Monday, October 31, 2016

Top 10 Space Crews in Fiction

There’s a certain charm about spaceship crews that other kinds of ensembles don’t (or can’t) quite have (by the way, this isn’t necessarily part of my ongoing series of lists on small-sized teams in fiction.  But it can also be so, since many in this list are small ensembles).  I can’t really put my finger on it.  Maybe it’s because of the whole “travelling through space” thing by a motley set of individuals.  Anyway, this list is about my favorite space crews in fiction.  They don’t really need to be a “crew” in the strictest sense, or that they have “official” or “professional” statuses as spaceship men.  The only requirement is that they are going on a space adventure within a ship.  In fact, the most fun of spaceship ensembles are those made up of a ragtag group of misfits that have been forced by circumstances to team up and travel in a spaceship together.

Honorable Mention: The Crew of the Waverider a.k.a. the Legends of Tomorrow
From: Legends of Tomorrow
Captain: Rip Hunter/Sarah Lance

The Legends have the dynamic of a “spaceship crew,” and they make a very volatile, unruly, but enjoyable group.  However, their ship, the Waverider, isn’t technically a “spaceship,” but a time-ship – a time travel vehicle that can navigate through the temporal zone to access different time periods.  Though it can travel through space, it isn’t really primary intended to be a spaceship.  Hence, they don’t really fit to the theme of this list, as they are “time heroes” rather than “galactic heroes.”  Still, I’ll give them an honorable mention, at least.

10.) The Crew of the USS Captain America a.k.a. the Guardians of the Galaxy (Original Team)
From: Marvel Comics
Captain: Martinex

The original Guardians of the Galaxy (which served as the inspiration of the modern and more popular incarnation) debuted in Marvel Superheroes #18 in 1969, and had guest appearances in various comic book titles afterwards.  They finally got their own series in the early 90’s, and had a recent revival series in 2014 (titled Guardians 3000, to distinguish the team from the modern Guardians of the Galaxy).

The Guardians of the Galaxy are made up of various super heroes from different planets of the galaxy in an alternate 31st century Marvel Universe along with time displaced 20th century astronaut Vance Astro a.k.a. Major Victory (he’s the alternate universe counterpart of Justice, a present day Marvel Universe hero).  Aboard the huge starship USS Captain America, they roam the galaxy, protecting it from the alien invaders called the Badoon.  They’ve also occasionally time traveled to the present day Marvel Universe.  Their most notable time travel adventure was when they teamed up with the modern Avengers to fight Kovac.

9.) The Crew of the Millennium Falcon
From: Star Wars
Captain: Han Solo

Ownership of the Millennium Falcon had gone through various hands.  But the most important and iconic possessors of the ship are Han Solo and Chewbacca (a terrific duo that I regrettably forgot when I wrote my list on duos).  Aside from the two, who respectively serve as the ship’s commander/pilot and co-pilot, the ship has had several temporary crewmembers (since its passengers can also double as crewmembers), most notable of all are Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia.  These additional crewmembers often serve as gunners.

8.) The Crew of the NSEA Protector
From: Galaxy Quest
Captain: Jason Nesmith

Galaxy Quest is a brilliant movie.  It’s not only a great satirical deconstruction of Star Trek culture, but it’s also a fantastic science fiction adventure story on its own.  The movie centers on a group of washed-up actors (which include Alexander Dane, my most favorite Alan Rickman movie character) who used to star in a hit Star Trek-esque TV show called Galaxy Quest and have been making their living mostly on appearing on fan conventions.  An alien race who have no concept of fiction (or are unable to grasp the concept of fiction) known as Thermians get hold of the episodes of the show, and they assume that these are “historical records.”  Believing that the Galaxy Quest cast is their only hope against a reptilian alien race that intend to wipe them out, the Thermians build an exact, real-life, functioning reproduction of the ship they had in the show, and recruit the cast to man it.   The actors are expectedly afraid and unwilling at first, but they eventually learn to become the actual versions of their fictional counterparts and be the heroes that the Thermians think them to be.

7.) The Crew of Moya
From: Farscape
Captain: Ka D’Argo

The crew of Moya perfectly embodies the “ragtag bunch of misfits” dynamic, as they are of different species and clashing personalities.  One remarkable thing about this group is that Moya is sentient.  Crews often romanticize their inanimate ship to be a “member” of their “family” or “crew”, but in this case, the membership of the ship to the group is as literal as any crewmember.  In fact, the group didn’t have an official captain at first, but Moya forced them to pick one from among themselves, and Ka D’Argo was chosen.

6.) The Crew of the USS Enterprise
From: Star Trek
Captain: James T. Kirk

This list requires a Star Trek ensemble to be somewhat validated, and my choice to represent the franchise is the crew of the USS Enterprise.  For me, Captain Jean-Luc Picard is better than Captain James T. Kirk.  But when it comes to their crews, I think Kirk and his crew are more fun and notable than Picard and his crew.

This ensemble is also in the number six spot of my list on fictional traveling parties.

5.) The Crew of Nirvana
From: Vandread
Captain: Magno Vivan

Though I recognize now that there are superior anime to Vandread, it remains one of my all-time favorites.  Here’s what the anime’s about (I’ve already previously summarized it, and am too lazy to do some rephrasing) and why its characters make a uniquely delightful crew:
In the far future, space has been colonized by humanity.  But during this time, in a specific system, the battle of the sexes become literal as males and females are alienated and at cold war with each other.    A crew of female pirates attacks and takes over a male battleship, and takes three male prisoners.  Then the living core of the ship fuses the male ship with the pirate crew’s own ship to form a hipper but mysterious ship which is later named “Nirvana”.  Nirvana suddenly warped far away in distant space.  Aside from the ship, the Vanguard (a male-designed humanoid robot) that was in the male ship and three Dreads (female-designed fighter spaceplanes) of the pirates are also changed as well that enable them to combine into a Vandread mecha (thus, the title).   In their journey to go back home, the males and females in “Nirvana” learn to co-exist.  The experience planted the hope of men and women possibly living together again.  And, oh, they also have to fight human-harvesting AI machines along their way back (and to warn their people – men and women – about the incoming danger)…
Yep, that’s a cool, quirky group.

4.) The Crew of Firefly
From: Firefly, Serenity
Captain: Malcolm Reynolds

What makes the short-lived TV series Firefly very much beloved – aside from an endearing space western setting and tone, clever and funny writing, and having one of the most charming, badass, cowboyish science fiction anti-heroes as main protagonist – is the dynamic of its well-layered set of characters.  They bicker, they butt heads, and they keep secrets from each other.  But even with the sense of dysfunctionility among them, they still project an air of familial camaraderie overall.

3.) The Crew of Bebop
From: Cowboy Bebop
Captain: Jet Black

Cowboy Bebop is one of the greatest anime series ever.  And I like to think that it’s one of Joss Whedon’s inspirations for Firefly.

Though the main focus of this anime is rightfully on space cowboy Spike Spiegel’s fascinating arc, his supporting cast and his relationship with them are also quite fascinating.  As a ragtag group of bounty hunters, they are simultaneously competent and clumsy on what they do.  But regardless of the result of their bounty hunting, whether it’s a success or failure, their interactions and methods are a lot of fun to watch.

2.) The Crew of The Righteous Indignation
From: Bucky O’Hare and the Toad Wars
Captain: Bucky O’Hare

Though it didn’t make my all-time list (it got an honorable mention though), Bucky O’Hare and the Toad Wars is one of my favorite cartoons nonetheless.  Since it only has 13 episodes, it’s a quick and easy series to watch, and I’ve watched it several times already (the last time I did was two years ago).

The cartoon centers on the crew of The Righteous Indignation – made up of Captain Bucky O’Hare (a green hare), Jenny (a psionic cat), Willy DuWitt (boy-genius engineer, and the only human), Deadeye Duck (a badass, four-armed, ex-pirate duck), Blinky (one-eyed android), and Bruiser (a Hulk amalgam baboon) – as they join the rest of S.P.A.C.E. (Sentient Protoplasm Against Colonial Encroachment) in their war against the evil Toad Empire.

What makes this screw stand out from the others in this list is that almost all of them are anthropomorphic animals.  I find the concept of critters serving as galactic heroes cute and appealing.  It’s like having several Rocket Raccoons.

Speaking of Rocket Raccoon…

1.) The Crew of the Cool Interstellar Travel Travelship (or C.I.T.T.) a.k.a. the Guardians of the Galaxy
From: Marvel Comics
Captain: Peter Quill a.k.a. Star-Lord

The Guardians of the Galaxy is basically like the Avengers, if the Avengers are more disorganized, eccentric, and protect the galaxy instead of just the Earth.  Founded by Peter Quill a.k.a. Star-Lord in the aftermath of the Annihilation: Conquest storyline, the group has undergone many membership changes through the years, ranging from actual Avengers (e.g. Iron Man, Thing, Mantis, Moondragon, Agent Venom, and Captain Marvel) to obscure C-list heroes (e.g. Jack Flag, Bug).  But it’s most well known members, aside from Star-Lord, are Rocket Raccoon, Groot, Gamora, and Drax the Destroyer (their definitive status is further enforced by the fact that they were the lineup of the awesome film adaptation).
There’s also an interesting story on why they are named “Guardians of the Galaxy.”  The initial lineup didn’t immediately take a name when their team was formed.  However, after they encountered Vance Astro a.k.a. Major Victory, who had been mysteriously sent back in time, and heard his origin story (see number ten of this list), Star-Lord thought it cool to adopt the name of Major Victory’s team for themselves.  In addition, Major Victory, since he was stuck in the past, eventually joined this new Guardians of the Galaxy team.

It’s quite interesting that they take upon themselves a responsibility with a massive scope such as protecting the galaxy from galactic threats when they aren’t necessarily the most powerful heroes in the Marvel Universe.  And that’s what makes this team great.

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