Why did the Stars Wars and Star Trek worlds turn out so differently?

That question came up briefly in my chat with Cass Sunstein, though we didn’t get much of a chance to address it.  In the Star Trek world there is virtual reality, personal replicators, powerful weapons, and, it seems, a very high standard of living for most of humanity.  The early portrayals of the planet Vulcan seem rather Spartan, but at least they might pass a basic needs test of sorts, plus there is always catch-up growth to hope for.  The bad conditions seem largely reserved for those enslaved by the bad guys, originally the Klingons and Romulans, with those stories growing more complicated as the series proceeds.

In Star Wars, the early episodes show some very prosperous societies.  Still, droids are abused, there is widespread slavery, lots of people seem to live at subsistence, and eventually much of the galaxy falls under the Jedi Reign of Terror.

Why the difference?  Should we consult Acemoglu and Robinson?  Or is it about economic geography?  I can find think of a few factors differentiating the world of Star Wars from that of Star Trek:

1. The armed forces in Star Trek seem broadly representative of society.  Compare Uhura, Chekhov, and Sulu to the Imperial Storm troopers.

2. Captains Kirk and Picard may be overly narcissistic, but they do not descend into true power madness, unlike various Sith leaders and corrupted Jedi Knights.

3. In Star Trek, any starship can lay waste to a planet, whereas in Star Wars there is a single, centralized Death Star and no way to oppose it, short of having the rebels try to blow it up.  That seems to imply stronger checks and balances in the world of Star Trek.  No single corrupt captain can easily take over the Federation, and so there are always opposing forces.

4. Star Trek embraces analytical egalitarianism, namely that all humans consider themselves part of the same broader species.  There is no special group comparable to the Jedi or the Sith, with special powers or with special whatevers in their blood.  There are various species of aliens, but they are identified as such, they are not in general going to win human elections, and furthermore humans are portrayed as a kind of galactic hegemon, a’ la the United States circa the postwar era.

5. The single individual is much more powerful in the world of Star Wars, due to Jedi and Sith powers, which seems to lower stability.  In the Star Trek world, some of the biggest trouble comes from super-human Khan and his clan, but fortunately they are put down.

6. Star Trek replicators are sufficiently powerful it seems slavery is highly inefficient in that world.  In Star Wars the underlying depreciation rate, as you would find it measured in a Solow model, seems to be higher.  More forced labor is drafted into use to repair all of that wasting capital.

What else?

Addendum: Here is Cass on Star Wars vs. Star Trek.


Only in because I might be first in. Interesting thoughts - but wtf? We are talking about fiction. Story-telling. No crystal ball here. Otherwise interesting thoughts about the different outlooks - interesting, but not significant thoughts - unless we can see some larger connection. Which I sure don't.

You probably need to start the explanation with the underlying story and vision the author wanted to tell. The evolution of the Start Trek world is more complecated bon this bit because there is a more losse set of minds that are envioning and defining the story as it unfolds. I'd also start with literary constructs rather than economic constructs -- the contrast in both relates to the construction of the foil used to portray the protagonist and antagonist visions in the stories.

Was this one of those cases where we have economists applying the idea that economic can explain everything?

The difference is easy to explain: Gene Roddenberry envisioned a future where his hippie idealism became reality: no profit motive, no scarcity, everyone shares, human potential, one world government, no religion, and peace, man.
George Lucas had a very different vision: a traditional fantasy epic dressed up as scifi, where technology takes the place of magic.

You have to admit that it is a nice change of pace from our regularly scheduled Brexit lamentations.

To your first point, the creator of star trek was a former air force captain, and to me (someone not too familiar with star trek) seems more science fiction-y compared to the syfyish science fantasy star wars. not sure how this might answer the question.

And if you read much of back story, it is pretty clear that Star Fleet was the US Air Force / US Navy in space.

The Federation and the Romulans and Klingons were in a long running Cold War.


'but at least they might pass a basic needs test of sorts, plus there is always catch-up growth to hope for'

It is Star Trek canon that the Vulcans had warp drive first - possibly, you just aren't logical in assessing what is important to a star faring culture?

And though not canon, this song does a fine job offering one perspective on that powerful weapon observation - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ZS2-4-iUJ4

I think you meant "spacefaring"

This is too tempting to pass up -

'There is no special group comparable to the Jedi or the Sith, with special powers or with special whatevers in their blood.'


Exactly. The Star Trek universe faced and defeated the threat of a SIth comparatively early on, and it left a deep cultural taboo.

It's worth noting that Kahn and his minions were engineered to be superior, they weren't born that way. The Jedi were born with force sensitivity (via midichloreans or whatever has taken its place in the canon).

I don't think that people in the Trek universe would have put down humans who happened to be born with extraordinary abilities, even if they sought power for themselves. Kahn was an easy call because he was unnatural (and crazy). It would have raised some interesting moral questions if they had done an episode where one or more people with Kahn -- or even Jedi -- like abilities arose naturally through some kind evolutionary quirk. How would the Federation have dealt with them?

Star Trek original series, second pilot, 'Where No Man Has Gone Before':

They kill them.

Re #4: In the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "The Chase" it is revealed that all of the humanoid races (human, Klingon, Cardassian, Klingon, and Vulcan) were all seeded by the same ancient race of beings. Of course, this was just the writers' in-universe explanation why all the aliens look like humans with makeup on.

Based on the references in the post, it doesn't seem like you've ever watched Deep Space Nine, which is the best of all the series according to many fans.

God, I loathe the Cardassians, omnipresent vain shallow self-whoring flesh merchants...

Not a Trump voter Thor?

Yeah, the cardasians are awful, but I have a huge soft spot for Garrick

That episode was so lame, even to a 14 year old. The reason they look like people wearing makeup is that they're people wearing makeup. I can suspend disbelief for an hour without you having to shoehorn some lameass in-universe explanation for it.

Yes, but these species also breed together. See Xial, half Bajoran half Cardassian, a number of half klingons, vulcans (Spock is half human) - realistically that story was more or less an excuse why the aliens can interbreed. Just imagine what Rom and Leeta's child might look like... or don't.

On some occasions different organs are referred to, Klingons have at least one additional heart, and so on, so there are some differences but different alien spiecies seem somewhat compatiable with each other.

At least up through DS9, in the entire Star Trek universe there appears to be one interracial (half Japanese-half Irish) child and many more inter-species ones.

Yes! DS9 was by FAR the best of all Trek series.

We rot the same regardless.

Actually neither Star Trek and Star Wars are big on the permanency of death. Yoda and Obi-Wan become those blue ghosts, Wesley Crusher transmogrifies into some kind of minor deity (??) and even Tasha Yar lives on in alternate universes.

"and even Tasha Yar lives on in alternate universes."
Then she dies, but her daugher looks like her. This is the point, life goes on even without us because "someone once told me that time was a predator that stalked us all our lives. But I rather believe that time is a companion who goes with us on the journey and reminds us to cherish every moment because they'll never come again. What we leave behind is not as important as how we've lived. After all, Number One, we're only mortal". And Kirk (spoils alert) stays dead, but Scotty survives.

I was going to claim the opposite. In the Star Trek universe, training and effort are crucial for achievement. In the Star Wars universe, it's "Use the Force, Luke", and the force is inherited. In fact, it's not even subject to regression to the mean. I wonder if some of the problems of the Star Wars universe follow from the combination of off-the-scale force powers, decidedly mediocre IQs, and no training in government or administration. (I prefer the Star Trek universe)

I don't think we know what training Khan received - and he is not typical of the Star Trek Universe - in fact according to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Khan_Noonien_Singh he controlled the earth during the eugenics wars of the 1990s and was revived in the 2267 of Star Trek. I suspect that he was trained, by the eugenicists who raised him, to follow their ideals. Why put all that work into breeding or genetically engineering a creation, and then not train them to allow their talents to flourish?

(Star Trek was conceived as a future utopia, Star Wars wanted a background for adventures, and lifted heavily from historical backgrounds that, in modern terms, are failed states).

And who made you the emperor of this blog ? Since when do you decree rules about who is allowed to reply to whom ?

It is just an agreed upon rule that you need to make posts of value on your own before you start interjecting yourself into the conversation of more regular contributors.

It's just the way we do things around here. If you have a problem with that, suggestions are available for other websites which you may find more hospitable. We like things tidy. This is not a personal reflection on you -- merely a statement of fact.

Suggest you post a FAQ - as it stands, I'm assuming that you're just making this rule up. How is one to know who is a "senior member". Do they get a special hat with a gold badge on it?

The hell you say!

A.G.McDowell. Fire away and don't feel you need to earn some sort of 'credit' to post your thoughts

To actual newbies, my bet this would be both a gag and an impersonation of a regular. Both happen.

but amazingly McDowell contributed a more relevant and meaningful comment than I have ever seen from Art Deco.

The entire point is that in Star Wars the self appointed murderous proponents of a master race with a will to power are exalted, in Star Trek they are history's greatest villains.

I've been coming to this blog now for 2 years and have only posted 2 or 3 times but I think I have just enough of a right to voice my opinion as anyone else.

Which should then elevate McDowell to a senior member and all pst post endowed with such status.

Of course the reality is anyone can post and comment on anyone else here and it's up to the reader to filter and judge the quality or relevence -- but we all knew that already (expect perhasp one here ;-)

Is this an example of Poe's Law?

Wouldn't it more likely be an example of Poe Dameron's law?

Oh c'mon Art (may I call you Art, I'm not a regular poster)...you're just being touchy because you posted what you thought was a witty bumper sticker and McDowell posted something of substance.

"All my friends call me Art. You can call me Mr. Deco."

As a first order approximation, sufficiently advanced AI seems to be very easy in the Star Wars universe, and very hard in the Star Trek one (why?). So planets in Star Wars developed essentially like economies tend to do wherever slave labor is a cheap resource (I mean, Owen was able to have Luke purchase two droids/slaves) --- depressed wages for non-slaves, unrepresentative political systems, low incentives for technological research, large incentives for military developments. You _could_ in theory have droids build droids, and give everybody a great quality of life, but the political system just isn't there, and anyway the technology seems to be "assembly line + AI" rather than "nanotech but no AI," so physical constraints are probably more of a problem.

Star Trek pre-Lore has a technological profile where skilled humans are tremendously productive, and cannot be replaced. This of course doesn't imply a high guaranteed standard of living (*cough*), but I think the Vulcan culture's science for science's sake attitude and relative distaste for violence did have an impact. Any egalitarian, technocratic, relatively peaceful faction or society that supported individual self-development as a right would've got an edge on access to Vulcan technology, which was advanced enough to give them political and cultural hegemony in a couple of generations. Once you have a culture that by default assumes a high guaranteed quality of life, and status based on public-oriented scientific/artistic/diplomatic/expeditionary skill, you enter in something of a positive feedback loop, as those are the skills that make the Federation even more capable of offering a high guaranteed quality of life, as well as further opportunities for status competition.

PS: In this view, Jedis and Siths are relevant to the politics and religion of SW, but not necessarily to the basic economic structure. It's the droids what we're looking for.

As of the TNG era, any holodeck character would easily pass the Turing test. There seems to be a general distaste for having them walk around outside, though. (You could put the holodeck AI into a robot body but they didn't.)

"(You could put the holodeck AI into a robot body but they didn’t.)"

Commander Data.

Lieutenant Commander. And he wasn't a holodeck AI. He was sentient and able to be sensed by empaths when equipped with his emotion chip. Sentient and self-aware.

The holodeck AIs were much simpler, just characters in a book, (mostly) not self-aware, but entirely capable of fooling anyone around them in a conversation if someone wanted to. They are perfect p-zombies.

Fair points. Though the holo deck doctor from Voyager was considered sentient.

They never went that far in the main series (to say the doc was sentient). Mostly because they didn't want people to think they were re-doing Data from TNG, and to a lesser extent because it would mean there was sentience on every ship just sitting around.

They stuck with "has exceeded his original programming." He did get legal rights as an artist, although not as a person, in the last season.

The seemingly sedate Federation is always one technological step away from revolution. Starfleet spends much of its time trying to put genies back in bottles while not compromising its ideals too much. E.g., Genesis, Soong's androids, artificial intelligences, genetically engineered humans like Khan and Bashir.

Good point. A commonality not remarked on here, yet, is a fascination on the part of the respective creators with the theme of liberty.

"The seemingly sedate Federation is always one technological step away from revolution."

Sure, but the stories only highlight the exciting times. You don't see the years of time that elapse between the exciting stories.

OTOH, it all happens in one 5 year mission... by just one Federation ship.

Re #5, you have the Q in Star Trek. All Jedi and Siths would last a fraction of a second against him.

But perhaps Q is too powerful to be power-hungry.

Hmmm, maybe a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away the Q were a much younger race evolving their powers and getting stronger over time.

Really weird post. do adults watch this crap? Gay.

Except in the future , all adults were children once.

This is how 50+ year old academics signal that they aren't just stuffy old shirts reading Plato like professors of yore, they're fun and hip!

Do adults use the word Gay as an insult?

A lot of the interesting Expanded Universe continuity details were lost when Disney designed to reboot it for the new Star Wars movies. That's unfortunate, because it provided an interesting rationale for the Death Star - namely, that it was the answer to an arms race in the Star Wars universe that appears to have been settled in favor of "defense".

In Star Wars, the early episodes show some very prosperous societies. Still, droids are abused, there is widespread slavery, lots of people seem to live at subsistence, and eventually much of the galaxy falls under the Jedi Reign of Terror.

Star Wars offers the less optimistic view of "robots can do 99% of things that organic beings/humans can do". I noticed that outside of government leaders, bureaucrats, and soldiers (including Jedi), there do not appear to be many private sector "employees". Humans not employed by the government in Star Wars instead seem to all either be specialists (like particular designers), self-employed, or employed as managers in the largest corporations. Luke's relatives are independent farmers, the guy Obi-Wan is friends with in Attack of the Clones runs his own greasy spoon diner, Watto owns his own shop, Han and Chewie are effectively self-employed - isn't that kind of striking in its own way?

It suggests that in response to droids being able to do most tasks, humans basically shifted back into the kind of self-employed "labor market" they had before industrialization in the Star Wars universe.

What a bizarre way to look at Star Trek and Star Wars.

Star Trek has no heros, is told from the point of view of the UN peace force which functions like a coast guard and charting expedition. Star Fleet has defined a boundary beyond which is the forbidden zone.

Beyond the forbidden zone might be the Empire led by an Emperor who has tapped into the Dark Force.

Star Fleet is chartered by nations with the kinds of governments that function and provide for everyone because technology has eliminated cost, and thus the efficient economy pays low wages because prices are so low that there is zero profit, the perfect economy by economic theory. An economy where gdp is irrelevant - with so much supply, the price is zero for everything, so gdp is zero.

In Star Wars, beyond the forbidden zone, the same economy exists for the Empire, but that brings out the dark side, the conservative side, the need to win, the need to control everything, the need to create losers. Thus, rather than let people be creative, they are drafted into a military to go wage wsr.

And the first you wage war on are the liberals who reject power, and seek liberty, those within society who rebel. The Empire is laying waste to places it can't control, so in those places the people work, salvaging the debris created by the conservatives to create useful goods.

Conservatives rape, pillage, and plunder. The liberals work to build a place where everyone can live, work, and be free. Thus villains and heros.

Project much, Mulp?

Completely correct but what are conservatives and what are liberals?

In the US this is libertarians vs statists, in others it it is little englanders vs imperialists

I'd think there would be more chaos in the Star Trek universe. Just a single flag ship can get into potentially universe destroying shenanigans every week, doesn't make for much stability.

UN peace keeping force seems generous. The original show is white man's burden gun boat diplomacy. TNG put an even happier face on it.

I say that as a fan! DS9 forever tho.

On present-day earth it wouldn't take much for an aircraft carrier or for that matter a small band of terrorists to create all kinds of chaos. Imagine an American destroyer straying into North Korean waters, or back in the 80s a Korean Airlines flight straying into Soviet airspace.

The really good example of this is a nuclear missile sub--one sub can not only start a nuclear war, it can incinerate millions of people even if its missiles don't cause some kind of retaliatory strike.

In a world of Universal Basic Income you have to give people meaningful things to do.

One is utopian science fiction coming out amid the Space Race. In the future, if you want stuff you tell the computer to make it for you. A better question is why are there any people at all in Star Trek? Automate the whole ship. Maybe it's all a big push for lebensraum, or they have a lot of surplus population.

The other is fantasy in the guise of science fiction, based on 1930s serials. Star Wars roots are closer in time and place to Conan the Barbarian and the Lord of the Rings. "A long time ago in a galaxy far far away" it's right there in the first line of the movie.

Both are propaganda from within their own universe too. As you noted earlier, the Jedi really mess things up. Count Dooku claimed to want free trade and he probably wasn't lying. Alderaan? Hiroshima. The problem with the Empire was the Emperor. Luke should have taken up Dad's offer. The Jedi tried to make "safe spaces" and told people to suppress their human emotions, and claimed the Dark Side is all about anger. It's like Jonathan Haidts moral foundations all over again. Star Trek? The prime directive isn't even a piece of paper. You give a guy like Captain Kirk a $1 trillion piece of equipment and send him light years away from home and some paper or verbal orders? And why is the warp drive always breaking? You think it's only the warp drive that doesn't work? The "real" Star Wars is closer to having a functional galactic empire that's providing order for commerce and development, while Star Trek has some horror stories of stranded ships losing power in the middle of deep space (cannibalism in the hopes of not freezing to death before rescue), and star captains starting wars and violating the prime directive all over the known and unknown universe.

One is the product of a wartime bomber pilot who exhibited genuine heroism particularly as Pan Am pilot post war, he was the idealistic son of a policeman and became one himself and who truly believed in "to serve and protect" and had strong pacifist tendencies brought on by actual war who thought humans could be better. All the silly corny crazy talky stuff in Star Trek came from this idealism. The dialogue was preachy and moralistic in a very postwar way and the characters were initially all dressed up philosophical arguments or caricatures. Kirk is the man of action, Spock the rationalist, McCoy the man of science, etc...

The other is the product of an overgrown boy with weight problems who loved car racing, until his first major accident scared him off it. He then went to film school and was more interested in pure visual spectacle than anything else for which he showed considerable talent but his plotting and characterization were mostly pastiche. He banged around the film industry until he made it.

One was born in 1944 Modesto, the other in 1921 El Paso.

"why are there any people at all in Star Trek"

The Borg seem to be the series' storyline towards that end.

I've always thought the Borg to be one of science fiction's most interesting characters.

Since all members are plugged into a matrix, their minds may be experiencing unending bliss even as they subdue and assimilate entire civilizations. One can imagine an ethics of conquest where the Borg's forcing people to assimilate is a force for good.

"One can imagine an ethics of conquest where the Borg’s forcing people to assimilate is a force for good."

Sure, that's pretty much standard Communist belief. Once the revolution/assimilation comes everyone will agree that it was for the best. There will be no inequity, everyone will be treated the same, both the poor and the rich will disappear. Every serious Communist always thought the world wide communist revolution was a force for good.

I guess TC wants us to *try* to play along as if we are dealing with the dynamics of real societies -- but I don't think that works. Star Trek being genuine (if limp-wristed) science fiction might be succeptible to such analysis. At least it embodies some implicit assumptions about social science.

But Star Wars is a fairy-tale set in space. It does not try to portray a consistent picture of how a society works. Republics, monarchies, religio/military orders and furry creatures all swan across the stage as the needs of the drama demand.

But it's not trying to show how "a" (single) consistent society works, Adrian. The variety is intended to show how a universe composed of many societies might look. Whether or not it succeeds in doing so is another matter.

Because George Lucas has a very limited imagination. Thus he cannot imagine a world much beyond the America he grew up in, as described by Westerns, in turn mediated through Japanese copies thereof. He simply takes the standard children's fairy story of the Prince-as-a-swineherd and puts it in space without thinking it through.

Whereas Roddenberry is, presumably, describing what he would have liked his military service to have been. He would get to travel the world/universe, meet strange people/alien races and NOT kill them. Without anyone to tell him not to take drugs and sleep with the green chicks. Some what juvenile and involving a lot of hand waving, but a lot more original.

How are you going to rule the galaxy one day if you don't kill lots of aliens, though? That's the part I never got.

Not rule the universe! You don't need the Prime Directive if ruling the universe is your goal.

That's a colonial view where conquest is an end in itself. Conquest overextends the rulers and leads to unending conflict and ultimately collapse. Star Trek is a post-colonial view where trade is preferable to war.

A naïve question. I have never watched much from Star Trek, except a few random episodes in the French television when I was a kid. If I want to discover the world of Star Trek you guys are talking about, what
should I watch (movies? which ones? TV shows? which ones?). Thanks a lot.

This list is actually more than pretty good for the early stuff

Next Generation is more sprawling but this isn't bad


Moviewise other than the most recent two which are a reboot, the tv series is much more important though Wrath of Khan is really essential after watching the suggestedoriginal series episodes.

Somebody else can suggest for Deep Space 9

"Somebody else can suggest for Deep Space 9."
When I was young, I liked Star Trek. Evidently, I' ve overgrown such juvenile tastes by now as one eventually does, but the essential DS9 episodes surely are: "Emissary", Parts 1 & 2, "Past Prologue", "Progress", "Duet", "In the Hands of the Prophets", "The Homecoming", "The Circle", "The Siege", "The Maquis", Parts 1 & 2, "The Way of the Warrior", Parts 1& 2 , "The Visitor", "Rules of Engagement" and "What You Leave Behind". Since the last seasons were dedicated to a single narrative arc, a war, as opposed to TOS/TNG more episodic approach, you probably won'understand much by watching a handful of episodes, but such is life.

the "good news" about DS9 though is the correllary that since it's a lot more plot driven one could get a better sense of the show through episode summaries of last few years

When I think of Star Trek I think of "The Next Generation" television series. To me Star Trek is more about the ideas in the individual episodes, and that type of story doesn't translate as well into the movies.

It does, too!

"If I want to discover the world of Star Trek you guys are talking about, what should I watch (movies? which ones? TV shows? which ones?). Thanks a lot."

In general, stay away from the movies. The movies have a different story structure than the series. While you might enjoy them once you are familiar with the underlying setting you won't get why people love Star Trek from watching the movies.

As to the series, The Original Series (Star Trek TOS) is probably the best archetype of the 5 different series. However, if you are under 40, it's a bit like reading Shakespeare. You'll need to read a Cliff Notes type commentary to understand the relevance.

So, I'd recommend starting with Star Trek The Next Generation. If you watch the first 5-10 episodes you'll get a feel for it. However, be aware that the cast was still pretty young and the acting is a little off key for that first season.

The Kirk series has much better episodes, but also much, *much* worse episodes. For the Next Generation, most of the bad episodes were at least mediocre. I think it makes sense to start with the original but maybe find a list of "top ten original series episodes" - and lord knows there are about 50,000 of them floating around the internet - rather than just watching at random and risking getting a dud.

No!!!! Not Star Trek The Next Generation's First Season! You monster!

I wasn't going for what a die hard Star Trek fan would consider his/her absolute favorite. Instead I was approaching it from the angle of someone that's unfamiliar with the topic and which area would present an enjoyable learning curve.

There's nothing enjoyable in TNG, season 1.

I've always like TNG the best. It really found it's footing with the Borg cliffhanger at the end of season three.

David Brin's 1999 critique is the best single anti star wars diatribe I have seen and a classic.


Meh, I disagree. For instance: Achilles could slay a thousand with the sweep of a hand — as Darth Vader murders billions with the press of a button — but none of those casualties matters next to the personal saga of a great one. The slaughtered victims are mere minions. Extras, without families or hopes to worry about shattering. Spear-carriers. Only the demigod’s personal drama is important.

The casualties set the stakes high! It's not that they don't matter, quite the opposite. The rebels defeat of the empire wouldn't be a very compelling tale to anyone if their crimes were nothing but "ran Lando out of his cloud city" and "killed a few Jawas while hunting down some droids." Come on, Brin.

I think Brin makes some good points.

"Elites have an inherent right to arbitrary rule; common citizens needn’t be consulted. They may only choose which elite to follow."

Shades of Brexit there and very true to the Star Wars universe.

Indeed, Star Wars never really shows any concern for the little people.

Imagine if Obi Wan had told Anakin, "Hey, you seem worried about your mother. Go take a couple of weeks off, free her from destitute slavery and come back when you're ready".

Even if Anakin was supposed to abandon his family, it seems like it would have been a good idea for someone to spend the pocket change available to a Jedi to move her to a nice suburb on a low-crime planet.

Yes, moving her to a low risk area was trivial. And the Jedi knew that the life of a slave on that planet was a very risky endeavor. So, logically one would assume that the Jedi considered any such tragic event "character building".

Great historical link.

I love Star Wars, it was marketed to me as I was in that age range; but the prequels never held the same appeal, at least the pictures were pretty. But Brin was spot on with that critique, and sums up why I like [i]good[/i] Science Fiction so much, it makes you think. I like Star Trek as well, but it didn't appeal to my soul as much, which is a laughably oximorish concept, as an avowed atheist.

But I think Brin's non-fiction book "The Transparent Society" is even better; as the prescience that good Science Fiction, and it's authors; present for your entertainment/edification, is a vital part of society. Especially in light of our current political theater.

Khan has an academy, too: https://www.khanacademy.org

And clear chose a different path - or is this the way he's planning on taking over the world?

Excellent observation. I will keep a closer eye on Mr Kahn.

In fact, the boldness of using the name Khan Academy, instead of something more discreet, like John Harrison Academy is a tell already. The guy was the most famous Earth tyrant and, when found by the Enterprise crew, didn't even try to claim another name.
"Captain James T. Kirk: What's your name?
Khan Noonien Singh: Khan is my name.
Captain James T. Kirk: Just Khan? Nothing else?
Khan Noonien Singh: Khan." -- http://www.imdb.com/character/ch0001501/quotes
It is just like Hitler being found sailing in a ship and insisting he is just "Hitler".

The obvious thing to me is SW is set in the past and ST in the future. The history of the human race has seen lots of empire, lots of slavery, lots of meaningless Wars, lots of tyranny, lots of corruption, etc. All the stuff you see in most of SW, especially the original movies.
ST being set in current humanitie's hypothetical future forecasts a world which seems fundamentally republican and, despite the cold war style conflicts, peace loving. A world where the use of force is regulated and you see no empires and tyrants. Differences are settled rationally, it's all a globalist's dream.

Dan in philly July 1, 2016 at 6:39 am

Differences are settled rationally, it’s all a globalist’s dream.

So did Star Trek shape Merkel's world view to such an extent she can seriously think that opening the borders to the Borg was a good idea?

As an East German she was raised by the Borg.

^best comment in the thread

Actually SW and ST are quite the same -- one is unrealistic about advances in technology; the other is unrealistic about advances in human nature. Neither is likely.

Because Star Wars is a fantasy series posing as sci fi. It's closed to Game of Thrones than Star Trek.

Our perspective is too narrow to properly gauge the wealth or productivity differences between interstellar populations in both universes. Both could actually be the same universe, highlighting those portions which contribute most to the specific story (ST or SW). Perhaps like non-fiction humans.

Star Trek went on the air in 1966 when U.S. when the U.S. was still highly optimistic. The economy was strong. The Vietnam war was only just escalating and was still widely supported. Landmark civil rights laws had just been passed. The 'moon race' was in high gear. And very little of the great turbulence of the 60s had yet occurred. Star Wars was released only a decade later, but so much had happened in that decade -- and most of it was bad. Campus unrest (Kent State), the Weathermen and Black Panthers, urban rioting, exploding crime rate, the OPEC Oil Embargo, Watergate and Nixon's resignation, stagflation, the fall of Saigon. In a way, it's surprising that the differences between the 'Star Trek' and 'Star Wars' universes aren't even starker.

True. And Tomorrowland, while not really great, is still underrated.

Tomorrowland is a HUGE fantasy of the current progressive mindset. Only the chosen are admitted, artists, dancers, other progressives. But in the final scenes, you see all of the people selected for admission, and only ONE guy in a hard hat. The only person who can actually DO anything useful. Every other person is "free" to pursue their personal expression as a career but will still expect the water to gush from their faucet, their toilets to flush to... somewhere... and their lights to come on. In my world, that guy in the hardhat will be the richest man on the planet. In their's a slave.

In Star Trek, by the later series, the Federation's dilithium (main power source) is mined by holographic slaves. The characters we see in Star Trek are the elite, the military ruling class - I don't think the average Joe has things so utopian...

Holographic whatever are not people, much less slaves, they are machines. People are, like the Spartiates of yore, the elite of the ST Universe, served by machines the same way, after you factor technological advances, cars, assembly lines, ATMs and vending machines serve us.

The holographic slaves (or "photonics" as they called themselves) considered themselves to have rights, even if others did not.

They still were machines, they are were real. The Holodeck or the Holographic Doctor has no more rights than my car or an assembly line. They are not people.

Vive la revolution! Photons be free!

"They are not people." Says the meat machine.

Have some soylent green.

Dilithium isn't the power source, it is just the containment material for a matter\anti-matter reaction.

As for the topic: Star Trek is the start of an expansionist phase of a sector of a single galaxy. Every star faring race in the original series had just discovered warp drive technology.

Star Wars is the third or fourth attempt by the Sith to create a galactic Empire. It's the convulsions of a slowly collapsing society that mashes ancient historical institutions together to justify its existance. Like "The Holy Roman Empire".

Star Wars and Asimov's Foundation novels

True, but Star Wars has more likable characters. There's a reason nobody has made the Foundation novels into movies.

Red Shirts was a great starting premise for a story, but yes, I think it should have been told as the story of an underclass (rather than an amusing but ultimately fluff story about time loops and alternate realities).

My opinion is that the first Star Trek is the real one, the more possible fantasy, and that everything Second Generation on was corruption. That was actually when replicators were invented to explain a sudden change in philosophy.

The first Star Trek was the great age of sail, retold with Romulans rather than Cannibals.

You're pathetic. The Original Series had what were functionally replicators already. https://vimeo.com/81871761 (after 10:55). Non-replicated food was at a premium ( http://www.chakoteya.net/StarTrek/19.htm ).

I am sure you are a fine individual, but you are ignoring the differences:


In fact, replicators and food synthesizers are virtually the same thing, you loser, as seen in the episode # 59 of TOS and the episode #129 of TNG.
After all, "the food synthesizer (or food processor) was a common receptacle used aboard 23rd century starships and starbases for synthesizing foods and beverages. An evolution over the older protein resequencer, these food receptacles served as a supplement to the ship's chef and were predecessors to 24th century replicators. Unlike replicators, where food orders were made by voice command, food orders given to food synthesizers were made by program tapes or cards inserted into a slot."--http://memory-alpha.wikia.com/wiki/Food_synthesizer

I will go with the Wikipedia expertise and consensus, sorry.

Alpha Memory is a much better source, and the episodes I mentioned are canonical, you pathetic idiot.

You might be a tad bit too invested in this.

Star Wars is deeply rooted in the idea of birth-right aristocracy. It's has a pseudo-SciFi overlay that's really a fantasy re-imagining of the Arthurian romance. One is either born special (you had the right parents, who were special because they had the right parents, ad infinitum) or you're just part of the faceless peasant masses whose lives have no meaning and purpose. It's basically a story of palace intrigue and nobles fighting nobles because, well, because that's what they do. It's a deeply archaic European medieval world, except that a young man cannot hope to become a knight through service and deeds, but must instead be an orphan who turns out to have had royal parents. It's a world where virtually everyone is a dead-ender from birth.

Star Trek is rooted in post-WW2 American optimism, in the wonders of NATO and the UN and the civil rights movement and American exceptionalism. And it often asks the question, what would happen when this superior form of society and governance encountered a variety of different societies and situations? For me it's infinitely more interesting than Star Wars. Hopelessly optimistic, often naive, badly dated, but it speaks to my belief that we are what we make of ourselves, and not the happenstance of our bloodline.

It's well known that George Lucas cribbed notes from Joseph Campbell

I keep wanting to see the part of the Star Trek galaxy that's controlled by liberated droids.

"There is no special group comparable to the Jedi or the Sith, with special powers or with special whatevers in their blood."

OMG... Now I read the thread and the fact that I matched Prior means that I have to forego commenting for the rest of 2016.

No centralized power in Star Trek? Borg. Resistance is Futile.

Never heard of Khan Academy?

True or false: Star Trek was modeled upon the UN perceived to be flourishing as a world symposium of enlightenment in the mid-1960s, whereas Star Wars was modeled upon medieval warrior cultures of Japan and Europe and the film history that had documented them.

Wow did those posts fly over everybody's head.


"Jedi’s have an academy. Khan was self-taught"

This was a Joke! IE Khan Academy.


"You must be new to the comment section of this blog but just so you know, you typically you have to be around a bit before it’s generally accepted that you can comment directly to more senior member posts. "

This was obviously the sock puppet that's been going around pretending to be Art Deco.

Sorry about the all bold. I only meant to Bold the first word.

Well, Star Treak and Star Wars are different genres. Some people call Star Wars a "Space Opera". IMHO, Star Wars strikes me as simply part of the fantasy genre. Star Trek is pure, nerdy science fiction.

I love them both, but Star Trek is a leftist idiot fantasy, and Star Wars was created by a narcissistic moron who'd colorize a Picasso pencil sketch and has made the same movie now 5/7 times.

"I love them both, but Star Trek is a leftist idiot fantasy,..."

That's not exactly correct. Granted, the geeky Left has embraced Star Trek and Gene Roddenberry leaned that way. However, the original premise (according to Roddenberry) was heavily influenced by Robert Heinlein's writing.

Roddenberry attempted to recruit Heinlein to write for the first season. The Original series was heavily influenced by Heinlein's book Space Cadet. The 'Trouble with Tribbles' episode is based off of the flat cats from "The Rolling Stones". (Also, the basis of the handle of one of our occasional commentators, Hazel Meade).

The studio contacted Heinlein about 'The Trouble with Tribbles'. Heinlein gave them permission to use the idea in trade for a signed copy of the script written by David Gerrold.

Furthermore Heinlein's stories were renowned for having a 'competent' man or woman of action (such as Kirk) coming from a relatively common place origin. Often his characters were of varying ethnicities, genders and types.

Star Trek was created by an optimist. Star Wars was created by a pessimist.

Clearly it's the trading monopolies in Star Wars that lowers the standards of living so much.

Star Wars is a fantasy setting with a patina of Sci-Fi gloss. That is why it has princesses, knights, and evil wizards. Star Trek is a science fiction setting with some fantasy elements.

Star Wars presents a society that is galactic in scale. Star Trek represents a multi-stellar society slowly exploring its own galaxy. Star Wars actually has the more advanced technology and economy.

Star Wars represents a universal ecumene with a single government. The fall of Republic to Empire is basically a retelling of Rome's transition of the same. The only difference is that in Star Wars, the equivalent of Brutus and Cassius (the Rebels) defeated Mark Antony and Octavian (the Empire). Star Trek's galaxy is still in its warring states period with competing empires.

Both settings have been altered from their original premises. The original series has much different underpinnings that Next Generation did because Roddenberry changed his mind on a lot of things, and other producers introduced their own changes. When Star Wars was written, Vader was not Luke's father. When Empire was written, Leia was not Luke's sister - the second force user Yoda refers to was meant to be a different character. When Jedi was written, Lucas never intended to write the prequels or sequels, and when he did he was a very different person. Both settings history prior to the first movie/series have been extensively retconned.

In Star Trek, the galactic economy was still growing. Populations were likely growing and new colonies were being set up all the time.

In Star Wars, growth had ceased and people were battling over limited resources. Instead of setting up new colonies, they were busy blowing up planets and fighting wars.

The creators got it wrong. Star Trek is the past of Star Wars. Just wait till every corner of the galaxy is filled up on Romulans and Human are battling it out for what's left of the dilithium crystals.

We don't have enough data to establish that living standards are higher in Star Trek. Star Wars' galaxy has millions of inhabited planets so a few of these can be as poor as African countries today. The part of Star Trek we see is just people involved in high level government jobs.

Overall, it clearly appears to me that living standards might be higher in the Star Wars galaxy: In Trek only government personnel have access to interstellar travel in Wars, a farmer could rent an interstellar spacecraft.

Mark Twain made that same challenge, that only the rich got to travel the stars, and Picard (IIRC) said no, anyone could travel if they wanted. I don't know how they'd pay, though.

"...and Picard (IIRC) said no, anyone could travel if they wanted. I don’t know how they’d pay, though."

And yet we never see middle class people out on a family vacation in Star Trek. Also, there are a lot of spacecraft flying around in Star Wars. I'm inclined to take Picard's comment with a grain of salt.

"Anyone could travel if they wanted " ... to volunteer for Star Fleet security.

There are lots of people vacationing in Risa, the "Pleasure Planet". I doubt everyone there is a Star Fleet Admiral. Maybe they should film a series called Star Trek: Risa.

"I doubt everyone there is a Star Fleet Admiral."

Well no, none of the crew of the Enterprise were Star Fleet Admirals. But I never saw any indication that a normal middle class person from the Federation vacationed there. It appeared to be a vacation spot for the rich and famous of various species and planets.

There is not much evidence for private persons actually doing tourism in Trek though. Picard was just repeating Federation propaganda. By the way, the Federation appears to be much like a totalitarian dictatorship like North Korea.

Sisko's dad runs a restaurant, and doesn't apprar to be living in particular hardship when we see him. The bits we see of Earth in ST look pretty nice, and I don't recall ever seeing anything that looks dystopian. (By contrast, Romulus and Cardassia are both high-tech police states.). Various humans and aliens hanging around DS9 appear to be small ship owners/traders, don't appear vastly wealthy, and yet manage to have ships that can take them all over the sector, so presumably it's not all that hard for normal people to get passage somewhere.

Replicators plus holosuites probably ensure a decent quality of life in the ST universe if you can avoid getting conquered by Klingons or something.

Interesting thoughts.

For #4, I'm not sure the planet devastation is a check and balance issue. it is a weapon vs armour where the Star Wars universe has reached a point that planetary defenses (for major planets) aren't vulnerable to simple bombardment. Shields are powerful and portable enough that even on Hoth (a thrown together temporary base) had enough shielding to require a ground landing.

For replicators, I do question what are their limitations since the setting is not even close to "post scarcity" . Without knowing their abilities, speculating on their economic impact is pretty difficult.

The settings are also . StarWars has major parts of the action taking place is remote/backwater/impovershed areas and not (or nominally) part of the Galactic Republic, while Star Trek shows us essentially a military elite that is potentially coddled. We see almost nothing of the "regular" Federation except for the area near the StarFleet HQ and Vulcan. Everything else we see are alien worlds, empires, with the rare minimal population colony from the original series (mines, prisons, and the like).

My other question is about checks and balances. The military in Star Trek seems incredibly powerful.

Yep, they are because the Federation is a totalitarian military dictatorship like North Korea.

Star Trek - things always look pretty good from the perspective of the senior staff of a flagship of a military controlled socialist "democracy. Almost all interactions are with high officials of other worlds. We never get a good look at the life of Enterprise junior crew members. Or the unconnected to Star Fleet or Federation government, i.e., average citizen.

There was an episode of TNG focusing on a bunch of low level officers. Though most of the characters weren't consistent cast members, which they should have been for the story to make sense.

For some reason, O'Brien is more or less. the only enlisted man in Starfleet. But he doesn't seem to lead an especially hard life.

No one has mentioned hotter babes in ST:TOS

Princess Leia is like everyones obnoxious sister. In fact, isn't she Luke's sister?

1960s vs. 1970s.

Star Wars is an action movie with a single defined hero, his mentor, and a clearly defined good and evil. Star Trek is written by, and mostly for, nerds with an interest in space age developments in society and technology, and this certainly influences plot development compared to Star Wars.

The Star Trek writers are Utopian Socialists who think that Castro and Chavez had good ideas. The Star Wars writers know better.

Gene Rodenberry was in the Air Force, and flew the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress. Hence his "the military is the best" milieu.

George Lucas was more of a hippie, so the military are the bad guys.

Everything else seems to sort of follow from that. For instance, in 2005, Lucas said that Star wars “...was really about the Vietnam War, and that was the period where Nixon was trying to run for a [second] term, which got me to thinking historically about how do democracies get turned into dictatorships? Because the democracies aren’t overthrown; they’re given away.”

Roddenberry was a Fabian Socialist type who believed that central planning could overcome human nature. He could not see the irony in creating an ideal society that had many fascist elements that dominated it.
Lucas was much more Conservative in a way. For him society did not tolerate too much change and anyone wishing to bring in new ideas (the hero) risked his life by acting as an outsider. For me, Lucas' vision is the better one because we all know that there will still be junk in the future. When you look at Reddenberry's wagon train to the stars there is little garbage and not all that much conflict.

I seem to be the only person to state the obvious - Star Wars is set a long time ago. Star Trek is set in the distant future. Maybe time is a major determinant. Because we all know how people learn from history, right?

There's no mention of the systems of surveillance and brutal control of the Star Trek worlds. Section 31, Obsidian Order, and Tal Shiar.

Groups that have no equal in the Star Wars unsiverse (at least to my knowledge). Perhaps they are responsible for the difffereing worlds?

Also, Q is far more powerful than the Jedi. And the Dominion is at least as power hungry and destructive as the Empire.

I would note that the Star Trek galaxy is actually rife with poverty, especially TOS, but the poverty is mostly constrained to pre warp civilizations. In Fed space they are left in isolation, and yes in other space they are enslaved. In either case though. there is clear segregation. Star Wars does not have this feature, although there is enough barriers to make a living as a smuggler, many of the planets we see feature a diverse set of species, and even farmers are in demand for translators. Star Trek planets are mostly homogeneous.

In this telling, mankind's zero tolerance policy towards immigration from developing economies and a seemingly low tolerance for immigration from developed economies (all but the highest of quality skill sets) are an important part of humanities high standard of living. Dubious or not, that's their world.

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