A Long Time Ago, in a Galaxy Far Far Away...
Space is big. Really, really big. So big in fact, that most of it can't even be seen from the Earth. So what exactly is out there? This trope is what happens when writers try to answer that question. A galaxy far, far away is a setting for a story which is so far away from Earth, that the very fact of its distance lends an air of credibility to even the most fantastic of plots. After all, no one really knows what's out there in the vastness of space. There may be elements we've never heard of. The laws of physics may not work the same way. There may be space gods, ancient civilizations, Rubber-Forehead Aliens, all kinds of Applied Phlebotinum. Just about anything is fair game, because no one can prove that a given aspect of the story is impossible. Historically, authors would set their fantasy stories "about 30 miles south of the village", since five centuries ago 30 miles might as well be the other side of the galaxy due to the available travel methods at the time. But Technology Marches On, and as humans discover more of the planet the plausibility of a troll living just over the mountain becomes less believable, and authors have to set their stories in locations further away. One doesn't actually have to give too much detail about their corner of the void to invoke this trope. They don't even have to make direct reference to the Earth. If a story takes on a planet that's clearly not Earth, and Earth is never mentioned, it will usually just be assumed that the planet in question is so far away that they've never heard of Earth. If the writer feels a need to explain why most of the characters are human or everyone seems to speak English, they may include some vague reference to a "theoretical ancestor planet", or Translation Convention may be invoked. If they don't even try to explain it, then it's probably an unimportant coincidence. The Trope Namer is, of course, Star Wars: A New Hope, although that movie was actually adapting an old fairy tale trope of setting a story "in a far away land" to similar effect, making this trope Older Than They Think. See also: Insignificant Little Blue Planet, Earth That Was. Compare with Constructed World where Earth may not even exist.
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Anime & Manga
- Str.A.In.: Strategic Armored Infantry.
- Mamoru Nagano & Yoshiyuki Tomino's Heavy Metal L-Gaim & Nagano's later Spiritual Successor The Five Star Stories do this with the Pentagona Solar System & the Joker Star Cluster (or galaxy, or multiple star system depending on the translator) respectively. In addition to being populated entirely by humans or genetically engineered variants thereof, nearly all the plants & wildlife appear to be ordinary things like cranes, antelopes, lilies of the valley, etc. (with a few dinosaurs and fantasy creatures like dragons & fairies & the occasional god thrown in). And yet Earth is never mentioned. In The Five Star Stories, the human race is believed to have originated on one of two planets, but it's not confirmed. Further complicating things is the fact that a planned future storyline involves a major character travelling through time & space to the last days of World War II.
- Weirdly enough, Dragon Ball Z may qualify. The heroes' home is "Earth" In Name Only. This has the potential to hold weight. All it takes is time and effort to find the info. Various supplemental materials put out by Akira Toriyama, as well as things throughout the run of the manga/anime, suggest that at the very least it's an alternate universe or timeline. Games such as Budokai 3 and Legacy of Goku 2/Buu's Fury based the world map off of his official map and it looks NOTHING like our Earth. The advanced technology of the world, as well as other planets, humanoid animals, several humans living hundreds of years, etc. lean the series deeply in this area. The final kicker? Dragon Ball/Dragon Ball Z takes place in the mid- to late 8th CENTURY according to official timelines! According to Beerus, there are twelve universes and the Earth we see in the series is in universe seven. That could explain the differences.
- Lost Universe uses this trope, as it's in a different universe.
- Parodied in Shin Wars to describe Japan.
- Pokémon was originally set on Earth, but this was Retconned out.
- Even though most of the action in the Marvel Universe happens in the Big Applesauce, sometimes the setting shifts to the vast empires of the Kree, Skrulls, or Shi'Ar, all of whom have empires that span the greater part of a whole galaxy each (the Kree in particular often state that they control a "thousand, thousand stars" — but then, they are Space Nazis, and prone to bombastic claims of glory.) Admittedly, if they count red dwarfs and brown dwarfs, a million stars (1000 squared) isn't really that much compared to 600 billion. Guess how many stars are estimated to be in our galaxy?
- DC Comics' last attempt to do Starman before Crisis on Infinite Earths was a benevolent planetary ruler named Prince Gavyn. He didn't come into contact with anyone from Earth until the end of the feature.
- ElfQuest is set on "the World Of Two Moons."note
- Elekton, home of The Trigan Empire.
- Saga by Brian K. Vaughan, much like Star Wars, is a science fiction/fantasy hybrid which does not take place in our Milky Way galaxy.
Films — Animation
- Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honnęamise is about the development of spaceflight by a people who look identical to humans with a 1950s level of technology, but the geography of their planet doesn't resemeble that of Earth and their cultures don't exactly resemble any particular one from Earth's history either (beyond some minor mixing of elements).
Films — Live-Action
- Star Wars: A New Hope, the Trope Namer, intended to set a fairy tale-like tone. The frequent jokes questioning the advanced technology of the setting despite it being in the past ignore the fact that being in a galaxy far, far away, technologies could well have developed much earlier than similar ones on Earth did - Decade Dissonance on an intergalactic scale. Depending on how meta one gets with the titles, the movies could take place in the future, the past or the present.
- Lampshaded in the film novelization by having Ben Kenobi say "Still, even a duck has to be taught to swim." and Luke asking, "What's a duck?"
- Spaceballs, being a Star Wars parody, plays with this. The Opening Scroll begins with "Once upon a time warp... In a galaxy very, very, very, very, far away, there lived a ruthless race of beings known as... Spaceballs." The rest of the movie had everyone making references to Earth pop culture, and culminates with Dark Helmet declaring, "Even in the future nothing works."
- The trope is referenced in the opening of Stargate: The Ark Of Truth when the caption at the beginning of the opening scene says "Millions of years ago in a distant galaxy".
- Iain M. Banks' The Culture novels mainly concern the spacefaring non-empire "The Culture". The appendix of the first novel states that the interstellar war described ended in the 13th Century AD. In the short story State Of The Art, a Culture ship visits Earth in 1977, stays to study us for a while and leaves without being noticed. The attribution of the epilogue to Consider Phlebas suggests that Earth gets contacted (as opposed to Contact-ed) in the 2100's.
- Isaac Asimov's Foundation series is actually the inverse of this trope, being set in the far future in the Milky Way Galaxy, but the fact that Earth has been lost to human knowledge leads to effectively the same result. However, this trope is thrown out the window later in the series when the protagonists embark on a search to find Earth, and eventually succeed.
- The Pearl Saga by Eric van Lustbader, which is set on the planet Kundala after a century of V'ornn occupation. Both the Kundalan and the V'ornn are called "human", despite sharing no evolutionary ancestry, and the Kundalan are identical to what we call human (the V'ornn really not, being hairless humanoids with two hearts each and turquoise blood), but Kundala is decidedly not Earth and neither is the V'ornn homeworld. There is no Earth mentioned at any time and Kundala is not a colony of anywhere.
- Stewart Cowley's TTA Handbooks refer to Earth as Terra and its inhabitants as Terrans, despite being set in what at the time of publication (1970s) was the near future (21st Century).
- The Lensmen refer to Earth almost uniformly as Tellus and its inhabitants as Tellurians. There are occasional slips.
- Played with in Gene Wolfe's Book of the New Sun / Book of the Short Sun cycle. Urth is not actually our Earth, but in a separate universe entirely. It doesn't even get mentioned by name in the Book of the Long Sun.
- Captain Underpants has the story of Underpantyworld, which takes place "a far time ago, in a galaxy long, long away".
- Mark Twain's unfinished work Captain Stormfield's Visit to Heaven is an Older Than They Think use of this trope. Heaven is a region far, far out in space, more vast than any planet since it has to have room for every generation, past and future, of every sentient race in the universe. Captain Stormfield arrives at the wrong planet's 'arrival gate' in Heaven and has a very rough time finding anybody who's even heard of the Earth. Eventually somebody narrows it down when he mentions that it's in the same solar system as Jupiter.
"Oh, yes! We do know of your planet. We call it the Wart."
- In Outlander Leander the characters live on a planet called Pressea. At least one country has begun traveling through space and is starting to explore the universe. No mention of Earth.
- This is the setting in Farscape for all practical purposes. While protagonist John Crichton is from Earth, no-one else in the universe has ever heard of his species or planet, and the location of the show's setting, the "Uncharted Territories", in relation to Earth is never really established; the closest it gets is near the end of the third season, when Scorpius reveals that he has discovered the location of Earth, and says that if John doesn't cooperate, he'll destroy it even though, going as fast as they can, it will take sixty years to reach it. "as fast as they can" is never really specified.
- Battlestar Galactica. In both versions, the characters are human spacefarers, but not from Earth even ancestrally. They are from the Twelve Colonies that were settled by humans from Kobol and are looking for Earth, which is mentioned in their sacred scrolls as the 13th colony of Kobol. The original series was set in The Present Day, while the series finale of the 2000s version ultimately reveals that (major spoiler) this is a long time ago far, far away (although in the Milky Way galaxy) when the fleet finally arrives on Earth and it's still the prehistoric era. They leave their ships and become the ancestors of Earth humans.
- Its Spin-Off Caprica played around with that a lot in trying to depict a human civilization that had nothing to do with Earth. Arguably it was the only TV show in recent history to have a go at that.
- Stargate SG-1. In the episode "1969", Jack O'Neill justifies his team's oddness to a couple of contemps by saying that they're aliens who came to Earth "a long, long time ago". Daniel Jackson can't help adding, "from a galaxy far, far away." Maybe the kids wound up working for George Lucas a few years later?
- Killjoys takes place in a star cluster known as "The J." Although populated by humans, there are no direct references to Earth. So the where and when of the story is completely up for grabs.
- Star Frontiers asserted that it was set in this sort of verse.
- Based on their language (English) and dating system (24 hour days, 365 day years) it is strongly implied that the humans of the Three Galaxies setting in Rifts came from an Earth, either in their own dimension or an alternate one. However, since they have lived in the Three Galaxies for thousands of years as compared to the present date on Rifts Earth, they must have been displaced in both space and time.
- Dungeons & Dragons and Forgotten Realms invoke this trope, especially since the D&D/FR campaigns aren't themselves necessarily a shared universe. Players and gamemasters are free (actually encouraged) to concoct their own backstory for the gaming world they create using D&D raw material. Most who do so feel no reason to arbitrarily connect their world to Earth.
- Xenosaga has this in the form of "Lost Jerusalem", which is the colloquial term for the ancestral planet of humans. Humans have been living in space for a good 4000 years, and Earth has long since been lost and forgotten over time.
- The Jak and Daxter series takes place on a planet unrelated to Earth, populated by elf-like humanoids with long pointy ears.
- Ratchet & Clank up the ante, spanning three whole "galaxies far, far away" over the course of the series: Bogon, Solana, and Polaris.
- Most Square-Enix RPGs occur on planets with no visible relationship to Earth, or each other. Though, bizarrely enough, there's almost always humans, or just really Human Aliens.
- Final Fantasy X-2 has a mini-side-quest that semi-confirms a direct connection between it and Final Fantasy VII, by implying that the Shinra in your group is the ancestor of those who will produce the technology to head to the stars and find a new planet thousands of years ago in the time-line of VII.
- Freelancer plays this trope to some degree. The opening movie makes it clear that Humanity emigrated from Earth towards the Sirius sector, and the places are named after actual locations in the Earth, yet nobody in the entire game makes even a single reference to Earth.
- "We have grown. We have prospered. We have flourished. But we will never forget." My ass.
- The original E3 trailer showed a Nomad ship arriving after the Exodus and destroying the Solar System. A single ship survived the nova and took off after the colonists to warn them. Suddenly, the "we will never forget" line takes on a whole new meaning... But yeah, they still forget. Then again, it's centuries after the Sirius sector is settled. There've been dozens of wars in the meantime. Who cares about Earth That Was? They got their own problems.
- Earth is never mentioned by name, but several people obviously have detailed information about its geography, given that not only are various planets, stations, and ships named after locations on Earth, but their roles and importance match up. For instance, the planet Cambridge is home to a major university, while Newark Station is in its proper position orbiting Planet Manhattan. There are only a handful of locales that aren't named for places on Earth.
- "We have grown. We have prospered. We have flourished. But we will never forget." My ass.
- Likewise, in the Homeworld series, the player's faction appears to come from Planet Hiigara; the Earth is never mentioned in the entire storyline. The player, however, is eagerly invited to draw the conclusion that Hiigara is Earth. The final mission of the first game takes place near Hiigara and it has a very familiar looking moon orbiting it.
- Due to the essential nature of the Homeworld games (the gameplay is 3D ship-to-ship combat), presenting actual beings that the user could care about was problematic. They hit upon the solution of simply not showing anyone; the only real character, Karan Sjet, is in possession of the Mothership, so you hear her voice a lot. With no real drawings of the people in the game, the player is invited to draw whatever conclusions they wish as to what the actual species is. The last mission is meant as something of a reveal, "they were human all along" kind of thing. For those who didn't get the clues in the first game, Homeworld 2 clarified things by actually showing Karan Sjet as being human (or exceedingly human-like). Karan also got bigger boobs, and shed the whole 'ripped open nerve trunks/crippling cybernetics' bit, too.
- Though Hiigara shares many similarities with Earth, and the Hiigarans are eventually revealed to be humanoid, it is also made very clear that Hiigara cannot be Earth. This is because (1) Hiigara is located near the center of its galaxy, while Earth is in a completely different location in the Milky Way, and (2) we get a closer look at Hiigara in Homeworld 2 and the continents look nothing like Earth's continents.
- Also, if you're an astronomy geek, you'll notice the galaxy Homeworld appears to be set in is M51 (aka the Whirlpool Galaxy). Which is about 23 million light years away from Earth.
- Retconned away (or never happened, depending on who you ask) in the Sonic the Hedgehog series- in the West, the series took place on the planet Mobius, with no mention of Earth. However, in Japan, the series was always set on Earth. Beginning with Sonic Adventure, the series officially took place on Earth in all regions (though Mobius survives in the Archie Comic, itself plagued by retcons to make everything fit).
- Sonic Underground and Sonic the Comic still took place on Mobius even at the time of Sonic Adventure. Sonic The Comic even mentioned Earth as being a different planet with a similar evolution, thus explaining the talking animals. The other two DiC cartoons, Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog and Sonic Sat AM (aka SatAM) also took place on Mobius; SatAM had planned to make The Reveal of it being Earth in the third season, but it was Cut Short. So there are some more Sonic examples. Though in the Archie comics, it was revealed - and thus the trope inverted with - that Earth and Mobius are one and the same. Turned out humanity's paranoia towards aliens was their downfall, as when the Xorda emissary that had actually come in peace, was captured, and subsequently dissected by humans, the Xorda got rightfully pissed and unleashed Gene Bombs (bombs that destroy DNA) on the planet. However some people and animals survived, with the latter's DNA mixing with shredded bits of human DNA, thus turning them into the anthropomorphic creatures they are today.
- In the online Turn-Based Strategy game Ultracorps, there are no references to Earth or humans except for one line about "that legendary creature of ancient Terra, the cockroach" in one race description.
- The perpetually medieval Hyrule in The Legend of Zelda is apparently on another planet. There are human stand-ins called Hylians, who can be described as humans with pointy ears, and sometimes regular-eared humans with them.
- The Phantasy Star games take place on planets orbiting the star Algol, where humans apparently evolved independently from humans on Earth.
- This one doesn't really count. Earth is a recognized and at one point active part of the Phantasy Star universe, and our galaxy does, in fact, have an Algol system (See here◊). Humans are indeed recognized as having evolved separately from those who appear on Earth, and it is distinctly not an ancestor planet. The only criteria for A Long Time Ago, in a Galaxy Far Far Away... that Phantasy Star fills is 'Applied Phlebotinum is a way of life'. Until Phantasy Star Universe, anyway, which if it is canon to the rest of the series, takes place A Long Time Ago, in a Galaxy Far Far Away... relative to Algol, not Earth.
- There's some fanwank out there that suggests that the Phantasy Star Online games actually take place on Earth. And the fanwank makes sense.
- Phantasy Star Zero takes place After the End on a planet called "Earth", which has a white, cratered, atmosphereless satellite called "the Moon". In a story mode quest, it is revealed that the Earth and the Moon were once known as Coral and Arca; Coral being the homeworld that the Pioneer ships of Phantasy Star Online launched from. Despite that, though whether this has any relation whatsoever to our Earth is still anyone's guess.
- Tyrian 2000 has Trent Hawkins jump into hyperspace, set for an unheard-of planet 100 light years away. The planet in question is Earth.
- Thunder Force I through IV are set in a distant galaxy known as the Galaxy Federation. V, on the other hand, changes the focus from the Galaxy Federation to Earth.
- The Super Mario Bros. universe, from Yoshi's Island onwards.
- Z follows the war between two intergalactic robots that look and act a lot like humans. No mention is ever made to who, when, why or where they were made. Ditto that any organic people where ever around.
- The Gears of War series never really mentions Earth. Then again, this is subverted by lots of obvious verbal and non-verbal references to Earth culture and geography and many similarities in basic technological concepts. But it's never really made 100% clear whether Sera fits this trope entirely, or is more of a Lost Colony planet in the far future, with no recollection of the earthly origins of the locals.
- The Infocom Zork games take place on a world that satirized much of Earth culture but its connection to Earth was somewhat vague.
- The "space arc" of Arthur, King of Time and Space. It's set in 5th century Britain, only "Britain" is The Federation, and interstellar travel has been around since some point BC.
- The setting of Ava's Demon takes place on an unnamed planet (not Earth), 1000 years in the future and intersteller travel is heavily implied. Wrathia also originates from a distant galaxy yet to be named.
- Two of these settings have appeared as other dimensions in Sluggy Freelance.
- Last Res0rt takes place among the Connection, including a renamed Earth as "Terth".
- According to the opening narration, The Herculoids is set "somewhere out in space."
- Buzz Lightyear of Star Command also belongs here.
- Storm Hawks.
- Third Earth of ThunderCats (1985) was originally said to be post-apocalyptic Earth, but the show stopped mentioning it after the beginning. The 2000s comic book series, which included a crossover with G-Force from Earth, claimed that it was another planet after all.
- The Muppet Babies once began a Sci-Fi movie they made, "A far time ago in a galaxy long, long away..."
- He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (1983) is set on the planet Eternia. It turns out Earth is familiar to the characters, especially Queen Marlena, and it is light-years away from Eternia, and they do get visitors from planet Earth.
- Famously, Beast Wars takes place on a strange, two-mooned planet with identical-to-Earth fauna, until one of the moons is revealed as an alien superweapon. The other moon, which we never got a good look at until then, looks real familiar. Earth All Along; prehistoric Earth due to a time warp they ran into on the way. One of the bigger twists at first, It Was His Sled by now.