The challenge posed to the Board, to create a list of movies which centrally feature, or rely heavily upon, a spaceship led to some confusion: are we listing movies in order of 1. Which movie is best? or 2. Which movie’s ship(s) played the most integral role? As most of us made mention of how important the ships were to their movies, it seems that number two was a controlling factor. But we also listed them in order of which movies we considered best, or were best loved, at any rate. Apparently both questions were key to the development of the following compiled list.
One thing of interest: Geekdom transcends the generations. The contributing members of this list range from 25-50, from someone who drove himself to see Star Wars in another town, to a couple who grew up watching it obsessively from age 3, to someone who’s never seen it at all. But, wow, how much we gravitated to the same flicks out of love for them and the ships that fly in them.
Here are the top10 based on the number of lists that included these ships.
1. Tied for 1st place: Battlestar Galactica, Serenity/Firefly – the two shows actually named after their ships - & Star Wars
Star Wars, Episodes IV-VI: The Millenium Falcon
“What a piece of junk!”
(Everyone who mentioned it specified we were only discussing “the good ones.”)
So many ships, with TIE fighters and X-Wings, Imperial destroyers, and even Luke’s landspeeder, the series is rife with cool ships for the connoisseur. But there is really only one ship for me and the most identifiable, and beloved – the Millennium Falcon. The trilogy isn’t really about any particular ship, and certainly the ships are not as central to the action as in, say, Alien or Firefly, where the majority or all the action takes place on board, but it is the ship that made the castle run in 12 parsecs, it is the one won by Han Solo off Lando Calrissian in a card game. It’s a smuggler’s ship, armed, fast, and constantly in need of a little work. As one member put it: “There are lots of ships in the Star Wars universe, but there's only one that has all of the good and bad qualities of a 1977 Pontiac Firebird Trans-Am and that's the one and only Millennium Falcon. “ It’s the little ship that stands up to an empire and wins, the underdog we love to root for.
Battlestar Galactica: Battlestar Galactica
“So say we all!”
The very name of the show must be evidence of the central importance of the spaceship. As the grand old ship of the fleet, due to be decommissioned and turned into a museum at the start of the series, it’s very antiquity makes it immune to the computer virus employed by humanity’s enemy, the Cylons. The next five seasons take place largely on the Galactica. Of course, there are many other ships, human and cylon alike. Of course, there are occasional planet-side stories, but the Galactica is the lone protector of the fleet containing the last humans known in the universe. Without Galactica, their mission, to find a new home and survive as a species, would be impossible. As pointed out by a member: “If you don’t believe Galactica is a character then just try imagining the series revolving around the Pegasus.”
Serenity / Firefly: Serenity
“I aim to misbehave.”
Again, the name’s indicative of just how important the ship is to the show. The TV series was named after the make of ship, the movie after the name of a particular Firefly. While the crew of the Serenity certainly does touch down in both border towns and central planets, the vast majority of the action takes place on the bridge, engine room, catwalks, staterooms, landing bay, and shuttles of Serenity herself. She is their home, their source of income, and without Serenity there would be no show. In a real way, she is a character in and of herself – her relationships to the characters as important as the relationships between the humans. She has truly become iconic and beloved by legions of fans.
2. Star Trek (reboot), et. al.: The USS Enterprise
“Star Fleet operates in space.”
Ships, ships, everywhere ships. There are dozens, and in this one, two really special ones: the evil Nero’s mining ship and old Spock’s red matter-carrying one man job. But Star Trek is always and ever about the Enterprise. It is the key to every Star Trek episode and movie but in this one it has a special place as the brand-new ship, the flagship of a fleet. Manned by cadets who reveal themselves to be the talent who become THE crew of the Enterprise, we see the beginning of not only their Star Fleet careers, but the birth of the legendary Enterprise herself. There are many ships and planets on which the story takes place, but there is only one heart of Star Trek, and that’s the bridge of the Enterprise.
3. A tie between: Galaxy Quest and 2001: A Space Odyssey
Galaxy Quest: The NSEA Protector
“Never give up, never surrender!”
Some might dismiss the Protector as a parody of the Enterprise, but I think even if there are seventeen points of similarity the Protector becomes a ship in its own right in this film. What other ship transforms from a ship no bigger than a Christmas ornament, complete with Christmas lights for a control panel, to a real ship capable of saving the last survivors of a destroyed civilization? Let the historical documents reveal that the Protector lives up to its name, even in re-runs.
2001: A Space Odyssey: Discovery One/HAL 9000
“What are you doing, Dave?”
The ship isn’t much to speak of and HAL isn’t the ship, but that sparks an interesting question about which non-organic device we’re prepared to believe has a personality. I can’t say that I’m a fan of this one… but chimps and monoliths aside, iconic HAL has earned a place in all such lists.
4. A four way tie: Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Doctor Who, Alien, and Red Dwarf
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan – Two ships qualified this one for the list
A. The USS Reliant
“For hate’s sake, I spit my last breath at thee!”
The ship Khan and his merry band of scarred survivors steal and use to hunt down and destroy the Enterprise and Captain Kirk. It’s from the deck of the Reliant that Ricardo Montalba delivers Khan’s vituperative last words.
B. The Botany Bay
“The Botany Bay?… the Botany Bay…!”
It’s not even a ship any more when we encounter its remnants in this film, but I love how just seeing its ruins evokes such a reaction from Chekov.
Doctor Who: TARDIS
Serenity is, in a sense, a character. The TARDIS is an actual character. I’ve only watched the series starting with the 2005 reboot, but the writers have made sure that the audience knows the ship (stuck as a police call box thanks to a broken Chameleon Circuit, and also a low budget solution for a shapeshifting spaceship in 1963, a tidbit I find endearing) is responsible for many of the adventures on which the Doctor finds himself. Of course, the TARDIS’s shining moment is the “The Doctor’s Wife” from 2011, where she gets incarnated as a human. My favorite bit of that episode, and of the character of the TARDIS, is that she and the Doctor have a special, central relationship, no matter how many human women throw themselves at him.
Alien: The Nostromo
“In space, no one can hear you scream.”
The Nostromo is less like a space ship and more like a haunted house in space. The alien stalking the crew through the claustrophobic, shadowed, and labyrinthine ship is rarely seen, and the ship itself becomes as frightening as the monster hiding within it.
Red Dwarf: Starbug
“I want to lie, shipwrecked and comatose…”
The Red Dwarf mining ship had a little buddy (actually, several little buddies) and these were the Starbugs which eventually became the primary mode of transportation for the weird crew of Red Dwarf for at least a couple of seasons of the show. Imagine a green ant with a big butt and you have the quaint Starbug.
And here are a list of the also-ran’s, the ones mentioned by only one of us:
Event Horizon: Event Horizon – all right, several people mentioned it but also mentioned the movie was terrible, so it is relegated to this list.
The 5th Element: Fhloston Paradise
Planet of the Apes: Icarus
Apollo 13: Apollo 13
Cowboy Bebop: The Bebop
Flight of the Navigator: Trimaxium Drone Ship
Robotech / Macross: SDF 1/ Super Dimensional Fortress Macross
Space Dandy: Aloha Oe
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Universe: S.S. Heart of Gold
Space Battleship Yamato: Space Battleship Yamato
Battle Beyond the Stars: Zed’s Corsair/Nell
Buck Rogers in the 25th Century: Searcher
Lexx: The Lexx
Dark Star: Dark Star
Babylon 5: Babylon 5
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