Created By: zarpaulus on January 8, 2013 Last Edited By: zarpaulus on January 20, 2013
Troped

Mile-long ship

When a vessel is so massive its dimensions are given in units generally used in geography

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Trope
Your starship is big, very big. Now how do you make this across to people? By stating how big it is in miles or kilometers. It may be a Starship Luxurious or so packed full of people or machinery that the interior resembles that of a submarine. Generally these ships are too massive to land: they're built in space and stay in space.

Often mile-long starships are considered to be "harder" than small ones, partially because a slower-than-light ship would need to be massive to carry all the fuel and supplies needed for a decades-long voyage.

Supertrope to Planet Starship and Unnecessarily Large Vessel. See also: Cool Starship, Big Dumb Object, The Battlestar and Generation Ship.


Examples:

Anime and Manga
  • In Super Dimension Fortress Macross the eponymous Macross is an city-sized alien spaceship which crash lands on Earth, which is then used by humans to go into space. 1210 meters (3970 feet) long.

Film
  • Star Wars: The infamous Imperial-class Star Destroyers are 1,600 meters long, or approximately one mile. While Darth Vader's Super Star Destroyer was 19 kilometers. However the Venator-classes shown in Revenge of the Sith were only 1,137 meters and apparently capable of landing.
    • Then there's the Death Star, which is the size of a small moon.
  • Spaceball One in the movie Spaceballs, a parody of Star Wars, has a similar scale.
  • In Independence Day, the mothership has been estimated to be several hundred kilometers across, the "city-killer" Flying Saucers that detach from it are about 15 miles in diameter.
  • The opening scene of Saturn 3 features an enormous spaceship, meant to visit outposts on various moons and planets in the solar system at sub-light speeds.

Literature
  • From Iain M. Banks's The Culture novels, the General Systems Vehicles. You know that bit at the beginning of Star Wars, where the Star Destroyer swallows up the Tantive IV into its docking bay? Picture a ship that could do that... to the Death Star. Twice.
  • In Stephen Baxter's Xeelee Sequence universe: the Xeelee Nightfighter. The cockpit is small, about the size of a room, but its wings stretch out for kilometers in either direction, like vast sails. The purpose of these wings are never made evident, as the ship itself travels via teleportation.
  • E. E. “Doc” Smith's book Skylark Of Valeron: the eponymous vessel was a sphere over 1000km in radius and has a crew of four, it needed to be that big to contain the navigational instruments necessary to cross intergalactic space.
  • The Star Wars Expanded Universe adds enough of these that it seems kilometer-plus is fairly standard for heavy capital ships in the Galaxy Far, Far Away, particularly in the Imperial and post-Imperial eras. These are just some of the biggest examples.
    • "Super star destroyer" is basically a catchall term for ships following the star destroyer design philosophy and larger than about three kilometers. The Empire built many of these, but most were one-offs and only the Executor-class went into (relatively) wide production with around a dozen known.
    • The Eclipse-class star dreadnaught from Dark Empire is 17 kilometers long, outmasses the Executor-class, and mounts a superlaser capable of cracking a planet's crust. This won't destroy the planet, but the seismic effects will depopulate it quite handily.
    • By the New Jedi Order series the New Republic saw the need to have a counter for super star destroyers and the like, and the Mon Calamari supplied the 17 km Viscount-class battleship. For their part the Yuuzhan Vong had their koros-stronha or "worldships", 10 km in diameter and primarily colony ships but quite capable of defending themselves against GFFA capital ships. They also had a couple different types of kor chokk[[note]]"grand cruiser"[[/note]] of similar size that served much the same command-and-control/heavy battleship role as super star destroyers.
    • By the Legacy comics ships of SSD scale are seen as Awesome, but Impractical (without a galaxy-sized tax base they cost too much to operate) and no longer in use. The Fel Empire's warship of choice is the Pellaeon-class star destroyer, which is about the same length as an Imperial-class but more massive.
  • The two miles long Imperial battlecruiser from Foundation.
  • In John Ringo's Troy Rising series, Troy, Thermoplae, and Malta are 9-13km wide mobile battle stations, each using rapid fire 50 megaton nukes to power their Orion Drives and carrying an entire fleet of cruisers, fighters, and millions of missiles. They make the Rangora (the enemy aliens) Assault Vectors (which are pretty impressive battleships in their own right) look puny.
  • In Arthur C. Clarke's Rendezvous with Rama, Rama is a mysterious cylinder entering the Solar system that is over 50 km long and 20 km in diameter.
  • In Chindi, the alien ship they refer to as the chindi is over 16km long, and apparently uninhabited, but still intent on its unknown mission.
  • Ships in the Honor Harrington series are usually denoted by their tonnage rather than their length, but one book had a diagram that showed their main warships as being 2 kilometers in length for a battleship to 3km for a Superdreadnought. Then David Weber apparently realized that at that scale they were far too light and he re-scaled them so they top out at just over 1500m for an SD and 1200m for a battleship.

Live Action TV
  • The Battlestar Galactica was over 1.5 km, the Pegasus over 1.7.
  • The Red Dwarf is 6 miles long, 5 miles tall, and 4 miles wide.
  • Star Trek doesn't normally go in for this, but there are a few examples.
    • The Deep Space Nine episode "Valiant" provides a Jem'Hadar battleship described as twice as the size of a Galaxy-class starship. A quick calculation based on the DS9 Technical Manual results in a ship just under 1.3 kilometers long. Another Jem'Hadar capital ship that is similar but much larger is seen during the Battle of Cardassia in "What You Leave Behind".
    • Borg cubes are generally built around 3 kilometers cubed. (That means 3km for all 6 sides.) The Borg Tactical Cube shown in one of the final episodes of Star Trek: Voyager is 5 times larger.
    • One episode of Star Trek: Enterprise has Captain Archer being taken through time and brought on board the USS Enterprise-J. Due to time constraints with making the episode, the designer of the ship admits that they only had a couple of weeks to flesh out a concept, which is only very briefly shown in a fuzzy holographic computer display in the episode itself. The ship was never shown from the outside in the episode, so supplementary material filled in for that. The Enterprise-J was built as a generational ship, capable of folding space to instantly travel to other galaxies. It is so large that it's turbolifts are replaced with site to site transporters, and it features massive parks and even an entire university on board. It's saucer is roughly 26 miles in diameter.
  • In the Babylon 5 spinoff Crusade, the Excalibur was 3000 meters in length, and had an internal rail line (similar to that on the Babylon 5 space station) running along its length for transportation within the ship.
    • Also, the Babylon 4 station, which preceded Babylon 5, had a propulsion system (unlike its successor), so could serve as a mobile base-ship and carrier that was 6 miles in length (a bit larger than Babylon 5).
  • Stargate Verse:
    • The Ori warships in Stargate SG-1 were established by ancillary materials as 1.1 kilometers long.
    • Wraith hive ships in Stargate Atlantis were described as roughly thirteen times larger than an SGC Daedalus-class battlecruiser. This gives a ship around 2.9 kilometers long. The super-hive that appears on the series finale is even larger. Whereas Ancient city-ships such as Atlantis are 3 kilometers in diameter.
  • The titular Lexx is an insect-like ship that is 10 kilometers in length.

Tabletop Games
  • Warhammer 40,000 loves this trope. In the Imperial navy alone escort frigates and destroyers are 750 meters to 2 kilometers long, while battleships are up to 8 km.

Video Game
  • In Mass Effect, Reaper capital ships like Sovereign and Harbinger are around two kilometers long and so massive that their kinetic barriers are severely weakened while they're landed in Earthlike gravity (due to the mass effect field strength needed to reduce their mass to the point where they don't crumple under their own weight). Citadel dreadnoughts vary by race, but average one kilometer.
  • The X-Universe series doesn't explicitly give lengths for its ships. However in 2009 a forum member in this thread scaled their in-game models and determined that the largest destroyers average three kilometers, with the Valhalla being the outlier at five.
  • Escape Velocity Nova:
    • Aurora Carriers are 1.2 km long, compared to the Federation and Rebel Carriers which are only 500 m long.
    • Polaris Ravens are 1.2 km long and about 1 km wide making them the biggest playable ship in the game.
    • Deimos-Class Colony Ships are approximately 3*3*3 km as the hypergates they traveled through had to be reconfigured to form wormholes with a diameter of 5km.
  • Titan class ships in EVE Online can be as long as 18 kilometers.

Web Original
  • The Ultimate Starship Size Comparison Chart lines up notable ships and space stations from several different science fiction franchises (along with a few real-life ships for the sake of argument) side-by-side to compare their length. They're all dwarfed by the aforementioned Executor-class star dreadnaught from Star Wars.
Community Feedback Replies: 51
  • January 8, 2013
    StarSword
    Compare Unnecessarily Large Vessel (if it ever gets launched).

    Correction: The Executor-class star dreadnaught was established by the Incredible Cross-Sections (movie-level canon and based on screen evidence) as 19 km.
  • January 8, 2013
    Tallens
    • Ships in the Honor Harrington series are usually denoted by their tonnage rather than their length, but one book had a diagram that showed their main warships as being 2 kilometers in length for a battleship to 3km for a Superdreadnought. Then David Weber apparently realized that at that scale they were far too light and he re-scaled them so they top out at just over 1500m for an SD and 1200m for a battleship.
  • January 8, 2013
    Xtifr
    We already have two similar drafts: Unnecessarily Large Vessel and Planet Spaceship. I can distinguish all three, but this is beginning to suggest to me that we have a case of Missing Supertrope Syndrome. It might be better to repurpose this as the supertrope, which covers all Extraordinarily Large Spaceships. We also have The Battlestar, Thats No Moon, and Big Dumb Object.

    eta: Planet Spaceship has been idle long enough to be up-for-grabs, so I'm going to adopt it. That way I can help figure out how it ought to coordinate with this.
  • January 8, 2013
    MarqFJA
    Is this limited to starships, or can similarly immense seagoing vessels count as well?
  • January 8, 2013
    Tallens
    Are you proposing this as the super trope or Extraordinarily Large Spaceships?
  • January 8, 2013
    Xtifr
    I was thinking this might fit better as the supertrope. (The alternative would be to make this for more-than-a-mile-but-smaller-than-a-planet ships, which seems a bit odd.)
  • January 8, 2013
    StarSword
    Agreed.
  • January 8, 2013
    StarSword
    TV:
  • January 8, 2013
    elwoz
    Xtifr: Just to be clear, you're proposing that this be the supertrope and that it be named Extraordinarily Large Spaceships, yes?
  • January 8, 2013
    zarpaulus
    I suppose this could fit as a supertrope.

    @Marq FJA: Are there any examples of oceanic vessels that large? I recall at least one airship that big in some obscure work.
  • January 8, 2013
    Xtifr
    ^^ The name was just off the top of my head--not necessarily a serious suggestion--but otherwise, yes.
  • January 8, 2013
    DRCEQ
    • The USS Enterprise-J from Star Trek Enterprise was built as a generational ship. It is so large that it's turbolifts are replaced with site to site transporters, and it features massive parks and even an entire university on board. It's saucer circumference is roughly 26 miles across.
  • January 8, 2013
    Xtifr
    Ok, here's an example that was posted at Planet Spaceship that I think belongs here (I may have more for you soon):

    • In John Ringo's Troy Rising series, Troy, Thermoplae, and Malta are 9-13km wide mobile battle stations, each using rapid fire 50 megaton nukes to power their Orion Drives and carrying an entire fleet of cruisers, fighters, and millions of missiles. They make the Rangora (the enemy aliens) Assault Vectors (which are pretty impressive battleships in their own right) look puny.

    On the other hand, I'm claiming the Death Star for my trope (you can keep the other Star Wars examples, though). :)
  • January 9, 2013
    m8e
    • Escape Velocity Nova:
      • Aurora Carriers is 1.2 km long, the Federation and Rebel Carriers is only 500 m long.
      • Polaris Ravens is 1.2 km long and about 1 km wide making it the biggest playable ship in the game.
      • Deimos-Class Colony Ships are approximately 3*3*3 km as the hypergates they traveled through had to be reconfigured to form wormholes with a diameter of 5km.

    I think some of these examples needs more context. Like the Red Dwarf was a mining ship, the Battlestar Galactica is a...Battlestar. Maybe how they compare to other ships, if they are one of a kind or not.

    oh, and why does tropes always have to be shoehorned into supertrope/subtropes?
  • January 9, 2013
    zarpaulus
    I fail to see how the purpose of the ships is relevant.
  • January 9, 2013
    m8e
    I fail to see why those examples shouldn't have more context(and content), Isn't the point of examples too show how tropes are used?

    I just suggested "what they where designed to do" as it seemed like it could be relevant. But how the Red Dwarf can be 6 miles long, 5 miles tall, and 4 miles wide and still look like this might be relevant. Those measurements is probably for this version.)

  • January 9, 2013
    StarSword
    @m8e: EV Nova also has the Polaris Raven, which matches the Auroran carrier for length and is almost as wide. Also falls under the subtrope Unnecessarily Large Vessel since for all that size it has a mere 30 crew members.

    Web Original:
    • The Ultimate Starship Size Comparison Chart lines up notable ships and space stations from several different science fiction franchises (along with a few real-life ships for the sake of argument) side-by-side to compare their length. They're all dwarfed by the aforementioned Executor-class star dreadnaught from Star Wars.

    Video Game:
    • In Mass Effect, Reaper capital ships like Sovereign and Harbinger are around two kilometers long and so massive that their kinetic barriers are severely weakened while they're landed in Earthlike gravity (due to the mass effect field strength needed to reduce their mass to the point where they don't crumple under their own weight). Citadel dreadnoughts vary by race, but average one kilometer.
    • The X-Universe series doesn't explicitly give lengths for its ships. However in 2009 a forum member in this thread scaled their in-game models and determined that the largest destroyers average three kilometers, with the Valhalla being the outlier at five.
  • January 9, 2013
    m8e
    Right, I forgot that one. Added it and changed the indentation. You can rewrite it if you want.

    Something more to say about the carriers?\ I got the numbers for the Colony Ships from evn.wikia. A square peg that's 3.5 km fits in a round hole that's 5 km. I haven't seen any real numbers anywhere.
  • January 9, 2013
    StarSword
    ^Looks good.

    Those numbers are straight out of the shipyard stats screen in the game, so there's not much else to say (though I do recall the shipyard description of the Auroran carrier mentioning that it's so big it has to be built in a planetside shipyard).
  • January 9, 2013
    MarqFJA
    @zarpaulus: The closest thing that I could name off the top of my head is Metal Gear Solid 4 Guns Of The Patriots' 600-plus-meter-long Outer Haven. That's around twice the total length of the world's longest supercarrier to date.
  • January 11, 2013
    zarpaulus
    So, anyone else suggest Extraordinarily Large Spaceships or do we want to have a name that makes it clear we're talking about vessels measured in kilometers or miles?
  • January 11, 2013
    StarSword
    Literature:
    • The Star Wars Expanded Universe adds enough of these that it seems kilometer-plus is fairly standard for heavy capital ships in the Galaxy Far, Far Away, particularly in the Imperial and post-Imperial eras. These are just some of the biggest examples.
      • "Super star destroyer" is basically a catchall term for ships following the star destroyer design philosophy and larger than about three kilometers. The Empire built many of these, but most were one-offs and only the Executor-class went into (relatively) wide production with around a dozen known.
      • The Eclipse-class star dreadnaught from Dark Empire is 17 kilometers long, outmasses the Executor-class, and mounts a superlaser capable of cracking a planet's crust. This won't destroy the planet, but the seismic effects will depopulate it quite handily.
      • By the New Jedi Order series the New Republic saw the need to have a counter for super star destroyers and the like, and the Mon Calamari supplied the 17 km Viscount-class battleship. For their part the Yuuzhan Vong had their koros-stronha or "worldships", 10 km in diameter and primarily colony ships but quite capable of defending themselves against GFFA capital ships. They also had a couple different types of kor chokk[[note]]"grand cruiser"[[/note]] of similar size that served much the same command-and-control/heavy battleship role as super star destroyers.
      • By the Legacy comics ships of SSD scale are seen as Awesome But Impractical (without a galaxy-sized tax base they cost too much to operate) and no longer in use. The Fel Empire's warship of choice is the Pellaeon-class star destroyer, which is about the same length as an Imperial-class but more massive.

    EDIT: Actually, Star Wars might need its own folder.
  • January 11, 2013
    StarSword
    Namespaces, italics, grammar. And I think the current name is fine.
  • January 11, 2013
    Xtifr
    I was a little worried at first that people might think this was about ships that are only a mile long, but that doesn't seem to be the case, so I'm fine with the current name too.

    Here's some more examples that really don't seem to fit on Planet Spaceship:

    Film - Animated
    • Titan, for which Titan AE is named, is a very large, spherical spaceship. When activated, it converts energy into mass and creates an actual planet.

    Film - Live-Action
    • In Independence Day, the mothership has been estimated to be several hundred kilometers across.

    Literature

  • January 11, 2013
    Arutema
    • Titan class ships in Eve Online can be as long as 18 kilometers.
  • January 11, 2013
    StarSword
    ^^Actually, I think the Independence Day mothership qualifies for Planet Spaceship, given that it's bigger than the first Death Star. The city-busting Flying Saucers go here, however.
  • January 11, 2013
    StarSword
    TV:
    • Star Trek doesn't normally go in for this, but the Deep Space Nine episode "Valiant" provides a Jem'Hadar battleship described as twice as the size of a Galaxy-class starship. A quick calculation based on the DS9 Technical Manual results in a ship just under 1.3 kilometers long. Another Jem'Hadar capital ship that is similar but much larger is seen during the Battle of Cardassia in "What You Leave Behind".
  • January 12, 2013
    zarpaulus
    Live-Action TV

    • In the Babylon 5 spinoff Crusade, the Excalibur was 3000 meters in length, and had an internal rail line (similar to that on the Babylon 5 space station) running along its length for transportation within the ship.
      • Also, the Babylon 4 station, which preceded Babylon 5, had a propulsion system (unlike its successor), so could serve as a mobile base-ship and carrier that was 6 miles in length (a bit larger than Babylon 5).
  • January 12, 2013
    Arivne
    Live Action TV
    • Star Trek. Borg Cubes could be up to 3 kilometers on a side.
  • January 12, 2013
    zarpaulus
    @ Starsword: Do you recall how big the saucers of Independence Day were?
  • January 12, 2013
    StarSword
    Wikipedia says 15 miles in diameter. My buddy has the movie so I can double-check if you'd like.
  • January 15, 2013
    zarpaulus
    So should the name be changed or what?
  • January 15, 2013
    StarSword
  • January 15, 2013
    oneuglybunny
    The opening scene of Saturn 3 features an enormous spaceship, meant to visit outposts on various moons and planets in the solar system at sub-light speeds.
  • January 15, 2013
    Omeganian
    The two miles long Imperial battlecruiser from Foundation.
  • January 16, 2013
    StarSword
  • January 17, 2013
    Xtifr
    You overlooked the John Ringo example above.

    I'm also surprised we haven't gotten any anime/manga examples. They have to be out there.
  • January 17, 2013
    StarSword
    AFAIK there isn't very much in the way of space battle anime/manga (about the only ones I know of are Uchuu Senkan Yamato and Gundam, and I don't know if either has examples).

    TV:
    • The titular Lexx is an insect-like starship ten kilometers in length.
  • January 17, 2013
    Folamh3
    Edited the formatting slightly.
  • January 17, 2013
    StarSword
    TV:
    • Stargate Verse:
      • The Ori warships in Stargate SG 1 were established by ancillary materials as 1.1 kilometers long.
      • Wraith hive ships in Stargate Atlantis were described as roughly thirteen times larger than an SGC Daedalus-class battlecruiser. This gives a ship around 2.9 kilometers long. The super-hive that appears on the series finale is even larger.
  • January 17, 2013
    Xtifr
    ^^^ The Planet Spaceship draft already has five examples from anime and manga; I figured there'd be a lot more for this trope. On the other hand, I looked at Outlanders, and the ship sizes are mostly given in alien units, so while I suspect it has some examples, I can't be sure.
  • January 17, 2013
    StarSword
    May overlap with Unnecessarily Large Vessel.

    EDIT: 'Scuse me, Vessel, not Spaceship.
  • January 17, 2013
    Xtifr
  • January 17, 2013
    Xtifr
  • January 17, 2013
    randomsurfer
    In Super Dimension Fortress Macross the eponymous Marcoss is an city-sized alien spaceship which crash lands on Earth, which is then used by humans to go into space. 1210 meters (3970 feet) long.
  • January 17, 2013
    DRCEQ
    Hat given.
  • January 18, 2013
    Xtifr
    ^^ There we go! I should have been able to come up with that one myself. :)

    Anyway, I think this is starting to look pretty launchable. I would have given you a hat, but someone else already gave you your fifth. I want to launch the subtrope, Planet Starship, after this launches.
  • January 19, 2013
    Xtifr
  • January 20, 2013
    zarpaulus
    All right, I'll give you 12 hours to add more examples before I launch.
  • January 20, 2013
    StarSword
    Bluelinked "harder" in the description to the Mohs Scale Of Science Fiction Hardness.
  • January 20, 2013
    Xtifr
    Changed "Marcoss" to "Macross" in the Macross example. (Common sense might have suggested that was a misspelling, but I can actually confirm.)
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