[[quoteright:350:[[Film/CloseEncountersOfTheThirdKind http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/Mothership.jpeg]]]]
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It might be [[ShinyLookingSpaceships shiny]], or a little more gritty, or [[CoolStarship just plain cool]], but however it's built, it obviously looks very important. And it's got a lot of {{Mooks}} in tow. It's the commanding flagship of a large alien army, keeping tabs over its soldiers and scouts, and thus is one of a kind in its army.

Blowing it up can render the multitudes of the once superior invaders [[DecapitatedArmy leaderless]] and rid the universe of the {{Macguffin}} kept inside it. There's no mistaking that taking it down will [[InstantWinCondition win an automatic victory for the good guys]]. But if the mothership is also a big fat battleship, the normal arsenal of weapons won't break its superior DeflectorShields (and will only prompt a response with its own WaveMotionGun), so our heroes are probably going to have to resort to some ZanyScheme to topple it.

The fact that bringing it down might [[NoEndorHolocaust cause problems of its own]] is usually {{Handwaved}}.

A variant has a mothership in charge of a bunch of exploration scouts, one of which will inevitably get left on Earth and needs one Earthling's help to rendezvous with it.

See also: StandardSciFiFleet, FlyingSaucer. If its purpose is to colonize a new planet, it's also a ColonyShip. Might overlap with TheBattlestar if it doesn't already harbor dozens of Battlestars inside it. Not to be confused with the other kind of [[{{Shipping}} ship]].

Also [[IThoughtItMeant not to be confused with]] [[GeorgeClinton The Mothership]].

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!!Examples

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[[folder: Anime and Manga ]]

* ''{{Gundam 00}}'' has the Trinity Mothership.
** The ''Ptolemaios'' and its successor, the ''Ptolemaios Kai'', function as this for the heroes, and the Innovators have [[spoiler:the ''Celestial Being'', a 15-kilometer-long armed-to-the-teeth asteroid-ship.]] In TheMovie, [[spoiler:the ELS have their moon-sized planetoid which had been hiding in Jupiter for a while.]]
* The Harvester ships in ''{{Vandread}}''.
* [[BigBad Bodolza]]'s flagship in ''SuperDimensionFortressMacross''. TheMovie not only has an even bigger version, but TWO of them; although Bodolza quickly {{Wave Motion Gun}}s the other one on the grounds that it has [[AmazonBrigade Meltran]] crew, blowing away a chunk of his own fleet too who couldn't get away from the line of fire quickly enough.
* ''Anime/MagicUsersClub'' has the unknown alien vessel that invades Earth called "The Bell".

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[[folder: Comic Books ]]

* In [[CalvinAndHobbes Calvin]]'s imagination, when Susie is a hostile alien out of a mothership, said mothership will be impersonated by... his mother.

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[[folder: Film ]]

* Disney's ''Film/TheCatFromOuterSpace'' creatively calls its mothership "Mother."
* ''Film/CloseEncountersOfTheThirdKind''
* ''Film/{{District 9}}''
* The big ship in ''Film/IndependenceDay''
** Emphasis on the ''big''. It was supposed to be 1/4th the mass of the Moon. Most asteroids are smaller. Justified if you consider the hull to be some superdense degenerate matter for radiation shielding.
* Super Star Destroyer ''Executor'' from ''StarWars'', a nineteen kilometre long command ship.
** The prequels' droid control ships are a literal example of the "blow it up and the [[MechaMook (Mecha)]][[{{Mook}} Mooks]] will likely give up" aspect of this trope, as the droid armies can't function without them.
** And, of course, the Death Stars.
* The Ko-Dan Command Ship in ''TheLastStarfighter''. (Since it controlled several fighter squadrons, it may also qualify as TheBattlestar.)
* A Chitauri mothership appears at the climax of ''Film/TheAvengers''. [[spoiler:Iron Man steers a nuke into it.]]

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[[folder: Literature ]]

* ''{{Dune}}'''s Guild Heighliners might count as a variation. They're designed to transport hundreds of smaller ships over interstellar distances, but the smaller ships don't belong to the Heighliners as such.
* 'Ship' of the less-read [=WorShip=] series is a straighter example; after generations of housing the genetic stock of humanity en route to and around the planet Pandora, the AI considers itself the population's progenitor.
* EndersGame has at least one mothership that is hidden among the other ships, but destroying it severs the HiveMind.
* The Franchise/StarTrek novel ''Final Frontier'' showcases the Romulan "swarm," a military unit of six ships, each carrying a full crew. Eventually, after the as-yet-unnamed Enterprise manages to defeat these, a much larger ship comes, bearing hundreds of these little ships.
** Fortunately for the ship and crew, including [[spoiler:Robert April, Sarah Poole (later April), and George Samuel Kirk (father of everyone's favorite LargeHam Captain and family)]], the Romulans [[spoiler:have never heard of Transporter technology. 1 bomb + 1 power core = OhCrap moment for the Romulans]].
* The Lighthuggers from ''Revelation Space'' are four-kilometer-long spacecraft capable of reaching near-light speed. They contain numerous smaller craft and can use their onboard factories to produce more as needed, and can carry up to one hundred thousand frozen people.
* In Mikhail Akhmanov's ''Invasion'', the Faata starship definitely fits the trope. It is massive in size and, while not possessing powerful weapons itself, is able to launch numerous "battle modules" armed with {{antimatter}} weapons. The ship's DeflectorShield can easily shrug off a nuclear barrage with a combined strength in the gigaton range. It also carries a huge army of {{Super Soldier}}s ready to invade. The second novel ''Retaliation'' shows that it is just one of many Faata ships. In fact, three more are being constructed not to far from Earth.
* A gigantic disc-shaped automated mothership is encountered in one of ''TheHistoryOfTheGalaxy'' novels. It was created long ago by one of the [[{{Precursors}} Precursor]] races as an exploration and terraforming craft. Due to most of the galaxy being unknown to the race, they equipped the ship with powerful weapons and defenses, as well as the capability to manufacture and launch fighter drones. When the ship returned centuries later, it discovered many other ships in the systems occupied by the race. These were later models that were not designed for combat. Treating them as hostile, the ship started a war and eventually wiped them out by using its built-in ability to replicate itself given enough resources. When first encountered, the humans have trouble defeating the ship. Understandably, they're horrified to learn that there are hundreds more just like that.
* In Literature/''{{Animorphs}}'', while the (human) Animorphs refer to the main Yeerk ship as the Mothership, the Yeerks and Andalites refer to it as the Pool Ship. It acts as a command, heavy transport, and supply ship in contrast to the Blade Ship (a ship of war).
* In the later ''Literature/HonorHarrington'' books, the [=CLACs=][[note]]Carrier, Light Attack Craft[[/note]] were developed, allowing a hyper-capable fleet to carry hundreds of the small ships to serve as a screening force (or to harass enemy formations, or to intercept enemy [=LACs=] when they attempted to do the same...). While the [=CLAC=] is a direct analogue to the "[[SpaceIsAnOcean Wet Navy]]" aircraft carrier, the [=LACs=] themselves are more akin to Torpedo Boats.

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[[folder: Live Action TV ]]

* Every evil race ever in the Franchise/StargateVerse.
** The Ha'tak vessels and their larger counterparts in ''Series/StargateSG1'', followed by the Ori motherships.
** The Hive ships in ''Series/StargateAtlantis''.
** The catfish aliens in ''Series/StargateUniverse'' also have motherships, though they're rather puny by comparison to ''Destiny'' (more like carriers, really).
* ''Series/{{V}}'' features multiple alien Motherships throughout the show. The ''Series/{{V 2009}}'' reboot continues this trend and heavily featured them in the show's advertising.

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[[folder: Western Animation ]]

* ''WesternAnimation/TitanAE''
* ''Resolute'', ''Resolute II'', and the rest of the exocarriers in ''WesternAnimation/ExoSquad''.
** And let's not forget the Neosapien flagships ''Olympus Mons'' and ''Olympus Mons II''.
* The Massive from ''WesternAnimation/InvaderZim''.
* PixarShorts: "Thanks, Mrs. UFO!"

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[[folder: Music ]]

* Iron Savior, of Music/IronSavior. Complete with jet-turbines whining and the occasional FighterLaunchingSequence.


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[[folder: Video Games ]]

* The Xenon/Terraformer CPU-ship #deca in ''[[VideoGame/{{X}} X3: Terran Conflict]]''. The CPU ships are [[SapientShip sentient]] and control nearby Xenon fighter craft. They can [[TheBattleStar dock up to 50 fighters internally]], are ''[[MileLongShip massive]]'', and have a [[http://i.imgur.com/fFoMj.jpg very menacing appearance]].
** A later patch added a mission featuring #efaa, and #cafe, [[spoiler:One sentient, the other having a glitch in its attempt to gain sentience, helped along by the already sentient one.]]
* ''High Charity'' in the {{Halo}} series is actually more of a mobile space station and serves as the Covenants "Homeworld". But as the goal of the Great Journey gets very close, and the Covenant is starting to break apart at the edges, the Prophet of Truth also uses it as his flagship.
* ''VideoGame/ColonyWars'' introduced a ~2000 metre-long titan-class ship, and then later the final boss, a ~4000M Super Titan.
* ''DestroyAllHumans''.
* VideoGame/EarthDefenseForce2017.
* Mothership Zeta in ''VideoGame/{{Fallout 3}}''.
* One of the finest videogame examples is ''VideoGame/{{Homeworld}}'', in which the only real entity that can be called a character is the Mothership.
** The Mothership can also build [[TheBattlestar carriers]] that function like mini-motherships in their own right, in case the Mothership gets destroyed or gets critically damaged.
* The Titan ships, again, from ''EveOnline''. All in excess of 15km, and all ridiculously costly to build.
* Sovereign, from ''VideoGame/MassEffect1'' [[spoiler:which is actually sentient, and one of the frighteningly powerful [[EldritchAbomination Re]][[AbusivePrecursors ap]][[SapientShip ers]].]]
** As well as Sovereign, each race in ''Franchise/MassEffect'' has dreadnoughts that are extremely few in number compared to other ships in the various fleets. They're similar in size to a human carrier, but otherwise are much bigger than the ships around them. They also carry kinetic weapons capable of impacting in the multiple-dozen-kiloton range, which is what makes them so special.
* The Protoss Mothership in ''VideoGame/StarcraftII'' comes with quite a bit of special abilities.
** However, the name is a bit misleading since it doesn't harbor any other spacecraft. The Carrier does that instead.
* ''VideoGame/{{Starfox}}'' has a hero's example, the Great Fox.
** The Katina stage in ''VideoGame/StarFox64'' has an enemy version as well, explicitly called a mothership and acting very much like one.
*** Then again, that ship was just an expy of the Film/IndependenceDay city-killer ships: it launched countless fighter craft, and was capable of shooting a giant laser beam levelling anything on the ground beneath it.
* The Skaarj Mothership from ''VideoGame/UnrealTournament2004''.
* Scrin Motherships from ''VideoGame/CommandAndConquerTiberiumWars'', which are armed with catalyst cannons similar to the city-killer ships from Film/IndependenceDay.
* ''{{Freespace}}'' has the ''SD Lucifer''. Killing it wasn't an instant-win for the good guys; the war lasted several more months as they had to clean up the remaining Shivan fleet, but background information says that the Shivans became disorganized and confused after the ''Lucifer's'' destruction. The ''SJ Sathanas'' in the sequel is set up to look like a mothership as well, but [[spoiler:it is just one of nearly one hundred the Shivans possess, in that one fleet alone.]]
* ''UFO: Aftershock'' has the Laputa, a flying city built by the Reticulans which has been converted into a mobile headquarters by the Commonwealth of Earth.
* The giant enemy space ship in the final wave of the 1980 ''{{VideoGame/Phoenix}}'' arcade game. This may also qualify as the first instance of a "boss level" in a video game.
* ''VideoGame/SinsOfASolarEmpire'' have this class of ships, though they have different roles and capabilities which depend on the faction that built it.

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[[folder:Real Life]]
* The term ''mothership'' has origins in whaling. The mothership was a large, usually three-masted and full-rigged ship with whale meat processing facilities. It supported the actual whaling craft, who went out to sea to seek and hunt the whales.
* Several types of naval craft effectively serve this purpose in wartime, most famously the Aircraft carrier. In fact, in many languages, such as Chinese and Japanese, the corresponding word for "mothership" refers to an aircraft carrier.
** Amphibious Assault Ships serve a similar function, being designed to launch smaller landing craft and amphibious vehicles, often featuring a flight deck for aircraft.
** A lesser example would be Tenders. These were larger ships which served as floating bases for short-legged warships such as Destroyers and Submarines to operate from, and typically carried supplies, repair equipment, and cranes for offloading cargo to the smaller ships. More specialized versions served as the precursors to the Aircraft Carrier, carrying seaplanes aboard and using cranes to move them between the ship and the water (seaplane tenders did not feature flightdecks, and the seaplanes often required water for a landing surface anyways as they lacked wheels).
* Somali pirates use large fishing vessels as motherships and do the actual storming of the merchantmen by using speedboats.
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