Some favorite space operas

Starships named Enterprise
Starships Enterprise

[Note: Reposted with some revisions from the “Vanished Lands” Yahoo/eGroups site.]

Fellow role-players and genre entertainment fans, to follow up on a conversation from this past Monday’s FATE 3e Starblazer Adventures: Vortex” game, here’s an admittedly subjective list of the best space opera movies and TV shows by decade:

>>1900s to 1930s movies: A Trip to the Moon, Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers serials

>>1940s and 1950s: Forbidden Planet (movie), Tom Corbett, Space Cadet (TV)


-Movies: 2001: A Space Odyssey

-Television: Doctor Who (to present), Space: 1999, Star Trek


-Movies: Alien, Star Wars [Episode IV:] A New Hope

-Television: Battlestar Galactica, Blake’s 7, Macross/Robotech, Space Battleship Yamato/Star Blazers


-Movies: Aliens, Dune, Heavy Metal, Outland, Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan, Star Wars [Episode V]: The Empire Strikes Back

-TV: Star Trek: the Next Generation


-Movies: The Fifth Element, Stargate, Starship Troopers

-TV: Babylon 5, Space: Above and Beyond, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine


Movies: Moon

TV: Farscape, Firefly/Serenity, Stargate SG1

>>Do you have any favorites or recommendations? Here are some good online resources:

This list is by no means comprehensive, and it overlaps slightly with related subgenres of speculative fiction, including alien invasion/horror (The Day the Earth Stood Still), comedic/spoof (Galaxy Quest), cyberpunk/dystopian (Blade Runner), kaiju (Gamera), planetary romance (Warlord of Mars), postapocalyptic (The Road Warrior), police procedural (Alien Nation), and time/dimensional travel (Twelve Monkeys). Space opera is distinguished by relatively easy interstellar travel, familiar interactions between humans and aliens, and mostly heroic characters and plots.

What prompted this? Although we’ve previously discussed our favorite science fiction in various media, in “VortexTeam 1, Jason and I were tossing around allusions, and Josh noted that he recognized only a few of them. I’m sure that Beruk knows more pop-culture references than much of Team 2. Everybody should be familiar with most of the items listed above!

I haven’t even touched on the best space opera books, comics/graphic novels, and games, which are worthy of another discussion! As Brian and Jason noted, the big ideas of science fiction are generally presented with more variety and strength in literature, while fantasy and horror seem more accessible to movie audiences. What do you think?

One advantage of a “sandbox,” homebrew game is that we can incorporate our favorite influences into a shared setting. “Vortex” has 22nd century humans and some established history, but they’re just starting points. I’ve enjoyed seeing the crew of the Blackbird dealing with human-alien relations and the crew of the Appomattox run its cons and get entangled in local affairs. Now that both starships are heading into deep space, the sky’s the limit!