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What Other Galaxies?

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When "the Galaxy" and "the Universe" are used interchangeably, either in the logic of the plot or explicitly.

Compare with the unconfused tropes The Milky Way Is the Only Way and Small Universe After All. As well as a similar error Everything in Space Is a Galaxy


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    Comic Books 
  • Marvel Comics are usually consistent about events spanning multiple galaxies (the big three empires in the Marvel Universe operate in galaxies outside the Milky Way), but on occasion...
    • Galactus is almost always found looking for food in the Milky Way Galaxy, despite the billions of other edible planets elsewhere.
    • The Guardians of the Galaxy do this just by name alone, both original and modern, since their remit is protecting the entire universe (when they can). In fairness, "Guardians of the Universe" was taken.
    • On a related note, Gamora is often called the Deadliest Woman in the Galaxy.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • In Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, the Great Barrier was planned to be located at the center of the universe, but was changed to be located at the center of the Milky Way Galaxy. Beyond the Great Barrier is Sha Ka Ree, where creation is said to have begun, as if the center of the Milky Way Galaxy were the center of the universe.
  • Despite having access to faster-than-light travel (called Hyperspace), the Empire from Star Wars acts like there's nothing to control beyond one single galaxy (and, in the Expanded Universe, seems not to care very much about the satellite galaxies of its one). This may be excusable, however. Hyperdrive technology is shown as taking a while to get you anywhere. Expanded Universe materials establish that it takes months to get from one side of the galaxy to the other, gravity wells can pull you out and wreck you, and finding safe hyperroutes is both very dangerous and very random. The Empire may just not want to take the risks or spend the logistics of traveling to other galaxies when they have superweapons to build instead. Legends continuity states that while there are other galaxies, there's a hyperspace disturbance at the edge of the main galaxy preventing travel in and out; there's only one known place where the barrier doesn't work.
    • Hyperspace travel is said to be 100,000 times faster than light speed. The diameter of the Milky Way is at least 100,000 light-years, meaning it would take at least a year for a ship at this speed to traverse the entire galaxy. The distance between the Milky Way and the next closest galaxy, Andromeda, is approximately 2.5 million light years. This makes the travel time via Hyperspace at least 25 years. The galaxy we see in Star Wars is said to be about the size of the Milky Way, so it's reasonable to suppose a similar distance to the next nearest galaxy.

    Film — Animation 
  • Although Steven Universe once mentioned Gems as having colonies in multiple galaxies, Steven Universe: The Movie uses "galaxy" and "universe" pretty interchangeably. For instance, the prologue states that the Diamonds "conquered many worlds across the galaxy", but a signal to all their colonies is referred to as a "message to the universe".

  • The Ellimist and Crayak in the Animorphs books are embedded into the fabric of spacetime, and know that they could destroy the universe. But they only play their Great Game in the Milky Way. The Ellimist alludes to there existing beings like himself and Crayak in other galaxies: Crayak himself originally fled to this galaxy to escape one!
  • Isaac Asimov's Foundation Series:
    • Second Foundation: The stories originally handled the difference between the Milky Way galaxy and the universe (including multiple galaxies) correctly, but Taglines and back cover blurbs from Panther and Avon conflate the two as if they were synonymous.
    • Foundation and Earth: It's a Plot Point during the climax that Absent Aliens only applies to the Milky Way, and just because there aren't any aliens in this galaxy (Except for the Solarians) doesn't mean that aliens don't exist in other galaxies.
      "Yet we speak so much and so often of the Galaxy that it is all but impossible for us to see that this is not enough. The Galaxy is not the universe. There are other galaxies." —Golan Trevize
  • In The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, the Milky Way is the only galaxy ever specifically mentioned, even though the outlandish technology we see would presumably make intergalactic travel feasiblenote . The most notable references to "the Universe" are either metaphysical ("the Answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything") or temporal (the titular "Restaurant at the End of the Universe" is permanently located at the end of time itself). There is at least one mention of a wider physical universe, when someone speculates that the enigmatic Galactic President may in fact rule all of it.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Doctor Who sometimes gets these mixed up, but averts it in that the Doctor does occasionally visit other galaxies besides ours (although Humans Are Special and Earth is their favorite planet).
  • In Star Trek, most of the important activity in the universe appears to take place in the Milky Way Galaxy, even when dealing with the most ancient civilizations.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Isaac Asimov's Robots: The cover of the game conflates the fate of Earth (which you can save by correctly solving the mystery) with the fate of the galaxy (which the cover claims is at stake).
  • In Warhammer 40,000:
    • The Gods of the Warp live in the "immaterium", a sort of Spiritual counterpart to the Milky Way and want to merge the two. Whether or not this extends to the rest of the Universe is up for debate, in and out of story (although as the chaos Gods are the embodiment of rage, lust, hope and love felt by sentients, it could be that there's not much out there).
    • The Tyranids have been theorized to be from another galaxy entirely, and actually on the run from something even worse than them.
    • For humans, FTL Travel is only possible in the range of the psychic beacon of the Astronomican, which is on Earth and doesn't even cover the totality of the galaxy (and, as of 8th edition, has been cut off from about half of its former range). So for all intents and purposes, there is no universe outside the Milky Way.

    Video Games 
  • Halo:
    • In the Halo 4 marketing, the Didact was portrayed as a threat to the universe.
    • In a non-marketing example from Halo: Silentium, the Precursors claim to be hundreds of billions years old, far older than the universe. Then what were they all doing in the same galaxy, to be wiped out by the Forerunner?
  • Super Mario Galaxy seems to avert this, but it is an Exaggerated example. Rosalina claims Earth's sun is the center of the whole universe, conflating the Universe not with a galaxy, but with one solar system!
  • The Reapers of Mass Effect are sentient cyborg spaceships which reside just outside the rim of our galaxy and return every 50,000 years to forcefully convert sentient species that achieved space travel into more Reapers, "honoring" them with immortality and (allegedly) preventing a catastrophic war between organic races and the artificial intelligence they would otherwise create. For some reason, the Reapers never expand the scope of their mission to galaxies beyond the Milky Way, despite having FTL technology capable of travelling there in mere hundreds of years while they themselves are billions of years old.
    • A possible explanation could be found at the end of Mass Effect 3. In short, the reapers were created in a failed attempt to stop a Vicious Cycle that caused problems in the Milky Way a billion years ago. It's possible they don't travel to Andromeda or the Megellianic Clouds because they only care about the Milky Way's problems, not theirs.
  • No Man's Sky features countless of stars in its own galaxy. That's the only galaxy there is unless you get to the center of the galaxy and follow the main plot to find out, that the whole universe is a simulation that needs to be reset by you, which allows you the choice of what kind of galaxy should replace the current one. But then again, you can freely travel between galaxies (there are more than one or two), but they are treated as different iterations from the original galaxy and are basically treated as being another dimension or parallel universe from the previous one, as they are part of a different simulation of the same AI, the Atlas.

    Real Life 
  • This was the view held by scientists until The Roaring '20s, when it was clear that a lot of objects considered as "nebulae" were actually galaxies (more or less) like our Milky Way. Conversely, in the very distant future (trillions of years), if the Universe keeps increasing the acceleration of its expansion, the light emitted from distant galaxies will have a wavelength longer than the size of the observable universe, putting them beyond the cosmological horizon and making them undetectable in any way. At that point an observer inside their own galaxy would look out and see... nothing at all. Any conclusion that they live in a larger universe with many galaxies will have to be done either by inference or from reference to truly ancient records, rather than observation. note