Okay, so this is my pitch: All of the characters are on a ship that travels through space, a "space" ship, if you like. Exotic locations like Adventure Towns or the Planet of Hats are just a "hyperjump" away. It's kind of like a Wagon Train to the Stars.
The term comes verbatim from Gene Roddenberry's original pitch for Star Trek: The Original Series to NBC in the middle 1960s, and references the early Western show Wagon Train, which was about a wagon train making its way west. The original is now less well known than the "...to the stars" phrase, making it an example of the "Weird Al" Effect.
Note that these shows need not necessarily take place in outer space. Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, for example, was essentially a Wagon Train to the Stars show, underwater. (so, recycled in the ocean?)
The ship is often enough, as in Wagon Train, a colonization/settlement effort that never quite gets to its destination, at least until the finale. If the ship has no fixed destination (Doctor Who, Firefly) then this overlaps with Walking the Earth, sharing most of the same tropes.
Anime and Manga
- Galaxy Express 999. Bonus point for having the main characters travel in an actual space train.
- Macross aka Robotech features this in a way when Macross City is rescued after a "space fold" accident and housed in the titular ship; the successor TV shows, Macross 7 and Macross Frontier take place on actual, literal stellar wagon trains (complete with collapsible roofs) intended to colonize planets.
- SF Saiyuki Starzinger (dubbed as Spaceketeers in the US), a sci fi retelling of the classic Asian story Journey to the West (Saiyuki) does this as well (the dub however, changes the Saiyuki references to Three Musketeers references).
- Uchuu Senkan Yamato, especially the "Quest For Iscandar"
- Yami to Boushi to Hon no Tabibito is a literal Wagon Train Through The Books.
- Robert A. Heinlein's Tunnel in the Sky has interstellar colonization by means of quite literal wagon trains, using artificial gateways to get to their destination planets. They're not the focus of the book, but twice we see wagon trains preparing to embark.
- In Melanie Rawn's unfinished Exiles trilogy, colonists from Earth find a new home in another solar system. Rawn named their spaceship after the actual wagon one of her ancestors rode out West.
- Star Wars has a evil version. the Yuuzhan Vong. They're from another galaxy, and had to travel millions of light-years at slower than light speed. They came in a huge fleet.
- So huge, in fact, that the novels created a Retcon stating that the primary reason the Empire constructed the Death Star and its other superweapons was to use them against the Yuuzhan Vong. The fact that they could be used to enforce their rule through fear and to fight the Rebellion was merely a bonus.
- The original Battlestar Galactica, which took it further by having a small "ragtag fleet" of ships under the Galactica's protection, forming a literal Wagon Train to the Stars (well, minus the wagons anyway).
- The second season of Buck Rogers in the 25th Century
- Doctor Who
- Power Rangers Lost Galaxy. There is a colony ship which is traveling to another planet. Evil aliens keep attacking and damaging it, and some of the damage can't be repaired, so while they started off with 10 engines, by the end they have only one, then zero. But, they did eventually get to their destination.
- Red Dwarf
- Space: 1999
- Star Trek and spin-offs (except Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, which was set on a space station). As mentioned above, the pitch for the original series is the Trope Namer.
- Stargate SG-1 has often been this, especially in its first seasons. Technically, it doesn't take place on a spaceship, but there's not much practical difference between a base that stays inside a mountain and has a gate to a new world each week, and a ship that actually travels to a new world each week.
- Stargate Universe, however, fits this perfectly.
- Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea
- Kingdom Hearts makes this a prominent (and very convenient) aspect of gameplay.
- Mass Effect
- Super Mario Galaxy (without the spaceship).
- Super Robot Monkey Team Hyperforce Go!, in later seasons.