Star Trek vs. Star Wars: Which Is More Technologically Advanced?
Pinterest Whatsapp
Advertisement

There are three topics that should never be discussed at the dinner table: religion, politics, and the relative merits of Star Trek and Star Wars. Luckily for us, MakeUseOf isn’t a dinner table.

While any debate around the two great Star franchises tends to get… passionate… Will The Web's Unreasonable Expectations Ruin Star Wars: The Force Awakens? Will The Web's Unreasonable Expectations Ruin Star Wars: The Force Awakens? Read More I’m going to try and approach the subject as logically as Spock. I’m not going to talk about which canon is better — it’s obviously Star Trek — but instead focus on whose cannons are better. Let’s take a look at the technology of Star Trek and Star Wars Star Trek and Star Wars: The Battle For Technological Supremacy Star Trek and Star Wars: The Battle For Technological Supremacy Which science fiction giant had the better technology? If they were put head-to-head, which sci-fi universe's gadgets would carry them to victory? Read More .

Space Rules

Before diving deep into this debate, it’s important to set a few ground rules.

I’m not an expert on either series so I’m going to be leaning on the work of far more enlightened thinkers; the Trek-Wars wars have been waged over countless forums and websites for many years. Generally, what was considered canon before Disney acquired Lucasfilm and J.J. Abrams rebooted Star Trek is going to be admissible.

Also, what is shown is going to be favored over what is said. On Quora, Rom Lokken explains that a Star Wars Star Destroyer is reported as being able to generate power equal to 1 percent of the sun’s energy output. This is ridiculously inconsistent with the actual observed performance of Star Destroyers in the film. “For those crying foul,” he writes, “a Star Destroyer that needs that much power (to create the abilities displayed) would represent the most fantastic inefficiency ever conceived.”

One major complication is that, while Star Trek writers at least attempted to create plausible explanations for the technology, George Lucas did what he wanted by throwing in random technobabble. When taken alongside the Force, it’s easy to see why some fans consider Star Wars to be an epic space fantasy rather than a science fiction tale.

With all that in mind, let’s dig in.

Androids

We’re actually pretty keen on robots Why Replacing Humans With These Robots Makes Sense Why Replacing Humans With These Robots Makes Sense Are there any jobs where automation and precision are so valuable that robots are actually more deserving of them than humans? Read More here at MakeUseOf. Star Trek and Star Wars both feature great robot characters: C-3PO, R2-D2 and Data are all fan-favorites. C-3PO is a yellowish droid who talks a lot, while Data is a yellowish android who talks a lot. So far, so samey. Unfortunately for C-3PO, his tech just isn’t up to scratch.

C-3PO was pieced together from junk parts by a crazy kid, whereas Data was carefully designed and created by a mad scientist. Data also has the advantage of being “fully functional,” hyper-intelligent, and an integral part of the Enterprise crew. C-3PO gets in the way, while R2-D2 is little more than a gun sight on wheels. Data even won the MakeUseOf staff vote by an overwhelming margin. Yes, I actually polled my fellow authors.

Star Trek 1, Star Wars 0.

Medical

This one’s another simple call. If the Skywalkers lived in the United Federation of Planets they wouldn’t need to worry so much about their arms. Yes, they’re able to get them replaced with cybernetics, but Bones would probably be able to reattach the originals. While my colleague Philip Bates is interested in getting upgraded How Bionics Will Extend and Improve Your Life How Bionics Will Extend and Improve Your Life Thought of as a science fiction pipedream, the science of bionics is often viewed as sinister. However, in the real world, bionic technologies can extend and improve your life. Read More , I’d sooner keep my real limbs.

Everything short of instant death — just don’t wear a red shirt! — seems to be curable on the Enterprise. With technology like tricorders that can instantly diagnose almost all ailments, Star Trek takes this one with ease.

Star Trek 2, Star Wars 0.

Engines

This one is interesting. The warp drives on Star Trek ships use a matter/antimatter reactor, while Star Wars ships use comparatively lower-tech fusion and fission reactors. Looks like another easy victory for Star Trek, no? Perhaps not.

The issue is in the actual performance of the drives. ST-vs-SW.net places the fastest speed achieved by a ship in the Star Trek universe at around 21,000 times the speed of light, with slower ships maxing out at around 9,000 times light-speed. However, most ships probably cruise at something around 2,000 times the speed of light. In the Star Wars canon, the fastest ships come in at around 16,500 times light-speed but the typical cruising speed is around 11,000 times the speed of light. So, although the fastest Star Trek ships may be capable of greater speeds than Star Wars ships, they tend to cruise at far lower speeds.

Outside of light-speed drives, Star Wars takes it handily. The Empire’s Star Destroyers are shown to be ponderous beasts, slow to maneuver in real space, unlike the Federation’s ships which are practically capable of pirouetting on a dime.

Therefore, I’m going to call this one a tie. Star Trek gets points for the more advanced drives, faster top speed, and maneuverability, while Star Wars takes it for average speed, which would be more important more of the time.

Star Trek 3, Star Wars 1. Things are heating up.

Weapons

Weapons are another controversial topic. Boba Fett’s ship, Slave 1, is described as having 64,000-gigawatt lasers and 190 megaton missiles, while the puny Enterprise-D only has a 3.6-gigawatt main gun and 64 megaton missiles. This is where Rom Lokken’s rule from earlier kicks in.

“Some of the energy readings suggested for Star Wars laser weapons would instantaneously vaporize any unshielded craft, not to mention the atmosphere in between them, in rather spectacular fashion,” he explains, continuing, “Nothing in the physical behavior of these weapons supports these values.”

With that established, the case becomes a lot more clear-cut. In his Quora article, Rom devotes several paragraphs to explaining all the way Star Trek weapons are superior to Star Wars ones.

Weapon tech is also no contest. Photon torpedoes travel at warp speed. This means that are unblockable by SW vessels whose reaction time is such that skilled humans can provide superior guidance as compared to their computers (thus their manual firing). Photon torpedoes are matter/antimatter devices whose yields have been described as being able to wipe out cities with a single torpedo. Proton torpedoes are sub-light (and slow) missiles that can destroy city blocks.

He’s equally decisive on the subject of lasers.

Without going into the difficult discussion around energy outputs of beam weapons. ST beams are computer controlled, use the vastly superior Trek sensors and computer systems and have output that has been described as being capable of destroying the entire surface of a planet. Turbo lasers (save and except the Death Star) have limited firing arcs and while incredibly numerous are dramatically limited by poor fire control and range.

I have to call it: Star Trek 4, Star Wars 1.

Sensors, Shields, Replicators, and Transporters

When I started writing this article I thought the Star Wars franchise would put up more of a fight. Instead, I’m combining sensors, shields, transporters, and replicators into a single category to avoid an absolute massacre. All four technologies broadly deal with detecting or manipulating energy. In every case, Star Trek wins out.

The sensors on the Enterprise are orders of magnitude better than anything in the Star Wars universe. Starfleet sensors can scan ships trillions of kilometers away, while ST-v-SW.net concludes that Star Wars scanners seem to be limited to a few hundred thousand kilometers. Star Trek scanners can read the DNA of opposing crews, while the best offered by Star Wars could only determine that Yoda wasn’t a Wookie.

While shields are a huge part of the Enterprise’s capabilities, large ships in the Star Wars universe don’t have anything comparable. An X-Wing wouldn’t be able to get through a Starfleet ship’s shields, but can easily get close enough to the Death Star to destroy it.

Star Trek society is post-scarcity. Replicators mean anything can be created anywhere. Poverty and hunger are things that just don’t exist in a meaningful way. The opposite is true in the Republic and, later, the Empire. Slavery, hunger, and poverty are all seen in the films. Another easy win for Star Trek.

Transporters are actually very similar technology to replicators, and once again, Star Wars has no answer. Kirk and crew get can get beamed anywhere they want on a whim, while Han Solo is stuck slogging along in his rust bucket.

I’m going to be gentle. Star Trek 5, Star Wars 1. Even though this could easily be 8–1 to Star Trek.

But What About the Force?

The Force is the one thing that really takes Star Wars away from being science fiction. Its pseudo-religious undertones and utterly unexplained properties make it very difficult to compare with anything in Star Trek.

Take lightsabers, which only a Jedi can use as they’re reliant on their ability to use the Force. Are they tech? Or are they just a magic sword? If they’re tech then they earn Star Wars a half-point for close combat gear, but if they’re magic I’m inclined to dock the series a half-point because George Lucas’ constant retconning annoys me.

Either way, it doesn’t make much difference to the final score. It’s 5 plays 0.5 or 5 plays 1.5 depending on how you view the Force. Star Trek takes the trophy. Live long and prosper.

This is the bit where you get to tell me how wrong I am. I’ve skipped over loads of different technologies — like the holodeck Your Own Holodeck: Will The Star Trek Fantasy Become a Reality? Your Own Holodeck: Will The Star Trek Fantasy Become a Reality? Will advances in virtual reality technology make the Star Trek holodeck a common room in every household in our near future? The "holodeck" fantasy is getting much closer to reality than you may think. Read More — from both canon. Please, if you disagree with anything I’ve said, let me know, at length, in the comments. Comparing the two series is definitely an art, not a science.

Enjoyed this article? Stay informed by joining our newsletter!

Enter your Email

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. Steven
    September 6, 2018 at 7:46 pm

    Let's keep it real, The First Order can blow up an entire galaxy in seconds. Then a Sith Lord coukd enter the USS Enterprise and kill everyone.

  2. You’re wrong
    June 12, 2018 at 10:41 pm

    “One major complication is that, while Star Trek writers at least attempted to create plausible explanations for the technology, George Lucas did what he wanted by throwing in random technobabble.”

    Sorry, but I stopped taking you seriously right here. “Random technobabble” is a far more accurate description of Star Trek than Star Wars.

    Also, I have talked to some astrophysics professors who say that the Star Trek TNG writers would call them and ask how this or that scientific phenomenon worked, and when it was explained, they’d say “that’s interesting, but it doesn’t work for the plot we have planned out”.

    I like Star Trek, but it makes me cringe when people try to claim it’s realistic.

  3. Patrick Dooley
    December 17, 2017 at 7:20 pm

    If you were to put the force or "force users" in this discussion, then the closest thing you could compare that to would be the Q or the traveler and even that would be an unfair, Trek wins again.

  4. TWR
    November 25, 2017 at 6:22 pm

    Nicely done :)

  5. Apolo Felipe Garcia Holanda
    November 15, 2017 at 1:47 am

    This article is bullshit!

    • kitsy
      December 3, 2017 at 4:30 am

      Why? If your going to make a statement like that at least support it. Infact the writer of the story was being gentle. Star wars ships like tie fighters... are limited to about 1200kmph in atmosphere. it doesn't have or use any boosters or anything... so when its heading into space, it does so at... 1200 kmph... yep, poor thing takes an hour to get into orbit... heading back to planet... same problem, tie doesn't have any shields, doesn't have heat shielding... so again... it has to slow down so it doesn't burn up, and fly into the atmosphere at under 1200 kmph. next comes its maneuverability. well of course any g-turns harder then 9+ are going to risk pilots blacking out.. but wait, doesn't it have inertial dampeners? "Inertial dampeners are used to compenate for gravatic effects on passengers, these are found on larger ships. The Millennium falcon is the smallest ship to mount an Inertial dampener or commentator up until the creation of the x wing. Yes, the tie fighter, and none of the fighters before it such as the jedi star fighter, etc have them. so they are all limited to the g-forces the pilots can handle. This is the way Lucas wanted it. He envisioned WW2 fighters, flying at 300mph in space... with people in ball gun turrets manually tracking them and shooting at them. dog fights at 1km range.. no long range missiles, entire fights that could be watched out the window of large battleships. So thats what the tech supports.

      • You’re Wrong
        June 12, 2018 at 6:30 pm

        Note: SW = Star Wars, ST = Star Trek

        While TIEs are pretty slow in low-atmosphere flight, most trek ships can’t even enter atmosphere at all, so that’s advantage SW if anything.

        Also, TIEs not having acceleration compensators is bullshit, because they canonically accelerate at 4,100 G’s.

        Plus, do I even have to point out that you literally just used the crappiest ship in all of Star Wars as your example?

        Also, Proton torpedoes have a range of at least 80 km (the radius of the Death Star 1).

        Also, most battles in Star Trek are also fought at very slow speeds and very close ranges, so idk what point you’re trying to make with that. Of course there are some exceptions, but there are exceptions in Star Wars too.

        As for the article itself, most of it IS bullshit.

        1. Androids: Data does seem more advanced than most SW droids, but this article leaves out a crucial point; the federation can’t build more Data’s. Even Data’s own creation met a foul and premature end. Data is the successful experiment of an insane mad scientist, and it is totally unfair to compare these things like he is the standard. Plus, Star Wars droids are not actually inferior to him, just more specialized. While a protocol droid may not be as strong or mobile as Data, Data certainly doesn’t know 6,000,000 languages, and probably can’t extrapolate languages from simply hearing them for a few minutes like 3PO did in Return of the Jedi. And while an advanced IG series droid may not be as smart as data, it would probably destroy him in a straight-up fight.

        Point Star Wars.

        SW:1 ST:0

        Medical:

        ST has this one, but this is basically the only thing the article has right.

        SW:1 ST:1

        FTL Speed:

        The site this article cited is wrong. Star Wars ships can travel at millions of times the speed of light, and can even leave their galaxy (the planet kamino is a halo star of a Sattelite galaxy).

        SW:2 ST: 1

        Sub-light engines:
        ST ships are more manuverable, but SW ships are faster in a straight line (the imperial fleet swung around Endor, a gas giant, in less than a minute, and cane to a complete stop, showing ridiculous acceleration).
        SW: 3, ST: 2

        Weapons:
        Turbolasers > Phasers. There, I said it. Also, when this analysis compares proton and photon torpedoes, it fails to take into account that proton torpedos are carried by SW FIGHTERS, while photon torpedoes are carried by ST big ships, so this is an inherently unfair comparison.

        SW:4 ST:2

        Weapons of mass destruction:
        Star Wars wins easily. The federation doesn’t have the heart nor the ability to create WMDs on the scale of the Death Star or Starkiller Base.

        SW:5, ST:2

        Sensors: Trek ships’ sensors are superior, but only because they are built for exploration and discovery, while in SW most of the galaxy has already been explored, and there’s no reason to put an over-the-top weapon systems on a warship. As long as you can see and target your enemy, it doesn’t matter.

        SW:5 ST: 3

        Shields: Both are pretty effective, but have stupid weaknesses mostly there for the sake of plot.

        SW:6, ST: 4

        Transporters and replicators:
        I’m limping these together because they’re basically the same device used for different things. Anyway, it doesn’t look like SW has them, so point ST.

        SW:6, ST: 5

        Hand weapons: blasters are more powerful, but phasers have more utility. I’m calling it a tie.

        SW:7, ST: 6

        Ground vehicles: Star Trek has ONE, and it’s a stupid Jeep with a terrible firing arc. While SW vehicles aren’t great, at least they have them.

        SW:8, ST: 6

        Industrial Capacity:
        This one’s a stomp. After Wolf 359, the federation thought it would take them around a year to rebuild to full strength, after losing only 40 ships. Even if it takes an extremely long time for the empire to build Star destroyers and less than 1% of the planets actually build them, the Empire would recover in under a week.

        SW:8, ST: 6

        Orbital bombardment:
        Phasers can be set to wide beam for AoE or tight beam for drilling. SW weapons basically just make things go boom. Point ST.

        SW:8, ST: 7

        Communications: ST uses subspace communication. In SW, subspace Communications are their BACKUP, and are so slow that a ship can arrive before the communication does. Their main systems can communicate intergalactic distances instantaneously.

        SW:9 ST:7

        I’m sure I’ve missed a lot, but you get the idea. It’s a lot closer than this article let’s on, and if anything it leans the other way.

        • fake
          June 20, 2018 at 4:05 pm

          I half agree… but that also means I half-disagree.
          I'll try to make this brief, and so wont reply to your points I completely agree with

          - Androids:
          I'd argue that Data is more advanced than the SW droids, but I agree that using Data is unfair, as he's a unique case, not the standard. However, looking at the technology used in droids, then you could consider The Doctor (from ST:Voyager) to be comparable to droids, and all his AI, holo-emitters, sensors, etc. all in something smaller than can fit in your hand, seems far more advanced than any SW droids (and I'm not a fan of ST:Voyager, but I'm pretty sure they can mass produce them, unlike Data).

          - Sub-light engines:
          Swinging around Endor in less than a minute is far slower than ST's full-impulse (about 1/4 lightspeed). For example, at that speed, you could travel between the earth and the moon 12 times.

          - Weapons:
          A hand-phaser can vaporise a person, the worst a hand-blaster has been seen to do, is make an Uncle-Owen-skelington.
          As for torpedoes, I think ST shuttlecraft (comparable in size to Y-wings) had them too. Large ships don't tend to have the same weapons, but on a proportionally bigger scale, they tend to have more of them.
          - WMDs:
          If this was about what each side has/uses, then SW would win, but this is about technology, and ST has the technology to create subspace weapons (but they're illegal, so they don't), which could be used from a normal ship (i.e. no moon-sized death station), and could wipe out a solar system in a single shot. An Omega-bomb could wipe out a sizable portion of a galaxy, but they're from ST:voyager, so I don't care about those. A single Genesis torpedo could wipe out all life on earth.
          Also, this should still be under "weapons", not have it's own point.
          - Hand weapons:
          Should just be the same category as weapons.

          - Ground vehicles
          Yes, lets compare series that spend 99% of their time in space, by looking at their ground vehicles :P

          - Industrial Capacity:
          It's true that the empire can build ships faster... because they're about 1000x bigger than the federation. But this isn't about size, it's about technology. But if you insist on using industry as a category for comparison, how long does it take SW to create a hand weapon? A few weeks maybe? Now how long does it take ST; "replicator, one phaser, earl grey, hot"; about 5 seconds.

          - Orbital bombardment:
          This is the 4th category you've made for weapons, so I'm just going to leave it.

          So ignoring the non-tech related categories, and changing points as per my above comments, you should be looking at something more like-
          SW:2 - ST:6
          (SW - communications, FTL)
          (ST - Androids/AI, medical, sub-light, weapons, sensors, energy manipulation [transporters/replicators])
          * shields are too complex, and possibly a draw, so no points either way)

        • You're wrong
          June 26, 2018 at 7:20 pm

          Fake,

          WMD's, hand weapons, and Ship weapons should be kept separate at minimum. Lumping them together would be like lumping together hand pistols, heavy artillery, and nukes, which just doesn't make sense to do. They are clearly vastly different. I guess you could argue that Orbital Bombardment could be kept with starship weapons though.

          Droids: Star wars has holographic doctors too, so i don't really know why you think this is a win for ST. and if we're talking about holoprojectors, SW has a holoprojector that can project hyper-realistic disguises over multiple people from miles away, through walls and shields, and it's small enough to hold in your hand. SW has superior robotics and comparable AI, giving them the win. In fact, the AI is probably superior too, given the federation uses Binary for most of their systems, while star wars uses a more advanced system (C-3PO uses "Binary" as an insult, and only forklifts and farm equipment still use binary).

          Sublight: Well, swinging around a gas giant like that requires speeds on the order of 0.1c, or a tenth the speed of light. Even Executor can reach these speeds. For executor's engine systems to be inferior, it would have to weigh less than 6.25 (2.5 squared) times more than the Enterprise, and it CERTAINLY weighs orders of magnitude more. In fact, Executor has 13 engines, and since it definitely weighs over 81.25 (6.25*13) times more than the Enterprise, one of Executor's engines is superior to the Enterprise's entire impulse engine array. Also, I've never seen the Enterprise go at .25c, much less achieve that speed in under a minute, so no-go. SW sublight engines are vastly more efficient than ST sublight engines.

          Hand Weapons: we know that blasters can change their power settings like phasers. And when you actually think about it, why would you use the highest settings on people? as long as they die, it doesn't matter. with that in mind, blasters have done far more impressive things than vaporize a person - one shot vaporized the metal grate in A New Hope, and shots often kill or maim people just by hitting near them in SW.

          Starship weapons: if we include orbital bombardment into this i'm willing to call it a tie.

          WMD's: Omega isn't Starfleet tech. also, the nova weapon in Generations was viewed as very powerful, and the Klingons couldn't build one on their own, so i doubt the federation could build something of that caliber either. Not to mention, the Death Star is FTL capable, is more than a 1-time use weapon, is very effective at intimidation, can target individual capital ships, and double as as a large battleship in combat (it has a lot of guns).

          Ground Vehicles: star wars definitely doesn't spend 99% of its time in space. In fact, one could easily argue that the ground battles in SW are more important than the space battles. oh, and even if they weren't, that still wouldn't negate the utility. I'll be nice and count it for half a point.

          Industrial Capacity, you have a point, but it definitely doesn't take a "few weeks" to build a blaster. One factory line on Geonosis was pumping out a droid every 2 seconds or so, and each B2 is armed with 4 blasters. however, their ability to nearly complete the DS2 in only 6 months speaks to me of some sort of very high technology, as this is something the federation probably couldn't manage to do, even if they had the resources (they don't). Even though it seems pretty clear that there is definitely tech here, i'll disregard this one.

          so not counting ties, it's:

          SW: FTL, Droids, Sub-light, Communications, WMD's, Ground vehicles
          that's 5.5

          ST: Medical, sensors, energy manipulation
          that's 3

          Ties: Hand Weapons, Starship Weapons, shields
          that's 3

          so it's 5.5 plays 3 or 8.5 plays 6 depending on whether or not you count the ties. even if you wanna disregard ground vehicles entirely, SW still wins by 2 points.