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Recycled with a Gimmick
aka: Like That Show But With Mecha

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Stories are often recycled from other stories, with the setting changed with just enough of a gimmick to make it look different. This is not just an audience reaction; advertising for the newer work will usually play up the connection between the earlier work and the newer gimmick.

One of the most common methods of adding a gimmick is to change the setting, which allows the characters to explore the same plots with a slightly different approach, make the story feel more contemporary, or change the genre (moving The Odyssey into space changes it to a Sci-Fi story). Other gimmicks include turning the characters into children or animals. The more "gimmicks" you use when recycling, the less of an imitation the work is in the first place.

This brings up Tropes Are Tools; just because a newer work is based on a premise invented by an older work doesn't make it bad. After all, the point of the gimmick is to find new stories to tell from the original story. Advertising will describe how the newer work is intended to be an imitation as well as the sort of changes that the newer creator took to differentiate their work from the original. This trope almost never applies to a normal sequel, remake, or adaptation; only when a major change is made to the work that is used to sell the newer work as different from the original.

Contrast Better by a Different Name (characters comment on the similarity between works), Follow the Leader (multiple stories imitating the tropes of an earlier story), Recycled IN SPACE! (a game where we describe how Work X is basically Work Y, with a twist!) and X Meets Y (a game where we pretend two different works are the inspiration for a third work). Compare with Whole-Plot Reference, which can overlap. For example, The Flintstones is, by Word of God, The Honeymooners recycled in the Stone Age, but is not a Whole-Plot Reference because Fred isn't literally intended to be Ralph Kramden, only to resemble his mannerisms.

This trope is a Sub-Trope of Recycled Premise and Spiritual Adaptation, as well as a Super-Trope to Setting Update.


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  • Battle Fever J to the first two entries in the Super Sentai franchise, inspired by the Spider-Man example above. Afterwards it became a standard part of the formula.
  • The Buck Rogers in the 25th Century episode "Space Vampire" is Dracula... In Space, complete with a wrecked ship with a ship's log that documents the deaths of the crew and a passenger named William Helsing from "New London"
  • Red Dwarf was originally pitched by Rob Grant and Doug Naylor to The BBC as Steptoe and Son if it were set in space (as well as being on acid). This is most notable in the general hopelessness of the situation that both sets of characters are in, as well as the bickering relationship between Rimmer and Lister, which is very similar to that of Harold and Albert. They've also compared it to Porridge in space, in that there is something literally preventing the characters leaving, while the only thing trapping the Steptoes is themselves.
  • Japanese Spider-Man, when Spider-Man received various tropes that would eventually be absorbed into Super Sentai (specifically Battle Fever J onwards, as stated later). Spider-Man gets his powers and costume from an ancient alien race, and gets a car and a giant robot to go along with them.
  • Star Trek: The Original Series:
    • The episode "Balance of Terror" is the 1957 WWII submarine movie The Enemy Below IN SPACE! Even the bearing of the unidentified initial contact and the captain's maneuvering orders to the helm are copied nearly verbatim. The Romulan ship is cramped and has lots of piping and conduits in all background scenes. The Enterprise's phasers act like depth charges, and at one point the Enterprise and the Romulan ship both go to silent running, fearing to talk loudly lest the other vessel hear them.
    • The Romulans in this episode were The Roman Empire IN SPACE!, as exemplified by Mark Lenard's dignified Centurion character. They didn't stay that way, though. Compare the Romulans in the Star Trek reboot movie.
    • The episode "Elaan of Troyius" is The Taming of the Shrew IN SPACE! There are also some allusion to the The Trojan War, inverted. The Arranged Marriage of princess Elaan from planet Elas with the ruler of planet Troyius is supposed to stop a war between their respective world.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine:
    • The much-maligned episode "Meridian" was, as admitted by producer Ira Steven Behr, Brigadoon in space. Recalling this idea at a later date, Behr admitted: "I am a moron."
    • The original concept for Deep Space Nine (before they shifted the location from a Federation colony planet to a space station after J. Michael Straczynski pitched Babylon 5 to Paramount) would have been Star Trek ON LAND!
    • The episode "Duet" of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is a Recycled IN SPACE! take on the play The Man in the Glass Booth. The main difference is that the latter is about Nazis and their victims, while the former centers on the Cardassians, who are A Nazi by Any Other Name.
    • Brandon Tartikoff originally pitched Deep Space Nine itself as The Rifleman in space"
    • The episode "Explorers", in which Sisko builds a copy of an ancient Bajoran solar-sail spaceship and proves it could travel as far as Cardassia, is essentially The Voyage of the Kon-Tiki in space.
    • In the episode "Melora", Jadzia Dax lampshades that Melora Pazlar's storyline bears some similarity to The Little Mermaid in space.
  • White Dwarf is Akira Kurosawa's Red Beard in a science-fiction setting; with an added subplot adding elements of political intrigue and exploration of prejudice and tolerance.


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  • Parodied in Homestar Runner with Limozeen: But they're in space! which, as you can guess, was about a Fake Band adventuring around space in their tour bus/spaceship. It was cancelled during the airing of its pilot episode.
    Strong Sad: But why are they in space? There's no reason for them to be in space!
    Strong Bad: On the contrary, my dear Fatson. There is every reason for them to be in space!

  • Stage-Select subcomic Here is a Question discussed this for one strip, suggesting the phenomenon of this trope in the 1960s was due to the excitement of the space race. Then the money-grubbing author decides to hop on the bandwagon and reformatted the comic into — you guessed it — Here is a Question in space. A mild Rage Against the Author later, the comic returned to normal.
  • Starslip is an art museum strip in space, and its characters know it. They drink "space grog," try not to get "behind space-schedule," and shout "GOOD SPACE HEAVENS!" when surprised.
  • TRU-Life Adventures features a couple of brief looks at an alternate timeline where the cast works on a spaceship in space.

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Alternative Title(s): Old Tale New Twist, Like That Show But With Mecha