Recently I began thinking about Star Wars. Not the franchise, but the 1977 movie. That movie works very well on its own. It works off tropes that had been established for many years in space opera pulps and novels.
I have always had a soft spot in my heart for space opera, its really my favorite type of science fiction. I'm sure that says something about me. there is something that I love about huge gigantic space empires, outer rim politics, fast spaceships and their bragging pilots, and the heroes that stand up for the little people.
Flash Gordon has always been a favorite of mine. Flash was an earth man who found himself on a strange planet dealing with an evil emperor, and soon becomes a freedom fighter. Buck rogers isn't too far off of this mark either.
For me space opera is positive. It starts with a dreary setting and introduces hope to it. Hope is really the theme that is so appealing to me. The heroes are shiny, if cliche, and I am OK with that! I love the cliche. I love the shiny. Its important to me, to have bad guys who are eventually going to loose.
Star Wars does that for me. Luke Skywalker is a shiny hero, even Han has his positive qualities as the antihero. The good guys were good the bad guys were bad.
When I think about Space opera the following passage from the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy always stands out to me as an shining example of what space opera is.
"Far back in the mists of ancient time, in the great and glorious days of the
former Galactic Empire, life was wild, rich and largely tax free. Mighty starships plied their way between exotic suns, seeking adventure and reward among the furthest reaches of Galactic space. In those days, spirits were brave, the stakes were high, men were real men, women were real women and small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri were real small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri. And all dared to brave unknown terrors, to do mighty deeds, to boldly split infinitives that no man had split before -- and thus was the Empire forged."
-- Douglas Adams, _The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy_