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A princess's moment of indiscretion. It's time to move on from the Force! - AFP pic
A princess's moment of indiscretion. It's time to move on from the Force! - AFP pic

I WATCHED Kirk Douglas’ Spartacus again before writing this tale. The movie serves as a reminder of what is great, and such knowledge is of immeasurable value when one enters a cosmic arena.

Today’s gladiatorial ring is called the Milky Way. Two months ago in this part of the ever-expanding universe the star called Sol rose on The Rise of Skywalker.

Before this sun of ours retires behind yonder mountains, there remains time to pit two of the world's greatest sci-fi titans one against the other.

Let’s begin by rephrasing an oft-quoted statement on J.R.R. Tolkien’s masterpiece.

The world is divided into three classes of people. Firstly, those who have read The Lord of
the Rings
and watched a fair number of Star Trek films/TV dramas.

Secondly, those who think they have read The Lord of the Rings and actually watched the Star Wars movies.

And, thirdly, those who sadly and surprisingly have done neither of the two.

Before I proceed, I am asking ensign Faridul to raise the shields and go to Black Alert.

This alone, though, may
not save me from the snarling proxies of the inter-galactic characters.

Still, the truth must be told.

Let us put Star Trek and Star Wars on the universal scale of wonder, and see where the stars shine brighter than a supernova.

Be warned, though. This is not a film review. It will be brief, but it may also be painful. Such is the nature of wars in the bleakness and beauty of space.

‘EPICNESS’

Trump would say “hugeness”. Whatever. Star Wars, with expansive scenes, spaceships and scores, buccaneering characters and baleful creatures, lies light years ahead of Star Trek.

The latter has some of these traits, too, but is not anywhere in the same league as Star Wars, methinks.

CHARACTERS

The roster on both sides is
as long as the tail of Halley’s Comet. Short of stardust they are not.

They could all be listed here, but this criterion is not about names per se. It is about three-dimensional persons; those that live as humans do. Or who shine a light on what it is to be human.

Five minutes with the Enterprise’s Lieutenant Commander Data, who is forever intrigued by the human condition, is infinitely better for the mind than spending time with a drone — C3PO — that yammers away.

Would it not be true to also say that with Kirk, Spock and Seven of Nine, we have creatures whose thoughts and temperament are as fascinating as a mountaintop with a mantle of mysterious mist?

Star Wars has a constellation of personalities, too. But apart from Yoda with his syntax-bending speech, who else may be as awesome as the rings of Saturn? Who possesses the power of pathos?

STORY DEPTH

Now here is where the contrast really begins to form. Thus shall you see light and darkness, day and night.

Star Trek stories take us where we have not gone before, and also awaken thoughts which have been slumbering for too long. They are a grand opera echoing cosmic sounds that once were, and will be.

I was in college when I watched one of the best Star Trek tales. It featured Captain Picard defending the right of the android, Data, to exist (artificial intelligence becoming sentient?).

I look up the episode again. And I understand why I was (and still am) so fascinated by it. Data, in articulating for the continuation of his ‘life’, says: “I am the culmination of one man’s dream. This is not ego, or vanity. But when Dr Soong created me, he added to the substance of the universe. If, by your experiments, I am destroyed, something unique, something wonderful will be lost. I cannot permit that. I must protect his dream.”

Odin’s beard! While a machine speaks about its hopes and dreams, humans are bound to their useless dogmas and hubris.

There are many Star Trek stories that deeply explore humanity’s best and worst. Star Wars movies don’t do this as well. Mandolarian is something else, but one living organism on an otherwise dead Mars doesn’t make a being.

THE VERDICT

Almost everyone loves Tom and Jerry, the eternally feuding cat-and-mouse duo who celebrated their 80th year last week.

Star Wars is like Tom and Jerry. Not stodgy but fun. Loads of it. For a time. Even for me.

But if you want to see further away, even further than the James Webb Space Telescope can ever hope to behold, then the choice is obvious.

Read Tolkien. Watch Star Trek. Then shall ye, with the same conviction and courage as the slaves in Spartacus, say: “I am a Trekkie”.


The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of the New Straits Times

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