You know how Hollywood will announce an upcoming movie, and will usually precede any trailers by releasing special info like who’s attached to direct and who will be starring in it? Believe it or not, there’s actually an interesting selection process that leads up to this. Yeah, I was surprised too. Given what I’ve learned from Entourage and Hollywood’s many movies about itself, I would have thought that the whole process was done behind closed doors, and involved a bunch of sleazy executives, some martinis and many, many lines of coke!
But according to a recent article from Blastr, the process is a bit more complicated. It seems that prospective directors are also expected to make pitches to the producers, and often do so in the form of videos. When The Hunger Games was first being conceived, that’s precisely what prospective director Kevin Tancharoen did. Tancharoen is relatively new to Hollywood, the man behind the 2009 remake of Fame and the guy who has been on the radar of the sci-fi fan universe ever since he released a test film for the proposed Mortal Kombat: Rebirth film.
The trailer featured below is the mashup he created to show to the producers. It features footage from numerous movies, including Harry Potter, Serenity, Gladiator, Ultra Violet, X-Men, 300, Lord of the Rings, and a slew of other science fiction and action films. In the background you hear key lines of dialogue featured from the original novel, giving a sense of context and direction to the montage. Having watched it, I can tell you that it’s not bad, provided you don’t mind that not a single scene is original! Of course, Tanchareon didn’t get the job. But there’s still the sequel to think of…
Which reminds me, I’m due to review the movie they did make. I finally got around to watching it, and I think it would be nice to do a blow by blow comparison between it and the original novel. Expect it soon!
It’s been forever since I did a post about the various planets that make up a sci-fi universe. And I got to admit, this is one I’ve been holding out on simply because the sheer volume of info made it seem just the slightest bit intimidating. I am, of course, referring to The Verse, also known as, the Firefly/Serenity universe.
As fans of the show are no doubt aware, The Verse is a pretty happening place! As the teacher described it in the opening section of the Serenity movie, the system is made up of “dozens of planets and hundreds of moons”, all of which had been terraformed over the course of generations to ensure that they were habitable.
But I was surprised to learn more recently was that this system was also made up of multiple stars. Yes, 34 Tauri, aka. The White Sun, aka. Bai Hu (“White Tiger” in Chinese), contains not only hundreds of worlds, but also is also made up of five stars and seven brown dwarf protostars. Many of these have their own planetary systems, and their position relative to the central White Sun is indicative of their overall position in the systems social and political makeup.
To break it down succinctly, the verse consists of hundreds of terraformed planets and moons which orbit three stars and two brown dwarves. The White Sun, aka. Bai Hu/White Tiger, is home to the “Central Planets” that make up the Alliance. Farther out lie the planets that orbit the Red Sun (Zhu Que or “Red Phoenix”) and Georgia (Huang Long, “Yellow Dragon”), which are known as the “Border Planets”.
Next are Kalidasa, also known as Xuan Wu (Black Tortoise) and the Blue Sun (Qing Long or “Blue Dragon”). The worlds orbiting these last two stars comprise “The Rim”. Within all of these planets, the seven brown dwarf/protostars also share orbits and host some of the mini-systems planets as well.
The Central Planets:
The worlds that orbit the White Sun have the distinction of being the first that were colonized and constitute the core of the Alliance, its many institutions and centers of power. They are also the most advanced, developed, and Earth-like of all the planets in the system.
The White Sun: Also known as Bai Hu (or “White Tiger”), the White Sun is core of The Verse and the principal star in The White Sun system. It is orbited by fourteen planets and the two brown dwarves Qin Shi Huang and Lux, which are themselves home to three of the system’s planets.
Londonimium: The second planet orbiting the White Sun. Along with its sister planet Sihnon, Londoninium was one of the first planets colonized after the exodus from Earth-That-Was and being the most Earth-like of the systems planets, was the easiest to settle. Most of the settlers here came from Europe and the Americas and the predominant western culture took hold here quickly. The planet also orbited by the two moons, Balkherne and Colchester.
In addition to being the home of the Alliance Parliament, Londinium also boasts the Museum of History and the Museum of Art, the finest museums of Earth-That-Was, colonial artifacts, and the largest collections of Western-style art in the system. On top of all that, the Alliance has many of it’s most important military assets here, which includes the Ministry of Intelligence and the headquarters of the elite SAS (Special Alliance Support) forces.
Sihonn: The third planet orbiting the White Sun and the second of the system’s major planets. Inhabited primarily by colonists from China, the planet is renowned for being highly sophisticated and place of advanced technology. Viewed from space, the planet has a deep red color and the surface is renowned for its natural beauty and cultural diversity. The planet is also the training grounds for many Registered Companions, hence why Inara Serra calls the planet home. The capital city is said to be, according to Inara, “like an ocean of light.” The planet is orbited by three moons, Airen, Xiansheng, and Xiaojie
Ariel: The eleventh planet orbiting the White Sun, Ariel is a central planet and one of the most valued members of the Alliance. As the home to the major medical center (named Saint Lucy’s), it is here where the majority of medical advances and technology are produced. It is also because of its reputation that it is the home of the lucrative black market trade in artificially grown organs. During the episode “Ariel”, the crew pulled its greatest heist on this planet while Simon Tam used the facilities to examine his sister. The moons Ariopolis, Shiva, and Poseidon all orbit this world.
Bellerophon: The tenth planet orbiting the White Sun, this planet is largely an ocean planet and an enclave for the wealthy. The majority of the inhabitants live in estates suspended above the ocean and where supplies are shipped in from off world and garbage carried away by automated ships. Each of these estates are something akin to a self-contained city, with lavish living, spacious facilities, and state of the art security.
Liann Jiun: The fourth planet orbiting the White Sun.
Bernadette: The first planet of the White Sun, this world was one of the first to be settled alongside Londoninium and Sihonn. Like all central Alliance worlds, this planet is renowned for being technologically advanced and boasts all the amenities for its population. As the staging point for all citizens looking to settle on the Border Planets and Rim, As a result, the official resettlement bureau, the Alliance Colony and Settlement Authority was based in the city of New Tombstone. At the same time, however, an underground slave trade also grew up on the planet that kidnapped new arrivals and sold them to clients both in the core and out on the rim. The moons Nautilus and Spinrad also orbit this planet.
Persephone: One of the outermost White Sun planets that also orbits the protostar Lux, Persephone is a world riddled with contradiction. While it is an advanced Alliance planet with plenty of wealthy residents, its proximity to the Border Worlds also means that it contains many large slums and underworld elements. For example, the Eavesdown Docks are located here, which Badger, a criminal boss who frequently employs Mal and his crew, call home. It was also here that the Firefly crew found Shepherd Book and the Tams in the first episode.
The Border Planets:
Made up of Georgia and the Red Sun, the Border Planets regions is where the Independents made their stand against the Alliance’s attempts at Unification. Many of the worlds, particularly in the Georgia System, still bear the scars of that war. Shadow, for instance, was rendered uninhabitable due to extensive bombing, and Hera is the location of the Serenity Valley, where the war was effectively lost by Independent forces.
Georgia: Also known as Huang Long (or Yellow Dragon), Georgia is the principal star of the Georgia system, the largest system orbiting the White Sun. It is home to sixteen planets and the brown dwarf/protostar Murphy, which is itself home to three more planets.
Ezra: The first planet in the Georgia system, Ezra is a desert world that marks the very border between the Central and Border Planets. It is here that Niska’s Skyplex, home to one of the most brutal crime lords in The Verse, is located.
Boros: The third planet of the Georgia system which is orbited by the moon of Ares. Between the planet and its moon, the Alliance maintains a strong military presence in the form of a base and a shipyard.
Kerry: Named after county Kerry in Ireland, this is the fourth planet of the Georgia system.
Athens: The Ninth planet of the Georgia system, Athens, despite its name, lies at the very edge of the Border Worlds and is hence a relatively uncivilized place. It has four moons, including Whitefall which is the fourth and most distant. This moon has the dubious honor of being home to Patience, the matriarchal outlaw who has done business with the Firefly crew and was even said to have shot Mal on one occasion. Whitefall was featured in the episode “Serenity” where Mal and crew were looking to offload a crate of Alliance supplies.
Regina: The second planet of the Georgia system, Regina is known mainly for its mining operations and as the birthplace of the degenerative disease known as “Bowden’s Malady”. This disease has apparently infected everyone on the planet, and requires regular medical treatment to keep from progressing. This planet was featured in the episode “The Train Job”.
Hera: The fourteenth planet orbiting Georgia and one of three planets orbiting the protostar Murphy, Hera occupies a strategic position as the core of the Border Worlds. Due to its Earth-like climate, where terraforming was not necessary as it was with many other Border Planets, Hera became an agricultural colony and breadbasket for most of the system. It is also the location of Serenity Valley, the site of a major battle during the Unification War, where Mal and the Independents made a concerted stand against superior Alliance forces, and were devastated in the end. It is this battle which is considered the final battle of the war, in that it signaled the inevitable defeat of the Independents.
Shadow: An agricultural planet orbiting the protostar Murphy, along with Hera and Aphrodite, Shadow itself is the sixteenth and final planet that orbits the star Georgia. Shadow is where Mal Reynolds was raised on his mother’s ranch, until the Alliance rendered it uninhabitable during the Unification War. As one of the three leading planets for the Independent’s side, it was heavily bombed by Alliance forces during the initial phase of the invasion. Mal is quoted as saying of it: “No one lives there. No one can.”
Red Sun: Also known as Zhu Que (Red Phoenix), the Red Sun is the coldest of all the suns in the ‘Verse. It is the principal star of the Red Sun system and shares an orbit with Georgia around the White Sun. Like Georgia, it is home to sixteen planets and two dwarf suns, Heinlein and Himinbjurg.
Greenleaf: The third planet orbiting the Red Sun, Greenleaf is so named because of its large tropical belt, massive jungles and rainforests. Thanks to the presence of so many tropical plants, the planet boasts several major pharmaceutical facilities which use the native flora as a source life-saving drugs that cannot easily be synthesized in a laboratory. In addition, drug smugglers and criminal operations also exist, giving rise to one of the largest black market rings in the system. Because of this, the Alliance maintains a strong presence in orbit and planet side, restricting the flow of ships in the hopes of clamping down on the drug trade. It is also orbited by the moon of Dyton, which Badger himself may have lived on at one time since he called “the old homestead”.
Harvest: The fourth planet of the Red Sun system, this world is also orbited by two moons – the more notable of which is Higgins’ Moon, the home of the “mudder’ operations (an indentured servant operation where mud is transported off world to manufacture ceramics). This moon is also the location of Jaynestown, a settlement which revered Jayne as a saint after he accidentally dumped a haul of money onto the mudder’s village. These events were detailed in the episode entitled “Jaynestown”.
Jiangyin: The first planet of the Red Sun, this border world is home to several agricultural and ranching operations, and is also marked by the strange divide between the townspeople and the “hill people”. These latter folk live in communities located in the highlands where life is difficult and giving rise to superstitious, simple folk who compensate for their lack of skilled tradespeople by periodically kidnapping townspeople or off-world visitors. Two such individuals were Simon and River Tam in the episode “Safe”.
Triumph: The ninth planet of the Red Sun which also orbits the brown dwarf Heinlein, named in honor of sci-fi author Robert A. Heinlein, along with the worlds of Paquin, Lazarus, and Silverhold. Poor and backward by most standards, this world is quite primitive and largely controlled by Elder Gomman. It was also here that the Serenity crew picked up Saffron as part of a marriage contract in the episode “Our Mrs. Reynolds”.
The planets that make up the outermost region of the White Sun are noted for their lawlessness, criminal activity, and the presence of Reavers. As such, it is the most dangerous place in the system, and yet the only place where people seeking refuge from the Alliance can call home.
Kalidasa: Also known as Xuan Wu (or Black Tortoise), Kaldisa is the principal star of the Kalidasa system and the starting point of the Rim Worlds. It is home to nineteen planets and the brown dwarf Penglai.
Angel/Zephyr: An astrological anamoly, these two planets orbit one another while simultaneously orbiting the star of Kalidasa.
Aberdeen: The thirteenth planet orbiting the star Kalidasa. Named after Aberdeen, Scotland.
Beylix: A border planet orbiting Penglai, a protostar that orbits Kalidasa, and the eleventh body in the Kalidasa system. It has three moons, and appears to have a permanent cloud cover and dense ice rings. Mal’s war buddy Monty was caught by the Alliance here which was mentioned in the episode “Trash”.
Beaumonde: The fifteenth planet in orbit of Kalidasa, Beaumonde is a heavily industrialized world and the manufacturing hub of the system. Because of its massive output of goods, pollution is a major problem and the planet is covered in a perpetual haze, necessitating the constant use of weather satellites to process the worse of it. This planet was featured in the movie Serenity, where the crew land after pulling their heist on Lilac in order to do business with the crime brothers Fanty and Mingo. It was also here that they discovered River’s programming after a subliminal message triggered her.
Salisbury: The seventeenth and outermost planet of the Kalidas system.
Blue Sun: Also known as Qing Long (the Blue Dragon), this is the principle tar of the Blue Sun system and contains eight planets and the protostar Burnham.
Muir: The third planet orbiting the Blue Sun, and the planet where Badger was apparently born and raised.
Highgate: The fifth planet orbiting the Blue Sun which has one moon, Perth.
Deadwood: Seventh planet orbiting the Blue Sun and which is orbited by the moon of Haven. It is this world that Shepherd retired to to start a ministry amongst a small colony of settlers. It is also where he died when Alliance forces, loyal to “The Operative” attacked the settlement.
Miranda: The outermost planet in the Blue Sun and White Star system, Miranda was long thought to be a dead world until events in Serenity indicated otherwise. As the farthest planet from the center of the system and uninhabited, it was here that the Alliance created an experimental colony where a quarter-million settlers were treated to a drug known as “Pax”. Designed to suppress violence instincts, the drug had the side-effect of causing the vast majority of the residents to lose all motivation and simply lay down and die. Of those who survived, the drug had the opposite effect, leading to extreme violence and cannibalistic behavior. This explained the existence of the Reavers and why they were to be found at the very edge of the system. The discovery of this planet and its secrets were central to the plot of the movie Serenity.
Wow! See what I mean by “happening”? It’s no wonder I took so long to do this post, there’s so much info to sift through! Clearly, Joss Whedon and his writers really went to town when it came to setting and background in this story. And it only drives home just how tragic it is that this show was cancelled before it even finished running it’s first season. There was so much there to work with, so much more to flesh out, detail, and weave into the ongoing storyline. Why oh why did those lame-ass Fox executives cancel this show? I can only hope they’ve since been fired and flogged, and not necessarily in that order!
Ever since my writing group and I got on the subject of space and colonization, some recurring themes have come up. For starters, there’s the concept of interstellar space travel, the kind that doesn’t involve fictitious Faster-Than-Light drive systems and therefore cannot exceed the speed of light. In those situations, which are far more likely to happen in this and the next century, the question of how to keep crews alive until your arrival keeps popping up.
One way is to utilize some kind of cryogenic procedure, where passengers are put into “reefersleep” for the duration of the journey and awakened upon arrival. Though it might sound a bit crude, it’s actually a very practical solution to the problems of how to keep a crew preserved and provided for during the incredibly long voyages that space travel entails. This procedure has come up repeatedly in the realm of science fiction, particularly H.P. Lovecraft’s Cool Air, Robert A Heinlein’sThe Door into Summer, Clarke’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, PKD’s Ubik, the Alien franchise, and the Revelation Space universe, just to name a few.
The other solution, which is the subject of this post, is to construct generational ships. These are basically “interstellar arks” where people and even entire biospheres are transported from one location to another. Crews are kept in waking conditions, experience subjective time, and entertain themselves in interactive, simulated or virtual environments in order to stay sane until they complete their voyage. Though much more expensive to build, these ships are an equally elegant solution of what to do about non-FTL space travel and colonization.
These two have made many appearances in science fiction, and I’ve compiled a list of all the Generation Ships, Space Arks, and O’Neil Cylinders I could find.
Firefly: At the beginning of each episode, it was explained how Earth was used up, prompting humanity to seek out a new home. This is what eventually led them to 34 Tauri in the 22nd century where they began the process of terraforming and settling its the many worlds and moons. Though it was never explained in detail, mainly because the show was cancelled before they could (screw you Fox!), indications are given in the movie Serenity and the expanded universe that this involved Generation Ships.
In the movie, this was done mainly through visuals, where a large of flotilla dusts off from Earth and eventually finds its way to the system of the White Sun. It was also said that the process of terraforming took decades, which would require that the crews had somewhere to stay while the terraformers did their work. Also, speculative point here, but it would stand to reason that the fleet would have to have some pretty large ships to accommodate both settlers and the kind of equipment they would need.
Chasm City: This novel, set in Alastair Reynold’s Revelation Space universe, involves a large thread that follows the settlement of the world known as Sky’s Edge. This took place early in the universe’s backstory, before the development of lighthuggers and therefore required that the ships used be able to support crews for long periods of time.
From Reynold’s descriptions, these ships were large, cylindrical vessels that boasted vast bays to hold their many cryogenically-frozen passengers. At the same time, the waking crew needed vast facilities to provide for their needs. These included mess halls, sleeping quarters, medical bays, and recreational facilities. Sky Haussmann, one of the children amongst the crew, had a nursery with a robotic clown and virtual backgrounds.
This divide, between a waking crew and frozen settlers, represents a sort of compromise between the cryoship design and the generation ship. On the one hand, you’ve got the majority of your crew at near-frozen temperatures and perfectly preserved for the voyage. On the other, you’ve got a crew walking about and looking for food, rest and entertainment. However, it still qualifies, and even inspired my group in our quest to design the perfect story for colonization!
Orphans of the Sky: One of the earliest known examples of the use of generation ships in sci-fi, this two-novella set was also one of Heinlein’s first works. Like Clarke’s Rendezvous with Rama, it features a massive cylindrical ship that is drifting through space. But unlike Rama, Heinlein’s ship, known as the Vanguard, has become a derelict that is permanently adrift in space.
As the story goes on, we learn that this was due to a mutiny which killed all the piloting officers many generations back. Since that time, the descendants of the surviving loyal crew have forgotten the purpose and nature of their ship and lapsed into a pre-technological culture marked by superstition. In fact, they now view their ship as the cosmos itself, and interpret its “voyage” as a metaphor.
The crew are also ruled by an oligarchy of “Officers” and “Scientists”, at the head of which is the descendent of the original captain. Much like pre-industrial times, most crew members are dedicated to a simple life where they tend to agriculture and are illiterate. Seldom does anyone ever venture to the “upper decks” where the “muties” (aka. “mutants” or “mutineers”) are kept. These individuals, it is learned, know the truth of the ship’s purpose, another reason why they are ostracized from the rest of the crew.
As you can plainly see, this book not only featured a generation ship and some rather hard science when it came to colonization, it also raised some valid and interesting questions about how space travel and confining environments could effect subsequent generations of people. Those who were born into an enclosed environment would come to know it as their whole world. And in the absence of external, verifiable facts (such as messages from Earth or historical records), they could even be led to believe there was nothing beyond their walls.
Paradises Lost: Similar in tone and setting to Heinlein’s Orphans, this story by Ursula K. LeGuin focuses instead on the psychological impact that generational travel would have on a human crew. Adapted into a musical, this story explores the basic question of what happens when you spend your whole life (and entire generations) traveling toward a goal, only to find that the endpoint has become otherworldly and unattainable?
The story takes place aboard a generation ship known as the Discovery, where people are born and die on a trip to colonize a distant planet. Much like the Orphans, the ship becomes their entire universe and begins to seem more tangible to them than Earth or their mission to colonize a new world. The reason for this quite simple; as the journey goes on, those who knew a life on Earth are slowly dying off, and subsequent generations know about these things only through tales and lore.
As a result, a new religion is borne which teaches that the ship is “spaceship heaven” and that it is bound for eternity. This religion is known as Bliss, and the younger generation are embracing it against the wishes of the older. The story is told through the eyes of two elder characters – Hsing and Luis. They know their lives will end on board the ship and that their mission lies in the hands of future generations. Naturally, they worry since said generations are convinced that they should never leave the ship they call heaven.
Rendevouz with Rama: One of the best examples of a generational ship, which extra-terrestrial in origin! Known as Rama, this massive space cylinder was basically a self-contained world that was carrying the Raman civilization from one corner of the galaxy to another. When a crew from Earth arrive and begin to survey the interior, they begin to notice several tell-tale features.
For one, the interior contains several structures which appear to be arranged in “cities” – odd blocky shapes that look like buildings, and streets with shallow trenches in them, looking like trolley car tracks. In addition, there is a sea that stretches in a band around Rama dubbed the Cylindrical Sea, and trenches cut into the sides that appear to be windows.
In time, all the machinery comes to light, thanks in part to the admission of light through the ship’s long windows. Small creatures that appear to be biological machines (aka. “biots”) begin to come out as well and conducting routine maintenance. In time, they come to the conclusion that the buildings constitute factories, that the cylindrical sea contains trace elements and bio-matter which they will begin to convert into “Ramans” as soon they get in range of their destination.
In the end, it seemed that the Ramans determined that the best way to spread their species was to break them down into their component parts, place them aboard ships that would float for generations through space, and begin recompiling them once they got to where they wanted to go. Ultimately, Sol was just a stopover on their long journey, and more ships were coming in subsequent novels. Still, this first exposure to the alien generation ship was an educational experience!
Ringworld: Written by Larry Niven, the Ringworld series is considered one of the greatest examples of exploratory sci-fi. Set in the Known Space universe of the distant future, the story revolves around the discovery and exploration of the Ringworlds, an artificial habitation ring built by an extinct civilization. With the makers of these rings long dead, the rings themselves are adrift and their engineered inhabitants degenerated into a primitive state.
These artificial rings are roughly one million kilometers wide and one thousand kilometers across, approximately the diameter of Earth’s orbit. Each one encircles a Sol-type star which provides both life sustaining energy and light. And of course, they rotate, thus providing artificial gravity that is 99.2% as strong as Earth’s through the action of centrifugal force. And night is provided by an inner ring of shadow squares which are connected to each other by thin ultra strong shadow square wire.
The ringworld has a habitable flat inner surface that is equivalent in area to approximately three million Earth-sized planets. Hence, it is able to sustain extensive ecosystems and all forms of life. This appears to be purpose of the rings in the end, the creation of habitable areas in space that were removed from terrestrial environments. And added bonus was the ability to transport said life over vast distances through space without having to stick them in an enclosed environment.
So really, these things were like a gigantic version of a generation ship, capable of moving an entire species or civilization through space.
The series Stargate Atlantis contained a few mentions of vessels which fit the profile of generation ships. For starters, there was the Ancients City Ship, a self-contained city that was also a spaceship. Though it was capable of FTL travel, the vessel was capable of sustaining a city-sized population for extended periods of time as it traveled through space.
In addition, in the third season episode entitle “The Ark”, Colonel Sheppard’s team discovers a facility inside a hollowed-out moon that turns out to be an ark created by the people of the planet around which the moon is in orbit. The ark was built to preserve the existence of the people from the planet so that they could reemerge and rebuild their civilization. Generations prior, these people had fought a disastrous war with the Wraith in which they were almost exterminated.
Though not a vessel per se, the moon base served the same purpose as a generation ship. Though the moon orbited their original homeworld and the people really weren’t traveling through space (except in orbit around their planet), the principle was essentially the same. People were kept in stasis until the day came when they could awaken to transplant themselves on the intended world, thus ensuring the survival and expansion of their civilization.
Yes, the examples abound! In fact, the concept of the generation ship and related ideas are so fertile that I’m kind of surprised that it took me so long to really appreciate it. But then again, I came to a lot of the classics a little late in life. Ah well, it doesn’t really matter when you get to the destination, provided that you get there and enjoy the journey. Which is kind of the concept behind a generation ship isn’t it? If you can’t just warp your way across the universe – if you got to take your time and drift slow – you might as well travel in style!
Dang it, this is fast growing into a theme of its own, outgrowing the whole “conceptual” thing by leaps and bounds! But there are always more contenders, and people have been nice enough to leave suggestions with me. So the list must go on, taking into account more spaceships, aircraft an assorted vehicles that come to us from a variety of franchises. Some are fast, some are scary, some are just really, really neat to look at! But they all have one thing in common, they are all cool!
Here’s the latest, as assembled by me and with the help of some helpful suggestions!
Cylon Base Ship: In my first post, I mentioned the Galactica and how it had evolved from its original self to become the aged but enduring vessel that we saw in the new series. Well, when it came to the Cylons, the artists seemed to go in the opposite direction. Rather than making the Cylon Base Ships less advanced-looking, they opted instead for designs that looked sleeker, updated and more organic.
This was in keeping with the updated concept of the Cylon race. Whereas in the original series, the Cylons were slow, lumbering robots who simply followed orders and sounded very machine-like, the new Cylons were fully organic beings that could easily pass for humans.
The Centurions, much like their predecessors, remained loyal robots, but were also a hell of lot more streamlined and dynamic in appearance. The Base Stars were said to be constructed out of a cartilage-like material that was soft and organic, but became solid and super-tensile once it hardened. And of course, the Cylon Raiders were themselves equipped with organic parts, living brain tissue inside a metal hull.
Of course, the new Base Ships were downgraded in one respect. Much like the Galactica, the new designers decided to forgo the idea of lasers for something a little more realistic. In the case of the Cylons, this meant missiles instead of flak guns and cannons. However, everything else was significantly more advanced than the original, including the appearance and the scientific foundation on which it rested. Basically, the new Base Ships looked organic because they were organic. Instead of being built in a shipyard, they were grown in them. That’s some advanced shit right there!
All of this were quite ingeniously attributed to technological evolution. The old Base Star and Centurion designs were said to have been what the Cylons looked like during the previous war. Toasters was the term used to describe them, given their chrome exteriors and campy-retro look. Their new designs were the result of over twenty years of progress, going from constructions of metal and silicate materials to biometric tissue which was grown in vats. A very cool concept, and in keeping with the latest updates in the fields of science and science fiction 😉
Cue classical music soundtrack! The Discovery is sailing by… in excruciatingly slow motion! Yes, I’m sure I speak for all those who have seen 2001: A Space Odyssey when I say that the story was brilliant, the cinematography superb, but dammit, did they have to do so many long, drawn out space sequences? Well, as someone very wise said, this movie was made back when people still had attention spans!
But on the plus side, the long sequences allowed audiences to truly appreciate the design and concept of this ship, and many others in the film. In what can only be described as a caterpillar (or ball and chain) type design, the Discovery was originally designed for cargo hauling, but was converted to deep-space exploration when Earth scientists needed to mount a manned mission to Jupiter in a hurry.
One can see without much effort how these concepts overlapped in the design. Being made up of many segments, the spine of the ship was clearly designed to hold detachable cargo pods, whereas the crew and navigation team would hold up in the spherical section at the front. Once converted, this frontal section was given pod-bay doors, a compliment of small explorer craft, and a large scanner array mounted along the dorsal section. The engine compartment at the rear was built for heavy thrust, alluding to the fact that this craft was intended for deep-space missions.
In addition to all that, the ship came equipped with vast stores of food, cryogenic pods, and an onboard AI known as the HAL 9000. During the better part of its deep space missions, the crew would be kept in cryogenic suspension, HAL would pilot the ship, and they would be thawed once it came close to its destination, or in case an emergency situation arose. Also, its contained rotating sections which would become active once the crew was in a waking state, ensuring that they didn’t succumb to muscular atrophy due to weightlesssness.
Simple, straightforward and technically practical, The Discovery was everything one would expect from the future of space travel, at least from a 1960’s standpoint. And granted, we weren’t exactly building ships like this when 2001 rolled around. But we weren’t exactly fighting the Cold War or discovering aliens on the Moon either. In either case, you’d be hard-pressed to find hard sci-fi like this anywhere today. RIP Arthur C. Clarke. You too, Kubrick! You’re genius is sorely missed!
Draconia 1: Credit for this one goes to Victor of Victor’s Movie Reviews. Initially, I was hesitant when he suggested I post something from the Buck Roger’s universe, but quickly changed my mind when I saw it. Thanks for the suggestion and the links man! Enjoy this one!
Just to be clear, I got nothing against Buck Rogers, I’m just relatively ignorant about the franchise. And after combing through a couple databases, I’m still pretty ignorant. Whereas I thought this was just a popular movie and tv series from the 80’s, I’ve since learned that its roots go way deeper than all that! Originally, Buck Rogers was a novella named Armaggedon 2419, a dystopian story that appeared in an issue of Amazing Stories in 1928. Since that time, the story has been adapted to comic books, radio, television, and with the success of Star Wars and Battlestar Galactica in the late 70’s and early 80’s, a feature film and a TV spinoff.
Known more popularly as “Buck Rogers in the 25th Century”, it is from this point in the series that this megalithic ship known as a Draconian battleship comes to us. Named in honor of the empire that built it, Draconia 1 was the flagship of the Draconian armada and the flagship of the franchise’s chief protagonist, Princess Ardala. , to conquer Earth and make Buck Rogers her consort. And given its size and imposing nature, I’d say the artists captured these intentions quite perfectly. With a name like Draconi 1, you gotta figure the ship is going to look stern, sharp, and geared up for war!
Earth Force Thunderbolt: Another happy contribution from the Babylon 5 universe! An upgraded model that was meant to replace the older Starfury-class fighter, Thunderbolts were two-person aerospace fighters that were had boasted extra firepower, better navigation, updated systems, and the ability to navigate inside atmospheres. Yes, unlike the earlier models, these things could operate in space and in the air.
This was made possible by the addition of extendable airfoils which were attached to the ship’s four engine mounts. In addition, the hard mounts on these wings were capable of holding up to ten missiles. These, combined with its four uni-directional pulse cannons, gave it a serious firepower advantage over its predecessor!
Making their debut in the second season of the show, the Thunderbolt would play a pivotal role in the Earth Alliance civil war, which broke out shortly thereafter. Thanks to a shipment that arrived on the station before B5 declared its independence, and the addition of several squadrons of defectors from the Earth Force destroyers Alexander and Churchill, Sheridan and his forces were not at a disadvantage when President Clarke’s forces came knocking!
According to the B5 Wiki, the Thunderbolt represented the third incarnation in the Starfury series. In terms of design, they were clearly inspired by their namesake, the P-47, and other WWII aircraft like the P-51 Mustang. In addition, inspiration was probably owed to the F4 Phantom of the Vietnam Era, which also boasted a two-seat configuration and also had the same mouth and bared teeth design on the front. A good thing too, for credit should always be given to the classics!
The Eclipse: What could be more terrifying than a Super Star Destroyer? THIS, that’s what! And like a Super Star Destroyer, it comes to us from the expanded Star Wars universe. Known as the Eclipse, and taken from the Star Wars: Dark Empire comic series, this vessel was the latest incarnation of Imperial terror technology at its best (or worst)! Originally intended as the resurrected Emperor’s new flagship, the Eclipse II quickly became the symbol of resurrected Imperial might in the comic series, dwarfing even the Executor and all other classes of Super Star Destroyer that preceded her.
Little wonder then why they called it the Eclipse. Park it in orbit over a planet, and boom! Lights out! And much like the Death Stars and Executor-class Super Star Destroyers that preceded her, the Eclipse was nothing short of a vanity project by Emperor Palpatine, its size and awesome power reflecting his megalomania and maniacal ambitions. But regardless of how overcompensating it seemed, this ship was still a behemoth and a real slugger when it came to firepower!
Measuring 17.5 km in length, the Eclipse was absolutely fearsome in terms of its overall displacement, tonnage, and raw firepower. In addition to over 1000 turbolasers, laser cannons, and ion cannons, the ship also came equipped with a superlaser that was mounted on its prow. In essence, this ship was like a mobile Death Star, capable of destroying an entire planet as well as an enemy’s armada. On top of all that, it also came equipped with 50 squadrons of TIE fighters and bombers, 100 tractor beams (the better to capture you with!), and its own gravity-well generators.
These last items are devices which appear quite frequently in the expanded SW universe, usually on Interdictor-class Star Destroyers. Basically, they allow a ship to generate a gravitational field which, when activated, prevents an enemy from jumping to hyperspace. So in addition to being impregnable, this ship could also prevent enemies from withdrawing from a battle. Hmmm, can’t beat her, can’t run away. Not exactly built for a fair fight, was she? But much like her terrifying predecessor, she was eventually destroyed in circumstances which couldn’t help but be embarrassing. I guess the old adages are true: the bigger they are… etc, and pride cometh before a fall! Or in this case, a really big explosion!
Now here’s a franchise that hasn’t made the list yet. Taken from the Matrix franchise, the Nebuchadnezzar is a hovercraft and, along with others like her, the primary means of transportation and resistance for the people of Zion. Named after the (in)famous Babylonian Emperor who conquered the Levant, this ship made its first appearance towards the end of Act I, right after Neo was unplugged and had to be rescued.
According to Morpheus, her Captain, the ship is their means for reaching “broadcast depth” in the underground tunnels and hack into the Matrix. Beyond this basic role, it is also a primary defender whenever the sentinels begin to venture too close to Zion. In the first movie, its only means of defense was its EMP. However, in the second and third movie, it was upgraded to include defensive gun turrets.
The second and third movie also introduced many other versions of this hovercraft. Apparently, every ship is unique, each one boasting its own structure, profile, and size; variations on a theme rather than based on a standardized model. Clearly, nobody is Zion believes in assembly lines, at least not where their ships are concerned!
SA-43 Hammerhead: Taken from Space: Above and Beyond, the Hammerhead is an aerospace fighter and the mainstay of the future US Navy and Marine Corps. Named because of its configuration, front and back, this ship is not only cool to look at, but is quite practical from a hard science standpoint.
For example, the front and rear wings are not strictly for artistic purposes. In addition to serving as weapon’s mounts, they are the platform for the ship’s many retro-rockets. In the course of the show’s many action sequences, you always see these ships moving about as if they are truly operating in vacuum. In other words, they don’t swoop around like regular jets or have to roll to turn around. In space, all you got to do is fire your lateral rockets and let your axis spin around!
In terms of armaments, the Hammerhead packs a rather impressive array. A forward mounted laser turret is supplemented by a dual one mounted at the rear, giving the ship a near-360 degree range of fire. It also has hard mounts under its wings for missiles, bombs and rockets. These come in handy when facing down multiple squadrons of smaller, faster, but less heavily armed Chig fighters.
The Excalibur: Back to the B5 universe yet again! Don’t blame me, they make a lot of cool ships. Anyhoo, this time around, the ship in question is the prototype White Star Destroyer The Excalibur. Designed to be a bigger, heavier version of its predecessor, the Excalibur was similarly based on Vorlon and Mimbari technology, incorporating organic hulls and Mimbari energy weapons.
A joint venture between the Earth Alliance and Mimbari governments, the interior of The Excalibur resembles that of most Earth Force ships. It’s controls are human-friendly, making it a quick study for crews who are used to serving on Earth Force vessels. This came in handy on its maiden voyage, when Sheridan and a crew of EF personnel were forced to commandeer it and its sister ship, The Victory.
It’s weapon consisted of multiple turret mounted beam cannons mounted all over the hull, but concentrated near the front and rear. On top of that, it also boasted a massive energy cannon similar to the kinds found on Vorlon warships. Unfortunately, this weapon was such a drain on the ships power that it could only be fire once in any battle, since its use would result in a systems blackout that could last several minutes. In addition, its ample bays could hold multiple squadrons of Starfuries and Thunderbolts, which were deployed by a pylon that extended from the hull.
In addition to playing a key role in defeating the Drakh, The Excalibur and its crew were also tasked with finding a cure for the plague they viciously unleashed on Earth. Though this spinoff series (Crusade) was cancelled partway through its first season, sources from the expanded universe indicate that it was eventually successful. So in addition to being able to kick some serious ass, this ship was also a capable exploration vessel and a mobile research station.
Spaceball One: Despite odd name and it’s whacky nature, Spaceball One is actually a pretty cool ship! In addition to being able to exceed the speed of light and go both “Ridiculous Speed” and “Ludicrous Speed”, the ship is capable of converting into a giant, robotic maid which, when armed with its megavac, is capable of sucking up an entire planet’s atmosphere. Tell me that aint a terror weapon!
A parody on the Star Destroyers from the very movie it was meant to parody, the design elements of this ship also seemed to pay homage to a few other unlikely sources. One suggested influence is The Discovery from 2001: A Space Odyssey, while another is the Nostromo from Alien. Given the comedic references to both these movies – the alien bursting out of a guy’s chest and performing a little ditty over lunch, or the “plaid” scene in space – this shouldn’t come as a surprise.
Thanks to Rami Ungar for (repeatedly) suggesting this one. We consider the matter closed, please stop sending hate mail! I kid of course, keep sending it! We like to hear from you ;)!
UD4L Cheyenne Dropship: Last time, it was the USS Sulaco that made the list as a example of a cool ship from the Alien universe. This time around, I thought I’d look a little closer, specifically to its cargo bays. Because it is here that we find those cool Cheyenne-class dropships, the ones that carry Marines, APC’s, and a f***load of munitions to their targets.
Capable of atmospheric and space flight, the dropships are typically deployed from high orbit and extend their wings once they hit the atmosphere in order to maintain lift.The Cheyenne serves primarily as a troop transport, a role it is well suited for since it can take off and land vertically from unprepared areas.
However, it’s nose mounted gatling gun, weapons pods and large compliment of rockets also mean it can attack in a supporting role, namely as a gunship. Once its deployed its compliment of Marines, typically inside of an M579 Armored Personnel Carrier, it will retire to a safe landing zone or offer active support until all enemies in the area have been suppressed.
X-wing: “The Incom T-65 X-wing is the fighter that killed the Death Star. An almost perfect balance of speed, maneuverability, and defensive shielding make it the fighter of choice for Rogue Squadron.” This is how General Carlist Rieekan described the final entry on my list, the venerable X-wing starfighter!
Based on captured designs and built by specialists who defected to the Alliance, the X-wing played a pivotal role in the Galactic Civil War and would form the backbone of the Alliance’s Starfighter Corps. Possessing deflector shields, a hyperdrive, an R2 astromech for repairs and navigation, and a complement of proton torpedoes, the X-wing allowed the Rebellion to launch raids deep into Imperial space and stand toe to toe with its TIE fighter squadrons.
In addition to providing escort to Alliance vessels and conducting raids on Imperial ships and installations, its long list of accomplishments include destroying the first Death Star, proving cover for escaping Alliance ships after the Battle of Yavin and at the Battle of Hoth, and defeating overwhelming Imperial forces at the Battle of Endor. After the formation of the New Republic, the X-wing would go on to play a pivotal role in many subsequent battles and engagements, mainly against the remnants of the Empire.
Featured heavily in the original movies, the X-wing would also go on to become the only Star Wars fighter to get a videogame named after it! Not bad for the little “snub fighter” that could!
And wouldn’t you know it, it seems I have actually have some insight to offer today. Must be on a count of how many ships I’ve reviewed by now. For starters, I think that while aesthetics and artistry count for a lot, some serious props need to be given for a hard sci-fi foundation. Ships that incorporate realistic features, like retro-rocket mounts, wings that only deploy if you’re expecting atmosphere, and practical hull designs, are usually what make the biggest impact. Not that we don’t all love freaky looking spacecraft, it’s just that dropships, hammerheads and starfuries seem somewhat more plausible than saucer sections and mega-dreadnoughts.
At the same time, its fast becoming clear to me that when it comes to designing cool sci-fi ship concepts, the only limits are those imposed by our own imaginations. Really, there are no rules or strictures when your painting with an open canvass, and sci-fi has always been the perfect forum for venturing into the realm of the implausible and impossible. And given the exponential rate at which technology is progressing, dreaming big doesn’t exactly seem unrealistic anymore. If anything, our dreams seem to be coming true faster than we could have imagined. So really, with the possible exception of FTL, nothing we can imagine right now should seem too farfetched. If anything, we should encourage dreamers to dream!
Until next time, and keep those suggestions coming! And maybe come up with some original designs, I’m feeling in the mood for evaluating something new and inspired here 😉
And we come to the final installment at last. Given the sheer kick-ass nature of the show’s writing, it took me three whole posts to get all the best lines from the single season that the show produced. And it was not even a full season! But of course, honoring Whedon’s criminally under-appreciated sci-fi creation wouldn’t be complete with including the movie Serenity. Much like the show, it had all the elements of classic sci-fi, space westerns, and the touching themes of loss and the ties that bind. So here she is, the fourth and final installment! Shiny!
Quick recap: The crew of the Firefly are still flying, albiet by the seat of their pants. The Alliance continues to expand into the outer reaches of the system, making it that much harder to get freelance work, honest or otherwise. At the same time, the Reavers seem to be pushing inward, raiding systems closer and closer to the core. Meanwhile, an “Operative” is looking for River and will stop at nothing to find her. His appearance coincides with the crew’s realization that her condition goes far beyond anything they’ve seen before. In addition to being a “reader”, she is also programmed to kill and knows things about secret Alliance projects. Following a lead, the name “Miranda”, the crew uncovers a massive planet-wide conspiracy which could threaten to destroy the Alliance itself.
River: People don’t like to be meddled with. We tell them what to do, what to think, don’t run, don’t walk. We’re in their homes and in their heads and we haven’t the right. We’re meddlesome. Teacher: River, we’re not trying to tell people what to think… only how [cut to lab where River is being experimented on]
[My favorite line of the movie, so chilling!]
Operative: “Key members of Parliament”. Key. The minds behind every military, diplomatic and covert operation in the galaxy, and you put them in a room with a psychic. Dr. Mathias: Look… even if River Tam did by any chance read the minds of any of the visiting Parliment members here, whatever government secrets she may have read she may not even remember any them for they are all probaly buried under layers of psychosis.
Operative: Secrets are not my concern. Keeping them is.
Mal: What was that? Wash: Did you see that? Mal: Was that the primary buffer panel? Wash: Did seem to resem- Mal: Did the primary buffer panel just fall off my gorram ship for no apparent reason?!
Wash: Yeah well, if she doesn’t give us some extra flow from the engine room to offset the burn through, this landing is gonna get pretty interesting. Mal: Define interesting. Wash: ‘Oh god oh god we’re all gonna die?’ Mal:[through the intercom] This is the captain. We have a…little problem with our engine sequence, so we may experience some slight turbulence and then…explode.
Mal: Come a day there won’t be room for naughty men like us to slip about at all. This job goes south, there well may not be another. So here is us, on the raggedy edge. Don’t push me, and I won’t push you. Dong le ma?
Mal: Doctor, I’m taking your sister under my protection here. If anything happens to her, anything at all, I swear to you, I will get very choked up. Honestly, there could be tears.
Jayne: Shiny! Let’s be bad guys.
Mal: You all wanna be looking very intently at your own belly buttons. I see a head start to rise, violence is going to ensue. Probably guessed we mean to be thieving here but what we’re after is not yours. So, let’s have no undue fussing.
Zoe:[to a security guard] You know what the definition of a hero is? Someone who gets other people killed. You can look it up later.
Mal: Listen up! We’re comin’ down to empty that vault.
Guard:You have to give me your authorization password. [Jayne fires into the vault] Okay.
Mal:[negotiating with guard where to shoot him] The leg is good. It’ll bleed plenty and we avoid any necessary organs.
Guard: I was thinking more of a graze?
Mal: Well you don’t want to look like you just gave up.
Jayne: Gee, it sure would’ve been nice to have some GRENADES don’tcha think?!
Jayne: You shoot me if they take me! [sees Mal’s gun pointed at him] Well don’t shoot me first!
Simon: Oh ‘one simple job, she’ll be fine’!
Mal: She is fine! ‘Cept for still bein’ crazy she’s the picture of health!
Zoe: Sir, I don’t disagree on any particular point. It’s just…in a time of war, we would’ve never left a man stranded.
Mal: Maybe that’s why we lost.
Jayne:I’ll kill a man in a fair fight. Or if I think he’s gonna start a fair fight. Or if he bothers me. Or if there’s a woman. Or if I’m gettin’ paid. Mostly when I’m gettin’ paid.
Mal: Kaylee, this is a place of business. We can talk about Simon- Kaylee: When he’s four worlds away? Or the Alliance gets ahold of him and River? Mal: That ain’t my worry. I gotta finish this job, get us another one. Can’t do that carryin’ those two. Kaylee: How can you be so cold? Zoe: Cap’n didn’t make them fugitives.
Kaylee: But he coulda made ’em family. ‘stead of keepin’ Simon from seein’ I was there. And I carried such a torch! And we coulda…goin’ on a year now and I ain’t had nothin’ twixt my nethers weren’t run on batteries!
Mal:Oh God! I can’t know that!
Jayne: I could stand to hear more.
Mal: Fanti. Mingo. Mingo: He’s Mingo Mal: He’s Fanti, you’re Mingo. Mingo: How is it you always know? Mal: Fanti’s prettier.
Fanty: Do you know that girl? Mal: I really don’t.
Mal: I’ve staked my crew’s life on the theory that you’re a person, actual and whole, and if I’m wrong, you’d best shoot me now…
[River cocks the gun she is pointing at Mal] Or, we could talk some more.
Mal: What in the hell happened back there?
Wash: Start with the part where Jayne gets knocked out by a ninety-pound girl, ’cause I don’t think that’s ever gettin’ old.
Malcolm: You had a gorram time bomb living with us! Who we gonna find in there when she wakes up? The girl? Or the weapon? Simon: I thought she was getting better. Jayne: And I thought they was getting off. Didn’t we have an intricate plan on how they was gonna be not here any more? Kaylee: We couldn’t leave them now. Jayne: No, now that she’s a killer woman, we ought to be bringing her tea and dumplings.
Wash: Inara. Nice to see her again.
Zoe: So… trap?
Zoe: Are we going in?
Mal: Oh, it ain’t but a few hours out.
Wash: Yeah, but, remember the part where it’s a trap?
Kaylee: But how can you be sure Inara don’t just wanna see you? Sometimes people have feelings. And I’m referring here to people.
Mal: You all were watching, I take it?
Mal: Did you see us fight?
Mal: Zoe, ship is yours. Remember: if anything happens to me, if you don’t hear from me within the hour, you take the ship — and you come and you rescue me. Zoe: What? Risk my ship?
Mal: She is a mite unpredictable. Mood swings, of a sort.
Operative: It’s worse than you know.
Mal: It usually is.
Operative: That girl will rain destruction down on you and your ship. She is an albatross, Captain.
Mal: The way I remember it, albatross was a ship’s good luck, ’til some idiot killed it. [to Inara] Yes, I’ve read a poem. Try not to faint
Operative: I already know you will not see reason. Mal: The Alliance wanted to show me reason, they shouldn’t have sent an assassin. Operative: I have a warship in deep orbit, Captain. We locked onto Serenity’s pulse beacon the moment you hit atmo. I can speak a word and send a missile to that exact location inside of three minutes. Mal: You do that, you’d best make peace with your dear and fluffy lord. Operative: [Mal tosses a mechanism, he catches it] Pulse beacon…
Operative: I want to resolve this like civilized men. I’m not threatening you. I’m unarmed. Mal: Good. [shoots him] Operative: [grabs Mal from behind] I am, however, wearing full body armor. I am not a moron!
Operative: You are fooling yourself, Captain. Nothing here is what it seems. You are not the plucky hero, the Alliance is not an evil empire, and this is not the grand arena. Inara: And that’s not incense. [the “incense” explodes and knocks The Operative out]
Mal: Half of writing history is hiding the truth.
Jayne: Oh yeah, hidin’ up the Shepherd’s skirts, that’s a manful scheme. Mal: You wanna run this ship?! Jayne: Yes! Mal: Well y-…you can’t!
Operative: I’m sorry. If your quarry goes to ground, leave no ground to go to. You should have taken my offer. Or did you think none of this was your fault?
Mal: I don’t murder children. Operative: I do. If I have to. Mal: Why? Do you even know why they sent you? Operative: It’s not my place to ask. I believe in something greater than myself. A better world. A world without sin. Mal: So me and mine gotta lay down and die… so you can live in your better world? Operative: I’m not going to live there. There’s no place for me there… any more than there is for you. Malcolm… I’m a monster.What I do is evil. I have no illusions about it, but it must be done.
Mal: Ah, hell, Shepherd, I ain’t looking for help from on high. That’s a long wait for a train don’t come. Book: Why when I talk about belief, why do you always assume I’m talking about God?
Book: [last words] I don’t care what you believe in, just believe in it.
Mal: This is how it is. Anybody doesn’t wanna fly with me any more, this is your port of harbor. There’s a lot of fine ways to die. I ain’t waiting for the Alliance to choose mine. [shoots Alliance soldier crawling from wreckage] I mean to confound these bungers. Take my shot at getting to Miranda. Maybe find something I can use to get clear of this. So I hear a word out of any of you that ain’t helping me out or taking your leave, I will shoot you down. Get to work!
Dr. Caron: These are just a few of the images we’ve recorded. And you can see, it wasn’t what we thought. There’s been no war here and no terraforming event. The environment is stable. It’s the Pax. The G-23 Paxilon Hydrochlorate that we added to the air processors. It was supposed to calm the population, weed out aggression. Well, it works. The people here stopped fighting. And then they stopped everything else. They stopped going to work, they stopped breeding, talking, eating. There’s 30 million people here, and they all just let themselves die.
Mal: This report is maybe twelve years old. Parliament buried it, and it stayed buried till River dug it up. This is what they feared she knew. And they were right to fear because there’s a whole universe of folk who are gonna know it, too. They’re gonna see it. Somebody has to speak for these people. You all got on this boat for different reasons, but you all come to the same place. So now I’m asking more of you than I have before. Maybe all. Sure as I know anything I know this, they will try again. Maybe on another world, maybe on this very ground swept clean. A year from now, ten, they’ll swing back to the belief that they can make people…better. And I do not hold to that. So no more running. I aim to misbehave.
Jayne: Shepherd Book used to tell me, “If you can’t do somethin’ smart… do somethin’ right.”
Zoë: It’s a fair bet the Alliance knows about Mr. Universe. They’re gonna see this coming. Mal: No. They’re not going to see this coming.
Wash: I’m a leaf on the wind…watch how I soar. Mal:[smiling at battle around them] Chickens come home to roost! Wash:[flying debris glances off ship’s hull] It’s okay… I-I’m a leaf on the wind!
Jayne: Cap’n’s right. Can’t be thinkin’ on revenge if we’re gonna get through this. Zoe: Do you really think any of us are gonna get through this? Jayne: Well I might!
Mr. Universe:[via his buffybot] Mal. Guy killed me, Mal. He killed me with a sword. How weird is that?
Simon: My one regret in all of this is never being with you.
Kaylee: With me? You mean to say, as in… sex?
Simon: I mean to say…
Kaylee: [cocks her gun] Hell with this. I’m gonna live!
Operative: Do you know what your sin is Mal? Mal: Ah Hell… I’m a fan of all seven. But right now… I’m gonna have to go with wrath.
Operative: Do you really believe that? Mal: I do. Operative: You willing to die for that belief? Mal: I am. [shoots the Operative repeatedly] Course, that ain’t exactly Plan A.
[Deleted scene] Operative: Serenity… you lost everything in that battle. Everything you had, everything you were. How did you go on? Mal: If you’re still standing there when that engine starts, you never will figure it out.
Mal: You know what the first rule of flying is? Well, I suppose you do since you already know what I’m about to say.
River: I do. But I like to hear you say it.
Mal: Love. You can learn all the math in the ‘verse, but you take a boat in the air that you don’t love. She’ll shake you off just as sure as the turn of the world. Love keeps her in the air when she ought to fall down. Tells you she’s hurting before she keels. Makes her a home.
[last line] Mal: What was that?
Final Thoughts (on an awesome series!):
Well that’s it I guess, show’s over… (Sniff, sniff) Excuse me for a moment! Okay, now that I got that out of the way, let me offer some final thoughts on this series that I didn’t think to mention before. One thing I am impressed with about the movie is how they really got into the mentality of the Alliance in greater detail. All throughout the original series, it was clear that they were motivated by a desire to expand and consolidate, and generally justified themselves with the whole “civilizing mission”, calling to mind the age of Imperialism and the American Frontier, “Manifest Destiny”, “White Man’s Burden” and all that crap!
But here, they got a little more in-depth. Calling to mind more recent phenomena like the goal of “spreading Democracy” and questions like “why would people not want to be like us?” And what was brilliant about the execution was the fact that the people who asked these questions and did these things really weren’t evil. At least, they didn’t think they were. Even The Operative, a self-confessed monster, wasn’t all bad. He truly and honestly believed that he was doing the right thing, that there would be a payoff for other people as a result of his murderous actions. And he accepted the fact that, come the day of a perfect society, he wouldn’t be allowed to live in it. In a way, he was kind of selfless. In a way…
And ultimately, Whedon and the cast captured the other side of the equation perfectly as well. Whereas the powers that be saw their mission as a civilizing one, a drive to create a utopia, they saw the horrors inherent in such a vision. As all fans of dystopian literature know, the whole premise is based on the idea that the drive to create the “perfect society” quickly gives way to a very imperfect one. For in the end, the drive for perfection is an illusion, and dreams can give way to nightmares very quickly!
Wow, deep stuff, and to be found in a space-western of all places. And with so many cheeky and fun lines to boot. Is it any wonder why people who love this show love it as much as they do? It’s a cult classic, man! And now it’s gone… (sniff!) I’m sorry, I thought I was all cried out! But can you blame me? This movie is emotional, and it’s big finish was a fitting sendoff to the show. Climactic, full of resolutions, but still with enough uncertainty to keep the viewers wondering if someday, there might be more to come…
Alas, seems like this show was destined to succumb to its own central theme. Much like the Browncoats, it was stamped out by an unfeeling, remorseless giant known as Fox. But alas, there’s still hope. If I get rich one day, I have said that I would purchase the rights to the show, recruit as much of the old cast as possible, and put it back on the air. Or, maybe just spring for a couple DVD movies, or a some sequels… Or maybe I’ll just buy the damn Fox Network, force them to re-air this show and many others they so foolishly cancelled. It could happen… Yeah, and monkeys could fly out of my ass! Ah well, until next time, keep on flying!
Hello! Welcome to the third and final installment in the “Best Lines” series dedicated to the awesome show Firefly. It seems fitting that I put up the final installment in the show seeing as how my wife and I just finished (re)watching the entire series on Netflix last night. It’s times like this that make me sad that there isn’t a second, third, fourth season to pick up where it all left off. Sad and very, VERY angry! DAMN YOU FOX! Anyhoo, enjoy the list and stay tuned for a follow-up with the best lines from Serenity. Just need to (re)watch it too (man, Netflix is good to me!).
Mal and crew are reunited with an old acquaintance – Saffron, or as she’s known now, Bridgitte – who gives them an offer they can’t refuse. Seems the first laser ever made is ripe for the picking, and the owner just happens to be her ex-husband (her first ex-husband!)
Monty: Damn you, Bridgitte! Damn you to Hades! You broke my heart in a million pieces! You made me love you, and then you… I shaved off my beard for you, devil woman!
Mal: This is my scrap of nowhere. You go on, find your own.
Saffron: You can’t just leave me here on this lifeless piece-of-crap moon.
Mal: I can.
Saffron: I’ll die.
Mal: Well, as a courtesy, you might start getting busy on that, ’cause all this chatter ain’t doin’ me any kindness.
Inara: Right, you’re a criminal mastermind! What was the last cargo we snuck past the Alliance to transport?
Mal: That was a little dif—
Inara: What was the cargo?
Mal: …They were dolls.
Inara: They were little geisha dolls with big heads that wobbled!
Mal: Hey! People love those!
Inara: Well, since I can’t seem to find work as Companion, I might as well become a petty thief like you!
nara: I didn’t mean petty.
Mal: What did you mean?
Mal: …That’s Chinese for “petty”.
Mal: Saffron has a notion we can walk right in there, take the Lassiter right off his shelf.
Wash: I’m confused.
Saffron: You’re asking yourself if I’ve got the security codes, why don’t I go in, grab it for myself?
Wash: No. Actually, I was wondering… WHAT’S SHE DOING ON THIS SHIP?
Zoe: But Inara ain’t wrong. She can’t be trusted.
Mal: I ain’t asking you to trust her. I’ll be with her on the inside the whole time.
Saffron: See there? All you gotta do to be a rich woman, hon, is… get over it.
Zoe: Hmm. Okay. [punches Saffron] I’m in.
River: She’s a liar.
Jayne: That don’t exactly set her apart from the rest of us. The plunder sounds fun enough.
River: She’s a liar, and no good will come of her.
Jayne: Well, as a rule, I say, girlfolk ain’t to be trusted.
River: “Jayne” is a girl’s name.
Jayne: Well, Jayne ain’t a girl! She starts in on that girl’s-name thing, I’ll show her good ‘n’ all, I got man parts!
Simon: I’m… trying to think of a way for you to be cruder. I just… it’s not coming.
Saffron: Durran, this isn’t what it looks like.
Mal: Unless… it looks like… we’re stealing your priceless Lassiter, ’cause… that’s what we’re doing. Don’t ask me about the gun, though, ’cause that’s new.
Durran: Well, I appreciate your honesty. Not, you know, a lot, but..
Durran: How long have you been with him?
Mal: Oh— pfft! We are not together.
Saffron: He’s my husband.
Mal: Well, who in the damn galaxy ain’t?!
Jayne: Is spine okay?
Simon: How much did they offer you to sell out me and River on Ariel?
Jayne: Das crazy talk.
Simon: Then let’s talk crazy. How much?
Jayne: [looks to the door] Anybody there? [River pokes her head in] Anybody else?
Simon: No matter what you do, or say or plot, no matter how you come down on us… I will never, ever harm you. You’re on this table, you’re safe. ‘Cause I’m your medic, and however little we may like or trust each other, we’re on the same crew. Got the same troubles, same enemies, and more than enough of both. Now, we could circle each other and growl, sleep with one eye open, but that thought wearies me. I don’t care what you’ve done, I don’t know what you’re planning on doing, but I’m trusting you. I think you should do the same. ‘Cause I don’t see this working any other way.
River: Also… I can kill you with my brain.
Mal: Yeah. That went well.
Inara: You call this going well?
Mal: We got the loot, didn’t we?
Inara: Yes, but—
Mal: Then I call this a win. What’s the problem?
Inara: Shall I start with the part where you’re stranded in the middle of nowhere, or the part where you have no clothes?
The crew of the Serenity get a strange and unexpected package from an old friend: his body! Initially, it seems he’s dead, but in time they realize he’s alive and smuggling cloned organs to a buyer. Unfortunately, the organs are worth something to some other people, crooked Alliance personnel who’ll stop at nothing to find him.
Simon: Yep—it’s a cow fetus.
Kaylee: Guess so. It does seem to have an awful lot of limbs.
Simon: It’s mutated.
Kaylee: But cow? How do you figure?
Simon: It’s upside down.
Kaylee: [looks sideways at it] Oh yeah. Cow.
Simon: And I’m out twelve bits! I really know how to show a girl a… disgusting time.
Wash: Oh my god, it’s grotesque! Oh, and there’s something in a jar.
Zoe: Scared her away again, did you?
Simon: D— This may come as a shock, but I’m actually… not very good at talking to girls.
Zoe: Why, is there someone you are good at talking to?
Wash: [looking at the “alien”] Do not fear me! Ours is a peaceful race, and we must live in harmony.
Jayne: I got post?
Book: Might we all want to step a few paces back before he opens that?
Jayne: Ha ha! It’s from my mother.
Inara: So, do aliens live among us?
Kaylee: Yeah. One of them’s a doctor.
Jayne: [tries on the hat his mother made him] How’s it sit? Pretty cunning, don’t you think?
Kaylee: I think it’s the sweetest hat ever.
Wash: A man walks down the street in that hat, people know he’s not afraid of anything.
Jayne: Damn straight!
[Zoe and Mal open a coffin-sized box to find a body.]
Jayne: What’d y’all order a dead guy for?
Zoe: First rule of battle, little one… don’t ever let them know where you are.
Mal: WHOO-HOO! I’M RIGHT HERE! I’M RIGHT HERE! YOU WANT SOME O’ ME?! YEAH YOU DO! COME ON! COME ON! AAAAAH!Whoo-hoo!
Zoe: ‘Course, there’re other schools of thought.
Mal: Everybody dies, Tracey. Someone’s carryin’ a bullet for you right now, doesn’t even know it. The trick is, die of old age before it finds you.
Tracey:[recording] You know, it’s funny. We went to the war never lookin’ to come back, but it’s… it’s the real world I couldn’t survive. You two carried me through that war. Now I need you to carry me just a little bit further… if you can. Tell my folks I wanted to do right by them, and that I’m at peace, and all. Uh… When you can’t run anymore, you crawl, and when you can’t do that, well… Yeah, you know the rest. Thanks, b-both of you. Oh, yeah, and, uh… make sure my eyes is closed, will ya?
Mal: Oh, the colonel was dead drunk. Three hours pissin’ on about the enlisted men. Uh, “they’re scum”, uh, “they’re not fighters”, and, uh… and then he passed right out—boom.
Zoe: We couldn’t even move him. So, uh, Tracey just… snipped it right off his face.
Mal: And you never seen a man more proud of his moustache than Colonel Obrin. I mean, in all my life, I will never love a woman the way this officer loved that lip ferret.
Zoe: Big, walrus-y thing—all waxed up!
Inara: Did he find out?
Mal: Oh! Next mornin’, he wakes up, it’s gone, and he is furious! But he can’t just say, you know, “Someone stole my moustache!” So he, uh, calls together all the platoons…
Zoe: We thought he was gonna shoot us!
Mal: …and, uh… Oh, he’s eye-ballin’ all the men somethin’ fierce. Not a word. And he comes up to Tracey, and Tracey’s wearing the gorram thing on his face!
Zoe: He’d glued it on!
Mal: He’s starin’ the old man down wearing his own damn moustache!
[Tracey wakes up during his autopsy]
Jayne: Spry for a dead fella!
Tracey: I think I’m naked. Mal: You wanna explain to me exactly why you got yourself all corpsified and mailed to me?
Wash: I think they’re about done being stalled to— ahhhh… AHHHHHHH! Mal, your dead army buddy’s on the bridge.
Zoe: He ain’t dead.
Mal: Hear that quiet? Means the call’s already been made.
Tracey: Well, that call… that call means you just murdered me. Mal: No, son. You murdered yourself. I just carried the bullet a while.
Tracey: When you can’t run, you crawl. And when you can’t crawl, when you can’t do that…
Zoe: …you find someone to carry you.
Heart of Gold:
An old friend of Inara’s, a madame who runs a brothel, kindly asks the crew of the Serenity for help. On a distant moon, the local Sheriff, a power-hungry and corrupt man, is hellbent on stealing his son from one of the local girls.
Inara: Sorry! Didn’t mean to startle.
Mal: You didn’t! I was just, uh… “BWAH!” That’s more like a… It’s a warrior like… Strikes fear into the… hearts of… You know, not altogether wise, sneaking up on a fellow when he’s handling his weapon.
Inara: I’m sure I’ve heard that said. But… perhaps the dining area isn’t the place for this sort of thing.
Mal: What do ya mean? It’s the only place with a table big enough.
Inara: Of course. In that case, every well-bred petty crook knows that the small concealable weapons always go to the far left of the place setting.
Inara: It sounds like something this crew can handle. I can’t guarantee they’ll handle it particularly well, but…
Nandi: If they got guns and brains at all.
Inara: They’ve got guns…
Jayne: Don’t much see the benefit in getting involved in strangers’ troubles without a up-front price negotiated.
Book: These people need assistance. The benefit wouldn’t necessarily be for you.
Jayne: That’s what I’m sayin’.
Zoe: No one’s gonna force you to go, Jayne. As has been stated, this job is strictly speculative.
Jayne: Good! Don’t know these folks, don’t much care to.
Mal: They’re whores.
Jayne: I’m in.
Inara: Nandi, this is Malcolm Reynolds.
Nandi: I appreciate your coming.
Mal: Well, any friend of Inara’s is a strictly businesslike relationship of mine.
Mal: I’ll introduce you to the rest later. They’re good folk.
Jayne: Can I start getting sexed already?
Mal: Well, that one’s kinda horrific.
Simon: Isn’t there a pregnant woman I’m to examine?
Wash: You’d really lie with someone being paid for it?
Kaylee: Well, it’s not like anyone else is lining up to, you know, examine me.
Jayne: Whoop! My John Thomas is about to pop off and fly around the room, there’s so much tasty here. Ooh!
Wash: Would be you get your most poetical about your pecker.
Kaylee: Everyone’s got somebody. Wash, tell me I’m pretty.
Wash: Were I unwed, I would take you in a manly fashion.
Kaylee: ‘Cause I’m pretty?
Wash: ‘Cause you’re pretty.
Mal: Nothing worse than a monster who thinks he’s right with God. Nandi: Captain Reynolds, it took me years to cut this piece of territory out of other men’s hands, to build this business up from nothing.
Nandi: It’s who I am, and it’s my home. I’m not going anywhere.
Mal: Well, lady, I must say—you’re my kinda stupid.
Wash: Well, I’m not sure now is the best time to bring a tiny little helpless person into our lives.
Zoe: That excuse is gettin’ a little worn, honey.
Wash: It’s not an excuse, dear! It’s objective assessment. I can’t help that it stays relevant.
Zoe: I don’t give a good gorram about relevant, Wash, or objective. And I ain’t so afraid of losing something that I ain’t gonna try to have it. You and I would make one beautiful baby. And I want to meet that child one day. Period.
Nandi: Truth is, I expected a whole lot more of you to be takin’ payment in our trade.
Mal: Well, we’re an odd conglomeration. Got a preacher, a married fellah, and the doctor… well, he’d have to… relax for thirty seconds to get his play. That’d be more or less a miracle.
Mal: Miss Nandi, I have a confession to make.
Nandi: Maybe I should get the Shepherd.
Mal: Well, I ain’t sinned yet. And I’d feel a little more’n awkward if he were here when I did.
Nandi: Malcolm, I been waiting for you to kiss me since I showed you my guns.
Nandi: You okay with this?
Mal: I’m just waiting to see if I pass out. Long story.
Inara: So you took to bed with Nandi. I’m glad.
Inara: Yes! She’s a dear friend, and probably in need of some comfort about now.
Mal: So, you’re okay. Well, yeah. Why… why wouldn’t you be?
Inara: I wouldn’t say I’m entirely okay. I’m a little appalled at her taste.
Jayne: [over radio] Whoa, now, girl, that is just plain dirty.
Mal: Jayne, you aware your radio’s transmittin’? Cause I ain’t feelin’ particular girlish or dirty at the moment.
Petaline: Rance, this is Jonah. Jonah… say “hi” to your daddy. [Shoots Rance.] Say “goodbye” to your daddy, Jonah.
Objects in Space:
A bounty hunter boards the Serenity and takes the crew hostage. His arrival coincided with the crew’s realization that River might be a “reader” (i.e. a psychic) and her decision to leave the ship.
Kaylee: You couldn’t possibly!
Simon: No, I wish I was lying, I just…You know, we’d all just made surgeon. That was it, we were the elite. The world was ours, you know?
Kaylee: So you had to be naked?
Simon: Naked. Yes. And, uh, on top of the statue of Hippocrates. Can’t you just picture me?
Kaylee: What, naked? Oh, well, hmm, mmm…Let’s see, I’mma have to conjure up a…yeah, that’s, that’s gonna be difficult... So did the feds come?
Simon: There were no feds. Until I started singing.
Kaylee: Oh, no!
Simon: This is not–
Kaylee: What did you sing?
Simon: This is not funny. This, this is a morality tale about the evils of sake.
Simon: [in River’s head] I would be there right now.
Jayne: Not ever ever?
Book: Some orders allow shepherds to marry, but I follow a narrower path.
Jayne: But you still got the urge? They don’t…cut it off or nothin’?
Book: No, I’m more or less intact. I just…direct my energy elsewhere.
Jayne: You mean like masturbatin’?
Book: I hope you’re not thinking of taking orders yourself?
Jayne: Heheh, yeah, that’s be the day.
Jayne: [in River’s head] I got stupid, the money was too good.
Book: [in River’s head]I don’t give half a hump if you’re innocent or not. So where does that put you?
Mal: If I want a lot of medical jargon, I’ll talk to a doctor.
Simon: You are talking to a doctor.
Wash: Little River gets more colorful by the moment. What’ll she do next?
Zoe: Either blow us all up or rub soup in our hair. It’s a toss-up.
Wash: I hope she does the soup thing, it’s always a hoot and we don’t all die from it.
Zoë: Where’s River at now?
Mal: In her room, which I’m thinking we bolt from the outside from now on.
Wash: That a little extreme, isn’t it?
Jayne: Anyone remember her comin’ at me with a butcher’s knife?
Wash: Wacky fun…
Jayne: You wanna go, little man?
Wash: Only if it’s someplace with candlelight.
Zoe: Sir, I know she’s unpredictable. But I don’t think she’d harm anyone.
Jayne: Butcher’s knife?!
Zoe: Anyone we can’t spare.
Mal: Girl knows things. Things she shouldn’t. Things she couldn’t.
Jayne: What, are you— are you sayin’ she’s a witch?
Wash: Yes, Jayne. She’s a witch. She has had congress with the beast.
Jayne: She’s in Congress?
Wash: How did your brain even learn human speech? I’m just so curious.
Wash: Psychic, though? That sounds like something out of science fiction.
Zoe: We live in a spaceship, dear.
Jayne: Well, I don’t like the idea of someone hearin’ what I’m thinkin’. Inara: No one likes the idea of hearing what you’re thinking.
Simon: Are you Alliance?
Early: Am I a lion?
Early: I don’t think of myself as a lion. You might as well, though: I have a mighty roar.
Simon: I said “Alliance”.
Early: Oh, I thought—
Simon: No, I was—
Early: That’s weird.
Simon: I don’t think my last act in this verse is gonna be betraying my sister. Early: You’re gonna help me. ‘Cause every second you’re with me is a chance to turn the tables, get the better of me. Maybe you’ll find your moment. Maybe I’ll slip. Or, you refuse to help me, I shoot your brain out, and I go upstairs and spend some time violating the little mechanic I got trussed up in the engine room. I take no pleasure in the thought, but she will die, weeping, if you cross me. Simon: You’re out of your mind. Early: That’s between me and my mind. Let’s start with these rooms.
Early: You ever been shot? Simon: No. Early: You oughta be shot. Or stabbed, lose a leg. To be a surgeon, you know? Know what kind of pain you’re dealing with. They make psychiatrists get psychoanalyzed before they can get certified, but they don’t make a surgeon get cut on. That seem right to you?
Early: Alright, that’s all the hide-and-seek I got time for. [shouting] I know you’re on this ship, little girl! Here’s how this goes: show yourself and finish this exchange, or your brother’s brains’ll be flyin’ every whichaway! [normal tone] You understand, I’m sort of on the clock here, it’s frustrating.
River: [over Serenity’s intercom] You’re wrong, Early.
Early: I’m not wrong, dumpling, I will shoot your brother dead if you don’t—
River: Wrong about River. River’s not on the ship. They didn’t want her here. But she couldn’t make herself leave. So she melted. Melted away. They didn’t know she could do that. But she did.
Early: Not sure I take your meaning there.
River: I’m not on the ship. I’m in the ship. I am the ship.
River: River’s gone.
Early: Then who exactly are we talking to?
River: Talking to Serenity. And Early? Serenity is very unhappy.
Early: Where’d she go?
Simon: I can’t keep track of her when she’s not incorporeally possessing a spaceship; don’t look at me.
Early: I only hurt people ’cause they keep gettin’ in the way of me finding you. Tell her.
Simon: What am I, your advocate?
Early: You are, starting now.
Simon: He’s really very… gentle, and fuzzy. We’re becoming fast friends.
Early: You folks are all insane. Simon: Well, my sister’s a ship. We had a complicated childhood.
Mal: There was a guy. He was very blurry. You gotta be careful. Ugh. How come there’s a guy on board and how come you’re all of a sudden the ship?
River/Serenity: I know you have questions.
Mal: That would be why I just asked them.
River/Serenity: But there isn’t a lot of time, captain. I need you to trust me.
Mal: Am I dreamin’?
River/Serenity: We all are [Mal rolls his eyes] Don’t make faces!
Early: You know, with the exception of one deadly and unpredictable midget, this girl is the smallest cargo I’ve ever had to transport, yet by far the most troublesome. Does that seem right to you?
Simon: What’d he do?
Simon: The midget.
Early: Arson. The little man loved fire.
Early: Well I’ll be a son of a whore. You’re not in my gorram mind. You’re on my gorram ship!
Inara: Any chance that shiong-mung duh kwong-run might survive?
Mal: Air he had left, I’d say his chance’d be about one in… a very large number.
Early:[floating in space]Well, here I am.
And that’s our show! As I was beginning to expect, I’ll need a fourth post if I’m going to cover the gorram movie. Gorram, good word! Stay tuned for the final installment! It’ll be shiny! Fei-oo! Go-se! Ching-wah TSAO duh liou mahng!
And I’m back with more examples, in part because people had some suggestions but also because I found the last list lacking. I mean, you can’t suggest a concept as big and as awesome as cool science fiction ships and only provide a handful of examples. It’s just not decent! So here’s installment number two in the series, cool ships from various sci-fi franchises and what made them so. Keep in mind that suggestions are always welcome. I’m thinking a third and even fourth list might be necessary 🙂
Alliance Cruiser: Back to the universe of Firefly for another installment! This time around, it’s the Alliance Cruiser that I’ve chosen to talk about. In short, I think the design of this particular ship is quite inspiring. Unlike your average cruisers from other franchises, this ship is not based on the usual seafaring or aerodynamic-ship paradigm. It’s long axis is vertical rather than horizontal, making it a platform instead of a cutter.
In addition to making a lot more sense from a physics standpoint, this design offers many advantages in terms of navigation and defense. Unlike longitudinal designs which are forced to turn around on their long axis, this ship can simply fire thrust from any of its four sides to change course and direction. It’s tall appendages also make it easier for sensors or long-range telescopes to spot things out in space, no blindsides from which to approach on.
Basically, ships like these remind us that spaceships operate in vacuum and are therefore subject to a vastly different set of physical requirements. Since they do not operate in atmospheres, they don’t need to be aerodynamic or sleek like planes. And since they don’t cut across water, they don’t need to have sculpted hulls or prows to part the waves. So why then do a whole slew of spaceships look like aeroplanes or boats?
Simple, it’s a paradigm thing. When we hear ship, we automatically think of airships and seaships since that’s our frame of reference, and our artistic sensibilities naturally follow. But spaceships are a whole ‘nuther ballgame, requiring the ability to withstand inertial pressures instead of drag. So while sleek and streamlined models are cool to look at, they aren’t really the best spaceship design from a technical standpoint.
And in a lot of ways, the Alliance cruiser reminds me of another classic design, that of the Nostromo. Much like the mining vessel from the original Alien movie, it is vertical in design, boasting towers instead of horizontal compartments. It’s size and towering appearance also make it intimidating to behold, illustrating the power and imposing nature of the Alliance itself. Those who crew it tend to be pretty imposing as well, always boarding you and asking question!
Borg Cube: Here we have the capital ship of the Borg, the frightening cyborg race from the Star Trek: TNG series that assimilates or crushes everything in its path. Introduced in the second season of the show (episode 42: “Q Who”), this fearsome foe went on to become a recurring element of the show and was even central to the plot of the spinoff Voyager and the movie First Contact. Much like their raison-d’etre, their ships reflected a sort of cold technological rationalism, like something out of a cyberpunk fans wet dream!
The design of the basic cube, which was later supplemented by spheres and upgraded cube designs, is clearly based on a pythagoran aesthetic: nothing frilly, sleek, aerodynamic or even remotely artistic about it. They are simple, utilitarian, and equilateral, a testament to the precise and unsentimental mindset of those who designed it. It’s basic profile also came in handy when taking on multiple enemy ships. By having six sides, each with the same surface area, weapons and tractor beam mounts, the cube had a 360 degree sphere of defense, making it damn near impregnable.
On every occasion when one of these cubes showed up, bad things were known to happen! In their first encounter with one, the Enterprise barely got out in one piece. In the second, 39 ships were destroyed before the Enterprise and her crew were able to trick one into going into sleep mode, which it then responded to by blowing itself up! In the third encounter, which took place in First Contact, several more federation ships were destroyed before Captain Picard was able to use his inside knowledge of the Borg to help the fleet destroy another ship. In all subsequent encounters, future technologies, viruses, trickery, or a combination thereof were needed to overcome the Borg’s technology and singular mindset.
Chig Cruiser: Much like Firefly, this example comes to us from a franchise which was cancelled by the executives over at Fox after its first season. Yes, Space Above and Beyond was yet another sci-fi series which had a lot of promise, but got axed when the execs concluded it wasn’t doing well enough for their liking. What the hell goes on over at Fox anyway?! Does every new show get this kind of treatment, or do Rupert Murdoch’s minions think sci-fi is just inherently liberal?
In any case, the Chig Cruiser was much like the concept for the Chigs themselves. Cool, original, and quite alien in appearance! Basically, the vessels shape can be described as two right triangles attached end to end with the tips removed. The command center appeared to be located in the middle, along with much of its weapons and observation deck. The outer hulls also appear to have been constructed out of the triangular-shaped panels of some alien metal that gave of a peculiar sheen when seen from the right angle.
Like everything else in the series, the concept never really had time to be fully developed. Which is really too bad. Their fighters, encounter suits, and capital ships were all cool to look at, and some explanations as to their utility and even artistic inspirations would have been nice. But what can do? Fox is run by idiots! Rest in peace Space Above and Beyond! You died too young!
Earth Alliance Destroyer: Thanks to Goran Zidar for suggesting I include this one! And please know that you are alone in thinking that it is cool to behold, Mr. Z 😉 Coming to you from the Babylon 5 universe, source of so many cool ships (see below), the concept for the Earth Alliance Destroyer was nothing short of pragmatic genius. Given that the show boasted dozens of alien races, J.M. Straczynski and his design teams had to come up with countless design concepts that would reflect the multicultural and multiracial tone of the show.
In the case of humanity, Straczynski and his people concluded that the spaceships should look boxy, utilitarian, and should reflect the fact that Earth was one of the less advanced races in the story. As a result, the Earth Alliance Destroyer was built around the concept of a compartmentalized hull with its engines at the rear, a central rotating section (to provide artificial gravity), and a forward section where the bridge, carrier deck and command center would be located. And, as you can plainly see, the end result was quite cool!
While not the most advanced ship in the Galaxy, the Omega-class destroyer was certainly realistic, aesthetically pleasing, and could also holds its own in most firefight situations. And unlike their organic, alien counterparts, these ships were also a lot cooler to watch in battle. Instead of “dying” or breaking apart, they would catch fire and throw off flaming debris, not to mention life pods and floating bodies. Yes, since ships didn’t have energy shields or a lot in the way of armor in the B5 universe, firefights tended to get real serious, real fast! Like I said… realistic!
The Daedalus: Next up, and taken from the Stargate universe, is the battlecruiser Daedalus. After appearing in the spinoff show Stargate: Atlantis, this class of vessel (codenamed 304) became the basis for an entire fleet of vessels who’s purpose was to defend Earth from an alien invasion. Based on various alien technologies that were taken from the Goa’uld and Asgard, the Daedalus was the first Earth Battlecruiser and FTL ship ever constructed.
Based on the design of a modern aircraft carrier, the Daedalus bridge and command center were located along the top of the hull at the rear while the forward section contained the ships compliment of fighters and takeoff and landing bays. The ship also contained a hyperdrive which was powered by a Zero Point Module (an alien power source), giving it FTL capabilities.
In terms of armaments and advanced technology, the ship boasted beaming units, shields, multiple rail gun and missile systems, and a compliment of nuclear warheads. Designed to stand up to a potential Gua’old or Or’i invasion, the Daedalus and her kind were built to combine the best that Earth and her alien allies could offer. Yes, if the war came to Earth, we would be ready!
The Executor: Hello terror! Next up, we have the gargantuan and terrifying Imperial command ship known as The Executor. Who among us can forget that introductory scene in The Empire Strikes Back when a whole fleet of massive Star Destroyers were assembling, only to be suddenly overshadowed by the even larger Executor? Cut to the bridge where we see the terrifying Vader looking out over the fleet, and you begin to see just how big and powerful the empire truly is! Yes, those visuals really gave a sense of size and scale to the bad guys and let us know just how much they meant business!
Commissioned roughly one year after the Battle of Yavin, where the first Death Star was destroyed, the Executor was intended to be a terror weapon, replacing the Death Star as the symbol of Imperial might and badassery! Measuring 19 kilometers in length and bristling with turbolasers, ion guns, multiple tractor beams projectors and a complement of fourteen TIE fighter/bomber squadrons, the Executor was every spacers worst nightmare! No ship in the Alliance was capable of standing toe to toe with it, making a strategic withdrawal an inevitability once it showed up in a theater of battle.
However, during the Battle of Endor, the Alliance was able to destroy it through a combination of strategy and dumb luck. After several Rebel fighters took out the Executor’s shield generators, a single fighter who lost control of his ship crashed directly into the bridge. The Executor then lost control of its helm and was pulled in by the second Death Star’s gravitational field, destroying the ship and causing extensive damage to the Death Star’s outer hull. An ironic death for such a big ship, but at least she went down in a blaze! A big, embarrassing, expensive blaze! I don’t envy the bastards who had to pay the premiums on that one!
Home One: Another vessel that comes to us from the Star Wars universe, Home One was the mobile headquarters of the Rebel Fleet and the biggest Mon Calamari cruiser in existence. As Admiral Ackbar’s command vessel in the original trilogy, it distinguished itself during the Battle of Endor, during which the Executor and the second Death Star were destroyed.
Like most Mon Calamari cruisers, Home One was cylindrical in design and originally served as a star-liner that got modified for combat. This consisted of equipping it with fighter bays, multiple shield emitters, a reinforced hull, and many turbolaser mounts. It’s revolutionary targeting and computer system also gave it a decided advantage in a firefight with Imperial vessels, which boasted heavier armaments, but lacked the ability to coordinate and amass their firepower as effectively.
The largest bay on Home One was on the starboard side where larger vessels would dock. However, a total of twenty hangers were placed throughout the hull, giving it the ability to carry multiple squadrons of X-wings, A-wings, B-wings and Y-wings. It also boasted a crew of over 5000 personnel and could carry 1,200 troops and 20,000 metric tons of cargo. While most of its systems – especially targeting and navigation – were designed for Mon Calamari use, the ship was crewed by a variety of races, reflecting the multiracial nature of the Alliance.
Lexx: Though not the prettiest ship in the Galaxy, the Lexx certainly deserves a spot on the Cool Ship list. Much like the show that featured it, it was weird, conceptually skewed, but still damn original! A planet-destroying bioship by design, the Lexx was clearly inspired by the concept of a giant, wingless dragonfly and was created out of resynthesized proteins that were obtained from confiscated organs. Hmmm, gross!
Originally intended for use by His Divine Shadow, the evil ruler of the Divine Order, the Lexx was essentially a terror weapon that would be capable of destroying whole planets. However, the ship was commandeered in the first episode by the show’s crew – consisting of anti-hero Stanley Tweedle, the sex slave Zev Bellringer, and the Kai, an undead assassin, and the bodiless AI 790 – and became the means through which they traveled the universe looking for a new home.
This journey would take them over 6000 years, since the Lexx does not have FTL capabilities, and the crew would go into cryostasis for much of the voyage. Being sentient as well as organic, the ship was required to feed from time to time in order to maintain the life force which powered it. This could involve landing on a planet and eating organic matter directly, but more often than not, required that it blow up an entire planet and eat the resulting debris afterwards.
In the latter case, this consisted of emitting massive amounts of ionized energy from its “eyes” which was then channeled into the “mouth”. This energy was then fired outward in a planar wave which would intercept and obliterate any planet in its path. The Lexx would then take in the giant rocks and debris from the explosion and feed off of all the organic matter they carried. If not permitted to feed regularly, the Lexx could apparently become quite cranky and agitated, which would prove to be hell for whoever had to interact with it!
Narn Cruiser: As promised, another cool ship from the B5 universe. And as I said earlier, when it came to producing concepts for alien ships, J.M. Straczynski really had an eye for aesthetics, art, and functionality. Whereas Earth vessels tended to be compartmentalized and practical in nature, other alien races tended to be a bit more flamboyant, a reflection of their particular cultures and levels of technology.
When it came to the Narns, an aggressive but artistic race, their ship designs exemplified this dual nature. Originally a pastoral and peaceful people, the Narns had been brutalized by generations of occupation at the hands of the Centauri and had become quite warlike as a result. Their heavy cruisers, the mainstay of their fleet, were thus powerful and fierce looking, but still managed to achieve an aesthetic quality which brought beauty into the mix.
Boasting two massive beam cannons, several pulse guns and a compliment of space mines, the Narn Heavy Cruiser could take on just about any ship in the Galaxy. Though most were destroyed in the Great War against the Centauri, the ship proved to be effective in numerous engagements, not the least of which were against the Shadows themselves. For example, at the battle of Ragesh 3, two Narn Cruisers combined their beam cannons to seriously damage a Shadow vessel. During the battle in Sector 83, when Sheridan and the White Star Fleet engaged a fleet of Shadows vessels, the Cruiser G’tok managed to assist a pair of White Stars in destroying two Shadow vessels. Quite the accomplishment for this class of vessel!
After the Great War, the Narn regime began rebuilding its fleet, and the Narn Cruiser remained the mainstay of their forces. Several were used during the Alliance war with the Centauri and participated in the assault on Centauri Prime, where its massive compliment of weapons proved quite devastating against the planet’s surface!
Prometheus-Class Assault Vessel: You know, I’ve never been that big a fan of the Star Trek franchise. But even I have to admit, when these guys do something right, they really do it right! And this ship, the Prometheus Assault Vessel, would be one such example. Much like the USS Defiant from my previous list, this ship demonstrated that when required, Star Fleet could produce ships that really excelled at kicking ass and taking names!
A revolutionary prototype, the Prometheus-Class vessel appeared in a single episode of Voyager where it was being stolen by a bunch of Romulan agents. However, thanks to the combined efforts of the ship’s own holographic surgeon and Voyager’s similarly holographic doctor, the ship was saved and even managed to turn the tables on its Romulan adversaries.
Incorporating advanced phasers, quantum torpedoes, ablative armor and regenerative shields, the biggest surprise the Prometheus had was its multi-vector assault capability. This involved the separation of the ship into multiple modules, much like the USS Enterprise-D would do with its saucer and engine sections. However, in the Prometheus’ case, this resulted in the creation of three semi-independent sections which were capable of unleashing a single, coordinated attack against multiple opponents.
After it was done dispatching all its enemies, it would then come back together, perform repairs as needed, and move on to the next target. And since the ship was programmed with extensive routines, a very small crew was capable of operating it and really only had to speak the requisite commands to get it to kill, kill, kill! Not a bad ship to have in your arsenal!
Shadow Attack Ship: “It was jet black. A shade of black so deep your eye just kinda slides off it. And it shimmered when you looked at it. A spider big as death and twice as ugly. And when it flies past, it’s like you hear a scream in your mind.” These were the words Lt. Warren Keffer used to describe a Shadow vessel, right before he died chasing one down. An apt description for a ship that was clearly designed to inspire terror in its enemies, and a reflection of the race that built it.
As my final installment, taken again from the B5 universe, I’ve decided to include the Shadow Attack Ship, which is perhaps the most original and artistic spaceship I have ever seen. Granted, it had some stiff competition given the franchise it is coming from, but in terms of its design, performance, and sheer alien appearance, I can’t think of anything that can top it.
Given the fact that Straczynski and crew were working with the concept of organic technology, the ship was clearly meant to look like a living creature. Apparently, they settled on the combination of an arachnid and a giant octopus for the design, which combined with its jet-black sheen, made it both terrifying to behold and aesthetically awesome! And since every Shadow vessel is a living thing, they required sentient beings to merge with them in order to become active. When inactive, they would lie dormant and could remain operable for thousands of years.
More often than not, the Shadows preferred to use telepaths as drivers since only a telepath was capable of jamming the ship’s central operating system (i.e. a person’s mind). When damaged, the ships would emit a high-pitched screeching noise and often required another ship to merge with them and carry them to safety where they could. Of course, the screech couldn’t be heard through space. As Keffer noted, the sounds it made seemed to take place in the observers mind – aka. it was being telepathically conveyed. Hence, in addition to scaring the shit out of their opponents with their appearance and awesome firepower, these ships also had a calculated psychological edge in battle!
Not that they needed it though. In addition to their speed and firepower, the ship’s organic hulls were also incredibly tough, capable of absorbing tremendous amounts of energy before dying. As Sheridan and his people learned, pulse cannons were virtually useless against the Shadow’s skin, and beam weapons were only capable of killing them when focused on its central region for extended periods of time. On multiple occasions, Sheridan and the Alliance forces were only able to destroy one of these vessels by relying on telepaths to jam them while multiple ships combined their firepower to finish them off.
For the Shadows, the weapon of choice seemed to be the beam cannon that was located in the ship’s “mouth”. This focused, pink-purple beam was capable of slicing through the most hardened of structures and ships, and could reduce an entire colony to rubble in the space of a few seconds. However, the standard Shadow vessels also contained a type of space mine that was capable of c0llapsing hyperspace jump nodes and also carried a compliment of Shadow fighters which they kept embedded in their skin. These appeared to be independent in nature seeing as how they were too small for a person to fit in, and served as a mere screen for the larger vessels to make their attack.
In short, a Shadow vessel was the sort of thing you didn’t stick around to fight unless you had plenty of ships watching your back. Fast, furious, and shit-your-pants scary to look at, if you managed to kill one, you counted yourself amongst the few, the proud, the luckiest sons of bitches in the universe!
Okay, thanks for sticking around for the second installment! I think I have one more in me, but I’ll wait a few days before posting that. In the meantime, be sure to check out this cool chart. It provided me with a couple of ideas during the course of my research: The ultimate starship size comparison chart