Space Nazis – The Trope That Needs to Die

A few days ago I decided to watch a purposely bad B-Grade Nazi exploitation film called Iron Sky. In the movie, modern astronauts go to the moon to mine hydrogen 3, only to find a fully built factory of the same purpose already there. The astronauts soon discover that they weren’t supposed to find this facility, and are taken down by a group of jack-booted and gas mask wearing S.S. troops. It seems that a handful of fully operational Nazi soldiers fled to the moon during the death throes World War II, and set up shop where nobody would find them.

Iron Sky is a fun movie based on the fact that it is so over the top, in bad taste, and well….bad that it has that same vibe one gets from something like Snakes on a Plane. It also stands as a parody of all the SERIOUS works of science fiction and alternate history that revolve around the discovery of a fully formed group of Nazi remnants in full operational capacity (and ready for blood) in a cartoonish fashion. This really got me thinking – should Nazis really be the “be all and end all” bad guys from here on out? Or are they just lazy writing in all fiction – simply designed to shock and bring back a sense of patriotism that hasn’t been there for seventy years? What about “space Nazis”? That’s even worse…

The PlayStation game series, Killzone, does a great job of disguising the space Nazi trope.
The PlayStation game series, Killzone, does a great job of disguising the space Nazi trope.

I can handle a hypothetical situation where a crew of sci-fi guys travel to a planet and a totalitarian regime is in place that may or may not be similar to the Nazis. They can have flags, even red flags, skull based insignia, and even labor camps for that added shock value. The Daleks in Doctor Who might as well be space Nazis, but they are nicely changed in many ways as to be more inconspicuous in that regard. But when you have honest to god, born in Berlin, but somehow ended up in space, Nazis I want to kill people. The worst offender is Star Trek, a show that has dabbled in the Space Nazi theme so many times that every series seems to have a contractual clause to include at least one episode based on it. Here is the plot from a classic episode:

“When the Enterprise approaches the inner planet Ekos to investigate the cessation of communication with researcher John Gill, it is attacked with a rocket carrying a nuclear weapon. This is puzzling as well as dangerous, since neither the outer planet Zeon nor the inner planet Ekos is technologically advanced enough to possess rockets or nuclear warheads. The Enterprise retreats to maximum orbital distance and Kirk and Spock beam down (after having position-broadcasting transponders surgically implanted in case of mishaps).

Kirk and Spock discover that a Nazi movement has swept the planet, complete with genocide of the “Zeon pigs” residing on Ekos. They view a public newscast in which the Iron Cross second class is presented to Daras, hero of the Fatherland. Kirk and Spock are also shocked to learn that Gill appears to be the leader of the planet’s Nazi movement.”

star-trek-pattern-of-force-space-nazi
The originator of offense

I could just chalk it up to goofy 1960’s TV, and the fact that WWII had just ended less than twenty years prior, but this still goes on today. It was fresh When Edgar Rice Burroughs created the concept of Space Nazis way back in 1938, but it’s 2013. Don’t we have any modern socio-political issues that can be satirized in this way? Are we so worried as a society that we might offend someone that we can’t have space North Korea, Space Al Qaeda, or Space class warfare?

Victory_of_the_Daleks
Victory of the Daleks was creepy because the Daleks are basically space Nazis by virtue of action and ideology, no need for swastika flags and goosestepping!

If you have any ideas for what can take the place of space Nazis, please sound off!

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9 thoughts on “Space Nazis – The Trope That Needs to Die”

  1. Sorry, but we’re stuck with Nazi’s. At least for a while. First of all, the uniforms are awesome! There hasn’t been a better dressed bunch of bad guys. The Soviet uniforms were quite drab in comparison. That’s why they went with Nazi’s in that Original
    Series Star Trek episode. They Wanted to dress up Kirk and Spock in Nazi uniforms.

    Also, the laws of political correctness dictate that there hasn’t been a bad guy we could all agree on since WWII. There were a lot of Americans who sympathized with Communism throughout the 20th Century so Hollywood was conflicted.

    The film Sum of all Fears has a nuclear attack perpetrated by, yes you guessed it, Nazi’s. The South African kind. The producers absurdly changed the books villains from Muslim terrorists to South African Nazi’s because they didn’t want to offend Muslims. That movie was released not long after 9/11 and I remember thinking how absurd it was to use made up bad guys when we couldn’t even acknowledge real bad guys.

    So Nazi’s it is. And I’m sure I’ll go see the sequel to Iron Sky.

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    1. The worst Nazi related thing I saw EVER was an episode of one of the many CSI shows (the last one I watched). There was this dead girl found that had horrible injuries to her eyes to the point that one was found to not be connected anymore. they later found out she had that disease where your eyes are two different colors, and it confused them because she has two blue eyes when they found her. Long story short, a Nazi scientist did it while trying to give her blue eyes…..sigh

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  2. Shame you didn’t call the post ‘Space Nazis Must Die’. I think Nazis get used a lot as the models for SF bad guys partly because of the aesthetic and also because there is this consensus that they were Evil Incarnate, which you can’t do with other nationalities/philosophies. It really helps to have a villain that’s easily identifiable, otherwise it slows the story down. I admit there is a tendency towards lazy thinking in this area but when (for example) Enterprise tried to do something new with bad guys like the Suliban and the post 9/11 storyline it wasn’t very popular.

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  3. Nobody cares if you insult a nazi or a neo-nazi, especially not Germans (they are legally obligated to not be offended). All the bad guys you can pick from other wars are nationalities.
    If you have any form of Capitalist as the villain Fox actively complains (The railed against the Muppets and a recent Dr. Seuss movie). I think France would riot if they were the bad guy (Space Napoleon). Actual religions are easily butt-hurt, some more than others.
    You could probably convince Mel Gibson that it’s a Jewish Hollywood plot to keep their boogeyman as The boogeyman rather than the lack of imagination.

    It really though it boils down to not having to flesh out the bad guy or zombies/vampires/werewolf; however, undead + bad guys gets you Necromongers which were fleshed out just a bit.

    PS. the Bad guys in Star Wars was the British Empire, and Asian capitalists.

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