A few days ago while at work, I overheard several coworkers discussing the upcoming Star Wars movie, as well as the events of the previous six movies. And I thought to myself “I never thought to hear Star Wars talked so openly and frequently again! This. Is. Awesome.”
A meme has started floating around the internet, with pictures of news articles about the new episodes of X-Files, the new Star Wars movies, and the recently announced Star Trek TV show. The meme goes something like: “which nerd managed to find a genie’s lamp?”
Wait, no, that’s not the one…… ;)
Any way, it got me to thinking about the history of two of those franchises, and how they seem to have been linked. Star Trek and Star Wars.
In many ways, the revival of Star Trek that began with The Motion Picture owes its thanks to the release and insane popularity of Star Wars in 1977. There’s a story, one that has been repeated in several interviews, in which Paramount Studios saw the success of Star Wars, and thought “What do we have that can compete with that?” Other accounts say it wasn’t about rivalry, it was more “This has made the genre popular again, let’s build upon that opportunity!”
In either case, the release of The Motion Picture in 1979 was no coincidence. And fandom saw a new surge in sci fi popularity that hasn’t quite died.
Unfortunately, despite that resurgence, both Star Trek and Star Wars eventually saw an apparent end.
Everything Has It’s Time, Right?
In 2005, just when it was finally starting to find its stride, Star Trek Enterprise went off the air. For many fans, myself included, there was a genuine fear that this was the last time we would ever see Trek on TV.
Let’s face it, Star Trek had begun to lose its gusto. Fans still loved Trek (myself included,) but many were very much disappointed in Enterprise, and ratings were crashing.
Everything has its time. And with 5 series spread across 28 seasons (not counting the animated series) and ten movies, it seemed like Trek had reached its saturation.
What’s more, Star Wars Episode 3 came out the same year Enterprise ended, and Lucas promised no more new Star Wars. Perhaps with good reason. While the prequel trilogy had done well in sales, many fans despised the trilogy, and even today I have a difficult time finding anyone who enjoyed the new trilogy.
It seemed like the end of a mutually beneficial era. The two franchises that seemed to build upon one another’s successes had come to an end at roughly the same time.
Here We Go Again!
Then something unexpected happened. Star Trek made a come back! With a new spirit, new actors, and a new timeline, the 2009 Star Trek reboot brought both old and new fans to the theaters, and once again, everyone was talking Star Trek!
In fact, I have this very distinct memory of seeing the new movie the first time with several friends, and at the very end, one of them leaned over and asked me, “Did we just witness the revival of Star Trek? I think we did!”
It was an exciting time. Star Trek was back! Yes, there was no hint of a TV show coming, and we didn’t have Star Wars, but that was okay. Some was better than none…
Or is it? In 2012, the world was shocked to learn that Lucas was selling the rights for Star Wars to Disney. And lo and behold, within days, Disney announced not just a new Star Wars movie, but 5 new movies!
Could this be real?
Yes…yes it is. Both are coming back!!
Fast-forward to today, and what do we have? A successful 2nd Trek movie, with a 3rd on the way, and previews of a new Star Wars movie that give many, myself included, great hopes for the Star Wars movies we’ve all only ever dreamed of.
To top it all off, Paramount has announced a NEW Star Trek television series is coming!
The Tapestry of the Stars
So what’s going on? Are these two franchises somehow woven together in the tapestry of fandom?
Certainly they seem to be enjoying the very same fervent popularity they held for so long before their eventual apparent ‘demise’ in 2005. And I really don’t think it is a coincidence that as one makes a come-back, so too does the other. I think they build upon each others’ successes.
I will never argue over which is better. I love both for the unique qualities they bring to such a diverse genre. And just as Lucas and Roddenberry once shook hands and encouraged each other, I so hope that these two franchises continue to help prop each other up, so that we can enjoy another couple decades of amazing Science Fiction :)
(PS: Is anyone else out there hoping for Stargate to make a comeback?!)
Thanks for reading!