A Quart of Oil with Joe2-D2: Why are Star Wars and Star Trek So Popular After So Many Years?

A Quart of Oil with Joe2-D2: Why are Star Wars and Star Trek So Popular After So Many Years?

R2DECAF by Tom Carlton

R2DECAF by Tom Carlton

Important dates referenced in blog entry

• Star Trek the original TV series debuted 1966
• Star Wars debuted 1977, The Empire Strikes Back debuted 1980, Return of the Jedi debuted 1983
• Battlestar Galactica debuted 1978
• Buck Rogers debuted 1979
• Star Trek: The Motion Picture release date 12-7-79, 13 years after the original series came out
• The Phantom Menace released 1999, 16 years after what we thought would be the last Star Wars movie we would ever see.
• Disney purchases Lucasfilm 2012.
• Star Wars release calendar (http://www.denofgeek.us/movies/star-wars/241723/full-star-wars-movie-release-calendar)
• The Force Awakens released 2015, 10 years after last Star Wars movie and three years after Disney purchased Star Wars.

This month’s blog entry topic is something that’s been floating around in my noggin for quite some time and something that I’ve wondered about for a long time — Why have the Star Wars (SW) and Star Trek (ST) franchises both survived after periods of long hiatus, without the advent of social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, while other movie franchises like Harry Potter, Twilight, The Matrix trilogies, and Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings movies have dwindled in popularity when they were taking over movie houses in the early 2000s?

I understand that these movies were based on widely popular books. While doing my research I found that the internet was in its infancy when ST the original series debuted in 1966, with discussion boards not far behind. For a history of the internet check out Wikipedia’s entry here. But what has kept Star Wars and Star Trek around for so long? I think for Star Wars specifically there were the novels that were formerly called the Expanded Universe and are now called Legends that were written during the so-called Dark Times during the years between the original trilogy ( Episodes IV, V, and IV ) and the prequel trilogy (Episodes I, II, and III). I don’t know if that is the case with Star Trek, since I don’t follow that franchise closely. I know Star Wars had membership in the official fan club called Hyperspace which included the blogs, where most of the bloggers here at Coffee With Kenobi got our starts, and StarWars.com website which allowed fans to discuss the Saga to our heart’s content and develop lasting friendships and eventually meeting IRL. But what did Star Trek have in those intervening years between the original series and the first six films? As I said before, I didn’t follow the franchise as closely. There were the six original movies, the last being released in 1991, three spin-off TV series, four movies based on the Next Generation series which I watched, and enjoyed, the last one being released in 2002, the four reboot films, the last one scheduled to be released in 2019, and a new TV series scheduled to come out in 2017, the same year that a rumored live-action Star Wars TV series is supposed to come out. Star Wars also had the computer generated cartoons The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels that have given fans deeper looks into the Clone Wars and the period between the events of Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope. I realize there are other sci-fi TV shows that have come out that have their own cult followings, but there are too many to list here.

If you are a fan of Star Trek I would love to hear what kept you a fan. You can comment on this blog or you can send me an email to my personal email to joe2@coffeewithkenobi.com. Please take the time and check out the other blogger’s posts and, as Obi-Wan Kenobi said, “Remember, the Force will be with you, always.”

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Thanks for taking the time to read my entry and I look forward to hearing your thoughts!

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  1. Kimberly Laux
    February 8, 2016 at 17:28 Reply

    I’ve wondered these things myself, including on this site. One reply/comment was that the story provided hope, but lots of stories provide hope and don’t necessarily get passed down like Homer. What I have been able to decipher after years of study applies to all of the arts and philosophies that last: they touch on something universal in the human condition.

    It’s not a surprise that George Lucas referenced “A Hero with a Thousand Faces” by Joseph Campbell when he was writing “Star Wars.” Campbell used Carl Jung’s theories of psychology to approach his work which deals with archetypes, the collective unconscious, and universal themes. “Star Trek” – at least early on, spoke to the best in the human condition which was reflected at the time by the space program. Together we can, and not be partisan.

    “Star Wars” has always been a bit trickier for me, although my greater love. I think it’s just that the first film nailed its archetypes with precision and wether people like the acting or not, was initially cast perfectly. Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, and Harrison Ford don’t seem to have strayed too far from what is at least their public personas. “Star Wars” also became something I suspect George Lucas didn’t intend and has struggled with.

    “Star Wars” didn’t wither away like “Flash Gordon” or even “Lord of the Rings” because it went beyond genre. Some issues were decidedly adult like Shakespeare and Greek Theatre, if not always rising to that level. Generational struggle is something we’ve gotten away from in literature but never left the reality of people’s lives. There are reasons nineteenth century novels stay in print. There are reasons we want Rey in “The Force Awakens” to be related to someone from the past films. How do we deal with the conditions of our own lives, where we came from, and the desire for connection and identity?

    I don’t know if “Star Trek” would have had its renaissance without “Star Wars.” William Shatner might be a “Star Wars” hater but the success of “Star Wars” made “Star Trek” seem less like a mighty small niche that the studios wouldn’t invest in.

    “Star Trek” may be loosing its hold on the imagination though if it doesn’t get back to some of its own roots. It needs a “The First Directive Awakens.”

    Some religious and political movements last, others don’t. It’s those that answer something essential in the human condition, dark or light. And it becomes a place to go in one’s head for comfort, answers, and understanding. I watched “Harry Potter” but it didn’t becomes a place in my head, a special land like in “Inside Out” – like Hockey Island in Riley’s mind. “Star Trek” and “Star Wars” lasted through hiatus and not always the greatest execution, in part, I think anyway, because they became that special space, no pun intended, that people could go to and share and insert themselves in.

    May the Force be with You.

    1. Joe2
      February 11, 2016 at 23:58 Reply

      Thanks for your thoughts, Kimberly

  2. Jay Krebs
    February 14, 2016 at 16:18 Reply

    Interesting read, Joe!
    I started my journey of sci-fi fandom with Star Trek. Every Sunday night as a kid, I would eagerly await the next episode, no matter if it were are run or not!
    Battlestar Galactica was also on my radar, as was the old anime series Battle of the Planets. I loved anything and everything sci-fi, but of course, Star Wars will always be #1 in my heart!
    I think the human element of these two (SW/ST) franchises have been a big reason for their endurance.
    Harry Potter will see a resurgence with the release of Fantastic Beasts. Believe it or not, Twilight will be back as well! I think a lot of these franchises run in cycles. Just like the old saying goes: “what goes around, comes around”! Same with The Hunger Games and others like it. We were in a vampire phase for a while, then the whole post-apocalyptic thing was trendy, then the undead stuff, etc. It seems like superheroes and sci-fi are just two if those things that never really go away.
    Fun read, Joe! 🙂

    1. Joe2
      February 15, 2016 at 02:23 Reply

      Jay, your thoughts on everything being cyclical is a valid point. I’d like to see how popular the original potter books become when Fantastic beasts comes out. I’d like to hear why you think Twilight will make a comeback. To be honest I’ve never read the books. I’ve been more of a fan of the classic vampire stories like Dracula. I’ve also never gotten into the undead craze that’s been going on lately

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