20 reasons Star Trek is better than Star Wars

Commentary: In the long-running Star-Trek-or-Star-Wars debate, strong arguments can be made for both sides. Here, we offer some points that Luke won't appreciate.

Leslie Gornstein
Leslie Gornstein is a senior editor with CBS Interactive. For the past two decades, she's covered consumer and B-to-B tech; biotech; entertainment and various other subjects that seemed interesting at the time. She's the author of The A-List Playbook (Skyhorse) and she lives in Los Angeles.
Leslie Gornstein
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Why Star Trek > Star Wars

When it comes to nerd rivalries, it's hard to beat the decades-long siege pitting fans of Star Wars against devotees of Star Trek. In anticipation of "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" arriving in December, we corralled a couple Star Wars and Star Trek fanatics from CNET parent company CBS for a friendly (mostly) installment in the long-running debate over which is best -- and why.

As you can see by the gallery's title, this is the pro-Star Trek side, fronted by Leslie Gornstein. (Don't worry, Jedi knights. We have your response here.)

The first reason why Star Trek will always trump Star Wars? This guy. Before Han went Solo, Captain James Tiberius Kirk was slinging his earthy swagger in the furthest reaches of the galaxy. And thanks to the amazing maneuverability of the Enterprise, you can bet he could make the Kessel Run in way fewer than 12 parsecs.

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None of this guy

There are no Gungans in the Star Trek universe. And that is a big plus, given that Jar Jar often feels both crassly commercial and evocative of racial stereotypes. (Wall Street Journal critic Joe Morgenstern once famously called Binks a "Rastafarian Stepin Fetchit on platform hoofs, crossed annoyingly with Butterfly McQueen.")

Star Trek, meanwhile, is also void of Ewoks, which, according to many fans, reek of a naked merchandising grab -- "essentially Native American teddybears," Indiewire once said, "ready to be snapped up and snuggled by countless children the world over."

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The tech is real

Star Trek was influenced by an all-American vision of a space-age future. In turn, America's future is now being influenced by Star Trek. Tricorders (like Dr. Crusher's, there), communicators and other devices once reserved for the Paramount lot are now, slowly but surely, making their way to the rest of us.

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Time travel

Time travel shows up all over the place in the Star Trek franchise, including as a pivotal part of the 2009 movie reboot. Star Wars has, um, hyperdrive?

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Badass women

Sure, Leia and Padma can handle their blasters, Ahsoka Tano is the fastest Jedi to bear a lightsaber, and Asajj Ventress is just scary.

But count the number of battle-ready women in the core Star Trek universe with their counterparts in the very extended Star Wars universe, and there's really no comparison. Uhura the Greater (that would be Nichelle Nichols) begat the steely-eyed Uhura the Lesser (aka Zoe Saldana); Kate Mulgrew helmed an entire ship as Captain Janeway; Tasha Yar (Denise Crosby) brought invaders to their knees as head of Enterprise security; Shahna of Triskelion (Angelique Pettyjohn) is cited by scholars as a prime example of an early female TV gladiator; and genocide survivor Guinan (Whoopi Goldberg) held it down in Ten Forward. The list goes on and on.

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Smarter villains

Darth Vader is cool, what with the breathy mask and lightsaber skills and intimidating cloak. Darth Maul could sure put up a fight. But when it comes to villains with smarts as well as strength, the Star Trek universe wins. Just think of Khan, whose superior brainpower comes from selective breeding, versus Vader, whose dark-side powers come from being, well, super angry.

(Khan, by the way, has been played by two actors with deep wells of fans: Ricardo Montalban in the original series and "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan" and Benedict Cumberbatch in 2013's "Star Trek into Darkness.")

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Well, OK. It's not just tribbles. It's Star Trek's whole approach to humor -- smart, subtle, something that builds and often stems from the characters themselves. Star Wars? Sure. It has humor. If you think Jar Jar Binks is funny.

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Cooler robots

Yes, Star Wars may have more realistic-looking robots. But thanks to the presence of the unique life form known as Data, Star Trek certainly has cooler robots. Think we're wrong? Consider this: Can C-3PO have sex? Exactly.

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So much sexy

The Star Trek universe is just sexier. Exhibit A: this Vulcan who almost married Spock.

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A whole new language

The Klingon language: It's a real thing. With a real institute. With real people who speak it. Look it up.

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The catchphrases

Star Trek has brought us highly quotable quotes for any occasion: "Live long and prosper," "Beam me up, Scotty" and"To boldly go where no one has gone before," to name but a few.

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A focus on science

Star Wars has a beautiful, almost classical mythology to it. That's really nice. But the Force, a wellspring of supernatural occurrences, is essentially quasi-religious mumbo-jumbo. Star Trek's imagined future can sometimes be so fanciful it's silly, but at least it celebrates science, a discipline that is often underrated and underplayed in pop culture.

Star Trek even has science officers, like Spock.

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Better conventions

Nobody dresses like this for Star Wars conventions. Yes, there's plenty of good Star Wars cosplay out there, but Star Wars really doesn't have the decades-long convention culture enjoyed by Star Trek fans.

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A genuine respect for critical thinking

Star Wars has many noble values. Curiosity and critical thinking are not among them; Jedi padawans are encouraged to keep their yaps shut, isolate themselves from the greater world, and submit themselves completely to the Force and their masters.

Star Trek? To heck with that. If Bones here is questioning conventional medical wisdom or someone in authority, that just means it's Tuesday.

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Are there holodecks on the Millennium Falcon? No? Call us when Han installs one.

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So much more to love

So far, the bulk of the Star Wars saga has taken place over six (soon to be seven) films. The original Star Trek series alone had 79 episodes. TNG produced a breathtaking 178, including rare gems such as "Lower Decks," which dedicated a main storyline to the Enterprise's unsung ensigns. As far as the big screen goes, a dozen Star Trek films have been released and at least two more are on the way.

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Real social issues

Good versus evil, the anchor of the Star Wars universe, is a nice, safe theme in any genre. Know what isn't? Racism. Homophobia. War crimes. Drug addiction. Abortion. The Star Trek universe has tackled them all, often before it was cool to do so.

And speaking of tackling issues, the Star Trek universe has routinely, since the very beginning, had diverse crews that included esteemed actors such as Michael Dorn, George Takei, LeVar Burton, Nichelle Nichols, Zoe Saldana, Whoopi Goldberg and Avery Brooks.

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Just look at the Enterprise

The Falcon is kind of a Frisbee compared with the Enterprise.

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Cooler communications

If you want to get a message across the Star Wars galaxy, you need either a headset or a robot willing to carry your holographic message across enemy lines. But you can't even hang in the Star Trek universe without a big ol' flat screen on your bridge and a communicator pinned to your uniform.

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The Vulcan salute

The hand gesture that accompanies Spock's cherished motto, "Live long and prosper," has grown so popular that upon Leonard Nimoy's death, the White House called it "universal." The salute has even been flashed on the International Space Station. In the Star Wars universe, there's simply no equivalent.

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