Anachronism Stew: Of a sort. For the Federation expies, the tech, philosophies, and crew are all pretty blatantly based on those of The Next Generation, but the design of their ship more closely resembles that of the first six movies' Enterprise rather than the Enterprise-D.
An Aesop: At the end of "The Coldest Equation," the title character sums things up nicely.
Quinn: Space is an unforgiving place. We all rely on each other out here, right down to the very air we breathe. That's why there's no room... for anyone who won't fight against all odds for every last breath, or for anyone who tries to turn someone else's survival into some cold equation.
Armor-Piercing Question: During a chapter based around the story The Cold Equations, on cross-examination, the Transit General is asked a series of them: First, why haven't their ships yet been upgraded with zero-point energy systems, which would have prevented the fuel problems for the vessel in question? Better yet, why were there absolutely no contingency measures regarding life support or power supplies, which would be present even in 20th century space shuttles? The Transit General's only answer is that ZPE tech is in committee regarding possible adaptation...and has been for 50 years. He doesn't have an answer for why there are no backups.
An even better one, asked by the space ranger himself: How much does the pilot's chair weigh?note For those who don't get it, he's asking why the pilot didn't simply jettison nonessential weight, such as lockers, personal effects, food, chunks of the console, or even the pilot's chair — which would probably equal the weight of the woman who was jettisoned and thus allow them both to live long enough to make it to the ground safely.
Author Tract: Large swaths of the comic are summed up as long Take Thats to various sci-fi franchises, with some strong libertarianism on the side. "The Cold Equations" is a good example of both, starting out as a deconstruction of the original short story The Cold Equations and segueing into blaming the whole thing on a government butting into private enterprise.
The author is actually aware of this, and claims to do it on purpose to get past the "defense mechanisms" of fans of the aforementioned franchises.
Badass Adorable: Quentyn takes after his ancestor in looks but brings more expertise to the job.
Brain Uploading: It's possible to upload a person's memory into a computer. Uploading that memory into another body is considered a crime, tantamount to murder, even if it is a reconstructed clone body that may have been awake for only a few seconds. It's regarded as murder one, if the clone is a replicate reconstructed at the neural level. Uploading into a computer itself is rather horrendous as well; see And I Must Scream above.
Cloning Body Parts: Matter replicators can be used to make replacement organs, and at least one company gave employees full scans as part of their medical benefits. One character used those data to create a full clone of his dead wife.
Cool and Unusual Punishment: The Patoodines have a rather unique legal system: They launch criminals from a catapult a distance calculated by adding up the total and severity of your crimes. If you live, you're free to go. But if your crimes are severe enough, well...
The Fedorks, after doing nothing to aid a bronze-age civilization that was annihilated by a comet, are required to completely rebuild the entire biosphere, sentient species, and civilization...down to the last piece of pottery. They're also going to be handed over to a new cosmic entity for handling in the future...one who is likely to be much more strict in regulating their behavior.
Furthermore, once the terraforming is done, both planetary empires in charge of the area will step in for uplift/first contact procedures — again at the Fedorks' expense.
Cool Starship: Both Quentyn's own ship, the Thunderbird, and the Sapphire Star — a luxury cruise ship with a diameter measured in kilometers.
Corporate Warfare: About 30 years previously, a coalition of six stellar nations, including the Empire, declared war on the RIAA because they'd started brain-stripping elderly artists and scientists. They took the RIAA's heavily fortified central office planet in a week when it turned out that the nations they were counting on for defense hated them too.
Corrupt Bureaucrat: Apparently the punchline of QQSR's riffing of The Cold Equations. Even the idiotic strawmen from the strip's Federation expy use the engineering parlance "a pair and a spare" — at least one totally redundant system for every vital one, with an extra 10% margin of error. Thus, the only reason to use one of the story's "Emergency Dispatch Ships" for anything — let alone transporting indispensable medical supplies — is if you are a sociopath who values government protocol more than sentient life.
Death World: The Kvrk-Chk homeworld features extremes of pressure, temperature, acidity, salinity, toxicity, and radiation unimaginable to most sentients. And an ecosystem so savage that they need to eat their prey alive before scavengers and parasites do. As a result, a single unarmed Kvrk-Chk can slaughter a group of wannabe pirates with artillery.
Distressed Dude: Like in an emergency evac suit in outer space with only a short range communicator and the ship swanning off without you.
YMMV - the Kvrk-chk are a species that regards every other carbon-based life form as food...and sapient lifeforms are just extra-talkative food. This also came after they had broadcast the consumption of the passengers and crew of that colony ship, as a "you are next" kind of message. In short, they'd made it very clear that nothing other than a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown would make them back off and leave the Racconans alone.
The Confidantines enact very severe penalties for anyone who abducts and/or interrogates one of their own. The reason for these penalties is rather simple: The Confidantines were the first species to perfect FTL communication, and share a collective memory that allows them access to a huge amount of information, a great deal of it classified or personal. They also hold a great deal of control over all hypernet access in the universe. To prevent that information from being used by unscrupulous sources, if one of their own is captured or interrogated, then either they are forcibly disconnected from the collective, or disconnect themselves. They consider this a Fate Worse than Death (since their mind exists outside of their own head, this basically reduces the person in question to a drooling infant, and while it may be possible to partially restore their faculties, they are never the same afterwards). For this reason, in order to ensure that no one tries, they will penalize not just the individuals responsible, but also their homeworld, any organization they work for, and potentially their entire species by cutting off their hypernet access for a century, if not longer.
This penalty can easily cause the bankruptcy of the company in question, cause the homeworld in question to fall into economic ruin, and change a species from a major intergalactic superpower to the equivalent of a third world country practically overnight. This would be the modern day equivalent of suddenly being banned from all internet, telegraph, telephone, television, and radio access, and having to rely on only postal communication for a century. This would be painfully slow, inefficient, and expensive, and in a competitive economy, the equivalent of a Game-Breaking Injury for a person, company, planet, and/or species. Even after the ban is over, it would be centuries before the economies affected would be able to catch up with the competition, and even then, odds are that they'll never reach anything approaching their previous ability in comparison to what was lost.
Driven to Suicide: Multiple internal systems of the Enterprise expy gained full intelligence... only to delete themselves when they learned their operation parameters.
Fantastic Racism: not so much subverted or inverted as turned completely inside out with the W'naybeans, a race of behavioral and cultural mimics (modeled on the real life Mimic Octopus.) Their habit of imitating not just other races and ethnicities but other race and ethnic STEREOTYPES caused them a great deal of trouble with various easily offended PC types, but eventually they became so ubiquitous that they are routinely employed in various tourist traps preferentially over the very natives they imitate as being "more authentic." The author's point is that "nobody seemed to be too upset as long as it was SOMEBODY ELSE being mimicked..." Ergo, if seen humorously, both racism AND ethnic hypersensitivity are easy to recognize as ridiculous.
The Federation's "Prime Directive" (not interfering with pre-FTL civilizations, to the point of intentionally not saving them from global-destruction disasters) is regarded as nothing but racist xenophobia by the Seven Systems.
Gendercide: The F'ving used a nano-plague to wipe out the female Gestaltians, though apparently they didn't realize that they were anything but lux-manipulating symbiotes. Which was why Ylvir went to such lengths to obtain a cloned female "tree" from Sebak.
Genre Savvy: Quentyn is fully aware of the flaws of a Force Field door, which is part of the reason he beats the Federation expies.
Good Republic, Evil Empire: Seemingly inverted, the hero works for the "Empire of the Six Systems" while the Star Trek Parody Federation is highly incompetent (and socialist). But according to Word of God the Empire is a parliamentary republic and the emperor is mostly there to look good on TV. IE think less Galactic Empire and more modern day Japan.
Have I Mentioned I Am a Dwarf Today?: In the Federation arc, Groonch the G'norch makes a point of emphasizing his warrior-race pride (his hat, given by Captain Pidorq, is "token noble savage") — only to have it subverted when it's pointed out that his "race" has dozens of languages and hundreds of cultures, and "noble warrior" isn't even in the top 10....
Heroic Sacrifice: Upon learning that her being a stowaway on the shuttle put a medical delivery that thousands were depending on in jeopardy, Miss Blackcat jettisoned herself to prevent that from happening. Somewhat subverted in that Quinn saved her at the last second.
Identical Grandson: Commander Quentyn Quinn of his great-great-great-grandfather Quentyn son of Quinn. Though he does seem a few decades older and more experienced.
Indentured Servitude: Turing-level AIs have to serve a period of indentured servitude to pay off the cost of their manufacture. After that they're free citizens. But some unscrupulous owners tamper with their clocks so they think they still have decades left on their term, or replace their cortex with a copy printed off their Matter Replicator that thought it was fresh from the factory.
Judge, Jury, and Executioner: Quentyn states that as an Imperial Ranger he has the authority to act as judge, jury, and executioner in cases of extreme lawlessness, e.g. The Serqeti and Gestaltian ambassadors illegally cloning assassins and neurally templating them with the Serqeti's wife's "backup".
My Greatest Failure: Cmdr Quinn gave Kalufrax replicator technology so they could weather their economic collapse and fight back against oligarchs attempting to maintain the status quo, but one nation of religious extremists used the tech to bring down one of the planet's Floating Continents, and the other nations nuke-glassed them in response. Quinn needs a Seda-stick before telling the story.
Necromantic: Sebak tried to replicate his wife and write her Neural Template onto the clone's brain, unfortunately the clone had her memories from when the biomedical scan was taken and the template helped her escape.
Never My Fault: Quentyn discusses this trope with Omnibus, saying that some poeople find it easier to blame those who cleaned the mess up than take responsibility for their own actions.
Older Than They Look: Most would put Quentyn Quinn in his twenties or early thirties. But he has been a Ranger for at least fifty years, presumably a combination of Time Dilation, Racconan longevity, and Rejuve.
One-Way Visor: The cabbie mimic, despite his eyes being on the ends of his "Rasta dreads".
Another of his species wears sunglasses. Presumably they do this to avoid presenting an Eyeless Face.
Only Sane Man: The titular character and his AI companion seem to be this most of the time.
OOC Is Serious Business: Chief Justice Bob has been known to hurl his gavel at the exceedingly guilty, but the other justices manage to restrain themselves even in the case of the aforementioned negligent genocide. So it tells you just how incredibly screwed Mister Clotworg is that all three of them throw their gavels at him.
Also (mentioned in passing) "Queela Quoola," which translates roughly as "Planet of casual sex and cheap beer..."
Proud Warrior Race Guy: Subverted with the Fedorks' Worf counterpart. Groonch evidently knows very little about his home planet, which Quentyn says has no thriving warrior races. In fact, Quentyn suspects that Groonch's exact culture is one best known for macrame.
Reasonable Authority Figure: Cue, the cosmic being in the "Glorious Undertaking" arc, who, out of pity more than anything, basically took an entire civilization under its wing and gave it interstellar travel in the hopes that space travel would broaden said species horizons and help them to correct the shortcomings of their society.
More like he could remember all the scents that match the description of "Serqeti, female, lux user, in bio-armor." A perk of being sapient.
Scary Dogmatic Aliens: The Kvrk-Chk are explicitly stated to be under the Nazi category, with their entire civilization being under an absolute dictatorship that allows no variation in culture, law, beliefs, anything in their society. This is a society where the nail that sticks up isn't just hammered down, it's violently ripped out and eaten on sight. And this is a civilization that occupies multiple star systems.
Swiss Cheese Security: The Federation expies, Omnibus hacked into their mainframe and downloaded everything without the Geordi expy even noticing.
The Parodian's security on their shuttles is even MORE ridiculous. As an analogy, imagine Swiss cheese, with more holes than cheese. Then eat all the cheese. What you have left is, quite literally, all of the security they have on their shuttles. There wasn't even a lock on the door. All done intentionally with the aim of luring hapless drifters to be stowaways in order to fabricate a piracy epidemic.
Take a Third Option: Standard Space Ranger procedure; part of their training involves putting them in a simulated "no-win" scenario and seeing how many third options they can find to win it anyway. Quentyn gives a prime example of this in the "Coldest Equation" arc when, presented with the shuttle pilot's option of ejecting a stowaway into space or crashing a shuttle full of vital medical supplies, he would have opted for throwing out his chair.
Later on, we find out that the shuttle pilot also tried to take one: when his efforts to save himself, Miss Blackcat, and his shipment of medical supplies failed, he was left with a choice: throw her out the airlock or face conspiracy charges. His choice: show her how to land the craft and then jettison himself. Before he could, however, she took the first option upon herself.
Also, in a later arc regarding The Seven Systems judicial system, when the "Prime Directive" is taken to its natural conclusion (meaning that nobody interferes, even if it would save an entire sentient species, when a comet strikes a planet), the Prime Directive gets dissected, and stated to be racist, hypocritical, and downright unethical. Followed up by another low blow when the official name of Pidorq's (a blow with the subtlety of an avalanche in and of itself) race is revealed to be "the Fedorks."
However, the storyline "The Coldest Equation" is primarily directed at The Cold Equations, to the point where a Fedork expatriate takes one look at the schematics for the shuttle and declares that the Federation, which flies around with magnetic bottles of antimatter strapped to their backsides, would not consider it fit to fly. Then itspins off into a full on Author Filibuster on Government vs. Private Industry. Or perhaps just a Take That against government bureaucracy.
Technology Uplift: It seems to be the Empire of the Seven Systems' preference with newly contacted species. And frequently worked into the frequent Author Tracts.
At the end of the arc parodying Star Trek Cmdr. Quinn tells a member of a species that the Federation left to the mercy of a Planet Eater because they were pre-spaceflight that the Empire will help them rebuild, and that their presence will no doubt screw up what was left but at least they'll treat them like people.
Another time, a member of a species the Empire had contacted fifty years earlier accused the Rangers of destroying his civilization by downloading blueprints for Matter Replicators into their network and causing an economic collapse. Quinn retorted that the real reason for the collapse was the native oligarchy's use of fiat currency to pillage the commoners, and that he had given them the technology they needed just to survive.
"The Reason You Suck" Speech: The Cosmic Being gives a rather severe one to the captain of the Glorious Undertaking, in front of his own crew, outlining every flaw and shortcoming of their civilization, and everything that he has to do to keep their entire civilization from collapsing upon itself. Again.
Three Seven Systems judges basically outline everything wrong with the Prime Directive, when taken to it's natural conclusion, resulting in the Enterprise Expy sitting idly by and watching the complete annihilation of a sentient species without bothering to warn them, notify anyone of their impending destruction, or even attempt to divert the comet that was about to destroy them.
to give the reader some perspective: the mere gravitational difference between the Earth's surface and orbit is high enough that the atomic clocks on GPS satellites have to be readjusted by software on a continual basis, otherwise the satellites would be off by 38 microseconds — and their coordinate readings by 10 kilometers — in a single day.
Too Dumb to Live: Somehow a large portion of the universe's population seems to fit into this category. Thankfully, there appears to be a large number of unimaginably powerful beings that roam the stars, taking care of species like this.
Unwinnable Training Simulation: Rangers are taught never to accept a no-win situation, by giving them unwinnable training simulations...and are told to win them anyways. Once they do, they are then expected to do it again, after whatever factors they had used to win the simulation have been removed. They are graded on how many times they are able to go Beyond the Impossible and win a literal no-win situation.
Walking the Earth: The Rangers' jobs pretty much require it. Running around the frontier exploring new systems, making First Contact with unknown alien races, and occasionally acting as lawmen. Plus the effects of Time Dilation listed above.
The Watson: Omnibus, his frequent role seems to be to ask Quentyn questions, justified as even though as a Galactopedia AI he has an extensive archive of information he doesn't collate and cross-reference like organics do. Which is actually the reason why he was partnered with the Commander.
Omnibus: On a personal note, I'm finding your associative processes to be more...complicated to follow than I ever expected.
Quinn: Heh. You're lucky I choose to take that as a compliment.
What Measure Is a Non-Human?: The source of much debate on the cartoonist's own forum. The Kvrk-Chk are made of pure Obviously Evil, and they commit a truly grotesque act of aggression. Even so, it's disconcerting to see the heroic Empire of the Six Systems unleash a Class X-2 Apocalypse on "one of (the Kvrk-chk's) most heavily populated solar systems."