the puzzling fact that he might just be the Emissary of the Prophets—godlike aliens that live in the Bajoran wormhole.
Anakin arrives on Deep Space Nine on a mission the Jedi Council assigned to him. He doesn’t understand it, and the fact that the elder Jedi consistently keep him in the dark grates on his nerves. He growls enough at the service in Quark’s Bar that Quark calls Sisko down to “greet” the newcomer.
When Sisko arrives, Skywalker has Quark by the ear and is accusing him of trying to rip him off. “You’re worse than the filthy Jawas!” he says to the agonized Ferengi.
Sisko walks in and orders Skywalker: “Take your hands off that Ferengi!”
Skywalker’s hand goes to his lightsaber, but he doesn’t draw it yet. “I’m tired of taking orders,” he says.
“Fine,” Sisko replies, putting up his hands. “Then let me order you—a drink.” He gestures for Quark to bring a bottle of Romulan ale.
Skywalker accepts the gesture grudgingly and sips the potent drink. Not wishing to show weakness, he forces himself to drain his glass. A moment later, he collapses to the floor, drugged asleep.
“You know that stuff’s illegal,” says Quark.
“So what did you really feed him?” says Sisko.
Quark rubs his bruised ear. “Enough tranquilizers to keep him out for a week.”
Result: Chalk up a win for Sisko, who used his head when Anakin led with his battered heart.
Both sagas get off to a solid start here, which isn’t much of a surprise. They both have fantastic leading men, after all. At the end of Chapter 1, it’s a solid tie.
Star Wars vs. Star Trek © copyright 2011 Matt Forbeck