Negative Space Wedgie
"Plot complication showing up on ship's sensors now, Captain. I am switching to visual... Computer data coming in now, Captain. It's just what we need: a colossal negative space wedgie of great power coming right at us at warp speed."—Mr. Schlock, Stardrek
The outer space equivalent of the Monster of the Week, except it isn't necessarily a creature—it can be the nebula that conveniently zaps your stardrive, or the planet with the radiation that makes you age too fast, or, well, any of a hundred similar things from Star Trek. It's unexpected, unexplainable, and puts the cast in an artificially-heightened state of crisis for 25 minutes plus commercials—until they find or invent the necessary cure, solution, fix or repellent spray.
Except for the superficial details, one Negative Space Wedgie is very much like another—it's just J. Random Threat, the third this month. It's a bit absurd to call them "an anomaly" (the usual term used on Star Trek) when they happen on a very regular basis.
Common varieties include:
- Lost Technology of the Precursors
- Mysterious glowing cloud
- Sufficiently Advanced Aliens having fun
- Swirly Energy Thingy
- Our Wormholes Are Different
Anime and Manga
- During the penultimate battle, the crew of Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann encounters a device that absorbs Spiral Energy, using it to convert space around it into an ultra-dense state (read: space ocean). Bad news? Our heroes are overloaded with and run on Spiral Energy.
- GaoGaiGar's second half features THE POWER, which is basically a Positive Space Wedgie that's hidden in the planet Jupiter.
- Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha has Imaginary Space, empty dimension spaces created by dimension faults that appeared during the finale of the first season. They will cease all magic when you enter them then suck you in with their strong gravitational pull. No one knows what will happen after that, but Precia believed that falling into it would lead to the lost civilization of Al Hazred, kinda like drowning in Atlantic Ocean would lead you to Atlantis.
- Getter Robo Armageddon has the infamous "space vagina" near the end of the show.
- Practically the entire enemy in Stellvia. Consists of the first wave, second wave, and cosmic fracture.
- Gold Digger 's final boss: a giant multidimensional rock, comprised of the big-crunch singularity from the Ancients' Universe when they escaped into Gina's. Her goal as the protagonist is to use the ancients' tools to synch the giant mass or something before everyone in her universe is stoned to death.
- Played with in With Strings Attached. Jeft insists that the four go after the third piece of the Vasyn right away, even though Paul is asleep and will be for several hours, because a “dimensional static storm” will prevent them from going for several days if they don't go now. Later, when Varx mentions that he's never heard of such a thing, Jeft says “There are a lotta things you never heard of.” It becomes clear later that he simply lied to the four and whisked them away while Shag and Varx were conveniently out of the room.
- The electromagnetic storm from the 2001 Planet of the Apes.
- Enki Bilal's Immortal has one appear right on Earth's surface, in Central Park, New York. This phenomenon called the Intrusion causes arctic atmosphere around the area, kills any human trying to enter, and brought some aliens, at least Jill and John from outer space, acting as a some kind of wormhole. Though John didn't create the Intrusion, it's implied that he brought it to Earth.
- A terrestrial version teleports the USS Nimitz back to World War II in The Final Countdown.
- And then, somewhat anticlimactically, it returns the carrier to its present day just as its air group is about to engage the Japanese fleet and prevent Pearl Harbor.
- The Nothing in The Neverending Story is basically a Negative Space Wedgie that devours Fantasia.
- The Antares novels have the Antares Nebula - a highly radioactive supernova remnant. After two years of research (not to mention a lot of money), the good guys develop a radiation shield that can handle it, enabling them to transit the nebula.
- The excession in, well, The Culture/Excession.
- Completely averted in Robert A. Heinlein's Starman Jones. Although the characters do get lost during warp and end up on a fantastic planet, about half the book is spent just describing the advanced math and technology (and work shifts, and computering, and configuration of seats in the cockpit) behind space travel, and the disaster happens only because the characters make mathematical mistakes and are too proud to admit it and start over again.
- The premise of the Russian multiple-writer series Death Zone is the sudden formation of a negative space wedgie in five cities of the former USSR (three in Russia and two in Ukraine) that obliterate the cities (including Saint-Petersburg) and create anomalous zones full of bio-mechanical monsters, gravity anomalies, toxic atmosphere, ever-present nanites that infect any exposed body part, and an enormous tornado at the center of each zone that links all five with another dimension. If you survive several days in the Zones, you're already elite. If not, then you're likely walking around as a mechanical zombie.
Live Action TV
- Often parodied in Red Dwarf:
Cat: I hate to go all technical on you, but: All hands on deck, Swirly Thing Alert!
Cat: Is that what I think it is?
Lister: What do you think it is?
Cat: An orange swirly thing in space!
- Star Trek was often at its best messing with these:
- "Where No Man Has Gone Before" (energy barrier at edge of galaxy gives humans godlike powers)
- "The Menagerie/The Cage" (psychic aliens capable of creating illusions that pleases every want of their captor)
- " The Squire of Gothos" (Trelane is the wedgie here)
- "Who Mourns For Adonais?"
- EVERY Star Trek show has featured Negative Space Wedgie when they were not featuring a new Monster of the Week or Planet of Hats. TNG ended its TV run with an extra special one, in fact. Even the crew of Deep Space Nine, a stationary space station (which moved in any significant way exactly once during the show, and in the first episode for that matter), encountered a surprisingly large share of Negative Space Wedgies. This was lampshaded in the DS9 Technical Manual, musing about how the high density of space anomalies in the sector may suggest that such phenomena are more common than usually believed. Then again, it was situated near a not-quite-so-negative Space Wedgie.
- The frequency with which the protagonists encounter them is lampshaded and justified in a Star Trek Expanded Universe novel dealing with the Department of Temporal Investigations; apparently exposure to a Negative Space Wedgie alters probability around you due to Techno Babble, making future encounters dramatically more likely (retroactively if need be). The DTI is understandably miffed, given that every time this happens their workload increases.
- Stargate SG-1 was prone to this in early seasons, since the Stargate would take them to any number of dangerous worlds without having to make expensive spaceship set pieces. However, it was hinted that most of their missions outside the episodes were quite mundane, and later seasons, having exhausted the obvious space wedgies, turned to more plot arcs and original episode themes.
- There was the episode "Grace," where the Prometheus is chased into a nebula by a huge alien ship that makes no attempt to reply to its communications other than agreeing to Sam's deal when she offers them a way to get out of the nebula, as the ship has become trapped there as well.
- SeaQuest DSV, being essentially Star Trek: The Next Generation on a submarine, occasionally resorted to a Negative Sea Wedgie. That this was somewhat harder for a reasonable viewer to accept was one of the show's great difficulties.
- At least in the first season, they were real-life Negative Sea Wedgies (fresh-water sinkholes, black smokers, etc). When they started finding alien spaceships and psychic energy vortices on the ocean floor, most people just gave up.
- Farscape had a couple of these, including a time-stopping cloud that was hardening to encase the ship in permanent stasis, and an entire section of space, even more remote than the Uncharted Territories, called "Tormented Space", which the crew of fugitives resorted to hiding in. Of course, you could also count that wormhole John went through in the first episode to get the series rolling.
- And, of course, the episode in which Moya gave herself a Negative Space Wedgie. During her pregnancy, she attempted to Starburst too quickly after her last trip, and ended up stuck.
- The TV-film Babylon 5: Thirdspace features an ancient artifact that opens a gate to a dimension inhabited by a race of ancient evil aliens.
- Doctor Who occasionally has these mixed in with the Monsters of the Week. Sometimes they can be negative time wedgies as well.
- The Patrick Troughton episode The Mind Robber may be one of the first television instances of this. In order to escape from a lava flow caused by the titular Dominators in the previous episode, "The Dominators," The Doctor activates the TARDIS' emergency drive unit, which "sends the TARDIS out of the time-space dimension" or, as he wryly comments, "We're nowhere...it's as simple as that."
- One memorable subversion occurs in the Eleventh Doctor episode "Amy's Choice": they encounter a "cold star", which radiates cold instead of heat. It turns out that cold stars are too ridiculous even for the Whoniverse: the Doctor (correctly) says they're completely impossible and the only reason they encountered one was because they were in a dream.
- Pretty much the entire original premise of Torchwood. A permanent NSW (the "Rift") runs through the city of Cardiff in Wales, which is the trope namer for Aliens in Cardiff. The local population seems largely oblivious to it, despite all the paranormal phenomena it causes, the random disappearances of people (either sucked into the Rift or eaten by displaced aliens) and the Torchwood team racing around the streets chasing said aliens. Still, if you are a Time Lord, then the Rift does have its uses. The Doctor employs it as a petrol station for his TARDIS, and in one instance to also tow the entire planet Earth through space and time after it had been stolen so as to put it back where it belonged.
- Andromeda made heavy use of temporal anomalies and the like, even incorporating them into the eponymous starship's construction.
- The game Rifts is set in a post-apocalyptic future where the entire Earth and surrounding space has basically become this. The game is further sub-divided into various other sub-settings one of which, Phase World and the Three Galaxies, employs this trope in its purest form.
- The Eye of Terror in Warhammer 40,000 is a gigantic, thousands of light-years across swirly energy thing of hell. Going into it is a quick way to a Fate Worse Than Death.
- Or, for the Ork WAAAGH that invaded the Eye and crashed onto a living planet dedicated to Khorne where they became 'doomed' with immortality, having to fight its daemonic inhabitants until they're slain only to rise again the next morning for all eternity. They considered this the awesomest afterlife ever.
- And there's plenty more around the Warhammer 40k galaxy, including the Storm of the Emperor's Wrath, the Maelstrom, and the odd dimensional portal. The recent Medusa V campaign revolved around a planet being swallowed by a giant Negative Space Wedgie that every faction in the galaxy happened to be fighting on/over for some reason.
- We can't forget the Damocles Rift, which is giving the Tau much-needed experience in dealing with the warp-spawned horrors they don't believe in.
- There's also the absolute madhouse Sub-Sector Aurelia from Dawn of War 2. Lets see, Aurelia returns from the Warp bringing back a couple million cultists, daemons and Chaos Marines, a massive Space Hulk returns from the Warp, and it is currently a playground for everyone ranging from Orks to Tyranids and everyone caught in between.
- Ironically, none of this makes Aurelia unique in any way. Rather, it merely serves as a generic example for the setting. While most places only have a few factions fighting involved, DoW games tend to have almost everybody getting in on the action. The Aurelia subsector has nearly all the setting's main elements: warpstorms, spacehulks, Ork insurgents, Tyranid invaders, the wreckage of an Eldar craftworld, being used as a shield against Tyrannid invaders to protect another Eldar craftworld, several Space Marine recruiting worlds, and an Imperial hiveworld with an incompetently treacherous planetary governor. If it turns out that a Necron tomb world had been in Aurelia this whole time, no one would be at all surprised.
- VOR: The Maelstrom takes place entirely inside the titular Maelstrom. Earth has been swallowed by a hole in the fabric of the universe, and trapped in an faux solar system orbiting a black hole... or something like that. Over the course of the next few decades or so it will tumble to its center, where it will be destroyed. Luckily, there are plenty of other planets plunging to their doom, many in orbits that will take centuries or even millennia to decay. Catch is there are LOTS of other lifeforms trapped in the Maelstrom as well, all fighting for possession of the safest worlds - and more appearing all the time. If there's a way out, none of those who have escaped have been able(or willing) to return to share the secret. Enjoy The Eternal Churchill.
- In Cthulhu Tech there is the Zone, which is what happens when you try to compress infinite dimensions into just three. As it turns out, it doesn't work out well at all.
- In GURPS Banestorm, the epynomous Banestorm is a probably-magical tear in time and space that kidnaps individuals, groups, and entire chunks of terrain from the history of Earth (and other dimensions) and scatters them all over Yrth.
- EVE Online has Deadspace Complexes, areas of space where warp drives don't work properly. Thay function as the game's version of dungeons. There are also several unusual phenomena mentioned in the background, ranging from superdense gass clouds to areas of complete void from which no ship has returned.
- Parodied in Space Quest VI with the Super Double Reverse Anti-Anomaly.
- Rift is a MMO entirely based around this concept. The world is a dangerous place with an especially fragile space-time continuum and dimensional portals can open anywhere, letting in all kinds of elemental Eldritch Abomination from the planes of Earth, Air, Fire, Water, Life and Death. Everything pouring out of the portals wants to inhabit the world with the kind of result you'd see from an ocean trying to warm itself around a candle. The two player factions have differing opinions on what to do about the portals: one wants to simply seal them, the other wants to use them to gain powers and knowledge to defend the world even more effectively from portal incursions.
- In Master of Orion 2, some of the one-time random events screw with hyperspace to impair or outright deny space travel.
- Final Fantasy V had the Interdimensional Rift and the Void as central plot points.
- Asteroid fields or nebulae in Freelancer may have some environmental hazard that can really mess you up or be used as a tactical advantage. Some fields reduce your sensor range to a few meters, some are full of lethal radiation that erodes your ship's hull and some may have minefields or volatile gas pockets that explode when you fly too close.
- Freespace 2 introduces a new nebula environment that is plagued with intense electromagnetic storms. On most missions, the lightning only obscures your vision, but there's one mission where it is so strong that it scrambles your HUD and messes with communications and targeting.
- Futurama has had its share of Negative Space Wedgies:
- "Roswell That Ends Well" (radiation from a supernova reacts with radiation caused by Fry putting a pan of Jiffy Pop popcorn in the microwave, creating a wormhole that sends the Planet Express crew back in time)
- "Time Keeps on Slipping" (removing chronotons from a star cluster disrupts time)
- "Teenage Mutant Leela's Hurdles" (exposure from age-reversing tar makes the characters younger; eventually cured by diving into the Fountain of Aging)
- "Where No Fan Has Gone Before" (Energy Being Melllvar)
- Of course, this one in particular is a direct and obvious parody of Star Trek's, as the entire episode is about Star Trek.
- The tearing of the fabric of the universe that occurs at the end of "Bender's Big Score" and the Monster that comes out of the rip in "Beast with a Billion Backs". Also the Timesphere.
- "Mobius Dick" and its anomalous space whale.
- Given a Shout-Out on Rocko's Modern Life in the episode "A Sucker for the Suck-O-Matic". A pink Enterprise is vacuumed up.
"Captain, we're being sucked into some kind of cosmic void..."
- In the Simpsons episode "Homer at the Bat," there is the "The Springfield Mystery Spot," a shack attraction ("Where logic takes a holiday and all laws of nature are meaningless"). Ozzie Smith goes into it and....
Smithers:....And Ozzie Smith seems to have vanished off the face of the earth....
- Cut to Ozzie Smith in a Red Void* "AHHHHHHHHHHHHHH- *Sees a floating E=MC2* Cool! *Takes picture* AHHHHHHHHHH-"
- Then there was the Treehouse of Horror episode where Homer stumbled into The Third Dimension through an invisible rift in his living room wall.