The 10 greatest spaceships of all time

By Pat Black

Posted on August 11, 2015 in Film with tags Science Fiction

Let’s make the jump to hyperspace with the top 10 spaceships. Steady as she goes, Mr Sulu. Raise shields! Red alert! Red shirts!

10. Fireball XL5 from Fireball XL5

fireball xl5

Gerry Anderson’s early success from 1962 saw the slightly freakish Steve Zodiac and crew shuffle into the stars aboard the monochrome splendour of Fireball XL5

This spaceship is a phallic classic – I pity all those poor primary teachers, stifling laughter as little boys in their classes strained themselves to create ever-bigger plasticine versions. The show blazed a trail for Thunderbirds, Stingray and many more amazing Gerry Anderson craft which have inspired generations of people.

But let me say this: of all the theme tunes I have encountered, Fireball XL5’s is the most… groovy.


9. Nell from Battle Beyond the Stars

Nell Spaceship

The production designer on Roger Corman’s low-budget-but-brilliant Star Wars/Magnificent Seven rip-off – some guy called James Cameron – created an undeniably feminine spaceship with the fuller-figured, honey-voiced Nell.

An interstellar Jessica Rabbit, Nell reminds me of a university friend who once described a girl’s “lovely hair”, while unconsciously gripping his chest.

“Hey – my command nodule is up here.”


8. War Rocket Ajax from Flash Gordon

Space Rocket Ajak
Mike Hodges’ wonderfully bawdy comic book epic continues to improve with age. War Rocket Ajax is basically a glorified set for a battle between Emperor Ming’s soldiers and the Hawkmen – but what a battle. Still, the ship is a brilliant retro rocket design, and even gets a namecheck on Queen’s theme song.

“Deespatch War Rocket Ajax… to breeeng back heees bodeee!”

7. TIE Fighter from Star Wars

TIE Fighter
Most of us wanted to fly the X-Wing, accepted. But you must admit the TIE fighter was the more fascinating craft. It looked odd, alien. Curiously, its hexagonal side-panels matched Princess Leia’s hair bagels. And, thanks to sound effects genius Ben Burtt, it made much better noises. Rrrrrrrraaahhhhhhhhhh-

6. Spaceship C57D from Forbidden Planet

Forbidden Planet C57D
Shame about the name, but this is the classic flying saucer – never bettered. And it was from Earth! And it’s commanded by Leslie Nielsen! It’s so difficult to watch him in a straight role. You expect him to pick up a perspective-trick telephone at any moment.


5. Anastasia / Z100 from Dan Dare

Dan Dare Anastasia
Frank Hampson’s beautiful designs for Britain’s great space hero in the Eagle have attained legendary status – you can now buy Haynes manuals looking at cutaways of Spacefleet’s craft. The Anastasia, Dare’s own personal spaceship, is probably the most iconic, but I’m going to throw in the Z100 from the relaunched Eagle which I read as a space cadet in 1984 (no, not the Z1000 starship – the smaller one). I never could draw it properly…


4. The Colonial Viper from Battlestar Galactica

The Colonial Viper Battlestar Galactica
A decent enough starfighter design for Glen A Larson’s 1980s TV epic – but I’m going to include this because of the buttons. They kept showing the pilots pressing them on their joysticks. This led me, in turn, to want to press the buttons.

I recall using an upright sledge as the mock cockpit of a Colonial Viper, and fantasising about pressing “turbo” and “fire” on an imaginary joystick, zapping Cylons in deep space. I was quite mad.


3. The Enterprise from Star Trek


Just as we still build models of HMS Victory and the Spitfire, and will continue to do so hundreds of years into the future, a certain type of person will be making models of the Enterprise even as we boldly go into the 23rd century Star Trek depicts.

But consider this… if we do figure out how to crack interstellar travel and migrate into the stars, a true-life full-size Enterprise will be built. The thought gives me a curious sense of comfort.


2. Millennium Falcon from Star Wars

Millennium Falcon
It’s not sexy. It’s not aerodynamic. You’d probably be throwing it at for fifty quid after about six months. But we love it so.
Consider that shot, from the Episode VII trailer. You know the one I mean. The Millennium Falcon pulling a 360 as it zooms over the desert.

Picture Samuel L Jackson on the phone in Pulp Fiction. “…That’s all you had to say!”

I love Han Solo’s piece a’ junk more than the previous eight spacecraft put together, and so long as I live I will never forget unwrapping the toy version on Christmas morning, aged seven.

But it isn’t the best…

1. The Liberator from Blake’s 7

The Liberator Blake 7
It’s hard to think of a sci-fi show so badly let down by budget as Terry Nation’s Blake’s 7 (1978-82). A curious mix of great characters, gritty storylines and high camp, its often risible effects were notorious, even for its time.

I cringe at the memory of one episode where Roj Blake’s space rebels infiltrate a supposedly decadent space casino, the set of which was decorated for roughly a fiver (adjusted for inflation). We are talking balloons and tickertape, here.

However, aside from the curling tong ray guns and chalk-outline teleportations, Blake’s 7 had one undeniably brilliant piece of kit to its credit: the gang’s spaceship, the Liberator.

The ship, designed by Roger Murray-Leach, fell into Blake and Co’s laps, after they find it abandoned in deep space. Its alien provenance is reflected in the odd triptych-style nacelles, and the green bulb at the rear (presumably the engines). It looks weird, and will have your local Illuminati conspiracy theorist foaming at the mouth.

The Liberator could run faster and fight harder than the Federation craft pursuing it. You can use it to go anywhere in the galaxy and beyond, with unlimited food and life support.

The freedom of the stars… No wonder Avon wants to nick it for himself.

Now, imagine this line in Paul Darrow’s voice – or Steven Toast’s, if you prefer: “Fire the neutron blasters!”


18 comments on “The 10 greatest spaceships of all time”

  • Deane Saunders-Stowe says:

    I’d like to add Moya from Farscape – one of the best organic ships on TV.

  • Fred Kiesche says:

    The Discovery from 2001 and the Leonov from 2010. The Valley Forge from Silent Running.

  • Fleur Clarke says:

    My favourite is this bad boy from Saga:

  • Dee Harrison says:

    Mine has to be the Valley Forge in Silent Running

  • @LizTipping says:

    Vipers are my absolute favourite!
    Had a home made viper in the kitchen cupboard. Was really only one of those old children’s school chairs and a drawing of a viper window on the cupboard wall- but it was remarkably effective.

  • Pat Black says:

    …Forgot Red Dwarf!! Hope nobody notices…

  • Robert Atkin says:

    Interesting list. I’ve heard of most of them but not all. I think number 3 is the wrong USS Enterprise. That one is the NX01 from Star Trek: Enterprise. I think the picture that should be used is the NCC1701 USS Enterprise from the original series of Star Trek. Good choice for number 1.

  • Dave says:

    C’mon, how about the Heart of Gold?
    The infinite improbability drive enables the ship to pass through every point in the universe simultaneously… 🙂

  • Philip Higgins says:

    Some tough calls here but surely the X fighter merits a place rather than the highly derivative (ie. rip off) Viper.
    Red Dwarf (plus Space Bug), Boba Fett’s Slave 1, the one from 2001, Nostromo and Sulaco also deserve honourable mentions.

  • Tony Cowin says:

    Footage and the prop of C57D from Forbidden Planet was also used in the classic Twilight Zone episodes, ‘On Thursday We Leave for Home’, ‘The Monsters Are Due On Maple Street’ and ‘Death Ship’.

  • Dominic says:

    Excuse me, but I think you forgot the TARDIS. Who wouldn’t want to be able to travel anywhere in time and space?

  • Alan Carter says:

    No Firefly? Plus everyone knows that the Eagle Transporter from Space:1999 is the best spaceship ever. It was plucky in its frequent fights against superior alien technology.

  • Mark Hughes says:

    I concur….Liberator beats falcon. Many connoisseur’s fail to rate the liberator but it is fantastic. May I also recommend the “X bomber” from ” xbomber/Starfleer”

  • S says:

    The white star from Babylon 5 i always thought was a good design or the Klingon bird of prey

  • Neil says:

    The Liberator is absolutely the perfect choice for #1. Monolithic in size and complexity, but with such advanced auto repair engineering, can effectively be run by a rag-tag family sized crew. We all love the Falcon, but it aint the height of comfort or security. The Enterprise is always a prize, but requires a massive highly trained crew and spare parts catalogue. I would have had The Heart of Gold from HHGTG in the top ten, but it was also nice to see some ships that I hadn’t encountered before. Thanks for the list 🙂

  • Jason says:

    One must make mention of the Eagles from Space 1999

  • D. says:

    “You ever sail in a Firefly?”

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