Star Wars vs. Star Trek As the Franchises Take Breaks

By Michelle
April 25, 2005 - 11:54 PM

The temporary conclusions to what are arguably the two biggest science fiction franchises in history - Star Trek and Star Wars - have sparked commentary in news outlets, which compare fans of the two space serials. Most reporters guess that neither will be absent from popular culture for long, despite the fact that there are no current plans for a series to replace Star Trek: Enterprise or for a cinematic follow-up to next month's Star Wars Episode III: The Revenge of the Sith.

Several articles have made note of the rise of fan-made episodes, including CNET's look at "homegrown" episodes, amateur films and fan fiction focused on Star Trek and Star Wars characters. In addition to Star Trek: New Voyages and Star Trek: Hidden Frontier, fans can watch Star Wars: Revelations, which CNET calls "one of the most ambitious amateur films based on George Lucas' science fiction universe ever made."

TV Barn has an article as well on fan productions, noting that "around the world, aficionados of such enduring entertainment titles as 'Star Wars' and 'Star Trek' are putting out low-budget versions with all-new scripts and actors playing the signature characters." TV Barn observed that the 40-minute Revelations was released Monday "to immediate acclaim and a frenzy of downloading", while fans are anticipating New Voyages' upcoming episode featuring original Star Trek star Walter Koenig (Chekov).

The Los Angeles Times observes that the professional print sagas of these franchises carried fans through in between films and shows and will do so again: "'Star Wars' and 'Star Trek' on-screen adventures may be ending, but their sagas will continue in books," wrote Lewis Beale.

There is likely to be an eleventh Star Trek feature film before there is another television series, according to executive producer Rick Berman, who has said that the film is in the early stages of development while plans for television will be put on hold for a few years to give the franchise a rest. But USA Today reports from the massive fan gathering Celebration III in Indianapolis that Lucas will produce two Star Wars television series, beginning with an animated Clone Wars cartoon and followed by a live-action series similar to the The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles. A British fan at the convention said, "Star Wars fans are the most die-hard fans in the world...forget Star Trek."

Meanwhile, several publications have tried to guess what will be the next big franchise - Battlestar Galactica, which has the nostalgia factor? Or perhaps The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, which opens in the US next weekend, based on the Douglas Adams bestsellers and featuring such familiar names to genre fans as John Malkovich, Warwick Davis and Alan Rickman among others?

"Itís a bit of an underground classic," said a bookstore employee to The Daily Reporter-Herald, while the local librarian noted that three copies were overdue and the book, at least, was "too popular for its own good."

"While "Hitchhikerís Guide" fanatics are not as widespread as fans of other science fiction phenomena, such as Star Trek and Star Wars, they are around, peppered through society," noted the reporter, who cited a Colorado State University English professor as saying that it was the kind of book where someone can refer to "42" and everybody would instantly know the in-joke from the book. For instance, The X-Files' Fox Mulder had the number 42 on his door.

Perhaps the biggest measure of the impact of the coming absence of Star Trek and Star Wars can be measured by the rise in interest in the franchises' fans. The Los Angeles Times this morning reported on the collapse of the TrekUnited campaign to raise millions of dollars to fund a fifth season of Enterprise, while The Orlando Sentinel published a story on fans camped out in front of Grauman's Chinese Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard waiting for Revenge of the Sith...despite the fact that the film will not open at Grauman's, but at the Arclight, a 14-screen multiplex several blocks away.

"As 'Star Wars: Episode III -- Revenge of the Sith,' the final film in George Lucas' prequel trilogy, hits screens and the last of the Star Trek franchises, 'Enterprise' airs the final episode, the U.S. Census Bureau projects that the total population of nerds will increase by 30 to 35%," joked the parody site, which predicted that with less to watch, fans might be more likely to get out and reproduce. It seems a safe bet that by the time there's a next generation of fans, there will be a next generation for both these franchises.

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