If you count yourself as a passionate geek and have been in social situations with other geeks, online or otherwise, chances are good that you’ve found yourself in at least one heated and near-religious argument about other worlds, starships, elves, or time travel. One of the most hotly debated topics in the annals of geekdom surrounds the clash of the sci-fi titans and the question of which is better, Star Wars or Star Trek. Adams Media has a knack for attacking just such issues, and in May they addressed this exact topic with Matt Forbeck’s Star Wars Vs. Star Trek: Could the Empire Kick the Fedetation’s Ass? and Other Galaxy-Shaking Enigmas.
The book begins, as all authoritative volumes should, with forewords written by prominent figures in the field. Here we have two forewords, one written from the viewpoint that Star Wars is best and the other backing up Star Trek, though both seem pretty middle of the road, so as not to insult their friends on the other side of the tracks. Jeremy Bulloch, the actor who played Boba Fett in The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, is Star Wars‘s champion, while Tim Russ (Tuvok from Star Trek: Voyager) touts Trek. Once the preamble is out of the way, the book gets down to the nitty gritty by throwing every aspect of each sci-fi universe against each other in hypothetical battles.
Forbeck divides the book into thematic sections, beginning with People, proceeding to Gadgets, then to Time and Space, and eventually to Society and Culture before declaring a winner in Prepare for Impact. And yes, he does actually proclaim one of the franchises to be “best” at the end. There’s no copping out with an “It’s a tie, and we all live happily ever after.” One series wins, albeit by a narrow margin. Granted, the procedure Forbeck uses is subject to his own biases as he pits Wars against Trek, but I don’t think anybody is truly looking for an empirical assessment of which series definitively reigns supreme. It’s more fun to read the scenarios presented here and to have small doses of what amounts to mini-episodes of fan fiction that cross the universes.
In setting up the deathmatches, Forbeck pairs opponents thematically. For instance, “Wise Old Men” puts Ben Kenobi against Jean-Luc Picard, and “Masters of the Blade” has Mace Windu facing Hikaru Sulu. Each of the entrants gets an introductory paragraph or two before the characters, gadgets, and concepts get down to the nitty gritty. Each conflict is described in detail, from the first phaser shot to the final lightsaber swing. Some of the conflicts end in a stalemate, but most result in a clear victory on one side or the other. Each chapter concludes with a table tallying the results of the matches in that chapter, as well as keeping a running tally of the matches through the whole book.
In the end, all the tables are tallied for an overall results page that crowns one of the series as the overall winner. Given the ways in which the winner is determined, Forbeck acknowledges in his introduction that the book’s conclusion should spark yet another point over which fans can argue. There isn’t a way to write a definitive examination of the Star Trek vs Star Wars debate upon which everyone will agree, but this book provides a lot of fun scenarios and gives us some great and unexpected match-ups that are sure-fire conversation starters around the convention halls.