Wagon Train to the Stars

Magneto takes this concept a bit too literally...

All of the characters are on a ship that travels through space, a "space" ship, if you like. Exotic locations like Adventure Towns or the Planet of Hats are just a "hyperjump" away.

The term comes verbatim from Gene Roddenberry's original pitch for Star Trek: The Original Series to NBC in the middle of the 1960s, and references the early Western show Wagon Train, which was about a wagon train making its way west. The original is now less well known than the "...to the stars" phrase, making it an example of the "Weird Al" Effect.

Note that these shows need not necessarily take place in outer space. Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, for example, was essentially a Wagon Train to the Stars show, underwater. (so, recycled in the ocean?)

The ship is often enough, as in Wagon Train, a colonization/settlement effort that never quite gets to its destination, at least until the finale. In this case, the ship is likely to be a massive, self-sustained, multigenerational community - essentially a mobile city in space, which allows making use of tropes typical to both The Quest and The Siege basic plots as the heroes both have a goal in mind and are concerned with protecting their way of life until it can be reached.

If the ship has no fixed destination (Doctor Who, Firefly) then this overlaps with Walking the Earth, sharing most of the same tropes. In either case, it may feature the Bold Explorer.

Compare Space Western, Space Opera.

Examples:

    Anime and Manga 

    Literature 
  • Animorphs: The journey that Marco, Santorelli, Menderash, Jeanette, Tobias and Jake take aboard the Rachel to find the Blade ship was this, at least according to Marco. We never get the details of their adventures, though.
  • Night on the Galactic Railroad
  • Robert A. Heinlein's Tunnel in the Sky has interstellar colonization by means of quite literal wagon trains, using artificial gateways to get to their destination planets. They're not the focus of the book, but twice we see wagon trains preparing to embark.
  • Star Wars has an evil version: the Yuuzhan Vong. They're from another galaxy, and had to travel millions of light-years at slower than light speed. They came in a HUGE fleet.
    • So huge, in fact, that the novels created a Retcon stating that the primary reason the Empire constructed the Death Star and its other superweapons was to use them against the Yuuzhan Vong. The fact that they could be used to enforce their rule through fear and to fight the Rebellion was merely a bonus.
  • In Melanie Rawn's unfinished The Exiles trilogy, colonists from Earth find a new home in another solar system. Rawn named their spaceship after the actual wagon one of her ancestors rode out West.
  • Book one in the Star Trek: New Earth series is called "Wagon Train to the Stars". The book is nothing less than LITERALLY that. A group of civilian settlers embark on a nine month journey at warp two to the Occult system to colonize the planet Belle Terre as a new colony. At the last second, Starfleet decides to get involved, giving the settlers a four ship UFP escort led by (of course) the starship Enterprise under the command of the original space cowboy, Jim Kirk. In fact, the only way that the Council, and Spock (who was in command of the Enterprise as this takes place between TMP and TWOK) would even leave Federation space was if Kirk was in command of the Enterprise. The colonists are on Conestoga-class ships (partially designed by Scotty), most of which have Western-style names (i.e. the pathfinder ship is called the Rattlesnake, the hotel/casin vessel is Uncle Jake's Pocket), and when they fell under attack just after reaching the Occult system, they 'sphered the ships' with Kirk saying (and this is a DIRECT quote from the book)"It's an old defensive tactic. Circling the wagons, only in three dimensions instead of two."

    Live Action TV 

    Video Games 
  • Yami to Boushi to Hon no Tabibito is a literal Wagon Train Through The Books.
  • Kingdom Hearts makes this a prominent (and very convenient) aspect of gameplay.
  • Super Mario Galaxy (though without the spaceship).
  • While the Galaxy in Mass Effect has a very effective and fast hyperspace highway network and the player never quite goes out of their way to explore new frontiers, the Normandy, her crew and the assorted adventures they have over the course of an overarching plot remain the heart and soul of the series' appeal.
    • The Quarian race have been living the life of space nomads for the past 300 years. While most of the spacefaring species are organized in the Citadel Council, the quarians lost their homewold in a Robot War and have been living on spaceships ever since. They travel the stars as scavengers who salvage wrecked ships, until one day they find a way to take back their ancestral home with the protagonist's help.

    Western Animation