How Prometheus Should Have Ended

I came across this video some time ago on the HISHE website, but hesitated to post it with the others. For one, I liked the movie, and these guys, in their signature, trademark way, dealt it some pretty smarting blows. But of course, all they were doing was highlighting the plot holes which were pretty clear to anyone who has seen Alien and remembers the particulars of that classic. For one, the Engineer/Space Jockey was discovered in the pilot’s seat, was he not?

But then again, the planet where the Derelict was discovered in Alien and the Sulaco returns to in Aliens was LV-426, not LV-223 where the Prometheus traveled to. So… what gives? Clearly, this is not the planet where Alien took place, but that just raises more questions, questions which are rumored to be answered in subsequent prequels. Now didn’t they say that Prometheus would be the movie that answered all these questions?

Yeah, basically I feel that enough time has passed that I can raise these plot holes and not worry about spoiling the movie for anyone. And this video is a pretty good start. In addition, it’s also quite funny. Enj0y!

Terraforming in Pop Culture

Welcome back to the wonderful world (pun!) of Terraforming. In my last post on the subject, I came to see that it emerged in fiction in the early 20th century as part of our growing awareness of the universe and humanity’s place within it. As western civilization grew and came to encompass the entire world through exploration, conquest and colonization, human scientists simultaneously discovered that our universe was much larger than previously thought, and began to postulate that life could exist on other planets.

In short, while our world grew smaller, the universe grew much, much larger. With no more nooks  or corners left to explore and conquer, we began to set our sights to the heavens for the next frontier. It’s such a fertile topic, but I shan’t get into it here. If I start waxing philosophical on all the thought that goes into exploring new worlds, we’ll be here forever.

Onto to the subject for today, which is terraforming in popular culture! As you can guess, there are quite a few instances of this taking place, and for good reason. Wherever science fiction and exoplanets have shown up in pop-culture, the concept terraforming was sure to follow. In some cases, this constituted a mere mention, but in others, detailed descriptions were given. Here is a list of just a few examples that I could find:

Aliens:
Central to the plot of Aliens was the fact that LV-426, the planet where the Nostromo and its crew encountered the Xenomorph in the first movie, had become a settler colony. As the executive at Weyland Yutani told Ripley, it was what they referred to as a “Shake and Bake Colony”, where terraformers were sent on ahead to run the atmospheric processors and make the planet suitable for human use. This was all in keeping with WY’s motto of “Building Better Worlds”. Pshaw!

Shortly after they arrive on LV-426, Ripley and the compliment of Colonial Marines determined that the colonists had been moved into the atmospheric processor, specifically to its lower levels where the air was hot and humid. Apparently, these conditions were favorable to the Xenomorph hatchlings, which began to use the colonists as hosts to breed”Chestbusters”.

After their disastrous confrontation in the hive, the atmospheric processor suffered a rupture to its coolant systems, which meant that the entire thing would go thermonuclear in just a few hours. After being all but eradicated in their first encounter with the Xenomorph and losing their only transport back to the ship, this served to add further urgency to the plot. And in the end, it was the destruction of the atmospheric processor which ensured that the Xenomorph colony was destroyed and all traces of them (with the exception of the Queen) wiped out.

Cowboy Bebop:
Set in the not-too-distant future, this anime from from the late nineties was set in a universe where humanity lived throughout the Solar System. This was made possible due to the discovery of hyperspace gates; however, due to the explosion of one near the Moon, Earth found itself being bombarded by meteorites which devastated large sections of the planet. As a result, much of the human race had to relocate to the Inner Planets, the Asteroid Belt, and the moons of Jupiter.

Many episodes of the show take place on the planets of Venus, Mars, Ganymede, Io, Callisto, and Titan, where terraforming has rendered them partially of fully habitable. Though the concept is treated as a sort of given, some degree of explanation is given as to how it took place and the varying degrees of success that resulted. In the case of Mars and Venus, the terraforming was so successful that Mars became the new hub of human civilization and Venus a major population center.

With this background firmly in place, the series plot arc – which involves a motley group of bounty hunters patrolling the system Space Western style – is then able to unfold. Though the show last only 26 episodes, it did achieve a cult following and a level of influence, similar to Joss Wedon’s Firefly (another Space Western that died prematurely).

Firefly:
Speak of the devil, or in this case, a show that made good use of the concept of terraforming. Intrinsic to the plot of this show, so much so that they opened every episode by referring to it, is the fact that in this future, the human race was forced to relocate to a new star system after Earth had been “used up”. Arriving at the “White Star”, they found dozens of planets and hundreds of moons around the system’s central sun and its many dwarf suns. These planets were then terraformed, a process which took generations, and began populated them soon after.

Another fact which is central to the story is the fact that while the central worlds were terraformed successfully and boasted large, advanced populations, the outer planets were poorly terraformed, leading to dry, desolate worlds that became havens for crime and backwards populations. Though life was show to be difficult in these colonies, they were also the only places where people can still enjoy a life free of the repressive Alliance regime.

But more importantly, this back story gave Joss Whedon an excuse for the look and feel of his acclaimed Space Western! It also played perfectly into the show’s historical narrative, where the expanding Alliance represented the closing of the American frontier and the death of a way of life. For not only were the First Nations and their culture being sacrificed in the name of “Manifest Destiny”, a great deal of the American Dream of an open frontier was as well.

Red Planet:
Set in 2056 AD, the plot of this film centers around ongoing terraforming efforts on Mars. Faced with the dual problems of overpopulation and pollution, NASA and other space agencies begin sending automated probes to Mars that contain atmosphere-producing algae. These probes have been seeding Mars for twenty years as the first stage in a terraforming effort that will make the planet suitable for human settlement. When the oxygen production is inexplicably reduced, a crew is sent to investigate so that the  terraforming efforts can be put back on track.

When the mission arrives, and endures numerous disasters,they eventually discover that the introduction of Earth algae has stirred up the native Martian life. This consists of nematodes that have come to the surface to feed on the algae, emitting oxygen in return. This, they realize, has changed the parameters of the original project, but leaving it otherwise intact.

Star Trek II and III:
What is generally hailed by fans as the best movie of the franchise (Wrath of Khan) opens up with a rather unusual take on terraforming. In fact, the plot of both the second and third movie revolve around a project known as Genesis, a means of instantaneously transforming a planet from a lifeless husk into a habitable M-class planet.

In Wrath of Khan, things begin when the starship Reliant, while searching for a lifeless planet in the Ceti Alpha system, is taken over by Khan Noonien Soong and his band of genetically-modified people. Having learned of their mission, Khan becomes obsessed with finding the Genesis device so that he can restore the desolate landscape of Ceti Alpha V, presumably with the intention of resurrecting his dead wife.

In the end, Kirk and the Enterprise disable his ship inside a nebula, prompting Khan to set the Genesis device to self-destruct in the hopes of taking Kirk with him. With their warp drive non-functional, the Enterprise could not escape, prompting Spock to sacrifice himself in order to bring the engines back online. Though he dies from radiation poisoning, the ENterprise escapes as the Genesis device detonates, which has the effect of turning the nebula itself into an M-Class planet.

At the very end of the movie, Spock’s body is placed inside a torpedo casing and fired into orbit around Genesis. After landing on the surface, the “Genesis wave” heals Spock’s body and he is reborn. This, as all fans of the franchise know, was the basis for the third movie where Kirk and the Enterprise come back to Genesis to retrieve him. In the course of doing so, the Genesis plant is examined in more detail and the effects of the project. Ultimately, though the device was capable of creating life out of lifeless, it proved unstable and resulted in the total collapse of the planet created.

Total Recall:
The film adaptation of Philip K Dick’s “We can Remember it for You Wholesale” differed from the source material in many key ways. For example, in addition to the central theme of memory and the dividing line between real and artificial, there was also an extensive backstory involving Mars. Ultimately, the character of Quad (played by Arnold Schwarzenegger) learns that he is drawn to Mars because that is where he is from, and his false identity implanted because of something he witnessed there.

In the end, it is revealed that this secret has to do with an ancient alien device that lies at the heart of the planet, a device which has the power to terraform Mars into a habitable world. Apparently, this involved some super-heated coils that, when activated, would plunge into the planet’s watery core, evaporating them and filling Mars’ atmosphere with water vapor. When Quad activated the device, it had the effect of creating breathable atmosphere within a matter of minutes.

Not the most realistic depiction of terraforming, but it did have it’s upsides. For one, it took advantage of contemporary scientific theories that stated that Mars might have underground sources of water and ice. Second, it incorporated speculation of how these could be used to eventually create oxygen-creating plants on the surface and hence, an atmosphere. Last, it worked into the plot in that the villain, Coohagen, knew that if Mars had a natural atmosphere, it would destroy the basis of his power (controlling the air supply).

Cool Ships (volume IX)

Borg Sphere:
BThis first example shows us that thought they were obsessed with simple geometric shapes, the Borg were capable of thinking outside of the cube. If anything, the sphere is a more perfect shape and aesthetically way more pleasing, so its a wonder why they didn’t do it sooner.

Making its first appearance in Star Trek: First Contact, the sphere appeared to be an auxiliary craft which was housed inside a Borg Cube. But in truth, these vessels were actually much more versatile, acting as scout ships and tactical vessels, doing deep-space reconnaissance or performing light assault missions.

In the spinoff series Voyager, Borg Spheres make several appearances. The most notable of which was the series finale (episode 168: “Endgame”), where Voyager was pursued and overtaken by one and had to destroy it from the inside to escape. This, in addition to scenes from other episodes, indicated that every sphere has an internal compartment capable of housing a sizable starship.

Measuring 600 meters in diameter, a standard Borg Sphere carries a crew of 11,000 drones, is protected by regenerative shields, ablative armor, and has the usual array of Borg weapons (which include tractor beams and disruptors). It is capable of warp speed, transwarp speed, and in some cases, can even generate a temporal vortex to achieve time travel (as was demonstrated in First Contact).

Jem’Hadar Battleship:
dominion_dread2You know, I was never was much of a Trekkie. Compared to other franchises, I never really did get into the shows that much. That is, until DS9 introduced the whole Dominion plot line, then I got into it with both feet! Space battles, explosions, ships blowing each other up… what’s not to like? And to make these battles happen, the show’s conceptual artist had to come up with some new designs.

One such design was the Jem’Hadar Battleship, which made its debut in season 6 (episode 144, “Valiant”). Introduced midway through the war, this new breed of warship was designed for the sole purpose of breaking the stalemate between the Dominion and the Allies. That and inspiring fear!

At twice the size of a Galaxy-class vessel (USS Enterprise D) and boasting over 40 torpedo launchers, this ship was clearly meant to be so large and so powerful that no Federation or allied ship would have a hope of stopping it. However, its size and speed also made it a relatively easy target for multiple enemy ships, which would have no trouble hitting it and could outmaneuver it in battle.

After it’s initial deployment, where it destroyed the USS Valiant, several battleships were rolled off the line and took part in the war, especially during the latter engagements of the war like the Battle of Cardassia. Many ships were needed to break the lines which they reinforced, and it was only by the timely defection of Cardassian forces that the Dominion was overwhelmed in these battles.

USNC Spirit of Fire:
To the Halo universe once more, this time for a look at a modified colony ship known as the Spirit of Fire! Making its appearance in Halo Wars, this ship was the largest in the UNSC navy and served with distinction during the Covenant War.

As already noted, the Spirit of Fire was originally a Pheonix-class colony ship, a vessel that was designed to carry colonists and supplies to new worlds as part of the UNSC’s prewar expansion efforts. However, this changed with the appearance of the Covenant and their apparent need to knock over human settlements.

Recommissioned for military service by the UNSC, the Fire was outfitted with a magnetic accelerator cannon, point defense guns and missile turrets, hull armor, and a major engine overhaul. Its internal bays were also converted to carry Scorpion tanks, Warthogs, Pelicans, fighters, bombers, and anything else it would need to put a small army onto a planet. As a former colony ship, the Fire retained the ability to enter atmosphere and land planetside, making it all the more effective at troop deployment.

During the course of the war, the ship was declared missing and all hands were presumed dead after it failed to return from a mission. However, the ship was actually traveling back at sublight speed from an engagement after it lost its fusion core. The crew had used this to destroy a Forerunner “Shield Planet” which happened to be housing a large Covenant attack fleet. In sacrificing its engine core, it prevented a major strike by Covenant forces on human territories, and therefore saved countless lives. Not bad for a civilian ship, eh?

SDF-1 Macross:
SDF-1 MacrossWhen you hear the words, Super Dimension Fortress, what comes to mind? Definitely not a piddly little spaceship! Which is probably why the Macross’ full name contains them! Apparently, this ship was rebuilt from the remains of an alien craft that crash-landed on Earth, and was intended for use should said aliens ever come knocking again.

Although intended to travel to distant solar systems and promote peace with alien species, the Macross became the first line of defense once war with the Zentradi species began. Much like all the “mechas” from this franchise, this ship is capable of changing from its ship designation into a towering mech (known as “Storm Attacker” mode), a process which takes about 15 minutes.

The massive ship also carries the two carriers – the CVS-101 Prometheus and SLV-111 Daedalus – within it’s fuselage. When in cruiser mode, these are housed along the sides, but while in “Storm Attacker” mode, they constitute the robots “arms”. In terms of weapons, this baby comes equipped with 8 guided converging beam cannons, four 178cm rail cannons, automatic missile launchers, and a main super-dimension-energy cannon. Aliens beware!

Strident-class Star Defender:
StridentIt’s funny how the Rebels only seemed to get into mega-ships after the Empire was thoroughly licked. And yet, here we have another Star Defender ship which comes from the expanded Star Wars universe and only showed up for duty after the Empire lost all its big behemoths.

Produced by the Corellian Engineering Corporation (natch!), the Strident-class was the first breed of Super Star Destroyer to serve on the side of the Alliance (which now called itself the New Republic). But of course the Alliance didn’t like the term “destroyer” when applied to their mega ships, hence the name change. But the particulars are pretty much the same.

Much like the Viscount-class produced by the Mon Calamari, the Strident comes equipped with thousands of turbolasters, laser cannons, and ion guns, and its massive hold houses dozens of squadrons of starfighters as well as hundreds of shuttles and support ships. It took awhile but I’m guessing the Rebels finally decided to go big or go home!

The Spacejockey ship:
I can’t wait to learn more about THIS one! As the focal point for the first Act of Alien, the “Spacejockey” ship is also central to the plot of its soon-to-be-released prequel, Prometheus. Known also as “The Derelict”, very little is known about this ship other than the fact that it was of unknown origin and appeared to be transporting xenomorphs.

The Derelict was first discovered by the crew of the Nostromo when their ship was rerouted to LV-426 to investigate a distress beacon. When they approached the ship, its alien configuration was immediately clear. Shaped in the configuration of a horseshoe, the ship apparently had two prongs, one longer than the other, and an engine array located at the rear.

SpaceJockeyWhen investigating the inside of the ship, its alien nature became even more apparent. Whoever the Space Jockeys were, they clearly shared H.P. Lovecraft’s sense of aesthetics! Literally everything aboard looked organic and gothic, right down to the funky patterns on the walls! When discovering what appeared to be a control chair, the crew stumbled onto the remains of a long “Space Jockey” as well. Having an anthropomorphic shape and a trunked face, they are assumed to look like a cross between a human and an elephant.

Closer examination of the remains revealed that it died from a “chestbuster” breaking through its ribcage. With the discovery of the ship’s compliment of eggs, and the observable symbiosis between the “facehuggers” and “chestbusters”, it was unclear why the Spacejockeys were transporting them. Perhaps they came aboard by accident, perhaps they were intended for another use somewhere. These are all questions I look forward to being answered… say June-ish!

Vor’cha-class Cruiser:
Vor'chaSeems the Klingons are getting a lot of attention from me as of late. But I’ve come to acknowledge just how many cool ships they really do have. Clearly, these blood-drinking, Valhalla worshipping guys excel when it comes to bringing beauty to their instruments of death. But then again, one would have to assume that it’s one of the few artistic outlets they get to have!

Taken from the TNG universe, the Vor’cha was the mainstay of the Klingon armada and the replacement for the aging K’t’inga-class. The first of its design served as the flagship for the Empire, but became fully integrated into the armada once it was mass-produced and replaced by the larger Negh’var-class.

Making its first appearance in season 4 of Star Trek: TNG (episode 80: “Reunion”) where it served as the Chancellor’s flagship, this vessel would go on to make several subsequent appearances in the expanded franchise. It’s most notable appearances were during the Klingon-Cardassian War where several participated in the assault on DS9 itself. Later, during the Dominion War, many more would serve on the front lines against the Jem’Hadar and their allies.

Naturally, this Klingon ship boasted multiple disruptor arrays, the main one located at the front end of the ship with two more mounted on the wings beside the nacelles. These were capable of firing in either the solid mode (like a phaser) or intermittently. Maneuverable for a ship of its size, it also came equipped with a cloaking device which was available in all flight modes.

Vorchan-class warship:
centauri_2This ship gets seen a lot around the B5 universe. And since I can’t stop hitting them up for cool ships, it only makes sense to mention this baby here. The Vorchan-class cruiser, a medium warship, was the mainstay of the Centauri fleet and weapon of choice when it came to raids, reconnaissance and even large-scale offensive operations.

Though designed predominantly to escort heavier cruisers, such as the Primus-class warship, Vorchans were still highly effective in small squadrons and were often called upon to mount attack missions by themselves. During the Narn-Centauri War, Vorchan warships carried out many assaults on Narn colonies and installations and even participated in skirmishes with the heavier Narn warships.

Its armaments consist of two plasma accelerators, missile banks and guided mines. These armaments, paired with its size, speed and relative maneuverability allow it to stand toe-to-toe with just about anything the Narns, Earth or League of Non-Aligned Worlds could throw at it. And unlike the heavier Primus ships, it is capable of maneuvering inside atmospheres. And it’s cool, raptor-winged like design makes it pretty easy on the eyes too. Were it not for the fact that Roddenberry beat them to it, you can bet the B5 designers would have named this ship a Bird of Prey!

Nine down, who the hell knows how many more to go!

Cool Ships (volume V)

Back again! More ships, more designs, more franchises too. Like I said last time, there’s just no limit when you get right down to it. And in the course of doing my homework on cool sci-fi concepts, I’ve found that there are hundreds of franchises out there that I’ve never even heard of before. Of those I have heard of, I always seem to miss a few obvious candidates. That’s the beauty of ongoing segments though. Here are the latest, with some suggestions thrown in too 😉

Colonial Raptor:
Another late entry from the Battlestar Galactica universe, the updated version. Designed for reconnaissance, transport, atmospheric and space flight, and capable of making short range FTL jumps, the Raptor is the workhorse of the Colonial fleet and one of its most versatile vessels. Ordinarily, the Raptor is operated by a crew of two, one pilot and one Electronic Countermeasures Officer. Given it’s size and shape, it cannot launch from a launch tube and must take off and land from a Battlestar’s forward launch bay.

Having served with the Colonial fleet for over 40 years, making its debut in the first Cylon War, the versatility and reliability of this craft have prevented it from being phased out by newer generations of Colonial ships. During the second Cylon War, Raptors were used regularly in order to dust off survivors from Caprica and other colonies. Relying on a fly-by-wire system, rather than the new defense network systems, it also proved invulnerable to the virus the Cylon’s used to cripple the fleet.

Cygnus:
Now here’s one that people probably won’t remember. In fact, I didn’t recall it either until I did some reading and realized I had seen the movie which featured it – The Black Hole – as a child and quite enjoyed it. Though a little Buck Rogers-y by modern standards, the concept and the movie and this ship still stand the test of time.

Released in 1979 by Walt Disney Pictures, The Black Hole was one of many movies that sought to take advantage of the sci-fi craze that Star Wars had unleashed. The plot centers on a derelict ship, known as the Cygnus, which is run by an android crew and a brilliant (albeit mad) scientist named Doctor Hans Reinhardt.

In addition to looking pretty cool, with its glowing transparent sections and old-school design, the Cygnus is apparently able to withstand the gravitational pull of black hole due to its ability to generate its own gravity well. In addition, its commander, Dr. Reinhardt, theorized that he would be able to fly it through a black hole and see once and for all what lay on the other side… It didn’t take, but still a cool idea!

Guild Heighliner:

Artist’s concept for a Guild Heighliner

Here’s one I couldn’t believe I had forgotten. In fact, I will accept any and all chastisements for my failure to include Dune craft in this series thus far. This can include physical beatings, just stay away from the nads… not quite done with those yet!

Anyhoo, when it comes to Dune ships, the Heighliner definitely takes the cake! Massive as all hell, this ship was the backbone of all commerce, diplomacy, travel and tourism in the Dune universe. Like all shipping, it was the exclusive property of the Spacing Guild and subject to their many controls, laws and whims.

Boasting Holtzman engines – a FTL drive system that was capable of “folding space” – the ship still required the services of a Guild Navigator. This person, a semi-prescient mutant due to years of living in a spice tank, would see a path through time and space and thus navigate the ship safely to its destination.

According to the original Dune, a single Heighliner was capable of lifting an entire planet’s worth of personnel, goods and supplies from one point in space to the next. As Duke Leto tells Paul in Part I of the story: “A Heighliner is truly big. Its hold will tuck all our frigates and transports into a little corner — we’ll be just a small part of the ship’s manifest.” Later in that same installment, House Harkonnen used a single Heighliner in order to lift an entire army to Arrakis for a surprise assault on the Atreides, and the cost was nothing short of punitive!

Given that the Heighliners are the sole means of commerce in a Empire as massive as that of the Dune universe, its little wonder why Heighliners are so freakishly big. Chartering one aint cheap, and if you do stowe aboard, you are expected to mind your business and wait until you arrive at your destination. Due to their high level of secrecy and sensitivity, no one is even allowed to venture beyond their own boarding craft when on a Heighlinger, and virtually no one outside of the Guild has ever seen a Guild navigator. Considered to be neutral territory by Imperial law, any and all acts of violence aboard Guild Heighliners carry stiff penalties.

Gunstar:
Ah, another childhood classic! Taken from the film The Last Starfighter, the Gunstar was the first line of defense of the Star League against the evil Xur and the Ko-Dan Armada. Sounds pretty cheesy, huh? Well, it was the eighties! And this was yet another Disney franchise that seemed to be riding in the Star Wars wake. Still, this movie was one the first to make extensive use of CGI (Tron being the only other) and had a none-too-bad storyline too boot!

Boasting multiple guns, missiles and a “Death Blossom” trick that is nothing short of devastating, the gun star is a rather unique and innovative design. Apparently, it was meant to be a class of ship that would never go out of style, merging functionality with lethality and being able to take on any class of enemy ship.

Every Gunstar is a two seater, with the starfighter (gunner) in front, and the navigator in the rear. While the navigator flies the ship, the gunner directs fire from a swivel chair, which gives them control over the ships moveable weapons batteries. Although it has no shielding to speak of, the hull is protected by armor plating which can withstand multiple direct hits. When cornered, it is also capable of unleashing the “Death Blossom” where it will begin to rotate at a furious speed and unleash gun and missile fire in all directions. This however, is considered a weapon of last resort, since it will drain the ship’s power supply completely.

Heart of Gold:
Now here’s an interesting, and highly improbably, entry! Coming to us straight out of The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy, the SS Heart of Gold is rather unique in that it merged scientific theory with Douglas Adam’s notoriously quirky sense of humor.

Being a prototype vessel, it was the first ship ever in the universe to boast the “Infinite Probability Drive”. This drive system is essentially a Faster-Than-Light engine which is actually based in quantum theory. Essentially, the theory states that a subatomic particle is most likely to be in a particular place at a particular time, but that there is also a small probability of it being found very far from its point of origin. Thus, a body could travel from place to place without passing through the intervening space as long as it had sufficient control of probability.

Pretty cool huh? In the original radio series, the shape of the vessel was not specified. In the novelization of the series, it was described as a “sleek white running shoe”. For the sake of the movie, artists went with a tea-cup design, and added some brake lights for good measure. Originally built as part of a secret government project on the planet of Damogran, the ship was stolen by President Zaphod Beeblebrox during its launching ceremony and became the means through which the main characters began exploring the universe.

Minbari Cruiser:
Back once more to the B5 universe for another fine example of kick-ass shippery! Known officially as the Sharlin-class Warcruiser, this Minbari vessel is the mainstay of the Minbari fleet in the original series. Big, bold, stealthy, and packing a sh*tload of firepower, this vessel is veritable nightmare for all but the most powerful of races. Even Shadow vessels mind their business when some of these are in the field.

Making its appearance in season one of the show (episode 17: “Legacies”) and went on to become a regular feature. When Sheridan assumed command of the station in season two, the renegade cruiser Trigati was destroyed in the course of a standoff. After B5 broke away from Earth in season 3, a force of Sharlin cruisers arrived just in time to prevent the station from being captured by forces loyal to Clarke. Many went on to serve alongside Sherian and Delenn in the Shadow War and even went on to help liberate Earth from Clarke’s forces.

According to Delenn, Minbari ships do not rely on conventional engines like other ships. Instead, a system of gravitational and electromagnetic fields for propulsion, which have the added benefit of supplying artificial gravity. This frees up their ships from the needs of rotating sections and makes for a more effective combat platform. Sharlin cruisers also boast a significant amount of weaponry, which consists mainly of heavy beam cannons, but also includes missile launchers, neutron guns, and electro-pulse cannons.

During the Earth-Mimbari War, Earth Forces were completely outmatched by this class of Cruiser. In addition to being highly resistant to Earth force weapons, the Sharlin cruiser also boasted a stealth field which prevented Earth ships from being able to lock onto it. In the course of the war, only one human Captain ever survived combat with one, Captain John Sheridan. Relying on a phony distress signal and several well placed tactical nukes, Sheridan was able to lure the Black Star, the Minbari flagship, into a trap and destroy it. Though the Minbari considered it a cheap victory, Sheridan’s fame and renown quickly spread throughout the fleet.

During the battle of Sector 83, the Sharlin-class Cruiser proved an effective weapon against the Shadows. Although somewhat slow and providing a large target for Shadows, their powerful beam weapons were capable of destroying a Shadow ship unassisted. When protected by smaller, faster craft like the White Star, it proves to be a very effective combat platform.

Nebula-B Escort Frigate:
More Star Wars! God, I think I’m OD’ing on this franchise. But the sign says “Cool Ships” and this one is no exception. Known as the Nebula-class frigate, this ship is probably best remembered as the “Medical Frigate” which appeared in Empire and Jedi. 

Measuring some 300 meters long and designed to defend Imperial convoys from Rebel attacks, this ship was more famously used by the Rebellion as a hospital ship. During heavy fighting, Nebula-B’s would be on hand to pick up pilots that had ejected and provide them with life-saving assistance, ensuring that Rebel pilots could live to fight another day.

The most famous appearance of a Medical Frigate was during the Battle of Endor, when several medical frigates were on hand to service Rebel pilots who had been shot down by superior Imperial forces. It was also on board the Medical Frigate Redemption that Luke Skywalker received his prosthetic hand after losing it in a lightsaber duel to Vader.

In addition to providing escort and as a hospital ship, the Nebula-B was proved useful as a deep space scout and reconnaissance ship, due to its sophisticated sensors. During raiding missions or less intense combat operations, many also served as command ships given their speed and defensive capabilities. One weakness of the Nebula-B however was its thin fusilage. Though this made the ship an inexpensive vessel by most standards, it also made it a poor choice for heavy combat. Hence why it was relegated to support, scouting and medical roles.

The Nostromo:
You know, I really thought I covered this one already. I already mentioned how the Alliance Cruisers from Firefly appeared to be inspired by this baby. And it just makes sense that if you’re going to cover ships from the sequel, (the USS Sulaco and the Cheyenne Dropship) that you cover the original first. But alas, the Nostromo was somehow passed over by me, another act of wanton insensitivity! Beating shall continue until my attitude improves!

Okay, now that we got my punishment out of the way, allow me to pay this ship it’s due homage. The main set for the movie Alien, the USCSS Nostromo was a deep space commercial vessel which belonged to the Weyland-Yutani corp (much like everything else in this universe!).

Overall, the Nostromo was a curious design which made perfect sense from a space-faring point of view. Doing away with such things as streamlining and aerodynamic sleekness, the ship was well suited to deep-space travel and hailing. In addition, it was also taller than it was long, another common aspect to spaceships which are confined to the whole sea ship/airplane paradigm.

It’s massive refinery, which it towed behind, would process its manifest of mined ore while it made its way back to Earth from wherever it had been deployed. Thus, in addition to providing transport and amenities for a crew of miners and spacers, it was also a mobile refining platform that could deliver processed materials to factories rather than just unrefined ore.

While on return from the distant planet of Thedus, the Nostromo was rerouted to LV-426 where it picked up the alien organism known as a xenomorph. After all but one of the crew were killed the by creature, Ellen Ripley, the ship’s Warrant Officer, set the ship’s to self-destruct and escaped aboard the ship’s life craft with the crew cat, Jones. According to Weyland-Yutani execs, who were some pissed when she returned without her ship, the destruction of this vessel cost them 24 million in adjusted dollars. Damn penny-pinchers!

The Sathanas:
What do you call the most fearsome, intimidating and powerful ship in the universe, without being too obvious, that is? The Sathanas, that’s what! Being the Latin name for Satan, this title is very apt when applied to a massive juggernaut built by a race known as the the Shivans (i.e. Shiva, Hindu god of destruction).

This last entry, much like The Colossus and Deimos from my last list, comes to us from the game Freespace 2. Making its appearance midway through the game, this terrifying vessel was the most powerful space-faring ship ever encountered by the human race or its allies.

Boasting four massive beam cannons which are situated at the end of its claw like appendages, this ship best exemplifies the offensive fighting spirit. Jumping into a field of battle, it is capable of dealing devastating blows on a target head on, keeping its flanks and rear hidden from the enemy.

Above all, it is clear that the Shivan built the Sathanas to act as a terror weapon in addition to a capital ship. One look at its design confirms this, given its clawing appendages and thorny skin. Defeating this ship outright is quite difficult given its reinforced plating and terrible array of weapons. Disabling this ship, through EMP missiles and guns, is not much easier given the incredibly density of its hull and many redundant systems. In the end, the only way to beat it seems to be for lighter craft to take out its “claws” while heavier vessels strike at it from a distance. However, this still proves to be a suicidal mission given the Sathanas’ many missile and defensive batteries.

Ultimately, taking down this ship in the game is much like the real-life campaign to sink the Bismark. This dreadnought, which was the pride and joy of the German navy in WWII, also boasted massive weapons, a heavily armored hull and superior systems. In the end, the Royal Navy brought it down through a combination of luck, persistence, and careful engagements, taking their time to disable it and then closing in to pound it relentlessly! Hmmm. I guess good history makes for good gaming 🙂

Final Thoughts:/strong>
The suggestion box, as always, is still open. Thanks to Goran Zidar for suggesting the Gunstar, I knew I’d have to include it sooner or later and I’m glad someone asked. Anything else? I got another installment on the way, and probably a few more after that. No? Sigh, alright, bring on the beatings! No nads!

Aliens, revisited

After doing my due diligence to learn what I could about the Xenomorph for my post on Ancient Aliens, I found some interesting additional info that kept me reading. For one, I came to learn that there were a lot of details about the Alien universe that were revealed by Ridley Scott and James Cameron in the course of interviews, but never made it into the movies themselves. At the same time, there was plenty of info that made it into comics, novelization and other sources in the expanded franchise which fans of the movies would want to know about. There were a lot of mysteries in the Alien universe that were left deliberately vague, basic questions that never got answered.

For example:

  1. What was that derelict ship from the first movie and where did it come from?
  2. Why were there eggs aboard the ship in the first place?
  3. And of course, where do the Xenomorph’s come from?

Well, here are some of the answers that I found out:

1. Space Jockeys:
This is the name of the race that built the derelict craft that crashed on LV-426 and was investigated by the crew of the Nostromo. Based on the design of the skeleton that was featured in the movie, and additional material from the alien comics, this race was apparently humanoid, very large, and had elephant-like trunks on their faces. According to all sources on the subject, the Space Jockeys are millions of years old and go by many different names.

In fact, “Space Jockeys” was the name the set designers came up with, whereas H.R Giger (the designer of the Alien) called it “The Pilot”. This second name was used in the video game AVG 2, where the aliens are known as Pilots and examples of their technology as “Pilot Technology”. Yet another name comes from the novelization entitled Aliens: Original Sin by Michael Friedman, where they are known as the Mala’kak. Where they come from remains a mystery, but the fact that their ship was carrying Xenomorph eggs would seem suggests that there was some kind of relationship. Which brings us to question two…

2. The Eggs:
One theory has it that the Space Jockeys were the original victims of the Xenomorphs. Another has it that they were in fact their creators. This second theory is far more detailed and shows up in various sources. Apparently, the Space Jockeys (or Mala’kak) bred the Xenomorphs for use a civil war that was raging millions of years ago. This would certainly explain why the Xenomorphs are so hostile, so adaptive, and proliferate so quickly. Ultimately, the Xenomorphs turned on their creators and caused their extinction, and live on as weapons leftover from a forgotten war.

I got to admit, I didn’t like this theory too much. Somehow, it made the Aliens less scary to know that they were cooked up in a lab as opposed to say, borne out of conditions we can hardly imagine on a planet we have yet to discover. However, I also have to admit that it fit with something I notice whenever I watch the original Alien movie. Compare the Space Jockey ship to the architecture of a Xenomorph hive. Do they not look similar? All those curved surfaces and H.P. Lovecraftian sensibilities? Would it be so crazy to conclude that the Xenomorphs inherited their sense of aesthetics from their creators?

However, there remains the question of why a derelict ship was discovered on LV-426 carrying eggs. Could it be that this was a simple transport that was hauling eggs for the sake of the war effort? If so, then the most likely scenario would be that the pilot became infected accidentally and crashed into the planet, programming the ship to send out a distress signal before his untimely demise. However, we won’t know that for sure until the new movie comes out (see below!)

3. Xenomorph Prime:
According to various sources, the Xenomorph homeworld is a hostile planet named Proteus.  Much like LV-426, it boasts a cold and harsh climate that is rife with volcanoes and turbulent wind storms. According to one theory, the planet is not the actual source of the Xenomorph species, but was used as a storage house by the Space Jockeys to contain and breed them.

The exact source of this info is unclear, but in the 2010 AvP video game, things end with Weyland Yutani discovering the location of their homeworld. This would seem to indicate that it will be revealed and/or detailed in the sequel. Also, the info on Proteus (as it stands) is clearly linked to the theory that the Space Jockeys were responsible for the creation of the Xenomorphs, so I can only assume that it came up in one of the AvP comics or novels.

Prometheus:
In the course of learning all this, I also came to learn that Ridley Scott has been dropping some serious hints of late. Apparently, the concept of the Space Jockeys, the Xenomorph homeworld, and the link between the two species will be explored at some length in the upcoming movie, Prometheus. For those who don’t know, this upcoming movie is a prequel to the Alien franchise where the crew of an Earth starship discover the derelict years before the Nostromo. Originally, I was planning on avoiding it. But successive previews and all the promised explanations are starting to get to me. Coming to theaters this summer, people!