Comparison of Star Trek and Star Wars

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A fan of Star Trek dressed in Starfleet uniform (left) and a fan of Star Wars dressed in Imperial Death Star gunner uniform (right) at Comic-Con 2010

Fans and scholars of Star Trek, owned by CBS Television Studios, and Star Wars, owned by the Lucasfilm division of The Walt Disney Company, compare the franchises' merits while merchandisers compete to sell sometimes rival products.[1] Media critics and analysts have compared and contrasted the two works in particular because of their great impact. The franchises are both large bodies of work that make up billions of dollars of intellectual property, providing employment and entertainment for millions of people.[2]


Star Trek was introduced as a live-action television series in 1966. With the later publication of novels, comics, animated series, toys and feature films, it grew into a full scale media franchise. Before that it was simply a television serial and known only as such that lasted three seasons. A few years later in the early 1970s, an animated series was broadcast that lasted about a year.

Star Wars was introduced as a feature film in 1977, though an earlier novel based on the original script of the first film, Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, was published about a year before the film. It was not until the release of the first film that Star Wars quickly grew into a popular media franchise.


Star Trek has its origin in television and was only known as a television series at its beginning. The franchise was conceived in the style of the television Western Wagon Train and the adventure stories of Horatio Hornblower but adopted in the idealistic, utopian prospect of future human society. Inspired by the tale of Gulliver's Travels,[3] Star Trek's main focus is attempting a fictional depiction of space exploration and the system of a galactic society consisting of multiple planets and species. Conflict occasionally occurs. Star Trek occurs in the relative distant future, specifically the 22nd through 24th Centuries, with occasional time travel backward and forward set in "our" universe, on an Earth that shares most of real history and throughout the Milky Way Galaxy. Gene Roddenberry described Star Trek: The Original Series as a Space Western.[4]

Star Wars is a space opera that was inspired by works such as Beowulf and King Arthur, and the origins of other mythology and world religions[5] as well as ancient and medieval history.[6] The Star Wars films depict a galactic society in constant conflict. Though there are periods of peace, this is not documented in the feature films but can be found in the comics, novels, games and spin-off films. Star Wars is set "a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away" although many characters are human, occasionally use Earth metaphors, and exhibit typical human character traits.[citation needed]

Similarities and commonalities[edit]

Aside from having the word 'Star' in their respective titles, the two franchises also share many similarities:

Both stories depict societies consisting of multiple planets and species. The main galaxy in Star Trek consists of various planets, both human and non-human, united into a single state known as the United Federation of Planets. Star Wars depicts a galaxy that is mostly part of a single state known as the Old Republic, inhabited by both humans and countless other species, that later became the Galactic Empire and later reformed into a new society called the New Republic after a series of wars.

Both franchises promote philosophical and political messages, though Star Wars not as much as Star Trek.[citation needed] The main philosophies of Star Trek convey the ethics of exploration and interference and how to morally deal with a new situation when faced by it. Creator Gene Roddenberry was inspired by stories like Gulliver's Travels that implied a morality tale.[7] The main philosophical messages in Star Wars are the ethics of good against evil and how to distinguish one from the other.[8] The philosophy of Star Wars also preaches against the totalitarian system and preaches in favor of societies that give equality to citizens.[9]

Despite their different debuts with one starting as a television series and the other as a cinematic feature film, the two franchises now sell all forms of media ranging from novels, television series, comic books, toys for younger audience, magazines, themed merchandise, board games, video games as well as fan works. These include canonical and non-canonical works. Non-canon works include works made both by producers and fans jointly but mostly individually.

J. J. Abrams, director and producer of Star Trek (2009) and Star Trek Into Darkness (2013), has directed and produced Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015) for Walt Disney Pictures. Star Trek (2009) and Star Wars: The Force Awakens are each the first of their three-film trilogies. More significantly, both of these films that Abrams supervised are regarded as reboots of their respective franchises, with Star Trek (2009) being set in an alternate reality due to time travel while Star Wars: The Force Awakens is a separate continuity from the Star Wars expanded universe. These films have received critical and commercial acclaim and are credited with reviving interest for both franchises. Prior to Abrams' involvement, the next iteration in the series of Star Trek and Star Wars films had been in development hell, as Star Trek: Nemesis (2002) was poorly received, and Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith (2005) had capped off the prequel trilogy which overall had received a mixed to positive reception.[10]

The latest films of the two franchises have also filmed major scenes in the United Arab Emirates. The desert scenes on the planet Jakku in Star Wars: The Force Awakens were filmed in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi.[11] Scenes for cities in the film Star Trek Beyond (2016) were filmed in the Emirates of Dubai.[12]

There have been several actors who appeared in films of both franchises.[citation needed]

Estimated financial comparisons[edit]

Despite the difference in the numbers of films, the profit made by the Star Wars franchise far exceeds the profit of the Star Trek franchise almost by five times. It is difficult to accurately judge the worth of each franchise as television series, memorabilia and video games must be taken into account.

Star Trek films

Year Title Budget Box Office Net
1979 The Motion Picture $46 million $139 million $93 million
1982 The Wrath of Khan $11.2 million $97 million $85.8 million
1984 The Search for Spock $16 million $87 million $71 million
1986 The Voyage Home $21 million $133 million $112 million
1989 The Final Frontier $33 million $66 million $33 million
1991 The Undiscovered Country $27 million $96.9 million $69.9 million
1994 Generations $35 million $118 million $83 million
1996 First Contact $45 million $146 million $101 million
1998 Insurrection $58 million $113 million $55 million
2002 Nemesis $60 million $67 million $7 million
2009 Star Trek (reboot) $150 million $386 million $236 million
2013 Into Darkness $185 million $467 million $282 million
2016 Beyond - - -
Total $1.23 billion[13]

Star Wars films

Year Title Budget Box Office Net
1977 Episode IV: A New Hope $11 million $775.4 million $764.4 million
1980 Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back $18–33 million $534.1–538.4 million $501.1-520.4 million
1983 Episode VI: Return of the Jedi $32.5–42.7 million $572.1 million $529.4-539.6 million
1999 Episode I: The Phantom Menace $115 million $1.027 billion $912 million
2002 Episode II: Attack of the Clones $115 million $649.4 million $534.4 million
2005 Episode III: Revenge of the Sith $113 million $848.8 million $735.8 million
2015 Episode VII: The Force Awakens $200 million $1.983 billion $1.783 billion
2016 Rogue One: A Star Wars story - - -
2018 Han Solo Anthology film - - -
Total $5.76-5.79 billion[14]

Influences on one another[edit]

The two franchises nonetheless have a "symbiotic relationship", states William Shatner, who credits Star Wars for the beginning of the Star Trek films.[15] The documentary Trek Nation features interviews where both George Lucas and Gene Roddenberry praise one another's respective franchises, with the former stating that Star Trek was an influence while writing the original screenplay for Star Wars.[16]

A few references to Star Wars have been inserted into Star Trek films; for fleeting moments one can see ships and droids from Star Wars. Most Star Trek films and some TV episodes used Industrial Light and Magic, founded to provide effects for Star Wars, for their special effects.[citation needed]

When Gene Roddenberry was honored at a Star Trek convention late in his life, a congratulatory letter from George Lucas was presented by an actor dressed as Darth Vader. A few years earlier, Roddenberry had contributed an entry in honor of Star Wars and George Lucas at a convention honoring the latter.[citation needed]

Comic relief[edit]

William Shatner was a presenter at George Lucas' AFI Lifetime Achievement Award ceremony in 2007 and did a comical stage performance honoring Lucas.[17]

In 2011, Star Wars actress Carrie Fisher and Shatner posted a series of humorous YouTube videos satirizing each other's franchises.


Both franchises are set to grow through the next decade.

Star Trek was rebooted with a series of feature films starting with the Star Trek remake (2009) which was followed by Star Trek: Into Darkness (2013) and a number of sequels set to follow. A new television series supposedly based on the most recent films are claimed to debut in 2017.[18]

Star Wars is set to continue by storyline from where Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi left off and is being aimed to be at least a sequel trilogy of films before the decision to make more trilogies will have been accepted. Additionally, more spin-off media is also underway with the debut of Star Wars Rebels, a television series set in between the Star Wars prequels and the original trilogy. A set of stand-alone Star Wars films are also set to come underway, starting with Rogue One.

Aside from official works by the producers of Star Trek and Star Wars, many fan films set in the two universes of the franchises are also constantly produced and posted on the Internet by fans, but not officially considered canon in relation to either franchise.


  1. ^ David M. Ewalt (2005-05-18). "Star Wars Vs. Star Trek". Forbes. Retrieved 2007-09-13. 
  2. ^ Richard Ho (May 14, 1999), "Trekkers VS Lucasites", The Harvard Crimson 
  3. ^ ScreenPrism. "What was "Star Trek" creator Gene Roddenberry's vision for the series - ScreenPrism". 
  4. ^ Trek Nation (2010 documentary)
  5. ^ Empire of Dreams: The Story of the Star Wars Trilogy. Star Wars Trilogy Box Set DVD documentary. [2005]
  6. ^ Star Wars and History by Janice Liedl and Nancy R. Reagin ISBN 1118285255, 9781118285251
  7. ^ See David Alexander, Star Trek Creator. The Authorized Biography of Gene Roddenberry and interview with Roddenberry in Something about the Author by Gale Research Company and chapter 11 of Trash Culture: Popular Culture and the Great Tradition by Richard Keller Simon
  8. ^ Star Wars and Philosophy: More Powerful than You Can Possibly Imagine by Kevin S. Decker, Jason T. Eberl
  9. ^ Liquid Metal: The Science Fiction Film Reader by Sean Redmond Page 303
  10. ^ Lucas Shaw (2013-01-24). "J.J. Abrams Set to Direct Next 'Star Wars' Film (Exclusive)". The Wrap. 
  11. ^ Ali Jaafar. "Star Wars: The Force Awakens Helps Abu Dhabi Build Road To Somewhere - Deadline". Deadline. 
  12. ^ "'Star Trek Beyond' descends on Dubai: JLT, DIFC 'raided'". Emirates 24-7. 
  13. ^ "Star Trek Franchise Box Office History - The Numbers". Retrieved 2016-01-31. 
  14. ^ "Star Wars Franchise Box Office History - The Numbers". Retrieved 2016-01-31. 
  15. ^ Dominguez, Robert (1999-05-17). "William Shatner's Trek Never Ends The Actor-author Keeps Seeking New Challenges While Feeding Fans' Hunger For All Things Kirk". New York Daily News. Archived from the original on 2012-01-12. Retrieved October 14, 2011. 
  16. ^ Trek Nation (2010 Documentary)
  17. ^ "Shatner Honors Lucas". American Film Institute. 
  18. ^ "Star Trek New Star Trek Series Premieres January 2017". 

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