In The Future, when mankind has explored the outer reaches of space, the forces of evil threaten our peace. But never fear, for humanity is under the stalwart protection of the parody hero of Space Operas and serials, known as Captain Space, Defender Of Earth!
There have been accusations of this being a Dead Unicorn Trope, since parodies of it are now better known than and arguably outnumber the original straight examples, but yes, by all the stars in space, the trope was once played straight by characters like Dan Dare, Captain Future, and Rocky Jones, Space Ranger!
The parodies tend to be based more on (the popular preception of) Captain Kirk and Adam West's portrayal of Batman than on the old Flash Gordon or Buck Rogers stories, but that does not stand in the way of their quest For Great Justice! Okay, it might, but even if he is an arrogant Jerkass (meant to mock the old values, or what we think they were), that won't stop people from admiring him (or Green Skinned Space Babes from falling into his arms) due to his deep, manly voice, larger than life mannerisms, dedication to truth and justice, and some of his trusty gadgets (Ray Gun mandatory).
When our hero actually is heroic, although sometimes an idiot, he leads the fight to stop Death Rays, alien armadas, Space Pirates, and Evil Overlords from destroying The Federation! Furthermore, he does not need to do this alone, as he is always accompanied by a Girl Friday, a Ragtag Bunch of Misfits, or a Space Cadet, who may also be parodies of their respective archetypes or the true saviors of the day!
In animation our hero is often drawn with an exaggerated chin and a top-heavy body, to show off his space manliness! In still art, he almost certainly will feature in a parody of a Contemptible Cover, most likely including a Leg Cling.
Compare the Space Cadet (who aspires to be Captain Space when he grows up), Space Police, The Cape, The Ace, Raygun Gothic, Captain Superhero (which this can overlap if a character is a space hero and a superhero), For Great Justice, Space "X".
Note that this is not merely parodies of space operas. This is about any character(s) acting this way.
- Nexus has more than a few elements of this, since he was based partly on Space Ghost.
- V for Vendetta has a Show Within a Show called Storm Saxon as an idealized Aryan hero. He seems to mainly be a Mighty Whitey who fights black cannibals.
- 2000 AD:
- In 1981 Dash Decent who was mostly a Flash Gordon parody, but whose name also suggested Dan Dare.
- Around this same time, a "Tharg's Future Shocks" strip penned by Alan Moore centered around Rocket Redglare—"Golden-Haired Guardian of the Galaxy, Steel-Eyed Sentinel of the Spaceways, and Enemy of Evil Extra-Terrestrials." He's been living out his life as a washed up retiree, ever since he defeated his Meng the Merciless -styled arch enemy.
- Nova becomes a reconstruction of this in Annihilation.
- Lance Blastoff, from Frank Miller's Tales to Offend, is a parody with the sexist and racist elements turned Up to Eleven.
- Rocket Raccoon of the Guardians of the Galaxy started as a very weird version of this trope plus Funny Animal. He later learned that the people he was protecting were actually abandoned mental patients; he'd been created to serve as the least-threatening asylum orderly possible. This leads to his modern characterization as a cynical, kleptomaniac bounty hunter.
- For that matter, the 2008 Guardians of the Galaxy started on the very premise of deconstructing this trope, taking some of Marvel's forgotten characters who had played it straight and remaking them as severely flawed characters.
- DC Comics has their own stable of space heroes: Star Hawkins, Space Ranger, Tommy Tomorrow, and so on. Twilight was intended to give an update to all of them, as was the New 52 story Threshold.
- Starlight was a reconstruction of Flash Gordon where the Flash expy has come back to Earth and grown old with nobody believing his stories of space adventures apart from his now dead wife. He comes out of retirement when an alien teenager comes to Earth and asks him to save their planet again.
- Private Eye had Dan Dire◊, who was based on politician, Neil Kinnock and fought the Maggon (a Mekon parody, based on Margaret Thatcher).
- Astro City's own Astro-Naut (in honor of whom the city was named) is a Decon-Recon Switch of the archetype - having developed space travel technology during the war with the help of (friendly) aliens, his refusal to share it with the goverment during the fifties led him to be labeled a traitor to the country. He kept traveling across the cosmos to keep an eye on alien menaces (and find his lost Green-Skinned Space Babe love) despite his decreasing popularity and detatchment from human life. His fall from grace was reversed, however, once he gave his life protecting the city from Space Invaders. In keeping with the Deliberate Values Dissonance of his mid-fifties time period, his spaceship had an airbrushed image of his girlfriend, and he kept smoking his cigarettes even when wearing a Fishbowl Helmet.
- Uncle Art in Meet the Robinsons (voice, appropriately enough, by Adam West) is a subversion—his spaceship is a conveyance for delivering pizza.
- Zig-zagged by Buzz Lightyear of Toy Story, which plays up the parody factor because we see so little of the in-universe Buzz Lightyear franchise that it wouldn't stand out otherwise. The spinoff cartoon Buzz Lightyear of Star Command is more of a straight Space Opera for kids once it had room to stretch its legs.
- Captain Sternn from Heavy Metal, although we don't get to see his exploits, just the trial.
- The Prince of Space from Prince of Space.
- Bronco from Gentlemen Broncos
- Buckaroo Banzai from The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension.
- Peter "Star-Lord" Quill from Guardians of the Galaxy styles himself as one with some Lovable Rogue mixed in for flavor. However this is just his own perception of himself, curated from his only Earthly experience being a small child before being abducted into space. As such whenever he pulls this he comes off as a Small Name, Big Ego instead.
- Commander Peter Quincy Taggart in the Show Within a Show of the Galaxy Quest, played in-universe by Jason Nesmith (Tim Allen), is a parody of Captain Kirk, and Nesmith is a parody of William Shatner for double bonus.
- Flesh Gordon is a softcore pornographic parody of the trope.
- Many would claim E. E. Doc Smith is the father of this trope, though his best-known creation, the Lensman series, is arguably more of a Space Police story.
- Captain Future and his friends are another early straight example, complete with a popular animated adaptation in Japan.
- Honor Harrington has the series within a series Preston of the Spaceways, often mentioned in the context of warning against stupid heroics. To be told one is "playing Preston of the Spaceways" is not a compliment.
- The parody was firmly entrenched by the time Robert A. Heinlein wrote The Rolling Stones in The '50s: Roger Stone and, later, Grandma Hazel help support the family by writing a deliberately over-the-top three-vee serial in the Captain Space Defender mold.
- In universe, this is how Ciaphas Cain (HERO OF THE IMPERIUM!) is portrayed. Whether he is or not in person is debatable.
- Used as a joke in-universe in the X-Wing Series.
"Elassar Targon, master of the universe!"
- The Doctor Who New Adventures novel The Highest Science has the Doctor discover a triangular video cassette showing "Captain Millennium" battling "Libida, Queen of the Virenies", which he considers to be So Bad, It's Good. (And when it ends on a cliffhanger with the Captain's assistant being threatened by an evil robot, he concludes it's "almost like real life, in a glamorized sort of way".)
- There was a short written series in French kid magazine Astrapi called Nono le robot conteur ("Nono the robot story-teller"). In the last episode, a girl asks Nono to tell his own story, and he reveals he used to be Cosmo Max, a handsome and famous space adventurer with dozens of fangirls. However, he wanted to become immortal, so he turned himself into a robot.
- Toby Frost's Space Captain Smith, hero of the British Space Empire, is Captain Space with a Stiff Upper Lip.
- In Rally Round the Flag, Boys!, Oscar Hoffa's work as a television producer includes watching an episode of The Adventures of Crunch Crandall, Spaceman, whose titular hero fights to "save the fair Skarlotta, a Martian lass from the foul clutches of 'It,' the nameless monster of Ursa Minor." Oscar's executive complaints include not seeing enough cleavage on Skarlotta and the monster needing to be recast on the grounds of being "a faggot."
- Isaac Asimov's The Complete Adventures of Lucky Starr has overtones of this trope, intentionally as the series was requested as a juvenile series of sci-fi books who Asimov wrote under a pseudonym, but is downplayed by Asimov's traditional style.
- Deconstructed in Will Save the Galaxy for Food and its sequel Will Destroy the Galaxy for Cash, whose setting had a brief "golden age" of heroic star pilots before they were rendered technologically obsolete by teleportation.
- Rocky Jones, Space Ranger is exactly the sort of show the title makes you think it is, played straight.
- Captain Video, the original TV space hero, was Played Straight in his billing as an "electronic wizard! Master of time and space! Guardian of the safety of the world!" All this while being the face of the No Budget DuMont network. His future space uniform was made out of an Army surplus uniform, and one of his weapons was made out of car parts. Not quite old enough to be the Ur-Example, but his show is certainly one of the Trope Codifiers. Sadly, only a few recorded episodes survive today.
- While most versions of the Flash Gordon franchise focus on a single planet, Mongo, and would therefore fall under the Planetary Romance trope, the 1950's Live Action TV series was of the Captain Space variety, with Flash, Dale, and Zarkov zipping all over the universe to fight evil.
- Tek Jansen of The Colbert Report (which provides the above image) is a Parody Sue who is written by Colbert himself.
- "Ace" Rimmer (What a guy!); Arnold Rimmer's Alternate Universe self from Red Dwarf. Smoke him a kipper, he'll be back for breakfast.
- Star Trek: Voyager. The holodeck program The Adventures of Captain Proton was an Affectionate Parody of this trope, even if downplayed compared to most examples.
Tom Paris: (making a Dynamic Entry as the hero) Captain Proton: Spaceman First Class, protector of Earth, scourge of intergalactic evil... at your service.
- Captain Zoom, a Made-for-TV Movie, deconstructs this trope pretty thoroughly. Note that Captain Zoom is a parody of Captain Video, above — Captain Zoom is set on the DuMont network, which Captain Video really ran on.
- The titular protagonist of The Middleman, a pulp hero who battles mad scientists and supervillains straight out of old-fashioned sci-fi novels and comic books.
- Black Mirror: Robert Daly, the antagonist of "USS Callister", is a very dark take on this character type.
- Ed Mercer from The Orville (played by series creator Seth MacFarlane) as the Orville is a parody of science fiction shows (mostly Star Trek) has overtones of been this, although how much depends on the episode.
- Buck Rogers in the 25th Century is basically this, albeit with a Cassette Futurism aesthetic instead of a Raygun Gothic one.
- Devin Townsend: Captain Spectacular in Ziltoid the Omniscient is a parody of Star Trek captains. By the Z2 he became much more similar to Captain Space trope.
- The original Dan Dare is one of the most bona fide, straight examples you'll ever find, and we love him for it. Later iterations end up being deconstructions, though.
- Calvin and Hobbes: Calvin's Spaceman Spiff persona, who doesn't defend Earth so much as get randomly captured and shot down on faraway planets.
- Comic strip character Brewster Rockit: Space Guy! is the parody version of this trope.
- While neither strip started out this way, both Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon evolved into this trope over time. Buck started out with purely earth-bound adventures, but ended up venturing into space more and more often over the years, to the point that his early non-space stories feel like Early Installment Weirdness. Flash started out in a Planetary Romance constrained to the planet Mongo, but eventually left to have these sorts of planet-hopping adventures instead; however, since most fans regarded Mongo as the heart and soul of the story, Flash and his friends eventually returned there and the strip again became a Mongonian Planetary Romance until it ended in 2003.
- Named for CAPTAIN GORDON, DEFENDER OF EARTH! of Disgaea: Hour of Darkness.
- Phil Hartman voices the title charter in the PlayStation game Blasto, who plays this trope straight for comedic purposes.
- The title character of The Adventures of Rad Gravity.
- Captain Commando mixes this with Tokusatsu tropes.
- The title character of Captain Quazar.
- Chibi-Robo!: Drake Redcrest is an action figure from a Show Within a Show.
- Crash and Coco's Star skins in Crash Team Racing: Nitro-Fueled have them look the part, but play it for laughs, since they end up having accidents with their respective tools.
- Earthworm Jim was a deliberate parody of space heroes plus the Mascot with Attitude.
- Captain Falcon of F-Zero and Super Smash Bros. fame is this trope as seen through Japanese eyes, particularly in the latter where he is voiced in overly hammy and terse Fake American Engrish.
- Captain Cosmos from Fallout 3. Posters even showed the time slot of his show to be identical to the original air time of Star Trek: The Original Series. In the fifth DLC, one of the major NPCs is a big fan.
- Commander Shepard in Mass Effect is a modern Reconstruction of this trope, alongside the myriad of other space sci-fi reconstructions that Mass Effect is famous for.
- Captain Jethro from Planet 404
- Captain Qwark of Ratchet & Clank. In the first game, Ratchet seeks his help to fight Chairman Drek, only to learn he'd been hired by Drek as a spokesman and The Heavy. In later games he varies between secondary antagonist and annoying Distressed Dude.
- Ace, AKA Dexter, from Space Ace.
- In Stellaris, one Random Event has one of your science ship's chief officers (presumably a captain) going insane and believing themself to embody this trope, and that the very stars are pulsing to send them a coded warning about a coming catastrophe that only they can avert. The event ends with said officer being shipped back to your homeworld for therapy, bidding them farewell with "Thank you for your service, [Science Officer], protector of the realm!"
- Homestar Runner has "Space Captainface, pretender of the galaxies", Strong Bad's alter ego as head astronaut/poster boy for Strong Badia's space program, SBASAF (the Strong Badian Administration of Some Aluminum Foil, pronounced "sbace-aff"). His missions include Camera Spoofing an Italian spy satellite and attempting to turn fifteen bucks into a million dollars through a "vague understanding of the theory of relativity".
- How to Hero has Boost, the Man From Beyond.
- Soul Trigger's Commander Axenfire is essentially a parody of Commander Shepard as a space dwarf. His exaggerated celebrity status has led to some crazy things, including Axenfire-themed amusement parks and card games, to the point that the only reason he continues to go on missions in his old age is because he wants to stay away from the annoying limelight.
- SCP Foundation has SCP-1233, Moon Champion, champion of the Moon, defender of space justice and destroyer of evil.
- Space Ghost is a rare example that plays this trope completely straight.
- Atomic Betty uses this trope to add to the retro-futuristic appeal of the show. The title character is notably different other examples of this trope in that she's a 12-year-old girl who has to Wake Up, Go to School, Save the World (or in this case, the galaxy).
- Ben 10 and especially it sequels are known to play this trope straight. The Plumbers are a secret Space Police that deals with different inter-planetary issues, they travel between planets fighting against the bad guys with a different set of weapons or alien superpowers. It's clear that Ben wants to be like this, as he wanted to join in the first series a special organization that was mostly a lighthearted parody of this (They were portrayed as rather cartoonish but still capable and useful) and in the flashforward episodes he is seen as a straight example of this trope. The sequel series Ben 10: Alien Force and Ben 10: Ultimate Alien shows a very diverse set of Plumbers with many of them falling squarely on this trope.
- With the increasing Space Opera elements in the series, this is seen as a logical progression, inter-planetary travelling became a standard of the series, and many of the villains in the show are classical sci-fi enemies that must be dealt with a regular space hero.
- Duck Dodgers, in both the original cartoon and its TV series Spin-Off.
- Buzz Lightyear of Star Command is s cartoon based off the Buzz Lightyear property seen in the Toy Story movies. In this cartoon Buzz is less of a parody than Captain Space heroes often are and the show is closer in tone to genuine Space Opera.
- Major Courage (a parody of Shatner's Kirk) of Courage of the Cosmos, a Show Within a Show in the DuckTales (1987) episode, "Where No Duck Has Gone Before".
- Zapp Brannigan of Futurama, although unlike most examples he is very explicitly a parody of Captain Kirk (his character was originally pitched as "What if William Shatner was captain of the Enterprise rather than Kirk?").
- The "Starboy and the Captain of Outer Space" movie-within-a-show in Home Movies.
- Crash Nebula is a Show Within a Show in The Fairly OddParents starring the titular Crash Nebula, a prime example of this trope.
- The eponymous character of Captain Star is an egotistical Captain Kirk spoof totally oblivious to the fact that he's been Kicked Upstairs to a desolate planet at the edge of the universe.
- The Vindicators, and especially Vance Maximus (Renegade Starsoldier), from Rick and Morty, seem to be a more modern take on this, with Maximus himself being a clear nod to the film portrayal of Star-Lord. This contrasts with Rick and the various sci-fi beings he usually interacts with, who are based more on cheesy eighties and nineties cartoons.
- In Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Jupiter Jim is a popular series the turtles are big fans of, and the main character seems to be inspired by this trope.
- In Steven Universe, Lars helps the Off-Color Gems steal a Cool Starship in an Offscreen Moment of Awesome. He then becomes the ship's commander, and gets fully into this trope when making decisions (while posing heroically).
- Captain Simian and the Space Monkeys as the name indicates is a parody of this trope mixed with Apes in Space.
- Captain Adam Francis Shatner in Tripping the Rift is a parody of this trope as the name implies (referencing two well-known actors of camp shows Adam West and William Shatner) as captain of the Confederation (the in-universe parody of The Federation) and with many characteristics of the trope.