Space & Innovation

Is New Star Wars Movie (Or Anything Else) So New?

Hollywood has become dominated by blockbusters that recycle past stories, comics and previous films.

A recent twitter feud pitting William Shatner against Star Wars' fans over the upcoming J.J. Abrams film "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" raises questions about the originality of popular culture. As Hollywood continues to mine the past for new on-screen material, some ask if anything we watch is really new anymore?

The former "Star Trek" actor tweeted that the look of new characters Captain Phasma and Poe Dameron were borrowed from 1970s sci-fi TV shows "Battlestar Galactica" and "Space: 1999."

In several tweets, Shatner suggests Phasma's shiny carapace looks like the original cylon robots, while Dameron's X-Wing fighter uniform is looks similar to the design in the British sci-fi show Space: 1999, as first reported in the UK Guardian.

Photos: How Close Is This Star Trek Tech?

Shatner, 84, played Captain James T. Kirk in the original "Star Trek" from 1966 to 1969 and later returned for seven "Star Trek" films.

After the first "Force Awakens" trailer came out in November 2014, Shatner tweeted that Kylo Ren's new crossed lightsaber was a "bad design" and that Jar Jar Binks might have a rival for worst Star Wars character ever in the form of new "ballrunner" droid BB-8.

Some culture scholars say Shatner's comments might be a tad hypocritical. After all, late "Star Trek" creator Gene Roddenberry admitted that he was influenced by early 1960s sci-fi movies "The Forbidden Planet" and "Robinson Crusoe on Mars" when he conceived of his series. Roddenberry actually sold his show to NBC network executives in 1964 as "Wagon Train goes to the stars," referring to a Western series that followed the adventures of frontier travelers.

"When you look at all forms of entertainment, they are influenced by their predecessors," said Mika Elovaara, a culture critic who edited the 2013 book of essays "Fan Phenomena: Star Wars." "What is originality? Hardly anything appears in a vacuum, doesn't mean they copied it."

'Star Wars' and 'Star Trek' Collide on Pluto Moon Charon

To Elovaara, originality comes in storytelling rather than costumes or helmets.

"What matters is how original the story line is, and how relatable the characters are," he said. "One of the strengths of Star Wars is that it's a character driven saga. That has a lot to do with writing."

Unlike works of scholarship, "you can't have citations in a movie," he notes.

Today, Hollywood has become dominated by blockbusters that continuously recycle past stories, comics and previous films, notes Katherine Larson, professor of writing at George Washington University who teaches courses on media fandom and film.

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"Does originality exist?" Larsen asks. "It exists as the Holy Grail. Whether it exists in reality, I'm not so sure."

Moviegoers appear to be voting with their wallets by rewarding derivative films that provide a familiar experience.

"We might be at a moment to consider how much we want originality," Larsen said.

A better explanation for Shatner's tweets on the derivation of the new Star Wars film may be to display his fanboy savvy.

"It's a way for him to show off his pop culture knowledge chops by being able to pull these images up," Larsen noted. "I don't know how much was being hypocritical, or just saying 'hey I know this genre really well.'"

Captain Phasma in his distinctive metallic armor.

"Star Trek" shows a vision of the future that we can certainly get behind. It's a universe where many can choose their own paths, sometimes as they literally colonize new worlds. For the most part, people of many cultures work peacefully together (except for those pesky Klingons and later on, the Romulans... and Borg). But can we embrace that idealism and make our own lives better, immediately?

Based on a Reddit thread

that recently caught our attention, we sure think so. By thinking like the crew of Captain Kirk ("The Original Series") or Captain Picard ("The Next Generation"), we argue the tools will help you retire early. How, exactly? Read on for the finance-focused, science fiction wisdom. (By the way, we chose ToS and TNG as these are the most familiar among readers, but if you disagree with us -- or have wisdom to share from any other series -- we'd be glad to hear it in the comments!)

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Image: The crew of the Starship Enterprise taking a breather between shoots on the set of "Star Trek: The Next Generation."

On Reddit, there was some discussion

as to which crew was more minimalistic

-- Kirk's or Picard's. Some pointed out that

NCC 1701

(Kirk's ship) was more minimalist because the crew had no families and few possessions or luxuries on board. Others said that

NCC-1701-D

(Picard's) is more artfully minimalistic, because they had carefully chosen decorations. Whatever your definition of minimalism, it's the basics that matter: buy and keep only what you deem necessary. By being careful of your purchases, you have more money to set aside for retirement for each paycheck. And as we all know, the more money you save, the more likely it is you can quit the rat race early.

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Image: Captain Kirk (William Shatner) on the bridge of the Enterprise in "The Original Series."

Neither Kirk's nor Picard's crews shied from putting in extra time to get a mission done, whether it involved saving an extraterrestrial civilization or doing an away mission to help a crew member. Through brutal overtime, Kirk worked his way up from captain to admiral and found himself retired from commanding a ship by "

Star Trek: Generations

." (He regretted the decision for many reasons, but he did get to retirement a bit earlier than his body needed it.) There's a lesson to be learned from Kirk's experience: don't be afraid to work hard. But by the same token, don't forget about the importance of family and friends along the way. After all, if you manage to get out of working for a living early, you're going to need people to fill up your spare time instead of busybody work errands!

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Image: Captain Jean Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) in the Star Trek movie "Generations."

If you love travel, as Kirk and Picard seemed to (for the most part), then they were definitely in the right job as they got to zoom their starships practically anywhere. Well, not

the Neutral Zone

-- kind of a bad idea -- but you get the idea. Mind you, there were some episodes that they went a little too far in enjoying the benefits, such as

"Shore Leave" in ToS

. Here's the point, though: if you use your company benefits strategically, you could get a boost towards retirement. Contribute to your pension plans. Take advantage of employee discounts and travel perks and the on-site gym. See if there's a way that the company can help you do what you want to, but at a cheaper price. Then bank the difference for your retirement!

MORE: Star Trek Boldly Led Us Into the Future

Image: Captain Kirk takes some time out of his busy starship command duties at the start of "The Final Frontier" to climb El Capitan, a pastime that Spock (Leonard Nimoy) has a hard time understanding (

watch the clip here

).

There is no money in TNG (as Picard tells us in Star Trek: First Contact). And people tend to work for their own benefit instead of to satisfy investors and make millions. That said, however, both Kirk's and Picard's crews show loads of entrepreneurial/creative thinking that help further their missions. Whether it's distracting a

nasty computer in ToS by calculating pi

, or stopping another computer system

from annihilating the TNG crew

, the humans show they're smart stuff. Even smarter than artificial intelligence at times. So as long as your day job is okay with it, don't be afraid of starting a side business. Even a couple hundred dollars a month can boost your retirement savings, giving you an extra year or two of relaxation at the least. That's certainly worth a side hustle for a few hours every week, don't you think?

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Image: Luckily for the crew of the Enterprise (and the future of mankind), Captain Picard was able to lead a victory against the dreaded Borg in "Generations."

This is most aptly demonstrated in a few of the ToS Star Trek movies, where Spock dies (then is alive,

but that's a long story

) and Kirk's crew takes it upon themselves to rescue him. They break protocol and generally do stuff unbefitting of Starfleet officers (in some eyes) to rescue their friend. But they do the deed and face a trial -- at which point, in part thanks to them

saving Earth with whales along the way

, they're allowed to continue their work with minor penalties. But if Kirk's crew had run from the trial, you can be sure their punishment would have been harsh. So here's what you got to do -- if you make a mistake at work, even if it's a big one, admit it. Learn from it. Show that you can do better. You may lose a position in the process, but if you explain to future employers what you learned from it, it likely won't spell the end of your career.

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Image: Spock and Kirk try to blend in in 1990's San Francisco while trying to find a pair of whales in "The Voyage Home."