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It’s one of the great cultural battles of our time. Which is better, Star Wars or Star Trek? They have similar titles and both take place in outer space. They both started making movies in the late 1970’s and both have become institutions within popular culture. Pretty much everybody has an opinion as to which is better. Bill Nye, has an opinion too, though, since he’s a scientist it’s probably not hard to guess which one he likes better.
Bill Nye is completely on board with team Star Trek. It’s not really that hard to see why. While one of the franchises uses ideas that are at least based in science facts, the other has a much more mystical basis. There’s absolutely nothing scientific about The Force.
Star Wars has magic in it! The Force is like a ghost or magic or religion. [Star Trek is] an optimistic view of the future with science. Anti-matter contained in magnetic fields, real physics… [in Star Wars] there's an invisible thing that has superpowers, but in Star Trek they didn't do that.
It’s far from surprising to find out that Bill Nye feels this way. The science behind Star Trek is always a key part of the fiction. While some of what occurs is still somewhat fantastical, there is usually at least an attempt to ground everything within the guise of real science. Star Wars has never tried to do that. While both have spaceships capable of traveling faster than light, Star Wars has never bothered to give you an explanation as to how it’s possible.
Even though Star Wars has ships that can fly between planets, much of the rest of the story tends to fall more within the genre of fantasy than that of science fiction. As Nye says, Star Wars has magic, which, ultimately, is what The Force is. While most of us don’t have a problem with that, it’s just a different kind story. We have to say that Bill Nye really seems to be dismissive of it. If you watch the interview with Rolling Stone, you’ll notice he sounds more than a little contemptuous of Star Wars.
We would love to be able to ask a follow-up question of what he thought of the trailer for the next Star Trek movie. It looked so little like a Star Trek movie that even the co-writer and co-star Simon Pegg spoke out against it. We’ll have to wait and see if Nye’s description of what Star Trek is actually makes it into the new movie.
It’s the sort of question Uma Thurman could have asked John Travolta in Pulp Fiction. Are you a Star Trek person or a Star Wars person? You can like both. Many people do. But like Elvis or The Beatles, you probably have a strong preference for one over the other. Which do you love more, and more importantly, why?