Star Wars is more important than Star Trek
Without Star Wars, Star Trek would never have become the franchise that it is today
What came first? The chicken or the egg? Star Wars or Star Trek? It is a question as old as the stars, or is it?
Star Trek came first. It received three seasons of television before Star Wars was even a glint in George Lucas’ eye. It is a short debate but the one that I am interested in is, without Star Wars, Star Trek would never have been brought back to TV? Without Star Wars, Star Trek would have been relegated to late-night re-runs.
Whilst Star Trek came first, would it have been the goliath it is today, without Star Wars?
To boldly go where no-one had been before
Star Trek was ahead of its time in many ways. It brought with it a utopian vision of the future. One in which black and white people would work together with other species and those from other countries.
At a time that included mounting racial tensions and a bitter Cold War that would lead into Vietnam, Star Trek presented hope. It showcased to viewers what would be possible for those that were not white Americans.
So ahead of its time was Star Trek that when Michelle Nicholls reportedly wanted to quit the show, Dr. Martin Luther King stopped her.
“Nichols later said that she was reportedly thinking of leaving the show after the first season, but was convinced to stay on by none other than Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., whom she met at a NAACP fundraiser. The civil rights leader, who admitted to being a devoted fan of the show, told Nichols that she was breaking new ground in the role of Uhura, and showing African Americans what was possible for them.”
8 Ways the Original ‘Star Trek’ Made History, History.com
The mere consideration that a television show was a symbol of hope is ground-breaking. At its time there were no shows like it. Star Trek presented Utopia and that was dangerous. You could see how conspiracy theorists could suggest that this vision was dangerous. This was why the show was cancelled rather than being due to its low ratings.
May the force be with you
Eight years after the cancellation of Star Trek, Star Wars arrived. It was more popular than expected and therefore, Paramount Pictures needed a big franchise to combat it. This is where Star Trek The Motion Picture came from. It was a product of circumstance and if Paramount had other franchises, then would they have made the same choice?
Adjusted for inflation, Star Wars: A New Hope went on to make nearly $2 billion dollars. This is against a budget of, $47 million dollars, which has also been adjusted for inflation.
“The original Star Wars film is the third-highest-grossing film of all time, raking in close to $2 billion when adjusted for inflation”
The $11 million spent on “Star Wars” in 1977 was the best film investment ever made, Quartz
With such as juggernaut of a film being released, it was no surprise that Paramount wanted to find the next Star Wars.
The importance of Star Wars
Star Wars was the competition that Star Trek needed.
In life, everything comes down to money. The Star Wars films by this token have generated five times as much money as the Star Trek films have. Therefore, on films alone, Star Wars is more profitable.
‘Ever since George Lucas first introduced us to Luke, Leia, and Han back in 1977, the Star Wars films have dominated the box office, grossing more than $10 billion worldwide (unadjusted for inflation) across more than 40 years.’
The profitability of Star Wars, Ew.com
The Star Trek films have collectively made more than $2 billion dollars worldwide. This is still impressive. It is a major tick against the franchise but the strength of Star Trek is in the television shows. If we include the museum, theme parks and other revenues, then Star Trek is worth as much as the Star Wars films.
The problem with adding all the other revenues that Star Trek has, we still fall short compared to Star Wars. According to Wikipedia, the Star Wars franchise is worth $70 billion dollars, seven times as much as Star Trek. From a marketing point of view, you would stick with the film comparison.
Star Trek is still a profitable franchise and you can make the argument that as it came first, it is still competing to prove that it is better. The sales do not look good in their favour and Star Wars will always win this fight, but it does not stop Star Trek from trying.
Would Star Trek have returned without Star Wars?
I doubt that Star Trek would have been brought back after being shelved. To use a term from the show, it was mothballed, during a time in which science fiction was going through a relaxed phase. Until Logan’s Run in 1976 and Star Wars a year later, science fiction was relegated to the bedrooms of the geeks.
Star Wars changed this perception and appealed to the masses. It then appealed to the wallets of those at Paramount. They wanted a slice of the pie, and whilst it is a smaller slice, it is a slice.
A final thought
Star Wars was instrumental in breaking down barriers. It showed the industry that science fiction could appeal to the masses. Before this time science fiction was relegated to back rooms or laughed about at school.
As much as I am a ‘Trekkie’ at heart, I have to admit that without Star Wars, Star Trek would never have existed. We would not have multiple spin-offs that dominate television sets and have made billions. We would not have the possibility of boldly going where no man has gone before. We would not have asked the questions that haunted society.
Star Trek is every bit as important as Star Wars in my mind but I have to admit that without Star Wars, Star Trek would not be on our screens today.