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"Space is super could even say super duper large. Yes, bigger than a baseball stadium. Even bigger than America. Even though it's so large there are always idiots who come to Earth."
Doctor Slump Act One, A Far Off Hope

Sci-fi writers cannot determine length or distance.

For example, in 2017 a "nearby star" was found to have at least 3 Earth-sized planets in the habitable zone of that star. The "nearby star" is 40 light-years from Earth; that's only about 23,500,000,000,000,000 miles from Earth. 24.7 million times the distance from the Earth to the Sun.


Compare Conveniently Close Planet, which is a Sub-Trope of this subpage.

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    Anime and Manga 
  • The Five Star Stories: The eponymous Five Stars are most commonly referred to as "The Joker Star Cluster", even though real clusters contain thousands of stars, but it's also referred to as the Joker Galaxy, which is even worse, and the Joker Constellation, which doesn't make sense either, since constellations are only called as such by people who can see them from a distance (and from one specific location. If you were to look at the constellation "Ursa Major" from the side, it wouldn't look anything like what we thought it would). It could possibly be a star cluster if the Five Stars are just the only ones with habitable planets out of a cluster of thousands. It could also be a multiple star system of five stars orbiting a common center of mass.
  • The title theme song for the 1963 version of Astro Boy starts with: "Astro Boy, past the stars / On your way out to Mars!" Talk about taking the scenic route...
  • Voltron's opening narration mentions how a Galaxy Alliance was formed "with the good planets of the solar system" to maintain "peace throughout the universe". There are (an estimated) 100 billion stars in the Milky Way Galaxy alone, and only 7 billion people on earth. Then there are the other 100 billion galaxies throughout the universe . . .
    • Also, at one point Voltron's top speed is given as Mach 10. For reference, under ideal orbital conditions, a ship travelling from Earth to Mars at Mach 10 would take six months to get there, yet some episodes have Voltron travel to another star system and back in a single episode.
    • Some episodes have planet-based weapons firing on other star systems. The orbital mechanics make the window of time for the weapon to even be pointed in the right direction be minuscule, not counting the time it takes for the attack to reach its target.
  • Battle of the Planets: "G-Force: protecting Earth's entire galaxy!" Five people. And a robot.
  • A aversion in INVADERS of the ROKUJYOUMA!?: Theiamillis' challenge was to claim dominion over a randomly chosen set of coordinates out of the entire galaxy, which just happened to be the location of Koutarou's apartment. Ruth actually points out that this is the first time in the Empire's history that the coordinates weren't empty space: previous challengers could simply drop a beacon on the spot and call it good. Later in the series, Ruth figures that Theia's mother had hacked the system specifically to send her there, having met Kotarou years before via time travel.

    Comic Books 
  • New Avengers #19-20. Iron Man has a space-ready suit that breaks Earth's atmosphere to reach a small asteroid where Earth is seen with enough stars to look like a shot from Hubble. Retreating from a cosmic being who can fly across North America easily, Iron Man flies in an arc that goes behind our view of Earth, which looks like he's traveled more than 1/4 the diameter of the planet. He goes back to Earth's surface on Genosha, an island the size of the country Malawi, that looks like it could be jogged across when Magneto is levitated over it. Iron Man again goes from Earth's surface to space, keeping up with the Sentry near the moon. The Sentry travels from here to the sun and stares a couple of feet away from its surface, which looks like a distance shot or a small model. Iron Man goes from space to back on Genosha. This whole sequence takes less than a day.
  • Someone forgot just how far sending reaches in ElfQuest: The Searcher and the Sword. There are two bits worked out here: First, the troll tunnels that are so far underground that sending can't reach them, and secondly, Shuna and her friends being so far away from the hole that Dart must extend his sending "past the limits of his own range". Despite that, a half-dozen elves manage to clamber up a nearly vertical tunnel from the troll tunnels to the surface — without getting exhausted doing so, or, for that matter, losing breathable air. And just after Dart pushes his thoughts "past the limits of his own range," he leads Shuna in a wild dash for maybe a few blocks' worth of forest.
  • Another Marvel example, this time an aversion: When Quasar (Wendell Vaughn) visits Uranus (stop snickering) to explore the supposed origin of his power bands, the trip takes over two years, requiring hibernation and artificial life-support.
    • He's able to go back in just a few minutes, but that's because on Uranus he discovered the Quantum Zone.
    • In another issue of Quasar, super-speedsters have a race to the Moon. Despite their speed, it takes them hours to arrive. Mark Gruenwald actually did quite a bit of research for Quasar.
  • In Starman, when Jack Knight goes into space in a rocket that can travel faster than light, he assumes that getting to the Large Magellanic Cloud will be a cinch. He is told that it will take in excess of 80,000 years.
  • Antarctic Press: In Gold Digger, the main cast travels to the planet where another cast member's people originally came from to colonize Earth, 50,000 years before, in about one day. The planet is 500 million light years away - which would land it well, WELL outside the Virgo supercluster (The supercluster which the galactic cluster which the local group of galaxies which our galaxy is a part of, is a part of, is a part of) - a distance that can be drawn quite visibly on a reasonably-sized map of the universe. The distance has since been amended to 5000 light years. It is also never explained how these people decided to colonize a planet that is so very far away from them.
  • At the start of the Aliens: Female War miniseries, Aliens are running rampant on the Earth, across multiple continents. Our heroes dump a queen alien and a bomb in a bunker in the middle of America, wait for her to call all the aliens on Earth to her, and then set off the bomb, thus eliminating all aliens on Earth. It's implied the waiting is not longer than a few hours. How did aliens halfway around the world get to the bunker in a few hours, given that they're not shown piloting vehicles? In the novel version of Aliens: Female War, the heroes decide to set the bomb's timer for six months, to allow the aliens to get there from all over the planet.
  • The Green Lantern corps divides the entire Milky Way Galaxy into 3600 sectors, each of which is patrolled by two Green Lanterns. This means each pair of Green Lanterns has to police a region of space equal to a cube 1300 light-years on a side. On average, such a region would contain about a million stars, and that's not even including red dwarfs and brown dwarfs.
    • Even worse: there are some continuities where they are divided into 3600 sectors across the UNIVERSE. Take the ridiculousness of the number of star systems patrolled in the above example, and apply it to entire galaxies.
    • Not quite as bad, but still pretty weird, at one time, some bright spark at DC had the idea that each sector was a circular segment (they didn't mention depth) that spanned 1/10th of a degree, centred on Oa. A simple calculation shows that this gives each GL a sector-shaped like a piece of pie, varying in width from zero at the "point" (Oa) to over 100 light-years at the "crust" end (at the edge of the galaxy); what happens about the galactic halo and distances normal to the plane of the main disc was never mentioned. If there are 3600 sectors to the universe, the whole thing becomes even crazier!
  • Discussed in Secret Wars. When the villains are leaving Battleworld with the Colorado town taken from Earth, they're confident that the Molecule Man would be able to fly them home, while Dr. Octopus is the only one who seems to understand the vast distances involved: "An ant in the middle of the Sahara has a better chance of reaching Hawaii! Even in the off chance that we're going in the right direction, we're still millions of light years from Earth. We've only gone a few million miles so far; we're not even out of sight of Battleworld yet! [...] I'd rather take my chances on Battleworld than die of old age floating aimlessly through space!" Fortunately, after Otto's rant, the Molecule Man figures out how to teleport and gets them home shortly.
  • Marvel, again, with the opening story of Jonathan Hickman's Avengers, wherein the Avengers have a jet/spaceship that can travel to and from Mars within mere hours, giving Captain America enough time to recover from a savage beating, get changed, rustle up some new Avengers and get back to Mars before the people he left there are killed or hurt in any way.
  • Subverted in Paperinik New Adventures: even going from Earth to somewhere as close as Venus is treated as next to impossible in a reasonable time, at least without an FTL drive. This also helps to underscore the technological divide between Earth and the Evronians, as the latter can move from an unspecified point in the asteroid belt to Earth in a matter of hours with vehicles as small as large carpets (even if it's hinted it was almost to the limits of that vehicle, it's still rightly impressive), and just how powerful Xadhoom is, given that she plays the Casual Interstellar Travel trope straight.
  • In the first issue of Valérian, he mentions Arcturus being several thousand lightyears from Earth, even though it's only 36.7 in Real Life.
  • There are many examples of Superman hearing something hundreds or thousands of miles away as it is happening. Even assuming the sound wave could reach his ears without interference, it should take several hours to reach him if he's in Europe and the event occurs back home in Metropolis. Even if he were as close as 50 miles away, it would take 4 minutes for the sound to reach him.
    • The worst example was when he heard the sound of a gunshot (to be fair, he was actively listening for it) and managed to fly across town and catch the bullet before it had crossed the room.

    Fan Works 
  • Avatars II: When Qwaritch Takes Revenge has the titular Miles Qwaritch leaving Earth and returning to Pandora in the 4 minutes 35 seconds that the song Welcome to the Jungle lasts. Pandora is a planet orbiting Alpha Centauri, and the ships in the source material take six years to make the journey.
  • Possibly overlapping with No Sense Of Mass, in one episode of Pokemon Tabletop Utopus Region Lavi intercepts a Donphan and soccer kicks into the air to stop it stampeding Jade. The GM says that he gets it about ten metres into the air. Given that Donphans weigh 120kg, a kick with that kind of strength would be packing 25,400-29,500 Newtons of force, depending on the angle he kicked it at. Which is over ten times the amount required to crush a human skull. The more likely prospect is that the GM was exaggerating.
  • Child of the Storm generally tries to avert this when it comes up (which it usually doesn't, thanks to portal technology and hyperspace travel), with the author pointing out just how vast galaxies are, especially as compared to individual solar systems (this usually in respect to people who assume that the scale goes 'planet' to 'star' to 'solar system' to 'galaxy'). However, as he also admits, he is a humanities graduate, not a scientist.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • This one is pretty hard to believe, usually, science fiction writers overshoot, send something too far or list too many lightyears. But on the back of the DVD/Blu-ray box for the movie Pandorum claims that the ship the movie takes place on is a mere 500 miles away from the planet Earth. For reference, the Moon is 221,456 miles away. This is thankfully not used in the actual film, so it's less the sci-fi writers and more their marketing department on this one.
  • Starship Troopers
    • Not so much a problem of distance as of volume, but the movie has starships flying so close together (while in orbit!) that one of them crashes into another when shot. Space is big, there's plenty of room. If you're flying within visual distance of another ship and you're not trying to dock with them (or ram them, which is another problem entirely), something is wrong. (This incident is actually taken directly from the book, but that only passes responsibility for the problem rather than solving it.)
    • There's also the issue of the bugs directing an asteroid at a planet half a galaxy away and hitting. They're also patient enough to wait centuries (if not millennia) for that to happen, given the asteroid's speed.note 
  • Paul. The eponymous Paul has said that he comes from the "northern spiral of the Andromeda Galaxy". Aren't there plenty of nice spirals in the Milky Way? If "northern" means "galactic north", then the "northern spiral arm" of a galaxy is sort of like the northernmost point on the equator. The only way that made sense was if he was referring either to the north(-eastern) part of Andromeda as seen from Earth, or from where it's located that galaxy from said planet's perspective.note  In both cases, from the perspective of someone living in the Andromeda Galaxy this is totally nonsensical.
  • In the original theatrical and VHS extended cuts of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, the V'Ger cloud was described as "82 AUs" in diameter. In the DVD director's cut, the "eighty-" part is removed. While at first glance, it seems like 2 AUs is a bit too far in the other direction, when you consider (a) the fact that an AU (astronomical unit) is the distance from the Earth to the Sun, 150 million kilometers or a little over eight light-minutes, (b) that the Star Trek Encyclopedia pegs the Enterprise's top sublight speed around 0.25c, and (c) the amount of time spent just sitting there... the math actually (kinda) works!
    • Played straight: the cloud is considered so far away that the USS Enterprise is the only starship capable of reaching it in time. On the other hand, it's described as on a direct trajectory toward Earth.
  • In Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, the Klingon Bird-of-Prey HMS Bounty travels at warp speed around the sun. Comparing the scale of the ship to the sun, the sun would be the size of a small world. The Bounty is supposed to be getting closer to the sun by the visual Friction Burn indicating proximity. The image on the viewscreen is more like the perspective of the sun from the Earth, forgetting that the sun is many times larger than the Earth, and getting up close would make it too large to see. The camera stops at this vantage point, indicating whatever distance it is from the sun to the viewer, and stops, as the Bounty disappears from the right side and reappears on the left, as if it just passed behind the image of the sun at impulse speed, reappearing near the same point but on the other side, still maintaining the same Friction Burn, as if instead of lightspeed the ship just casually sailed around the model, because there's no way to convey the true magnitude of the sun.
  • Star Trek V: The Final Frontier:
    • Kirk is shown to be on Earth at the beginning. After Sybok commandeers the Enterprise, he heads for the center of the galaxy (according to Chekov they travel at warp 7). The entire journey from Earth to the center of the galaxy would take decades, yet in the film, it happens in just a day or two.
    • At the beginning of the film a Klingon vessel shoots up the Pioneer 10 probe. Unless it fell through a Negative Space Wedgie like V'Ger or was tethered by some warp-capable species for whatever reason, they are about one 1/100th of a light year away from Earth.
  • At the beginning of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country Captain Sulu logs that his ship, the Excelsior is heading home at full impulse power after cataloguing anomalies in the Beta Quadrant. The Beta Quadrant is one-quarter of the Milky Way Galaxy. Impulse power is a sublight drive. Earth is in the Alpha Quadrant. He must not have wanted to get home that quickly. While Earth is on the border of the Alpha and Beta Quadrants, it's still interstellar distances. Kirk later says that they're 1,000 light years from Earth.
  • Star Trek: Generations:
    • Malcolm McDowell's fiendish plot involves blowing up a star.. with a dinky little rocket that is perhaps maybe 12 feet long, tops, and does not at all appear to have a warp drive - based on its contrail and that it doesn't immediately blink out of sight upon activation, and yet still somehow manages to hit the sun about 8 seconds after being launched. RedLetterMedia calls this 'Wile E. Coyote Logic' and it's kind of hard to deny it. When the star goes dark, this occurs almost immediately after the missile hits it. In reality, a planet orbiting in the habitable zone around the star should have been at least several light-minutes away, resulting in a delay before the change in the star's brightness could be seen from the planet. And it should take, oh, a few hundred thousand years.
    • Another especially egregious example is in the opening. The Enterprise-B is taking her maiden voyage and is the only ship within range able to respond to a distress call three lightyears away. That's between Sol and Alpha Centauri. They're on their maiden voyage from Earth, which is the capital of the Federation and the headquarters of Starfleet. And the only ship that's remotely operational is one which won't get most of its equipment until Tuesday.
  • Star Trek (2009):
    • A supernova destroys Romulus. Now, the Romulans have faster-than-light travel and an interstellar empire. The blast wave from a supernova only travels at the speed of light (this is ironically established as canon in Star Trek: Generations, even though light apparently travels faster-than-light in that movie). This raises the question of how the Romulans failed to notice a nearby star collapsing and getting ready to go supernova, and how, in all the years it would have taken the blast wave to reach Romulus, they failed to do anything about it. Ultimately retconned by Star Trek: Picard, which establishes that it was Romulus's own sun that exploded (which is marginally better but introduces new problems due to how stellar life-cycles work), that work was in progress to evacuate the system more than two years prior, and that enough Romulans survived to form an apparently stable successor state.
    • Scotty states the current limitations of the transporter technology to be that you can transport a grapefruit-sized object about a hundred miles away. Which makes absolutely zero sense when in the same movie people are transported across orbiting distances which are clearly more than that, and this is presuming the beaming location is the closest point directly "under" the orbiting vessel. Sputnik 1 orbited higher than a hundred miles, and it was still close enough for atmospheric drag to cause orbital decay.
    • The movie opens with the discovery of a Negative Space Wedgie. On radio chatter, we hear discussion of whether or not it's due to the Klingons. The response is "No, the Klingon border is 75,000 kilometres away!". That's orders of magnitude less than even the distance to the star in the same shot. For comparison, telecommunications satellites in geosynchronous orbit around Earth are at about half the stated distance.
    • Directly continuing with the supernova problem, Star Trek Online takes place in the main Star Trek universe after the events of this movie. While not considered canon by Paramount and CBS themselves, the storyline was written by the same head writer for everything in the series from the latter half of The Next Generation onward. If this was canon, then this would be Word of God. There are a few missions where the player must investigate and see if they can find out anything new about the supernova that destroyed Romulus (as explained by Spock in the film), and how a supernova could destroy a planet located in another sector entirely. No clear answer is given, but the writers seemed to be aware of this trope's problem by invoking an Author's Saving Throw. All in all, even the writers acknowledge that the whole thing just does not make any sense. While no explanation is given to just how it ended up happening, what is revealed is that a superweapon was deployed By a Romulan Praetor who was taking orders from the long-thought-extinct Iconians that caused it.
  • Star Trek Into Darkness follows its predecessor by having the Enterprise fall from the vicinity of the Moon into Earth's atmosphere in the space of a few minutes. In reality, this would take around 5 days.
  • The movie The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) features an alien emissary named Klaatu who claims to have arrived from a planet "250 million miles" from Earth. This would place his homeworld somewhere in the Sun's asteroid belt.
  • Neill Blomkamp, the director of District 9 claims that the Prawns come from the Andromeda Galaxy to mine ore from alien planets, and live on their ships for thousands of years at a time. Unless they've strip-mined the entire galaxy, which sounds impossible considering their technological level, it makes little sense that they'd have anything to do in the Milky Way. It would be so much easier to say that they're just a few dozen lightyears away from home.
  • Spoofed in The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra, when Betty comments that the aliens came "over a thousand miles" to get to Earth. You might say that...
  • In Prince of Space, the Phantom of Krankor mentions that his planet is "half a million miles" from the Earth. For reference's sake, the moon is about a quarter of a million miles away. On the other hand, it does explain how the human-designed rocket fuel formula he's after could possibly be valuable to him.
  • In the Sean Connery film Meteor, a manned Mars probe is redirected to investigate a comet passing through the asteroid belt. This "slight" course correction takes them a few hours out of their way, suggesting they're either traveling several million miles an hour or that they'd begun their journey to Mars from Jupiter.
  • Superman: Superman goes faster around the Earth as if travelling at light-speed, and Common Knowledge says Superman is going faster than the speed of light to initiate time travel, yet as fast as Superman appears to be travelling, if the speed of light can travel around Earth 7.5 times per second, Superman still isn't going fast enough to be considered going at or faster than the speed of light.
  • In Superman III, the villains hack into a weather satellite and then send it to planet Krypton's original location to do an analysis of the kryptonite. So apparently someone built a weather satellite that can do geological surveys, and also fly across the galaxy faster than light. Plus finding Krypton in the first place. It's also capable of controlling the weather, rather than just observing it. That's some satellite! In the original Superman: The Movie, Krypton is stated to be in another galaxy. This weather satellite isn't merely crossing interstellar distances, it's crossing intergalactic distances.
  • While Mission to Mars gets many things wrong (you can find a pretty comprehensive explanation here), there are 2 pretty glaring misconceptions of scale in the movie. First, when the second crew's spaceship gets damaged, they bail out in their spacesuits and try to make their way to an autonomous module orbiting Mars, which just happens to be a few kilometers away from their ship. Not only would there be an extremely low chance of that, but any normal astronaut would keep their ship far away from another object while performing difficult maneuvers such as orbital insertion. The other example is when they show the Martians leaving en masse after their planet is ruined, and their ships are shown to be heading for another galaxy. What's wrong with this one? Didn't realize the Milky Way was a bad neighborhood. It's not exactly the same as moving to another town. You can clearly see the other galaxy with the naked eye.
    • There are even more problems with the scene where they abandon ship. The crew was preparing to fire their engines for orbital insertion, a procedure which normally involves changing your velocity on the order of thousands of miles per hour (and Mars is no exception). Yet the ship they were going to rendezvous with was floating nearby, traveling at the same velocity. So either the rendezvous ship was also on a hyperbolic orbit out of the Mars system, or their ship was already orbiting Mars.
  • Star Wars
    • Attack of the Clones: in the scene where Obi Wan is discovering Kamino's location, Dax says Kamino is 12 parsecs outside the Rishi Maze, which Obi Wan then points to on a map of the galaxy. Apparently the Maze is at the top-left edge of the galaxy and Kamino is at the center. From this scene you can actually eyeball the whole Star Wars "galaxy" as only being 50 to 100 parsecs across, that is at most a few hundred light-years. For comparison the Milky Way is 170,000 light-years across.
    • The Empire Strikes Back:
      • The Millennium Falcon, with a disabled hyperdrive, decides to head for Bespin for repairs. One problem: The ship was in the Anoat System, to begin with. No, Bespin is not in the Anoat System. That means the Millennium Falcon had to go from one star system to another without a working FTL drive. A trip like that is going to take YEARS. Maybe MANY, MANY years depending on the exact distance, but in no case would it be a short trip. Bad enough for the passengers and crew of the Millennium Falcon (even if they were able to go at relativistic speeds to shorten their effective time), but one wonders how Boba Fett passed the time in Slave-1 as he followed them there or why he decided to lose out on potentially years worth of contracts to track down these people. The early RPGs went so far as to introduce the concept of Backup Hyperdrives to compensate for this. It's not quite made clear why they didn't just use that when they were being chased by the Star Destroyers, though a little bit of Fan Wank can massage it into being too impractical to hook up under battlefield conditions, especially given the ramshackle nature of the Millennium Falcon that can barely keep its primary hyperdrive functioning.
      • The Rendezvous Point at the film's end. Are they staring off into a distant galaxy, a smaller than galactic-size nebula that just happens to look like a galaxy, or something else? Nobody knows. An old EU story says they went outside the galaxy and thus escaped the Empire, but other material claims no one ever achieved this, or even that it was impossible.
    • The Mandalorian does the same thing with far less justification in the second episode of the second season. It's stated multiple times that the titular character's ship is explicitly traveling from one sector to another at sublight speeds, and he apparently makes it there within days. The only way this works is if "sector" is a non-specific term rather than being a precise measurement the way the EU uses it (where a sector encompasses multiple star systems), and that the planet he was traveling to was located in a different planetary system within the same star system.
    • The Force Awakens:
      • A damaged Tie Fighter falling from above the atmosphere would be unlikely to reach the planet's surface in such a condition unless some auxiliary thrusters were used on the way down.
      • Starkiller Base is stated to work by collecting quintessence, a form of dark energy, and converting it to phantom energy. Sucking a star dry is what powers the process. In our universe, the density of dark energy is estimated by astronomers to be just 7*10^−30 g/cm^3, so guess how many cubic light-years of space would have to hoover up to obtain enough energy to blow up several planetsnote . And where is the base able to store the energy and mass of the star? In a Hyperspace Arsenal, or is it much Bigger on the Inside?. In the novelization Admiral Ackbar at least acknowledges that dark energy, while ubiquitous and very abundant, has very low density.
      • Starkiller Base is built on a snow-covered planet that is several times larger than the Death Star. It has continent-sized features visible from space that, when up close, are more like the scale of a small city. Those city-sized features are harnessing the power of a sun, the energy moving in a large and clearly visible pattern, coming from an astronomical body on a larger scale than a planet, traveling the distance of the sun to the planet, a distance far enough for the planet to be an ice planet and have life comfortably standing on the surface, without this visible energy from space radiating enough to affect anyone standing on the surface, while neatly siphoning the energy down to the size of a city. Not only should the features of the base be too small to do this, but a planet should also be too small to do this.
      • For that matter, it's shown in the film to be a few times larger than the Death Star (which is about 120-160 km, depending on the source), and supplemental material confirms Starkiller Base to be 660 km in diameter. This is about half the diameter of Pluto, but the rest of the film shows it has an atmosphere, gravity, and even native life (if those trees weren't planted for the decor, anyway) that suggest it's similar to Earth, barring the snow. Artificial Gravity? Who knows?
    • The destruction of the Hosnian System:
      • The destruction of Hosnian Prime by Starkiller Base is witnessed from the night sky of planet Takodana. The destruction of the Hosnian star system is clearly visible, in real time, from the surface of a planet that is clearly not in that system, and indeed, is canonically hundreds of light years away. In a realistic setting, not only would this make only the tiniest of blips in the night sky, but it would do so centuries after it happened, not as it was occurring. The explanation is that the Starkiller's beam weapon is made of phantom energy that "blasts through hyperspace", causing a "pocket nova" when hitting and destroying a planet. This pocket nova is supposed to be visible from "thousands of light years away" due to the effect of the "spacetime disruption caused by the phantom energy's passage". Starkiller Base, Hosnian Prime, and Takodana are all, according to the new galaxy map, in systems opposite from each other and the galactic core.
      • Furthermore, the Hosnian System is said to house the entire New Republic Starfleet. Now consider the US Navy, which "only" has to account for 360 million square kilometers of water on a single planet, still has a totally active and reserve fleet of 480 ships, plus those under construction. The Republic has on the order of 6.35×10^10 cubic lightyearsnote  to cover (assuming the Star Wars galaxy is equivalent in size to the Milky Way). Even if you assume the Republic only has a sizable fraction of that territory to cover, it would still require tens of thousands of ships of all classesnote  to carry out all of the duties required by a navy, most of which physically can't be performed all bottled up at anchor.note  It's simply inconceivable that the Republic could fit all of that material in one star system without severely congesting orbital traffic, not to mention the sheer logistics of maintaining the fleet all in one place, much less that they would since it means the fleet would be unable to respond within a reasonable time frame to problems halfway across the galaxy.
    • According to Wookiepedia, the leftover energy of the Starkiller Base planet being destroyed was enough to create a brand new star, which would make a pretty small star.
  • The movie version of Battleship has the aliens come from Gliese 581 g after we send a radio message to them. We can buy that the aliens get here fast (they're aliens; presumably they have faster than light travel), but the beacon we set up hasn't been transmitting for more than a couple of years. Gliese 581 g is 20.5 light-years from Earth, so the aliens aren't going to hear our message for a whilenote .
  • Prometheus has a character describe their (interstellar) mission as being "a half billion miles from Earth". 500 million miles is 5.4 AU, slightly more than the distance between Jupiter and the Sun—being that far from Earthnote  would put them 6.4 AU from the Sun, about a quarter of the way between Jupiter's and Saturn's orbits.
    • However, the movie mostly takes place on LV-223, which, like LV-426, is part of the Zeta Reticuli system - which is 39 light years from Earth, or about 230 trillion miles.
  • The Last Starfighter
    • The Frontier is a big forcefield said to isolate a part of the galaxy. Trouble is that its generators look to be separated by kilometers, so just for one light-year square, you'd need a septillion (10 to the power of 24) of them (and obviously far more to shield that sector of the galaxy). You'd need at least hundreds, probably thousands or even millions, of a solar system's worth of mass to do this, even if all that mass were able to be directly converted into the generators.
    • The Ko'dan mothership launches large rocks at Starfighter Base from a breach that it has created in the Frontier. While the concept of using RKVs (relativistic kill vehicles) to bombard fixed fortifications from space is entirely valid, they're moving way, way too slowly. Based on the apparent velocities of the rocks observed on-screen, Starfighter Base is no more than a few kilometers from the Frontier and anyone there could have spotted the mothership by looking out the windows.
  • In Starflight One (a movie where a plane gets stuck in Earth's orbit) the box claims the movie is about the Starflight's first Intergalactic flight!
  • In Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets the traveling space station has been traveling for so long that it has picked up various aliens and their habitats. One of the characters states that the station has traveled 700 million miles, or just inside the orbit of Saturn in our universe.
  • The key plot point of Ant-Man is that the shrinking ability of the Ant-Man suit can be turned Up to Eleven, making the user "go subatomic". Two characters use this technique to pass through a hermetically sealed metal plate. Disregarding the myriad other ways this concept screws physics, for a molecule-sized hero, passing through an iron plate should be tantamount to traversing the Earth's crust. If they indeed become subatomic, then it's interstellar travel, and without any kind of propulsion system at that.
  • In Zardoz, the reason the Tabernacle was created was because scientists explored the universe and discovered that nothing existed outside of Earth. The problem is the universe is both massive and constantly expanding, so it's almost impossible that they were able to explore the entire universe, let alone prove that mankind was alone in the universe.

  • The Star Challenge books had lots of this trope. One quite egregious example of both distance and energy has you and your robot being sent to explore an unknown dimension (how just an agent and a robot will explore an entire Universe is not discussed here). One bad ending of that book has copies of you and your robotic pal appearing everywhere until the Universe is said to be filled with clones of both. Your robot comments that dimension is being created with copies, and wondering where the energy comes from until he disintegrates — as you — because the dimension has used both your energy and the one of your robot to make all those countless copies.

  • The Epic of Gilgamesh invokes this trope without leaving the surface of Earth. When you add up all the distance that Gilgamesh and Enkidu crossed to reach Humbaba and his cedar forest, you shoot way past Mesopotamia and end up in northern Siberia or the tip of South Africa or something. And yet they have no trouble floating the timber back home on a river when they're done. And you can't even say that they got lost and traveled more distance than they needed to, because they simply had to follow that same river upstream. While the work is obviously exaggerated (it's more fantasy than science fiction in modern terms), in the era before humanity got involved in long-distance naval navigation distance traveled was usually measured by the length of the path, not the length of the grand circle arc between start and destination. Any time you go up a steep slope, switchbacks on the order of 10:1 path to forward distance ratios are common, and where actual mountains/foothills or river valleys are involved 100:1 is not unheard of in short bursts.
  • While it's not science fiction, George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire qualifies. Although it's set on a continent about the size of South America (to judge by the distances given), distances are treated as much smaller when the plot demands. Going by travel times, it's roughly the size of Great Britain. Even that seems to be a stretch, because the North, which according to GRRM is based on Scotland, is effectively administered at the top by a single Lord and Lady, one Maester, and one knight. Of course, this is the same series that has a multi-continental spy network with an extremely flat hierarchy of all field agents reporting to one man (Varys). Given the nature of the story, however, the simplicity may have considered Acceptable Breaks from Reality to avoid even more named characters that would be required to fill in the required administrative bureaucracy.
    • The Wall, a 700-foot tall wall (~215 meters) which marks the northern boundary of the Seven Kingdoms, is probably the most obvious example. Martin is said to have been shocked by the first images of it for the TV series, having never pictured it being as huge as it turned out to be. For comparison, the highest point on the Great Wall of China is only about 50 feet (15m) at it's tallest, and the tallest castle walls in the world are closer to 180 feet (55m). For a real world structure closer in height, the Wall would be about 70ft taller than the top of the Gateway Arch in the United States. As a result it would be incredible difficulty for defenders to accurately target even groups of attackers on the ground, and completely impossible for attackers to fire arrows up at the people on top of it. Climbing it would be possible, as professional climbers have climber taller ice routes, but it would be both time consuming and very difficult, even with proper preparation equipment.
  • David Eddings' The Tamuli trilogy justifies something similar. The protagonists cover massive continental distances in short periods of time (as in, less than several months). An in-universe historian trying to explain it comes up with a Hand Wave about different calendars. The real answer is that the goddess traveling with them was cheating with space and time a bit.
  • The Death of Sleep, in Anne McCaffrey's Planet Pirates series, has the protagonist's ship gets damaged, and she has to put herself into cryo in a lifeboat to have any chance of being found. The book goes out of its way to point out that if some benevolent aliens hadn't led a guy in a ship to her, she probably would never have been found.
  • In another McCaffrey work, Dragonriders of Pern, distances between places on the planet Pern appear to vary as the plot demands. In one story it can be several days travel by horseback ("runnerbeast") from point A to point B, in another, a few hours. The fan community calls this Anne's "rubber ruler".
  • One of James White's Sector General stories features victims from a space collision — and spends nearly three pages, A6 paperback, detailing the series of coincidences and bad judgment calls that managed to make it happen.
  • Sneakily averted by Douglas Adams, who concocted the Infinite Improbability Drive to get around the mind-boggling odds against Ford and Arthur being saved by another ship in the vastness of space, by making mind-boggling odds the very thing that powers their rescue ship. And then bumped those odds up to Infinite by having both Ford's semi-cousin and Trillian, the apparent only other survivor from Earth, be piloting it: something he couldn't plausibly have pulled off otherwise, again due to space's sheer size.
    • Lampshaded by the Total Perspective Vortex, a device which, when hooked up to a person's mind, will give them a perfectly clear conception of both the entire universe (as extrapolated from a small piece of fairy cake) and themselves in proportion to it. This has the effect of instantly and painfully annihilating their mind (unless that person is inside an artificial universe created entirely for their benefit), conclusively proving that the last thing anyone living in a universe this size needs is a good sense of perspective.
  • A misunderstanding of the title of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea would imply Nemo diving by more than the diameter of the planet. Verne intended, and contemporary readers understood, the title to mean travelling 20,000 leagues under the sea, equivalent to two complete circumnavigations of the Earth. A better translation of the title, from the original French, would be "20,000 Leagues Under the Seas." This is spoofed in this Saturday Night Live sketch.
  • The Hunger Games: Each district of Panem is portrayed on a map as being the size of at least one or more real-life US State. Regardless, the inhabitants of each district seem to be concentrated in a single town or city. What are they doing with all that extra space? Agriculture? Cross-country racing? The large separation makes it easier to control the populace? We don't know.
  • Belisarius Series: The Malwa are pictured sending orders trying to direct covert operations in Constantinople. The authors do go to the effort to make it a possibility - a large spy network in Rome and Persia set up to allow the messages to be passed back and forth, in a similar way to real-world royal couriers by supplying ready remounts, but given the technology of the time period, it's equivalent to us trying to control a probe outside the solar system. For comparative purposes, the Pony Express passed mail 1900 kilometers in 10 days on average (190-200km per day) which is consistent with the speeds claimed for the systems used by the Mongolian, Roman, and Persian empires. It's about 5000 kilometers from the historical capital of Malwa to Constantinople, giving a one way message time of about a month.
  • Alan Dean Foster's Humanx Commonwealth has a thriving merchant trade. There would have to be millions of ships running nonstop routes between every star system to deliver even a fraction of the goods required to sustain an economy the size of the Commonwealth's. On the other hand, The Tar-Aiym Krang posits a concept both unique in space opera and brilliant; it is impossible to patrol interstellar space! If you don't travel within sensor range of a monitored system, you can go anywhere you want.
  • The aforementioned Starship Troopers example occurs in the book too. Johnny explains that the ships were attempting to drop their Mobile Infantry in a meaningful formation... though he does not mention if one of them was hit by G-to-A, only that they collided, which opens the door to major piloting error. (This is also just one disaster in a battle where everything goes wrong: "I've heard it called a strategic victory... but I was there, and I claim we took a terrible licking.")
  • This is certainly older than space opera. Rudyard Kipling wrote a couple of science fiction stories about air travel in the 21st Century and made his atomic powered airships pretty convincing given that hydrogen blimps were still cutting edge technology. But when it comes to speeds and distances, he treats them as if they were steamers in the English Channel. In one memorable howler, a captain gets so mad at another airship's dangerous handling that, too angry to use the radio, he opens the cockpit (Kipling also overlooked pressure changes with altitude, which was pure research failure, because any balloonist could have told him) and yells at the other captain across the intervening space.
  • Writers in the Star Wars Legends generally are aware that space is big, and they try to avert this (although a depressingly large number keep revisiting the planets established by the movies for no good reason). In the first book of The Thrawn Trilogy, Luke flees from a Star Destroyer by going into hyperspace, and since his X-wing is damaged it falls back into realspace after he's gone about half a light year - and he's stranded impossibly far from anything, only likely to be found on accident since his communications systems have gone out. And since Thrawn wants to capture Luke alive, he's left to put out reward money to anybody willing to search the area and hope they get lucky; while hyperdrive makes traveling the distance of a light year downright trivial, thoroughly searching an area of such size is impossible. On two occasions, TIE fighters, which have no hyperdrives, struck out on their own and couldn't really get that far before life support ran out: an alien fleeing genocide nearly died before reaching the nearest system, and a handful of deserters had to turn back to the ship they'd abandoned when they ran out of atmosphere scrubbers.
    • In The New Rebellion, after casually lampshading the idea of 2-D Space, Wedge takes a turbolaser cannon and shoves aside the targeting computer — he doesn't have The Force, but he's confident in his own abilities and, while normally targets are too far away to get a visual, this one is close enough to see.
    • Some authors apparently decided to balance these efforts by putting in some egregious errors. For example in New Jedi Order Sernpidal, a planet that orbits its star at the same distance our moon orbits Earth. While this could potentially work were Sernpinal's star a White Dwarf it is also the third (or fifth, there are conflicting accounts on Wookiepedia) planet of that star system.
    • Coming as little surprise, Lucas himself isn't even clear on just how big a planet is. In a conversation with Alan Dean Foster, who was writing Splinter of the Mind's Eye for him, Lucas had this exchange (Foster is noticeably polite throughout the transcript, though one gets the distinct impression he's fighting the urge to grab Lucas by the shoulders and shake him):
    Lucas: [Princess Leia] hasn't been heard from since, so Luke wonders what's happened to her.
    Foster: Then you don't use her as much because you can't find her.
    Lucas: Well, he can find her instantly. I mean you've got them both there on the planet. [emphasis added]
Even if Lucas meant Luke finding her with the Force (as they become aware of each other's locations in The Empire Strikes Back by it for instance) Luke still be able to get to her instantly.
  • One other book, Darksaber, acknowledged the distances. In this, an Imperial fleet has come to attack the Jedi Academy on Yavin IV. One of the Jedi defending this manages to harness the energy which has been stored in the temple structures there to hurl them back across the solar system, crippling their hyperdrives while doing so and dying from it himself. Admiral Pellaeon, who commands the fleet, states that by sublight drive it will take months until they reach Yavin IV again. However, at this point, Daala enters the system in her Super Star Destroyer anyway.
  • David Weber practically inverts this: ships in his books routinely battle at ranges of millions of kilometers or more, battles take hours or even days before anyone is in range of anyone else, and until the Manticorans finally invent a workable FTL communication system, everyone deals with long delays between sending a message and getting a reply due to the distances involved.
  • Larry Niven's books generally avert this.
    • In the first Ringworld novel, the main characters spend a (Earth) year exploring what turns out to be only a very small fraction of the Ringworld's surface because of its immense size. In addition, even with faster-than-light travel (that has a constant rate of one light-year traveled per three days), the Ringworld is almost two years away from Earth, travel-wise.
    • One alien species on the Ringworld once created a massive empire covering 1/10 of one degree of other words, larger than all the planets in our solar system combined.
    • Located in one of the Ringworld oceans are small archipelagos where the islands form a map of the continents of various inhabited worlds in Known Space. The maps are at 1:1 scale.
    • In Protector he gives us a running interstellar space battle conducted entirely at sublight speeds — which gives a whole new order of magnitude to the saying "long periods of boredom punctuated by moments of terror."
  • Several times in Inheritance Cycle the distances are ridiculously skewed. One of the more egregious examples is in the first book when Eragon and Murtagh need to cross a river to escape pursuing enemies. The river is stated to be five leagues wide at the point they're trying to cross. The author seems unaware that one league is equal to about three miles, making the river fifteen miles wide and yet they have no trouble getting themselves, their horses, and a dragon across this river before their enemies, which are close enough to be heard, can catch up to them. There are also several instances of characters traveling thirty or more miles between breakfast and lunch while on foot.
  • In Ann Aguirre's Sirantha Jax series, "galaxy" and "solar system" seem to be used interchangeably. A lot. The most egregious example is when the new fleet deploys ONE starship to patrol each galaxy.
  • In The Flight of the Eisenstein, James Swallow errs on the side of too much scale. Mortarion is described as an analogue of the Earthly legend of the Grim Reaper despite being a billion light years away. All action in the Warhammer 40,000 universe takes place in the Milky Way which is 100,000 to 120,000 light years in diameter. Granted, it might be hyperbole.
  • Animorphs: It is repeatedly shown that the writer has no idea of how long a light-year is or how this relates to the size of the galaxy. For instance:
    • In one book they go to another planet said to be 500 million light years away. It is implied this planet is in the Milky Way when in fact 500 million light-years would make the planet well outside the Virgo Supercluster.
    • In the final book, the protagonists search through an area stated to be "billions of light-years" across in a matter of a month. Even with an FTL ship, this seems far-fetched.
  • One Encyclopedia Brown book averts this. A scam artist attempts to raise money for a scale model of the universe in the Grand Canyon, using an inch-wide model of the Earth to show he's legit. Encyclopedia, of course, points out that a scale model of the universe, even with an inch-wide Earth, would be too big to fit on the planet, much less the Grand Canyon.
  • Averted in The Lost Fleet series. Once proper fleet tactics are re-introduced, battles consist of hours or even days of maneuver punctuated by tenths of seconds of combat as the fleets finally get within firing range before going out of range again. And in multiple cases, there are concerns over whether events are happening elsewhere in the solar system they don't know about (such as enemy reinforcements arriving) because the light won't reach them for hours.
  • In I Am Number Four, the planet Lorien is described as 300,000,000 miles away. It's so far away that their advanced spaceships took a year to traverse the distance to Earth, and they are trying to prepare Earth for when the bad aliens arrive in their less-advanced spaceships. Unfortunately, 300,000,000 miles would put Lorien between Mars and Jupiter in the Asteroid Belt, and even our 'primitive' spacecraft can make that journey in less than a year.
  • It is generally agreed among World of Warcraft players that the size of the in-game world is drastically reduced from what it should realistically be (indeed, at one point, scaling using the height of a female Tauren, a group of players determined the entire world was roughly the size of the city of London). This is fine; no one wants to wait for a month of travel before starting a new quest. The problem is that some writers in the expanded universe seem to take these distances as accurate and replicate them in their books, such as Varian crossing Ashenvale in less than a day on foot in Wolfheart. Because if the game is to be believed, then by implication it would mean that the entire continent of the Eastern Kingdoms, home to several nations and empires, birthplace of many races, and subject to all climates imaginable from jungles to snowy mountains to swamps to deserts, is about the size of Rhode Island.
  • The authors of the hybrid sci-fi/Wuxia story Stellar Transformations is trying so hard to make his setting look grandiose it often becomes comically unbelievable (like having a single continent with medieval infrastructure support 10 billion people), but none of his transgressions are as insane as the ridiculous distances he quotes, such as the size of the Astral Chaotic Sea. For the record, it is an actual sea between two continents on a single planet, and according to the main character's calculations, it is 300 billion li wide. While li is a somewhat inexact measurement of distance (its length was different depending on the era), the modern li is exactly 500m or 0.5km long. That means that the Astral Chaotic Sea (which is, if I may remind you again, an actual sea with water and everything) is 150 billion kilometers wide. In other words, it's a body of water 16.5 times larger than the diameter of the solar system!
  • Averted, and wryly lampshaded, in the Ancillary Justice trilogy, where established "gates" allow ships to leap swiftly from one location to another, and some ships can even generate their own gates, but various circumstances still require them to take the slower old-fashioned route. At one point, an urgent summons from a gate to the nearest space station still results in our heroines cooling their heels in the shuttle for an entire day.
    "We often speak casually of distances within a single solar system—of a station's being near a moon or planet, of a gate's being near a system's most prominent station—when in fact those distances are measured in hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of kilometers."
  • In Perry Rhodan spaceships have trouble using their FTL close by large masses. This trouble is also visible in areas with 'increased stellar density', like the center of the milky way, where stars are constantly interacting with each other and the fifth dimension because they are only light-months apart. Thus, when a messenger needs to meet up with someone in the galactic core, he travels by FTL, with a few light-weeks or light-months of relativistic travel to avoid going FTL into dangerous areas. He had to be there days from the moment he started. He arrives on time. But it's okay, because 'relativistic effects slowed time down a lot, which made calendars confusing but allowed him to reach his destination in time'. But it's okay, because it was written in the 60' and because the distances between galaxies are so large that a special system of hooking extra FTL drives to a ship and discarding them as they wear out is needed to even get halfway.
  • Generally averted in the Star Carrier books. The setting has no FTL sensors, which can be a blessing and a curse. For example, the first novel starts with a human carrier battle group arriving in the Eta Boötis system. The moment they arrive, they pick up the hours-long sensor readings from the hostile Turusch forces orbiting a planet, knowing full well that the Turusch won't see them for some time, giving the scattered battle group a chance to link up. Immediately upon arrival, the star carrier America launches a fighter wing towards the planet. The grav-fighters use Artificial Gravity for propulsion, which allows them to accelerate to near-c in minutes. Thus, the fighters are traveling just behind the light announcing the fleet's arrival to the enemy, and are able to launch a number of devastating strikes, taking out several enemy ships (note: this only works because the Turusch are in predictable orbits).
  • The Railway Series note  takes place on the fictional Island of Sodor, which is in the place of the real-life Isle of Walney. Walney is only 11 miles long and one mile wide with a population of 10,000 people and is municipally incorporated as part of the town & borough of Barrow-in-Furness. It has no rail transport of its own. The fictional Sodor is many times larger at 62 miles wide and 51 long note . This presents some headscratchers, because the island would be too large to fit comfortably between Barrow and the Isle of Man, but still far too small to have the massive railway network depicted in the books (and especially the TV series). Perhaps it's Bigger on the Inside?
  • In Ray Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles, colonists on Mars can see the nuclear war on Earth with their naked eyes, because the planet in the night sky briefly blazes three times brighter than before. Only way this would be possible is if the nuclear blasts had produced an Earth-Shattering Kaboom, and since the colonists later return to a still intact and somewhat livable Earth...

    Live-Action TV 

In General:

By Series:

  • The Almost Human episode "You Are Here" revolves around an inescapable magic bullet "with an accuracy of 25 centimeters". Or enough to turn a shot to the heart into a complete miss.
  • Another Life (2019): The Salvare can't fly blind through a few light-years of black-matter space because they might hit a planet. The odds of that happening are so infinitesimally low that they defy calculation. As a matter of fact, it's highly unlikely that there is a planet anywhere in there.
  • Babylon 5
    • The series generally tried to avoid this, but creator J. Michael Straczynski acknowledged the problem of space's true scale when talking about showing space battles on TV, pointing out that TV viewers want and need to see the ships in the same screenshot pounding away at one another, but that any actual kind of space battle would likely take place at distances far too extreme for this (thousands of kilometers at minimum). The battle between the Shadows and the Narns in "The Long Twilight Struggle" attempted to acknowledge this on the screen; most of the fight consists of the ships simply accelerating towards one another, and only the last (catastrophic) few seconds includes any visual proximity. Indeed, the battle also featured quite a bit of Old School Dogfighting, but the fighters were so small compared to the capital ships that you can only discern them as specks and flashes of light around the bigger ships. Nonetheless, most of the series' remaining battles gave in to the Rule of Cool anyway. It's also explained that space battles happen so close due to beam weapon dispersal.
    • One example played completely straight is with Babylon 4, formerly located in Sector 14, which was quarantined after the station's mysterious disappearance, reappearance, and re-disappearance into a time distortion. Its former location is stated more than once to be only 3 hours flight time in normal space from Babylon 5. FTL travel doesn't exist in this series except through hyperspace, yet the trip is made by Starfuries and transports, ships not even capable of creating hyperspace jump-points. At sublight speeds, travel time that short would not only put it in the same solar system, it would very likely be no farther away than the Moon is to Earth. Babylon 5 wouldn't need to send ships out to investigate, they could just use a telescope and a radio.
    • However, there's no justification for the scene in which Londo, representing the Centauri, and Morden, representing the Shadows, appear to be splitting the entire Milky Way into two spheres of influence on a map. The series is otherwise very consistent that all the sapient races depicted only inhabit a speck of the Orion Arm. Even Straczynski later referred to that sequence with embarrassment.
  • The original Battlestar Galactica did this as well.
    • Confusing use of "galaxy" and "universe".
      • Commander Adama says that Earth is located in "a galaxy much like our own" ...and in the last episode, the basestar is apparently the only one in the galaxy in which the Galactica is located, and the rest of the Cylon fleet is spread throughout the universe looking for the Galactica's fleet! They'd have greater success looking for an electron-sized needle in a haystack the size of Jupiter.
      • This is partly a case of Unit Confusion as well, as Galactica frequently mixes up the terms "star system" and "galaxy," as well as throwing a few other terms in, which it's clear no one looked up the definitions for. Add to this that "lightspeed" is frequently mentioned as the Galactica's top speed, with most of the fleet being much slower, and they're talking about crossing galaxies when they likely wouldn't have made it to the next solar system yet.
    • Episode "Lost Planet of the Gods Part II". The Galactica discovers a star in the middle of a great dark void. Commander Adama says to search for a planet in an orbit 1-3 parsecs (roughly 3.25-9.75 light years) away from the star. When the Galactica reaches the planet, the star's light illuminates the planet. Even if the planet were only 1 parsec away, it would still be too far away for the star to provide daylight to the planet or the gravity of the star to hold the planet in orbit around it. It's most likely that whoever wrote the dialogue meant "astronomical unit" (the average distance between the Earth and the Sun) rather than parsec, which would have been more reasonable.
  • Battlestar Galactica (2003):
    • While it avoids most of this kind of silliness, it still has the familiar problem of spaceships flying in formation about two meters away from each other, and fighting battles far too close to the enemy. They try to justify it early on - the Cylons have to jump in as close to the human fleet as possible to maximize their chances of destroying their ships before they jump away - but later on, they lost the justification and kept the shoddy tactics.
    • In later seasons, the Cylons discover the planet that the humans have settled because they detected a nuclear explosion from one light year away, which happened a year ago. From that distance, even the sun would appear as only slightly brighter than the other stars in the system (think Alpha Centauri). Yet the Cylons conveniently manage to detect and isolate the radiation of nuclear explosion which would be insignificantly small by comparison? They wouldn't even know to look at this particular star, or they would have simply investigated it up close and discovered the human territory a lot sooner. So that means that their scanners would have to be searching for something infinitely insignificant from an infinite number of directions.
  • Blake's 7:
    • One scene showed someone laying mines around the Milky Way galaxy to keep out aliens. There are two ways to interpret this, neither of which is plausible:
      One: It's meant literally and the entire galaxy is surrounded by mines. By the time you gathered enough matter to build this minefield, there'd be no Milky Way galaxy left.
      Two: The mines aren't surrounding the entire galaxy, just on the likely invasion route. Of course this runs headlong into another trope as the alien invaders could just navigate around it.
    • The show, like early Doctor Who, uses "galaxy" and "solar system" interchangeably. Travis on one occasion spots the Liberator and crows, "There he is! I knew he'd have to return to this galaxy!"
    • Despite traveling from Earth to the edges of the galaxy and back, there was a part of the galaxy it would take them centuries to travel across.
    • Almost every single exterior shot shows a dozen planets in the frame, all big enough to make out surface details and arranged more-or-less completely randomly. Another technique they used was having the alien-designed Liberator measure speeds using a completely different system than the Federation, presumably due to having a different type of FTL engine (Standard by X, as opposed to Time Distort X). Due to the unfamiliar cockpit, none of the Liberator crew seems to ever figure out exactly how fast "standard" is, all they know is that it maxes out at Standard By 12, which is (evidently) faster than anything the Federation has. Even more confusing, the Time Distort measure seems to be non-linear, while the Standard measure is linear.
  • Doctor Who:
    • The classic series tended to throw around "galaxy" very casually. Early episodes of the show are particularly bad, regularly using "universe", "galaxy" and "solar system" interchangeably. To give just a few examples: The Dominators rule the ten galaxies; "The Daleks' Master Plan" is set at an Intergalactic Conference, with the Outer Galaxies allied with the Daleks; and in "The Monster of Peladon" The Federation is at war with Galaxy 5 (although the Expanded Universe later retconned this as a terrorist organisation with a grandiose name).
    • In "The Wheel in Space", Cybermen divert a meteor storm in the direction of the eponymous space station by sending a star nova in the Hercules Globular Cluster, 25,100 light years away. The disparity in scale is at least twelve orders of magnitude.
    • In "Castrovalva", when the TARDIS is flying through space out of control, Nyssa says it will fly until it crashes into a star. Space, being extremely empty, makes this highly unlikely to happen.
    • Probably the most spectacular example is in the first part of the story The Trial of a Time Lord, in which Earth is hidden by moving its entire solar system several million miles, the celestial equivalent of hiding from your date in an empty movie theatre by leaning an inch to the left. For scale, Mercury never comes within twenty-eight million miles of our Sun, despite being its closest planet.
      • The distance that the the Time Lords moved Earth is given in various Doctor Who literature as being "two light-years". While slightly more plausible than several million miles, this is still only less than half the distance to Alpha Centauri, our nearest neighbouring star. It would be equivalent to hiding from your date in an otherwise empty cinema by moving one seat to the left.
    • In the 1996 TV movie, Gallifrey is stated to be some 250 million light-years away from Earth, on the other side of the Milky Way. For reference, the diameter of the Milky Way Galaxy is estimated at around 100 thousand light-years, making it so Gallifrey would have to be far past the edge of the Milky Way. Earlier episodes had already established Gallifrey to be only 29,000 light-years from Earth (fanon often locates it in either the centre or the very edge of the galaxy for this reason). Of course, the Time Lords can move planets...
    • In "The End of Time", a spaceship is described as 105,000 miles above Earth. The shot of Earth is far too big for it to be at that distance, which is nearly halfway to the Moon. And Earth-launched missiles can still reach it without trouble.
    • In the episode New Earth, the titular planet is said to be in the M87 galaxy (53 million light-years from Earth in Real Life). While Gridlock says it's 50,000 light-years away which would put it well within our galaxy.
  • In the Farscape pilot episode, a Peacekeeper ship is chasing Moya, and Aeryn says that its weapons' effective range is "45 metras." Elsewhere, it's established that one metra is about a kilometer. A 45-kilometer range on a space-based weapon system would be like having a gun that was too short-ranged to hit somebody standing next to you.
  • Firefly was ambivalent as to whether action was taking place in a "system", presumed to be a solar system or the galaxy. It was finally pinned down into a series of five star systems, four of which were orbiting around a single giant star, which was reached from Earth by Generation Ship. The show was vague about distances and speeds, e.g. "How far can it go?" "Standard short-range."
    • The followup movie Serenity has a barely noticed and 'lost' planet on the edge of the system. However, this planet appears to be known — it is in Serenity's navigation computer, but it's listed as an uninhabitable "black rock" where the terraforming went wrong, and no one wants to approach it anyway due to the presence of Reavers in the surrounding space.
    • The Official Map of the Verse confirmed that Miranda was indeed on the very outer edge of the Blue Sun system, orbiting its own protostar, Burnham, at about fifty AU from the main star. At the time of the series, it was the outermost world in the entire Verse.
  • The Invaders are aliens from a dying planet. They are coming to Earth. They intend to make it their world. They originate in another galaxy... Considering that they'll need to do a partial terraform anyway, you'd think they'd have found something closer.
  • Lost in Space acknowledged the depths of space in the first episode: because of the distance to Alpha Centauri, the Robinsons are put in suspended animation to survive the trip. After that, the scriptwriters have them tootling around the various star systems with no difficulty and no reference to time dilation.
    • The remake makes a mistake of its own when Maureen says they are "trillions of light years off-course." For reference, the diameter of the entire observable universe is only about 93 billion light years, that is 0.093 trillion light years - not even one-tenth of a trillion.
  • The Mandalorian: Upon being told there's a Mandalorian on Tatooine, Mando scoffs that he never saw one there, on the entire planet.
  • Power Rangers as a whole is guilty of this, having Rangers and villains travel to other galaxies like it's a hop, skip, and a jump away. The United Alliance of Evil is in control of multiple galaxies, and in Countdown to Destruction, launches an attack on the whole universe.
    • On the other hand, in Power Rangers Lost Galaxy the Terra Venture is traveling to the next galaxy, but they have used more than half their fuel a mere 14 light-years into the journey. One could presume they're intending to cruise until they reach their destination and then use up the rest of their fuel to decelarate, but then one wonders what's powering the life support.
  • In the Grand Finale of Smallville, Apokolips simply moved way too fast. Not to mention somehow the Earth and the Moon is next after it just went past Saturn...
  • The moon in Space: 1999 was variably described as being billions of kilometers, miles, and light-years from Earth, resulting in roughly equal difficulty in returning despite the fact that the first case would put the moon closer to Earth than Saturn, while in the latter case the moon would be vastly more distant from the Milky Way galaxy than the Great Wall, currently the largest known feature of the universe. The moon also passed between star systems at speeds fast enough that the passengers went through a star system per week, yet remained close enough to each and slow enough to reach a planet via shuttle for days at a time.
  • In Stargate SG-1, Teal'c claims that the planet Alaris is "several billion miles" from Earth. An interesting measurement, considering that the closest star (Alpha Centauri) to our Solar System is over 20 trillion miles away. Granted, Teal'c is an alien from medieval culture, so maybe he was still unfamiliar with Earth units of measurement.
  • Star Trek: The Original Series varied in this trope. Regarding space battles it was better with this in some episodes than in others, with some where the enemy ship was shown on the viewscreen as coming out of the far distance, firing, and passing out of view and others where it seemed to always be in visual range. It was generally terrible with interstellar distances and speed, however, generally summing them up as "whatever the plot requires". The crew of the Enterprise went both to the edge of the galaxy and to its core over the course of the series and movies, both of which would be years long journeys in the other series of the franchise.
  • In the Star Trek: The Next Generation two-part episode "Redemption", the Federation needs to prevent the Romulans from using their cloaked ships to deliver supplies to one of the factions in a Klingon civil war. To do this, twenty-three Federation starships create a "tachyon detection grid" that somehow covers the entire Klingon-Romulan border without leaving a gap of a few hundred square meters that a ship could sneak through. The border would have to be ridiculously small for something like that to work, even though on most maps it looks like it would be thousands of square light years if you factored in three dimensions.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine:
    • In the first episode the station is physically moved from a near orbit of Bajor to the mouth of the wormhole in the Denorios belt, a "charged plasma field" some 116 million kilometres from Bajor (expanded universe sources suggest that the Denorios belt is the Bajoran system's equivalent of our own asteroid belt, which is around 330 million kilometres beyond Earth's orbit). With only six worthing thrusters on the station, even miracle worker O'Brien believes this would take at least a month; but they manage to make this trip in less than a day by using the station's deflector shields to generate a low-level warp field and "lower the inertial mass of the station", which nearly tears the station apart in the process. Even O'Brien's original estimate suggests the station's sub-starship thrusters are very powerful, since it would need to achieve an average speed of ~47km/sec to do that journey in a month; for comparison, Voyager 1 is currently travelling at 15km/sec.
    • The series did get a bit better with distances. In several episodes, the cast gets stuck without warp drives. It was noted that planets that had taken a few hours to get to at warp speed would now take years if not DECADES to get back with impulse engines (in "A Time to Stand" this was a real problem since the ship they were on only had several weeks worth of field rations). Only the intervention of friendly, warp capable ships, saved the crew from a long trip back home.
    • "By Inferno's Light" has a trilithium weapon like Star Trek: Generations, only this time fired from space. This should solve the problem of depicting distance to the sun, but here the Bajoran sun appears to be no more than the same scale as its own model relative to the ships flying close to it, instead of the model successfully conveying a far off distance with perspective. That means the sun is really, really small.
    • An episode featured a mine field around a solar system. While this is much more plausible than mining a galaxy (in the way that swimming across Lake Erie is more plausible than swimming across the Pacific), they did it in a 2-D plane, so that anyone trying to avoid this minefield could simply fly over or under it. Even then, they were building it at a rate that would have taken them hundreds of years to complete. A later episode tackled the issue a bit more sensibly with a space minefield around a very small area (the opening of a wormhole) with a realistically long time spent laying it, using matter replicators to let it lay itself, but that gets into energy usage issues.
  • Star Trek: Voyager
    • In the episode "Renaissance Man", the Doctor complies when aliens capture Captain Janeway and demand Voyager's warp core in exchange for her release. His justification: "Voyager can survive without its warp core... but not without its captain." Even though this is heartwarming and poetic, the ship was in interstellar space and without it the ship can only travel at sublight speed using its impulse engines, meaning that in this case it literally cannot. Losing Janeway, while tragic, would be preferable.
    • In the series finale, the Borg transwarp conduit that Voyager emerges through is stated to be "less that one light-year from Earth". While technically correct, the ship appears to emerge closer to Earth than the Moon is; approximately one light-SECOND away from Earth.
  • Star Trek: Enterprise. In the pilot, there's a mismatch between stated distance and speed. First, it's stated Warp 4.5 can get the ship from Earth to Neptune and back in six minutes, placing it around 84c. Then, they need to get to Qo'noS in 5 days, which is about 90 light years away. At Warp 4.5, the speed they use for the trip, it should take over a year.
  • In the Star Trek: Discovery episode "The War Without, The War Within", the Discovery needs to reach Starbase One and we're told this will be difficult because the sector is crawling with Klingon ships. There are two problems with this scenario. The first is that Discovery is stated to be only one light year away from Starbase One which, in interstellar terms, would mean they're practically there already. Secondly, Starbase One is said to be 100 AUs from Earth, which would put it on the outer edge of the solar system. But we very quickly learn that Starbase One has been overrun by Klingons, which would put the solar system—and Earth—under direct threat of attack. Yet Starfleet Command acts as if this was just another unfortunate defeat, not an immediate existential threat.
  • Every incarnation of Star Trek falls victim to this in the form of tactical range; ships are always ridiculously close to each other, which is odd considering all of their weaponry with the exception of the ST: Enterprise era weapons travel at least at light speed, with torpedoes capable of FTL speeds. The ships themselves are supposed to travel at half lightspeed on impulse, which is 150,000 kilometers per second. This means that a ship 100,000 kilometers away (much too far to be seen without a powerful telescope) could ram your ship in the blink of an eye.
    • They do well in one regard that a lot of spacefaring sci-fi stumble on: Star Trek's civilizations are specifically and consistently not galactic. Most of the franchise runtime takes place in one portion of one-quarter of the galaxy, specifically the chunk of the Alpha Quadrant that the Federation occupies, and the main characters are constantly running into undiscovered planets and civilizations within that quadrant. A decent amount of action is set in another, as Earth is on the border of the Alpha and Beta Quadrants and several of the major powers are based in the Beta Quadrant. DS9 has a shortcut to another quadrant of the galaxy, and Voyager gets kicked to a third, and the premise of that series is that it would take decades to get back at the speeds that the Voyager is capable of. Cross-galactic and intergalactic travel both come up very rarely (mostly in TOS), and it's usually proposed by aliens far more advanced than the Federation. Even then, it's talked about as a multi-century trip requiring suspended animation or generation ships. Essentially, intergalactic travel in the Star Trek universe is about as practical as interstellar travel today.
    • Figuring out speeds for the various ships is a bit dodgy, not only because crews have a tendency to say "maximum warp" or otherwise not give specific warp numbers but also because how fast Warp X is changes (so far, there are 3 scales - one used in TOS and Enterprise, one used in TNG and beyond, and one used in the 2009 movies). There's also a difference between cruising speed, maximum speed, and maximum sustainable speed - Voyager can reach warp 9.975, but maintaining that for more than a few hours is a different matter entirely. The NX-01 Enterprise is heavily billed as the first "warp 5 capable ship", but most of the first season passes before they actually hit that speed because of the strain on their systems; the ship typically travels at warp 4.5 during its first years in service. In the manuals, it's further explained that interstellar conditions and the vagaries of warp theory can also significantly improve or reduce the warp time between two given points.
    • The series also underestimates the size of nebulae. Some of them are even smaller than a standard M-class planet.
  • The Twilight Zone (1959)
    • "On Thursday We Leave For Home". An Earth colony is stranded on a hellish asteroid orbiting two suns, which means it's in another solar system. The asteroid is described as being either ten billion miles from Earth (in the previous episode's preview) or one billion (repeatedly, in the episode itself). In either case, it's much closer to the sun than it is to another star (or stars), and in the second case it's closer to the Earth than Saturn.
    • "Third From the Sun". Aliens living on an Earth-like planet say they're going to Earth, which is 11 million miles away. A planet that close should be able to be seen with the naked eye.
    • "Elegy". The episode's introduction says that the astronauts are "lost amongst the stars" in "a far corner of the universe". They end up on an asteroid in a solar system with two suns, which shows that they're outside Earth's solar system. However, they say (twice!) that they're 655 million miles from Earth, which shows that not only are they not lost, but they're actually inside the Earth's solar system between the orbits of Jupiter and Saturn!
    • "Probe 7: Over and Out"
      • The pilot of a starship says that he has crashlanded on a planet 4.3 light years from his home planet. In the narration, Rod Serling says that he's "several million miles" from his launching point, which is a lot less than 4.3 light years (more than 25 trillion miles).
      • While talking to an alien, the pilot mentions his "galaxy" (which he went off course from) and the alien's "galaxy" (and home planet). This makes no sense since he's only 4.3 light years from home. The correct term in each case would be "solar system".
    • "To Serve Man"
      • Prior to boarding the Kanamit spaceship, a woman says that their planet is "billions" of miles from Earth. Mr. Chambers later says that it's 100 billion miles out in space. The nearest it could possibly be is in the Alpha Centauri system, around 4.3 light years (more than 25 trillion miles) away. By comparison, Pluto is on average 3.67 billion miles from the Sun.
      • Rod Serling's narration says that the Kanamits come from another galaxy and the Kanamit ambassador says that they "come from a planet far beyond this galaxy" (i.e., outside the Milky Way galaxy). If these statements are true, the comments by characters that the Kanamits' planet is billions of miles away are even more untrue.
    • "The Lonely". The episode takes place on an asteroid whose orbit brings it within 9 million miles of Earth on a regular basis. The asteroid is "6,000 miles from north to south, 4,000 from east to west". In Real Life the largest known asteroid in the solar system is Ceres, which has a diameter of 587 miles. If an asteroid 1,600 miles wide had an orbit that often brought it within 9 million miles of Earth, astronomers would certainly have detected it by now.
    • "I Shot an Arrow into the Air". A rocket that had planned to visit an asteroid crash lands. The location of the landing, while unpleasantly hot, has Earth-normal gravity and an Earth-normal atmosphere... so normal that, in fact, the astronauts are still on Earth and never made it anywhere. That's realistic, but any astronauts who would believe that they actually made it to an asteroid despite having a very short journey and the landing place not requiring space suits or the like should not have passed the mental examination, even given 1959 levels of space knowledge!
  • UFO episode "The Dalotek Affair" and "Ordeal". In both episodes, Commander Straker says that aliens from another solar system came from a billion miles away, which would mean that they came from inside the solar system. The nearest star system to Earth is Proxima Centauri, approximately 4.24 light years or about 25 trillion miles away. Even if he had been using "billion" in the long scale, which is 1,000,000,000,000, it still would have been wrong, because that is still much less than the necessary distance.
  • Wizards of Waverly Place episode 5. They zap themselves to Mars and just happen to land right next to a Mars rover. Mars is a pretty big place and this is vanishingly unlikely (though as a comedy it runs by Rule of Funny anyway).

  • The music video for "The Ghost Inside" by the Broken Bells features a toll booth in space.
  • In "Written In The Stars" by Tinie Tempah, he sings "Written in the stars, a million miles away..." A million miles wouldn't even get to the closest planet, let alone stars. In fact, the nearest star from Earth that we know of (after the sun), Proxima Centauri, is about a quarter of a billion times further than one million miles.
  • Katie Melua's "Nine Million Bicycle In Beijing" featured the lines "We are 12 billion light-years from the edge. That's a guess — no-one can ever say it's true," until a writer/scientist corrected her. She went on to record an alternate version, changing the line to "We are 13.7 billion light-years from the edge of the observable universe; that's a good estimate with well-defined error bars."
  • Dune's 1997 song "Million Miles from Home" claims that the narrator is "floating through the galaxy" with the task "to find another happy place". Consider the fact that the distance from Earth to Sun already is approximately 90 million miles, he couldn't yet have gotten very far.
  • "The Final Countdown" by Swedish band Europe. "We're heading for Venus and still we stand tall [...] With so many light years to go and things to be found." Admittedly, light seconds doesn't sound nearly as good.
  • Doctor Steel has a song called ''12,000 Miles Through Space" which is about aliens crash landing on earth and jumpstarting humanity. These aliens apparently didn't come from very far, as the Moon orbits at just under 240,000 miles from Earth. The song samples a recording about satellite transmission, and that's far more reasonable, as some satellites do actually cruise at about that altitude.
  • The short narrations that precede the lyrics of Ayreon's album The Universal Migrator 2 - Flight of the Migrator have a goof putting the quasar 3C 273 in the Virgo Cluster of galaxies. While 3C 273 is in the direction of the Virgo constellation, that quasar it's at nearly 2.5 billion light-years and that galaxy cluster at just around 50 million light-years, being totally unrelated to the latter.

  • Planet Man referred to the Astro Drive, which would enable the hero to travel the "millions of light-years to Alpha Centauri." Alpha Centauri is just 4.37 light-years away — in fact, it's the closest star system to our own. Actually traveling "millions of light-years" would be a lot more impressive.
  • In Orson Welles's Radio Drama adaptation of The War of the Worlds, rocket-launch explosions on the surface of Mars precede the Martian invaders' arrival by only a few minutes, as allowing any more time for their multimillion-mile journey would've run too long for the broadcast.
  • Journey into Space: In Journey to the Moon / Operation Luna, while under the control of the Time Travellers, Mitch claims that their ship is from hundreds of lightyears away: the other side of the universe.

    Tabletop Games 
  • BattleTech was originally hit pretty hard with this, as the game stated that a Hex is roughly thirty meters, meaning that no weapon short of artillery had a range equal to or greater than a single kilometer. Catalyst Games, the present owners of the license, have kept the Hex and range measurements, but have gone on record saying that BattleTech Weapons are really not that short-ranged. The official rationale used is that a) at actual, real-world ranges, a typical playing field would have to have at least 7 mapsheets laid end-to-end, and b) that sort of a game would not be particularly fun, as it would negate tactical movement and physical combat and other dramatic moves in favor of what would essentially be a sniper's duel.
    • The problem with this stance being something like 20 years' worth of novels saying that they most certainly are and various plots and tactics that more or less hinge on this fact to work at all. At some point, it really is just better to go "Yeah it's kinda silly, but this is a game about giant walking tanks a few dozen of which are considered a reasonable force to invade a planet, just go with it."
    • On the other hand, Battletech's sense of interstellar scale is, barring a few errors, fairly good. Even going faster than light, it can take months to cross the Inner Sphere and it's clear that even after a thousand years, explored space is little more than a rounding error compared to the entire Milky Way.
  • Warhammer 40,000: They run straight into the same problem as BattleTech when it comes to the main tabletop game: most egregiously with the release of the Deathstrike Missile, an ICBM with a maximum range of less than a mile (and indeed, less than the Earthshaker field howitzers fitted to Basilisk self-propelled guns). That did get fixed fairly quickly (the Deathstrike now has an unlimited maximum range), but we still have the problem of an ICBM most commonly used to kill someone less than 100' away.
  • The space battle Gaiden Game Battlefleet Gothic put some thought into scale issues, for all its joyful use of Space Is an Ocean and the Rule of Cool in general. The actual models are completely out of scale with the rest of the game, but the manual itself explains that, in scale, the ship the model represents would be somewhere in the stand holding it up. Thus, distances are measured based on the center of the ships' bases so that you can have nice looking miniatures without also requiring a spare country to play the game in. Base-contact in the game is "close range," generally of the order of thousands of kilometers. This is also the reason you need a command check to ram another ship - the captain not only has to order a potentially suicidal course of action and make it stick with the crew, but he also has to hit a target equivalent to headbutting a pinhead from a mile away...
  • D20 Future's FTL rules fancifully claim that the first faster than light drives make humanity able to "reach distant stars in mere weeks"... and then proceeds to put up stats that make the first FTL drives 5 times the speed of light and the best 25. For reference, Proxima Centauri (the nearest star to earth) is a 9-month journey at 5 times the speed of light. A 'distant star', like for example ULAS J0074+25 which is one of the furthest stars away from us in our own galaxy, would be a 36,000 year trip at the fastest speeds available in the system.

    Video Games 
  • In Star Wolves most of space is empty, and you almost never visit space where inhabited planets are. Instead, you spend most of your time visiting out-of-the-way systems that have a couple of space stations in them, if anything. And yet, for some reason, these space stations, which are placed five minutes away from each other, are treated as though they're light-years apart in terms of communication and physical contact.
  • 7 Days a Skeptic by Yahtzee revolves around an old locker discovered floating in another galaxy by an exploration ship. Ignoring the staggering improbability of finding anything that size in a galaxy, the locker was launched from Earth four hundred years before the game starts, in the modern day. The Canis Major Dwarf Galaxy, our galaxy's closest neighbor, is 25,000 light years away. This simple metal box would have had to travel at multiple times the speed of light to make it out of the Milky Way in such a short time.
    • This can probably be explained as the work of Chzo. Indeed, the supernatural nature of such an astronomically unlikely event is implied (though not stated outright).
  • EVE Online - distances in solar systems are realistic: from any particular planet, all other planets seem like points and are several AUs away. FTL technology is required to get anywhere. There are even two types of FTL: short range warp drives which are used to travel within systems (fitted to ships), and long-range star gates for traveling light years between star systems. Combat is frequently with ships that are only visible by their targeting icon.note 
    • Interestingly, they also point out the sheer size inherent in a single system. The game's equivalent of dungeons and hideouts are not actually hidden, per se. It's just that there is no conceivable way to locate them without acquiring the specific coordinates. Complexes are reached by short-range intra-stellar "acceleration gates", which catapult you into the location. Why a society with casual FTL drive lacks halfway decent sensor ranges is a mystery.
    • Eve also falls victim to this trope, with the asteroid fields that tends to consist of a few dozen asteroids tightly packed into a crescent shape. In real life, the average distance between asteroids is 2-4 million miles. However, since a realistically depicted asteroid field would be impossible to implement in a playable fashion, this counts as an Acceptable Break from Reality.
  • Ratchet & Clank: Clank said early into the first game that Drek was going to 'Destroy the solar system'.
    • The second game gave us a moon approximately 200m in diameter. It has its own atmosphere (probably; Ratchet has a helmet supplying him with air, so everybody else could have one too), and a fairly substantial city. Giant Clank can jump high enough to significantly reduce its size.
    • Ratchet & Clank's cosmology and physical constants have extraordinarily little to do with our own.
  • Wing Commander was never all that clear on what units of distance to use, depending on the game, but all of them were ludicrously wrong. Less than 100km between planets in a system (Privateer)? Um, no. Just... no.
    • There are also the shenanigans it plays with measuring speed, by using a variable "klicks" (which, unlike in Real Life, isn't slang for kilometers) for the distance portion of stated speeds...
    • Let's face it: Every space shooter gets the distances wrong, assuming you don't vaporize enemies far outside of visual range.
  • Freelancer is often just as bad or worse about it as Wing Commander; some planets being within tens of kilometers apart from one another and sometimes as close as 20 kilometers from their system's star(s). Said planets are sometimes visible from one another as sizes larger than the area the moon fills in the sky. On the other hand, if we use planets as a rough benchmark, stars are damn tiny in this game, and the ships are massive. Units Not to Scale is clearly in effect.
  • FreeSpace gets this wrong in the other direction. Earth gets cut off from the FTL network at the end of the first game, and a major plot point of FreeSpace 2 is the chance of reestablishing contact with Earth, since nobody has heard from it in the intervening 30 years. However, we still have FTL access to Alpha Centauri (4.3 ly away), so in the 30 years between games, there would have been plenty of time for ordinary radio messages to and from home, even if the signal degradation meant only basic Morse Code could be sent.
  • The Minecart Madness level of I Wanna Be the Guy starts with a sign indicating the distance of 10,000 kilometers to The Guy's fortress, which you reach in 78 seconds. That gives you an average speed of 286,786 miles per hour or 373 times the speed of sound. Then there's the issue of the apartment-sized moon that randomly falls to Earth...
  • Raul in Fallout: New Vegas remembers that in the great nuclear war, he could see Mr. House's defenses shooting down the nuclear bombs heading for Las Vegas... from Mexico City 2,800 km away. Either he meant he could see Las Vegas from Mexico City, which isn't possible due to the curvature of Earth, or he saw the ICB Ms flying towards Las Vegas, which is highly unlikely as not only do ICB Ms usually fly far too high up to be seen, this would mean the missiles were for some reason being launched from the South Pacific or taking a giant detour south.
  • Aurora 4X mostly averts this, with each star system being realistically sized. With Sol as an example, the Luna orbit is only a few hundred thousand kilometres wide, but the planetary orbits are hundreds of millions of kilometres wide, Pluto's orbital radius being 40 times larger than Earth's and over 8000 times larger than the Moon's. Some comets have extremely large orbits, taking decades and centuries of game time to approach the Earth.
  • The X-Universe hits this, hard. Aside from the issues where the biggest ships can be outrun by a Toyota Prius (if you floor it, mind), the sector planets are terrifyingly close. While they seem massive up close, you can fly between them if you really want to. Argon Prime, an Earth-like world, has a moon that is closer to the planet than the distance between Florida and California. The series averts this between sectors, however - it's never explicitly stated where any of the sectors are, meaning that they could be on opposite sides of the galaxy or adjacent to each other. And if you use the Unfocused jumpdrive, you'll typically wind up in the dead space between galaxies. X Rebirth features more logical distances as it shifts to a new interplanetary travel system, though planets are smaller than they should be.
  • In System Shock, SHODAN wants to fire Citadel's mining laser at Earth, from Saturn. And it can't be handwaved as an error on SHODAN's part since you can actually do this as part of a Non Standard Game Over.
    • In System Shock 2 the grove jettisoned from Citadel Station has somehow made it to Tau Ceti in the 42 years between the games. Tau Ceti is just under 12 light-years away from our solar system. The developers have admitted this doesn't make much sense, but haven't given a definite explanation for how it happened either. While not impossible the grove somehow traveled at 28.6% of the speed of light, how it was accelerated to that speed and slowed down again without being destroyed is another matter (getting up to speed in a remotely feasible manner would take longer than the journey). The most commonly accepted theory is that the grove ran into some kind of Negative Space Wedgie that transported it to Tau Ceti. It's not stated outright, but the second game does have experimental FTL drives.
  • No Man's Sky features planets grouped uncomfortably close to each other (only taking a few minutes for a player-ship to travel from one planet to another one). The devs admitted this was due to Rule of Cool, and given the result is some truly impressive alien skies it's acceptable.
  • In the Halo series, Harvest, one of the most remote Human colonies, and the site of first contact with the Covenant orbits the star Epsilon Indi and is 12 light years away. Reach, the "Second Military Capital" of the UNSC, orbits the star Epsilon Eridani, at 10.5 light years away. Not only that, but it's closer to Harvest than it is to Earth. In addition, the UNSC has, by the time of First Contact, settled hundreds of other planets and moons, yet they had never encountered, say, the Kig-Yar, whose homeworld is only 41 light years away from Earth. Word of God later hand-waved some of this as being the result of Slipspace simply being weird (for example, Harvest was considered the most remote colony because it took the longest to travel to, not because it was the furthest away in real space). Which still doesn't explain why there's a very clear link between the distances in the two spaces: after all, why would the UNSC be so (relatively) densely concentrated within a few dozen light years rather than being spread around the galaxy at random?
    • A much worse example would be the Covenant failing to find Earth for 27 years... when the first planet they discovered was Harvest, less than a dozen light years away. When considering the capabilities of their technology and the size of their own territory (which spans a thousand worlds scattered throughout the Orion Arm), this is equivalent to the Mongol Empire invading Japan in 1274, landing an army in Kyushu, and then spending the next three decades wandering around that small island looking for Fukuoka. While Honshu goes on completely untouched, with the invaders being unaware it exists. Warfleet attempted to explain this by noting that the Covenant can barely navigate their own territory, and that entire planets can simply go missing and not have contact reestablished for decades. Yet, even with that explanation, it defies belief that they couldn't have found Earth much earlier simply by scanning for radio waves. Note that the Jackals' home system is closer to Earth than some of Earth's own colonies, and that the Jackals have been part of the Covenant for over 1,200 years by the time of the games.
    • Another humdinger: although in the opposite direction: in Halo 3, someone says that the disk you're near is "10 to the 18th power light years from the galactic center". The entire observable universe is only about 10^11 power light years in diameter, meaning the galaxy in question would have to be more than ten million times as big across as the known universe! He probably meant to say it was 10^18 meters, which would be about 102 light years.
  • Star Trek Online inherits some issues from the canon it is derived from (with the exception of the Hobus Supernova, as the game more than once emphasizes that it doesn't make sense, and ultimately suggests that it was a subspace effect deliberate caused by meddlers operating on a technological scale significantly beyond the Federation or the Romulans), and has some of its own (partly for gameplay reasons), but it also has a civilization where the point is made that one of their flaws is that they really suffer from this trope — the Iconians, due to their massive usage of gateway technology for a very long time, apparently have a hard time grasping distances compared to the various civilizations travelling around at warp, since from their perspective pretty much everything is just a step away.
  • Dragon Age: Origins, much like its inspiration A Song of Ice and Fire, is a fantasy example of this. Given the size of Ferelden according to the official maps, and the time frame of events prior to the start of the game, only two of the six possible PC origin stories (City Elf and Mage) could have actually happened due to the travel times involved.
  • World of Warcraft: One quest claims that Swamp of Sorrows is only a day's march away from Stormwind. Assuming their positions on the in-game map are accurate, this would mean you could cross the entire continent on foot in about a week.
  • Etrian Odyssey Untold: The Millennium Girl has the plot twist that you are really somewhere in post-apocalyptic Japan. One of the characters, Raquna, is from Ontario, and the game includes skits where they get various provisions (including a cream churn) from there. If Ontario is where it commonly is, and not a Fantasy Counterpart Culture or different type of Ontario, that would mean that travel between Ontario and Etria is over 6000 miles at minimum. And there are no known means of fast transportation between cities.

    Web Original 
  • An In-Universe example happens in the SCP Foundation entry SCP-1958, a microbus that, through means unknown, was able to achieve spaceflight, with the occupants' goal of reaching Alpha Centauri. They thought they would get there in maybe four weeks at most, despite the van only being able to reach 130 km/h. For reference, Alpha Centauri is 4.3 light years away. After two months, they were not even past the moon; the journal detailing the tragic journey points out that one of the crew "fucked up the math", which they did big time; at their current pace, they would've taken another 37 million years to reach their destination. By the time the Foundation discovers the ghost vessel, it was near Mars at best.
  • In the BIONICLE web serial Federation of Fear, the characters make a quick getaway from a villain by boat and shortly thereafter randomly happen upon Tren Krom's island. A map of their world shows this quick random escape route was actually over a thousand miles long and spanning almost half a dozen other islands that they somehow missed.

    Western Animation 
  • Invoked in Justice League Unlimited: In the second AMAZO episode, where the android, on an interstellar journey to Earth, destroys Oa (or rather, teleports it out of the way) rather than make what is, given the scale involved, a ridiculously minor course adjustment. This is meant to showcase just how ridiculously powerful AMAZO has become: given two choices - remove planet or go around planet - removing the planet is more convenient.note 
  • Challenge of the Superfriends:
    • The show was never known for its rigorous scientific accuracy... or even for being terribly coherent. In the episode "Conquerors of the Future," a distress call arrives from the planet Santar, and Superman announces: "Santar is trillions of light-years from Earth. We'll have to leave immediately!" (For comparison, the edge of the observable universe is at around 46-47 billion light-years from Earthnote .)
    • In another episode, the Legion of Doom cut the moon in half, requiring Superman and Batman to come out and help. Batman and Robin fly to the moon in the Bat Rocket, a trip that lasts less than one minute. The Bat Rocket must have had some kind of inertial dampeners because making a quarter-million-mile journey in that kind of time would have required them to accelerate at roughly 20,000 g.
  • Futurama parodies broken physics very very often, often screwing with perspective, logical sequences of events, and so forth. It shouldn't come as a surprise that scale is messed with, too:
    • Occasionally planets in Futurama will be shown to be several SHIP LENGTHS away from each other.
    • In the episode When Aliens Attack, the camera starts at Earth, spends about 10 seconds panning through our solar system (with all the planets bunched together as usual), and once finished, takes 2 more seconds to pan to "Omicron Persei 8 (1000 light years away)".
    • Also used comically in one episode where Bender was contemplating the conquest of Earth as they headed to the planet. Leela quickly points out that said planet wasn't Earth, and the ship promptly leaps over it.
    • In A Farewell to Arms, Mars suffers a doomsday event and is pushed out of its orbit. It comes close enough to Earth that the residents of Mars are able to jump to safety. Leela is unable to jump and, as Mars moves away, the scene ends. In the next scene, everyone is safely on Earth and Leela thanks Scruffy (the janitor) for saving her. Scruffy replies "Don't thank me, thank the ladder" while holding a ladder no more than 8ft in length.
  • The beginning scene of BIONICLE: The Legend Reborn messes up not only the canon continuity but has scale and distance issues to boot. When the Mask of Life flies through space, we are treated to a montage of the object traveling past planets and whole galaxies under seconds, after which it curves around a bunch of other planets, and then finally lands on the planet Bara Magna. The scene didn't make any sense, thus the writers Retconned it for the official storyline, so that instead of traversing who knows how many light years, the mask only flies from Bara Magna's "planet moon" to the planet itself. This also prevented Makuta's eventual journey from said moon to the planet from having distance issues, though the scale was still off.
    • The story of the film involves the heroes traveling across the desert under what appears to be a handful of days. Looking at the official map published in a tie-in guidebook, this journey seems more or less feasible. But other measurements and comments given by the story writer throw a wrench into the calculations since according to these, the distance would actually be thousands upon thousands of miles, and the planet's relatively small and crammed settlements should be the size of countries. Worse, the movie ends with the characters (most of them below human-size) pulling these settlements together with mere ropes, manpower and a few motorized vehicles, dragging them across the vast desert again under no time. Would be no issue within the film on its own, but make no sense if we account for official extraneous story material.
  • In episode 12 of Green Lantern: The Animated Series, our heroes need to go through an asteroid belt on the way to Oa. Not only is the belt shown as an Asteroid Thicket, but asteroid belts are things on solar system scales and they are travelling on a galactic scale—it wouldn't make sense for the asteroid belt to be so big that avoiding it would be a noticeable course change. This not even considering that an asteroid belt is in a flat orbit and it would be easy to go around one in a spaceship even on a solar system scale.
  • The Magic School Bus: As an edutainment show this is usually handwaved away by "Rule of kids-won't-want-to-sit-for-eternity-waiting-for-things-to-happen.
    • In the episode about stellar life-cycles, a star several million light-years from Earth goes nova and then is compressed into a new star by the class. Both the nova and the stellar formation are immediately visible from Earth.
    • There was also the pilot episode where the class manages to explore the entire solar system in one day. There was also a scene where Ms. Frizzle gets blown away early in the episode and later turns up on Pluto (they go through a few different planets before finding her).
  • Loonatics Unleashed: it is revealed that Zadavia's planet is "over 600 parsecs from your own galaxy". Writers get a cookie for using the word "parsec", but unfortunately, they didn't realize that 600 of them are still peanuts to a typical galaxy (the Milky Way measures over 50 times that distance). Had they used "planet" instead of "galaxy" there would have been no problem — 600 parsecs is a respectable interstellar distance.
  • In Once Upon a Time... Space, one of the main antagonists is Cassiopeia, who uses as symbol the W formed by the stars of that constellation as seen from Earth, ignoring the stars that form constellations usually are at very different distances one from each other and that from one of them the pattern seem from Earth would not be seen at all. Worse, in another episode is mentioned they control several nearby constellations with even a crude star map showing some of them that in Real Life are close to Cassiopeia.
  • Technically an issue of area rather than distance, but the Grand Finale of Avatar: The Last Airbender was based on the Fire Nation using Sozin's Comet to burn the Earth Kingdom to the ground, forcing Team Avatar to stop them then instead of waiting until afterward when Ozai would be weaker. Ozai's fleet of firebenders riding five zeppelins is portrayed as being able to do a significant portion of this by itself before Sozin's Comet departs. Even a very high approximation of the rate they were burning up land (like that their fire plume was 1 km across and the fleet advanced at 100 km/h) would be about 100 square kilometers per hour, and Sozin's Comet wasn't even around for a full day. Although we don't know the exact size of the Earth Kingdom, it is the largest continent and country in the show's world and based on China, which has an area of about 10 million square kilometers.
  • Transformers tended to have problems with this. One early episode has the Autobots investigating a desert to learn why it has frozen over, determine that the Decepticons are doing something to cause it in the arctic and drive there. Yes, they drive from a desert containing palm trees and cacti to the Arctic, and it doesn't seem to take them more than a couple of hours max.
  • SilverHawks: Oh, where to begin. In the first episode, the team has to be converted into cyborgs so they can survive a very long trip to the "Limbo Galaxy" (which actually appears in the series to be a solar system), which is stated to be VERY far away. A couple of sentences later, the distance is stated to be 2 light years. Our closest neighboring solar system is farther than that. For real-life comparison, Alpha Centauri (the nearest star to Earth other than our own sun) is 4.37 LY away. The Milky Way is 100,000 LY wide. To actually get to another galaxy...for example, the Pegasus Dwarf galaxy (famously depicted in Stargate Atlantis), is about 3 million LY away. This is made more baffling by the fact that the show had a few edutainment shorts after the main program that included all manner of (contemporarily) accurate factoids about our actual Galaxy. Apparently the two writing teams didn't talk much.
  • Voltron: Legendary Defender: While much better about this than the original series, they still use improbably high numbers and distances. The Galra Empire controls hundreds of galaxies, has been in existence for ten thousand years, and is under threat from five ships that regularly combine into one mech. Regular FTL travel can cross light years in minutes (though this was lampshaded in the first episode when they noted that human ships would have taken years to reach Pluto), the Castle's wormholes can cross galaxies in seconds, and Hunk says that Pidge told him "over ninety percent" of space is empty (it's actually well over ninety-nine percent empty space).
  • On The Fairly OddParents, Timmy wishes that Vicky was "a million, million miles away from here." Cosmo responds by taking a measuring tape and flying into space until he counts the miles out to "one million one million", roughly two million miles away, and ends up on Yugopotamia, the home of Timmy's alien nemesis, Mark Chang. Note that the sun is a little over 94 million miles from the Earth. The idea there would be another planet we missed is absurd.
    • A way this could've been solved would be if "a million, million" was instead interpreted as a million of a million miles- as in, a million squared, or a trillion miles. Of course, that's a mere sixth of a light-year, and the closest known galaxies to the Milky Way are a lot farther away, so the only way this would work is if one were to assume there was a planet that distance that nobody caugtht.

    Real Life 
  • Anyone writer deciding to use the "How Can Santa Deliver All Those Toys?" trope will probably bring this up (probably indirectly). The Earth is HUGE, as in 196 million square miles huge, and the original Sinterklaas stories were very clearly not concerned with how Santa finds the time to deliver presents to everyone ELSE.
  • This sort of went the other way the week of 8 November 2011, when the asteroid 2005 YU55 came past Earth. While 201,700 miles is indeed close on a solar system scale, you could see years of science fiction and scientific ignorance clouding the media into thinking this was an Asteroid Thicket and it was right on top of us. (Indeed, the astronomy community had known for some time that there was absolutely no danger.) Jet Propulsion Laboratories even added to the public confusion by stating that the asteroid was "the size of an aircraft carrier", which is an oddly non-scientific description for something round, and did not apply to its mass, volume nor shape. There was even a comment on JPL's facebook feed saying that there was no standardized "Aircraft carrier units".
  • To a certain extent, this applies to even near-future and modern stories. As number 3 of this Cracked article notes, even the modern dogfight takes place well outside of visual range.
  • Here's Neil deGrasse Tyson answering the question of how long it would take humanity to reach another galaxy. Basically, either we have to come up with some new method for manipulating the fabric of space-time, or we will never get there.


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