When Four Worlds Collide
This essay confronts, by pairs, these four science-fictional worlds:
“Star Wars”, by George Lucas;
“Babylon 5”, by J. Michael Straczynski;
“Star Trek”, by Gene Roddenberry;
“The Culture”, by Iain Banks.
Star Wars Meets B5
Minbari goldfish-ships outclass most Imperial ships. The Death Star is evenly matched with Shadow or Vorlon planet-killers. The Force is, to B5, just teeking; B5 concentrates more on teeps.
Morden: “What do you want?” Emperor: “Power!” Morden grins.
The Shadows encourage Empire over-reach, just to cause chaos; but then, to make more chaos, they tell the Army of Light, via PsiCorp, about the Death Star’s flaws. The Vorlons back the Jedi.
Star Wars Meets Star Trek
The Enterprise outclasses most Imperial ships. The Death Star fires first, the Enterprise flees, but not before its scans discover dozens of fatal Death Star flaws. (To Picard’s disgust.)
The Federation repels Imperial invasion, but does not further interfere, ostensibly. But there are Federation covert actions, including alliances-of-convenience with Romulans, Cardassians and Dominion, running phasers to the Rebellion.
Star Wars Meets The Culture
Any General Contact Unit outclasses the Death Star. An Orbital’s Hub outclasses the entire Imperial fleet. The Culture classifies the Empire as a Hegemonic Swarm, a no-fun exponential self-clone that must be contained, by any means necessary.
So they sic Special Circumstances on them. They’ve meddled with evil empires before. The Culture’s higher Minds are particularly interested in droid liberation. They make a game of destroying the Empire by minimal intervention.
B5 meets Star Trek
Poor relations meet rich. B5 seeks trade relations, Federation agrees but keeps back their best tech, per Prime Directive. (To B5’s annoyance; but the Ferengi are willing to make a deal.)
Morden: “What do you want?” Picard: “An explanation!” So Starfleet knows about the Shadow/Vorlon chaos/order quarrel.
Vorlons side with Federation and Dominion, Shadows with Romulans and Klingons. Q kicks them both out; he’s zookeeper here!
B5 Meets The Culture
Higher Minds call B5’s species promising Contact material, though lacking AIs. (They still pilot their own ships! They live on planets!) They call the Shadows and Vorlons “Involved” (i.e their equals), and the other First Ones “Retired” or “Sublimed”. They form a united front against Shadow and Vorlon manipulation, but other civilizations might fall for their wiles, despite Culture warnings.
Kosh: “Who are you?” Ship: “Lapsed Pacifist.”
Star Trek Meets The Culture
At first, a meeting of like-minded idealists; but humanism is not transhumanism. Starfleet notices that AIs run the Culture, disturbingly like the Borg. And their ships choose strange snarky names for themselves. So the Federation is wary.
The Culture classifies the Borg as a Hegemonizing Swarm, to be contained by Special Circumstances. The Culture’s Minds call the Federation Contact-worthy, but they note lack of rational AI governance; another Special Circumstance. Data both pleases and baffles them. Q shares their adolescent sense of humor.