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Star Wars is a science fantasy/fiction multi-media franchise created by George Lucas. From its very inception in the form of the first 1977 Star Wars film installment, there has been a definite rivalry between the Star Wars and Star Trek franchises, which Rod Roddenberry – son of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry – learned of through first-hand experience, though he was a much bigger fan of Star Wars than Star Trek during his childhood. His father approved of Star Wars, considering it "fun" with "nothing wrong" about it. In 1986, he commented, "I like Star Wars. It was the young King Arthur growing up and… slaying the evil emperor, finally."

Gene Roddenberry had actually viewed the first Star Wars installment several times a few months after its release on 25 May 1977. When the television series Star Trek: Phase II, then in development, was upgraded on 21 October 1977 to the theatrical feature Star Trek: The Motion Picture because of Star Wars, Roddenberry, accompanied by then-Director Robert Collins, made several trips to the cinema to get a feel for what they wanted their film to look like visually. (Star Trek Movie Memories, pp. 78, 83) Roddenberry himself had stated in 1979, "At the time Star Wars came out and turned box offices into money-making machines, Paramount said, and rightfully so, "Good Lord, what are we doing making a television show out of it, when we have what is really the original property of this type?" This, of course, was what I had been trying to tell them all along, through all these starts and stops. I saw one of those great, long lines around the block for Star Wars one time, and I recognized face after face from Star Trek conventions. There were so many Trek fans, we could have held a convention right there in the parking lot. Eventually I saw Star Wars myself. It was a lot of fun, and I enjoyed it, but I kept wishing it was Star Trek up there on that big screen." (Return to Tomorrow - The Filming of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, pp.47-48)

As history has shown, The Motion Picture never came close to the phenomenal success the first Star Wars film had, both in critical as well as financial terms, which did not at all come as a surprise to then-Phase II/Motion Picture Production Illustrator Mike Minor, who said "I love science fiction, but it's proved itself to be costly, damaging in Human terms, costly in terms of money and time, and it is just much of a bankroll to bet too often. And the only person who seems to know how to do it right now, forgive me, is George Lucas, because I firmly believe Steven Spielberg [note: director of the contemporary science fiction film Close Encounters of the Third Kind, released after the upgrade decision, which the Roddenberry/Collins pair also screened several times for the same purpose] hasn't the slightest idea what storytelling is all about. He's proved that rather conclusively." (Return to Tomorrow - The Filming of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, p. 165)

Before devising the origins of Star Wars, George Lucas attended a few Star Trek conventions. When interviewed by Rod Roddenberry in 2011, Lucas recalled, "I started writing Star Wars sort of in the heyday of the syndication part of Star Trek. I think the thing I was attracted to the most about Star Trek is that it completely got rid of all the mundane, boring angle of real space. And just said, 'Well, let's just go out and go where no one else dared to go' […] Star Trek and Star Wars are not reality shows; they're imagination shows. The story is really the thing that makes it work." Lucas went on to point out that portraying the stories of both Star Wars and Star Trek was limited by resources such as the amount of money and technology available. Comparing Star Wars to Star Trek, he noted, "What I was doing was more space opera than sort of science fiction. Star Trek was more sort of intellectual mystery. It wasn't action oriented. Star Wars was action oriented." Lucas also acknowledged that both Star Wars and Star Trek have affected many millions of people. He did not put much stock in the fan-based competitiveness between Star Wars and Star Trek, remarking, "I couldn't even contemplate what would happen if you put the Enterprise up against the Millennium Falcon. You know, it's an intellectual exercise which, you know, could have any outcome you want." (Trek Nation)

Gene Roddenberry meeting George Lucas

Roddenberry (l) and Lucas (r) – Two legendary franchise creators meet, with Dan Madsen (c) bearing witness to the event

On 25 May 1987, Gene Roddenberry himself had actually already returned the courtesy by showing up as a surprise guest at the first official Star Wars convention, the 24-26 May "Star Wars 10th anniversary convention" held at the Stouffer Concourse Hotel in Los Angeles, California, jointly organized by Creation Entertainment and Starlog magazine. [1] [2] Arranged by the two organizers (both of them having had good relations with either creator), it has resulted in the only known (public) face-to-face meeting between the creators of the two most influential science fiction franchises in media history, and Roddenberry is reported to have said to a genuinely surprised and honored Lucas that "he could never do a film like Star Wars". [3] At a time when both respective fanbases were still deeply embroiled in their intense rivalry, Roddenberry's appearance was a clear-cut public statement that there was no professional rivalry as far as the two creators were concerned and very much in line with Lucas' later statements on the subject matter.

At the 2016 Las Vegas Star Trek convention, William Shatner attributed the existence of The Motion Picture and all subsequent projects to Star Wars' popularity. [4] Yet, Shatner's assertion has to be seen in a somewhat more nuanced light; attempts to revitalize the live-action Star Trek franchise preceded the premiere of the original Star Wars film in 1977 – Roddenberry's previously mentioned "starts and stops" – eventually resulting in the Phase II television project. Nevertheless, Shatner had a point in his assessment of Star Wars' phenomenal success at the box office, at that time considered a fluke (and thus disregarded at first by Paramount), becoming instrumental in the studio's eventual decision to upgrade the television project into a major theatrical film project.

20th Century Fox was the distributor of the first six Star Wars films, though they only co-owned the first film along with Lucas' own Lucasfilm Ltd., until The Walt Disney Company acquired Lucasfilm Ltd. on October 30, 2012 and thus the Star Wars and Indiana Jones franchises. [5] Disney, incidentally, was in the 1980s-2000s headed by Michael Eisner, the former Paramount executive responsible for the studio oversight of Phase II / The Motion Picture and its two film successors. His boss at that time, Paramount President Barry Diller, established for his subsequent employer a fourth national television network, 20th Century Fox, later known as Fox Television, something he failed to do for Paramount and for which Phase II was intended to serve as flagship before its upgrade to a theatrical film. With the 2018 acquisition of Fox by Disney as well, all rights and title to the entire Star Wars franchise passed firmly over in full to one owner only.

Especially intense in the early decades, the rivalry between the two fanbases had been such that it even became part of popular culture itself as exemplified by the release of the 2001 documentary Star Wars vs. Star Trek: The Rivalry Continues. However, the intensity of the rivalry has abated considerably over the last decades. The immensely popular and heavily Star Trek referencing sitcom The Big Bang Theory featured almost as many Star Wars references as well, but rarely pitted the two franchises against each other – the four main protagonists in the show are actually fans of both without exhibiting any of the acrimony. And indeed, in this it mirrored the position Dan Madsen had already taken in the 1980s when he served as the concurrent president of both the Official Star Trek Fan Club and the official Lucasfilm Fan Club at a time when most of his fellow fans of either persuasion were deeply embroiled in the intense rivalry with each other. Still, the more partisan elements of each respective fandom still do their best to keep the rivalry alive in full force as evidenced on countless internet blogs, even though they presently appear to be a minority.

Star Trek in Star Wars[]

Keldon class in Star Wars

The Keldon-class starship

In the Star Wars: The Clone Wars 2008 episode "Rising Malevolence", a Keldon-class ship can be seen on a tactical monitor behind General Grievous at one point.

The two-part episode finale of Star Wars Resistance collectively entitled "The Escape" features a scene that seemingly pays homage to the shield-dropping scene from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. When the Resistance droid CB-23 hacks into the Star Destroyer Thunderer and deactivates its shield, the graphic displaying the ship's blueprint is shown to be similar to the USS Reliant's, with an identical disappearing dotted pattern to represent the ship's shields dropping at a rapid rate. A bridge officer then says "Agent Tierny, sir. Our shields have somehow been deactivated." Agent Tierny replies, "Well raise them. Bring them back online!" To which the bridge officer replies, "I- I can't!"

The short story "The Whills Strike Back" seemingly acknowledges some elements of the Star Trek universe existing within the current Star Wars canon. In the story two Whills are arguing over the content that one of them is writing which will later be seen in the opening text crawl of The Empire Strikes Back. When they reach the part that says "Evading the dreaded Imperial Starfleet" one of the Whills interjects "Wait… "Starfleet"? Did you just say "Starfleet"? Are Kirk and Spock going to show up next?" while the other Whill replies "I don’t even know what Kirk and Spock are!"

During the development of Star Wars, George Lucas took inspiration from Star Trek, recalling that, like Lucas himself, Gene Roddenberry initially hadn't been entirely comfortable with developing a series and refining or pulling together the vision of a fictional world. (The Making of Star Wars: The Definitive Story Behind the Original Film, pp. 245-246)

Star Wars in Star Trek[]

Millennium Falcon

Millennium Falcon cameo in Star Trek: First Contact

R2-D2 cameo in Star Trek

R2-D2's cameo in Star Trek

R2-D2 cameo in Star Trek Into Darkness

R2-D2's cameo in Star Trek Into Darkness

The 1982 theatrical trailer for Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, included on the Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (The Director's Edition) DVD release, features sound effects from Star Wars in the segment where the USS Enterprise and the USS Reliant do battle. Conceivably this had been an in-joke by ILM, the VFX company (see below) which has served both franchises, starting with The Wrath of Khan for Star Trek.

A scene in DS9: "Valiant", involving the USS Valiant battling a Jem'Hadar battleship, was intended to be evocative of the Battle of Yavin in the original Star Wars. Episode writer and show producer Ronald D. Moore explained "that whole sequence, that technical thing that they found, it's all a deliberate homage to Star Wars." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 30, No. 9/10, p. 61)

Some aspects of Star Trek were deliberately meant to not have a Star Wars style. For instance, Makeup Supervisor Michael Westmore once described the background aliens in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine as being "basically within Gene Roddenberry's realm of not going into a Star Wars-type of creature." (The Official Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Magazine issue 1, p. 28) During the production of Star Trek: First Contact, efforts were made to reduce the resemblance of the Borg sphere model to the Death Star.

In the Star Wars prequel trilogy a character, Jar Jar Binks, appeared that was very poorly received by its fanbase, who had made that abundantly clear to such an extent that it has become a pop culture element onto its own as being synonymous for anything ill-conceived or despised. In the fourth season "The 21-Second Excitation" episode of The Big Bang Theory for example, the character Sheldon deemed Wil Wheaton (at the time of setting, Sheldon's arch-nemesis due to his opportunism and exploiting of his fame) "the Jar Jar Binks of the Star Trek universe", thereby referring to his Wesley Crusher character he played on Star Trek: The Next Generation, after which Wheaton drives the Sheldon character mad by imitating Jar Jar Binks.


Franchise performances[]

With Star Wars having become the most successful science fiction franchise in media history, it was ironic in hindsight that the Hollywood studios United Artists and Universal Studios declined the opportunity to become part of it when they were approached by Lucas in the mid-1970s with the proposition for what was to become the first film installment. [9] United Artists was ended after its disastrous 1980 western Heaven's Gate; Universal Studios did ultimately manage to produce a modestly successful science fiction franchise of its own in Battlestar Galactica.

The original Star Wars film is to date the second all-time highest domestic grossing film in history adjusted for inflation, only surpassed by the 1939 film Gone with the Wind. By early 2018, it had been joined in the top two hundred by all the other up-until-then produced Star Wars films, including the eighth and ninth ones, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016, the first spin-off film) and The Last Jedi (2017), whereas none of the Star Trek films have made the list. [10] In absolute dollars, four Star Wars films, including Rogue One, have as of 2018 passed the US$1 billion mark, with The Force Awakens reaching the exclusive status as one of only four US$2 billion plus worldwide grossing films at that point in time. With Star Trek Into Darkness over two hundred places below at US$467 million as the all-time best box-office performing Star Trek film, no Star Trek film has managed to pass the US$500 million mark, with only the three alternate reality films grossing more than US$150 million. [11] The commercial failure of the 2018 second spin-off film, Solo: A Star Wars Story, at US$393 million, marked the first financial setback for the film franchise, whereas the Star Trek film franchise had already had at least four (see: Star Trek films: Performance summary).

While the gross box office takes of the Star Trek film franchise, US$2.2 billion as of 2018, are easily accessible, it is the gross revenue from other franchise elements that remain shrouded in mystery. Reporter Mark A. Altman disclosed that the entire Star Trek franchise – which, contrary to the Star Wars franchise, reports less frequently on the other revenue streams themselves, apart from the box office takes – had already passed the US$1 billion dollar mark in total studio revenues by 1993 (Cinefantastique, Vol 24 #3/4, p. 16), which was upped to US$2 billion gross in Entertainment Weekly's Special Star Trek Issue of 18 January 1995, implying a rough fifty-fifty split at that time between box office income and other franchise revenues. In his 1998 book A Vision of the Future - Star Trek: Voyager (p. 55), Stephen Edward Poe cited a Los Angeles Times article that claimed nearly US$2 billion franchise revenues in retail sales alone. In December 1998 the Los Angeles Times reported a US$3.5 billion aggregate customer merchandise turnover, which did not include the box office takes and their derivative home video formats sales, [12] whereas Richard Arnold has reported a US$10 billion total turnover in July 2016, which constituted a franchise total up until then, including box office takes and home video format sales, and thus implying a roughly 80/20 split between all merchandise and box office takes. Star Trek Beyond had just been released at the time of Arnold's report, with its total box office take therefore not yet known. [13]

Despite the reluctance of the Star Trek franchise to divulge more detailed figures itself, but with revenues undoubtedly running in the billions over the decades, Star Trek has become one of the most successful media franchises in history. Yet, it is the financial success of the younger Star Wars franchise, a franchise rival from the start and until 2015 sporting far fewer film or television productions, that is truly staggering, dwarfing that of Star Trek, which has never even come close of attaining the levels its rival achieved. Shortly before the release of the seventh film installment in late 2015, gross aggregates were divulged by its franchise; they consisted of US$4.3 billion in box office revenue, US$12 billion in toy sales alone, and US$10.7 billion for all other franchise elements, including home video format sales. [14] The four films released afterwards have in the 2015-2018 time span more than doubled the box office takes on their own.

The box office revenue was realized over six films, as opposed to Star Trek's twelve at that time (2015), meaning that on average a Star Wars film had performed nearly five times better than a Star Trek film. This was already abundantly exemplified by the very first 1977 Star Wars installment, grossing US$775 million against a budget of US$11 million worldwide, [15] as opposed to The Motion Picture's US$139 million and US$35 million respectively. While the runaway success of the first Star Wars film, considered a fluke at first by Paramount, was a major influence in the decision to produce The Motion Picture in the first place, it was also a major source of Paramount's chagrin over the Motion Picture's performance, becoming the main reason for them to consider the film a failure in public.

The discrepancies in financial performance between the two franchises, also reflected themselves in the financial fortunes of its two respective creators. Well into his sixties, Gene Roddenberry only became affluent because of Star Trek in the last decade of his life, while George Lucas was already a multi-millionaire by the time the original Star Trek trilogy was completed, yet to turn forty, moving up into the exclusive ranks of multi-billionaires at age 68 when he sold his Lucasfilm company to The Walt Disney Company in 2012 for US$4 billion. In all fairness though, contrary to Star Trek, Star Wars became a runaway success right from the bat and Lucas "lucked out" in a big way. In 1976/1977 Lucas needed additional funding to complete his first, original Star Wars installment, and offered to sell his production partner, 20th Century Fox (the Hollywood studio that had picked up his pitch in the mid-1970s), the merchandising and licensing rights. Fox declined, and the rights have remained where they have been ever since, at Lucasfilm, with Lucas paying for the shortfall by foregoing on his, and some of his closest associates, salaries at the time. In stark contrast, Roddenberry lost all rights and title to his creation, save for his "created by" credit, the moment he sold his Star Trek is... pitch to Desilu Studios in April 1964, as was customary in the motion picture industry at the time.

Whereas, as per Herbert Solow, Paramount's acquisition of Star Trek was "one of the most spectacular business moves in entertainment history" (NBC: America's Network, p. 220), Fox's refusal was assuredly one of its most spectacular blunders, starkly reinforced by the Lucasfilm sale to Disney; with a new, highly anticipated and promising third trilogy in the making as of 2015, Fox subsequently missed out entirely on its share of the box office and home video sales revenues. How huge this missed income was became readily apparent on 21 December 2015 when newscaster CNN revealed the opening box office take of the seventh installment, The Force Awakens, at US$518 million worldwide, discounting the second largest theatrical film market in the world, China, where the film premiered later and obliterating the previous weekend record, held by Jurassic World only achieved in the previous summer. The opening weekend box office take alone for this one film, already accounted for over a quarter all twelve (at the time) Star Trek features had generated in their entire runs. [16] Incidentally, holding on to that record for two years, it was virtually obliterated by the film Avengers: Endgame, the 2019 outing from the Marvel Comics sister franchise (owned by Disney from 2009 onward and having, ironically, acquired the distribution rights from Paramount as well in 2011; [17]) at US$1.2 billion, not only the gross opening weekend box office take record was shattered (the year previously already held by the Avengers: Infinity War prequel), but most other records as well. [18] In the intervening years, the Marvel Comics franchise had become a serious Star Wars contender for the position of the all-time most successful science fiction media franchise, each of them separately leaving Star Trek far behind in the dust. Endgame went on to write motion picture history when it hit the US$2.8 billion mark in the last week of July 2019, inching past the ten-year-old record of Avatar as the all-time highest grossing motion picture. That film alone earned more at the box-office than all thirteen Star Trek films combined – surpassing it by the box office takes of all six Original Crew films – whereas The Force Awakens had "only" been shy of US$200 million (or 10%) of equaling the Star Trek total.

Already a multi-media entertainment franchise juggernaut to begin with, Disney became with the acquisition of two of the most profitable franchises (with the March 2019 acquisition of the 21st Century Fox corporation – including 20th Century Fox and all its assets – to boot, reuniting Fox and Lucasfilm under one roof) a behemoth in the entertainment industry, eclipsing in scope all its competitors, including National Amusements, owner of CBS Corporation (in turn the current owner of the Star Trek franchise) and Viacom, the current holding company of Paramount Pictures.

Incidentally, Paramount Pictures had been the distributor of the Indiana Jones films, and the sale of Lucasfilm to Disney also meant that Paramount lost the revenues from that franchise as well, aside from having already lost the entire Star Trek franchise to CBS Corporation in 2006 and the Marvel Comics franchise distribution revenues to Disney in 2011 as stated above. While not the root cause, the loss of these income sources contributed to the financial adversities the studio found itself in the 2010s, eventually leading up to the cancellation of Star Trek 4. Reportedly, the stupefying box office performances of the relaunched Star Wars (Solo excepted), and those of the post-2011 Marvel Comics film franchises, became a major consideration for Paramount to cancel the fourth, yet untitled, alternate reality film in January 2019. While not overtly evident at that time, this decision had for all intents and purposes all the hallmarks of the definitive termination of the Kelvin timeline in the Star Trek film franchise, [19] and conceivably of the Star Trek film franchise proper as well for the time being (even though a Star Trek XV film project is apparently still on the table, though it has not even evolved beyond the writing stage as of 2021), especially in the light of the film franchise being virtually rendered insignificant by those from the Star Wars and Marvel Comics ones in particular, as has been amply demonstrated by Endgame alone. [20]


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