Page Type: trope
So you've got a cool new alien race and you want to come up with some awesome ships for them to use. You can't go with hard edges and greyish colors, since humans have monopolized that look with their Standard Human Spaceships. So what do you do? In most cases, the solution is to do the opposite: where human ships are grey and industrial-looking, alien ships will be colorful and smooth, making them easily identifiable to the audience as not having originated from Earth.
Some common traits of this aesthetic are:
- The ship has a lot of curves and soft edges, often resulting in a vaguely organic appearance (though they are NOT Living Ships).
- The hull itself will be fairly smooth overall, with few greebles if any.
- Much of the ship's exterior will be painted in a single color, usually not a shade of grey (because humans tend to have a monopoly on that one).
- The ship is on a similar Technology Level to those of their contemporaries. If it's packed full of super-advanced technologies that other races can't understand, it's probably an Eldritch Starship instead.
- In Battle Beyond the Stars, Sador commands a dark, boxy warship with a hammer-like bow. He's opposed chiefly by The Hero Shad from Akir, piloting the Sapient Ship Nell that resembles a flying uterus, and the other mercenaries' ships includes Nestor's (a glowing Flying Saucer), Space Cowboy's (which roughly resembles an overgrown Lunar Landing Module), Gelt's (which resembles a flying manta ray), and Cayman's (which has a design that makes it look like a flying mouth).
- Star Wars:
- While most of the ships used by the human-dominated Rebel Alliance are scrappy, blocky, cobbled-together and utilitarian vessels reflecting the Rebellion's lack of resources to devote to aesthetics over functionality — and most of the human-centric Empire's warships are wedge-shaped slabs of grey metal with the subtlety and grace of a brick to the teeth — the star cruisers built by the Rebellion's Mon Calamari allies are sleek, smooth-edged vessels with gracefully tapering outlines, globular outer details instead of the human ships' hard-edged greebling and similarly elegant internal designs. They are still, however, solid grey or grey-blue in color.
- Ships in the "civilized age" of the prequels are closer to this trope than the examples above; the Republic's ships had lots of curvy segments with red and white coloration, while Trade Federation ships are round and organic-looking with grey and blue coloration. The Naboo N-1 fighters in The Phantom Menace are probably the best example of the trope in Star Wars, being solid yellow except for a silver bow and completely smooth throughout. By Revenge of the Sith, most of these ships have been phased out in favor of hard-edged designs more closely resembling the Used Future of the original trilogy.
- The Nerdlucks from Space Jam come to Earth in a spacecraft that's very sculpted and colorful, modeled roughly after a 1949 Buick Roadmaster in front and a 1959 Cadillac Eldorado in back, replete with rolled edges and chrome galore. Since it came from Moron Mountain, this craft is the space-going equivalent of an Edsel.
- Babylon 5: Zig-zagged with the alien designs, depending on the race. While some such as the Centauri and the Narn follow a design closer to the humans' own Standard Human Spaceship fleets, others such as the Minbari (and ships made of adapted Minbari tech, such as the White Stars) resemble flying pieces of modern art made of purple-white coral and the ships of the Shadows and the Vorlons dip straight into Eldritch Starship territory.
- Star Trek:
- The Romulan Star Empire uses a raptor as its emblem, and its starships ("warbirds") resemble giant avians as well. They're usually green in color, but teal and brown are also seen on occasion.
- Klingon and Cardassian ships skirt the edge of this trope: they're hard-edged for the most part, but their hulls are painted green-grey and yellow-beige in color, respectively.
- The Tholians, whose hat is precision in all things, have blue or red ships shaped like tetrahedrons.
- Dominion ships in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine are blue-grey and vaguely resemble beetles, with glowing purple highlights on their bellies and nacelles.
- Vulcan ships in Star Trek: Enterprise are red in color and ditch conventional warp nacelles in favor of a giant ring that does the same job.
- Warhammer 40,000: The two primary alien factions in the game, the Tau and the Eldar, both favor these sorts of ship designs. Tau vessels tend towards smoothly curved, flattened and elegant designs reminiscent of sea life, while the Eldar favor fusiform, streamlined hulls and prominently displayed triangular solar sails. Both stand in sharp contrast to the ruthlessly utilitarian masses of metal the Imperium uses, the cobbled-together junkers flown by the orks and the Eldritch Starships used by Chaos. Necron ships are much less angular than the Imperium's as well, although not that colorful.
- While Command & Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars doesn't take place in space, it nonetheless features the extraterrestrial Scrin as a playable faction, summoned to planet Earth by a premature Liquid Tiberium Explosion orchestrated by Kane. All their 'aircraft', including their MCV-equivalent 'Drone Ship', are thus spaceships, and they are all more sleek and curved than even the most aerodynamic designs of the two human factions of the Global Defense Initiative and Brotherhood of NOD can provide. The closest humanity gets within the series is the Brotherhood's Banshee aircraft from the previous game, and that was explicitly engineered using alien schematics.
- Halo: Covenant ships◊ fit this trope to a T, being purple in color and having a smoother surface than their UNSC counterparts.
- Mass Effect usually averts this; standard starship design philosophy favors long and angular ships armed with mass drivers that run the entire length of the vessel. But there are two exceptions:
- The asari are considered the most advanced race in the galaxy, and their ships◊ are clearly built to impress. On top of being huge and blue-grey in color, their hulls are smooth and covered in blue lights, making them instantly-identifiable among a fleet of Citadel ships.
- The kett from Mass Effect: Andromeda use beige-colored ships that appear to be composed of numerous large spheres and organic-looking green protrusions. Probably justified by the fact that they evolved in the Andromeda galaxy and therefore weren't influenced by the Reapers' mass relay technology like the Milky Way races.
- Starcraft: Protoss ships are much sleeker and more rounded than the big boxy designs used by Terrans (who apply the same philosophy to their guns), their main fighter even falling squarely into the Space Plane category. The Zerg are also more bulbous than the other two, but they fall under another trope entirely.
- Stellaris: The Avian, Molluscoid, and Fungoid shipsets play this completely straight, as do the regal-looking Fallen Empire ships. The Humanoid, Reptilian, Plantoid, and Arthropod ships are less drastic examples, as they have colorful highlights but otherwise fall closer to Standard Human Spaceships in shape.
- X: Boron ships resemble sea creatures, with flowing organic shapes and a mottled green exterior. Paranid ships are streamlined and aerodynamic-looking, again with flowing curvature. This contrasts with all four human factions, which tend to build blocky: Argon and OTAS ships resemble Diesel Punk aircraft or large blocky slabs, while Terran and Aldrin ships are bright white slabs and saucers. Averted with the Teladi and Split, though, whose ships are if anything even blockier and more irregular than the Argons'.
- In Steven Universe, Gem ships are bright, smooth, colorful, and full of incredibly advanced technology. For instance, Yellow and Blue Diamond both have ships shaped like giant hands that are the same colors are their owners.
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