Unnecessarily Large Vessel
This trope is for when a ship in the story is hugely (and in some cases, comically) oversized for the crew or purpose it currently has. The large size may have had an original use, but in the story it's being vastly underutilized. Though mainly a sci-fi trope usually involving spaceships, it can apply in other situations as well (i.e. boats, hovercrafts, etc). What happens when Bigger Is Better is applied to ISO Standard Human Spaceship. May overlap with Starship Luxurious. May involve an Enormous Engine. For things that are larger and have even less use, see Big Dumb Object. Compare Unnecessarily Large Interior, Mile-Long Ship, Planet Spaceship and Awesome but Impractical.
open/close all folders
Anime And Manga
- The Mammoth Car from Speed Racer. Possibly subverted, since its constructed out of stolen gold.
- The original SDF-1 Macross from Super Dimension Fortress Macross. Its original builders were a race of giants, but for the purposes of humanity, who rebuild it and start flying it around, it is much, much larger than it has to be. To the point that the civilians who wind up on it build an entire metropolis inside the ship, multi-story buildings and all. Averted for later Macross-class and New Macross-class ships, which are similarly big but also intended to service giant-sized crew if necessary.
- The Portent of Darkness from Star Blazers is about two orders of magnitude bigger than any other spaceship seen in that universe up to that point. Any one of its turrets compares in size to the Yamato/Argo. Indeed, it's so large that the only known way to launch it is to destroy the space-city surrounding it.
- The true size of the alien ship seen in Project A-Ko is carefully concealed from the audience until the moment it's hovering over the city — at which point you see that it puts most of the city in its shade.
- In Star Wars:
- The Imperial Shuttle has very large, folding "wings" and a large dorsal fin. Despite this, the shuttle itself can only carry a few people, and with the technology of the Star Wars universe, the wings are completely unnecessary anyway (it's shown multiple times taking off and landing while the wings are still folded).
- The Super Star Destroyer Executor. It is canonically 19 kilometers long, and while it is a fully functional warship, its purpose is clearly more symbolic of The Empire's vast resources. A fleet of smaller ships could easily accomplish the same thing with more flexibility and without being taken out of an important battle by a stray A-wing to the bridge.
- For a close second in length, we have the Eclipse-class super star destroyer from the Dark Empire comics (17 km, and outmasses the Executor-class). An in terms of mass, it's almost twice as big as the Executor. And by the New Jedi Order series the New Republic has a few such vessels of its own, specifically the Viscount-class battleship, expressly designed as a counter to the Super Star Destroyer and its ilk.
- A good while back, Starwars.com had a Databank entry which stated that even the regular Star Destroyers were unprecedented in size and absolute overkill for what the Empire needed. This appears to have been retconned however, with the Star Destroyers being treated more as a standard ship size, and with similarly large vessels popping up elsewhere in the Expanded Universe and elsewhere in the galaxy's history.
- The Death Stars are far larger than is strictly necessary, as you could just as easily mount the superlaser directly to the reactor core and have a perfectly operational battlestation without needing to build what amounts to an artificial planetoid around it (this was actually done in the Expanded Universe). As with the Super Star Destroyers, it seems they intentionally made them the size of a small moon just for the symbolism and the intimidation factor.
- It is also implied that Death Stars function as the support facilities (repair and refit docks, construction yards, supply/weapons/fuel depots, and so on) for their own support and screening fleet. That still doesn't come close to justifying the sheer volume of the things. The first one had a volume of more than 2 million cubic kilometers, and the second would have, if completed, had a volume more than 380 million cubic kilometers. The sheer size does, however, make them damn near indestructible to anybody that doesn't have their own superlaser on hand, barring Force-guided torpedoes or destroying the thing while it's only halfway built (which are of course the way they actually do get taken out).
- Played with in Spaceballs with Dark Helmet's ship, which just goes on and on and on and on and on....
- Mel Brooks said that if he could have gotten away with making the ship long enough so that the whole movie would have consisted of the first scene of the ship passing by, he would have.
- In Alien: Even allowing for lots of cargo room, the ship the movie takes place on has an astonishing number of empty corridors, service passageways, and xenomorph-sized hiding places.
- Well, the Nostromo was more of a cargo tug than a freighter itself. Presumably the service corridors are just easy ways to get to areas in need of servicing.
- Nevertheless, the crew are concerned with finding the alien before they are forced back into the freezers due to running out of air.
- In Explorers, the kids build a tiny spaceship — smaller than an Apollo capsule. When they get to space, an alien spaceship takes control of it and sucks it into a docking bay. That ship is depicted with an interior big enough to get seriously lost in. Then a few scenes later, a much larger alien ship comes around and drags the first alien ship into one of its docking bays. Each alien ship appears to run just fine with a crew of two.
- The corridors and rooms in the alien ship are depicted as being vastly larger than the aliens themselves. At the end we learn the reason: The aliens are actually young children. The adults find the large spaces slightly cramped.
- Alastair Reynolds is fond of this trope:
- The novel Revelation Space features a kilometers-long spaceship called the Nostalgia For Infinity that, despite being built to hold over a hundred thousand passengers, is crewed in the story by only a handful of post-humans.
- In House of Suns, each of the main characters has their own kilometers-long ship that they fly around in alone most of the time. One tense scene in the novel takes place in the cargo hold of a ship, which itself is akin to a vast cavern kilometers across.
- In Stephen Baxter's Xeelee Sequence universe: the Xeelee Nightfighter. The cockpit is small, about the size of a room, but it's 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.
- Subverted/handwaved in E. E. “Doc” Smith's book Skylark Of Valeron: while 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.
- Ellis Billington in The Jennifer Morgue has a yacht called the Mabuse. For a certain value of "yacht", anyway: the thing is a demilitarized former Russian Navy Krivak III-class missile frigate. She basically exists to say that Billington is richer than Croesus. With the missile tubes and other armament having been removed, she has more than enough space for a luxurious suite of rooms and a well-equipped occult surveillance operation.
- The Moon (as in, Earth's actual moon) turns out to be a giant starship in Empire from the Ashes by David Weber. It's revealed to have been an ancient human starship, and all humans on Earth are the descendants of its crew. David has said that, when designing it, he put in all the engines and weapons and defenses and armor and living space... and discovered he'd used less than half the moon's actual volume. So he added more armor & weapons, then gave the crew accommodations fit for kings. Rich, important kings. All this lead to the ship having an Unnecessarily Large Interior, which is lampshaded at least once. Not that all the parks and gardens aren't appreciated, of course...
- In Tom Holt's Flying Dutch, after the Flying Dutchman discovers that he's the richest person in the world, thanks to compound interest, he trades in his old ship for a used aircraft carrier. For his crew of less than a dozen.
- Lampshaded and called out in the Star Wars EU. When a side character gripes that if the Empire were still around, they'd be better able to handle the latest galactic crisis (the Yuuzhan Vong invasion), Han Solo snaps and says no, the Empire would have built some humongous, gaudy superweapon with a ridiculously foreboding name, which would then have been destroyed through some glaring weakpoint. (This is also a Take That at the earlier Bantam books, which gained the somewhat undeservednote Fan Nickname "the Superweapon-of-the-Month Club".)
- The Great Ship in the Great Ship universe is a massive ship larger than Jupiter which has hundreds of thousands - or millions - of massive caverns, vacuum tube trains, and with space ports large enough to fit entire worlds inside. Even with billions of paying passengers aboard, most of the ship's space is almost totally unused. Since it was discovered streaking towards the Milky Way with signs of having flown through intergalactic space for at least a billion years, with no crew or even any records, it's original purpose is totally unknown.
- May or may not be the case in Andrei Livadny's The History of the Galaxy series, at least according to the author's website. Flagship-class cruisers are noted as being nearly 7 kilometers (4.3 miles) long with a crew of about 150, and can actually run with no crew whatsoever thanks to Instant A.I., Just Add Water. Nowhere do the books justify ships of such size. One novel mentions that these cruisers carry a Wave Motion Gun that takes up a fifth of its size but that's no justification for the rest of it. Another novel mentions a normal-sized cruiser (still over 5 kilometers) with a crew of 2000. For reference, the Real Life USS Nimitz is about 330 meters long and has a crew of 3200, and that's not even counting the air wing complement (2480).
- In Cordwainer Smith's short story "Golden the Ship Was, Oh, Oh, Oh!" the Earth's ultimate weapon is a gold spaceship nine million miles long with a crew of one.
- The Red Dwarf is a mining ship quoted as being 6 miles long, 5 miles wide and 4 miles high, that originally had a crew of hundreds. Three million years later it's crewed by a slacker who was in stasis for bringing a cat on board, a being that evolved from said cat, the ship's somewhat senile computer, a hologram of one of the dead crew, and, from series 3 onward, a robot butler they picked up on a passing asteroid.
- As you may already have guessed, in this series the trope is Played for Laughs. For instance, the express elevators have movie screens in them so you'll have something to watch while you wait a few hours to reach your floor.
- It was originally stated to have had a pre-disaster crew complement of 169. However this was deemed ridicously low early on, and later mentions of the original crew retconned the figure to 1,169. Since series 8, the re-creation of the large rouge one brought back to life its entire crew complement of (now) 11,169 members...this is an attempt by the writers to justify the size of the ship by giving it a bigger crew.
- The Tulip in Starhunter is a retired luxury liner repurposed as a bounty hunting vessel. Since her crew currently consists of three people and an AI, she has so much unused space that the crew hasn't even bothered to explore the entire ship. Which led to a rather weird turn of events in one episode when a Human Popsicle in an unexplored corridor thawed out.
- Invoked in Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Remember Me" as a sign that something weird is happening onboard the Enterprise.
- The Lexx is so large that small aircraft are used for internal transport, and has a crew of three, plus a disembodied robot head, and the ship itself.
- Justified: the Lexx is a giant biomechanical insect which was designed to serve as the centerpiece of a small fleet. It was to be staffed by an untold number of people, and was so large because that was how large the bug had to be to power its planet-killing beam. The reason it seems unnecessarily big is the reliance on strange biotech instead of just building a ship; the reason it seems woefully understaffed because it was stolen in the opening miniseries movie by 2 people and a robot head (with an undead assassin in tow). That said, it actually only needs one crew member (the captain) to run, as there are multiple partially-robotic maintenance units taking care of things, but that doesn't mean it runs well.
- Justified with the Andromeda Ascendant, as it had originally a crew of around four thousand, and now has... six. In fact, many of the hardships of the ridiculously small crew (for most of the series) are the fact that, even with a shipwide AI and a supply of humanoid android laborers, there are simply not enough real people around to do everything. Several times the crew either gets whipped in combat, or has to resort to trickery, because they don't have the crew to man fighters, conduct repairs, or the 800-strong contingent of elite shock troops the ship used to have.
- In the Stargate Verse, the Asgard are all over this trope. Their standard ships are just under a mile long, and each ship has a total crew of one. The Asgard are a dying race, so they don't have a surplus of manpower, but you'd think they would take that into account when they build their warships. Not to mention the ceilings are human-height, even though the Asgard themselves are about three feet tall, making it the equivalent of a human spacecraft with a cathedral roof.
- Fridge Brilliance: The Belsinker-class warships are a really old design, the interior designed for the pre-Clone Degeneration Asgards. And the size helps them intimidate the goa'uld. Their O'Neill-class was designed after their contact with the humans, the interior is designed with the human allies in mind.
- While all Eldar vessels in Warhammer 40,000 have smaller crews than the Imperial ones (which have comparable crew densities to modern warships), the Wraithships fit this trope. They are several kilometer long capital ships that might only have a single living soul on board. note
- For that matter, virtually all Imperial ships are unnecessarily large. Even smaller escort vessels are between half to two kilometers long, and they only go up from there. Their crew is similarly large, and scales with their size. Most of these ships are ancient, but built on chassis so tough that a ship can be damaged to the point of being adrift and repaired to full functionality later, so many have had countless generations of wear and repair and additions over time. This results in some ships having entire decks being sealed off since they are not worth the effort to reclaim. The huge crew is often the result of ships with advanced automated systems getting damaged and removed since the ability to build more of them has become Lost Technology, and the extra crew is needed to do the job the now-useless automation was meant for.
- Referenced in Mass Effect 2: the Normandy SR-2 is considerably bigger than the first Normandy, and comes equipped with a spacious Captain's cabin. Several characters comment on the fact that, while the Alliance builds its ships for efficiency, Cerberus (being a criminal organisation with no oversight) can build to impress. Also, the SR-2 seemingly has fewer visible crew members than the SR-1.
- Exaggerated when the crew of the SR-2 is abducted by the Collectors. Once unshackled, their tactical AI, EDI, is fully capable of running the entire ship by herself. (She can even fly it, although she isn't as good as Joker.) On the other hand, Shepard does put the internal space to good use when collecting their Ragtag Bunch of Misfits — the second game's squad simply would not have fit in SR-1's crew spaces, even before their various interpersonal issues came into play.
- The Polaris Raven in EV Nova is tied with the Auroran carrier for the title of largest starship in the setting at 1,200 meters in length. For all that size, it has a mere 30 crew, making one wonder exactly what it's doing with all that space when the Federation carrier is only 500 meters long but has a crew of 200, and the aforementioned Auroran version carries a crew of 250.
- There are two reasons given for this: one, the Raven's length is exaggerated by the two "prongs" of its Capacitor Pulse Laser system, which account for a good half of its length; and two, it has black hole generators for engines, a technology so advanced the Raven is the only ship ever to use it.
- In X3: Terran Conflict the Dummied Out ATF Valhalla super-destroyer is easily the biggest ship in the game. In fact it's so big that A) it has serious issues with the firing arcs for its turrets, and B) it's wider than the jumpgates, meaning that if the player cheats one in and has it pass a gate while he's in the same sector, it bangs into the gate rim and loses its shields. The expansion Albion Prelude fixed the second behavior but not the first, and that, coupled with the fact that it's not much better of a Mighty Glacier than conventional destroyers, means that it's largely Awesome but Impractical.
- It is, however, the game's only Battlestar, as it is just as heavily armed as all other heavy-destroyers, and can carry 50 fighters plus up 10 corvettes, bombers or freighters (which solves the potential problem of running out of cargo space for fighter supplies).
- Specifically averted in Sword of the Stars, where the smallest controllable ships are the destroyers, which are roughly 30 meters in length (for reference, a Space Shuttle is 56 meters long) with each subsequent class being 3 times the size. The only things smaller than destroyers are assault shuttles, boarding pods, and Attack Drones. The sequel plays it straight with the Leviathans, which are triple the size of dreadnoughts and are a huge investment of resources.
- It still takes a turn (which some people have calculates is equivalent to a year based on Hiver sublight movement) to build a destroyer by a single planet devoting considerable percentage of its industry to it.
- The "Rebellion" Expansion Pack to Sins of a Solar Empire adds the Titan class, which are truly enormous ships that dwarf the previously-huge Flagships. Notably, you can only build one, and it takes a long time to complete.
- One of the main selling points of Star Ruler is the ability to build a ship of any size, from the size of a soda can to larger than the galaxy. Beyond size ~2500 (about the size of a planet), any larger simply becomes total overkill unless you wish to destroy the quasar in the center of the galaxy (which requires a size >10000 ship) to annihilate anything within several lightyears in a wave of expanding radiation. Once you start getting past size ~5000 ships, you can accidentally destroy entire worlds when you only meant to take out the enemy cities on it
- Arsenal Gear is so large as to be stated in-game to be so big as, without proper support, "nothing more than a giant, floating coffin." Outer Haven, to a lesser extent, since it's smaller and is more built for purpose. Both are unnecessarily large submersible warships.
- Entirely possible in Kerbal Space Program. You can land on the Mun in a simple one-person lander launched on a modest rocket. Or you can build a ship that's several times the height of the building it's supposedly constructed in. The game performance suffers with large ships though, making them often Awesome but Impractical.
- Pretty much every ship Tagon's Toughs of Schlock Mercenary has owned since their first one was meant to house a lot more than the under 100 troops the company comprises. Including an Ob'enn Superfortress, a Drop Ship from said superfortress that was rated for 25,000 men (needed some sleeping space though), and then a cruiser meant for 6,000. They rely pretty heavily on the ships' AIs to run things. Tagon actually considers this roominess as a downside most of the time, recounting a story from his military service about the grunts having too much room to spread out.
- Most recently, the Toughs who were active in Sol system during Book 15 - a group unlikely to reach triple digits, put it that way - are operating a UNS battleplate, a triangular ship with 8km sides. However, they're only manning it on behalf of their current clients and because their much more reasonably sized ship, the Neosynchronity, was destroyed during the climax of the previous book.
- In Nip and Tuck's Show Within a Show "Rebel Cry" the Federation's new flagship the Cygnus was referred to as a "grotesque example of government waste". But the rebels found it an ideal long-range colony ship when they hijacked it.
- In Commander Kitty, Zenith Central is a moon-sized research facility with a crew of one, not counting the handful of android assistants on board. It turns out that Zenith Central also stores around 45% of the galaxy's population, though most are stored as transporter patterns in a hard drive small enough to pick up and carry.
- The Absolution from Toonami is incredibly huge, but it only has one operator (TOM) and a handful of assistants (The Cyldes). Considering its only used as a broadcast center, who knows what they need all that space for.
- The episode "Battle Of The Planets", from Invader Zim, has the entire planet of Mars being converted into a giant spaceship, piloted by Zim. Later on, Mercury is also revealed to be a spaceship, which Dib promptly uses to fight Zim, leading to a hilarious montage of Zim and Dib bumping the planets into each other and actually dogfighting. With planets.
- Duck Dodgers: Dodgers' ship isn't particularly huge, but for its crew complement of two individuals there certainly is a lot of empty space...and a huge workload (for the Cadet).
- The "So Beautiful and So Dangerous" sequence of the movie Heavy Metal includes a spaceship which dwarfs the Pentagon. It then docks with a space station so big, that the spaceship rattles around in one of its smaller landing bays like a pea in a cereal box.
- There is a rule of thumb in sailing: the larger the yacht, the less it is sailed. The reason is that sailing is manpower intensive activity, and the practical hull length limit for single-handed sailing is 35 ft and that of crew of two being 45 ft. The larger yachts require larger crews, and while a married couple can easily head for the sea for the weekend, it is far more difficult to gather the crew at the same time on the place
- The Hindenburg ended up as one of these. As a luxury liner and the largest aircraft ever to fly, she had a huge amount of space to begin with- the A deck alone was larger than an entire 747 in floor space, all dedicated to just 100 passengers and crew. She was designed to use non-flammable helium as the lifting gas, but the company had to settle for flammable hydrogen due to an embargo. Coincidentally, this change also meant she had roughly 10% more lift per volume- a sum which, considering the ship's astronomical weight, was nothing to sneeze at. The extra lift was used for the addition of first-class cabins. Its sister the Graf Zeppelin II could carry nearly twice as many passengers.
- The Great Eastern was launched in 1858 and was bigger than any ship built for the next half century. She was a commercial failure in part because there simply wasn't any need for such a huge ship in the 1860s — the main reason for her size was the dearth of coaling stops along the route to Australia, her proposed destination, and she was designed to be able to carry all the coal for her horrendously inefficient engines herself. Finally the development of transoceanic cables gave the giant ship a purpose, as she could carry an ocean-spanning spool of cable in one trip.
- The Boeing 747 became this for a number of airlines, particularly Braniff International, which was operating flights with the huge planes nearly empty, and was probably a contributor to the airline's eventual collapse.
- Knock Nevis (AKA ''Seavise Giant'', AKA ''Happy Giant'', AKA ''Jahre Viking''), the largest ship ever crossing the Earth's oceans, was a supertanker so enormous that she couldn't even sail through the English Channel due to her 26.4 m draught, and because of her single bottom she was latter banned from entering European ports, making her Awesome but Impractical. She was later converted into a floating oil tank and was moored near the coast in Saudi Arabia, until finally being scrapped in 2010.
- Limousines, particularly of the super-stretch variety, tend to invoke this trope intentionally.
- The proposed project to recycle Russia's typhoon-class subs as cargo ships, due to financial difficulties.
- The Japanese battleship Yamato (yes, that one) and her twin sister Musashi. The true embodiment of Awesome but Impractical, their nine 18.1-inch main battery guns were the largest ever put to sea, but Japan's poor radar-based targeting systems, meant they would much less effective than Allied battleships. Their anti-aircraft guns were too small and again, the lacked of radar-directed, fire control. Furthermore, the ships were so huge that even at slower speeds used enormous quantities of fuel. It was the fuel consumption that ultimately kept them from earlier battles. Yamato and Musashi both ended up fighting in the Battle of the Philippine Sea and the Battle of Leyte Gulf, where Musashi was sunk in a air attack by 19 torpedo strikes and 17 bombs. Yamato did get to engage US warships in combat, albeit small escort carriers and their escorting ships, succeeding in crippling destroyer USS Johnston and escort carriers USS Gambier Bay and USS White Plains and sinking destroyer USS Hoel. Yamato was sunk later in a Suicide Attack, also by aircraft, taking 13 torpedoes and 10 bombs before sinking. The US forces sank her quicker, due to hitting her mostly on one side.
- Actually, Yamato never fired on the ships of Taffy 3. Early in the battle, her Captain turned her away from the torpedoes fired by Taffy 3's destroyers and destroyer escorts, effectively taking her out of the action. Destroyers DD-557 USS Johnston, DD-533 USS Hoel and destroyer escort DE-413 USS Samuel B. Roberts were all sunk by gunfire from other Japanese ships, as was escort carrier CVE-73 USS Gambier Bay. CVE-63 USS St. Lo was sunk later in the day by a kamikaze attack. CVE-66 USS White Plains survived World War II and was scrapped in 1958.