[[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]] [[Music/GeorgeClinton The Mothership]].



[[folder: Anime and Manga ]]
* ''Anime/MobileSuitGundam00'' 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 ''Anime/{{Vandread}}''.
* [[BigBad Bodolza]]'s flagship in ''Anime/SuperDimensionFortressMacross''. TheMovie ''Anime/MacrossDoYouRememberLove'' 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(partially WeHaveReserves, partly making sure he got the shot off before the Meltradi commander did).
* ''Anime/MagicUsersClub'' has the unknown alien vessel that invades Earth called "The Bell".
* ''Anime/LegendOfGalacticHeroes'' has many on both sides. The [[TheFederation Free Planets Alliance]] mass-produces its own (five types have been observed: the phased-out ''[[http://gineipaedia.com/wiki/Hard_Luck Hard Luck]]'' type, the more recent but mostly phased out ''[[http://gineipaedia.com/wiki/Hyperion Hyperion]]'' type, the standard ''[[http://gineipaedia.com/wiki/Ajax_class_flagship Ajax]]''-class, the experimental ship ''[[http://gineipaedia.com/wiki/Airget_lamh Airget Lamh]]'' (that was supposed to be dismantled after the testing of the new technologies was completed but was pressed into fleet service due the losses at Astarte) and the prototype ''[[http://gineipaedia.com/wiki/Triglav Triglav]]''), while the [[TheEmpire Galactic Empire]] mostly produces [[SuperPrototype single ships with state-of-the-art technology]] that are gifted by the emperor to individual admirals (the closest thing to flagship mass-production are the ''[[http://gineipaedia.com/wiki/Forseti Forseti]]'', produced in three exemplars (with the second and the third having some light differences from the class leader), and the three-ships ''[[http://gineipaedia.com/wiki/Wilhelmina Wilhelmina]]''-class (with the ''Berlin'' modified with superior shielding, weaker weapons and large entertainment facilities due its owner being [[UpperClassTwit a nobleman too stupid to do anything but waste away, let alone actually fighting a war]])).

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

[[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.
* The moon-sized planet killer called the Death Star from ''Franchise/StarWars''.
** ''Film/TheEmpireStrikesBack'' features the Super Star Destroyer ''Executor'', a nineteen kilometre long command ship and Darth Vader's private headquarters.
** The prequels' droid control ships are a literal example of the "blow it up and the {{Mecha Mook}}s will likely give up" aspect of this trope, as the droid armies can't function without them.
* The Ko-Dan Command Ship in ''Film/TheLastStarfighter''. (Since it controlled several fighter squadrons, it may also qualify as TheBattlestar.)
* A Chitauri mothership appears at the climax of ''Film/{{The Avengers|2012}}''. [[spoiler:Iron Man steers a nuke into it.]]
* Alien mothership in ''Film/{{Pixels}}'', which produces the pixel characters and coordinates the attacks.

[[folder: Literature ]]
* ''Franchise/{{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.
* ''Literature/EndersGame'' has at least one mothership that is hidden among the other ships, but destroying it severs the HiveMind. The film keeps this but undermines itself by making the mothership into a carrier ship many times larger than its drone swarms, thus making it the obvious target.
* 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 Creator/MikhailAkhmanov's ''[[Literature/ArrivalsFromTheDark Invasion]]'', the [[HumanAlien Faata]] starship definitely fits the trope. It is massive in size and, while not possessing powerful (or any really) weapons itself, is able to launch numerous "battle modules" armed with {{antimatter}} weapons (hundreds of larger modules triple the size of a human cruiser and thousands of fighter-sized modules). 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. The second novel also reveals that these ships are a part of the Faata "unlimited expansion" doctrine. When a ship arrives to a colonizable system, it settles one or more planets, then moves on with a new command crew (the old command crew typically takes up leader positions in the colony). The colony is then expected to build and send out at least one ship of its own. The main disadvantage of the Faata is their low birth rate, which means that all their colonies are pretty small by human standards.
* A gigantic disc-shaped automated mothership is encountered in one of ''Literature/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.

[[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 1983}}'' features multiple alien Motherships throughout the show. The ''Series/{{V 2009}}'' reboot continues this trend and heavily featured them in the show's advertising.

[[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''.
* WesternAnimation/PixarShorts: "Thanks, Mrs. UFO!"

[[folder: Music ]]
* Iron Savior, of Music/IronSavior. Complete with jet-turbines whining and the occasional FighterLaunchingSequence.
* Music/ParliamentFunkadelic, especially in the seminal 1975 album ''[[https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mothership_Connection Mothership Connection]],'' as well as subsequently throughout the Parliament/Funkadelic/George Clinton milieu; it is the spaceship of Dr. Funkenstein who comes to Earth to cure all man's ills with the P-Funk.

[[folder: Video Games ]]
* There are various in the ''[[VideoGame/{{X}} X-Universe series]]'':
** In ''XBeyondTheFrontier'', a the generic-named ''Xenon M0'' is a giant [[EverythingsBetterwithSpinning spinny]] thing that must be destroyed as part of the plot.
** In ''X2: The Threat'', the [[InsectoidAliens Kha'ak]] get one (which spins too, like all Kha'ak capital ships after all), armed with a [[EarthShatteringKaboom Planet Destroyer laser]]. It is destroyed during the plot as well.
** The Xenon/Terraformer CPU-ship #deca in ''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.]]
*** As an aversion to the past examples though, none of them is required to be destroyed.
*** Still from Terran Conflict, there's the Aran, a BigDumbObject capable of bringing around with itself another capital ship, in addition to 30 corvettes and/or fighters. Differently from the other examples, it is made especially for player use. Too bad he only way to find it is by BlindJump.
* ''High Charity'' in the ''Franchise/{{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.
* ''VideoGame/DestroyAllHumans'' has this for the Furons, Cryto and Pox in particular.
* 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.
** This is continued with the ''Kuun-Lan'' command ship in ''Homeworld: Cataclysm'' (albeit smaller in size but more combat-capable) and the ''Pride of Hiigara'' mothership in ''Homeworld 2''.
* The Titan ships, again, from ''VideoGame/EveOnline''. All in excess of 15km, and all ridiculously costly to build.
** Super-carriers were originally called motherships in the game before they switched to the current name. This is probably because they were originally advertised as having clone vat bays and larger maintenance hangers (which would have allowed them to fit this trope), but had that feature dropped before they were added. It could also be because there is a type of Jovian craft in the lore known as the mothership. They are reportedly the in universe inspiration for titans, though they are much deadlier than them.
* Sovereign, from ''VideoGame/MassEffect1'' [[spoiler:which is actually sentient, and one of the frighteningly powerful [[EldritchAbomination Reapers]].]]
** 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 stand out example is the asari super-dreadnought ''Destiny Ascension'', a unique ship that is also the single largest and most powerful warship in the galaxy (Reapers excluded).
* 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.
*** The Hyperion and Leviathan serve as mobile bases for the player in Wings of Liberty and Heart of the Swarm, effectively filling this role.
*** Legacy of the Void has the Spear of Adun, the game's equivalent of the Hyperion and Leviathan. But not only it can carry most of the protoss army inside of it, it can also carry the ''protoss fleet'', including several Carriers and Motherships.
* ''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.
* ''{{VideoGame/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.]]
* ''VideoGame/UFOAftershock'' has the Laputa[[note]]The name is taken from ''Literature/GulliversTravels''. One wonders if the developers thought in Spanish ''Laputa'' means ''The whore''[[/note]], 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.
* One serves as a [[http://spelunky.wikia.com/wiki/The_Mothership bonus level]] in ''VideoGame/{{Spelunky}}'' [[UpdatedRerelease HD]]. Its entrance always appears in the last level of [[SlippySlideyIceWorld the Ice Caves]], signified by the line [[Film/IndependenceDay "It feels like the fourth of July...."]]
* The Ur-Quan Dreadnought in ''VideoGame/StarControlII'', that combines the ability to launch fighters with its powerful fusion blast.
* The arcade game ''Xain'D Sleena'' features as a space boss midway through the game a ship of this type, so big that cannot fit in the screen and scrolls through it.

[[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.
** In modern whaling, the Nisshin Maru functions similarly to this, though technically it is a factory ship. Smaller faster vessels are needed to catch the whales, but these lack the ability to process the meat and retain their mobility. These ships instead bring it to the mothership, which does have the facilities to properly process and store the massive amount of whale meat and organs.
* 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.
* Its quite common for rockets to feature more than one satellite in the payload.