Monday, May 17, 1999

Ten ways 'Star Wars' is not 'Star Trek'

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        As science-fiction fans know well, Star Wars is not the only outer-space universe in town. Star Trek, a three-year television series that became an industry, boasts an army of fans and followers who are, if anything, more obsessed than their Star Wars counterparts.

        Somehow, some people have managed to steer clear of both phenomena — despite more than two decades' of TV shows, movies, records, books, toys, conventions, parodies and Web sites.

        For those people, this is a confusing time.

        By now, even the loneliest aesthete in the most isolated ivory tower knows that the hyper-hyped Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace will open Wednesday in theaters.

        But you may not have heard that the most recent Star Trek film — Insurrection, the ninth in the series — has just arrived in video stores. Or that Trekkies, a documentary about Star Trek fans, is slated to open in Cincinnati on Friday — two days afterthe new Star Wars.

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        For those who feel unequipped to sort out this pop-culture onslaught, we offer these guidelines to help you distinguish between Star Wars and Star Trek.

        For help, we turned to some serious sci-fi buffs — Dave Boercherding of F&W Publications, Joan Riley of Hamilton City Schoolsand Brian Creehan, a manager with a private security firm.

        • Place and time: Trek — Known universe and then some, a millennium or so (calculations vary) in the future. Wars — “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.”

        • Philosophy: Trek — Scientific, egalitarian. Wars — Mystical, metaphysical.

        • Intergalactic role model: Trek — United Nations. Wars — Roman Republic.

        • The Enemy: Trek — Misunderstood alien life forms. Wars — Badass alien life forms.

        • Sidearm of choice: Trek — Phaser; simple, adjustable, user-friendly, maximum setting leaves no messy corpses. Wars — Light saber; requires specialized training and advanced skills to operate. Potential litter nuisance from dismembered limbs.

        • Travel method of choice: Trek — Transporter beam. Wars — Totally cool hyper-light-speed vehicles that sound like jet fighters even when crossing the vacuum of space.

        • Fashion statement: Trek — Skintight knits. Wars — Flowing robes, loose tunics; female prisoners wear metal bikinis.

        • Roles for women: Trek — Mini-skirted yeoman, communications officer, security chief, doctor, counselor, admiral, captain, robot, alien love object. Wars — Dishy monarch, haggard mom.

        • Chess-playing alien first officers: Trek — Mr. Spock; pointy-eared, tall, thin, competent, unflappable. Wars — Chewbacca; fur-bearing, tall, thin, competent, excitable. Tends to rip arms off opponents who beat him at chess.

        • Likelihood of travel back in time to enlist 20th century earthlings against threats to Life As We Know It: Trek — very high; Wars — none. “In Star Wars, when they'refaced with a problem, the rebellion just blows the problem up,” Mr. Boercherding says.


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