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... IN SPACE
Sometimes called a Life Pod
, it is a nearly universal trope in Space Opera
, and a tried and true part of the Standard Sci-Fi Fleet
. When your Cool Starship
's Faster Than Light Drive
is about to suffer a critical Phlebotinum Overload
, or Space Pirates
are targeting your exhaust port
with Frickin' Laser Beams
, it's time to head for the Escape Pods, and take your chances drifting on the endless ocean of space
in a tiny, fragile shell with no weapons, rudimentary engines, and in cramped quarters with people you may not like
Just hope the enemy doesn't decide to Sink The Life Boats
, that your Distress Call
does not go unanswered, and that the Conveniently Close Planet
you're forced to land on as your pod's limited supplies dwindle doesn't turn out to be a Death World
The Escape Pod
can come in handy should a Boarding Party
of Scary Dogmatic Aliens
announce that All Your Base Are Belong to Us
, and you find it prudent not to question them
. Similarly, keep it in mind if you ever find yourself on the wrong end of The Mutiny
If you're ever stuck in a Supervillain Lair
thoughtfully equipped with a Self-Destruct Mechanism
, you may want to memorize the route to the nearest Escape Pod
... just in case. A nearby Escape Pod
may also prove convenient if you've been captured by the villain
and are making an Air Vent Escape
In a pinch, Escape Pods can be used for purposes besides evacuation — they provide a more humane alternative if you feel the urge to throw someone out the airlock
, and on rare occasions might even be used to deploy
your Space Marines
. But in order for a pod to count as an example of this trope, its primary
(or at least informed
) purpose must be to serve as a science-fictiony life boat.
In Real Life
, the International Space Station
always has two Soyuz spacecraft docked that can act as "escape pods" in case of emergency (these are also the same ships used to carry crew and supplies to the ISS in the first place). Rockets carrying astronauts also have an eject system that can separate the crew module from the rest of the rocket in case something goes wrong during launch. However, as commonly portrayed in science fiction
, the use of escape pods does not always make sense. As writer and game designer Jim Cambias put it,
"Why abandon a spaceship, however shot up or meteor-damaged it may be, just to hang around in a flimsy balloon or cramped pod? You're still on the same course
, since no life pod can carry much delta-v, and the life-support problems are considerable. Why not include some kind of pressure balloon to provide temporary airtight containment in a hulled compartment and use the ship's own life-support? That way you get the ship's radiation shielding, power, etc.
"If it's a reactor emergency you're worried about, don't eject the crew in pods, EJECT THE REACTOR!
"Actually, I realize perfectly well the purpose of life pods: it lets sf writers tell lifeboat stories in space
Of course, in science fiction, stricken spaceships more often than not blow up like firecrackers
— so trying to get away in an Escape Pod
makes enough sense. Other justifications may include facing a Worthy Opponent
who can be trusted not to Sink The Life Boats
but has no problem utterly destroying your Cool Starship
, or avoiding a Reentry Scare
if your damaged ship can't survive entering a planet's atmosphere, but your escape pods can.
Contrast the Boarding Pod
, which is for getting onto
the ship in a hopefully unexpected manner.
open/close all folders
- When Volkswagen's New Beetle first appeared, with its compact, rounded, mildly Science Fiction-y shape, it was advertised with billboards that called it an "Escape Pod."
- The Star Wars Customizable Card Game reveals that Grand Moff Tarkin doesn't like it when Imperial officers use escape pods to escape (something he considers an act of cowardice), to put it nicely. This is based on Tarkin's statement during the Battle of Yavin in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope.
Imperial officer: We've analyzed their attack, sir, and there is a danger. Should I have your ship standing by?
Grand Moff Tarkin: Evacuate? In our moment of triumph? I think you overestimate their chances!
Film — Animated
- WALL•E had a scene featuring an escape pod that, for some inexplicable reason, had its own Self-Destruct Mechanism. The film's post-scriptum animation shows that (potentially explosive!) escape pods can also be used as makeshift shelters, and an escape pod plays a role in the related short BURN-E.
- Ralph inadvertently uses one in Wreck-It Ralph just after he receives the Medal of Heroes. Also possesses an ejector seat which works AFTER crashing. Can also be reused as a means of transport.
Film — Live Action
- The 1993 movie Lifepod was essentially the Alfred Hitchcock movie Lifeboat Recycled IN SPACE!.
- Star Wars: A New Hope
- The movie opens with C3PO and R2D2 fleeing Princess Leia's captured ship in an escape pod along with the blueprints detailing the Death Star's weak spot; Imperial gunners nearly blow them out of the sky before they note there are no actual lifesigns on board the pod. (The fact that they'd shoot down a pod with people on board, but not an empty one, tells the audience something about the Empire...) The robots' escape sets all the events of the original Star Wars trilogy in motion.
- When the Millenium Falcon is captured by the Death Star, an Imperial officer reports to Darth Vader that the ship's log says that the crew abandoned ship after leaving Mos Eisley and several escape pods are missing. This was a ruse to make the Imperials think the protagonists were no longer on board.
- This line has also resulted in numerous attempts, by both fans and Expanded Universe sources, to come up with where the Falcon's escape pods would be located. Due to the original Falcon design being scrapped (and reworked into Leia's blockade runner by adding the hammerhead bow section) very late in production, the new design (unlike the original) had neither obvious escape pods nor obvious hatches for launching internal ones.
- In Star Trek: First Contact, the Enterprise is trapped in the past, and the evil Borg are taking over the ship. Picard reluctantly agrees to destroy the ship to stop the Borg, and, aside from himself and Data, the entire crew flies down to Earth in escape pods with instructions to "stay out of history's way." The crisis is soon averted, and everyone returns to the ship... presumably using Teleporters and Transporters, since it would be odd if the tiny pods could have taken off and made it back to orbit again themselves. Whether scattering future technology across the entire planet in the form of escape pods is a good idea when you're trying to keep history from changing is also never addressed.
- The Federation had shuttle craft that could break atmosphere pretty much effortlessly, so flying back up to the Enterprise may not have been particularly implausible. Of course, if they did use the pods to get back, this would just confirm that they were initially planning to leave little ships capable of achieving orbit with ease scattered around the Earth of the past...
- Actually, if the pods were capable of getting back into space on their own, that would serve to tie up the potential loose end of having said little ships scattered all over the planet: Just launch them on auto pilot and have them self-destruct or plow into the nearest star or moon. If not, they probably had other gameplans for disposing of them, given that Starfleet has been shown to do its best to prevent interferences with the timeline, including having an entire agency devoted to preventing and repairing timeline damage.
- I'm pretty sure that they could have just used the transporters to lock on to all the escape pods and beamed them back after the crisis was averted.
- In the 2009 Star Trek film, Spock has Kirk thrown into an escape pod and marooned on a Death World. The pod helpfully advises Kirk not to go outside after landing, and wait for rescue — advice he promptly ignores, of course. Which may be for the best, since when he finally made it to the Starfleet base, they seemed completely unaware that any rescue was needed... Why the computerized escape pod didn't call for help, or why it couldn't have tried landing a bit closer to the base, considering the environment, is not really clear.
- Worth noting that as soon as Kirk leaves the pod, he gets attacked by the local food chain. He might have been better off just staying in there. It is also possible that the pod stopped trying to contact the base once Kirk left, since there would presumably be no point in calling rescue teams to an empty escape pod.
- At least two movies have Air Force One equipped with an escape pod. Although the exact details of the planes (there are two that we normally call "Air Force One") are classified, it is extremely unlikely that any of the real planes has one.
- Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. Joe and Polly use one to escape from Dr. Totenkopf's rocket before it explodes.
- The Last Starfighter. Xur uses one to flee from the Ko-Dan ship.
- Alien. The crew plans to use the shuttle to leave the Nostromo, but only Ripley succeeds.
- The shuttle isn't intended to be an escape pod, though... it's actually a shuttle. (There's only one, and it's not big enough to hold even half the crew.)
- Starship Troopers. Carmen Ibanez and Zander Barcalow use one to get out of their starship after it's seriously damaged.
- Lifeforce (1985). Tom Carlsen returns to Earth from the space shuttle Churchill in one.
- Serenity. The Operative bugs out from an exploding Alliance ship using a one-person version.
- Airplane II: The Sequel. Simon Kurtz (one of the flight officers) takes off (deserting the others in a cowardly manner) because he thinks the Mayflower shuttle is doomed. He Ejected Prematurely, no less.
- Spaceballs: Spaceball One has a grand total of seven single-seater escape pods. Dark Helmet, President Skroob and Colonel Sandurz all have their escape pods stolen by other crew members (and, in one case, a bear) as the ship self-destructs.
- As an extra bonus, the visual effect for each escape pod launching homages the iconic Star Wars example above.
- Pandorum: The Cryotubes can be ejected from the ship in an emergency, although it is stated that doing so in deep space is essentialy suicide, given that there is nobody to pick them up, nowhere for them to land, and only enough power to keep the tubes operational for a few days. In a Nightmare Fuel exposition scene, a crewmember suffering from Space Madness ejects all the pods, while at least one of the occupants is conscious.
- When the Prometheus is on suicide mission to bring down the alien space ship, Vickers escapes via escape pod. It doesn't help her survive for long.
Live Action TV
- Star Trek ships from Next Generation on were depicted with numerous lifepods that could be launched in the event of a disaster. According to the technical manuals, they could be docked together to pool the air, fuel and supplies, but didn't even have impulse power. Their top speed could get them across a star system in about eight months, which was also their outside limit of consumables. This would make the crew virtually helpless in most situations where they weren't already accompanied by another ship which could pick them up.
- Star Trek: Enterprise had an episode in which rough-around-the-edges engineer Tucker and an alien Well, Excuse Me, Princess! were trapped in a cramped escape pod together after fleeing some evil aliens.
- The mirror Enterprise NX01 also had life pods, not that they did the crew much good when they were used (almost all were destroyed by an energy web that was trapping the ship to begin with).
- Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: During the war with the Dominion, a Big Bad orders her Dragon not to Sink The Life Boats from a destroyed Federation ship, so that the escape pods can make it home and spread fear of the Dominion.
- In the another episode, most of the USS Reliant's lifepods are destroyed as soon as they launch, it's unclear if it was intentional or not, given that the ship was being pummeled by a Dominion warship.
- Red Dwarf plays with this one. The episode "Rimmerworld" features Rimmer using his crewmates to jump into an escape pod behind a Simulant which is attempting to attack them. The other crew members use another method of escape and survive. Rimmer uses the escape pod and, as it's faster than the ship he was flying on, ends up falling into a wormhole.
- Doctor Who episode "42" had Martha stuck in an escape pod.
- Stargate SG-1 featured these on a number of occasions. Goa'uld escape pods look like ancient Egyptian sarcophagi... and are just as cramped. On one occasion, an escape pod was used by a character to get away from a murderous Big Bad who was pursuing him on a small ship; on another, two characters hid in escape pods without launching them to survive when their ship's hull got punctured.
- The Firefly-class ships are equipped with two shuttles that can be used to abandon the ship (or as an alcove for the on-board Companion). In the episode "Out of Gas" the whole team barring Mal use them to escape the Serenity after the engine breaks beyond repair. They then return to meet whatever end together with their captain.
- In Babylon 5, Starfury cockpits can be ejected to serve as escape pods. The odds of being picked up aren't all that high. Other human and alien craft probably have similar mechanisms.
- It is mentioned that various warships carry escape pods, but it is very rare for a ship's crew to actually have a chance to use them in battle. Once a ship's defenses are penetrated, it is not uncommon to have them hammered into burning hulks within seconds, given the amounts of firepower that get thrown around in space combat.
- Mystery Science Theater 3000 had Joel finally escape the Satellite of Love in a conveniently forgotten one of these. It was hidden in a box of hamdingers, and nobody likes hamdingers. It's name? The "Deus ex Machina."
- Space 1889 averted. Ship design is fairly realistic and escape pods does not exist for ether flyers or for sky ships. There aren’t even practical parachutes.
- Surprisingly for such a Crapsack Galaxy, Imperial Navy ships in Warhammer 40,000 do have escape pods. They're mainly used to abandon ships that have suffered catastrophic rector damage and are about to explode in a spectacular ball of fiery death.
- They're referred to as "Saviour pods".
- Also keep in mind that in the Warhammer 40K universe, an exploding ship may (and probably will) result in the creation of a temporary, gigantic rift in the fabric of space-time which leads to hell. Being very far away at that point would be very wise.
- Ships in Traveller sometimes had Life Boats.
- One Double Adventure (Marooned and Marooned Alone) had the PCs landing on a planet using them after escaping from a passenger liner in orbit.
- The FASA adventure Action Aboard: Adventures on the King Richard had a section on how they would be used to evacuate passengers in the event of a disaster.
- Spelljammer has "Wreckboat", but a dedicated escape craft is luxury, since its engine is the same as on ships proper, where it's the most expensive part. So usually if a ship has any launches to use as shuttles, they'll double as lifeboats.
- Star Fleet Battles Captain's module K1 Fast Patrol Ships. When Fast Patrol ships are about to be destroyed, their crew eject in self-contained survival pods that broadcast a homing signal.
- Star Frontiers module SF0 Crash on Volturnus. After their ship is captured by the Star Devil's pirates, the PCs abandon ship in a lifeboat and use it to land on the planet Volturnus.
- Starblazer Adventures, based on the 1980's British science fiction Comic Book. Small ships such as fighters had ejection seats, while larger ships had escape pods.
- Role Master, Spacemaster Privateer campaign setting. Life pods are small, five person ships that only have maneuvering thrusters and are usable only if in orbit. They have heat shields and parachutes for atmospheric re-entry.
- SPI's Universe. The Corco Omega was an emergency craft stored in an escape pod attached to a larger ship. It could hold a pilot and four passengers and was capable of interstellar travel.
- It Came from the Late, Late Show II adventure "Bjorn on the Bayou, or Escape from Alkatrazz XII". If the PCs manage to capture the Big Bad Warden Skrank instead of killing him, he will get away using an escape pod while being taken back to Space patrol Headquarters on their ship for trial.
- BattleTech's starships feature escape pods in two flavors - escape pods, and life boats - each with room for 6 people. Escape pods are capable of planetary re-entry, whereas life boats must be picked up by other starships as they lack the structural strength survive re-entry. Life boats have enough food and water supply for 16 days and life support for 30, and is solar powered. Escape pods have thrusters for minor course corrections, have supplies for 14 days, and while they can make planetary landings, it's more of a controlled crash as they lack landing gear and are only slowed down by parachutes. Aerospace Fighters have self-contained Ejection Seat so pilots can survive long enough to be picked up by the mother ship in space, and some BattleMechs utilize the "Full head ejection system", where the entire head assembly is jettisoned rather than a piddly unprotected ejection seat, allowing the Mechwarrior to survive in environments that are otherwise lethal, such as interplanetary space.
- Allegiance, a multiplayer Space Sim / Real-Time Strategy game from Microsoft, has escape pods fill an essential role in gameplay. Whenever a pilot's ship is destroyed, they are left at that spot in a small, slow, fragile, unarmed escape pod and must then make it to the nearest base or friendly ship before their oxygen runs out. If this pod is shot and destroyed by the enemy, the player is immediately respawned back at base, and can get a new ship and re-join the action; thus the enemy is discouraged from Sinking The Life Boats, and getting shot down actually takes you out of the action for some time, without taking you out of the game.
- EVE Online has the capsules, which function as escape pods. However, they do have warp drives (albeit weak ones) and their main purpose is not to function as escape pods, but rather as the control system (similar to the entry plugs in Neon Genesis Evangelion). Both normal and capsuleer-controlled spacecraft also havenote escape pods for the crew; however, escape pods deep within a ship can only separate as the ship falls apart.
- Reaching an escape pod is the goal of many of the crewmen in System Shock 2. When the player finally reaches a pod himself rather than use it to escape, he crashes it into The Many to take it out from the inside.
- Reaching the escape pods is also one of the goals the player pursues in the original System Shock... although this plan doesn't work out too well.
- Perfect Dark shows Air Force One with an escape pod (like a couple film examples above).
- Final Fantasy VII... Even though it's the first rocket to send a human into space, they designed it with an escape pod.
- Interactive Fiction classic Planetfall starts with a sequence where you have to get into the escape pod.
- the white chamber has one at the epilogue.
- The opening level of Halo: Combat Evolved ends with you escaping the Pillar of Autumn on the last "lifeboat."
- In the Star Wars Battlefront spin-off Elite Squadron, escape pods play a fairly significant role. They can be used for quick deployment of troops from capital ships, or simply to escape if the ship's core is destroyed.
- In Sonic Adventure 2, Maria launched Shadow from the ARK aboard an escape pod. Another one is used by Eggman in an almost-successful attempt to kill the title character.
- Dr. Eggman's mech designs usually incorporate a small, round ship as an escape pod.
- In Sonic Colors, one of Eggman's public announcements in Aquarium Park advises park guests to locate the nearest escape pod in an emergency. Subverted in that every escape pod except for Eggman's is still back on Earth being assembled in the factory.
- Shows up early in Star Ocean 3.
- The opening chapter screen in Marathon shows you hurtling toward the eponymous colony ship in an escape pod. Where the pod comes from is, literally, All There in the Manual. (It's from a shuttle whose life support was compromised.)
- In Escape Velocity under strict play, the escape pods you can purchase at outfitters are the only way to avoid being Killed Off for Real if your ship starts to break up. Oh, and you'll have to issue the escape command manually... unless you buy the auto-eject feature for an additional fee.
- Gratuitous Space Battles has Escape Pods: in the wake of a pitched battle there will be a sad stream of pods fleeing from the de-orbiting hulks that used to be proud battlewagons.
- Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic kicks off with the player character making his/her way to the escape pods when the ship s/he serves on comes under Sith attack.
- Mass Effect 2, by contrast, kicks off with the player character failing to make it to an escape pod in time.
- In Mass Effect 3, Shepard suggests using escape pods while escaping a geth dreadnaught under fire. Geth teammate Legion explains that the geth have no use for such things, being a software species who can transfer their programs via remote signal. They escape on a small fighter, with Shepard's team crammed into the cargo hold.
- Oolite has purchasable Escape Pods that essentially function as an extra life; when you use one, you're automatically transported back to the system station, with a shiny new vessel that's identical to the one you just lost. Other ships will also deploy them sometimes; you can pick them up with your cargo scoop and deliver the passengers to a station for bounty or insurance money (or you could just shoot them down).
- In Nexus: The Jupiter Incident, any ship that is damaged beyond a certain point is considered lost, at which point it will start launching escape pods. If it is a ship from the player's fleet, then the percentage of escape pods that are collected determines if the player keeps the same experienced crew for the new ship. It is assumed that the captain always survives. If the ship is destroyed outright, then no escape pods are launched.
- Used several times in Space Quest, being as the game's a send-up of sci-fi tropes. The first thing you have to go is get Roger the hell off the Arcada without getting vaped by the Sariens. Later, he steals their escape pod after setting the MacGuffin to blow. Second game has him stealing one to escape Vohaul's space station. A Have a Nice Death in the fifth one is him being expelled from Star Con Academy via escape pod.
- While only referenced in normal gameplay, StarCraft II has the Hercules dropship equipped with those. This allows the cargo to survive the transport's destruction, although the units still take some damage.
- The mining ship 'Ishimura' in Dead Space has several, not that they helped, in fact one of them led to an entire military ship being destroyed.
- Dead Space 2: not content with being fired on a rocket chair and falling though space Isaac later ejects himself from The Ishimura and crashes back into the sprawl.
- Unreal and Unreal II: The Awakening feature escape pods in the ending sequences. The first is to escape from a planet of doom, the second is to escape a ship about to crash into a star.
- The "Vaus" from Arkanoid is an escape craft, though it has more mobility than your standard escape pod.
- Near the climax of Bulletstorm you need to make use of an Escape Pod
- Vega Strike has escape pods equipped with FTL drives, but with such a weak reactor and thrusters that running to a nearby base or ship is pain anyway. There are also Rescue missions where the player should collect with Tractor Beam a NPC pod asaulted by vengeful opponents and deliver the pilot to a nearby planet or base.
- In Star Control 2 your Precursor ship gets an escape pod when you've freed the Chmmr and you have the Utwig Bomb, the Talking Pet, and know where's the Ur-Quan Sa-Matra. Your ship has been transformed by the Chmmr, literally speaking, into a bomb with thrusters. And one that can give a HUGE bang.
- Master of Orion 2 allows to develop Survival Pods and equip ships with these, which allows a hero to survive the ship's destruction if the whole fleet isn't destroyed too.
- The Xtended mod for X3: Terran Conflict adds escape pods; corvettes and larger ships will launch up to a dozen escape pods upon destruction or bailing. The pods will fly away at incredible speed, pulling evasive actions, before using their jump drives to escape safely. Fighter and freighter pilots don't get it so easy, and either go down with their ship or jump out in their spacesuit and try to EVA to the safety of a space station. Several scripts also allow the player to flee their ship in an escape pod, useful for dead-is-dead mode
- In his third appearance in The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob!, the ever-resourceful villain Fructose Riboflavin makes surprisingly effective use of his escape pod after his prison break, until Galatea is able to give it a powerful enough engine to serve as a tiny spaceship in its own right.
- In Pants Seat Carpet Ride's Backtrace, this trope is inverted when Frederick and Gomwell use a fighter craft to escape.
- In Schlock Mercenary the Battleplate Tunguska had "terapods" that used teraport drives to escape destruction. Given how new the teraport was at that point and how rare it was for a space battle to leave merely "crippled" ships that was the first time they were ever used and many pods launched half-full or less as the crew panicked. Though considering how the dark matter entities that destroyed the Tunguska react to teraports the launching was probably why they decided to finish it off.
- They showed up in Galaxy Rangers a couple times. Most notably, in "Phoenix" where Eliza puts her kids in one, has to go back for supplies (it had enough for two people, not three), and is attacked. She orders it to blast off when she's attacked by one of the pirates. A second example is when the Rangers use one to evacuate from an exploding Crown base in "Queen's Gun."
- Parodied in The Simpsons episode "Homer Goes to College." Mr. Burns uses one to escape the plant during a meltdown, and it crashes in the parking lot. It's built for two and he won't let Smithers in because he likes to rest his feet.
- One shows up at the end of The Family Guy episode "Holy Crap", conveniently docked onto the side of the house. The family uses it to escape when Peter's mother shows up needing a place to crash.
- The Galaxy Trio episode "Galaxy Trio and the Sleeping Planet". At the end of the episode the space pirate Krag escapes his ship in a smaller ship.
- Two Soyuz spacecraft (the same ships used to carry crew and supplies to the ISS in the first place) are always docked at the International Space Station and can function as escape pods in case of an emergency. Each one can hold three crew members. On two occasions, the crew took refuge in these ships when danger from space debris loomed. Originally NASA planned to build a dedicated escape vehicle capable of taking the whole crew, the X-38, but - predictably - this was cancelled after early tests.
- During the Skylab program, a modified Apollo capsule containing seats for five crew was kept prepped in case the station crew was stranded.
- Rockets carrying astronauts also have an eject system that can separate the crew module from the rest of the rocket in case something goes wrong during launch.
- In the Apollo 13 incident, the Lunar Module essentially functioned as a makeshift escape pod for much of the flight.
- After the accidents of the space shuttle Challenger and later the Columbia there were plans to equip the remaining shuttles with escape pods or even the ability to eject the entire cabin. However those plans were abandoned, and with the retirement of the remaining space shuttles the whole issue became moot.
- Gemini, and initially the space shuttle, were equipped with ejection seats.
- Several "lunar escape systems" were designed for use in long-duration Apollo missions, in case of a failure of the lunar module. The astronauts would be exposed and have to rely on their suits, so they would only have had four hours available between launch and a space-walk return to the CSM.