"In a matter of seconds, the plaza had gone from a ghostly quiet to a shoot out that would have been at home in a holodrama about the Old West."The Western IN SPACE!. Basically The Western Meets Wagon Train to the Stars. The idea is that the vast distances of space have formed barriers and difficulties similar to those faced by American settlers as they crossed and developed the continent, forcing the people to become independent or even insular, with help from whatever central authority (if any) that laid claim to the land long in coming, and immediate protection once again becoming a personal matter. Technology will vary, usually being less and less high-tech the further out you go from the center of civilization. This causes a curious mix of seemingly anachronistic elements such as robots and horses being used at the same time (of course, robot horses are a common option too). Essentially, this is nostalgia, allegory, or pragmatism meeting the fact Space is the last unexplored territory, while ignoring that guns and anti-authoritarianism mixes poorly with fragile life-support systems. Many settings end the similarities there, in spirit, while others seem to have the people deliberately aping the style of The Wild West in response to the situation. Basically, the question is when the hero(es) comes riding/flying into town, how many of them are wearing cowboy hats. Depending on how epic the story is, a Space Western can also be somewhat of a Space Opera. May involve Asteroid Miners. Compare New Old West, Cattle Punk, Samurai Cowboy, Weird West.
— The Backwards Mask (Traveller New Era Trilogy) by Matthew Carson
open/close all folders
- Cowboy Bebop, particularly the episode "Cowboy Funk" where the Bounty Hunter Cowboy Andy dress like a typical movie cowboy including a white Badass Longcoat and rides on a horse.
- Space Dandy Space Dandy, Already with some subtle or obvious cowboy characteristics, Dandy is a man traveling the galaxies in his ship, the "Aloha Oe" as a bounty hunter looking for rare or never before discovered alien species in exchange for Woolongs(money).
- Outlaw Star
- Trigun, although the "space" bit isn't as evident until later on in the series. On the other hand, the planet has Binary Suns and weird fauna.
- Galaxy Express 999, especially the second episode in the almost deserted town in Mars resembles Spaghetti Western.
- Saber Rider and the Star Sheriffs (originally Sei Juushi Bismarck)
- Space Adventure Cobra
- The first scene or so of Transformers Victory.
- GUN×SWORD, though more of a space Spaghetti Western, with Humongous Mecha.
- Many of the 2000 AD strips set in the Cursed Earth play out like Spaghetti Westerns, including "Missionary Man" and "The Dead Man".
- The batch of early Judge Dredd stories set on Luna 1 were modeled especially as a western set on Earth's moon.
- Just a Pilgrim is explicitly based on Western tropes.
- The story "Shootout At Ice Flats" in the 1996 Supergirl Legends of the Dead Earth annual was about a Kara-lookalike sheriff on an ultra-primitive frontier world. Forget laser guns, the people of this world didn't even know what a gun looked like.
- Traditional Western Anti-Hero Jonah Hex, for a brief time around the Crisis on Infinite Earths, was sent via Time Travel to an After the End future. The Genre Shift was not well received.
- The Bronze Age Superman foe Terra-Man was a human kidnapped by aliens in the 19th century. He grew up as their slave, eventually escaped, and became a successful Space Pirate. He eventually returned to Earth only to find that he'd spent so much of his life traveling at relativistic speeds that 100 years had passed. Despite all his high tech equipment, culturally he was a literal space cowboy, and he dressed appropriately. He even acquired an alien steed named Nova that looked like a winged horse.
- Fear Agent hits this trope pretty square, with its big-buckle toting, hard-drinking, down-home wisdom spewing, alien exterminating protagonist.
- Jack T. Chance, the Green Lantern of Garnet, was a gunslinger-turned-lawman, tasked with with cleaning up the Wretched Hive of Garnet, armed with his power ring and trusty six-shooter.
- Charlton Comics published six issues of a comic book actually titled Space Western. Exactly What It Says on the Tin, one issue even upped the ante with a story in which Space Cowboys fight Space NAZIS... in Space!◊
- Serenity, a continuation of the TV show Firefly, is arguably an example of this. Though it contains more hi-tech elements than most of Firefly's episodes, it still has that Western vibe in places. Sadly, the country theme song is not played until the end of the credits, and then it's a very de-countrified version.
- Outland has often been described as High Noon in space, though it merely borrows some of its themes. However the basic concept of a gun-toting 'Marshal' in a corrupt frontier mining town, fighting a lone battle for justice, is definitely drawn from the Western genre.
- Star Wars dabbles in this. Han Solo, for example, is a sort of Old West gunslinger, and the cantina in Mos Eisley is a western bar, complete with random brawling. Boba Fett walks with a sound resembling the jingling of cowboy spurs, too. Tatooine is pretty much the Wild West of Star Wars. Mos Espa spaceport is like a typical old western town with little law enforcement, savage natives wanting their land, farms, shady saloons, smugglers, all set on an endlessly sprawling desert.
- Peter David wrote a Space Western called Oblivion. With George Takei as an eccentric doctor who talked almost entirely in Star Trek references, and Julie Newmar as Miss Kitty.
- Moon Zero Two (a movie mostly known these days by having been featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000) was actually advertised as "the first Moon Western".
- The American Astronaut is a Space Western musical! Now try to wrap your heads around that. Also Stingray Sam.
- Ironically, Space Cowboys wasn't a western at all. Despite the presence of Clint Eastwood.
- Cowboys and Aliens even though it takes place right here on Earth.
- Guardians of the Galaxy as a whole is one. Extra points for having a character that literally kills people with Morricone-style whistling.
- It has been argued that The Martian qualifies for this genre.
- Many works by Mike Resnick, especially Santiago: A Myth of the Far Future.
- L. Ron Hubbard's Battlefield Earth. Kinda sorta.
- Poul Anderson and Gordon R. Dickson's first Hoka story features the Hokas cheerfully recreating the Wild West.
- Robert A. Heinlein's Time Enough for Love has a story The Tale of the Adopted Daughter which takes place on a frontier planet that is a Western in space— but just barely in space; most of the elements could have been transplanted from Kansas with little modification.
- Most of Heinlein's oeuvre has at least some space western tropes. Farmer in the Sky is perhaps the most relevant example.
- Parodied in Bat Durston, Space Marshall, a short story by G. Richard Bozarth.
- Dragonfall 5 and the Space Cowboys, one of the sci-fi juveniles by Brian Earnshaw.
- "On The High Frontier" by Michael Flynn deliberately transplants Western cliches into space and gives them a hard-science spin.
- H. Beam Piper's "Lone Star Planet" is something of an Affectionate Parody - take a planet of Texan stereotypes and add a courtroom drama (with a system based on working out whether the politician you shot had it coming, no less).
- Harry Harrison's Bill the Galactic Hero.
- Andre Norton's Beast Master and its sequel Lord of Thunder.
- Bernard Schaffer's Guns of Seneca 6 is a re-working of the Tombstone mythos, on a dry planet a far, far away. Other books in the series follow a similar theme.
- Andersons Technic History series is a setting based on frontier development. It seems to be inspired more by Elizabethan traders then by the western per se.
- The Honor Harrington series is for the most part Horatio Hornblower...IN SPACE, and as such its atmosphere is mostly old-school British naval fiction. The planet Montana, however, plays this trope even straighter than Firefly.
- Shining Armor by Dominic Green. Cool Old Guy pilots a Giant Mecha against a "Persuasion Consultancy" attempting to run some farmers off their land so it can be used to mine radioactive materials.
- The Star Wars Legends novel Kenobi, set during the interim period between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope, was the first attempt to do a straight-up Western within that franchise, with Obi-Wan as the mysterious Drifter who rides into town.
- It has been argued that The Martian qualifies for this genre.
- For some reason, Star Trek: New Frontier had an entire story arc about an amnesiac Captain Calhoun spending several months marooned on a pre-spaceflight alien planet, in a remote region that was blatantly The Wild West dressed up with a bit of Call a Rabbit a "Smeerp". Eventually it turned out that one of the villains was in league with the main antagonists of the series, which enabled him to be rescued, but the story still ended up being a bit of a Big Lipped Alligator Moment.
Live Action TV
- Firefly: Probably the most obvious Space Western. After all, people say "ain't" and "I reckon", carry weapons that resemble six shooters, and live in small towns with wooden buildings and one street.
- Not to mention The Western background music, the cowboys hats, and, in one of their bigger jobs, actually transporting cattle from one planet to another. Space cowboys and proud of it, gorram it...
- Watch "Our Mrs Reynolds". You're several minutes in before you see anything outside of the 19th century.
- Take a look at some of their guns. One is using a Le Mat revolver, and another is using a cut-down lever action. Word of God says it was the same prop used in The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr..
- And then in Castle, Nathan wears his Mal Reynolds outfit from Firefly, for Halloween, only for the idea of a space cowboy to be seen as ridiculous. "Where are you going to find cows in space?"
- In-universe, the Schizo Tech elements of this setting were explained as the result of more-or-less deliberate suppression of the backwaters by the (substantially less Western-themed) Alliance. You could tell whether a given planet was a Core (Alliance) planet or Rim (Independent) planet by whether it looked like a western where everyone happened to own spaceships, or a space opera where everyone happened to use cowboy slang.
- The old Battlestar Galactica had many episodes that were take-offs to classic westerns.
- Gene Roddenberry pitched Star Trek: The Original Series to the networks as a "Wagon Train to the Stars" (naming that trope.)
- Almost every Star Trek series had at least one Western episode: the original series had "Spectre of the Gun", Star Trek: The Next Generation had "A Fistful of Datas", and Star Trek: Enterprise had "North Star".
- Although not a Space Western per se, Deep Space Nine draws heavily on Western tropes. The producers stated that Deep Space Nine was The Rifleman IN SPACE!: the single father raising his son (the Siskos), the sheriff (Odo), the bar/brothel (Quark's, with Dabo girls and Holosuites of Ill-Repute), the frontier town (the space station) near a strategic pass (the wormhole), and so on.
- When filming the episode "Trials and Tribble-ations," stunt coordinator Dennis Madalone noted that the fistfights in ''TOS'' were straight out of Westerns as opposed to the more martial arts-oriented fights of the 1990s.
- Star Trek: Voyager was pitched as a "back to basics" approach to the franchise, and indeed the frontier angle factors heavily in the Pilot, "Caretaker". The crew is beamed into a holographic simulation of a backwater ranch, with pitchfork wielding, banjo-playing nutters. Neelix has never had a bath. Water is treated as a precious commodity. Marauders are threatening the Array and its inhabitants. The Delta Quadrant of the galaxy is "frontier" space, uncharted and ungoverned.
- Earth 2 is a pretty straight science fiction take on the Wagon Train, just one set on a different planet undergoing recon and early colonisation. One of the rarer planet-focused live-action space westerns.
- True Jackson has a Space Western in it's universe called Space Plantation.
- Red Dwarf episode "Gunmen of the Apocalypse"
- Doctor Who:
- The serial "Colony in Space". As Doctor Who Magazine puts it: "Bullets richochet through this story of stouthearted frontiersmen, inscrutable natives, and ruthless claim-jumpers".
- "Frontier in Space" also qualifies.
- Not to mention the new series episode "A Town Called Mercy", which is Showdown at High Noon in a small western town with aliens and cyborgs.
- "The Space Pirates"", despite sharing a name with another trope, also qualifies. The TARDIS Wiki says "Indeed, the character of Milo Clancey wasn't even an allusion to a western stereotype; he was a wildcat prospector who dressed as if he'd just walked off the set of Bonanza."
- The audio drama "Return of the Rocket Men" is a space Spaghetti Western starring Steven.
- Referenced on an episode of Sesame Street when Ernie watches a TV show called Cowboys in Space.
- Defiance takes place on earth after an apocalyptic alien invasion, but it has many Western tropes. Nolan is the sheriff in all but name with Irisa as his psychic Irathient cohort, you got land disputes with hostile tribes, highway banditry, and Arkhunters looking to find the big one.
- The short-lived British SF series Outcasts didn't indulge in stetsons and mock-Western dialogue, but it was otherwise completely in the genre, with an isolated fortified human colony on an alien planet, philosophical disputes between adventurers and homesteaders, and enigmatic hostile aliens.
- Two single-episode examples in Farscape:
- "Home on the Remains" has a community of Asteroid Miners who act just like Old West prospectors, which is run by a Corrupt Hick and even has a Western-style gambler.
- "Different Destinations" is a remake of "Cavalry Westerns", with a small military group protecting a community of nuns, besieged by hostile aliens in an old fort.
- Mocked on the back cover of the first issue of Galaxy (1950), which printed two paragraphs of a Western story ("Hoofs drumming, Bat Durston came galloping down through the narrow pass at Eagle Gulch...") alongside the same thing Recycled In Space ("Jets blasting, Bat Durston came screeching down through the atmosphere of Bbllzznaj...").
Sound alike? They should—one is merely a western transplanted to some alien and impossible planet. If this is your idea of science fiction, you're welcome to it! YOU'LL NEVER FIND IT IN GALAXY!
- "Knights of Cydonia" by Muse.
- Steve Miller's Space Cowboy.
- Not to be confused with "The Joker," which has a line referencing the earlier song.
- Kenny Rogers' Planet Texas.
- The ZZ Top album Afterburner.
- John Yager's "Benson, Arizona", as used in Dark Star, might technically be covered under this trope by dint of being a Country and Western ballad with sci-fi themes.
- Taiji Sawada's work with D.T.R. combines the trope with What Do You Mean It Wasnt Made On Drugs, occasional Hard Rock / Heavy Metal fused with countryish sound, and even the occasional Protest Song or Horrible History Metal in his first two albums, Daring Tribal Roar and the self-titled Dirty Trashroad. The acoustic version of Daring Tribal Roar is pure western soft rock remixes of some of the songs.
- The Mechanisms' concept album High Noon Over Camelot uses this to create a unique take on the King Arthur legends.
- Rifts features a number of Space Western themes in the "New West" setting, although they're more limited in scope (pretty much the same places as the old Wild West).
- The D20 game Dinosaur Planet: Broncosaurus Rex is a space western on an alien planet with dinosaurs.
- Traveller: The default setting is The Spinward Marches, a semi-civilized place with constant low-key mayhem going on in between wars. Traveller has plenty of room for epic quests, gigantic Space Battle s and secrets that Man Was Not Meant To Know. But it also has low-key adventures for when the players are in a lighter mood.
- Lost Colony, the final setting produced for the Deadlands system.
- New Horizon is generally a western ON A WHOLE NEW PLANET!, but nowhere is this more evident than Trapper Town.
- While not a huge part of the setting, BattleTech did feature a few planets that definitely had this vibe, right down to some fiction featuring cattle ranchers fighting off Comanche raiders.
- This is the basic feel the novels and campaigns that involve the 17th Recon Regiment, AKA Camacho's Caballeros. They're a Ragtag Bunch of Misfits consisting troublemakers, roughnecks, rancher families, and cowboys, and yet are one of the most tightly-knit mercenary regiments in the game. They basically make situations into Space Westerns, even when they end up having to deal with Space Yakuza (and literal ancient secret society conspiracies). This is because the Regiment's home planets were colonized by people from Arizona, New Mexico and West Texas. As they put it "We are Cowboys and Indians."
- The FATE setting "Frontier Spirit" merges this with Science Fantasy, because the frontier planet it's set on has a problem with an overactive spirit world and all player characters are assumed to be mediums.
- Rocket Age dabbles in this in places, with settlers on the outskirts of Earthling territories frequently dispensing their own justice, tousling with the natives and constantly having to battle off corporate interests looking to take out the little guy with hired guns. There are even Rocket Rangers who either act as The Cavalry. This is most common on Venus, Ganymede and in the Asteroid Belt, but can be found in other locales too.
- Natsume's Wild Guns for the Super NES.
- Borderlands is (mostly) set on a lawless desert planet where everyone has a Texan accent, there are hostile environments full of angry animals, armies of bandits and hastily built towns.
- And on a planet that's filled to the gills with alien tech, gyrojets, assault rifles that fire ridiculously fast, shotguns with stabilisers, submachine guns which have power packs in place of magazines and giant fuck-off rocket launchers, the best primary weapons are revolvers, natch.
- Although Pandora in the sequel is now more of a Nineteen Eighty Four-style dystopia, due to the planet being constantly watched over by an extremely rich Big Brother-esque Corrupt Corporate Executive and his ever-watching space station, this trope is still in effect. Jakobs guns exemplify this trope, being anachronistically Western-themed guns that are also the favourite manufacturer of many players, due to their high damage and the ability to fire as fast as you can click. There's also the town of Lynchwood, an anachronistic town ruled over by the corrupt, affable, polite and ridiculously brutal Sheriff Nisha, and the Dust, which is basically a typical Western desert filled with bandits and a few cactii here and there.
- In Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel!, while the game itself is more Cyber Punk than a Western and has a more classical science fiction setting, Nisha is playable and has a very western theme, with an Action Skill that lets her automatically lock onto enemies while the screen fades to sepia and western-style whistling plays as well as skills and class mods that deliberately favor Jakobs guns or their revolvers.
- So far, Tales from the Borderlands seems to have the biggest Western vibe out of all others-almost everybody uses Jakobs firearms, Prosperity Junction is very much like a modern Wild West town, Old Haven is a classic ghost town, Rhys and Fiona's new outfits look like something out of the Wild West, with Rhys having a fancy waistcoat and all, and Fiona can even purchase a very, very Western-like and much fancier version of her present day outfit that's appropriately named "Steampunk Princess".
- The Gunman Chronicles commercial total conversion for Half-Life purported to have a Western theme.
- The old Mac-originated lightweight 4X game Spaceward Ho! is notable for its cutesy frontier aesthetic, including the distinctive be-Stetson'd planet pictured at the top of its page.
- M.U.L.E., to some extent.
- Blizzard's StarCraft franchise heavily favors this trope, especially with the Deep South-flavored Terran faction. Cut off from Earth, the Terrans of the sector have had to make do and forge an existence for themselves. Much of their technology is cobbled together and has a rough, industrial look to it, resulting in frontier saloons where soldiers in power armor go to drink.
- Notably, this trait increases in StarCraft II, where the Dixieland aesthetic is replaced for a grungy, pseudo-Firefly one, complete with saloons, revolvers, and Western-style musical cues. The single-player campaign for the first installment, Wings of Liberty, even has a cantina on a starship where "Sweet Home Alabama" plays on a jukebox. Not to mention "Free Bird".
- Billy Frontier
- Pokémon Colosseum lifts a fare bit of the western genre, including character archetype and setting (and a soundtrack with a decent use of harmonica), but is clearly futuristic in setting. Also, it includes the cowboy fashioned "Rider" trainer class.
- Awesomenauts has a very literal one in the form of Sheriff Lonestar. An Artificial Cowboy created by a band of cow-people in the image of their boogeyman, he was initialy intended as a tourist attraction, to show how cowboys live their life. But then he got out, and the cow-people got a hands-on demonstration of how a cowboy wrangles cattle. One wrangled planet later, he grabbed a space vessel, rode off into the sunset and joined the Awesomenauts to earn Solar and live like the Western stereotype he is.
- WildStar has this, Magitek, and an ongoing war between a Rag Tag Bunch Of Misfits Faction and The Empire.
- Starbound has a race of western-themed Celestial Body aliens called the Novakid, who make their clothing and technology like literal space cowboys, even carrying revolvers as weapons, and distilling nebulae to make moonshine. Oddly enough, this is more of an average than being stuck in an era, as they have both high intelligence and a very short memory and attention span, both as a race and individually, so they can swing from stone age to space age and back in the span of a couple centuries.
- Titanfall has humanity sending homesteaders and settlers to colonize an area of space called The Frontier, creating some very Western-esqe towns and settlements. These settlers and colonists have banded together along with assorted mercenaries,pirates,smugglers and ex-military members to throw the corrupt IMC out of the Frontier. The menu music also has a distinctly western feel to it, mixing Firefly with Pacific Rim, which pretty much sums up the entirety of the game itself.
- Nearly all of the Wild ARMs RPG games are this, though the sci-fi elements all tend to be ancient technology found in bits and pieces by prospectors, not part of the player's experience until several hours in. The first two games even have Ennio Morricone "inspired" musical scores.
- Particularly notable is the fifth game in which an advanced allegedly alien race have taken control of the planet with their far more futuristic technology.
- Rebel Galaxy takes place in a lawless frontier region of space called the Rift, and has a soundtrack loaded with banjos.
- Northern Legend is a different take on the genre in an effort to avoid the usual cliches or take them from new angles.
- The Thrilling Adventure Hour gives us "Sparks Nevada: Marshal on Mars," an Expy of The Lone Ranger complete with an alien Tonto in the form of Croach the Tracker and a rocket horse named Mercury. Its spinoff, "Cactoid Jim, King of the Martian Frontier," plays off Davy Crockett.
- Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers
- The Futurama episode "Where the Buggalo Roam." Not to mention the cowboy hat-clad parallel universe.
- Wild West COW Boys Of Moo Mesa features alien "cattle" men. The tie-in merchandise stated that the characters were the result of a weird radioactive meteor mutating Earth's animal life.
- Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors combined Space Western with Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, BattleBots, and demolition derby. Weird, but awesome.
- An episode of the Superfriends from the 4th season — that's the season after Challenge of the SuperFriends — takes place on planet Texicana. It ends with Green Lantern drawing two green laser pistols while sporting a green cowboy hat.
See you Space Cowboy...