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Space Age Stasis

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In space based sci-fi universes, whenever we may see the distant past or future (relative to the original setting), the technology present never seems to be any more or less advanced, no matter how far you go in either direction. Even if it’s hundreds of years, they still have the same warp drives, robots, matter replicators, or whatever the setting contains.

This is presumably done either because the writer included the most advanced tech they could think of in the first installment and thus has no where else to go, or because significantly changing the tech level would mean changing the way the stories would have to work.

Compare with Medieval Stasis, where the technology stagnates at a lower level or the low level technology is the reason for the stagnation, and Modern Stasis.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Humanity in Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans had already colonized most of Earth's solar system by the start of the the Calamity War three hundred years ago, after which they've made little-to-no technological development. The state-of-the-art Gundam frames made to end the war have yet to be equaled, much less surpassed. This seems to be because Gjallarhorn control technology as much as politics, monopolizing Ahab reactors and outlawing weapons they believe would upset the status quo.

    Comic Books 
  • Buck Godot Zapgun For Hire: Species who make it into space tend to slow down their development, although a few tend to be much more active and dynamic. As a rule, the slowly-progressing species tend to be around for much longer.
    "Some races never pull out of this period, and have remained quiet background players for millennia, unlike more dynamic races that burst upon the galactic scene, and attempt to found empires, evolve into higher forms, reveal shattering new religious, philosophical, cosmological or mathematical systems or sell something. Therefore, unlike most of these dynamic young races, they will probably be around for more than a few millennia before being wiped out or forgotten."
  • Marvel Comics: Advanced beings such as the Celestials have been around since before the Earth was formed but stories that take place thousands of years ago show them more or less using the same technology as they do today. Galactus is an even bigger example since he is older than the universe itself but still rides around on the same moon-sized ship. A possible justification for this is that the Celestials and Galactus are advanced to the point of no longer needing improvements.
  • Star Wars:
    • The comics series often take place hundreds, if not thousands, of years in the past but the technology still seems to be relatively the same. For instance, fans can easily look at certain ships and make out their future equivalents.
    • Tales of the Jedi: Averted in certain volumes, especially The Golden Age of the Sith and The Fall of the Sith Empire. Things are given a much rougher, more primitive design — for instance, lightsabers are ornately carved and actually plug into the belt when not in use, and, instead of a dashboard full of buttons and lights, a starship's hyperdrive control is a spinning dial around a crystal centerpiece. However, Knights of the Old Republic, set not long afterwards, discards this presumably for the sake of the graphics being easy to render.
  • Paperinik New Adventures doesn't really like this trope:
    • Subverted with the Evronians: when we see an ancient Evronian starship in a flashback it's similar-looking to modern designs, but an outdated ship that is recent enough to be still in service is extremely different from standard designs. The inserts also show the Evronian technological progression in some technologies, such as miniaturizing their old emotion-draining weapons into sidearms and perfecting their Super Soldiers.
    • Averted with the Armadhans: as their culture and economy revolve entirely around Private Military Contractors, their battle droid designs evolve quite fast so that they can be hired by outside parties. In fact Neopard, the most often seen Armadhan, is noted to be a cheapskate who keeps old battle droids in service well after they are obsolete, and yet between his original appearance and his return he has almost completely replaced his inventory, with the one exception being justified because said battle droid has an extremely advanced artificial intelligence and he considers him more a person than a tool.
    • Another aversion is the Xerbians: being an entire planet of scientists, they tend to develop new technologies quite fast when necessary. Two examples are the process that gave Xadhoom her awesome powers, that she developed by herself with little enough resources nobody noticed (though she was just verifying a theory that, if correct, would have created an eternal power source, and it wasn't supposed to blow up on her and give her superpowers), and the development of a device that reverses the effects of Evronian emotion-draining weapons (and it's mentioned they've made multiple models, each improved over the previous one).
    • Terrans themselves are developing new technologies, both by reverse-engineering extraterrestrial technologies and by completely original developments-though in both cases it's shown that incidents may well have catastrophic effects.

    Fan Works 
  • Nobledark Imperium: Downplayed, as the technology of the Imperium is advancing... just at a glacially slow pace. On the one hand, Survivor Civilizations (groups that were already strong empires on their own before joining the Imperium, such as Ultramar, the Interex, or the Tau) are allowed to keep their own technology, and that tends to spread to the Imperium as a whole. On the other, the higher levels of the Mechanicus are absolutely terrified that the Void Dragon is influencing human society and technology (which it is) and want to make sure that any advancement made is absolutely safe.

  • Alien: The tech in Alien: Resurrection seems startlingly similar to the first movie when you consider that they are set 258 years apart. The only apparent advance in space-travel technology is that the ships appear sleeker and cleaner than the original hulk Nostromo, but clear advances are shown in cloning technology, robotics (compare the Ridiculously Human Robot Call to the less convincing Ash), and best of all, whisky can be transported in convenient cubes then restored to liquid form via laser.
  • Star Wars. Technology is largely the same between the prequel and original trilogies, with the only visible changes being minor advances in prosthetics and holograms. Then again, the entire film series only covers about 50-60 years, and military technology does appear to have advanced modestly during that time (in some cases, it regressed—the absence of battle droids in Episodes IV-VI, for example). The Star Wars universe may have reached a technological plateau, possibly caused by the near-continuous warfare hindering any pure scientific research.
    • In the Expanded Universe, blasters, hyperdrive, lightsabers, deflector shields, and space battleships exist for tens of thousands of years. Any time "new technology" is discovered, it's only for the film, novel, or comic, then forgotten. In the end, the only bearing on the performance of one technology in relation to a comparable one from millennia prior or later is how well-maintained it is, though somehow the denizens of the galaxy spend countless generations eluding this simple lesson. They actually seem to be in something of a slow decline, just because they're running out of Precursor artifacts and never learned to make more, or they may have nowhere to go technologically. Most of the advances we've seen are in superweapons able to destroy planets or even stars. Once the Empire falls, no one has either the desire or dictatorial authority to build such devices again (thankfully).
    • Since Disney rebooted the franchise, this has quietly been averted. On The Mandalorian, for example, the main character's helmet appears to contain an embedded rangefinder (so that he can target his Whistling Birds weapon), compared to Boba Fett's clunky and manually–operated rangefinder from only thirty or so years previous. The Whistling Birds are an example as well if they are, as they appear to be, a wrist–fired, More Dakka version of Boba's kneepad dart–launcher. Then again, the Republic-era Razor Crest still performs at the level of "modern" starships thanks to little more than attentive mechanical care.
    • Whatever the Big Bads use to polish the decks of their starships, it's getting better.
  • Predator: The technology of the Yautja is never seen to advance, even when their appearances are hundreds of years apart. The Expanded Universe justifies this by explaining that a long time ago the Predators' society became all about the hunt, and they lost all interest in intellectual pursuits. There is a sometimes-canon and sometimes-not explanation that their tech is stolen from an older race that attempted to occupy their planet. They can replicate and adapt it, but lack the understanding of its base principles to improve on it. An easier explanation is that the only Predators we see are hunters who explicitly show "sportsmanlike" behavior, including killing only armed opponents and sparing, for example, pregnant women. It follows that the crazy-superior tech they are using is what they consider fair. Their tech may be better, but what is "fair" to use on the humans hasn't changed in hundreds of years. Much the same way some humans often still use bows to hunt deer rather than carpet-bombing them from the stratosphere. This is hinted to be so in the current comics to be this, as it's about a clan of Predators who don't follow the hunter's code of honor.
  • Passengers (2016): Implied for the colonists. It takes a literal lifetime for the ship to go from Earth to the new planet, and the people aboard will be in biological suspension until a few months before arrival. By the time they wake up, the technology they are using and will probably use for the rest of their lives will be decades behind that used on Earth. This was further hinted in the original script, which had the deck officer reveal that he had been ferrying people that way and back for 600 years.

  • Alex Benedict: Downplayed. Firebird states that humanity has mastered higher physics and, though there are occasional advances (somebody develops a somewhat faster FTL drive, for example), for the most part there's not much in the way of new tech being developed anymore.
  • Childhood's End: Justified. The Overlords have reached the pinnacle of science and technology possible under the laws of physics, and are seriously considering species-wide suicide out of sheer boredom before being contacted by the Overmind, which asks them to shepherd other species as they Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence, something which the Overlords are incapable of for reasons which are never explained. They agree to do it because a) it gives them something to do, and b) they're hoping they'll eventually figure out the trick for themselves.
  • The Course of Empire and The Crucible of Empire: The Jao have almost no new technology. However, this is mostly because they were a race of Slave Mooks that revolted ages in the past and their masters had not seen fit to engineer imagination into them. In fact, one of the aspects of their relation with their new human vassals is that Humans Advance Swiftly and can therefore provide assistance in that department.
  • The Culture: The Culture first appear with god-like AIs, Casual Interstellar Travel, robot drones that count as people, vast space habitats and all the comforts of being Sufficiently Advanced Aliens and aren't substantially different eight hundred years later. But then, they've basically reached the pinnacle of technological advancement possible given the constraints of universal physics. The only way to get past these constraints is to Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence, but the Culture, unlike many other advanced species, is not in any hurry to do so on a species-wide scale, as it believes that would involve unacceptable amounts of coercion. Still, many individuals in the Culture, bored of immortality, undergo this individually as a form of Seen-It-All Suicide.
  • The Diabolic: Enforced; all scientific knowledge is banned, any building technology is banned, and messing with either is declared blasphemy. Galactic society is maintained by robots maintaining robots who maintain robots, all the way down the chain to the smallest piece of technology. A growing faction within the Empire points out that this is not sustainable, and as spaceships get older horrific accidents are becoming more common. The Empire declares anyone who brings up these topics in public to be traitors.
  • Ender's Game: In the three-thousand year gap between the first book and Speaker for the Dead, the only real advance seems to be that near-light space travel and the Subspace Ansible, reverse-engineered alien technologies once reserved solely for the military, are now economical enough for civilian use. Some of this is justified by the best and brightest spending centuries in relativistic spaceflight, but that doesn't account for all of it. Later books in the series involve another jump forward in (meta)physics and technology, again inspired by a chat with aliens and this time spearheaded by the protagonists.
  • Dune: Human society has been suspicious of technology since the Butlerian Jihad over 10,000 years before the first book. However, after Leto II's death and the breakup of the empire, many scattered colonies advance rapidly.
  • Harry Turtledove:
    • The Road Not Taken:: The faster-than-light engine does that to societies that discover it; once they perfect it, they end up channeling most of their energies into expanding across interstellar space with whatever other technologies they have. The most advanced of those tries to invade 21st century Earth with musketeers, solid-shot cannons, and gunpowder-cask gravity bombs. It was a short invasion.
    • Worldwar: The Race have been technologically stagnant for nearly 50,000 years, as have been the other alien species they conquered and subjugated in that time. Their leaders are quite surprised when, in the mere 800 years between their first reconnaissance flights over Earth in the 12th century and the arrival of their invasion fleet in 1942, that the human race has gone from knights on horseback to tanks, airplanes, and radar, and continues to develop during the invasion. In the historical blink of an eye-turret, the humans develop rocketry and start building space stations.
      • It's stated that their slow technological development is at least in part on purpose. When something new is invented, they don't release it to the public until it's had all its potential flaws ironed out and is rendered perfectly safe, and even then it's introduced into their society over the course of decades or centuries, so that they can study its impact on society. They consider humans, who do neither of these things, to be insanely reckless.
      • In the final book, one hundred years later, the Race are only just beginning to consider what the difference in advancement might mean to their future when the first Earth FTL ship arrives in orbit of their homeworld. The Lizards didn't think faster-than-light travel was possible and haven't thought about it, or even considered it, in their 50,000 year history.
  • The History of the Galaxy: While there are technological advancements over the 1500 years covered by the series, there are also centuries where nothing appears to change much from the time before. This is surprising, considering that some novels are focused on radical new technologies and their effect on society and warfare. And the argument about "everything has already been discovered" doesn't apply as a number of Precursor races and ruins have been found whose level of technology vastly surpasses that of the humans (i.e. there is room for a lot of improvement). Basically, you can pick up a book set in 2607 and one set in 3867 and see a good number of the same pieces of technology with little in terms of improvement.
  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy: Played for Laughs. The characters can jump million or billions of years ahead or behind, and any difference will be no more than aesthetic — as can be expected for a series where technology runs more on Rule of Funny than anything else. For example:
    • The climax of The Restaurant at the End of the Universe takes place literally at the end of time, but if technology is any more advanced than in the present, the reader is not notified;
    • Later played with in the same volume, when Ford deduces from a spaceship's antiquated design that they must be about two million years in the past. But to Arthur, it's just what spaceships are supposed to look like.
    • Life, the Universe and Everything mentions that twenty billion years agonote , "brushed concrete and stainless steel" were considered cutting-edge.
    • On the flip side, the Infinite Improbability Drive and Bistromathics are two revolutions in transportation invented very close to each other, so technology can progress if the plot allows it.
    • The text directly blames the ready availability of time travel for this. Companies see selling in the past as no different than selling in another country, and at this point the timeline is such a mass of paradoxes everyone gave up keeping track.
  • Honor Harrington: The Solarian League hasn't advanced much in the past century or so, as they believe that having the most ships than anyone else means they can use sheer numbers to crush any "barbarian" star nation. To be fair, this was mostly true until the outbreak of hostilities between the Star Kingdom (later Empire) of Manticore and the (People's) Republic of Haven. The two big wars fought by the two star nations have resulted in their military tech being far in advance that of the Solarian fleet. While the numbers are still vastly skewed in the Solarian direction, several decidedly one-sided battles between the Solarians and the Manticorans show that numbers hardly matter anymore. The Second Battle of Manticore, when the League's Eleventh Fleet invaded the Manticore System, involved a battle with roughly equal numbers of superdreadnoughts on both sides (427 SDs vs 40 Manticoran, 150 Grayson, and 250 Havenite SDs). The significantly more advanced tech of the three allied star nations resulted in only roughly 4000 dead on their side vs. 1.2 million dead Solarians and 1.4 million captured. Several other smaller star nations (the above-mentioned Protectorate of Grayson, the Andermani Ampire, the Republic of Erewhon, and the Mesan Alignment) have tech similar to that of the Manticorans and the Havenites.
    • This also applies to tactics, which are also driven by technology. For example, while Solarian warships have missiles, they prefer to get in range of their powerful laser batteries, where their superior SD numbers can allow them to batter down the enemy sidewalls and obliterate the enemy with coordinated laser barrages. In fact, they treat missiles as more of a nuisance, with most of their ships still using obsolete autocannons for point-defense. Most of the other mentioned star nations have gotten quite experienced in missile-based combat, the typical strategies revolving around launching and defending against Macross Missile Massacres, which usually means that older Solarian SDs get torn to shreds far outside their laser range. The Manticorans, the Havenites, and the Graysons also utilize Light Attack Craft (or LACs) as strike wings against smaller units. Manticoran LACs, in particular, mount a capital ship-grade laser system. When both sides have LACs their role is missile defense, as a Manticoran LAC has as much missile defense as a Solarian Light Cruiser.
    • The key development the Solarians never realized the implications of is the Laser head. Although it's been around for 60-70 years, the Solarian fleet was designed and built before the laser head, and the SLN has never fought a war using laser heads. Laser heads greatly increased the damage a missile could do while making the delivery easier. The Haven Sector powers started their conflict when Laser heads were new and adjusted their designs and tactics to use the new warheads. The increased deadliness caused the Haven Sector powers to also spend effort on increasing the range and salvo size of these more deadly weapons. As a result the average Solarian Super Dreadnoughts is now smaller than the last generation of Haven sector Dreadnoughts and has less missile capacity as well as less counter-missiles.
  • Hyperion: The Hegemony of Man is culturally and technologically stagnant, albeit with AI-given toys, while the Ouster "barbarians" have continued to progress.
  • Inhuman: Such a stasis is the main theme and plot point. The story is set in the dystopian interstellar Empire of Humans where, according to one of the characters, no technological advances were made for the last several centuries. The, uh, antagonists (both sides involved are villains by most measures), effectively an alien conspiracy masquerading as a government conspiracy, want to remedy this.
  • Known Space: The Kzinti aren't terribly intelligent to begin with, and gained the great majority of their technology by rising up against their Jotok masters when they were still in their Bronze Age and offing most of them, and, in a universe without FTL technology, it takes a long time for things to propagate over several hundred light-years of empire. Imperial standardization as well as simple physics kept the Kzinti at a very, very, painfully minuscule level of advancement. Not to mention the earliest generations of the Kzinti uprising embraced genetic engineering for traits useful for bronze age warriors, including favoring strength and bravery over intelligence. Especially as Kzin women were reduced to non-sapience. The Kzin even have a priest-like caste called the Conservers of the Ancient Past, whose job is to prevent unneeded change. After losing the first couple wars with humanity, however, they become much more motivated to advance, even acquiring hyperdrive shortly after Earth does.
  • The Lost Fleet: Downplayed but still noticeable. Captain John Geary has spent about a century as a Human Popsicle, and while some mention is made of innovations like better holographic avatar technology when holding fleet conferences (which Geary ruefully notes is something of a double-edged sword) and a means to send low-bandwidth text messages between ships during FTL travel, the changes seem to have been mostly incremental. The one exception is the hypernet gates... Which weren't a human innovation in the first place. Justified in that the entire intervening time was spent in a terrible war of attrition, with resources being stretched past the breaking point just to keep fighting.
  • The Machineries of Empire: Downplayed. When Jedao asks to be briefed on advancements in military technology so that he can catch up after several decades of being dormant. He notes with some annoyance that only a few minor things have changed.
  • Marooned in Realtime: Used as a central plot point, set in the distant future. A group of survivors have missed The Singularity and are stuck with only a handful of very advanced robots and tools that they cannot rebuild, effectively making further advances impossible.
  • Orthogonal features a small-scale, justified, and very unusual example that lasts about three years and Makes Much More Sense In Context. In The Arrows of Time, when the inhabitants of the Peerless construct a messaging system that allows them to send messages back in time, it results in the inability of anyone to come up with any new technological or scientific advances. This is pretty significant when you consider that up to this point, they have progressed from technology based on clockwork and combustion engines (or the equivalent thereof) to photonics (read: electronics) and nearly-Perpetual Motion Machines that are powered directly by light — all within six generations of the launch. Expand the note for the spoileriffic and VERY lengthy explanation given In-Universe. spoileriffic note 
  • Out of the Dark: The majority of the Galactic Hegemony races are herbivores and advance very slowly, while omnivores and carnivores advance faster, but not nearly as fast as humanity. Their visit is just in time to witness the Battle of Agincourt, which shocks them to the point where they start fearing humanity's savagery. The dominant herbivores give the carnivorous Shongairi permission to colonize Earth, and it takes them a few centuries to prepare. By the time their fleet arrives to Earth in the early 21st century, they're shocked to find the current state of affairs instead of the Industrial Revolution. This also affects their ground tech, which was primarily designed to subjugate primitive races and proves to be vulnerable to our modern equipment (or even Soviet tanks from thirty-forty years ago). Their space tech is a lot more advanced, though, and they have no problem dropping rocks on cities or military bases. In the second novel, this is expanded upon, including revealing the incredible level of redundancy in all their tech (which is rated to work reliably for centuries), which is rooted in extreme risk avoidance. They have a Post-Scarcity Economy, which reduces the need to advance, and the dominant herbivores further see no need to rock the boat. Also, life-extension treatments mean that their lifespans aren't as limited as human ones, which further works to stagnate their culture. It's also revealed that their computing technology is only incrementally better than human, even though they've been in space for hundreds of thousands of years. They have miniature quantum computers, but not even a hint of even rudimentary AI.
  • "Pay For The Printer", by Philip K. Dick: Humans have stopped building or researching anything and instead choose to rely on alien replicators to make copies of items they already possess.
  • Red Dwarf: When the gang get back to Earth in the first novel, not much has changed in three million years. The only new technology is Rimmer's solid body and time machine. Things even seem to have stepped backwards somewhat as there's only one mention of the Colonized Solar System from the start of the book. It's justified when they realize they're in a Lotus-Eater Machine.
  • Skylark Series: Played with. Several civilizations are trapped in stasis due to lack of specific high-end resources, sometimes for hundreds of generations. A few others think they're in this, usually bar an individual or small group suspecting more may be possible. Contact with the main characters usually shatters this stasis, be it forcing them to innovate to fight against our heroes or being given access to the heroes' knowledge and resources in exchange for their own.
  • The Space Odyssey Series: In 3001, the final sequel to his 2001, a 3001-version-of-TV presenter opines that a person from the year 2000 would have a much easier time of adjusting were he to be suddenly plopped into the year 3000 than a year 1000 man would adjusting to 2000, since the 3000 level of tech is relatively similar to the 2000 time, compared to the 1000-2000 difference. Not long after that Frank Poole, Dave Bowman's crewmember from the Odyssey, is discovered frozen floating in space and is brought back to life.
  • Star Wars Legends:
    • Han Solo and the Lost Legacy: Played with. The fabled lost treasure of a 25,000 year old galactic warlord turns out to be obsolete, an alloy that was used as hull plating before durasteel was invented and crystals employed in the very earliest Subspace Ansibles. However the battle droids guarding the treasure are easily a match for modern weaponry.
    • New Jedi Order: The Yuuzhan Vong suffer from this; they've been largely stagnant for millennia owing to the fact that their scientific caste, the shapers, value rote memorization of "protocols" over new research — stretching an existing protocol to new situations is acceptable, if somewhat dodgy, but inventing new ones will almost certainly get you executed as a heretic. The Vong's Organic Technology therefore only gets upgraded when their gods see fit to bestow new protocols which is actually the doing of a secret sect of heretical shapers who've been tasked to invent said "divine revelations". It's eventually revealed that the Vong lost most of their ability to innovate when the Genius Loci of their original homeworld, the source of the original protocols, cut them off.
  • Uplift explicitly plants the Galactic civilization in the middle of this trope. After hundreds of millions of years, their opinion is that everything that can be discovered has already been discovered. What makes humans special is their drive to continue discovery.
  • Voidskipper: Spacefaring civilization has long since mastered every single aspect of science. There ISN'T any new tech left to invent.

    Live Action TV 
  • An interesting variant appears in Stargate SG-1, in which the Goa'uld are shown in ancient Egypt sequences as using the same technology as they do in the regular episodes. In the time that humans went from simple bows to nuclear missiles, the Goa'uld haven't added trigger guards to their guns. This is justified by Goa'uld culture being antithetical to good scientific practice (although Goa'uld scientists like Nirrti and Nerus do exist), and all their technology being stolen anyway, but to be this extreme, they need to be quite the Planet of Hats.
    • The Goa'uld also have a very backstabby secretive culture amongst themselves. More innovative ones do exist, they're just disinclined to share their technology with their rivals. In addition, there are indications that tech does improve across the board in limited ways, most notably, early on, Teal'c gives an estimate for how long the ships will take to reach Earth, only for it to be a drastic overestimation, due to Apophis having obtained many of Ra's secret advances. Finally, much of their technology functions on crystals, which we see later that small internal changes to those can have drastic impacts on the effectiveness of the systems they control, without having any visible effect on the exterior of the ship.
    • It's shown a few times that some isolated worlds, free from Goa'uld control, had actually advanced further, technologically, than humans on Earth.
    • Better yet, in the episode "Line in the Sand" a Power Crystal from an Ori weapon is used to power an Ancient cloaking device. They use an adapter, but Carter still says the reason it works is that "Ancient and Ori technology is similar," despite that the two civilizations were isolated from each other for fifty million years. This is somewhat justified, however, as the Ori were obviously not the intrepid scientists the Ancients were. The split occurred when the Ancients were near the height of their development anyway, and technological repression was in full effect. Considering that the Stargates were canonically invented by Ancients after the split yet they have a working network, it would be fair to say that the Ori simply used Ancient knowledge to build their stuff.
    • Justification is given in show that the Goa'uld don't want the primitive humans and Jaffa under their rule to have any understanding of how their tech works, as it's better for the ignorant masses to think that tech is "Magic," that only their god/goddess can activate.
    • Strangely enough, this is averted by the titular Stargates themselves. The gates in the Pegasus and Milky Way galaxies are visibly different, reflecting different periods of Ancient design. The gates seeded in the galaxies Destiny is traveling through function visibly differently, and are implied or stated to be some of the very first Stargates ever built. We also see they're not as indestructible, and that is a problem.
    • Speaking of Stargate Universe, the creators give the reason for the Lucian Alliance's attack on Icarus Base being treated as serious (They only show up with two Ha'taks while the General Hammond is in orbit) is by telling the fans that they were assuming that technological development had not taken place between the end of Atlantis and the start of Universe. If it had stopped, the Hammond would have been able to get rid of the Alliance ships without much trouble. While it's not the exact quote, the producers basically said "the rest of the universe was not standing still while Earth progressed." Apparently, even if they look the same, what's under the hood of those pyramid ships is not the same as it was when we first saw them.
      • This plays into the Space Cold War setting that the writers of Universe wanted to create between Earth and the Lucian Alliance, resulting from the power vacuum created after the collapse of the Goa'uld Empire. The Lucian Alliance is shown infiltrating Earth using stealth ships and engaging in subterfuge (most of them are human, after all, and can blend in). One episode is devoted to trying to disable a bomb planted by a Lucian Alliance operative.
  • Star Trek: The various shows of the franchise span centuries: Star Trek: Enterprise is set in the 22nd century, Star Trek: The Original Series is set about a century later, and Star Trek: The Next Generation — roughly a century after that. Yet the basic technology used on each show remains the same. There is some change, but most of it is either purely cosmetic, or restricted to creating more efficient or more powerful versions of already-existing devices (and often this is a sort of Informed Ability — there's no real way to learn how a 24th century phaser compares to one from two centuries earlier, but they certainly seem to do the same thing as far as the viewer can tell). The phaser guns (Enterprise uses phase guns instead, which has to be different since someone who should know what he is talking about calls phasers a 23rd century invention, but in appearance and apparent functionality there's no difference), warp drives, and even transporters used in the 24th century seem to be essentially the same devices as those used in the 22nd. This is excusable for some things: For example, a hand-phaser from TOS and one from TNG or Star Trek: Deep Space Nine are only separated by about as much time as the Colt M1911 and the Glock 17, pistols that are vastly different in design, materials and construction techniques but which both use the same basic physical principles and are both equally capable of punching a hole in someone. In other cases... not so much; the viewer is certainly told that the 22nd century version of the Enterprise is slower than the 24th century version, but that doesn't prevent the earlier ship from exploring all sorts of exotic and unfamiliar locations that the later ship never visits, so the basic plot of visiting a brand-new Planet of Hats every week remains unchanged. For practical purposes, NX-01 and NCC-1701-E travel at the same speed - the Speed of Plot.
    • Enterprise and TOS starfleet ships are said to have a speed of Warp 5 while TNG era ships are seen capable of Warp 9.97%. There are also some design standards that change, more noticeably that the ships are more streamlined in after the Enterprise-D (said to compensate for a problem with travel at high warp speeds that was discovered at the tail end TNG) and more war focused (following the Borg attacks in TNG and the Dominion War in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine) ramped it into overdrive.note  Conversely, Star Fleet still operates the Excelsior Class, first introduce in the TOS movie era, but many people tend to justify it that real navy ships are designed to last for long periods of time and the Excelsior was surprisingly resilient in its capabilities (some Fan Wank even compare it to the real life A-10 Warthog which is surprisingly hard to kill on the battlefield and even harder to kill in the military's budgetingnote ). Also, the use of a mothball fleet might have brought some back to fill in with ship shortages from the Borg and Domminion war.
      • The continued use of designs is justified in-universe by ships receiving regular "under the hood" upgrades. In Paradise Lost a recently-refit Excelsior and the brand-new Defiant are a fairly even match.
    • In the Star Trek galaxy as a whole, this seems to be a bigger problem for other races than the Federation because Humans Advance Swiftly is in play. There is little difference between the Klingons' ships over the course of 2 centuries and the Cardassians, Romulans, and Dominion seem to have one or two ship class designs each (compared to the variety fielded by Starfleet). In Enterprise, this is specifically addressed when the Vulcans reveal they are withholding information from the humans because the humans have achieved warp flight and totally recovered from nuclear war in the span of decades. There are humans who were alive from the prelude to nuclear war who are now seeing quick journeys to other stars. Vulcans, by comparison, measure that same historical recovery time in millennia and were worried about getting left in the dust.
      Ambassador Soval: We had our wars, Admiral, just as Humans did. Our planet was devastated, our civilization nearly destroyed. Logic saved us. But it took almost 1500 years for us to rebuild our world and travel to the stars. You Humans did the same in less than a century. There are those on the High Command who wonder what Humans would achieve in the century to come. And they don't like the answer.
    • Two of the most notable real technological advances between Kirk's and Picard's eras are replicators and holodecks. It says a lot about the franchise that later works frequently try to retcon Kirk's era into having them. On-screen, the closest the original series ever came to depicting replicators on Kirk's Enterprise was the food synthesizers; and it was repeatedly made clear that being able to actually make useful objects out of energy/thin air was almost the defining characteristic of Sufficiently Advanced Aliens. In fairness, one episode of the Animated Series (produced before TNG) actually did depict Kirk's Enterprise with something comparable to a holodeck, long before TNG introduced it explicitly as a new invention; then an episode of Voyager established that holodecks had existed since Janeway was a child; and then an early episode of Enterprise exposed Archer's crew to some aliens with holodecks, who then gave it to the Klingons all those years before Kirk was even born (not that we ever saw Kirk-era Klingons use it).
    • The third big technological advance from Kirk's day, the invention of true A.I. in the form of Data, is properly treated as a big deal. And yet, an apparent advance that happens on-screen during the latter-day series, the gradual advancement of holodeck characters from soft into hard A.I.'s, is scarcely acknowledged, with most of the castmembers continuing to treat most of them as disposable toys.
  • Partly justified in Andromeda due to the 300-year dark age following the collapse of the Systems Commonwealth. Much of the technology was lost, although some worlds are shown to retain at least some of it. There are groups with more advanced tech, though, such as the Perseids.

    Multiple Media 
  • Zig-zagged in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. On one hand, new technologies are introduced from time to time, the Infinite Improbability Drive being the biggest example. On the other hand, the protagonists have traveled in time from two million years in the past to the literal end of the Universe, and the basic technology (FTL starships, Artificial Intelligence, Force Fields) seems to be similar everywhere. This receives a Lampshade of sorts in the books, where Ford deduces from a spaceship's antiquated design that they must be two million years in the past.
  • Transformers: Cybertronians generally start off well and advancing reasonably, but when the war between the Autobots and Decepticons inevitably kicks in, progress grinds to a halt as everything becomes devoted to the war effort. As beings that can live for millions of years and have wars just as long, Cybertronians generally don't have quite the need to advance as swiftly compared to others. This actually causes Thundercracker to leave the war altogether in IDW's run of comics when he saw humans had changed more in just a year and a half than his species had in his lifetime.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In BattleTech, a series of violent civil wars lasting three hundred years have destroyed almost all the factories for Battlemechs, JumpShips, and the equipment that goes into them. Battlemechs from 500 years ago are more advanced than the ones being built at the time. ComStar is dedicated to retrieving LosTech and preserving/worshiping it... And doing their level best to keep anyone else from salvaging or independently redeveloping it, by any means necessary.
    • This is eventually subverted as the timeline progresses. By the time of the FedCom Civil War and Word of Blake Jihad, the Inner Sphere powers have rediscovered and even improved upon Star League technology, or invented entirely new equipment.
    • And averted by the Clans, who brought the Star League's technology with them when they left and have actually improved on it.
  • In the original Dungeons & Dragons "Known World" campaign setting (later renamed Mystara), the ancient civilization of Blackmoor was technological, but destroyed itself in what is implied to have been a nuclear war. The Immortals decreed that this could never be allowed to happen again. However, they allowed one pocket of Blackmoor society to endure as a lost land in the Hollow World with the caveat that all of its simulated "technology" (servant robots and such) is actually magic based, and therefore impossible for its citizens to reverse engineer, reproduce, or improve upon. This in turn has resulted in the populace being lazy and decadent, since they have all these luxuries, but cannot ever expand or progress.
  • Warhammer 40,000: thanks to the Imperium of Man's Cargo Cult approach to maintaining technology and its leaders' unshakable belief that the Status Quo Is God, or rather that God is Status Quo, human technology and culture have remained largely unchanged for the past ten thousand years. The worlds of the Imperium are not all in close contact, so they can vary all the way from ray-guns-and-flying-cars futuristic to wood-and-stone primitives as the story demands.
    • This has bitten the Imperium in the ass on occasion. In one case a planetary purge and colonization was postponed indefinitely (due to a violent warp storm that enveloped the planet), which allowed the spear-wielding natives that would become the Tau to develop on their own for almost 6,000 years. The Imperium were more than a bit surprised when said spear-wielding natives showed up on some of their frontier colonies with railguns and plasma rifles; in fact, Tau "techno-sorcery" is often noted as being more advanced than those of their direct Imperial counterparts.
      • In fact, the Tau are the only major race (other than the constantly evolving Tyranids) to avoid this trope; every major update has them introducing new technology and/or making noticeable improvements to their already-existing equipment.
    • The Imperium's Adeptus Mechanicus are ultra-conservative techno-monks. They endlessly reproduce technology in quasi-religious ceremonies, but any new technology is often locked away for being "heretical". Getting them to accept even modifications to existing technology such as tank variants takes hundreds of years.
    • The Aeldari, as well as being quasi-immortal, have been trapped in a decadent, decaying culture since The Fall; expending their very limited resources on simply maintaining their existence in a universe where Everything Is Trying to Kill You. As a race who previously were able to move, kindle and quench stars and literally turn their very dreams into reality during their heyday, most of their "development" is just rediscovering their old technology caches and interrogating spirit-stones for past knowledge (a shame then that spirits are not always what you'd call quick or exact in their answers).
    • Ork culture is far too chaotic and violent to ever manage to develop very far and their basic technology is innate knowledge coded in their genes. That said, they have managed to develop rough-and-ready tractor beams and mass teleporters that are much more effective (if more dangerous to the user) than any other race's equivalents quite recently in the current setting. Of course, Orks aren't driven by the desire for improved life or scientific inquiry, they just want More Dakka. And most of their "technology" literally runs on enough Orks believing it works. Because of a combination of that and a lot of their tech being encoded in their DNA, the bigger the Ork faction the more advanced their technology; the Beast's empire had lots of technologies far ahead of the Imperium's, and at their height their Krork ancestors were about level with the Eldar at their own height (the two were created as weapons in the same war by the Old Ones).
    • The Necrontyr turned themselves into mindless automatons serving Cosmic Horrors. On the other hand, they are so far ahead of everyone else already that it hardly matters. The armies used on the tabletop are scouts and raiding parties; their full-powered war machines aren't even reactivated yet. While their new backstory gives them more autonomy, most of them are still little more than mindless machines. Most of the lords with free will are also too crazy or obsessed with their own personal agendas to give any thought to improving their already impressive technology.
    • The Tau are the major Aversion: They have and do produce ever-improving technology, most notably in the form of Powered Armor and Humongous Mecha. They're actually the youngest race in the setting, having moved from pre-industrial levels to their current state in just six-thousand years (not bad on its own, light-speed compared to the other races listed here).
  • Traveller did this twice. Once it was a deliberate act of social engineering by the rulers of the First Imperium who thought it necessary for order. The second time, during the later Third had reasons unexplained.
    • There was some fiddling with this; one try was that the Imperium is so big that no local innovation goes very far and getting the capital to change technology on an Imperial level is very difficult, while low tech-level worlds find it easier just to import. There are however plenty of imaginative variants of old designs in the Third Imperium and unlike the First Imperium there is no official policy of suppression with the exception of specific forbidden or discouraged categories like psionics. Also, local planetary culture and economic development hinders tech growth, no planet wants to become so dependent on high external technology or imports that they cannot sustain themselves without interstellar travel, given the example of the Long Night.
  • In Fading Suns the Urth Orthodox church considers technology to be sinful and blames it for the fall of the Second Republic over a thousand years ago. In addition the only known extant alien race with more advanced technology, the Vau, haven't shown any technological advancement since they were contacted centuries ago.
  • In Mutant Chronicles, technology advancement has come to a standstill, this is due to the Dark Symmetry causing computers to go haywire, leaving the MegaCorps stuck in a Diesel Punk state.
  • In Hc Svnt Dracones the big seven MegaCorps that own the solar system aren't interested in rocking the boat and actively suppress most major technological advances through buyouts and corporate espionage. However, a new Mega-Corp called Lumen has appeared out of nowhere and thrown the system into chaos by offering FTL travel and extreme miniaturization, run by hyperintelligent AI running a social experiment

    Video Games 
  • In Knights of the Old Republic, there are few noticeable technological differences (except the use of swords) with the society depicted in the Star Wars film franchise, despite the series being set thousands of years in the past. The only big difference is the presence of kolto, a precursor to the much more ubiquitous bacta used in later games.
    • Star Wars: The Old Republic continues this trend, making the war with the Sith look a lot like a fight between the Grand Army of the Republic of the prequels and the Galactic Empire of the original trilogy but with more lightsabers.
    • In many areas the technology of the Star Wars galaxy at large seems to have regressed in 4000 years. The Knights of the Old Republic era possessed personal energy shields on a wide scale, blasters so energy efficient that they seem to hardly ever need replacement power cells, even the cheapest and thus least effective droids are capable of standing toe to toe with a Jedi, etc. All of which are nonexistent or demonstrably superior to any of the comparable technology in the time of the movies - personal shields, while still effective, are so rare that only Kyle Katarn and those closely affiliated with him are known to make extensive use of them; "modern" blaster pistols and rifles require replacing the power packs after every 20 to 50 shots; regular humans, including the aforementioned Kyle Katarn and Dash Rendar, can take battle droids out with ease, etc.
    • There does seem to have been a massive jump very recently; personal shields are explcitly a new innovation made from reverse-engineered precursor tech, for example. It's also noticably closer to the films than it is to the Exar Kun war as depicted in Tales of the Jedi, which in the first game was recent enough that party members took part in it.
    • Part of this was Executive Meddling. The developers did want to make some things look more dated or low-tech compared to the main Star Wars setting, but were prevented from doing so by the powers that be since they wanted it to still be recognizable as Star Wars.
  • Halo
    • The Covenant got all their advanced technology from reverse-engineering Forerunner tech, and are stated to have become surprisingly bad at higher mathematics. Also not helping is their 40k-esque religious refusal to improve on (or even better understand) what they already have.
    • Cleanly averted by humanity, however, which continually innovates throughout the franchise to improve their odds of survival.
    • Also averted by post-Schism Covenant remnants, with the background material stating that the Elites in particular have been actively working to improve their technology, and succeeding surprisingly well; it helps that some of them have been open to learning from humanity.
  • Homeworld: The modern Taiidan navy's ships are on par with Kushan ships reverse-engineered from a 4,000-year old Taiidani Colony Ship. Specifically, the strikecraft that the Kushan are initially able to build are functionally identical to Taiidani strikecraft, though the frames and weaponry of larger ships have to be reverse-engineered from captured Taiidani ships or purchased from the Bentusi, who have maintained their technological superiority over the rest of the galaxy for even longer.
  • The Mass Effect universe has a zig-zagging example of the trope. On one hand, technology doesn't seem to have advanced by as much as it "should" have since Citadel Council Space was formed 2,700 years ago; from what we can tell, even then everyone was still using railguns, antimatter bombs, eezo-based FTL drives, omni-tools, and so on. The one time we know a character actively advocated a massive new technological innovation (Matriarch Aethyta, a barmaiden on Illium), the galactic community "laughed the blue off [her] ass"; after all, why did they need to build new Mass Relays when these ones are just fine? On the other hand, we do know that their technology has made significant advances incrementally, with the codex referencing things like an early era of space warfare where kinetic barriers didn't exist. The games themselves show that technology is constantly moving forward, examples including more powerful "heat sink," based weapons being invented between the first and second games, advances in cybersecurity between the first and second games rendering terminals omni-gel proof, the Normandy's stealth drive going from experimental and unique in the first game to mass-produced and scaled up for dreadnoughts by the third, and the specialized healing armor from the first game being refined to the point its systems can be economically mass-produced and made standard in every suit of armor. Various flavor text states in more general terms that the galaxy's corporations are constantly trying to one-up each other with advances in every field from biotechnology to computer science to food science to cosmetics, it's just that such advances wouldn't be very noticeable from the audience's point of view (it is, after all, a borderline Military Science Fiction franchise).
    • You also have the geth, the machine race that happen to not only have the most advanced technology (aside from the Reapers) and progress at the fastest rate, but since they believe in self determination, all of their tech is of their own design (though it descends from quarian technology). Multiple characters note that the geths' path of advancement was unique and unexpected. By the third game they've even built a Dyson Sphere.
    • The races of Mass Effect have also shown an unusually strong talent for reverse-engineering, likely due to having reverse-engineered much of their native tech from the mass relays to begin with. In Mass Effect: Andromeda, a tiny isolated group of extragalactic colonists are able to produce working prototypes of completely alien technology within a few weeks, even integrating said technology into their own designs (e.g. Remnant small arms). Speaking of which, the whole plot of Andromeda is reliant on a recent technological advancement: the ODSY drive, which minimizes static build-up and transfers the remaining charge to specially designed capacitors attached to the core. The recycled electricity is used to run ship systems, reducing power requirements and lowering heat generation, allowing ships to maintain FTL travel indefinitely (the Andromeda Initiative's ships stayed FTL for 600 years straight, whereas in previous games ships had to stop to waste heat after less than a week of FTL travel). The Andromeda Initiative's R&D sector is also stated to have made great breakthroughs in fuel efficiency.
    • A large part of the setting's seeming stasis is due to the Reapers deliberately engineering circumstances so that the races of the Milky Way become reliant on mass relay tech and less willing to innovate, enabling the Reapers to maintain a huge tech advantage during their scheduled purges. Relatedly, one reason the Mass Effect races have a fighting chance is thanks to Benevolent Precursors sabotaging the Reapers' primary path into the galaxy, postponing the purge by several thousand years and allowing the modern races to develop further than they were meant to.
  • StarCraft:
    • Protoss war-tech has experienced little to no innovation for thousands of years. The had such a huge technological advantage over other races in their area of space that innovation was unnecessary. The manual of the first game mentions many of their terrifying "military" units are actually re-purposed civilian equipment. This changes after the events of the first game (particularly the arrival of the zerg) made it painfully clear that they need new and better weapons to survive. While many of their new units in the sequel are dusted off war machines they haven't used for ages, some of them are wholly new or upgraded versions of old units. The Immortals for example are souped-up Dragoons — having lost the means to create more Dragoons with the loss of Aiur, the Protoss are doing everything they can to make sure the ones they still have last as long as possible.
    • Much of the Legacy of the Void campaign is spent searching for caches of ancient protoss technology, and armies, to aid the war effort. Often the ancient tech appears to be more advanced than "modern" protoss technology, which is somewhat justified by a robot rebellion in the distant past, which resulted in the protoss ceasing all artificial intelligence research.
    • When the United Earth Directorate's expeditionary fleet arrives in the Koprulu sector in Brood War, it turns out that their military technology is nigh-identical to what the terran states are using, even though the terrans are descended from a group of Earth colonists who arrived in the Koprulu sector nearly 300 years ago (you can even seen pseudo-terran battlecruisers departing from Earth in one cinematic). The StarCraft Field Manual explains that because the terrans and Earthlings have a "shared history", they have similar "force capabilities", implying that the UED hasn't really advanced in the past couple hundred years.
  • In Galactic Civilizations, most of the different alien species seemed to hit a dead end once they got into space, with the ridiculously expensive Stargates being the final big innovation. The reason seems to be that none of the various civilizations were able to figure out fusion power, being stuck at nuclear fission, and the backstory suggests that this state of affairs persists for over 70,000 years. Then the Terrans came along with fusion power, combined it with the Stargate tech to create a ship-portable Hyperdrive, inexplicably gave the plans away to everybody else, and this opens the floodgates on technological innovation once again.
  • Justified in Final Fantasy X, as an Eldritch Abomination Space Whale targets anyone who develops enough technology or grows large enough to threaten the balance of stasis. Even Bevelle, which stays technologically dominant thanks to a deterrent in the form of an imprisoned, insane humongous mecha, seeks to suppress technological growth in order to maintain total control of whatever the Space Whale isn't targeting.
  • In Cyberpunk 2077 the world during the flashback sections where you play as Johnny Silverhand seem to be technologically identical to 2077, despite being set 60 years in the past. It's given a grim justification, though, by the Crapsack World nature of the setting, subtly lampshaded in a few throw-away lines throughout the main story. The people in power, first of all the Mega-Corp leaders like Saburo Arasaka, are paranoid about keeping the status quo going on forever, since any significant change would upset the balance of power and threaten their cherished lifestyle of infinite luxury. No wonder nothing's changing societally, technologically or otherwise.

  • The Nemesites in The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob! are a multi-million year old civilization, and they apparently went this route by choice. Notably, it's not that they don't have more advanced tech than we commonly see them using — when they pull out the big stuff, they verge into Sufficiently Advanced Aliens status — but traditionally, they feel that if they remove all challenges from daily life, they risk turning into decadent vegetables. Voluptua claims many civilizations have destroyed themselves this way, and the successful ones are the ones who find some happy medium they're comfortable living with day-to-day (though they don't all pick the same self-imposed limits).
  • Schlock Mercenary: The Pan'nuri have spent eons suppressing the Milky Way in technological stasis to prevent them from re-inventing extremely convenient teleportation technology that acts as a galaxy-wide Brown Note to Pan'nuri and only Pan'nuri. The series is all about breaking this stasis (and gravity for that matter) for the money.
    • They sponsored the Gatekeepers to secretly mind-clone and interrogate anyone of note so they could manipulate the whole galaxy to remain Low Culture, High Tech. Tagon's Toughs breaking the Gatekeepers' spines sets off the main plot of the series.
    • The Obenn found a Precursor cache of raw materials and technology. This made them a major player in the galaxy, but their technology has utterly stagnated for the past 500 years, as one of their AI in centuries-old stasis manages to overthrow them with human technology in a matter of months.

    Western Animation 
  • Averted in Steven Universe: In the thousands of years since the Crystal Gems chased them off of Earth, the Homeworld Gems have continued to develop their technology, to the point that the most powerful weapons the Crystal Gems have are unable to even scratch a modern Gem ship. A warning sent to them is nearly unheard because their receiver is designed to handle audio signals, and the message was a video transmission. Aesthetically, the old ships look like Flying Saucers made mostly of stone, while the modern ships seen resemble body parts or more circular shapes, and are made of a material that looked more like metal or plastic. The latter even appears to have an Alcubierre Drive, which is implied to be much faster than the method the old ships used, allowing travel to the extra-galactic Homeworld within hours, where it was previously implied that the colony ships would take some time to reach a new world, with faster transport between planets being dependent on interplanetary Warp Pads.
  • In the Love, Death & Robots short "Pop Squad", human beings have developed flying cars, skyscrapers that reach above the clouds, and clinical immortality... but culturally people are locked in a futuristic version of The Roaring '20s, and have been for untold thousands of years. Part of it is because everyone lives forever and having children is not allowed, so they have no need to strive or make anything new; they just cling to the relics of the past while their own civilization is literally crumbling under their feet.