I'm looking for some reasons that could force a spaceship to land at the nearest planet and cut all connections with the homeland planet, so all the crew will be force to settle at the planet for a while and try to survive until connections are fixed.

The planet :

  • An earth like planet inhabited by humans
  • Medieval technology level
  • Some weird animals and weather (Acide rain, poisoned fog ...)

The crew : 7 members

  • A captain (also the pilot)
  • A mechanic
  • Three soldiers
  • Two scientists

The Spaceship :

I'm not a sci fi fan so I don't have much information on the spaceship. But any medium size spaceship that could carry the crew and fit a research mission should do it.

I'm going to focus more on the crew's survival on the medieval planet so what i really need is just a realistic reasons for the forced landing and the communication's cut.

P.S: I'm french, excuse my bad english.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Think: what's the most likely reason for a car to stop in the middle of nowhere? A leak, an empty tank, engine trouble: these are obvious solutions. Take your pick of which one fits your story best $\endgroup$ – nzaman Sep 18 '17 at 13:19
  • $\begingroup$ Space pirates destroyed the drive and communication systems. The crew managed to use thrusters to get to the nearest planet. $\endgroup$ – Olga Sep 18 '17 at 13:19
  • $\begingroup$ This is one of the most common clichés in all of space sci-fi - "[something] has gone wrong and ship and crew are now stranded in the depths of space/on inconvenient alien world". You should add details of the technology your story is using or finer details of your world. $\endgroup$ – SMEAT Sep 18 '17 at 13:20
  • $\begingroup$ The navigation computer suffered a malfunction due to a faulty contact on a circuit board supplied by the lowest price bidder in accordance with the public procurement rules of the Terrestrial Union; as a consequence the ship had to drop out of hyperspace in order to allow the crew to remediate the fault. Unfortunately the intermittent contact induced subtle data errors in the navigation database, which made the computer refuse to uptranslate into hyperspace; the automated protocols sent a distress robotic vehicle back home, but it's unclear whether the message will reach Earth. Suspense! $\endgroup$ – AlexP Sep 18 '17 at 13:26
  • $\begingroup$ They realised their doctor is not a bricklayer? $\endgroup$ – SZCZERZO KŁY Sep 18 '17 at 14:03

The ship's life support systems (which produce oxygen for the crew to breathe) are damaged beyond repair. The ship has some emergency oxygen tanks, but only enough to reach this particular planet.

Possible sources of damage could be an impact by a tiny meteorite that has escaped the ships detection.

  • $\begingroup$ No other problem would require a, possibly, one way trip into a deep gravity well. $\endgroup$ – ShadoCat Sep 18 '17 at 19:16

Mechanical failure of any of dozens of critical systems onboard your ship

Klaxons began sounding. The lights flickered, then went out. "Captain! The FTL reactor is offline! The containment core is about to blow!" Lt. Wilkins yelled, staring at all the red, flashing, warning indicators on his console.

The captain said nothing for a second, weighing his options, then began bellowing orders, "Engineering, prepare to jettison the core! Nav, drop us out of hyperspace and make for the nearest planet. Comms, send out a distress beacon. All hands, prepare for emergency landing!"

Nav or computer failure

We dropped out of warp. The computers began analyzing the stars visible to the sensors from our position. Before it could calculate our location, the screen froze up. "Captain! We've lost navigation!" Unlike every TV and holocast show ever, I didn't hit the side of the console, since I knew the computers were buried deep in the ship's interior.

"Captain! The FTL navigation computers have gone offline. Diagnostics indicate a drive failure. Trying to restore from backups," computer operations office Wilkins said. Then, "Captain, our backups...they're corrupt, too. I think... I think we picked up a virus at our last port, sir." The fear was evident in his voice.

"Make for the nearest system. Hopefully, there's an inhabited world there. Comms, send a distress beacon."


I saw Ensign Wilkins come out of the engine bay. He froze as he saw me. "Ensign, may I ask what you were doing down there?" He worked in computers, not in engineering. He wasn't authorized...

He lunged at me with a spanner in his hands. I dodged, barely. Just as I prepared for his next attack, the ship lurched. With cold dread, I felt the FTL engines shudder and go offline...


"Battle stations! All hands, battle stations!" We weren't supposed to have any drills this voyage. Just carrying food to some backwoods science station.

Suddenly, there was a loud wooshing noise. Acting as much on instinct as on thought, I grabbed the cookie tin I had just pulled from the ship's oven and slapped it over the hole in the ship's outer hull. That slowed the leak long enough for me to get to the repair kit on the wall. Someone had hit us with a railgun round. But who?

The next half hour was a terrifying scene as we tried to escape the combat. But our ship wasn't built for battles. At the end, we escaped. Barely. But now we have to crash land on some uncharted planet, thanks to the railgun damage to our FTL engines.


"Captain, a word, please?" I tried not to sound worried.

"Yes, Jones?"

"Sir, its... It's our water supply sir. We're low. We can't make it back to station with what we have on hand."

"I see."

And that's how we ended up having to make a landing on this planet. Sadly, Ensign Wilkins botched the landing, thanks to a freak hurricane or tornado or monsoon or something. He should've checked the scanners. But he didn't. And now we're stuck here.


Later, we analyzed the data and determined that two dwarf planets collided at speed. Centuries ago, probably. Alas, we didn't know. There's no way Ensign Wilkins could've picked up the hundreds of thousands of micro-meteors that made up the cloud of debris we passed through. He couldn't have known. He picked up the big pieces and steered us through those safely, at least. But at 25% of light speed, we simply couldn't maneuver around the smaller pieces. Nor are our scanners sensitive enough to see them.

The XO was killed trying to patch a hole in the cockpit. The rest of us lived. We've landed on this planet, third from the sun. I don't know if our distress beacons got out, or if anyone will hear the signal.

I fear Wilkins may not make it. He's blaming himself for the disaster. He was at the Nav console, so it was his job... but he couldn't have known. No one could have.


Captain Wilkins has been locked in the brig. I suppose that's small comfort now. He's deleted the navigational database. So we don't know where we are or how to get home. We're screwed. I don't understand why he went mad. We all passed the psych evaluations before we joined this mission. He shouldn't have cracked. He damn near killed Lt. Jones. And now, I guess, he's probably killed us all.

We'll land soon. We found a world that appears safe. No communications, so it's probably uninhabited. Lonely, but better than dying in this floating tin can, I guess.

  • $\begingroup$ Some of these scenarios don't sound very plausible: How would they approach the planet without navigation and engines? $\endgroup$ – meriton - on strike Sep 18 '17 at 21:11

This trope has been done a lot so I will just quickly list a few possible scenarios

Enemy Attack

There is a space war going on, or maybe the enemy is just pirates. They damage the ship, the crew makes a hasty and desperate getaway, and — realizing they cannot outrun the enemy — they choose to hide on the planet that for some reason that you make up keeps them undetectable by the enemy.

...as long as they do not use their communications.

They also know that their enemies like to employ nasty "mine-drones". Essentially "smart" killer drones that just hang about and wait for a target. When their prey is discovered, this drone will attack automatically, disable/destroy it and call home to their owners that a juicy target has been eradicated and/or is ready for looting. So they just hunker down and try to come up with a clever solution or wait for the opportune moment to arise.

Scientific study

They land on the planet on order integrate with and/or observe the locals. The planet's atmosphere/magnetic field/volatile star creates disturbances that makes communications attempts pointless anyway. Also it was a long trek to get there, further building on the point that communication attempts are pointless. They are there for a long stay.


Space debris knock out out their communications and punch a hole in their ship. They perform an emergency landing to perform repairs, only to find that this will take a while, especially since they have to synthesise some materials on site to affect the repair, such as finding and smelting metals.


They are mutineers.

For reference, see Mutiny on the Bounty and Pitcairn Island. The crew of this ship have evicted the captain and loyalists to him in an escape pod. The mutineers know the captain will probably make it back alive and then the government will come looking for them. They have to hide on a planet and hide the ship, much as the mutineers from the Bounty did.

The Mutiny on the Bounty is a great story.

Bounty had left England in 1787 on a mission to collect and transport breadfruit plants from Tahiti to the West Indies. A five-month layover in Tahiti, during which many of the men lived ashore and formed relationships with native Polynesians, proved harmful to discipline. Relations between Bligh and his crew deteriorated after he began handing out increasingly harsh punishments, criticism and abuse, Christian being a particular target. After three weeks back at sea, Christian and others forced Bligh from the ship. Twenty-five men remained on board afterwards, including loyalists held against their will and others for whom there was no room in the launch.

Pitcairn Island

In 1790 nine of the mutineers from the Bounty, along with the native Tahitian men and women who were with them (six men, eleven women and a baby girl), settled on Pitcairn Islands and set fire to the Bounty. The wreck is still visible underwater in Bounty Bay, discovered in 1957 by National Geographic explorer Luis Marden.


Damage from an attack or accident which disables communications, navigation, and fouls the food supply leaving them with no communications systems, no way of getting back, and too little food to be able to stay in space while repairs are made.

Scans prior to the incident revealed that the planet has a source of unobtanium-X which will be required to fix the communications system. Unobtanium-X is not uncommon, but is in the areas most rife with the acidic rain and poisonous fog. Upon landing, existing equipment will need to be sacrificed/cannibalized in order to create a vehicle that can travel to the source of unobtaniusm-x, making restoring communications the only way for rescue to occur. One or more of the crew will need to find jobs with the locals in order to obtain food and possibly tools.


Electrical failure.

The ship's communication system is, presumably, powered by electricity. Interrupt that supply, and boom, comms are down. If the same electrical supply is used to power a bunch of other important stuff, and that gets knocked out as well, you've got a) a very badly-designed electrical system, and b) a genuine emergency.

This could just be a literal failure: a fault in the wiring. The electrics could have been damaged by a collision and/or space pirate attack. Maybe the ship's handwavium generator has malfunctioned, or is running out of handwavium. Whatever the problem, your crew will need to find it and fix it, and it's safer to try and do that on some backwater planet than while you're still hurtling through space at the speed of plot.



A member of the crew got sick with some kind of unknown space virus (or he had the virus since they left the home planet but the symptoms were manifested while on the spaceship).
The scientists on board are not doctors (or if they are they do not know the exact nature of the virus/illness) so they need to ask for help from the inhabitants of the closest planet in order to save their crew-mate and avoid further contamination of the crew.

  • $\begingroup$ And the medieval locals know the cure to this "unknown space virus" ...? $\endgroup$ – meriton - on strike Sep 18 '17 at 21:13
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @meriton No, but they are sympathetic and have a bathroom he can use. That is exactly how it turned out for me in France. $\endgroup$ – Willk Sep 19 '17 at 1:36
  • $\begingroup$ Well, the crew doesn't know that the planet inhabitants are medieval. Imagine their surprise and despair. $\endgroup$ – liakoyras 87 Sep 19 '17 at 9:19

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