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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
It’s not sexy. It’s not aerodynamic. You’d probably be throwing it at webuyanyspaceship.com 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
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!”