In the movie Valerian and the City of Thousand Planets, when Valerian and Laureline first approach Alpha, Alex (the ship) indicates that Alpha has traveled 700 million miles after having left Terrestrial orbit. This seems like a very short distance in 400 years (i.e. somewhere between Jupiter and Saturn). Later on this discrepancy seems confirmed when Laureline states,

and the nearest court is 18 light years away.

At only 700 million miles Earth would be much less than 18 light years away. I am assuming there would be courts there?

I have not read the graphic novels on which the movie is based. Is there some other explanation which might resolve the apparent discrepancy? E.g. are there not courts on Earth any more?

  • In the books, the space station was always a long way from Earth, so it never needed to travel.
    – Mr Lister
    Jan 19, 2018 at 7:36

3 Answers 3


One could spend a great deal of time coming up with all sorts of reasons why this might be, and doing math, and postulating conversion errors, but perhaps you should consider the most simplest and most likely explanation:

SciFi Writers Have No Sense of Scale

The film has its own entry in the category "No Sense of Distance".

Sometimes the straightforward explanation that the writers have no concept how how big "space" is is the real answer, as it is by far the most probable answer in this case.


Consider this film's script was probably written in french first and milliard is french for billion. Perhaps this was a simple translation error.

  • 3
    Could be. If you find additional evidence for that, it'd be nice if you could edit it in.
    – Jenayah
    Feb 4, 2019 at 13:52
  • While milliard is indeed french for billion, the french for million is the same. If anything the use of imperial measurements could have been a possible other cause for a translation error.
    – BMWurm
    Aug 2, 2020 at 15:15
  • Purely for interest: at various times pre-1974 milliard has also meant 10^9 in British English, with a billion being 10^12 (then a billiard being 10^15, trillion 10^18, trilliard 10^18 and so on). It's complicated. en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Long_and_short_scales
    – tardigrade
    Sep 19, 2020 at 6:36

18 light years is about 1.7×1012 km or 1.1x1012 miles so, a lot further out from Earth as stated in the movie and not just a translation error from imperial to metric or the difference in counting millions short vs long system.

I think they just didn't do their homework when writing the script and thought 700 million miles sounded far enough away.

  • This is a good answer however, can you prove that there were indeed courts on Earth? It seems possible that there weren't any there and it's only assumed in the question so it could be wrong. Also you have quite a few typos in your answer, take more care in the future when posting.
    – TheLethalCarrot
    Aug 19, 2020 at 9:21

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