A Long Time Ago in a Galaxy Far Far Away
"Somewhere in space, this may all be happening right now."
—Original Star Wars trailer
Outer Space. The word "Earth" never comes up. Applied Phlebotinum is a way of life.
Quite simply, this is a setting in fiction so apart from the Earth we are familiar with, that Earth may as well not exist at all. It's never visited, never referred to, never even mentioned. It's left ambiguous as to whether it's even there. There may be humans (or beings that look like them) and other aspects earthlings could easily recognize, but it's obviously somewhere else. There could be any number of explanations for this, but it doesn't matter which, because Earth simply isn't needed. Sometimes contains references to the "theoretical ancestor planet", explaining why the galaxy is populated by humans.
Surprisingly rare in live action television series, although a fair number of animated series have used it.
Anime and Manga
- Soukou no Strain.
- Mamoru Nagano & Yoshiyuki Tomino's Heavy Metal L-Gaim & Nagano's later Spiritual Successor The Five Star Stories do this with the Pentagona Solar System & the Joker Star Cluster (or galaxy, or multiple star system depending on the translator) respectively. In addition to being populated entirely by humans or genetically engineered variants thereof, nearly all the plants & wildlife appear to be ordinary things like cranes, antelopes, lilies of the valley, etc. (with a few dinosaurs and fantasy creatures like dragons & fairies & the occasional god thrown in). And yet Earth is never mentioned. In The Five Star Stories, the human race is believed to have originated on one of two planets, but it's not confirmed. Further complicating things is the fact that a planned future storyline involves a major character travelling through time & space to the last days of World War II.
- Weirdly enough, Dragon Ball Z may qualify. The heroes' home is "Earth" In Name Only. This has the potential to hold weight. All it takes is time and effort to find the info. Various supplemental materials put out by Akira Toriyama, as well as things throughout the run of the manga/anime, suggest that at the very least it's an alternate universe or timeline. Games such as Budokai 3 and Legacy of Goku 2/Buu's Fury based the world map off of his official map and it looks NOTHING like our Earth. The advanced technology of the world, as well as other planets, humanoid animals, several humans living hundreds of years, etc. lean the series deeply in this area. The final kicker? Dragon Ball/Dragon Ball Z takes place in the mid- to late 8th CENTURY according to official timelines!
- Attack on Titan, much like Dragonball, a setting that is Earth In Name Only
- Lost Universe uses this trope, as it's in a different universe.
- Parodied in Shin Wars to describe Japan.
- Pokémon was originally set on Earth, but this was Retconned out.
- Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honnêamise is about the development of spaceflight by a people who look identical to humans with a 1950s level of technology, but their planet doesn't look like Earth and their culture doesn't exactly resemble any particular one in Earth history.
- Even though most of the action in the Marvel Universe happens in the Big Applesauce, sometimes the setting shifts to the vast empires of the Kree, Skrulls, or Shi'Ar, all of whom have empires that span the greater part of a whole galaxy each (the Kree in particular often state that they control a "thousand, thousand stars"—but then, they are Space Nazis, and prone to bombastic claims of glory.)
- Admittedly, if they count red dwarfs and brown dwarfs, a million stars (1000 squared) isn't really that much compared to 200-400 billion. Guess how many stars are estimated to be in our galaxy?
- DC Comics' last attempt to do Starman before Crisis on Infinite Earths was a benevolent planetary ruler named Prince Gavyn. He didn't come into contact with anyone from Earth until the end of the feature.
- Elf Quest is set on "the World Of Two Moons."
- Captain Underpants has the story of Underpantyworld, which takes place "a far time ago, in a galaxy long, long away".
- Elekton, home of The Trigan Empire
- Saga by Brian K. Vaughan, much like Star Wars, is a science fiction/fantasy hybrid which does not take place in our Milky Way galaxy.
- Star Wars: A New Hope, the Trope Namer, intended to set a fairy tale-like tone. The frequent jokes questioning the advanced technology of the setting despite it being in the past ignore the fact that being in a galaxy far, far away, technologies could well have developed much earlier than similar ones on Earth did - Decade Dissonance on an intergalactic scale. Depending on how meta one gets with the titles, the movies could take place in the future, the past or the present.
- Spaceballs, being a Star Wars parody, plays with this. The Opening Scroll begins with "Once upon a time warp... In a galaxy very, very, very, very, far away, there lived a ruthless race of beings known as... Spaceballs." The rest of the movie had everyone making references to Earth pop culture, and culminates with Dark Helmet declaring, "Even in the future nothing works."
- The trope is referenced in the opening of Stargate: The Ark Of Truth when the caption at the beginning of the opening scene says "Millions of years ago in a distant galaxy".
- The Dark Crystal takes place on a world with three suns; most inhabitants are Bronze Age level or less in terms of technology, and the Gelflings seem to come closest to even resembling humans.
- Iain M Banks' Culture novels mainly concern the spacefaring non-empire "The Culture". The appendix of the first novel states that the interstellar war described ended in the 13th Century AD. In the short story State Of The Art, a Culture ship visits Earth in 1977, stays to study us for a while and leaves without being noticed. The attribution of the epilogue to Consider Phlebas suggests that Earth gets contacted (as opposed to Contact-ed) in the 2100's.
- Isaac Asimov's Foundation series is actually the inverse of this trope, being set in the far future in the Milky Way Galaxy, but the fact that Earth has been lost to human knowledge leads to effectively the same result. However, this trope is thrown out the window later in the series when the protagonists embark on a search to find Earth, and eventually succeed.
- The Pearl Saga by Eric van Lustbader, which is set on the planet Kundala after a century of V'ornn occupation. Both the Kundalan and the V'ornn are called "human", despite sharing no evolutionary ancestry, and the Kundalan are identical to what we call human (the V'ornn really not, being hairless humanoids with two hearts each and turquoise blood), but Kundala is decidedly not Earth and neither is the V'ornn homeworld. There is no Earth mentioned at any time and Kundala is not a colony of anywhere.
- Played with in Gene Wolfe's Book of the New Sun/Book of the Short Sun cycle. Urth is not actually our Earth, but in a separate universe entirely. It doesn't even get mentioned by name in the Book of the Long Sun.
- A Song of Ice and Fire - and by association, the adaptation Game of Thrones - is set on Westeros, a world similar to medieval Earth with a slight fantasy edge.
- Flatland may be a satire of the culture of Victorian England, but it takes place somewhere that is hard enough to even describe to humans, clearly nowhere near Earth.
Live Action TV
- This is the setting in Farscape for all practical purposes. While protagonist John Crichton is from Earth, no-one else in the universe has ever heard of his species or planet, and the location of the show's setting, the "Uncharted Territories", in relation to Earth is never really established; the closest it gets is near the end of the third season, when Scorpius reveals that he has discovered the location of Earth, and says that if John doesn't cooperate, he'll destroy it even though, going as fast as they can, it will take sixty years to reach it. "as fast as they can" is never really specified.
- Battlestar Galactica. In both versions, the characters are human spacefarers, but not from Earth even ancestrally. They are from the Twelve Colonies that were settled by humans from Kobol and are looking for Earth, which is mentioned in their sacred scrolls as the 13th colony of Kobol. The original series was set in The Present Day, while the series finale of |the 2000s version ultimately reveals that (major spoiler) this is a long time ago far, far away (although in the Milky Way galaxy) when the fleet finally arrives on Earth and it's still the prehistoric era.
- Stargate SG-1. In the episode "1969", Jack O'Neill justifies his team's oddness to a couple of contemps by saying that they're aliens who came to Earth "a long, long time ago". Daniel Jackson can't help adding, "from a galaxy far, far away." Maybe the kids wound up working for George Lucas a few years later?
- Star Frontiers asserted that it was set in this sort of verse.
- Dungeons & Dragons has several settings, each with its own world:
- Greyhawk takes place on Oerth, which despite the similar name, is vastly different than Earth.
- Forgotten Realms takes place on the world of Toril.
- Dragonlance takes place on the world of Krynn.
- Dark Sun's setting is Athas, which is a post apocalyptic version of a world that used to be like Oerth and Toril.
- Spelljammer was supposed to connect the other settings, but had a few worlds of its own. Planescape too, but it often used Sigil as the "core" world.
- Mystara was an odd one. Called "the Known World" by its inhabitants, it seems to be Earth All Along, or rather, Earth-to-be. The global map of Mystara bears a suspicious resemblance to that of Earth 152 million years ago. It also features a solar system with an additional planet instead of an asteroid belt. A planet named Damocles...
- Birthright is a setting that takes place on Cerilia on the world of Aebrynis.
- Ravenloft downplays it a little. The setting is a demiplane in the Ethereal Plane that seems to be made of lands taken from other worlds in the franchise. Masque of the Red Death is a Spin-Off that takes place on Gothic Earth, a fictional version of Elizabethan-era Earth. Ravenloft seems to have some sort of link to this place, seeing as the Vishtani populate both and the town of Odiare was originally in Gothic Earth.
- The original fantasy setting for GURPS, eventually named Banestorm, is Yrth, a planet (or perhaps just a continent) in an alternate dimension where Earth is known only to scholars and the very occasional person who arrives in a one-way trip between dimensions.
- Xenosaga has this in the form of "Lost Jerusalem", which is the colloquial term for the ancestral planet of humans. Humans have been living in space for a good 4000 years, and Earth has long since been lost and forgotten over time.
- The Jak and Daxter series takes place on a planet unrelated to Earth, populated by elf-like humanoids with long pointy ears.
- Ratchet and Clank up the ante, spanning three whole "galaxies far, far away" over the course of the series: Bogon, Solana, and Polaris.
- Most Square-Enix RPGs occur on planets with no visible relationship to Earth, or each other. Though, bizarrely enough, there's almost always humans, or just really Human Aliens.
- Final Fantasy X-2 has a mini-side-quest that semi-confirms a direct connection between it and Final Fantasy VII, by implying that the Shinra in your group is the ancestor of those who will produce the technology to head to the stars and find a new planet thousands of years ago in the time-line of FinalFantasyVII. This doesn't have a 100% approval rating, and discussion of it is not advised. Everyone pretends it didn't happen, though technically acknowledging it's true. Like a lesson taught by Principal TAMZARIAN.
- Freelancer plays this trope to some degree. The opening movie makes it clear that Humanity emigrated from Earth towards the Sirius sector, and the places are named after actual locations in the Earth, yet nobody in the entire game makes even a single reference to Earth.
- "We have grown. We have prospered. We have flourished. But we will never forget." My ass.
- Earth is never mentioned by name, but several people obviously have detailed information about its geography, given that not only are various planets, stations, and ships named after locations on Earth, but their roles and importance match up. For instance, the planet Cambridge is home to a major university, while Newark Station is in its proper position orbiting Planet Manhattan. There are only a handful of locales that aren't named for places on Earth.
- Likewise, in the Homeworld series, the player's faction appears to come from Planet Hiigara; the Earth is never mentioned in the entire storyline. The player, however, is eagerly invited to draw the conclusion that Hiigara is Earth. The final mission of the first game takes place near Hiigara and it has a very familiar looking moon orbiting it.
- Due to the essential nature of the Homeworld games (the gameplay is 3D ship-to-ship combat), presenting actual beings that the user could care about was problematic. They hit upon the solution of simply not showing anyone; the only real character, Karan Sjet, is in possession of the Mothership, so you hear her voice a lot. With no real drawings of the people in the game, the player is invited to draw whatever conclusions they wish as to what the actual species is. The last mission is meant as something of a reveal, "they were human all along" kind of thing. For those who didn't get the clues in the first game, Homeworld 2 clarified things by actually showing Karan Sjet as being human (or exceedingly human-like). Karan also got bigger boobs, and shed the whole 'ripped open nerve trunks/crippling cybernetics' bit, too.
- Though Hiigara shares many similarities with Earth, and the Hiigarans are eventually revealed to be humanoid, it is also made very clear that Hiigara cannot be Earth. This is because (1) Hiigara is located near the center of its galaxy, while Earth is in a completely different location in the Milky Way, and (2) we get a closer look at Hiigara in Homeworld 2 and the continents look nothing like Earth's continents.
- Also, if you're an astronomy geek, you'll notice the galaxy Homeworld appears to be set in is M51 (aka the Whirlpool Galaxy). Which is about 23 million light years away from Earth.
- World of Warcraft is set on the world of Azeroth; it has many Fantasy Counterpart Cultures, but is otherwise nothing like Earth
- Retconned away (or never happened, depending on who you ask) in the Sonic the Hedgehog series- in the West, the series took place on the planet Mobius, with no mention of Earth. However, in Japan, the series was always set on Earth. Beginning with Sonic Adventure, the series officially took place on Earth in all regions (though Mobius survives in the Archie Comic, itself plagued by retcons to make everything fit).
- Sonic Underground and Sonic the Comic still took place on Mobius even at the time of Sonic Adventure. Sonic The Comic even mentioned Earth as being a different planet with a similar evolution, thus explaining the talking animals. The other two DiC cartoons, Adventures of Sonic and Sat AM also took place on Mobius; Sat AM had planned to make the reveal of it being Earth in the third season, but it was Cut Short. So there are some more Sonic examples. Though in the Archie comics, it was revealed - and thus the trope inverted with - that Earth and Mobius are one and the same. Turned out humanity's paranoia towards aliens was their downfall, as when the Xorda emissary that had actually come in peace, was captured, and subsequently dissected by humans, the Xorda got rightfully pissed and unleashed Gene Bombs (bombs that destroy DNA) on the planet. However some people and animals survived, with the latter's DNA mixing with shredded bits of human DNA, thus turning them into the anthropomorphic creatures they are today.
- In the online Turn-Based Strategy game Ultracorps, there are no references to Earth or humans except for one line about "that legendary creature of ancient Terra, the cockroach" in one race description.
- The perpetually medieval Hyrule in The Legend of Zelda is apparently on another planet. There are human stand-ins called Hylians, who can be described as humans with pointy ears, and sometimes regular-eared humans with them.
- The Phantasy Star games take place on planets orbiting the star Algol, where humans apparently evolved independently from humans on Earth.
- This one doesn't really count. Earth is a recognized and at one point active part of the Phantasy Star universe, and our galaxy does, in fact, have an Algol system (See here). Humans are indeed recognized as having evolved separately from those who appear on Earth, and it is distinctly not an ancestor planet. The only criteria for A Long Time Ago in a Galaxy Far Far Away that Phantasy Star fills is 'Applied Phlebotinum is a way of life'. Until Phantasy Star Universe, anyway, which if it is Canon to the rest of the series, takes place A Long Time Ago in a Galaxy Far Far Away relative to Algol, not Earth.
- There's some fanwank out there that suggests that the Phantasy Star Online games actually take place on Earth. And the fanwank makes sense.
- Phantasy Star Zero takes place After the End on a planet called "Earth", which has a white, cratered, atmosphereless satellite called "the Moon". In a story mode quest, it is revealed that the Earth and the Moon were once known as Coral and Arca; Coral being the homeworld that the Pioneer ships of Phantasy Star Online launched from. Despite that, though whether this has any relation whatsoever to our Earth is still anyone's guess.
- Tyrian 2000 has Trent Hawkins jump into hyperspace, set for an unheard-of planet 100 light years away. The planet in question is Earth.
- Thunder Force I through IV are set in a distant galaxy known as the Galaxy Federation. V, on the other hand, changes the focus from the Galaxy Federation to Earth.
- The Super Mario Bros. universe, from Yoshi's Island onwards.
- Z follows the war between two intergalactic robots that look and act a lot like humans. No mention is ever made to who, when, why or where they were made. Ditto that any organic people where ever around.
- The "space arc" of Arthur, King of Time and Space. It's set in 5th century Britain, only "Britain" is The Federation, and interstellar travel has been around since some point BC.
- Two of these settings have appeared as other dimensions in Sluggy Freelance.
- Last Res0rt takes place among the Connection, including a renamed Earth as "Terth".
- According to the opening narration, The Herculoids is set "somewhere out in space."
- Buzz Lightyear of Star Command also belongs here.
- Storm Hawks.
- Zigzagged a little with He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, which took place on Eternia, a Schizo-Tech fantasy setting. Earth does exist, and Queen Marlena is an immigrant from there, but that was important for only one episode; most of the series ignored the place entirely.
- Third Earth of Thundercats was originally said to be post-apocalyptic Earth, but the show stopped mentioning it after the beginning. The 2000's comic book series, which included a crossover with G-Force from Earth, claimed that it was another planet after all.
- The Muppet Babies once began a Sci-Fi movie they made, "Far, far ago in a long galaxy."
- Later to be called "Abode".