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Big Dumb Object

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Behold The Monolith!

"My God... it's full of stars!"

Something huge has been spotted on the edge of uncharted space. It's miles long with a maw that could swallow a dozen starships. It could hold a crew of tens of thousands or a crew of thousands ten miles tall. It's on a direct course for our solar system and we need you to investigate it.

Such is the Big Dumb Object. It's really, really big and really, really powerful. It could be a weapon or a habitat. The Big Dumb Object is always technologically more incredible than anything the discoverers have ever seen before, but, if it's dangerous, it probably has a silly weakness like logic, antimatter, or a well placed torpedo in the right air shaft. Sometimes it's disguised as a natural phenomenon. See also That's No Moon.

Its makers may be alive in a far-off, remote region. They may have ascended to a higher plane of existence, and this object is nothing more than leftover dust in comparison to their new existence. They may have gone extinct, and this object may be the last artifact of their society. The object may be some device or even an organ used by Starfish Aliens to devour other worlds; it's possible that the object is an alien. In any case, if they were so powerful and now they're all dead, what chance do we have?

Since Big Dumb Objects are so old and filled with advanced technology they are often the target of a race by several parties to unlock their secrets. In this case many Big Dumb Objects double as a MacGuffin, often a MacGuffin Location.

The term "Big Dumb Object" for these things was coined by author Roz Kaveney. It is a Non-Indicative Name used due to tradition—it is necessary for this object to be very advanced rather than dumb.

May overlap with Mile-Long Ship or even Planet Spaceship. Compare That's No Moon, Standard Sci-Fi Fleet, and Dyson Sphere. The makers usually qualify as Neglectful Precursors. Not to be confused with Big Dumb Body, which refers to a character who becomes a target for mind control because of their brute strength.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • The Bell in Magic User's Club, a giant alien something, invades Earth and floats off the coast of Japan with its own weather pattern.
  • Knights of Sidonia:
    • The Gauna "Mass-Union Cluster" three lightyears from the Sidonia. And to them, of course, the Sidonia itself.
    • The mysterious artifact Sidonia encountered years ago that gave them the means to fight the Gauna: a huge, hollow pyramid structure made of an exotic metal, just floating in deep space apropos of nothing. No information is given on what it was, who made it, or why it was there.
  • Outlaw Star's Galactic Leyline is a massive library left behind by an ancient and now dead race. Several different factions spend the entire series theorizing about it and looking for it, and the eponymous Cool Starship and accompanying Spaceship Girl were created for the purpose of finding it.
  • The giant black sphere (an egg that contains a monster), cube (a magical prison), and spike (attached to a sea monster) in Fairy Tail: Ice Trail.
  • Rebuild of Evangelion: The Golgotha Object, first glimpsed in the third film and fully shown in the fourth. It resembles a cross made of crosses linked at their bases, uniformly black covered in white glyphs. It's never quite revealed what it is or what its purpose is, but it's seemingly the only permanent fixture in the "Anti-Universe".

    Comic Books 
  • Marvel Comics:
    • Galactus of Fantastic Four fame is arguably a Big Dumb Object, or possibly a Big Smart Object. He just sort of wades through the galaxy eating things and creating general terror. His ship, Taa II, fits the bill being the size of our solar system and so complex that Reed Richards is unable to even guess at most of its functions.
    • Jack Kirby's 2001 series officially introduced the black monoliths from the movie into the Marvel Universe by letting them interact with Aaron Stack the Machine Man. The canonicity of this was dubious for years, but confirmed in the last issue of Machine Man's 1990's series, X-51, where it turns out that the Monolith aliens are, in fact, Marvel's Celestials.
    • The first New Mutants annual featured an abandoned spacecraft the size of the inner solar system. It was also programmed to self-destruct. In a This Looks Like a Job for Aquaman moment, the only hope of averting the self-destruction was Cypher, a kid whose mutant power consisted entirely of the ability to learn new languages quickly.
  • The Homeworld of the Evrons in Paperinik New Adventures: they turn it into a spaceship. They also have "smaller" spaceship to supervise the conquest of other planets.
  • Storm (Don Lawrence) has a trilogy involving "the intruder", a huge cluster of Von-Neumann probes that failed to separate from each other after reproducing.
  • The Talisman from Revolutionaries. A big, mysterious alien obelisk with vaguely-defined mystical powers.

    Fan Works 

    Films — Animation 
  • Treasure Planet: Though originally just the destination of the characters, it turns out that the titular location really is an object, not a planet, and its core is the treasure trove.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Star Wars: The Galactic Empire maintains The Aesthetics of Technology sleek and shiny, while on the outside it retains the basic shape the ships had at the time for the Republic, only making it more streamlined and monolithic, composed of basic geometric shapes; triangles, hexagons, rectangles and spheres.
  • The Star Trek movies have a few Big Dumb Objects for the Enterprise crew to contend with:
    • Star Trek: The Motion Picture has a cloud-covered super ship called V'Ger (or Vejur). It was built around an old Earth probe named Voyager (no, not that Voyager, but rather a fictional 6th iteration in the real-life Voyager program) and sent back to meet its creator. Lampshaded by Kirk and McCoy.
      Kirk: Bones, there's a thing out there.
      McCoy: Why is any object we don't understand always called a "thing"?
    • Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home has a "Whale Probe" that disables every ship in its path by communicating with them and begins vaporizing Earth's oceans in search of an extinct species.
  • 2001: A Space Odyssey pits a single human up against a giant monolith in orbit around Jupiter. The Monolith serves as an alien teleportation device. Well, you can argue that it also serves as a gigantic computer, an accelerator of human evolution and more or less (at least in the end sequence of the movie) as a total Mind Screw machine. The monolith is best described as a "cosmic Swiss Army knife." It's capable of doing essentially anything required of it. And there are more than just one... and each is capable of self-replication... 2010 ends with a whole fleet of them turning Jupiter into a second sun to kickstart evolution on Europa. They do turn out to be potentially dangerous but their security is basically nonexistent, meaning when one puts the Earth in danger it's quickly hacked, filled with viruses and effectively neutralized.
  • The Event Horizon from the film of the same name is a large ship stranded in a planet's upper atmosphere containing horrors and secrets. On the other hand, it was human-made. But it's also been to places man was not meant to be, and was changed by it.
  • The Sci-Fi Channel original film Epoch starts with a huge spinning alien object popping up from underground in Bhutan. As an added bonus, the Torus (as it's labelled) heals everyone in the vicinity, including mortal wounds. It turns out that the Torus is responsible for the evolution of life on Earth. By "responsible", it means that if it perceives that the experiments has reached a dead end, it will "wipe the slate clean" and start over. It had already done that once. The sequel, Epoch Evolution introduces two more Toruses (Tori?). One is identical to the first one, and one that looks the same but kills anyone in the vicinity.
  • Forbidden Planet. The vast self-maintaining Underground City of the Krell qualifies. Standing in one of the huge ventilation shafts, Dr. Morbius says that the platform they're standing on runs for twenty miles in either direction, and there's 7800 levels above them. And there's 400 other shafts like it.

  • Terry Pratchett: The Jokers in The Dark Side of the Sun and the predecessor species from Strata had a hobby of building Big Dumb Objects. The Jokers built probably the biggest, dumbest object of all, which was a chain-link star system made with (as far as humans and other remaining species can tell) a complete disregard for the laws of physics.
  • Larry Niven:
    • Ringworld is probably science fiction's most famous Big Dumb Object. It is a habitable Ring World Planet the size of Earth's orbit circling a sunlike star. The original builders were decimated and forced to live in primitive tribes scattered across the ring's inner surface.
    • Rainbow Mars features a tree large enough to conceivably be used as a space elevator. This turns out to be a very, very bad thing to have on your planet though, as it literally requires the entire planet's water supply to survive.
    • Niven's article "Bigger than Worlds" considers some possible Really Freaking Big artificial structures. One of them is a disc of superdense matter with a small hole in the middle. The disc's density means that gravity pulls things toward its surface on either side. In the middle of the hole is a star, which oscillates back and forth through the hole to provide "day" (although from the disc's surface it's more like "twilight") and "night". (This concept became the Godwheel in The Ultraverse, of which Niven was one of the writers.) Another is a hollow tube, many light years in length, which weaves between star systems like spaghetti and is flexible enoughnote  that its interior can rotate to provide Centrifugal Gravity. It's effectively a Ringworld that's indefinitely stretched along its horizontal axis.
  • Rendezvous with Rama: The eponymous Rama is an alien ship fifty kilometres long which comes zipping into the Sol System. It is seemingly abandoned but eventually slingshots around the Sun and disappears back into space, basically using the sun as a refueling stop. In the sequels it's revealed that the Rama spacecraft is part of a vast intergalactic network tasked with collecting samples of intelligent life, which was made (essentially) by God.
  • Xeelee Sequence:
    • "Bolder's Ring" (or just "the Ring") is a structure built by the Xeelee. It's constructed out of the remains of galaxies. It's a cosmic string—essentially a black hole that has been stretched into a one-dimensional loop millions of light years in length. In the series it is explained to be the cause of the Real Life "Great Attractor". At its center, the sheer torque on spacetime from the gravity of the Ring tears a hole in the fabric of the universe, creating a portal to alternate universes.
    • The "Sugar Lump" is a perfect cube the size (and mass) of a small moon. A character walking across one notes that as you walk toward one of the corners, the flat "ground" under you increasingly seems to tilt until it seems like you're walking up a 45 degree incline. Once you reach the edge the gravity makes it feel like you're on top of a mountain sloping down on all sides.
    • In Xeelee Redemption, Nicola calls the Wheel—a series of concetric ringworlds where you could fit the entire solar system between the levels—"the biggest, dumbest object anybody ever built". (It isn't, but they don't know about the Ring yet.) The team physicist points out "Big, but not so dumb".
  • Count to the Eschaton features an object called the "Eschaton Directional Engine" built by multiple ancient Super Clusters Intelligence. It's Wright's version of Real Life "Great Attractor". The purpose of Eschaton Directional Engine is to determine the fate of the universe at the Heat Death. It will either bend spacetime positively, into a sphere, or negatively, into a potato-chip shape.
  • The Culture has lots of these.
    • Look to Windward: Airspheres are planet-sized bubble-like artificial habitats with no internal gravity and filled with air (and bizarre airborne lifeforms) built by a long-vanished race for reasons unknown. They double as Worlds in the Sky.
    • Matter: Much of the story is set on a Shellworld, which is an artificial planet consisting of multiple hollow concentric spheres. Each internal sphere consists of a different discrete planetary habitat. We are told that there are thousands of Shellworlds and that they were built by a long-vanished race for possibly nefarious purposes. They also have a nasty habit of killing their inhabitants, though nobody has worked out what triggers them to do this. We also see a Nestworld, a vast Topopolis-like structure surrounding a star built by a contemporary neighbouring race of the Culture; we are told just this one Nestworld is home to 40 trillion beings, which is more than the entire Culture combined.
  • Hot Head: A cluster of Von Neumann machines mining the Jupiter system go cancerous. The result is the Massive: it's growing exponentially and heading for the richer pickings of Earth. This is a classic Dumb Object: a gigantic mouth on the move. Ironically it's also anything but dumb: behind the mouth is a lump of computing substrate the size of a small moon. It's got so much virtual reality real-estate that the real world it is gobbling up is simply being overlooked.
  • The Dragon Rises by Adrienne Martine-Barnes mentions Precursors who'd become known as "Gamesters" because among their artifacts was a scattering, on many worlds, of huge cubes, purpose and makeup unknown, which resembled dice right down to having dots marked on the sides. The Gamesters also built warships some of which, despite being millennia old, were still capable of wiping out substantial battle fleets all by their lonesome.
  • Xanadu-kuutio ("The Xanadu Cube"): The eponymous cube is a strange hollow cubical device that is Bigger on the Inside—so big, in fact, that its internal volume is apparently several times that of the rest of the universe.
  • Alastair Reynolds: Most artefacts and monuments left behind by already extinct alien civilizations.
    • Troika has the Matryoshka—an enormous spherical object that suddenly popped up into the solar system in the near future, made up of several concentric spherical layers. The outermost layer is made of up of debris being held together by field lines—which will slice anything apart upon contact. Fundamental physical laws begin to break down or diverge as one gets closer to the center of the sphere—such as Planck's Constant becoming larger. And the entire structure is pulsing to the rhythm of the Soviet anthem, as it is a structure sent back in time by humanity to warn itself of imminent danger.
    • Revelation Space: A lost birdlike civilisation left behind a near-indestructible scale model of a blasphemous city.
    • Merlins Gun: The eponymous device is actually a way to buy time for life in the radius of a galactic-scale natural catastrophe.
  • Sphere: The sphere, a perfect sphere found beneath the ocean that appears to have been retrieved from space and inside a crashed ship. Most of the book is spent figuring out what is does and why bad things keep happening around it. Something about it causes the human mind to realize we're all reality warpers if we want to be, but people's poor control over their id and subconscious make this a very bad realization. One character suspects that it may have been some sort of test for humanity, but it's suggested in return that it probably has nothing to do with us at all and probably serves some relatively mundane purpose we don't understand for extremely advanced aliens who never considered anyone finding it or how it might affect them.
  • Great Ship has the... Great Ship. It is a ship the size of Jupiter, made of the highest grade hyperfiber. Discovered streaking towards the Milky Way at a third the speed of light by a human built probe, its origin is unknown (the area behind it is the emptiest part of the visible universe), it carries an entire world inside it, and it has tens of millions of caverns and fusion reactors all there to make the interior livable for almost any species. It may be as old as the universe, and one character suggested that it created the universe, or functions as a control center for it—the visible universe simply being another layer to the ship's hull.
  • Sister Alice has Sister Alice's Dyson cylinder in the Brother Perfect chapter, an enormous hollow habitat totally enclosing a star. The cylinder is made mostly out of dark matter with a sprinkling of baryonic matter, causing to appear simply as an oddly shaped Oort cloud around the star unless one knows what to look for. The life on the habitat is similar to plankton, made mostly of dark matter, and lives at a balmy temperature slightly above the freezing point of liquid helium.
  • Jack McDevitt's The Academy Novels (aka the Priscilla Hutchins series) have a couple of examples:
    • The Omega Clouds, known as the "Engines of God" in the alien legends that first put humanity on to them, are planet-sized organized clouds of unknown nature which sweep through the galaxy in waves approximately every 8,000 years, destroying obvious signs of civilization. They seem to be primarily attracted to right angles. One now-extinct race went around building fake cities with lots of right angles on various uninhabited moons to try and distract them. The next wave is expected to reach Earth in about a thousand years.
    • The giant alien ship known as the chindi in the novel Chindi, which is discovered refueling itself in orbit around a gas giant in a remote system.
  • In Michael Flynn's The January Dancer, January and his crew find an underground hoard of such objects—all unmovable except the Dancer.
  • The Sobornost gubernyas in The Quantum Thief trilogy are diamonoid pseudospheres 10,000 kilometres across that act as the central brains of the Sobornost mind upload collective. Each has the face of their dominant Founder intricately carved on their surface. They are made of matter mined from the Sun and when they need to leave their orbits they use collapsing miniature black holes for propulsion, shooting streams of Hawking radiation across the entire Solar System and cause massive gravitational disturbances in all the planets to which they come close.
  • The Doctor Who Expanded Universe contains occasional mentions of an object called The Needle, a former TARDIS which got caught in a black hole and became an object a light-year across with one end sticking out of said black hole, on which people eventually took up living. There's also the Artefact, a giant traveling ecosystem of parasitic lifeforms from the novel Parasite.
  • In The Death Gate Cycle, Pryan is a fantasy version of a Dyson sphere. There's also the Kicksey-Winsey, a bizarre Ancient Artifact which mystifies the Gegs who inhabit (and worship) it. The entire setting is also arguably a single interplanar example, with the odd difference that the Precursor race, the Sartans, nearly wiped themselves out in a magical accident and so never got around to turning the thing on.
  • Given the series is in vol. 2800+, there are numerous Big Dumb Things to be found in Perry Rhodan. Examples are Old Man, The Maelstrom, PAN-THAU-RA, the Frost Ruby, the Land In The Deep, the Big Void...
  • The Ship in Bryan Reynolds' novella Ker-Plop isn't all that big, being only roughly the size of a planet. However, it's constructed as a series of concentric shells, and therefore contains roughly as much habitable area ... and consequently as many inhabitants... as the rest of the human-inhabited galaxy combined.
  • ''Heritage Universe: All the Builder Artifacts. They are catalogued in the Lang Universal Artifact Catalog and include 'Cocoon', a series of 432 hollow 2–4 kilometer thick filaments that encase the entire planet of Savalle, 'Elephant' which is a large gaseous mass 4,000 kilometers in length and no wider than 900 kilometers at any point that can be used as a general computation device, 'Paradox' which is a matryoshka world, and 'Lens' which is a 0.23 light-year wide, zero thickness focusing region of space with a focal length of 427 light years. It is not made of any form of known matter and is not a singularity, but it can be used to view planets in galaxies up to 100 million parsecs distant.
  • "Missile Gap", by Charles Stross, takes place on an artificial disc with a radius two and half times greater than the distance between the Earth and the Sun, large enough to contain scale copies of every habitable world in the Milky Way, which the Earth and its inhabitants were mysteriously transported to. The immensity of this new world, the time needed to explore even a tiny fraction of it, the impossibility of escape from it, and the looming possibility of encountering other stranded civilizations or, worse, the aliens who built it, are major themes in the story. (It can be read online here.)
  • The Expanse has the Adro Diamond (affectionately nicknamed the BFE), a giant green diamond slightly larger than Jupiter. It's known to be artificial because it's too perfect, doesn't collapse under its own mass, and turns out to hold all the knowledge of the extinct Ringbuilders inside it. It was part of a contingency plan so that when the Protomolecule hijacked some other lifeforms to make a new Hive Mind the Ringbuilders could "upload" themselves to it to bring themselves back.
  • Laszlo Hadron and the Wargod's Tomb: The character Mat has the physical form of a sphere the size of a star (although he's far from dumb).

    Live-Action TV 
  • Various Star Trek series featured Big Dumb Objects:
    • The Original Series:
      • The Fesarius from "The Corbomite Maneuver" is a sphere ship a mile in diameter that contains a crew of only one and is used primarily as a bluff.
      • The Doomsday Machine can chop planets into rubble with an anti-proton beam and use the chunks as fuel. Its hull material is derived from neutron stars somehow.
      • The generational ship Yonada from "For the World Is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky" is disguised as a giant asteroid. Its crew doesn't know they are on a ship and would not be told until they disembark on their destination planet.
      • The Kalandans built artificial planets as outposts. The crew discover one in "That Which Survives".
    • The Next Generation:
      • In "Relics", Scotty is found by the Enterprise D marooned on the surface of an abandoned Dyson Sphere that is still programmed to draw ships into its docking bay with a powerful tractor beam. The Dyson Sphere is abandoned because conditions inside have become very dangerous. The Expanded Universe strongly implied that the builders of the Dyson Sphere went on to become the Borg.
      • "Tin Man" is a sentient biological ship that's been stranded for thousands of years without a crew. Both the Federation and Romulans want access to it, but only a powerful telepath can operate it. It is attempting suicide by supernova due to loneliness, having not had a crew in forever. A rather terrifying sort of existence, if you think about it.
      • The original Borg Cube is a semi-mindless killing machine looking for technology to assimilate with itself.
    • Voyager: The Caretaker's Array is a giant space station whose technology is all but forgotten by those that made it. It can power a planet and transport ships from tens of thousands of light-years away. There are two of them, by the way.
    • Enterprise: Delphic Expanse spheres were moon-sized devices that could create spatial anomalies when networked together.
  • Blake's 7 featured not one, not two, but three artificial planets: Crandor, home of the Thaarn; Ultraworld; and Terminal (first called an "artificial planet," later called an "artificially modified planet").
    • Does surrounding the entire Milky Way Galaxy with space mines to keep out invading aliens count?

    Tabletop Games 
  • Warhammer 40,000 has Space Hulks, large mashups of starships that will occasionally drop out of the Warp in orbit around a planet at random. While the Space Hulks themselves (usually) aren't a threat, they can serve as hideaways for Orks, Daemons, Chaos Marines or Genestealers, and on one occasion the tattered remnants of a renegade Space Marine chapter.
    • Necron Monoliths are a lesser version of this trope, having some cooling vents, weapon emplacements, and identifying glyphs. They're still BIG (almost a foot tall in real life, and over ten meters tall in-universe) and far more advanced than anything humans have access to.
    • Then there's the Blackstone Fortresses to consider; no-one seems to know who made them. When first encountered the Imperium turned them into space stations, but then Chaos acquired a strange artecfact which allowed them to control them, which shut down the Imperial stations as the Chaos fleet approached, and now allow the fortresses to be used as battle stations with the four massive cannon each possessed.
  • The title ship in Alternity's Star*Drive setting adventure "The Last Warhulk".
  • The setting of Numenera takes place After the End (actually after eight ends) of advanced civilization and is thus littered with big mysterious objects left behind by the previous civilizations.
  • Eclipse Phase has a couple of these, most notably Olaf (an apparently deserted Dyson sphere). There's also an apparently abandoned, presumably Titan-built matryoshka brain in the outer Sol system.
  • The high concept sci-fi game Heroines of the Last Age is chock-full of them, both ancient and recent in origin. They're common enough to serve as the setting's nearest equivalent to Dungeon Crawling.
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • The Immortals Set featured rules for player characters becoming so powerful they enter a society of, essentially, gods, who while away eternities working on "projects" on a planetary or larger scale. There were also examples in the set's bestiary such as baaka, draeden, and megaliths.
    • The (unrelated and unofficial) Immortals' Handbook: Epic Bestiary had plenty of them, with the most extreme example probably being the nehaschimic dragons, which start two thousand feet long, expand to fill the observer's perception of the universe, and are utterly incomprehensible.
    • The sourcebook Elder Evils offered beings that filled the niche of the Great Old Ones. Many were Big Dumb Objects, particularly Atropus, an undead disembodied head the size of the moon that slowly wandered the universe destroying worlds.
  • Space Station Zero collects ships that stray well out of the galaxy when their FTL goes wrong (and they aren't just torn to atoms). Its origins are a mystery to all known life-forms on board, as is its purpose; and the narrative campaign included has your crew crawling the station looking for answers, and maybe the way home.

  • The Red Star in BIONICLE, until it was revealed to be a Space Station whose crew have almost completely lost contact with the Matoran Universe 100,000 years ago due to a malfunction. Dead inhabitants of the MU were supposed to be recreated and sent back from there, but since only the first step of that process worked, the crew (mysterious beings called Kestora) began doing horrible experiments to the reborn beings to find out why they remained stuck there.
    • The Great Spirit Robot itself also qualifies. A massive robot so large and voluminous that its inhabitants lived on entire continents hidden inside the machine, unaware of the true nature of their world. Appropriately the Matoran worshiped the being controlling the robot, Mata-Nui; as their deity even if they didn't understand his true nature. Cue the panic when Mata-Nui is ejected from controlling the robot and Big Bad Makuta Teridax assumes control instead.

    Video Games 
  • The HUB in the X-Universe. A hollow sphere 60 kilometers in diameter, orbiting a red giant and extracting power directly from the sun's core, capable of modifying the Portal Network that links all the solar systems together. The builders are (likely) the same race who built said Portal Network. In a rare example of a human built Big Dumb Object, there's the Terran's Torus Aeternal, which is a massive battle station that wraps along Earth's equator, which houses millions of people, produces part of the Terran's massive fleet (which is in orbit behind it), and has weapons large enough to blast anything and everything that gets close enough in a single shot.
  • Destiny: The Traveler is a mysterious city-sized sphere that kickstarted humanity's Golden Age and created the Ghosts and Guardians as a last line of defense against the Darkness.
    • Oryx's Dreadnaught is a several-thousand-kilometer-long rectangular prism currently stuck orbiting Saturn. He carved it out of a single segment of a worm-shaped Eldritch Abomination eons before the Earth was formed, and used it to house his personal Pocket Dimension, which he everted into realspace in a ploy to make himself harder to kill.
    • The Darkness itself appears to be a fleet of jet-black tetrahedrons, some of which rival the Traveler in size. Oddly, they have internal spaces, stairs, and corridors suitable for human-sized inhabitants, but are totally uninhabited and sentient unto themselves.
  • In The Elder Scrolls series lore, "Towers" are metaphysical structures built atop the "joint-points" of reality as it was constructed by the et'Ada (original spirits) who took part in creation. The Towers are said to "define reality in [their] Aurbic vicinity". One such tower, the Adamantine Tower (or "Ada-Mantia") on Balferia Island in Iliac Bay, was constructed by the surviving et'Ada (now Aedra) to hold "Convention," during which they decided to punish Lorkhan for his treachery during creation. It is also said to be where linear time first began, before spreading throughout the rest of creation. During the earliest days following creation, the ancient Aldmer (ancestors of all of the modern races of Mer/Elves) discovered a means to construct their own Towers at these "joint-points." By building their own Tower, each group could create their own narrative, distinct but equal to those around it. Some of these Towers include the Crystal Tower, White-Gold Tower, Numidium, Red Mountain, and the Throat of the World. (Depending on how you count, there are only a few left in the world by the 4th Era, with the Thalmor actively attempting to destroy the last of them as part of their plan to undo creation.)
  • Halo:
    • The Halo rings are superweapons capable of destroying all sentient life in the galaxy; they were built to stop the Flood from spreading.
    • Halo 3 introduces "The Ark", an even bigger even dumber object that can build Halo rings inside of itself very rapidly by a completely automated process and then teleport them directly wherever they're supposed to go. It's also built outside of the Milky Way so that people could hide out there while the Halos kill all life in the galaxy.
    • The novels also introduce Shield Worlds, Dyson Spheres designed to protect anyone inside from the Flood and the Halos. For some reason, the Forerunners were not able to make use of them. The Shield World in Halo: Ghosts of Onyx is even hidden in slipspace, which also creates a Time Dilation effect for those inside it.
      • The final arc of Halo Wars is fought within a Shield World.
      • Almost the entirety of Halo 4 is fought within Requiem, the first Shield World ever built.
  • Infocom's Interactive Fiction game Starcross is about the player discovering and exploring one of these.
  • Mass Effect
    • The Mass Relays, giant space constructs believed to be left behind by the Precursors. While they are the definite means of interstellar travel for the humans and other races, they are also part of the Abusive Precursors' omnicidal plans. The Citadel station applies as well.
    • The Prothean Beacons, which can range in size from slightly taller than a human to nearly a hundred feet.
    • The Crucible at the end of Mass Effect 3 arguably counts. Especially since it's barely explained how it works.
    • Mass Effect: Andromeda has the Remnant tech, the leftoever terraforming technology of an alien species who had a sudden need to run away from a Negative Space Wedgie. No-one, not even the species who've been sitting on them for four hundred years, is exactly sure how they work, and even the protagonist's best efforts are "poke it and hope it doesn't kill us".
  • The eponymous object in Rama is an alien ship fifty kilometers long which comes zipping into the Sol System.
  • The Star Trek: The Next Generation game A Final Unity has the eponymous Unity Device, which has all the earmarks of one of these. It's actually a Dyson Sphere created by the Chodak to hold their vast galactic empire together by manipulating the very fabric of reality; it has the power not only to destroy an entire fleet, but to eliminate or create an entire species. A group of Chodak rebels, worried about the damage being done to reality, gained control of it and disappeared along with the device itself. When the rebels bonded with it, it ceased to be a Big Dumb Object and became a living one. At the game's best ending, Picard chooses not to wield its massive power to destroy the Borg, and it vanishes again to continue its peaceful mission of repairing rifts in the space-time continuum.
  • The Zohar Modifier drives the entire plot of both Xenogears and Xenosaga. It can be best described as one of those dice that God plays with the universe, capable of changing probabilities to the desire of its user and as a side effect can also provide an unlimited source of energy. It is also the prison of the Wave Existence (or U-DO, depending on the game), and its design was heavily based on the monolith from 2001: A Space Odyssey mixed with Judeo-Christian and Gnostic elements like the rest of the games. In fact, it's the basis of Monolith Soft's name after they split from Squaresoft. In the Xenoblade Chronicles series, Xenoblade Chronicles 2 reveals that the Zohar (known as the Conduit in that game) is also behind both its own plot and the plot of Xenoblade Chronicles 1, linking all three series together by this one artifact.
  • Shores of Hazeron has the Ringworlds, massive ringworlds left behind by unknown objects. These are fully colonizable and can have multiple cities.
  • Strike Suit Zero has the Relic, a massive alien superweapon found by the Colonials before the start of the game. Its full power can obliterate entire planets, cracking them open and leaving the rest in a perpetual inferno... and it's headed for Earth. To make things more complicated, the ship had a mind of its own, that's trying to reunite with its body.
  • Homeworld visits the Karos Graveyard several times, a huge area where old derelict ships are stored. In nearly every background shot, there are positively titanic plates and hull sections off in the distance. What they could have belonged to, and who could have possibly built such structures, is never explored.
  • Q.U.B.E.'s Amnesiac Hero protagonist is supposedly on a strange cube-shaped one of these, trying to save Earth from being hit by it... but someone then then claims that this story is a lie and that they're all actually in an Elaborate Underground Base. Uncertainty as to which story is true persists until the end of the game. The second game gives more information about the structure. Not only is it not dumb, it's actually an alien Hive Mind being with super-advanced intelligence that is trying to understand (and even befriend) humans.
  • The Leviathans Story Pack DLC in Stellaris adds a number of these as potential encounters in star systems, ranging from automated warships still patrolling long after the civilizations that built them have crumbled, to a massive sphere orbiting a black hole that's actually a computer using the gravity fluctuations for complex calculations. The Enigmatic Fortress is a particularly curious case: so far as both the Curators and your own archaeologists can tell, it was constructed as some sort of bizarre, esoteric prank to confound future generations of explorers.

    Web Comics 

    Web Original 
  • Orion's Arm has a number of variations, ranging from the more mundane Dyson Sphere and Banks Orbital, up to unique examples like the Leviathan which is 10 lightyears across, has a mass of over a billion suns, and is on a collision course with the Triangulum Galaxy. The Mutual Progress Association, one of the superpowers of the Orion Arm, likes building Big Dumb Objects; one of their more impressive projects is Kepleria, a series of Ring World Planet-esque structures shaped like frameworks of each of the Platonic solids as opposed to rings. The five solids are nested inside each other — with a star in the center. The MPA disassembled an entire solar system to build it.
  • Some of the bigger and more mysterious objects recorded and contained by the SCP Foundation fit in this category.

    Western Animation 
  • Aqua Teen Hunger Force: The episode "Banana Planet" revolves on the trio traveling to an actual big ol' yellow banana in space after receiving an SOS signal.
  • Transformers:
  • The Star Trek: The Animated Series episode "Beyond the Farthest Start" featured an alien podship a mile long and 300 million years old whose pods were exploded from the inside. The ship's insectoid crew left behind only a message warning of an invasive being that forced them to self-destruct rather than bringing it to their homeworld, which the mains take down fairly easily. The same ship (or a very similar one) is a level in the Star Trek: 25th Anniversary point-and-click adventure game. Instead of the invader it is occupied only by the trader called Mudd, who has legally established salvage rights. The cause of its destruction is not discovered, but there are plenty of pirates in the area.
  • Superman: The Animated Series featured a tremendously old alien colossus that landed on Earth and was fed by heat. Its original purpose was as a construction tool.
  • The Megas XLR episode "TV Dinner" featured a planet-sized mobile world that is attracted to electromagnetic signals.
  • Voltron: Legendary Defender: The Galra empire specializes in these, but Zarkon's base is bigger than most, being composed of multiple rings orbiting the same center on different planes.

    Real Life 
  • There's a hexagon on Saturn's north pole roughly twice as wide across as the planet Earth. To comfort the paranoid, the shape has been shown to be a natural phenomenon that is rather common in fluid dynamics.
  • There is a 600 light-years wide frozen ribbon spinning around the center of our galaxy.
  • On Earth, we have many examples stemming from the architectural achievements of ancient civilizations. These objects and the mysteries that have surrounded them might have been the original inspiration for all the other examples of this trope.
  • This thingy in the seabed of Baltic Sea. Looks man-made...
  • The Great Attractor. A supermassive... thing affecting the movement of some galaxies (including the Milky Way). We can see the effect its gravity has on various galaxies, but we can't see the thing itself, so speculation abounds as to what it could be. Currently, the consensus is that it's probably a pair of large galaxy clusters that are difficult to see due to our view being blocked by the rest of the Milky Way, but for that very reason that region of space is difficult to study in detail. More details here. See also the Dark flow, something claimed by some scientists to exist far beyond the edge of the observable Universe and said to be able to pull entire clusters of galaxies.
  • Something is blocking the light of KIC 8462852 in a bizarre irregular pattern, very unlike the regular, periodic pattern seen with transiting planets, and so much light, it has to be at least half the diameter of the star itself. The researchers think it's most likely a swarm of cometsnote  but... maybe not.
  • 'Oumuamua, a highly elongated battleship-sized asteroid (we think) that came from interstellar space and is passing through the Solar System - the first of its kind discovered - and it's moving so fast with respect to the Sun that a mission for reaching it with an (unmanned) probe would give a good run for its money to our current propulsion technology. 'Oumuamua is travelling so fast that when we spotted it, it had already completed the majority of its journey through the Solar System and was in the process of departing for deep space. Comparisons with Rendezvous with Rama ensued.