Thursday, Feb 18 2016
 
 

The difference between Star Trek and Star Wars is you're an idiot.


Howdy fellow space fans. Are you being ridiculed for liking Star Trek or scoffed at for your Star Wars obsession? Yeah me too. It comes with the territory. I've grown to welcome it. Approximation is the highest form of flattery. There is but one mockery that cuts me like a knife and it goes like this:

"Hey, Lance, did you see the new Star Trek movie?", says one of my now former family relations.

"You mean Star Wars?", I reply, giving them at least the chance to correct their misnomer. My intention was to wait for them to admit that though they knew it was Star Wars and not Trek, they accidentally switched the nouns. Common mistake. Totally forgivable.

"Star Wars, Star Trek, whatever.", Cousin Idiot retorts, "Same difference."

Ok. Right.

"So did you start the conversation that obviously took you more energy than you anticipated investing in oxygen than it did in sincerity with the intention of turning YOUR mistake into a specific insult, are you arrogant, or just dumb?", I politely think to myself.

"Yeah I saw it.", I answer, sparing what little credibility his brain has left.

Cousin gives me the condescending thumbs up and continues to live blindly for the rest of his life, and I move on. I've heard it before, over and over.

Let me break it down for the Cousin Idiots out there. Star Trek is Science Fiction. and just because a story might involve a spaceship flown by a magic wielding marsupial, that alone doesn't make it Sci-Fi. Science Fiction, whether it takes place in space, on Earth, in the future or the past, is a prediction of events based on either the proven or theoretical laws of Einsteinian Physics. It can imagine fantastic things like time travel, but only with a reasonable explanation of how that might work. It never contains elements of religious or unexplainable intervention, and it can't involve magic. Star Wars is Fantasy. It makes up its own rules. It's not earth in the future, but a galaxy far away, a long time ago. It relies on "the force", a mystical power with unlimited potential for physical and mental manipulation, and offers no scientific explanation of itself. Harry Potter and Guardians of the Galaxy are Fantasy movies. Back to the Future, Minority Report, and The Terminator are Sci Fi. There can be a mixing of the two genres with stories like The Matrix, for example, which could have been pure Sci-Fi, but its creators decided to give the protagonist Neo a God-like ability to bring people back from the dead, defying science itself. Spoiler, I know, but pure Fantasy. (For those of you paying attention and wondering how Spock came back from the dead, he never actually died. Vulcans have the ability to transfer their soul or " Katra" to a host body before dying, and retain the ability in rare cases to be reborn.)

What I love about Science Fiction, and Star Trek in particular, is that it doesn't have Fantasy's luxury of playing God or betraying Einstein. If it wants to make us believe something about the future or the past, it has to make an effort to operate within the confines of scientific reason. The producers of Star Trek even enlisted renowned physicists Denise and Michael Okuda as consultants to the show. Every piece of their imagined technology has been refined to have a reasonable explanation of its engineering. For example, to explain the "Warp Drive" theory for its starship, the Okudas postulated how that might actually operate. Warp Drive is the theoretical engine used aboard the USS Enterprise to bend or warp space itself in a "bubble" around the ship, allowing it to travel faster than the speed of light and thus compensate for the conundrum that if you truly were to skip around the galaxy with ease, even light speed would take forever. That's what I call Science Fiction, Cousin.

I happen to be a fan of both Star Wars and Trek, and it's natural to confuse their titles. Even I switch the names occasionally, but only the names. To accidentally switch the names and then brush it off with an arrogant and ignorant response like, "whatever", makes you look stupid. I know that for certain because to fall into that trap, you must be talking to a fan of one or the other, and even if we spare your feelings, it's still ignorant and offensive. For Star Wars fans,you've lumped them in with the much geekier, canon obsessed, Trek fan base. Star Wars has a much larger, mainstream following with a broader cultural, gender and age demographic, so it's way "cooler" than being a Trekkie. The real insult is what it does to we Trek fans. Trust me, we like Star Wars, but more like the way a kid likes The Neverending Story. By lumping us in with Star Wars, you rob us of the gift of our benevolent religion, and the distinction our long and arduous commitment deserves. It's kind of like confusing a doctor with a dentist, but more like a physicist with a Phys-Ed teacher.

It's impossible to become a Trek fanatic overnight, or even in a year. It's a journey, and there's enough of it to spend an entire lifetime exploring. The original Star Trek television series that I think even my cousin recognizes began in 1966, and introduced our patron saints, Captain Kirk and his pointy eared sidekick Spock. Since that time, it's spawned 6 different TV series over 30 seasons for a total of 725 hour long episodes. We will also be marking its 50th anniversary with the release of the 13th feature film later this year. Even if you binged watched it 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, it would take you almost 19 weeks to complete. The incredible thing is that every piece of it ( aside from a few discrepancies only we doctorates are qualified to debate) is connected in a cohesive timeline that spans from around 2060 to almost 2400 AD, and we patiently await its inevitable future and beyond. Star Wars just released its 7th film since 1979, and aside from 2 animated series and an embarrassing Christmas special, that's it. It takes a holiday weekend to become an expert. Mathematically, that proves the level of sheer time commitment a real Trekkie fan dedicates to become official. I easily rank in the upper echelon, and I have yet to see every TV episode. I'm close, but the closer I get, the more conservatively I ration what little is left, like a senior citizen saving for a Florida retirement.




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