I’ve read that the formula for a successful Star Trek is a “bright future,” and I’ve come to think that this is largely true. I’ve expanded on it. I now believe that a successful franchise (or movie) also has to show the characters living interesting and pleasant lives. They have to be doing something that you are interested in, or even envy. I believe that this is just as true for Star Wars as it is for Trek.
Constantly hacking at each other with a sword or a gun – in whatever form they come – wears thin, fast. Constant political intrigue wears thin.
TOS had the advantage of having no predecessor, so everything it showed was new. Look, a Vulcan! Look, we learn that Vulcan’s have ‘pon far!’ Green blood! A computer that talks, and ship that takes us to exotic locales where we imbibe Romulan Ale. And, of course, all of Roddenberry (and other writer’s) gadgets – mind blowing stuff.
When you talk about TOS, these are most of the things that people will mention. Not blasting Klingons, although that is true enough. Rather, they’ll mention Tribbles, or Mudd, or tri-corders, or something else that usually have very little to do with War. Dramatic tension? Sure. Combat? Less is more. Seeing the Enterprise defeat an adversary once in a while was exciting. By the time we got to the Borg in TNG? Way too much. War, war, war. Dark future, with dark lighting. We much preferred wondering if Will and Diana were getting back together, if Data would become a real boy, if Geordi would regain his sight, etc.
And so it is with Star Wars. How many light saber variations do I need to see? Single beam, double beam, folding handle, pommel guards, smooth beams, flaming beams, etc.
Yeah, I get it. It’s a sword.
Luke drove a hover-car. That was cool. Look hung out with cute droids – believable droids. That was cool. Was it a bright future? Not as bright as Trek, which I believe is part of the reason it hasn’t weathered as well. It was bright enough, however, and the Han Solo sub plot was rich with fun things. A run runner with a fast ship! That was cool enough.
Maybe TOS took most of the air from the room, with the holo-decks and the communicators and transporters, etc. I dunno.
What I do know is that when either franchise follows a bright future plot line, and loads it with human interest and cool gadgets, it does well. When it’s just combat?
Not so much.