When Dark Helmet orders Spaceball One to go to ludicrous speed, we see it leave a trail of plaid behind.

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Is this a reference to a specific movie or language idiom?

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    Although I think it is just a coincidence, I'll point out that warp and weft are the two directions of yarn in weaving (of plaids and other things). It might be a very meta joke since plaid is at much higher level than warp. On the other hand, it's Mel Brooks. On the gripping hand, he was born in Brooklyn in the mid 20's and might have been exposed to the basics and vocabulary of the tailor at a youngman age. Apr 7, 2014 at 22:30
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    @JamesMcLeod: Actually, a pun about Warp (weaving) was the first thing I thought of when I read the question. I think your comment could easily be extended to an answer.
    – Murch
    Aug 15, 2016 at 8:15
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    I lack sufficient evidence to make this an answer, unfortunately. Aug 15, 2016 at 9:19

8 Answers 8


It's a play on the phrase, "They've gone to warp," from Star Trek, and the warp trail effect a ship causes when it goes to warp speed.

The ship has hit ludicrous speed, so they chose a "ludicrous color" such as plaid to represent that.


There's also an old Warner Bros. cartoon that uses this reference. There are 2 mice being chased by a hypochondriac cat. At one point, the smart mouse says, "He's turning pink!" The cat is frightened and turns pink. The mouse says, "He's turning blue!" The scared cat turns blue. The dumb mouse says, "He's turning ... plaid!" The cat suddenly gets kilt-colored and Scottish bagpipe music plays.

So it COULD be a reference to this cartoon. But I have no evidence.


It is very simple: If you move faster than light the stars appear as stripes. What would the next step after stripes be? Why plaid, of course....

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    You've basically reworded the joke without explaining what it actually means.
    – Möoz
    Jul 20, 2016 at 23:55

There's several things it plays off of

2001: A Space Odyssey

This movie is iconic and the ending of the movie involves David Bowman (the only surviving crew member of the ill-fated Discovery) boarding a pod and getting sucked into the Stargate. There are no real special effects here in the way of computers. They used slit scans and the distorted field it produced was the first of its kind. It clearly influenced those who came behind

Into the stargate

Star Wars

Star Wars introduced hyperspace and Spaceballs is clearly riffing on hyperspace when Lone Starr has his ship go into that mode and they ostensibly escape from Spaceball 1. If you watch the scene, you'll note Lone Starr's "hyperactive" looks an awful lot like opening moments of Star Wars' hyperspace

Star Wars hyperspace

Star Trek: The Motion Picture

The TV series didn't have much in the way of special effects for warp, but the movies could afford real special effects. Douglas Trumbull, the mastermind behind 2001's ending, would be tapped to do the effects here. This movie in particular played with this new "fast distortion" in some new ways, most notably going to warp

Enterprise going to warp

Shortly thereafter, the Enterprise is stuck in a wormhole it created via something going wrong. You'll note that this isn't that far off from "plaid"

Enterprise wormhole

Montgomery Scott

It's worth noting that Montgomery "Scotty" Scott was the engineer in Star Trek. And he was a traditional Scot, through and through. If you're going to go ridiculous ludicrous, why not pick something that evokes the most famous space engineer to date?

Montgomery Scott in a kilt


It could be a reference to the astronomical phenomena of galaxies moving away from us at unbelievable speeds, they are said to be "redshifted." The light from the side moving away takes longer to reach us than the side moving towards us "blueshifted." The Doppler effect (sound) is similar. So I assume they needed a new color to describe just how fast Spaceball One was really going


If anyone has ever watched the original Battlestar Galactica, you may know this reference. I only discovered it while watching a re-run on the Space Channel (a Canadian channel now called Sci-Fi channel) many years (and multiple re-watches) after I first saw Spaceballs. Don't ask me the episode, and I cannot find a video reference to back it up. This was back in 1999, and I haven't seen an episode since, so I can't remember the episode details.

I was watching the episode when one of their ships went into their version of hyper drive. The now-campy special effects was a grid of yellow lines on a black background that immediately made me yell out "They've gone to plaid!" My roommate ran out and looked at the screen and started laughing.


It could also be a reference to a line in the broadway play "Forever Plaid", where the band talks about careening through space on a road of plaid.

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    Welcome! You might want to check the dates on this one... the play came out in 1990 and the film came out in 1987... so I think, if anything, it's the other way around.
    – Catija
    Mar 7, 2015 at 8:53

Gone to Plaid is a reference to Scotty from Star Trek (kilts), played with the joke about Gone to Warp

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    Do you have any sources that agree with this or is this just your conjecture? We prefer answers that are backed up with references.
    – Catija
    Jul 18, 2015 at 2:49

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