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Flying Saucer

"There's a cup-shaped vessel that wants to land on our saucer section. We told him to get forked but he insists on making spoons with us."
Farce Contact, a Star Trek: Enterprise Fan Fic.

The stereotypical alien spaceship of many a sci-fi epic is the ubiquitous flying saucer. For some reason spacefaring civilizations across the galaxy have determined that a flying disc is the most effective and efficient means of crossing the void.

In actuality the most efficient design for a spacecraft would likely be a sphere as this shape encloses the greatest volume with the least amount of material. They just don't look very cool or quite as alien, though they have their own charms. But there can be some merits to this design as some of them are seen rotating and might therefore use the Centripetal force to create an Artificial Gravity, They also have a smaller radar cross-section compared to some other shapes, like the previous mentioned sphere or That's No Moon.

The term comes from Kenneth Arnold's description of a UFO sighting. Arnold described their flight (but not their shape) as "like saucers skipping across water." Nevertheless, the term stuck. Flying Saucers are the most reported type of UFO (and the most commonly hoaxed type as well) though it is unknown if the term was being used by the witness as an interchangeable word for UFO or describing the nature of the UFO (the term UFO describes any possible aircraft shape, as long as it is Unidentified.) Flying Saucers are still reported today, with a recent one reported over Chicago O'Hare airport in 2006.

See also Little Green Men and The Greys, the most common aliens in UFO culture.

Examples:

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    Anime and Manga 

    Comic Books 

    Fan Works 
  • Subverted in Slipping Between Worlds, where the Discworld goes through its own War of the Worlds mass panic and everyone swears blind the aliens have landed from their incredibly advanced flying discs, you know, the ones with the deadly ray gonnes what are just about to blast the Patrician's palace into atoms, just keep watching, squire, sooner or later the mothership is going to pop out of invisibility just over Broad Way, let's see how that wily bugger Vetinari gets out of this one, and so on.

    Film 
  • In Independence Day, the Alien Invaders nuke cities by directing a Wave Motion Gun down from the centre of their ships.
  • Plan 9 from Outer Space, although nonsensically, one of the saucers is described as "cigar-shaped", when it clearly isn't.
    • They clearly have some kind of shape-shifting mode, since the scenes with people entering through its hatch show it with flat sides at 90-degree angles, much like a... shed of some sort!
  • The humans have one in Forbidden Planet. Specifically, United Planets Cruiser C-57D.
  • And who can forget Exeter's ship from This Island Earth, which could readily be described as a flying cowboy hat!
  • The Thing from Another World (1951). The search team position themselves around the edge of the crashed 'aircraft' under the ice and realise they're forming a perfect circle, whereupon they become quite excited at having "finally found one".
    • Also appears in John Carpenter's The Thing (1982), where the guys find it in the bottom of an enormous crater. There was also the Blair-Thing's homemade craft, though it is blown up before it can be used. Also some have speculated that it would actually work more like a hovercraft as a means of getting to the coast so that it could find more life forms to assimilate.
  • When aliens appear in a Godzilla movie, more often than not, they're flying around in one of these.
    • In Godzilla 2000, the monster was the flying saucer, until it got out of it to provide a traditional giant monster battle.
    • Other sci-fi films by Toho usually go for the saucer shape as well, such as The Mysterians and its sequel Battle in Outer Space. Unusually, the saucers are not always perfectly circular and rarely spin around like they usually do in western depictions.
  • Wild Zero has dozens of flying saucers swarming over Earth to cause a Zombie Apocalypse.
  • Gamera, in his flying form, resembles a flying saucer made of turtle meat.
  • The moon-based Nazis of Iron Sky utilize flying saucers as their primary attack vehicles... and they launch from giant carrier zeppelins.
  • The "interdimensional beings" (read: aliens) in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull used a flying saucer, although you can't see it very well on account of it having been buried for a few thousand years. (It's briefly visible after taking off, right before it jumps into "the space between spaces".)
  • Earth vs. the Flying Saucers is THE flying saucer movie. The saucers, depicted by stop-motion animation, have rotating sections on the tops and bottoms that move in opposite directions, massive ray-guns, force-fields, translator devices inside, and nearly impenetrable armor.
  • They Live! shows a nightmarish version of Earth where aliens freely walk among us, holographically disguised as humans. In one brief scene it is shown that they also have flying saucer drones that patrol cities disguised as helicopters.
  • Teenagers from Outer Space has a unique twist on the classic flying saucer: the alien ship is essentially a gigantic screw with a UFO as its head. When it lands, the screw part drills into the ground so only the head is left exposed, looking like a normal flying saucer has landed.
  • The original Invaders From Mars shows Martians landing a large flying saucer and using it as their base on Earth.
  • Star Wars: the Millennium Falcon, of course.
  • Prometheus has a brief appearance by a flying saucer in the opening sequence. It is so large that when it manouvres, the clouds flow around it.
  • Mars Attacks!
  • Played with in the opening of Captain America: The First Avenger. In a scene similar to The Thing from Another World something is found buried under the ice in the Arctic, and one character jokes it's probably a weather balloon. They come across what appears to be a UFO sticking out of the ice, but then the Reveal Shot shows it's just the wingtip, and the shape of a massive flying wing is outlined with light poles.

    Literature 
  • The starship Vittoria from Starship Through Space, a 1954 sci-fi juvenile by Lee Correy (G. Harry Stine).
  • In one of The History of the Galaxy novels, a human colony is attacked by a massive automated mothership built millions of years ago. In a serious case of artistic license, the main character notes its circular shape and comments that it is the most efficient form for a spacecraft.
  • Not too common but known in Perry Rhodan. The Yülziish civilization (perhaps better known by their English-language nickname "Blues") does traditionally use disk-shaped starships, Terran-built "Space-Jets" are small secondary and scout craft constructed along similar lines, and the aliens behind the original flying saucer sightings eventually put in an appearance as well (they turn out to work for the setting's notional forces of "order" and encounters typically involve only a single actual alien with the rest of the crew being subservient androids). In the latter case, the "saucers" are once again actually secondary craft; the bigger and more rarely seen motherships are instead cylindrical.
  • In the Animorphs series, the Skrit Na are described as using saucer-shaped spacecraft, implied to be because they need aereodynamic ships capable of traveling through atmospheres quickly as well as through space.
  • In the Star Wars EU the Hapan's capital ships look like a pair of flying saucer stacked on each other. In their case the saucer shape is done to allow for full body rotation of the weapons platforms allowing them to direct an enormous amount of firepower in one direction. The upside to such a system is a capital ship that can fire three times as fast as a Star Destroyer. The downside is a ship design that is much more fragile and expensive.
  • Mr Blank's Little Green Men get around in Flying Saucers, though they're referred to as UFO's.

    Live Action TV 
  • Sid and Marty Krofft's "Lost saucer" featured the titular saucer, which doubled as a time machine.
  • Star Trek, Federation's standard design for non-shuttlecraft ships, each one is composed a circular or oval saucer attached to 2 or 3 warp narcelles attached in different places. Picard's version can separate its saucer section from its star-drive section, as well, though the budget prevented The Powers That Be from having it do this with any regularity.
    • The fact that the crew time traveled back to 20th Century Earth at least once provides some fun seeds for Epileptic Trees about the origin of flying saucers amongst human society.
    • Spoofed in Sev Trek: Pus in Boots where the saucer section is used to transport a meal of chicken drumsticks, chips, peas and crouton torpedoes, all of which fall off when the ship goes to warp.
  • Vree/Streib ships in Babylon 5.
    • The Vree appear to have 2 different classes but both feature a saucer-shaped design. The original Vree warships (some sources call them Xorrs and claim they're an older design being phased away) don't appear to be capable of atmospheric flight. The new Xills look like typical flying saucers with glowing blue lines and sleek curves. Fluff also suggests that the Vree have indeed visited Earth, but it was a routine survey of a primitive world. In fact, they find the fact that this even has affected human culture so much extremely hilarious.(for reference, their deity is The Trickster).
  • The Dalek warships in Doctor Who, as shown on the image above.
  • The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits found this trope handy, both for alien and human vessels.
    • Many times, they used the model of C57D from Forbidden Planet for their spaceships, notably in "The Invaders" and "Death Ship." Angnes Moorehead (Endora from Bewitched) smashes one of these in "The Invaders." Fortunately it's a breakaway replica and not the original used in preceding shots.
  • The Gerry and Sylvia Anderson 1970s series UFO (obviously), though they were more conical than saucer-shaped.
  • The Jupiter-2 from Lost in Space.
  • The Visitor ships in V are saucer-shaped.
  • The Orion VII and VIII in Raumpatrouille.
  • Project UFO, being lifted from the pages of Project Bluebook, had its fair share of these.
  • The JAG episode "Impact" has a flying saucer like craft built by a Covert Group with Mundane Front.
  • The Flipside Of Dominick Hide: The time machines used by Dominick and the other Corros for observations resemble small, fairground ride-sized, flying saucers. Larger ones exist for tour groups though.

    Newspaper Comics 

    Video Games 
  • Destroy All Humans! is a game about the stereotypical inhabitants of the aforementioned floating disks. Laser beams and brain eating are just extra treats.
  • One of the many odd things used as transportation by the Item World pirates in Disgaea 3.
  • City of Heroes has the Rikti, whose crashed mothership is an enormous saucer.
  • Star Control 2 has the Ariloulaleelay, whose Skiff ship is a teleporting flying saucer.
  • The Martians in the Metal Slug series attack in several sizes of flying saucers, ranging from the tiny personal vehicles to the massive, city-sized mothership.
  • One of the Aeon experimental-class units in Supreme Commander, the Czar, is an Airborne Aircraft Carrier in the form of a flying saucer. Naturally, it has a Wave Motion Gun in the middle. The sequel removes the carrier aspect and trades it for lots more weaker lasers and lots of little bombs. It keeps the giant middle laser, though.
  • Naturally, some of the alien ships in the X-COM series fall under this, as does one of the ships you can manifacture in the first game.
    • Interestingly, in The Bureau: XCOM Declassified, the only flying saucer is of human design (reminiscent of the Avrocar but much larger). It was in development before the Outsiders even invaded, although it incorporates some elerium-derived technology and later enhanced with recovered Outsider tech.
      • Technically, Titans are also flying saucers, but they are, basically, this game's version of Cyberdiscs (i.e. flying robots).
  • The Shroobs from Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga invade the Mushroom Kingdom in these kinds of spaceships.
  • The enemy mother ship that attacks Katina in Star Fox 64 is a flying saucer. The whole mission is an Independence Day shout out, the saucer will destroy the Katina base with a similar Wave Motion Gun if you fail to destroy it.
  • The Expansion Pack for Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2, Yuri's Revenge, had Yuri's new third side use laser-armed flying saucers referred to as Floating Discs.
  • Main vehicle of the Watchers in Dark Void.
  • Wild ARMs 3 had an Alien Invasion sidequest where you had to shoot down a bunch of these with your Transforming Mecha of a mechanical dragon.
  • Let's not forget good ol' Space Invaders, which has a saucer flying across the top of the screen every so often. Shoot it down for bonus points!
  • Antari ships in Imperium Galactica are flying saucers. Interestingly, while the Antari are indeed Grey-like, they are, in fact, descended from human colonists, like most humanoid races.
  • You'll be seeing a lot of these in Touhou Undefined Fantastic Object. It's a Shout-Out to Space Invaders.
  • There are Flying Saucers in Wheeler Acres in Backyard Baseball.
  • In some games, Kirby can transform himself into a flying saucer with the UFO copy ability. Some are also used by the Squeaks.
  • The Naval Ops series has a handful of flying saucers as enemies, as well as the Halberd series of aircraft that you can acquire for your own ships.
  • Flying saucers appear in The Sims 2.
  • Sword of the Stars has these in Zuul Slave Disks, the Ten Rings of the Von Neumann Berserkers and the Peacekeeper Enforcer. The former two of which are Riders that detach from larger carrier ships, and the Zuul do abduct people if several million at a time and they look nothing like Greys.
  • The racing game Re-Volt has a flying saucer as a hidden car, available only via cheats. It pretty much drives like a normal car (though its speed and other characteristics make it a Game Breaker), but hovers a bit after leaping off ramps, sometimes flying for really long distances.
  • A 3D flying sim named Flying Saucer actually exists. Buggy and not officially released, but available on abandonware sites. In this game you can actually fly inertia-free spaceship and abduct stuff.
  • Outlive is a game about a war between a Mega Corporation trying to take over the world with an army of robots, and a group of freedom fighters trying to take it back. Then these things show up. Cue the end credits.
  • They appear in the Fallout universe as well. In one Fallout 3 DLC you get captured and sent to one, which you eventually capture just as another tries to bring you down.
  • Players can sometimes see flying saucers (labeled as "Unknown Object") zipping about in the X-Universe games. They don't interact with anything in the game, and will fly through the universe until they inevitably plow into something. The literature explains them as belonging to a Precursor race called the Sohnen, a species of Mechanical Lifeforms whom the Ancients use to interact with the world outside their presence cloud when the need arises.
  • The Trash Alien in Math Blaster Episode 1: In Search of Spot flies around in a red one.
  • One of the rarer enemies in Zombies Ate My Neighbors are the Martians, who come to Earth in flying saucers. The saucers attack with arcs of electricity fired downward and can't be destroyed any way other than managing to land enough exploding soda cans in the open hatch on top.
  • In a linked Legend of Zelda Oracle Series game, Maple the witch will eventually upgrade from Flying Broomstick to Flying Vacuum Cleaner to Flying Saucer if she gathers enough Rupees from you.
  • The Miranu of Escape Velocity Override uses a half-saucer as the basis of their ship designs (cut vertically), but the shipyard description of their Scout class mentions that earlier generations of it were full saucers.
  • Hedgewars lets you use these as a mobility tool. They're hard to control, but they don't end your turn and can take you just about everywhere.
  • Conquest Frontier Wars has the Oracle-class ships for the Celareons, which are their unarmed scout ships. They look like your stereotypical flying saucers, albeit tiny ones (compared to some other ships) and are capable of cloaking.
  • Spelunky features these as opponents in the ice-caves section of the game, piloted by green tentacled blobs.

    Western Animation 
  • The pilot episode of South Park.
  • Marvin the Martian is often seen flying in these.
  • One Harveytoons film had aliens on flying cups and saucers.
  • The Autobot Cosmos had this as his alt-mode. As one of the few Transformers who can reach escape velocity unaided, his job was orbital recon. He considered it boring and lonely at times and often got into mischief. He once got into trouble with the U.S. government who thought he was an alien UFO, though technically he is.
    • His Japanese name, Adams, is a tribute to George Adamski. However, his alt mode has brought up a bit of Fridge Logic on the TF Wiki: where exactly did he scan his alt mode from?
      • Well, for his Movie universe counterpart it was his native Cybertronian alternate form. It's possible the same is true for his G1 incarnation.
  • The Great Gazoo from The Flintstones has a UFO; sometimes it's large enough to comfortably fit 1 normal-sized person, and other times he barely fits with his helmet serving as the round top.
  • The Jetsons fly around in a UFO large enough to fit 4-5 characters comfortably, replacing cars as everyday transport in the future.
  • Nibbler and his race in Futurama each own their own very small UFO 'warmachines', which can almost contain a whole human with their Nibblonian pilot.
    • Omicronians use saucers with mechanical legs around the edge also strangly enough the hubble telescope has the same design.
  • Mator from Unidentified Flying Mater.
  • Hondo Ohnaka's pirate gang uses these in Star Wars: The Clone Wars.

    Web Comics 

    Real Life 
  • Surprisingly, some speculative designs for advanced shuttles resemble this. One face of the disc receives energy beamed from the ground or from a satellite, so it doesn't need to carry fuel, and, to save even more weight, instead of a physical cone for streamlining it just pushes the air out of its way with Frickin' Laser Beams.
  • There are also plans for saucer-shaped airplanes, since it's the most aerodynamic shape in existence. The only problem is the horrible maneuverability, meaning that state of the art fly-by-wire systems have to be developed for steering the crafts before anyone can even dream of flying them.
    • Early attempts at a disc-shaped aircraft with a fan for lift had difficulty getting more than a few feet off the ground. The design eventually morphed into the first hovercraft. See The Other Wiki for details on the Canadian-US Avrocar, a secret project for US military from 1950s.
  • A disc shape is actually quite useful for a spacecraft that would operate in an atmosphere. Flying edge-on, the whole craft functions as a lifting body, and it can turn much more easily than a winged aircraft. Flying flat-on, on the other hand, is great for using a large-area heat shield on your underside for reentry.
  • A more down-to-earth example: Frisbee flying discs.
  • Part of the whole Area 51 controversy was its use as a testing grounds for experimental saucer-ships. It turns out, just adding a fin on the back helps a lot.
  • It has been suggested that what Arnold actually saw were experimental aircraft designs developed by Nazi Germany and which were captured by American forces sweeping into Germany in 1945. It is known the Germans developed one form of crescent-shaped flying wing design to a high degree of air-worthiness, and what stopped it from going into Luftwaffe service in 1945 was simply that Germany collapsed too quickly. The Horten IX flying wing design was built and tested at Gottingen in West Germany — a city captured by the Americans in April 1945. In appearance a crescent shape with a rudimentary tailfin, this radical design may have been the craft seen by Kenneth Arnold over Washington. At a time when very few people had seen even the first conventional jet aircraft, this radical new configuration of jet fighter would have seemed completely alien to the observer. And the USAF would only have been too glad for people to jump to exactly the wrong conclusion — that this was extraterrestrial...
  • Some conspiracy theorists do suggest that the Germans had, or at least tried to, develop flying saucers. An example would be the peculiar Foo fighter, reported by allied pilots, resembling balls of fire that were extremely maneuverable, that would fly around allied aircraft and vanish afterwards. However, there has been no evidence solid enough to prove they actually exist, as is the case with all UFO's.


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