In a lot of Space Opera
there is a single political entity that governs the majority of the setting, even if the setting spans an entire galaxy, or universe in some cases. It may be an Empire
, a Republic
, a Federation
, some even work more like a Fictional United Nations
, it doesn't really matter. If there are other polities they are small nations at the outskirts of the Empire or rebellions against them.
There might be several reasons why a writer would employ this trope:
- The writer doesn't want to go to the extra work of creating and developing lots and lots of tiny nations and creates a dominant Galactic Superpower to save time. And to be honest detailing more than one nation is not really necessary unless the story involves politics.
- The writer is writing a story of the overthrow of a great galactic tyrant.
- The superpower fell sometime ago, and the story may be about the attempt to restore it.
Compare Space-Filling Empire
. May be led by a Galactic Conqueror
. Contrast with, and may overlap with, an Ungovernable Galaxy
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- The Empire of Valdana in Tytania ruled space at the beginning of the series. But apparently the ruling Tytania clan wasn't as powerful as they thought.
- In Legend of Galactic Heroes the Galactic Empire rules over the majority of the galaxy, with only two other factions even existing. The neutral Phezzan Dominion, and the Free Planets Alliance, which is in fact an offshot of the Galactic Empire and significantly smaller, although it can be said to be a Galactic Superpower in its own right. Reinhard von Lohengramm, as emperor of the Galactic Empire, has the unification of the entire galaxy as his ultimate goal. He more or less succeeds.
- Star Wars:
- The franchise first had the Old Republic after the defeat of the Sith Empire, then the Galactic Empire, then the New Republic, then the Galactic Alliance coexisted with the Fel Empire for a century before the Sith took over the Empire again and conquered most of the Alliance.
- Predating the Old Republic was the Rakatan Infinite Empire, a race of Abusive Precursors that enslaved most of the galaxy, then were done in when the Force rejected them. The Hutts were apparently the first major power to develop after the Rakata fell.
- The generally unnamed Empire in Dune that formed after the Butlerian Jihad and lasted up until Leto II manipulated its breaking up (almost 14,000 years).
- According to the prequel novels, another galactic Empire existed prior to Omnius turning on humans. In fact, House Corrino is descended from the Imperial family of the old Empire via Faykan Corrino's wife.
- The CoDominium universe went through three. The first was the eponymous alliance between the U.S.A. and U.S.S.R., the second was the Empire of Man founded by the former colony world of Sparta after the founders nuked each other into oblivion. The third was a second Spartan Empire that succeeded the first.
- Honor Harrington is unique in that it initially took place in the "fringe" rather than anywhere near the superpower. The Solarian League is so vast that most maps don't show the entire thing, but their sheer numbers have meant that no one dared to fight them for centuries. As such, the "barbarians" like Manticore tore their fleets to pieces when the League was manipulated into trying to extend their reach that far.
- In the Foundation series there's the Galactic Empire, which is in the process of falling at the beginning of the first Foundation story, and later the Foundation itself, which is designed by Hari Seldon to be the new Galactic Empire after "only" 1,000 years (instead of the 30,000 years he anticipates chaos will reign without the Foundation in place).
- Two of the Empire books features the Empire in earlier incarnations — The Currents of Space has it during the ascendant 'Trantorian Empire' period, at a point when Trantor has unified roughly half the galaxy (and so is the most powerful state by far, but still not so powerful that a degree of rivalry with it is impossible), while Pebble in the Sky takes place at the height of the Galactic Empire, centuries before the Foundation-seen decay.
- Averted in the human era of Larry Niven's Known Space universe but two billion years ago the Thrintun (or Slavers) conquered most of the galaxy using their telepathic abilities to enslave other species. Until one of their slave races, the Tnuctipun, rebelled en masse and instead of admitting defeat the Slavers commanded every chordate in the galaxy to commit suicide.
- In the Star Carrier series the human government, the Terran Confederation of States, is one of the small fringe factions. The series deals with their efforts to avoid being subsumed or destroyed by the Sh'daar Masters, an empire that controls most of the galaxy through a variety of vassal species. At the end of the second book, Rear Admiral Koenig gets his hands on a galactic map showing the various Sh'daar vassal races and gets a real feeling of the sheer scale of Sh'daar control. There are thousands (maybe even millions) of space-faring races that the Sh'daar could call on to crush the tiny Confederation should humans prove to be too much of a nuisance.
- The Starways Congress in the sequels to Enders Game is one of the few examples without Faster-Than-Light Travel, though they do have a Subspace Ansible.
- Star Trek Expanded Universe:
- Maps in various licensed supplements (e.g. Star Trek Star Charts) indicate that the Federation covers an enormous amount of territory compared to the other major powers in the Alpha and Beta Quadrants (though not the entire galaxy by a long shot). This includes almost completely encircling the Romulan Star Empire. Of course, this also means that Starfleet has to protect a much larger territory, explaining why the Enterprise is always the only ship available.
- In the Distant Finale of Star Trek: Federation set many centuries in the future the UFP has unified the entire galaxy, and ships are now fast enough (using something called a "sidewarp" drive) that crossing it is trivial.
- In Andre Norton's Ice Crown, the Back Story includes the wide control of the Psychocrats over many star systems.
- In Andre Norton's The Zero Stone, Jern contemplates at one point that the Zacathans found evidence of several galaxy-wide civilizations that predated them — and the Zacathans themselves have millions of years of history recorded.
- In Poul Anderson and Gordon R. Dickson's Hoka stories, the League. To be sure, with some difficulties in scale.
- Averted in Andrei Livadny's The History of the Galaxy, where the Confederacy of Suns that rules over pretty much all of human space only encompasses a few hundred stars in a small corner of the galaxy, which is the extent of explored space. The ancient alien races discovered over the course of the series have explored even less, mostly confined to a spherical star cluster, thanks to the fact that they haven't been able to develop a portable hyperdrive (using a Portal Network instead), something that humans have developed a few decades after discovering hypersphere. The so-called Galactic Wars were extremely limited in scope when viewed on a truly galactic scale (only a few dozen systems) and were mainly an attempt by the Earth Alliance to impose its rule over a number of Lost Colonies, who banded together and eventually formed the Confederacy. In later books, humans finally figure out how to travel to any star in the galaxy in a short time (using the center of hypersphere as a hub of sorts), but the Confederate government clamps down on the discovery, fearing an alien power using this method to invade the very heart of human space without warning.
- A later novel discusses the fact that the Confederate fleet can no longer effectively protect the expanding human space both from internal (e.g. piracy, inter-world squabbles, Mega Corps) and hypothetical external threats. The fleet is reorganized. The Standard Sci-Fi Fleet is relegated to the Core worlds, while a new carrier-based rapid-reaction fleet is built to patrol the Periphery. Naturally, just in time for a serious external threat to appear.
- In Sergey Volnov's Army of the Sun trilogy, the Earthstella Empire ruled most of the known galaxy, subjugating and incorporating all discovered alien races, with humans (called "Earthers" by aliens) treating most aliens as second-class citizens at best. The only races that got it better were Human Aliens who may or may not be Transplanted Humans. After the empire-wide revolt, the "Earthers" were overthrown, establishing a loose coalition between the former slave races. Earth was destroyed during the final stage of the rebellion (it wasn't), but many human-dominated colonies are still around, although humans are the ones being treated as second-class citizens now. It's usually unsafe for a human to be traveling on an alien-dominated world. Crimes against humans are rarely investigated, even humans pretending to be Human Aliens.
- In Mikhail Akhmanov's Arrivals from the Dark series, the latter books have the Earth Federation emerge as the most powerful interstellar power after centuries of fighting some of the other powers. However, on a galactic scope, the Federation only has a few dozen systems in the Orion Arm having never ventured beyond. In contrast, the series starts with the Faata attempting to invade Earth far from their homeworld in the Pegasus Arm. The so-called Void Wars take place between the still-young Earth Federation and the Faata but mostly involve the Federation's Space Navy defending against the technologically-superior Faata. In fact, the only reason why humans are considered the victors is because the Faata determination to defeat and enslave humans results in the collapse of their society. It's implied that they may once again become a serious threat in the future, but they're too busy rebuilding at the moment.
- The Lensmen series has two galactic superpowers: Civilization and Boskone, with the series being about the conflict between the two.
- The Systems Commonwealth in Andromeda covered three galaxies before its fall.
- The Commonwealth was not all-powerful, though. The Pyrian Empire is about on par with them, and the first Magog attacks are so devastating that the Commonwealth is forced to sign a treaty that gives them a good number of worlds (most of which were populated by Nietzscheans). That latter fact is what kick-starts the Nietzschean rebellion.
- Humanity in Doctor Who goes through a succession of progressively bigger empires in the future. Many covering multiple galaxies before eventually encompassing most of the universe.
- Stargate Verse: For a good twenty millennia prior to Earth's stargate program, the Goa'uld Empire ruled most of the Milky Way with only a few small pockets resisting them. The fact that the Tau'ri were able to do in a decade what the Asgard, Furlingsnote and Tok'ra couldn't do in thousands of years is quite impressive.
- The Federation in Blake's 7 initially controlled all of the settled galaxy, except for some outlying settlements, the anomalous Aurons, and a few insular and well-hidden aliens.
- The Anglo-Sino Alliance has jurisdiction over almost the entirety of the star system in which the Firefly franchise takes place (a half dozen stars with attendant planets and moons), though this is only very recent. Prior to the Unification War six years ago only the inner planets were members; the outer ones were independent. How much control they actually have varies from planet to planet; the outermost planets are more aware of them rather than governed by them.
- In Lexx the League of 20,000 Planets, ruled by His Divine Shadow from the planet Cluster, controls the entire Light Universe (barring a resistance movement), but not the parallel universe Dark Zone as His Divine Shadow cannot pass through the portals.
- The Interstellar Alliance in Babylon 5 established in 2261 after the Liberation of Earth from President Clark may fit this trope as it unites the absolute majority of species and polities shown in the series under a loose affinitation.
- The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy has a galactic empire that Zaphod Beeblebrox used to be president of. And which seems to have nothing better to do than demolish planets to build hyperspace express lanes or chase after the ex-president. There was also a hugely prosperous empire that collapsed five million years ago, due in large part to everyone's money going to Magrathea's luxury planet industry.
- The Space Gypsy Adventures has the Federal Alliance (known as the Galactic Federation in the 1986 series). However, Zenophon, where many of the episodes take place, is outside its jurisdiction. This makes it a favorite place for Gemma, Damien, Fluff, etc. to flee to when escaping the clutches of Spiker & Bones. It's also a sort of second home for Gemma, her first home obviously being her freighter, the Rapscallion.
- The Imperium of Man in Warhammer 40,000 spans the Milky Way galaxy, but there are many worlds within that expanse that are controlled by other factions which the Imperium is constantly at war with. And the Eastern Reach where the Tau reside is still being explored.
- The history of 40K also includes two previous galactic superpowers before the Age of the Imperium. 60 million years or so ago, the Old Ones were by far the dominant race in the galaxy. Their civilisation was eventually destroyed by firstly the war against the C'tan and Necrons, and secondly the rise of Chaos due to the Old One's creation of psychically powered younger races (including the Eldar, Orks, and possibly humans). The Necrons rebelled against the C'tan then went into hibernation to wait until any threat to them was gone, while having wiped out much of the sentient life in the galaxy Chaos lost much of its influence in the physical world leaving the Eldar to form the second galactic superpower, which lasted until the 30th millenium, shortly before humanity rose to power.
- The nature of the Tyrannids, a massive hive organism possibly on a similar scale to the galaxy itself, suggests that they must also have been galactic superpowers in many other galaxies before arriving in the Milky Way.
- The Star League in the backstory of BattleTech ruled over most of known space but ever since it broke up the five successor states and the Clans have been pretty much in a stalemate.
- The three Imperiums in Traveller were largely this in their times, though the Third Imperium encountered similarly sized alien Empires on its borders.
- The Terran Confederacy in StarCraft was thought to be the largest and dominant power in the Koprulu sector until contact with the Protoss. After its fall the succeeding Terran Dominion temporarily united all Terran colonies, though the Kel-Morian Combine and the Umojan Protectorate later broke free again. The scale of the United Earth Directorate is not known.
- Subverted in Mass Effect. Most of the known Milky Way is controlled by the Citadel Council, but because of the limitations of mass effect drive and laws against opening mass relays willy-nilly barely 1% of the galaxy is actually explored. 50,000 years ago the Prothean Empire dominated, and in previous cycles other empires ruled. The Citadel Council is implied to be an unusual method.
- Escape Velocity:
- In EV Override roughly half the map is controlled by the Crescent species (real name lost to history — their territory forms a crescent, thus the name), kept in check by an Omniscient Council of Vagueness that plays their three polities off against each other. In the sequel that was being made but appears to not be anymore, the Crescent would have unified under said Council into a single enormous empire — though in response most of the other species would have united into a roughly-equal Alliance.
- In EV Nova the closest thing to this is the Auroran Empire, which isn't a single polity so much as a loose confederation of warrior clans that fight among themselves as often as they fight the Federation or the Polaris. Collectively they control a huge swathe of territory along the bottom half of the map bigger than the other two superpowers put together.
- In the Starfleet Adventures mod for Nova (a total conversion for 23rd-century Star Trek) the Federation controls a patchwork of systems that amount to roughly half the map (which covers both the Alpha and Beta Quadrants), with other polities (Klingons, Romulans, Cardassians, Gorn, etc.) interspersed among them.
- The Pangalactic Federation in the Star Ocean series.
- Homeworld: The Taiidan Empire. In ancient history the Hiigarans were the dominant power before the Taiidan overthrew them.
- Halo has the Covenant, a religious empire stretching across the Orion Arm founded by the San'Shyuum (Prophets) and Sangheili (Elites) and based around worship of the Forerunners, an ancient version of this trope who effectively controlled the entire Milky Way. After the Covenant splinters into a multitude of warring factions post-Halo 3, the UNSC, which already ruled over about 800 human worlds before First Contact, becomes one of the dominant powers in the Orion Arm, alongside the stronger Sangheili-led groups.
- In the prehistoric era, the Forerunners' main rivals for the title of Galactic Superpower are revealed to have been Advanced Ancient Humans, which themselves were allied with the San'Shyuum.
- The Mantis in Conquest Frontier Wars are the most powerful race in the known galaxy, story-wise. However, Gameplay and Story Segregation means that all three sides are equal in-game.
- The Domain in Freedom Force, thanks to their secret weapon, Energy X, that grants super powers to anyone exposed to it. The only reason Lord Dominion doesn't crush Earth is because he's bored of easy conquests and would rather watch Earth destroy itself by giving Energy X to humanity's worst. Mentor has other ideas.
- By Galactic Civilizations II, the Drengin have become this.
- In Orion's Arm the First Federation attempted this in the 10th century a.t., more or less succeeding in unifying the Solar System and the few interstellar colonies that existed at the time. But as expansion continued the Federation became more or less a "rubber stamp" body and after about 1800 a.t. it was essentially irrelevant. The Second Federation of 3800 to 4450 a.t. was not so much a polity as a universal protocol of interactions between polities, which pretty much ended with the Version War. In the 106th century a.t. Terragen space is divided between several Sephirotic Empires that are starting to fragment.