Top 5 Interesting Spaceships
Captain Zap Atkinsblargg and First Officer Seth Grundlewank
We all know that the greatest and most instantly recognisable spaceships in science-fiction history are the Enterprise and the Millennium Falcon (with an honourable mention to the Tardis and the Sulaco). These are the hero vehicles featured in the giants of the genre.
The Enterprise represents everything positive about the future of humanity. It’s our ‘wagon-train to the stars;’ it symbolises us coming together as a single, unified people and forging out into the galaxy to ask alien races if they’ve ever considered installing double-glazing.
The Millennium Falcon is a fascinating, grungy pile of junk that appeals to our universal love of the under-dog. It’s a plucky little hero—the David against Goliath in a battle to bring freedom back to a galaxy on the brink. It’s a Ford Transit with a ladder strapped to the side, but it’s somehow out there fighting alongside heavily armoured military vessels.
But these ships are just the tip of a really gigantic iceberg that’s more varied and diverse than a Democrat’s government cabinet, only with less crimes against humanity.
So, here are our top 5 interesting ships from TV and movies that are oddly fascinating and probably long-forgotten by anything other than the hardcore sci-fi geek.
1) Nell - Battle Beyond the Stars
Battle Beyond the Stars took a long, hard look at Star Wars and said, ‘I can do that,’ and then found out that it couldn’t. It took a naive farmboy, because that worked before, and teamed him up with a loveable rogue (or two), because that worked before as well. The story was inspired by the 7 Samurai, because basing things on other things worked really well before, and it was mostly set on a ship with gigantic breasts.
So why didn’t it work? Maybe because it was made by people who thought that spaceships should have giant breasts?
Nell, the ancient combat ship that used to belong to Obi Wan’s distant uncle—the one you don’t like to leave your children with—is undeniably the best thing in the movie. To be absolutely fair to the film, the ships are all fairly good and the effects work is excellent for the time, if a little too reminiscent of Star Wars. Nell really takes the mould and smashes it. She’s designed to look like a woman with sweeping organic shapes and even sports nipples on the ends of her breasts.
2) The Odyssey - Ulysses 31
Take a dash of Homer’s stories and make it into a science-fiction, animated show for kids. What could possibly go wrong? In theory, absolutely everything. In practice though, it was just brilliant.
Ulysses upsets the gods by failing to die when their robotic monster tried to destroy everything in sight of its one glowing eye. In retaliation they freeze his crew and make him wander around in space having adventures on a gigantic space-ship with cool shuttles. Their punishment was to condemn him to every school-boy’s dream!
The Odyssey is a gigantic eye that floats around in space being ridiculously cool. It’s one of the worst designs from the perspective of practicality ever put on screen and that’s what makes it great.
Add to this that Ulysses 31 was likely the first cartoon mainstream Western audiences had been exposed to that placed the characters in three dimensional space, and made constant and excessive use of lighting and shadow effects. As a teenager with an interest in art, this made the entire production visually compelling, even the really boring bits where the annoying kid just stands there shouting, ‘father!’ over and over again.
3) Lexx - Lexx
Sometimes a show comes out that you watch, but later don’t like talking about because you just can’t tell if you’re remembering it right.
Lexx is a ship that is an intellectually-challenged planet-destroying weapon made to look like a gigantic flying bug. It’s crewed by a renegade team that’s led by a cowardly toilet attendant, a fat girl who has been genetically re-engineered into a sex-toy, a dead soldier who took being killed remarkably well, and the severed head of a robot.
They fly about trying to avoid having adventures while the production team try to make all this work on a budget that wouldn’t cover a half-decent lunch.
It’s not exactly high art, but it’s a fascinatingly surreal and creative show that does some very odd things that you just won’t see anywhere else.
4) The Gynaecology-tool – Passengers
Passengers is a science-fiction romantic drama that somehow just manages to limp to the finish line without making you want to strangle yourself with your own entrails. It has an interesting premise of a man being woken from suspended animation early and finding himself isolated and alone on a vast space-craft. In desperation, he resorts to waking someone else up to live out their life alongside him. Sadly, it cops out towards the end but none of this is as dire as you think it’s going to be.
The ship is wildly creative and proof that Hollywood has a massive drug problem. It looks like a medieval torture device designed for painful insertions, modelled around a kind of screw with curved platforms around a central hub. It has all the practicality of aromatherapy but is striking enough to roll your eyelids back when you first see it.
Starbug - Red Dwarf
5) The Oberon - Planet of the Apes (2001)
The original Planet of the Apes was a near perfect movie just as it was, even though the ship was boring. The 2001 version turned all that on its head with a fantastic ship design and a movie that couldn’t have got any worse if it was just two stoners hitting each other with planks of wood for two hours.
The ship was a weirdly vertical pointed structure with a hoop at the front of it, for no really good reason. The only downside of this design is that it had Mark Wahlberg on board.
(Honourable mention) Slave 1 – Empire Strikes Back
Slave 1 is now having its name changed by Disney in case it offends someone, when really what Disney should be changing is everything about Disney that isn’t the name of one iconic spaceship from a movie that came out 4 decades ago.
According to legends, Slave 1 was either based on the design of an iron, or a street-lamp that an artist was staring at one night. Either way, it’s a patently ridiculous shape that makes as much sense as every decision J.J. Abrams has ever made—or has been allowed to make.
But, as crazy as it is, it’s one of the most striking ships in the entire Star Wars canon, and that’s really saying something.
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