Is there a more bitter rivalry in all of geekdom than that between fans of Star Wars and Star Trek? The two space fantasy franchises have been compared and contrasted since their inception, mainly due to the fact that they’re the two biggest sci-fi properties of their kind in the world — that and they both have “star” in their name. Fans of Star Wars love the iconic characters, the epic fantasy and the memorable catchphrases, while Trekkers love the basis in real science, the awesome ships and the depiction of a better world. Star Trek lovers would argue their characters are just as iconic, while Star Wars fans only have to point to the Millennium Falcon for awesome ships.
Are the franchises really that comparable though? After all, one depicts a near utopian society reaching out with hand outstretched, exploring the galaxy in peace, whereas the other depicts a fascist Empire crushing the galaxy under its boot-heel, and the unlikely rebellion fighting back against their oppressors. There’s no denying the influence they’ve had on each other over the years, but what happens when that influence crosses the line?
16. STAR WARS STOLE DESERT PLANETS FROM STAR TREK
It’s no secret that science-fiction and fantasy can be the most expensive genre to produce. All those space battles and strange new worlds can eat into the budget, so it makes sense to try and cut corners wherever possible. In the ‘60s, Star Trek — like all sci-fi shows at the time — used all manner of tricks and shortcuts to ensure its episodes came in on time and under budget. One of the more recognizable — and unintentionally iconic — methods was utilizing the desert as a rugged, unforgiving alien landscape.
Fast forward 10 years and George Lucas is creating Star Wars on the strictest of budgets. With only $11 million, the visionary director had to cut corners wherever possible. What better way than to “borrow” an idea from Star Trek, and film in the desert? With that, the equally iconic Tatooine was born.
15. STAR TREK STOLE MASSIVE SPACE BATTLES FROM STAR WARS
There’s no denying that the majority of Star Trek’s history, being primarily a television show, is plagued by budgetary concerns. While Star Wars went from strength to strength with every new release, Trek always had to discover new ways to explore the galaxy without spending too much money.
Star Wars, however, is its biggest genre rival, and to even compete, you’ve got to keep up. That’s why, thanks to the epic space battles and galactic conflicts seen in Star Wars, you’ll notice a marked swing towards that in Star Trek. The new movies especially carry over an aesthetic that was heavily influenced by director JJ Abrams and his love of Star Wars growing up. There’s even a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameo from R2-D2 in the aftermath of a major Starfleet battle in his 2009 Star Trek movie.
14. STAR WARS STOLE J.J. ABRAMS FROM STAR TREK
When JJ Abrams signed on for a new Star Trek movie — released seven years after the final Next Generation effort, Nemesis, in 2002 — he added a weight and validity to the reboot. Star Trek fans are unforgiving, so it’s a testament to the quality of his 2009 movie — that saw him recast and reimagine the most treasured adventures of Kirk, Spock and the team — that it was so well received.
In fact, its success was potentially what caused him to defect to the Dark Side, and sign on to direct the new Star Wars movie rather than continue with Star Trek. The Force Awakens was the biggest movie of 2015 and reinvigorated Star Wars for a whole new generation of fans. Still, for Star Trek fans, that’s got to sting.
13. STAR TREK STOLE FANS FROM STAR WARS
While it’s true that Star Wars potentially wouldn’t have existed without Star Trek paving the way, there’s absolutely no denying that the reverse is also true. The original series Star Trek was cancelled after three seasons in 1969, but thanks to the success and reinvigorated popularity of the science fiction genre — thanks in no small part to the release of Star Wars in 1977 — Trek was able to rise from the grave with Star Trek: The Motion Picture just two years later.
Since then, the genre has never looked back. Star Wars has produced eight movies so far, as well as a global empire (pun intended) of merchandising and spin-offs, and Star Trek has had no fewer than 13 movies, and now seven television series under its belt, Discovery bringing the franchise right up to date.
12. STAR WARS STOLE PHASERS FROM STAR TREK
It’s a fairly common sci-fi trope nowadays: in the enlightened far-flung future, civilization has evolved beyond the barbaric method of firing chunks of lead at each other; instead, we kill each other with futuristic lasers! For Star Trek, it was a family-friendly way of capturing that action-packed wild-west violence without actually using guns, and now the “phaser” is as much a part of Star Trek as Tractor Beams and Transporters.
If you consider the iconic weapons in Star Wars, there’s only one that springs to mind: the lightsaber. While the idea is the same — a family-friendly alternative to a real weapon — it’s confined, for the most part, to the Jedi characters. Anyone not a Jedi (or a Sith) is stuck with what is referred to in this universe as blasters, but what are blasters if not phasers without a stun setting?
11. STAR TREK STOLE GALACTIC EMPIRES FROM STAR WARS
The biggest difference between Star Wars and Star Trek is the almost utopian ideals of humanity upheld by Starfleet, compared to the oppressive, empirical reign of Darth Sidious. Star Trek wasn’t without its share of despots and gods that act like children, but it had never seen galactic conflict quite like that faced by Luke, Leia, Han and the rest of the rebellion.
When Star Trek: Deep Space Nine first aired in 1993, it was already a vastly different show to its predecessors, by not being set on a Federation starship tasked with exploring the galaxy, but set on a space station, charged with upholding the peace in a fragile sector of space. That peace was shattered with the arrival of the Dominion, and the galaxy was at war in new, scary ways, and the stories that emerged from that conflict were more than a little influenced by Star Wars.
10. STAR WARS STOLE CIVILIZATION FROM STAR TREK
The great thing about science-fiction is its allegorical approach to real-world situations. Politics, religion and history are all focused through the lens of futuristic fantasy and the result is a metaphorical lesson for our own lives. For all their differences, both Star Wars and Star Trek count the same historical inspiration amongst their many similarities.
The rise and fall of Ancient Rome is a classic lesson in the evolution and ultimate implosion of a civilization. While it’s easy to see that Star Wars took quite a literal influence in its depiction of a Galactic Republic converted into an Empire by the lust for power of one influential man, Star Trek beat them to it, in numerous episodes of the original series, most notably in the episode “Bread and Circuses.”
9. STAR TREK STOLE ACTION FROM STAR WARS
Visionary director JJ Abrams wears his influences on his sleeve. Cloverfield leans heavily into the tropes of classic monster movies like Godzilla and King Kong, while Super 8 is a love letter to the seminal works of Steven Spielberg. When hired to direct a brand new relaunch of Star Trek, however, there was only one franchise to turn to. You guessed it, Star Wars!
Abrams isn’t shy about his love of Star Wars, so it’s unsurprising he was seduced away from Trek in favour of The Force Awakens, but his 2009 Star Trek movie (and to a lesser extent his 2009 sequel Into Darkness) grew a lot of ire from lifelong fans who thought that the action-oriented, flashy CGI of his movie betrayed the science-based, nuanced emotional core of Star Trek. It’s clear that his Trek movies were merely primers for his transition to Star Wars just two years later.
8. STAR WARS STOLE WARP SPEED FROM STAR TREK
When it comes to genre tropes, there’s nothing more essential to a good sci-fi than the ability to travel at faster-than-light speeds. Sure, you could go down the route of the Alien franchise and have everyone hop into cryo-sleep for a couple dozen years, but if you want high-speed action, you need a warp drive.
Of course, the realities of traveling faster than the speed of light are rarely explored in fiction. The time displacement alone would send you hundreds of years into the past or future from where you wanted to be. Star Trek never let a silly thing like reality ever slow it down, though, and it’s the franchise’s simple solution to getting around that which Star Wars lifted almost entirely. It’s not called “Warp Speed” in Star Wars, but even the effect of jumping into FTL travel looks the same.
7. STAR TREK STOLE ALIEN BARS FROM STAR WARS
“You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy.” This iconic line, delivered by Alec Guinness’ Obi Wan in the original Star Wars movie, A New Hope, described something equally iconic: Mos Eisley Spaceport. Never before had such a place existed on screen, and its grimy aesthetic and diverse menagerie of alien creatures felt real in a way that contrasted with the types of spaceport seen on Star Trek.
The clean lines and minimalist style of its space stations were galaxies away from the Mos Eisley cantina, but as the show evolved into the ‘90s, Deep Space Nine set itself at the very edge of Federation space, and this frontier-town approach led to Quark’s Bar. The Ferengi-run bar was instantly reminiscent of Mos Eisley, where you’re as likely to get your throat cut as quenched. At least Quark’s has Security Chief Odo to keep a watchful eye on it.
6. STAR WARS STOLE “THE FINAL FRONTIER” FROM STAR TREK
It’s a concept explored pretty explicitly in Joss Whedon’s Firefly, this idea of space, quite literally, being the Final Frontier. Star Trek was originally pitched as “Wagon train to the stars” after all, so it’s no surprise that the show leaned into that idea of maverick lawmen fighting against the natives in a strange new land.
By now it feels like a tired concept, but the analogy perfectly suits Star Trek. They are out there charting the (strange) new worlds, after all. However, a closer look at Star Wars and you’ll notice that sentiment is there, too. Tatooine is absolutely a Wild West town, with Mos Eisley providing the roughneck’s bar, complete with scoundrels and unnecessarily upbeat music. Star Wars frequently shows us the dangerous frontier and that aesthetic is purely thanks to Star Trek.
5. STAR TREK STOLE REBELLION FROM STAR WARS
In many ways, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine took the franchise in a direction that was never explored before, and hasn’t been since. It’s darker world of war, death and the thin line between good and evil was a far cry from the colorful world of Kirk and Spock. Its depiction of the galactic conflict between the Federation and the Dominion seemed influenced by Star Wars in multiple ways, but it’s not the only area of the series in which parallels can be drawn.
The show begins with an uneasy alliance with the Cardassians, themselves a ruthless, oppressive empire. This alliance led to many Federation planets being annexed to the Cardassians as part of border negotiations, which displaced thousands of lives. A rebellion grew from these worlds, one made up of a scrappy bunch of wannabe heroes fighting against the will of an overwhelmingly large empire. Sound familiar?
4. STAR WARS STOLE THE EXPANDED UNIVERSE FROM STAR TREK
When something is good, you want more of it, and when geeks love something, we definitely want as much as we can. It’s for this reason that both Star Trek and Star Wars have such a rich expanded universe in other media. The core of most expanded universes is prose fiction, and Star Trek paved the way for the EU novels scene since nearly the beginning — the first book was published in 1967.
While it’s obvious these days that, for a franchise to succeed, you have to stretch out to all forms of media (books, comics, games, toys), this sort of global phenomenon wasn’t as common upon the release of Star Wars. By that point, however, Star Trek had been publishing expanded universe fiction for close to 10 years, so for Star Wars there was already proof that there was a market hungry for more.
3. STAR TREK STOLE SHIP DESIGN FROM STAR TREK
As computer-generated effects evolve over time, the look and feel of science fiction will always change and grow. For the longest time, though, models were used for the various ships of both Star Trek and Star Wars to capture the magic in ways that couldn’t be achieved otherwise.
Star Trek’s iconic Enterprise, with its clean lines, bold retro-futurism and the oddly fragile look is as stylish as it is unique, and a far cry from the grimy, beat-up realism of the Millennium Falcon. Han Solo’s (equally iconic) ship looks designed not for style, but to straight up get the job done. The gritty design of all the Star Wars ships adds a realism to the fantasy, which is probably why you’ll notice a marked shift in that direction for Star Trek after the arrival of Star Wars.
2. STAR WARS STOLE A MAINSTREAM AUDIENCE FROM STAR TREK
Let’s not beat around the bush: Star Trek and Star Wars have come to have a sort of symbiotic relationship when it comes to who influences whom. While we can see the evidence of each franchise in its rival, one thing is for certain: Star Trek not only directly influenced George Lucas as he sat down to pen that very first script, but as an entity, it was proof that the market was ready for a blockbuster space opera.
Star Trek had ended nearly seven years prior to the release of the first Star Wars movie, but there hadn’t been anything like it before or since, either on television or in the movies. Star Trek brought smart, adult space fantasy into the mainstream, and if not for them blazing the trail, Star Wars may not have ignited in people’s imaginations.
1. STAR TREK STOLE ALIEN DESIGN FROM STAR WARS
Much like the evolution of every aspect of design in science fiction, alien prosthetics grew and changed and diversified as the technology to produce them was developed. Even so, the world portrayed by Star Trek was a far cry from that of its big-screen cousin. Again, the budget is clearly an issue, which is why so very many Star Trek “aliens” look entirely human except for the bridge of their nose.
There’s no denying, however, that the look of the later Star Trek movies, even down to the more recent efforts, have attempted to diversify its aliens in ways that look more like the uniquely absurd creatures seen in the Star Wars galaxy. Even Quark’s bar is full of a greater diversity thanks to Lucas’ vision, all of which add a much-needed depth and “realism” in a way that no funny nose-prosthetic ever could.
Can you think of any other time Trek or Wars ripped the Stars from each other’s skies? Let us know in the comments!
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