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  • Writer's pictureAaron Fonseca

Star Wars and Star Trek Have One Similarity Most Fans Never Notice

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It's easily seen throughout media history the great divide of taste and difference that the Star Wars and Star Trek franchises have. One is set in a space fantasy setting of wizards fighting an overwhelming empire, and the other is set in a techno-jargon-justified utopian science fiction adventure. Regardless of fans' preference of Star Wars,Star Trek, or both, it's often agreed that the similarities between these two very different franchises are quite sparse. However, one of those few similarities is often not seen or acknowledged. Although it was Yoda that said "Size matters not." Star Trek and Star Wars both share this philosophy when it comes to their space battles.

Of course, when it comes to Star Trek, the difference between ship sizes is often much more subtle than in Star Wars. Comparing the original USS Enterprise NCC 1701 to a Vulcan Surak class ship is only a size difference of around 150 meters. On the other hand, Admiral Akbar's Mon Calamari Cruiser Home One is 1300 meters, versus Vader's Executor-Class Dreadnought coming in at 19 kilometers long, which is an intense difference. In Star Trek even their shuttles are quite large and clunky, carrying an array of useful systems that Star Wars' fighters cannot compare with their limber frame and tight 1-2 pilot fighters and shuttles. Despite this, there are many examples of under-classed and smaller ships overtaking or defeating larger ones in both franchises. From Borg Cubes to Death Stars, the franchises are seen celebrating underdog vessels. How does this happen in two very different space-based franchises?

Smaller Ships Use Creative Cunning

  • In the Battle for Sector 001 in First Contact, Picard uses his knowledge of the Borg to focus the fleet's fire on an unimportant point of the cube, destroying it.

  • A Star Wars Star Venator-Class Star Destroyer is 88-times bigger than an X-wing fighter.

Both the Star Wars and Star Trek franchises have been shown to have smaller ships and their crews overcoming physically bigger odds. One of the most obvious examples in Star Trek is the NCC 1701-D from Star Trek: The Next Generation going up against the Borg in their Cube ship spanning 27 cubic kilometers. The difference between these ships is considerable in the scope of the Star Trek universe and victory against the Borg ships involves tactical retreats, time travel, and heavy sacrifices of both ships and crew. In the same respect, but presented differently, the entire military culture of space warfare in Star Wars is centered around in-water naval and airborne warfare a-la World War II, lifted into the void of space, which creates dramatic and bombastic battles.

Luckily for Star Wars, despite its ever-growing techno-jargon, is first and foremost a fantasy world with a loose and vague logic behind its technology that allows the rules of cool to flexibly play with the design and spectacle of ship battles. Because of this, small fighters can deliver killing blows to massive space stations like The Death Star, justifying it with gathered intelligence and espionage plot lines in films like Rogue One that reflected spy networks and saboteurs that were organized in WWII. In the case of Star Trek, the shows and films attempt a more future-grounded approach, foregoing the idea of small fighters are a useful tactic since their defense and weapons technologies are far beyond those of the Star Wars franchise from "A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far, away..." Therefore, battling ships can have significant size differences, but none so vast as those seen in Star Wars.

Star Trek Gets Bigger Battles To Match Star Wars

  • One of the largest space battles in Star Trek history is The Second Battle Of Chin'toka in Star Trek: Deep Space 9.

  • The Second Battle of Chin'Toka was fought on several fronts during the Dominion War against many contesting factions.

The two audiences between Star Trek and Star Wars had long been in a struggle to mix and mingle due to the differences in their worldbuilding and genre definitions. With the Golden Age of Television over-saturating the market with spectacular and exciting new sci fi and fantasy shows and films, the Star Trek franchise has tried to write in more reasons to have Star Wars scale battles in a universe of larger and more powerful ships. Before the J.J. Abrams films and shows like Star Trek: Discovery and Strange New Worlds elevated Trek's spectacle on television, Star Trek pushed the envelope in a divisive way with Deep Space Nine. Set in a territory only stewarded by the Federation but located in contentious territory, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine was a wartime espionage sci-fi drama set in a universe so-often focused on exploration and discovery.

To some in the Star Trek fandom, Deep Space 9 was too far gone from the original literature's aim of optimistic futurism, but for many other fans, it was the right tone for the intense intrigue and action people craved at the time. Deep Space Nine featured several climactic large space battles involving smaller enemy and allied ships mixed-in with the more familiar larger ones. Comparatively to Star Wars, these "small ships" were still much larger than an X-wingor TIE Fighter, but still brought the "filling-the-frame" chaotic and operatic spectacle that Star Wars had used to raise the bar on fictional action entertainment.

Star Trek's Small Ship Justifications

  • The Defiant is five times bigger than The Millennium Falcon

  • Chief of Operations Miles O'Brien was responsible for The Defiant's systems being upgraded and updating it past its original design flaws.

Star Trek has always had one major small ship that has been used to an insanely dynamic number; the shuttles. The use of the shuttle has been the crux and centerpoint of countless episodes throughout the franchise for exploration, unconventional combat, and transport when the transporter beams receive interference. Because of the futuristic technology to this hyper-realized timeline, the shuttle is a wildly dynamic ship that can do an insane amount more than a Lambda-class imperial shuttle from Star Wars. It's almost as operational as a crunched-down version of the larger Star Trek ships minus heavy weapons systems and, even then, is heavily modifiable. All this is to say that Star Trek has proven time and time again that Star Wars is not alone in using significantly smaller ships to overcome larger threats and exploring wonders whether it be big ships or strange and powerful entities. Unlike Star Warshowever, their approach to using small ships, even ones equipped for combat, like The Defiant, come with a much more nuanced need to strategize on multiple levels against their more weapons-savvy enemies.

Although not often outclassed in their technology nor inexperienced in warfare, the Federation makes a point to focus their technology on exploratory and utilitarian tools to equip their ships. Their phasers and torpedoes are still essential tools for combat, but they have also used them for scientific purposes as well. This often urges them to need to heavily modify their ships and weaponry in times of war or desperate times, since they are not inherently a warmongering organization primed for battle against enemies with equally-powerful tech that is focused on weaponry. Because of this, using their creative thinking and resourceful variety of officers and intelligence agents creates a formidable brainstorm against even the most powerful enemies. In an attempt to give them a military edge in The Dominion War, Commander Benjamin Sisko took the military prototype for the Federation's fighting ship out of storage and into service. Although The Defiant is much larger than the Millennium Falcon, its old-model story and need to be heavily upgraded and repaired by Miles O'Brien gave it a similar character and function as the ship that led the charge in major missions and battles. The Defiant was originally built to thwart the earlier Borg threat, but it became integral to the Dominion War instead.

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