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Conveniently Close Planet

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The Earth and the Moon to scale.note 

"Space is big. Really big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the road to the chemist, but that's just peanuts to space, listen..."

Space is huge, and the distances involved are far beyond normal human experience. On Earth, if your car breaks down on a country road in North America, you can reasonably expect a rest stop or a gas station within 50 km (ca. 30 miles). Space, however, is not like that country road. If you set your space RV in a randomly-selected trajectory and continue going straight until you get within 50 million kilometers of a star, the chances are (quite literally) astronomically high that you will reach the edge of the galaxy, keep going, and never enter another galaxy... ever. For another example, every planet orbiting the Sun (including the likes of Jupiter and Saturn) could easily fit between the Earth and its own moon. That's how few planets there are in our big solar system.

This problem exists even for space travel restricted to within a solar system. Objects travel in orbits and don't occupy the same place all the time - planets orbit their sun, and other objects orbit something else that orbits that sun. A planet does not occupy its entire orbit at once, either. For example, the position of the Earth in its orbit during June and the position during December is a difference of 300 million kilometers. A space traveler who doesn't check his Earth calendar might be in for an unpleasant surprise. Add to this the fact that the sun itself is in orbit around the center of the galaxy, and the galaxy is also in motion, and things become rather complicated very quickly.

The solar system and the universe are far bigger than anyone expected them to be. People who are interested in space are pretty much flabbergasted when they try to take it in. The Moon is about 384,400 km (238,900 mi) away from the Earth, and it took the Apollo missions 3 days and 6 hours to complete the trip to it from Earth. Ignoring the air/gravity/etc issues, if there were a highway to get to the Moon, it would take you five straight months of non-stop driving in your space RV at normal lead-foot highway speeds to get there. And the Moon is ridiculously close by astronomical standards. At the same speed, it would take 150 years to get to the Sun (150 million km) and 4460 years to Neptune (4.3 billion km when it's closest to Earth). As for things outside the Solar System? Well, try Proxima Centauri, the closest star to the Sun. At 1.3 parsec (40.3 trillion km), it would take no less than 41.8 million years at the same speed to get there. Have fun figuring out how long it would take to go to things like the Andromeda Galaxy (770 kiloparsecs from Earth).note 

The above in a nutshell: In Real Life, nothing in space is ever close, convenient, or in the same place it was a minute ago.

This does not deter sci-fi writers, though! A chance to land and explore a Single-Biome Planet, orbit around a mysterious planet with a dark secret, or answer a distress call from a Lost Colony on a moon offers far more story options than having a spaceship silently cruising for eternity, running out of power and with a group of mummifying bodies on board.

A subtrope of Artistic License – Space. A common side effect of Sci-Fi Writers Have No Sense of Scale. A sort of Artistic License – Geography, though the term "Geography" isn't usually applied to space because it's so big and different. Generally a necessity for Casual Interplanetary Travel.

If characters not only find a planet but land next to what they're looking for see It's a Small World, After All. Keep in mind that having Faster-Than-Light Travel would make things conveniently closer, but carries a laundry list of issues of its own. When asteroids are frustratingly close to each other, it's an Asteroid Thicket. Compare Road Trip Across the Street. The Mundane Dogmatic movement in science fiction calls for telling stories that use plausible science, thus no FTL travel and mostly set in the Solar System.



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    Anime & Manga 
  • Daimos: After Planet Baam was left in ruins due to a collision between the sun of Planet Baam and a miniature nebullae, the Baams evacuated as soon as possible and scrambled to find new housing. King Leon proposed the idea of Planet Earth being their new home, due to Baam and Earth being alike in nature, and travelled a long distance to negotiate with the UN about settling Baam refugees there. Even though Baam is ninety light years away from Earth, Leon somehow knew of it's existence and that it had a similarities to Baam.
  • Daltanious: When the Helios Empire was destroyed, Earl was able to conveniently locate Earth as a refuge and take Prince Harlin with him there. Thanks to Heliosians being Human Aliens, Prince Harlin would grow up on the planet oblivious to his alien heritage until adulthood.
  • The very last shot of Eureka Seven shows Earth with a dust ring and the "heart-Renton-Eureka"-carved Moon at a distance roughly the diameter of the planet. In other words, at collision distance.
  • In The End of Evangelion, the moon is close enough to get splashed with blood upon Lilith's death. As big as she is, and as powerful as the jet of High-Pressure Blood is, that's still conspicuously close.
  • Girls Bravo has Seiren, which has Earth taking up a sizeable portion of its skies on a clear day.
  • GoLion: When our heroes escape their initial captivity on the Galra capital world, and their space ship gets shot and damaged by their pursuers, they "fall" onto the planet Altea within what must be 10 minutes of launching. Luckily for them there's a castle and 5 lion robots there.
  • In AKB0048, The group makes a random jump while fleeing from the DES after being driven off Akibastar and come out right on top of a perfectly inhabitable world where they can rest and repair.
  • The climax of Lily C.A.T. takes place just above an inhabitable planet.
  • In Cowboy Bebop, this the reason for Moon debris falling to the Earth.
  • Averted in Voltes V, where Prince Gohl a.k.a. Kentaro Gō landed on Earth completely by accident after escaping Boazania's cruel caste system. Jangal also later expresses bewilderment that he landed on a planet so far away. All There in the Manual material states that Boazania is located in Messier 4 in the Scorpio constellation; this means Boazania is at least 7,175 light years away from Earth.


    Comic Books 
  • The Transformers (Marvel) feature outer space as a place where planets are seen as big, brightly, and often overlapping colored spheres.
  • Star Wars is a big offender. The closest example possible may be the jungle planet Onderon and its moon Dxun - the reason the two share most of the same fauna is because they apparently pass so close to each other that, once a year, their atmospheres merge and the beasts of Dxun can simply fly over to Onderon.
  • Wonder Woman:
    • Wonder Woman (1942): The moon, Mars, Venus, Mercury, the sun and Pluto are all treated as being less than a day's easy travel away for Wondy and the Amazons, despite them not having faster than light travel. This is later mitigated somewhat by the invention of a teleporter.
    • It was first averted in Wonder Woman (1987) where Wonder Woman and a Russian cosmonaut were sent careening into space at faster than light speed on a sabotaged uncontrollable ship and spend months running out of breathable air and food without ever encountering another planet, only surviving due to the messages they were broadcasting for aid drawing in Salvage Pirates. Then the same arc plays it straight with several planets shown as huge overlapping spheres within the Sangtee Empire.
  • Many examples can be found in Superman stories:
    • In Superman: Brainiac, Superman leaves Earth in search of Brainiac. It doesn't take long before his ship stumbles into a planet attacked by the Coluan nightmare.
    • In Action Comics issue #337, Supergirl's ship gets caught in a warp stream which both sends her vessel far away and knocks its guidance system out. Fortunately, her rocket reenters physical space randomly but conveniently near from a planet where she can find help to repair her ship upon landing.
    • Brought up in War World: Superman prepares to look for his cousin, who has become lost in space after helping destroy Mongul's star-sized super-weapon. Superman reminds himself he must calculate her trajectory carefully before tracking her down or he'll never find her, no matter how long he searches.
      Superman: But first, I'd better be certain just where she went! If I start out even a fraction of a degree off-course, I could search for centuries without finding a trace of her!
    • Justified in Infinite Crisis when Post-Crisis Superman, his Golden Age counterpart and Superboy-Prime land on a planet right after flying through Krypton's sun. Said planet is Green Lantern Mogo, who can move itself across space to catch them.
    • All over the place in Red Daughter of Krypton, since Red Lanterns and Diasporans seem to take minutes to travel from planet to planet.
    • Krypton itself was apparently so close to Earth during the Golden Age that baby Kal-El could make the trip in a matter of months, possibly faster, in a rocket about the size of a coffin, with no mention whatsoever of Faster-Than-Light Travel. The concurrent radio show took this to its logical conclusion by specifying that Krypton was actually in our own Solar System, orbiting the Sun exactly opposite the Earth. Later revisions have placed Krypton further away, often in other galaxies, with Kal-El's rocket explicitly having FTL ability.

    Fan Works 
  • Justified in Sonic and Sash: Tides of Chaos, as Eggman, by force, moved Avalice to the near vicinity of Mobius; to the point that, in chapter 3, according to Tails, their atmospheres overlap. Carol even questions why they aren't affected by gravity, to which Tails responds by stating that the planets still stand far enough away from each other.
  • Subverted in Kara of Rokyn. Hal Jordan's ring allows its bearer to travel faster-than-light, but even so Hal needs to go through wormholes to get anywhere in time.
  • In Hellsister Trilogy, Supergirl lures Satan Girl into the antimatter universe, and the two of them come dangerously near from an antimatter star as flying and fighting across a solar system.

    Films — Animation 
  • Despicable Me: Gru's Moon mission takes only a couple of hours from takeoff to landing, despite involving an actual orbit of the Moon, a round trip that normally takes a week at best.
  • Kaena: The Prophecy features two planets, the smaller of which is about the size of the Earth, which are distant about 6000 miles tops. Useless to say those planets should by all means collide.
  • In Transformers: The Movie, all planets in the universe seem to be only a few minutes away from each other at sublight speeds.
  • BIONICLE: The Legend Reborn offers a couple examples:
    • Launched into space from Aqua Magna, the Mask of Life shoots outside the galaxy, past many planets before landing on Bara Magna. Time isn't specified during this montage, but later stories revealed the mask's travel was fairly short, perhaps a few days or at most months. Thus, the movie scene was removed from canon — in the canon story, Aqua Magna is Bara Magna's moon rather than an unrelated planet in another galaxy, so the short travel is a bit more plausible.
    • Bara Magna's two moons as depicted in the film are still so close, visible as vast celestial objects in the sky with their craters in sharp focus, they should crash into the planet at any moment.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • 65 - The ship is damaged out in space and conveniently immediately finds a planet to crash on.
  • Alien³, it's not known what course the Sulaco would have plotted to return to Earth, but it is very convenient that it should be passing Fury 161 when the titular monstrosity set off the fire alarm and jettisoned the survivors. Though plotting your course specifically so you exit hyperspace near a suitable emergency landing site whenever possible does seem prudent, so probably justified.
  • The titular ship from Alien: Covenant gets damaged by stellar radiation while refuelling and finds a nearby planet that's more habitable than the one they were originally going to colonize.
  • In Another Earth, a twin of Earth appears near Earth.
  • In Avengers: Infinity War, Titan's moon is so close to the planet that Thanos is able to rip off chunks of it that reach the surface in mere seconds. Maybe the moon is actually quite far away and the chunks were traveling at near-light speed...but in that case, the whole planet would have been atomized by the impact.
  • In Galaxy Quest, the NSEA Protector is badly damaged, but no worries - there's a conveniently close planet! Considering it's a Star Trek parody, definitely intentional.
    Fred Kwan: Hey, Commander. Listen, we found some beryllium on a nearby planet, and we might be able to get there if we...'reconfigure the solar matrix in parallel for endothermic propulsion.' What'd'ya think?
  • Gravity is wonderful on a lot of things, but it has to bow to this trope for its heroine. The Space Shuttle is working on the Hubble Space Telescope not too far from the International Space Station (close enough to get there using only a jet backpack), which is "only 100 miles" from the Chinese Space Station.
    • In reality, not only does the Hubble sit on an entirely different orbit than the ISS, but at a much, much higher altitude. To the point where even the space shuttle cannot visit both on the same mission. The last Hubble servicing mission, STS-125, involved having a second space shuttle fueled and on the pad in case a rescue was needed, because getting to the ISS from the Hubble was a complete impossibility.
  • The Martian averts this trope; the distance between Mars and Earth only adds to the drama, and the Hermes has to get a slingshot from Earth in order to rescue Watney.
  • Pitch Black starts with the Hunter-Gratzner being damaged by micrometeoroids and crashing on a nearby Death World with breathable air.
  • In Planet of the Apes (2001), Mark Walberg travels from an unnamed ringed planet to Earth in what seems like a few minutes (there's no toilet on that tiny spacecraft, so it can't have been very long). Even if the ringed planet was Saturn, that's still pretty danged close.
  • In Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No! (Weren't expecting to find that film here, were ya?) a character is left in orbit with a satellite and is last seen on the Moon, in a Shout-Out to Space Cowboys.
  • In Spaceballs, the Winnebago comes out of Hyperspeed and promptly runs out of gas. Cue nearby desert planet to land on.
  • In SpaceCamp the space shuttle is unexpectedly launched outside of its launch window into an unplanned orbit - but they still manage to make it to the unoccupied space station for supplies. In Real Life, an orbital rendezvous has to be carefully planned before launch; unless you're very lucky (as in, winning-the-lottery lucky), altering an existing, arbitrary orbit to rendezvous with another orbiting object will require far more fuel than the Space Shuttle carries on board.
  • At the end of Space Cowboys, the satellite's boosters fire on a trajectory that conveniently gets to the moon - and quickly enough that Hawk's air doesn't run out on the way - and then reverse-fire to soft-land Hawk on the Moon...
  • Star Trek
  • Star Wars:
    • The Millennium Falcon is supposed to be the fastest ship in the galaxy... at only 1.5x the speed of light. And yet, somehow, slower ships routinely travel from one side of the galaxy to the other in a matter of hours. The "galaxy" in Star Wars is apparently no bigger than our own Solar system.note 
    • In The Empire Strikes Back, the Millennium Falcon's hyperdrive is out of commission, meaning they're limited to sublight speeds. No problem, though! Bespin happens to be nearby, apparently a light day away.note 
    • In Attack of the Clones, Dexter Jettster notes that the planet Kamino is 12 parsecs from the Rishi Maze. 12 parsecs is under 40 light-years, utterly tiny in galactic terms (the Milky Way is 170,000 light-years in diameter). It gets worse later when Obi Wan specifies the locations of Kamino and the Rishi Maze on a map; scaling from this map renders the entire Star Wars galaxy as about 300 light-years in diameter.
    • The Force Awakens:
      • Pops up with the superweapon. It is stated that the weapon fires into hyperspace — so it's okay that the weapon can fire so far away. It's also okay that Kylo Ren can watch the beam from his Star Destroyer — he was probably sent to observe anyway. It is a Conveniently Close Planet in the Contrived Coincidence that the planet where Maz's bar is in full view of the destruction and the planet is even facing the correct way at the right time so it's visible high in the sky.
      • The Millennium Falcon is captured within a few small minutes of popping out of hyperdrive. Then that freighter itself is docked simultaneously by two other ships.
    • The Mandalorian: the second episode of the second season has the titular character going from one inhabited planet to another at explicitly sublight speeds in at most days. This would mean that the planets were in the same star system... yet, for some reason, it was also explicitly stated that the planets were in different sectors (a "sector" in Star Wars usually encompasses multiple star systems).
    • These scenes, among others, have given rise to a fan theory that Star Wars actually takes place in an ultra compact dwarf galaxy.
  • A Conveniently Close Chunk Of Planet in Superman: The Movie. Doesn't take Lex Luthor long at all to score a chunk of Kryptonite, despite Krypton having been a planet around another star, which was in another galaxy according to Jor-El's narration during Kal's journey to Earth! Kryptonite Is Everywhere...
  • In Elysium, the titular space station is always in the sky above Los Angeles when needed and clearly visible. Geosynchronous orbit is 35,786 kilometers above the Earth's surface, almost three times Earth's diameter, also only technically possible at the equator but the distance between that and L.A. is trivial compared to geosync orbit.
  • Twice in Lost in Space:
    • The Jupiter 2 is set off on its voyage, and then is knocked off course 16 hours after leaving Earth. They open up the windows and Oh, Crap! - we're heading into the Sun! Realistically, the Sun shouldn't be near their route just 16 hours into the trip.
    • A window in time opens up to the Proteus, which is near a conveniently earth-like planet.

  • The Divine Comedy: The seven planets in Heaven are so close Dante doesn't realize he's left the Sun and been flown to Mars until he sees the planet's blood red beneath a Mind Hive crucifix.
  • The Martian: Completely and beautifully Averted (Truth in Television) in the case of Mars. Half of the drama of the novel centers around the fact that there aren't many resources that can get to Mark Watney before he runs out of food and supplies. Even Hermes, the spacecraft that just left Mars, can't just make a U-turn — it has to go all the way to Earth and back.
  • Orthogonal: Played cautiously straight and lampshaded in The Eternal Flame, the second book in the trilogy. Considering that the entire book takes place on (and around) a Generation Ship in Another Dimension whose dimension of time is analogous to the main cast's perception of space, the scientific importance of capturing a nearby Conveniently Close Asteroid is compounded by the knowledge that they will probably never come close enough to another one to get any use out of it. However, it's also partially subverted by the fact that it does take the crew of the Gnat several days to reach it.
  • Unsurprisingly for an astrophysicist-turned-author, Alastair Reynold's Revelation Space Series universe is an excellent counter-example and lampshade of the trope in several ways, to the point of being played as an anti-trope:
    • Within systems, Interplanetary battles take place over the course of months or years as even laser beams and near-light speed projectiles take hours to travel between planets, and battles between spacecraft play out similar to submarine battles, in which a large part of the task is simply attempting to find ones opponent. It is common for actively warring factions to both have relatively peaceful thriving colonies in a single star system, while active fighting takes place completely out of sight in a million kilometer wide no-mans land between. Even within a well populated system some derelict ships simply drift in empty space for decades or centuries before being noticed.
    • Interstellar travel takes place at just below the speed of light, so travel times between even neighboring star systems can be years or decades. This is mitigated for those inside the ship by the relativistic effects of near-light-speed travel, reducing the time they experience to months or years. Still, many passengers and less-essential crew elect to spend at least part of the journey in a state of suspended animation.
    • The small crews required by the massive lighthugger class ships, collectively known as Ultras, generally consist of a motley crew of genetic chimaeras and cyborgs filling their vast amounts of free time with various long-term hobbies and projects, such as watching all films ever produced by humanity in chronological order, and then watching them again played backwards.
    • Particularly long-distance journeys can become quite interesting when crew conflicts arise; mutinies and rogue crew members walling themselves off in a district of the ship for a few decades are not unheard of.
    • On worlds with advanced lifespan-increasing technology, a fair number of your friends and family can be expected to still be alive upon your return, but one will still be gone for a span of years or decades-leaving plenty of time for a planetary civil war to supplant the government and seize your house for use as a museum to the revolution, your idiot nephew to bankrupt your thriving business empire, and/or a plague to appear and run its course. And this is after you arrived at your destination to discover that person you were trying to find moved to a new planet 10 years after you left.
  • E. E. "Doc" Smith got around this problem by making his ships very, VERY fast (ninety parsecs, or about 300 light years, per hour). He lampshades this trope on one occasion when the hero's ship (stolen from the enemy) has a dodgy FTL drive. His engineer urges him to find the nearest base capable of effecting repairs, since " don't want to be fifty years away from the nearest repair shop instead of fifty miles." The conveniently close planet turns out to be infamous for the lethality of its environment, which routinely kills entities from both sides.
  • In Collective Hindsight, a tale of the Starfleet Corps of Engineers, a runaway ship is on a collision course with a planet, despite how unlikely that would be in reality. The ship even passes through several star systems en route, apparently threading the needle several times.
  • In Star Trek: Vulcan's Soul, the first Watraii escape Romulus and Remus by diving down a wormhole. They emerge within range of a habitable planet, despite their ship's limited supplies.
  • Surprisingly for Star Wars Legends, averted in The Thrawn Trilogy. When Luke's broken hyperdrive gives up during an escape, he's stranded in interstellar space. Of course, it still strands him conveniently near enough for Talon Karrde and Mara Jade to find him shortly thereafter, although this was explicitly supernatural (she could feel him with the Force and piloted straight to him).
  • Warhammer 40,000: Ciaphas Cain: Cain's ship is dragged out of the Warp too early and starts exploding. Since they're still on the fringes of the system, it takes him several very long weeks cramped up in the small survivor pod to get to the planet, where he then faces the comparatively easier issue of finding his way out of an ork-infested desert to civilization.
  • The War of the Worlds (1898) uses Mars as a thematic example. Wells' novel derives from (and deconstructs) earlier "invasion stories," in which Germany, France, etc. invaded Britain and were soundly defeated by the story's end. The idea of Mars invading Earth is a holdover from that (Earth = England; Mars = Europe).
  • Creation Man And The Messiah: Abiriel's original home planet, seen from his position hovering above the newly created Earth. Since he states it "glows in red", we have to assume the planet is Mars, with all the astronomical speculations involved.
  • Formic Wars: Why did the Formics destroy Weigh Station Four? It was on their trajectory to Earth. And they didnt even try to do it. It was simply a side effect of their periodic venting of gamma plasma.
  • In Isaac Asimov's novel The Stars, Like Dust this is a plot point: In the backstory of the book, twenty years earlier the starship one character was a passenger on was damaged and went off course, and he found himself in the presence of a planet, and an inhabited one no less, which turned out to be "the Rebellion World" (the headquarters of a resistance movement against an interstellar empire). The protagonist lampshades how lucky this was. After another character observes that the odds of randomly showing up within a billion miles of any star are 250 quadrillion to one against, the protagonist realizes that it couldn't have happened this way—unless the ship simply continued on its course and ended up in the system it was originally aimed at, meaning "the Rebellion World" is actually in the home system of the Love Interest, and is being Hidden in Plain Sight.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Battlestar Galactica (2003):
    • Mostly averted, particularly in season 1, episode 2, "Water".
      Tigh: [to Roslin] The galaxy's a pretty barren and desolate place when you get right down to it.
    • In season one episode "Act of Contrition", Starbuck is incredibly lucky to have been right next to a planet when she had to punch out... though that's convenient for the plot more than her. She would be been better off in her viper in space.
    • Although they did encounter a lot of planetsnote  in the series, the "jump" method of travel obscured the distances; many of the hops were described as requiring several jumps.
    • At one point, a trio of Basestars discovered the blast of a nuclear warhead from a lightyear away - and warp over instantly to check it out.
    • The planets Caprica and Gemenon are part of a double-planet system, orbiting extremely close to each other (about the distance from Earth to the Moon). This makes their mutual views of each other rather spectacular.
  • Doctor Who: On a whole, the show is able to avoid this trope thanks to having a ship which teleports and time-travels.
    • In the serial "The Daleks' Master Plan", the planet Desperus just happens to be sufficiently close to our heroes' flight from Kembel to Earth that they can be forced to land there.
    • This trope is averted in "Amy's Choice". The TARDIS breaks down, and Rory asks why they can't just send a call for help; "Of course, because the universe is really just a small place, and somebody's sure to be near by," is the Doctor's snarky reply.
    • Referenced at the end of "The Pirate Planet" when the Doctor suggests that Zanak's new location, where Calufrax used to be, would be "a good place in the universe to settle down. You've got reasonable sun, good neighbors and some quite convenient stars for when you get round to ordinary space travel. I think you're going to be all right here."
  • Firefly takes place in multiple close-together planetary systems that, according to the official materials orbit a massive red giant, with the star system totaling 5 stars, 8 gas giants, 67 terrestrial planets, and 148 moons spread across a diameter of about 500 astronomical units (a little under one percent of a light year). While the odds of so many stars and inhabitable bodies being this close together are extremely thin, the series still makes a big deal out of how far apart things are. In the episode "Out of Gas", the eponymous ship breaks down in the back of beyond, and the crew is well aware that they are out of range of anything habitable by shuttle, due to the lack of Faster-Than-Light Travel in the setting.
  • Red Dwarf: The titular mining ship explicitly doesn't have a faster-than-light engine, and yet it seems to have no trouble getting from one planetary system to another between episodes.
    • Fanon explanations:
    • After three million years of travel the ship is in a part of the galaxy where stars are much closer together.
    • We know from the second episode of the first series that Red Dwarf has reached very high relativistic speed after accelerating for three million years. The crew could be exploiting relativistic effects to make travel between solar systems seem much shorter.
      • In that case how they successfully decelerate Starbug to land on any of those planets and then accelerate to get back to Red Dwarf is another issue...
    • Red Dwarf has stasis booths and Starbug has deep sleep units, which are similar but don't stop time completely. The crew could simply be exploiting these to make multi-year trips take subjective minutes or hours.
  • In Space: 1999, the Moon is thrown out of the solar system on an uncontrolled trajectory. Nonetheless, it passes close to a different alien planet each week.
  • Stargate:
    • Stargate SG-1:
      • The human-built starship Prometheus breaks down on her maiden voyage. Fortunately for the crew, there is a planet within a few second hop of their overloaded hyperdrive. It's worth noting, however, that the voyage by sublight engine would have taken longer than the ship had resources left for.
      • In season 4, Teal'c and O'Neill are dragged away from earth, set to drift to Apophis's homeworld the slow way. Lucky thing Jupiter just happened to be on the way, making it both conveniently close and in 2-D Space. However slightly mitigated in this case as the glider's navigational computer plausibly could have plotted a course out of the solar system that included at least one slingshot in order to reduce the fuel cost (like NASA and others do when launching probes to the outer planets and beyond).
      • In the season four finale, "Exodus", the destruction of a sun speeds up their spacecraft, sending it four million light years, where it stops inside another galaxy. The odds of taking a random trajectory out of your solar system and ending up in another solar system are already stated above as huge — the odds of getting to another galaxy at a set distance on a random trajectory are just astronomical.
    • In the season 4 opener of Stargate Atlantis, their spacecraft drops out of hyperspace early, right in a solar system and on a course for an Asteroid Thicket.
    • Stargate Universe: Played with in the episode "Light"; the ship runs out of fuel in the middle of deep space and all hope is thought to be lost, because how unlikely it is for them just to wander across a solar system with a habitable planet. But the (seemingly) intelligent ship they're on used the last of its resources to plot a desperate course to a system with three "habitable" (the most survivable one rarely gets above freezing) planets. One character even gives a monologue on just what the chances are. Then it's subverted at the end when a slingshot around another planet has altered their course, avoiding the planets and causing them to head straight towards the sun. Unbeknownst to them at the time, the ship intended this to happen, as it refuels via diving into stars and scooping up stellar material.
  • All five Star Trek series are guilty of this, though it's forgivable because, as stated here and at Sci-Fi Writers Have No Sense of Scale, a centuries-long journey between any two given inhabited places doesn't make a very interesting show. Anyway, many are the times something happens to a shuttlecraft. Not only is there almost always a planet nearby, it's almost always habitable enough for its occupants to survive for the time being.
    • This is subverted in Star Trek: Enterprise when Reed and Trip are stranded in a shuttle that's running out of energy (needed to regenerate oxygen) and lacks a working warp (FTL) engine. Trip suggests that they may encounter another spacecraft or a planet, to which Reed responds that at impulse, they won't be encountering any planets until months after their energy runs out, and that an encounter with another spacecraft is very unlikely given the sheer size of interstellar space and the fact that they don't have working sensors or communications equipment.
    • In Star Trek: The Original Series, given the speeds at which starships are canonically stated to cruise, every planet in the galaxy is conveniently close. Kirk routinely flies the Enterprise away from the Planet of the Week at warp 1 (i.e. at, not faster than, the speed of light). Its maximum safe cruising speed is warp 6, which is either 216x the speed of light or 392x the speed of light depending on whom you talk to — but even assuming the faster of these two speeds, it should still take four days just to get from the Solar system to Alpha Centauri (our closest neighbor in interstellar space). Getting from Earth to the edge of the (8000 light-year-wide) Federation should take a decade. Instead, Star Fleet routinely sends them on assignments to the Neutral Zone and back home to Earth again in a matter of weeks or even just a few days.
    • Also, the number of times they will just randomly encounter another ship, some space dwelling creature, or space/time phenomena truly staggers the mind. When you take into account the number that actually have threatened the galaxy, one wonders what happens when ships not staffed by Starfleet's best and brightest encounter such things.
    • At the end of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine's "A Time to Stand", the crew are marooned without warp drive, 17 years from a Federation base. Nevertheless, in the next episode, "Rock and Shoals", they manage at short notice to hide in a conveniently close nebula where they find an uncharted planet.

  • The backglass for Orbitor 1 has three large astronomical bodies impossibly close to each other.
  • In Firepower, the alien warworld is so close to the Earth that humans can retaliate with their rocket-powered spaceships.

    Puppet Shows 
  • Done all the time in the marionette series Fireball XL5 where in spite of the title spacecraft's inability to exceed the speed of light, it still managed to travel to a different planet (often in different star systems) nearly every episode.
  • Also done in the earlier marionette series, Space Patrol, although it's never completely clear whether or not their spaceship can travel at faster than light speeds.

     Tabletop Games 
  • Averted in BattleTech: Interplanetary travel takes a long time as dropships can only accelerate a maximum of roughly three times Earth's gravity, and can only maintain that rate for a few days at most due to the health effects it has on the people inside the ship. Typically, traveling to the jump points in a solar system requires weeks of travel.

    Theme Parks 
  • At Universal Studios:
    • In E.T. Adventure, it apparently only takes three or-so seconds of lightspeed to reach the Green Planet. Of course, the fact that it takes that long means you're not really at lightspeed; to a hypothetical particle traveling at the speed of light, it takes exactly zero time to go any distance, no matter how long.
    • Space Fantasy: The Ride sends guests flying to planets like Saturn and Mercury and then back to Earth all within three minutes.
  • Subverted in Epcot's Mission: SPACE. It is a five minute simulator ride that takes you to Mars, but this is justified when the ride puts you into a pretend "hyper-sleep".

    Video Games 
  • Zig-Zagged in EVE Online, traveling from one planet, asteroid belt, or Stargate to another generally takes only a couple minutes. At warp speed.
  • Star Ocean: The Last Hope involves the ship getting sucked into a "black hole" and conventiently being spat out directly over an alternate universe Earth.
  • Played a little crooked in Space Pirates and Zombies, where you travel from star-to-star and planet-to-planet in seconds. Granted, you use warp gates for both, but in planetary environments, you must first send out the warp gate to your destination before using it, which should take a while, but it doesn't. And it did take a while in the official story, so it's breaking its own rules. Then again, it is just a game.
  • Planets in Freelancer are close enough to each other that it takes mere minutes to travel between them in a one man ship. Trade lanes do little more than speed up a ship like an interplanetary highway, and the ships still move slow enough that they can be easily interrupted by pirates while traveling through a debris field. Completely bizarrely, planets are often listed as only a few dozen kilometers away and the ships and cross a kilometer in a few seconds even at a slow speed. Unless the game operates on a completely different system of units, the physics of the Freelancer universe are completely whacked out.
  • Freespace justifies it due to how FTL travel works in that series: FTL requires a gravity well, so you cannot jump into deep space. There has to be a star nearby (within roughly 100 AU's or so). Even interstellar jumps must begin and end in a star system. Intrasystem jumps take mere minutes at most, so no matter what, you're guaranteed to be minutes away from a planetnote ... assuming your FTL drive is working. If it isn't, you're kind of hosed.
  • Wing Commander: Privateer features planets within a star system that never move, and are infrequently more than 100,000 meters from one another, and all are capable of supporting humans comfortably.
  • Invoked for laughs in LEGO City Undercover. Chase has an incredibly short trip to the Moon, which Professor Kowalsky explains as the Moon actually being really small and very close to Earth. Apparently this is a secret that only scientists know.
  • Elite and its open-source remake Oolite sort of justify the trope by having your ship emerge from hyperspace at some sort of navigational beacon, and also by giving you a sort of hyperspace afterburner that propels your ship forward at much higher speeds than conventional drives should permit. The latter game does have a mod that makes the relative distances more realistic, but it's pretty dull.
  • Ratchet & Clank Zig Zags with this idea:
    • The PlayStation 2 games depict all the worlds to be close enough to fly to in a spaceship at highway speeds. Either all 20 planets should be visible from each other, or Ratchet should die of old age before the end of the first game. Not helped is that the original game describes the local worlds as being part of a solar system, yet the Galaxy Map and every other depiction suggests it's actually a galaxy.
    • This is deliberately invoked AND justified in the original game's plot: Chairman Drek wants his new planet to be exactly where Veldin is.
    • The trope is averted starting with the PlayStation 3 titles, where Aphelion has to enter Hyperspace to get anywhere. The exception is Full Frontal Assault, where the worlds involved are indeed part of a solar system, but are still close enough to all be visibly the same size when departing for them.
    • Ratchet & Clank: Into the Nexus ignores this entirely, as the game cuts to a Loading Screen rather than depict how exactly Aphelion gets from planet to planet.
    • The game based on the movie is an interesting example: like Into the Nexus, it uses loading screens instead of showing Ratchet's ship traveling in space. However the movie it's based on has no mention whatsoever of faster-than-light travel, playing the trope straight like the game the movie's based on.
  • In Star Fox, the planet Titania is visible as a large sphere from the low orbit of the planet Corneria (Sector X).
  • In Anachronox, the party gets launched in some random direction when an Earth-Shattering Kaboom knocks the Sender Spike around while it's trying to launch them to Anachronox. 17 days of drifting at sublight speeds with no engines later, they run into the planet of Democratus. At least it's basically acknowledged since it took over 2 weeks, but on cosmic terms that's still conveniently close.
  • Averted in Kerbal Space Program. Even if distances are smaller than what the equivalent ones would be in reality, it's still a significant task to get to the Mun (analogous to the Moon). Just getting the right trajectory takes precise calculations (helped greatly by the in-game manoeuvre nodes you can use to plot courses), and without the time warp function (speeding time up to 100,000 times faster than real time) the game wouldn't be playable.
  • Luna=Luna from Meteos is a set of two moons, both of which are similar to Earth's moon, that are locked together in each other's orbits. The planet's profile image gives the sense that there isn't much distance separating the twin moons. The rocket-like natives even jump between both moons casually.
  • No Man's Sky's star systems have planets that are, with very few exceptions, incredibly close to one another. The resulting Scenery Porn and Alien Skies that result when someone is on those planets makes it acceptable.
  • After bailing from Earth in the prologue of Starbound, you will always, without exception, drift to a stop above a peaceful, inhabitable and unpopulated planet. Also, once your ship is repaired, you can travel to another planet or another system in under a minute. The FTL drives are just that good.
  • Averted in Solar Jetman, since most of the time, the mothership is out of fuel when you reach the planet and you travel through wormholes to get there.

    Web Comics 
  • In The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob! there is no FTL travel — but the local aliens can manage relativistic-speed travel without trouble, so adventures in and around our solar system are reasonable. It turns out that there is at least one inhabited planet in the Kuiper Belt (Butane, planet of dragons), deliberately hidden from us by Phlebotinum. Elsewhere in the solar system, there is an undiscovered dwarf planet called Fleen, home to a colony of weird eyeball-headed quadrupeds. And not far outside our solar system is the Nemesis Star, around which orbits the throneworld of the Nemesite Empire (Earth is legally part of this empire; the Nemesites just haven't bothered to tell us, considering us wildlife).

    Web Original 
  • Avoided in the French MP3 saga "Adoprixtoxis". After leaving the planet about to be destroyed on an escape pod, the characters ask the spacecraft computer to search for close worlds to land. The computer retrieve only 1 hit: the planet they just left
  • The SCP Foundation finds SCP-1958, a nasty aversion to this. A group of space-traveling beatniks (It Makes Sense in Context) attempt to leave Earth for Alpha Centauri in a somehow space-worthy minibus, apparently believing that traveling at 80 mph the whole way would get you there in four weeks. One of them realize something's wrong when it takes them two months just to pass the moon. By the time they figure this out, it is too late for them to return to Earth.

    Western Animation 
  • The Jetsons: George and Elroy's cub scouts go to the moon via spaceship which is just like a bus trip.
  • The New Adventures of Superman episode "Rain of Iron". A villain fires iron balls out of a cannon in a specific direction. They fly through space, hit an asteroid and bounce back to Earth at a specific location. Asteroids (a) aren't close enough to Earth for this to work and (b) travel in orbits around the Sun, so firing the balls in a specific direction would only work once.
  • Rick and Morty: The plot of "Look Who's Purging Now" is kicked off by a large alien bug hitting the windshield of Rick's spacecraft, and Rick heading for a nearby planet to get more windshield wiper fluid.
  • The Star Wars Expanded Universe in general is a pretty big (heh) offender, but Star Wars: The Clone Wars deserves a special mention: every time something goes wrong with a starship, it is able to land on a Conveniently Close Planet with breathable atmosphere in just a few minutes. "Nomad Droids" is especially notable by having this happen twice in short succession — Pattitite Pattuna just happens to be in the immediate vicinity of Adi Gallia's vessel when R2 and 3PO leave it, and when they take off from there Balnab is convenient conveniently close enough to reach with a small ship at sublight speeds.
  • In the very first episode of the original The Transformers series the Autobots leave Cybertron in a spacecraft with the Decepticons in pursuit. The Autobots are boarded and as the battle rages the spaceship plunges inexplicably down to Earth without going through any hyperdrive or seemly traveling far at all.
  • In Mickey Mouse (2013) episode "Space Walkies" Pluto ends up taking Mickey planet-hopping through the Solar System. And Mickey also gets visited by the (former) planet Pluto.