best and worst things about Star Trek. It got me thinking about that series, and also, of course, Star Wars. I'm not a Trekky. I fondly remember the first series, way back in the late 60's, but the increasingly silly plots starring Captain Kirk and the Roman goddesses etc put me off. I've seen a few of the movies, but never got sucked back into the TV series.
Star Wars was a whole nother proposition altogether. I thoroughly enjoyed Star Wars: A New Hope back in '77, fell in love with The Empire Strikes Back, and although Return of the Jedi didn't grab me to the same extent, I was sad when the series finished. Sad enough to embrace Timothy Zahn's Thrawn trilogy when it appeared. I saw all three prequel movies several times. Because... well... it's Star Wars. (Yes, I know they were bad) And I'm hangin' out for episode VII.
So why Star Wars (SW) and not Star Trek (ST)?
There's no doubt Trek is science fiction. The science has always been better in ST than SW, and I am a hard SF fan. I will happily accept that SW is space opera and that it has more than a dollop of magic (the Force). Take it down to the bare roots and it's a classic fairytale, complete with black-clad villain, a beautiful princess, the wise old wizard, a world-weary paladin and a kid with a destiny. Ho hum, seen it all before? Maybe. There were a few smart little variations, though. The Imperial soldiers wear white armour, the princess isn't exactly the shy, retiring type, and there are aliens - non-humanoid, interesting aliens. Then it turns out the REAL villain isn't the guy in the death mask, it's the puppeteer pulling the strings.
And special effects.
George Lucas spent a lot of money on special effects back in the days when it wasn't all done by a roomful of coke-fueled software engineers. I loved that stuff. I loved hearing about how they filmed the space battles, the attack on the Death Star, the crash on Dagobah: how they built the wonderful star destroyers. etc etc. I suppose I got my geek fix from the SFX details. The USS Enterprise was good, and it has evolved over the years. But for me, it will never compare with the mighty Imperial Star Destroyer. Visually, anyway. The very vulnerable bridge is an obvious design flaw.
I think that mix of science fiction and magic is why Star Wars has continued to suck in a younger audience. The bookshops and toy stores are full of Star Wars merchandise aimed at kids who are probably too young to even remember the prequel trilogy. Certainly Star Wars: Rebels is aimed at a new audience - even if us older types can still enjoy it. I think that's wonderful. If Star Wars can get kids reading, get them looking up at the stars and wondering, if it leads them to watch Cosmos, to ask questions about aliens - then Let the Force Be With Them.
*The picture is of a model I built of the snow speeder crashed on Hoth. Luke is climbing out as the ATAT advances. Yes, I'm a geek.