Follow TV Tropes


Eldritch Starship

Go To
One gets the impression the movie's production designers would have rather made a Warhammer 40,000 movie instead...

"...something astonishing and strange had happened to Volyova’s ship. The ship had remade itself into a festering gothic caricature of what a starship ought to look like... He had heard of ships being infected with the Melding Plague... but he had never heard of a ship becoming so thoroughly perverted as this one while still, so far as he could tell, being able to continue functioning as a ship."
— Clavain describing the Nostalgia For Infinity, Redemption Ark

The polar opposite of Standard Human Spaceship, and alien beyond even the smooth lines and flashy colors of the Standard Alien Spaceship, these are spacecraft, time machines, and/or interdimensional vehicles whose weirdness goes beyond Living Ship into the mobile version of an Eldritch Location.

The milder form of this usually begins with Bigger on the Inside or dimensionally transcendent in some way other than bog-standard Faster-Than-Light Travel, and it only grows weirder from that point on. May involve Body Horror or invoke elements of Cosmic Horror Story.

They might be constructed out of unconventional materials (or powered by them), be connected to higher levels of reality, or have an exceptionally Unusual User Interface or an otherworldly interior whose Alien Geometries look like they were designed by M.C. Escher. There's no guarantee that the crew or the ship itself won't change its interiors (or even its exterior) from time to time. Frequently they are a Genius Loci or function as a Setting as a Character. These are, in essence, "Starfish" Starships — ships based on Starfish Alien technology — whose conceptual design and performance seem to defy the very laws of physics.

Note that this trope is mostly a matter of function rather than form: even a ship that superficially looks like a Flying Cutlery Spaceship, a Lovecraftian mass of antennae and spikes, can still be physically possible, and thus not necessarily this trope.

For other Lovecraftian perversions of metallurgy, see Mechanical Abomination, with which this trope is known to overlap. May also overlap with Cool Starship.


    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • In Geneshaft, alien constructs called 'rings' appear in space. From a distance they look like giant golden wedding rings, but this is just a protective barrier of quantum coherent matter. Underneath they are made of a gray material that is like smooth stone, but it 'seems organic' to the astronauts landing on it.
  • The Anti-Spirals of Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann utilize very odd kinds of ships, the Mugann. In-universe, their strangeness was due largely to the fact that they didn't have faces, but they were designed quite oddly regardless, being animated in 3D rather than the 2D style of the rest of the show and appearing like artificial Energy Beings. They also explode into explosive geometric prisms when destroyed. Later, the Anti-Spirals graduate to using spacecraft shaped like hands (Hastagry) and feet (Pada) with human faces on their palms and ankles, with capital ships (Ashtanga) that are one gigantic mass of faces and arms.
  • In Guyver, it turns out that the relics beneath the various Chronos headquarters are bizarre starships operable by Guyver-unit-wearing pilots. Oh, and their escape pods give the attached Guyver a Super Mode.
  • The more advanced starships of the Tenchi Muyo! series are all about this. Juraian ships have cores that are Bigger on the Inside, and the ships themselves are powered by a tree. Ryo-Ohki, the most feared pirate ship in the galaxy, is an artificial Living Ship made of crystal with a spiky and sleek body. She is also a Voluntary Shapeshifter, capable of turning into a cute cat/rabbit animal or a cute furry young girl. The Galaxy Police and other powers have more conventionally built, if sleek, spaceships.
  • Lost Universe: The "Lost Ships" are a bunch of ships made of super-advanced Lost Technology — the Big Bad Black Star fits here because of just how alien it is (with a Take Over The Universe or Kill Everybody Trying A.I. mentality) and the hero's ship "Swordbreaker" is one of these, retrieved by Kane Blueriver's grandma from places unknown and implied to have been modified greatly in order to remove the more "eldritch" parts of it (and even then, a couple of episodes' conflict occurs because of said parts acting up, doing stuff like turning all of the corridors within the ship into an ever-changing maze).
  • The Turn X from ∀ Gundam has a very unconventional design unlike any other mobile suits in the franchise. It looks humanoid, but with exposed and fragmented look, high heeled and hoof-like foot, and assymmetrical back. And lore wise, the Precursors found Turn X and reverse-engineered it, resulting in Turn A. Even the X is thought to express its alien origin.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • It's no longer flying, but the derelict in Alien would qualify. The ship is estimated by the crew of Nostromo to be thousands of years old, and looms over the already nightmarish landscape like a vast flying buttress. In sharp contrast to the Standard Human Spaceship Nostromo, with her utilitarian, industrial lines and almost dieselpunk details, the derelict seems almost organic, with its sweeping, assymetrical shape and apparently biomechanical design, seemingly including bones and other organic structures, to the point that Kane proposes that it may have been grown, not made. That, and the fact that it has been abandoned for those thousands of years, with the mangled, decayed body of the already unnerving 'Space Jockey' who flew it and seems to be a part of it. Most importantly, its deadly cargo of biological weapons in the form of leathery eggs which kicks off the rest of the film. The dark, misty ambience of LV-426 contributes to the effect. Being designed by H. R. Giger, one of the premier surrealist artists of the 20th and 21st centuries, also pushes it up to "Eldritch" levels. It also appears in Prometheus.
  • Blood Machines:
    • The Mima was implied to have been a living creature that was just a part of the crew as the voyagers that flew it. After it "dies", the crew enact a funerary ritual in its honor that causes an eclipse-like event that results in the birth of a god-like being.
    • Vascan and Lago's ship shoots down Mima in the beginning is designed not unlike a monster. The deck's visors look like the eyes of an insect, the "arms" of the ship have feelers like a deep-sea creature and when its deck opens, it looks like the maw of a predator, including a set of viper-like fangs.
    • At the end of the movie, the Derelict Graveyard all merge into a Giant Woman that Corey controls by dancing with a harem of entities.
  • The bubble-like spacecraft in The Fountain, which contained an island-like structure centered around the roots of a tree.
  • The spherical, iPod-like starships used by Garry Shandling's character (and the other humanoid Ditto Aliens) in What Planet Are You From? The simple, striking design of these small ships perfectly reflected the stagnant, conformist culture on the main character's home planet.
  • V'Ger from Star Trek: The Motion Picture: an enormous, self-aware machine that literally absorbs ships, space stations, entire planets and even spatial phenomena and stores them inside its complex memory, and is surrounded by an energy cloud that is 2 Astronomical Units across (or 82 AUs, depending on which version of the movie you watch).
  • The "Whale Probe" in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home: an unmanned, gigantic textured cylinder with a smaller spherical section held in an energy beam. Comes to 23rd Century Earth and sends a communications signal that threatens to destroy Earth's environment until it's finally able to talk to two temporally-displaced humpback whales. It's implied that an intelligent cetacean species built the Probe.
  • Star Trek (2009): The Narada, especially when its backstory is explained. It was originally a mining ship, but looks like it came out of a Lovecraftian story, with the firepower to match. Expanded Universe has explained it was once a more humble spacecraft, but it took on its new horrifying appearance and capabilities after its crew stole reverse-engineered Borg technology. It's also a Genius Loci because like the reverse-engineered Borg tech and its kinship with V'Ger, it's referenced only in supplementary materials.
  • A mild example is the ship from Flight of the Navigator. The landing gear consists of a section of the ship that morphs to form a door and steps, as seen here. Also, the front of the ship similarly morphs to form a more aerodynamic shape for supersonic flight.
  • The eponymous Event Horizon, in its mutated, Eldritch Abomination form, definitely counts. A vessel warped into a tortured consciousness by exposure to a hellish extradimensional realm. The interior design of the ship has odd cybergothic architecture, including an extremely strange "central core" and the "meat grinder corridor" leading to it, as well as numerous spikes and other elements (some of which, like the "meat grinder corridor," are handwaved as being essential to the ship's operation) that combine to make a rather terrifying aesthetic. It's definitely one of the weirdest human-designed ships on this list, even before being possessed by extradimensional evil. It's also one of the closest examples on this list to an ISO Standard Human Spaceship, despite being simultaneously this trope.
  • Dune (1984): The Guild Heighliner, as in the book, is a gigantic mostly hollow FTL-capable starship piloted by spice-mutated psychic Guild Navigators that carries other ships within it for a fee.
    • Here is the Guild Heighliner from the film. Here is one from the mini-series. The latter has two counter-rotating hulls joined in the middle.
  • The 2021's Dune adaptation has Heighliners look like long hollow tubes, which may or may not act as portals (the director deliberately revealed as little as possible about how they function).
  • 10 Cloverfield Lane: The biomechanical alien patrol craft at the end, which acts more like a beast with armor plating than a ship.
  • Lifeforce: The space vampires's spaceship utterly dwarfs the space shuttle that finds it in Halley's Comet's trail, seems to take its design cues from a vampire squid crossed with a freakish plant, and it's implied to be the Greater-Scope Villain who sent the space vampires to Earth to start a Zombie Apocalypse so it could feed on humans' life force.

  • The Rorschach in Blindsight is described as resembling "an object that embodies the very notion of torture, so wrenched and disfigured... that you can't help but feel the entire structure is in pain." Not only that, but every part of it is absolutely deadly. It gives off powerful magnetic fields that induce horrifying hallucinations and delusions in the people who explore it, as well as high levels of lethal radiation which would kill any human within seconds without a Faraday suit and within hours with one. It's inhabited by starfish-like creatures called "scramblers", which are many times more intelligent than humans, but lack any sort of self-awareness, acting like white blood cells in a human body. Indeed, it's implied that the Rorschach itself may be alive on some level.
  • Dune: Guild Heighliners are gigantic, mostly hollow FTL-capable starship piloted by spice-mutated psychic Guild Navigators that carry other ships within them for a fee.
  • In Halo, the Precursor Star Roads described in The Forerunner Saga are just plain bizarre. They are gigantic, multi-kilometer thick "cables" of neural physics that are practically invincible and form superstructures around planets or even entire star systems. When weaponized, they are capable of superluminal movement in a way even the Forerunners did not understand, can mess up Slipspace and make it unnavigable, and are capable of ripping apart fleets or even entire planets through gravity manipulation. They are also theorized to be capable of physically moving stars if used in the right manner. All the Star Roads in the Milky Way were annihilated by the Halo Array 100,000 years ago, however, they are known to exist in other galaxies as well...
  • The Heechee ships in Frederik Pohl's Heechee Saga have FTL technology that baffles human understanding and so can only be sent on pre-programmed journeys. Most of them don't return, and some that do return come back with their crews killed in various horrifying ways. They're also designed for nonhumanoids to operate, meaning that while humans can tolerate living inside one for several weeks or months, it's not very comfortable, and supplies and free space are at a premium. Human explorers found a cache of them on Venus, which led to another cache being discovered on an asteroid called "Gateway".
  • Practically a Running Gag in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.
    • Any ship with the Infinite Improbability Drive becomes one of these while it's active.
    • A later book in the series features a ship which runs on "Bistromathics" (i.e. takes advantage of the strange way numbers work on a restaurant bill) and is thus set up like a restaurant, complete with robotic patrons and waiters.
  • Outsider starships in Larry Niven's Known Space setting are spindly webs of material the size of small cities (in fact, they are the only place where Outsiders are known to live, spending most of their time in interstellar space following Starseeds for reasons they refuse to tell anyone). The ships use an advanced reactionless drive which can accelerate/decelerate to a large fraction of the speed of light in moments without injuring the physically fragile crew (the Outsiders have hyperdrive, and sold the technology to humans, but they refrain from using it themselves). The ships have no interior besides a few small rooms that can be pressurized for alien guests; the Outsiders live in the vacuum of space and ''eat'' by placing one end of their body in sunlight and another in shadow to generate thermoelectricity. To survive the long trips between stars, Outsider ships have an artificial sun, with the many spires of the ship casting shadows so that the crew can feed.
  • Perelandra by C. S. Lewis begins with Ransom entering a silver coffin powered by a god which envelops him and flies to Venus. The experience is so strange that it affects his views on sex, food, and the Resurrection of the Dead just based on the indescribable colors he sees. He's almost relieved when the coffin melts off him and he's dropped into something as concrete as the land-oceans of Perelandra.
  • Rama and her sister-ships, from Rendezvous with Rama and its sequels, were giant hollow cylinders with alien technology and entire transplanted ecologies of Starfish Aliens inside, with several sentient species as well as biomechanical servitor robots manufactured within a city-like structure on an island within an artificial, ring-shaped (due to the artificial gravity inside the enormous cylindrical structure) sea.
  • The Nostalgia For Infinity in the Revelation Space series invokes this — at the start of the series it's a fairly standard, if heavily run down, ISO Standard Human Spaceship. After the events of Revelation Space, when the Captain begins to meld with the ship, it turns into a nightmarish monstrosity reminiscent of a H. R. Giger painting, with large masses of crystals and goop seeping out of the hull and entire decks flooded with the stuff that makes up the Captain. One character, upon first seeing it, notes how disturbing it is.
    • The transformation continues to progress in the third and fourth books and by the final one the Captain has enough control over the interior to destroy a group of hostile boarders in increasingly gruesome ways.
  • Star Trek Expanded Universe:
    • In the William Shatner "Shatnerverse" Star Trek novel "The Return," Captain Picard and Dr. Crusher explore a Borg hypercube (tesseract) space station that is dimensionally transcendent.
    • Also from the Star Trek Expanded Universe, there are the Cosmozoa, fully living, sometimes sentient space-dwelling creatures such as the crystalline entity, and various other Space Whale-like lifeforms, like the species of "Mother" and "Junior" from "Galaxy's Child", and at least two species of Living Ship, both capable (though to different degrees) of shapeshifting in order to rearrange their internal structure (and in the case of the Farpoint Entity, its external structure as well) to resemble spacecraft rather than their natural Jellyfish-like form. The other Living Ship example, Gomtuu, was basically a Space Whale-like sentient entity that could alter its interior for different forms of life. Though structurally they are largely conventional, some, perhaps most notably the "star jellies", have remarkable shapeshifting abilities, changing external shape and "growing" corridors, control rooms, and other facilities as the need arises.
    • An early TNG novel, The Children of Hamlin, featured living alien ships that were comprised entirely liquid-filled bubbles.
    • The Borg Supercube in Star Trek Before Dishonor could be considered this. The novel makes the claim that all Borg ships are sentient, but only exercise it when left for prolonged times without a crew. This cube ends up acting under its own will and invents a new form of assimilation, absorption. It just collides with whatever is in its way and disintegrates it at a molecular level integrating its mass into its own; it even does this to Pluto. It even attempts to take on Alien Geometries after being infected with the End Game virus developed in Star Trek: The Next Generation.
  • Thanks to reality warping technologies, all spaceships are a little weird in the Uplift series. Even those species that don't care for the technology need to employ a means of defense. Those who enjoy the technology get really weird. Everything is, at the core, the same design. However, everybody has their own variants, depending on their design philosophy and most especially their liking for probability technology. Some species' ships are pretty much ISO Standard. Others, like the maniac Tandu, have ships that are "Lobster Spaceship"-style bizarre spidery things, and probably have their hull alloys or even their configuration altered all the time due to the all the ill-shielded probability tech in their drives and weapons.
  • In Death or Glory, the Departed ship looks like a massive crystalline spearhead, that dwarfs any of the largest ships of The Alliance races. When the aliens finally get inside, they discover that the ship is controlled using an Unusual User Interface that looks like spacesuits built inside cabinets. When opened, the "spacesuits" look like they're filled with organic guts rather than circuits. They also learn that the "biosuits" are calibrated for the human nervous system, so they abduct the entire population of the Volga mining colony in order to use them to fly the ship. The ship is incredibly powerful and can casually blow up planets (sometimes by accident) and wipe out entire armadas. Later on, the main character, whom the ship selects as its captain, learns that the ship is more like a force of nature, a white blood cell of sorts created by the universe itself in order to stop conflicts that get far too destructive to the very fabric of space. But near the end of the book he learns the awful truth that the ship is a Lotus-Eater Machine, a parasite that feeds on its crew while giving them the blissful experience of joining with the ship and each other via the biosuits. The crew quickly become slaves to the ship and, after a few years, will simply be absorbed. The ship will go dormant until someone else falls into the same trap millennia later.
  • In Star Carrier books, it's the human fighters that fit this trope the most. Thanks to their nanotech hull, they're able to change shape at will. For example, their standard acceleration form looks like a sperm cell, while the combat form is more swept forward. They also have a winged atmospheric form. Their weapons come out of the hull when needed, and the hull simply parts instead of having gunports. Subsequent books, set 20 years later, have more advanced designs that no longer have weapons simply hidden inside the hull. This version of the hull forms weapons on demand and reabsorbs them afterwards. In addition, if the fighter's AI senses an incoming attack that may hit the pilot, it can shift the entire cockpit inside the hull to allow the shot to pass harmlessly. The fighters are controlled by a sophisticated AI that links with the nanotech inside the pilot. The AI does pretty much all the flying and fighting, with the pilot providing overall control, since no human is fast enough to keep up with the speeds involved in space combat. The Unusual User Interface involves the pilot seeing an "in-head" display of the battlescape and gives commands to the AI by "thought-clicking" targets and virtual buttons. No physical movement required.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Babylon 5:
    • All the ships of the First Ones are millions of years ahead of the ships of the younger races. They are so advanced that the younger races can't even begin to understand the technology that went into building them.
    • Shadow ships are alive, and require a sentient being to be integrated as their central processor. They constantly scream into the minds of their foes, and "phase" into hyperspace instead of opening a portal like other ships. The effect looks much like a cloaking device, but is in fact their method of FTL travel.
    • Vorlon ships are sentient and at least partly organic, and have a symbiotic relationship with their operators. When Kosh dies, his ship is stated to be "mourning", and flies itself into the Epsilon system's sun as its final act.
    • The ships of the First Ones were mostly just very advanced looking spacecraft, and some or most of them may have been Living Ships, but one was stated in supplementary materials to have been the core of an Earth-like planet, mined out and re-engineered for interplanetary travel, with smaller, unattached segments orbiting in a ring-like field of artificial gravity.
    • In the B5 movie Thirdspace, the smaller fighters of the Thirdspace aliens look like Living Ships similar to the ones used by the Vorlons, but their larger cruisers, glimpsed just before the interdimensional portal to Thirdspace was closed, were made up of separate parts that floated in what looked like artificial gravity fields around a big glowing ball of light.
    • The Liandra from Legend of the Rangers was apparently haunted by its former crew and had a dubious history of inexplicably disappearing. Its weapons interface was a holographic chamber where the gunner floated in zero gravity surrounded by a view of the battle, with the gunner taking on the perspective of the ship and using martial arts kicks and punches to symbolically fire the ship's energy weapons. This might be the weirdest targeting system ever seen on a fictional spaceship.
  • Battlestar Galactica:
    • Cylon Basestars in the reimagined series are not straight examples of this trope (a Basestar is a Living Ship), but are perceived as such by humanoid Cylons who project over their environment as they operate the ships' Unusual User Interface, the datastream, or when walking through its corridors: because of their "Projection" ability, every Cylon sees the ship as what he or she wants it to look like, or wherever he or she feels most comfortable or at peace. For example, Threes project a cathedral-like environment (according to sources regarding a deleted scene), whereas Sixes project a forest. Doral's project a night club, of all things. One can only imagine how bizarre Cavil's or Simon's would be, or how creepily Leoben envisions his environment.
      • The Hybrid's abstract perspective and surreal utterances push the Cylon Basestars that they control purely into this territory. These organic computers, which literally "are" the Basestar, ramble about quantum physics, philosophy and religion between verbalizing systems checks and protocols. They even experience something like an orgasm when they perform an FTL jump, and their verbalizations have been shown to be prophetic. Some Cylons, especially the Leobens (the Twos), believe the Hybrids have seen the face of God. Sam Anders, suffering from brain damage and connected by life support to the crippled Galactica also served as a hybrid-like being.
    • The Ship of Lights from the original series was another dimensionally transcendent craft shaped like a giant flying city that moved faster than anything the colonials flew, and sent out "ball-of-glowing-light" probes similar to other examples on this list, which had a habit of emitting a loud noise (presumably over radio channels) which humans couldn't tolerate, and also a habit of making Viper pilots disappear on patrol. Inside it resembled a techno-heaven, full of ascended beings, draped entirely in white.
  • Carl Sagan's minimalistic, surreal "Ship of the Imagination" from Cosmos: A Personal Voyage, with its Crystal Spires and Togas and Everything Is An I Pod In The Future aesthetic. On the inside it's white and looks normal, just minimalistic, with a chair and a viewscreen and a control panel. On the outside it's a three-dimensional lens flare. Neil deGrasse Tyson's ship from the reboot is a more plausible Shiny Looking Spaceship.
  • Doctor Who:
    • The TARDIS, being a shapeshifting living sentient timeship (internally, anyway, the pilot can change "desktop skins", but the external appearance of the Doctor's TARDIS is permanently stuck in its current form as the blue callbox); it is also dimensionally transcendent, being Bigger on the Inside than on the outside. Other TARDIS ships and TARDIS-like vehicles from the various series and movies count as well.
    • The Void Ship from "Army of Ghosts" is a multidimensional vessel that resembles a solid gold sphere, but weighs nothing, radiates no heat, etc., until it folds open to reveal its occupants, and also causes a feeling of disquiet in anyone who sees it. It is said to be a ship designed to explore the void between the universes; it is also thought by the Doctor to be impossible. It is never stated who built the Void Ship (the current occupants were Time War-era Daleks), but it even gives the TARDIS a run for its money in the "conceptually weird" category.
  • Earth: Final Conflict had some weird ones...
    • The Kimera research vessel encountered in the 2nd season was a highly unusual spacecraft, designed as a labyrinthine laboratory to test the higher reasoning abilities of other species. Its obstacle-course like interior design included pits of fluid that contained predatory creatures as well as other seemingly nonsensical additions to a spaceship.
    • Taelon vessels were generally of the slightly more conventional Living Ship category, but the Taelon mothership was certainly unusual, extremely powerful, and mysterious, with a mind of its own and occasionally its own, separate motivations. It was capable of assimilating humans into its systems by turning them into augmented protectors, something it did without the knowledge of its Taelon owners.
      • The shuttle even has an Unusual User Interface based on gestures and holography. To fire the shuttle's weapons, one makes a motion rather like drawing and releasing an arrow from a bow. In the pilot, it was stated that Lili Marquette designed the interface for human pilots.
  • Farscape loves this trope, in addition to its famous use of a Living Ship, Moya, as the main setting:
    • An extradimensional alien research vessel in the episode "My Three Crichtons" resembled an energy globe that expanded into a solid (well, solid-appearing) glowing green sphere with hints of alien movement inside. It "studied" Crichton by extracting his DNA and growing primitive and hyper-evolved versions of him.
    • The Lukythian Protector ship from "Promises" is actually a fairly small ship with a very unusual interior design, but it projects a massive holographic image to fool other ships.
    • The Pathfinders' ship appeared to dematerialize and rematerialize while traveling through wormholes- hence the reason why it ended up accidentally fusing with Moya. Quite apart from the fact that the exterior of the ship resembled a giant corkscrew made up of white capsules, what we saw of its interior was very stark and minimalistic, with the walls and engines made up of seemingly random clusters of diagonal-facing pillars. It had unusual capabilities related to its Phaztillon generator, such as turning members of its crew invisible (though this exposed them to fatal radiation), and the entire ship was also a giant computer for recording wormhole data.
    • Biomechanoid Leviathan technology in general, given that Living Ships like Moya can not only contract diseases, but even become pregnant. Moya even had Steampunk elements such as Pilot's controls and the air cycling room. She also had two means of FTL: Hetch Drive, which is basically warp speed, plus Starburst, a defense mechanism where the ship entered an interdimensional rift and rode an energy wave to a random destination. The series featured other members of her species of Living Ships, one of which had gone senile, another was diseased, and yet another had gone insane.
    • A Prowler piloted by Aeryn once appeared to fade away, ghost-like, as she said goodbye to John. It's not clear whether this was actually the (never before seen) effect of a Prowler's FTL drive, or an abstract effect meant to emphasize John's sense of loss and isolation (he was highly emotional, the scene was portrayed as a flashback, plus he was really high). If it was the former, it was quite unlike the usual depictions of Faster-Than-Light Travel in science fiction. Notably, ships in Farscape usually just accelerate to FTL, unless they're traveling through a wormhole, or the ship is a Leviathan using Starburst.
  • Fringe: In "White Tulip", Alister Peck built a time machine which included a Faraday Cage as part of its design... into his own flesh.
  • The Zarn's spaceship from Land of the Lost (1974) resembled an invisible shape like a dirigible (or a tennis shoe) covered in a grid of white lights. Inside is similar, with long, dark featureless void-like halls and rooms. Its pilot, the Zarn, also looks similar, being invisible except for a grid of bright lights shaped like a humanoid. Whether this means the ship is made out of the same basic material as its pilot or whether the similarity is only superficial is not clear.
  • Mission Genesis, the Sci-Fi original series based on the novel series Deepwater Black, featured two examples:
    • The first is the alien ship that attacks Deepwater in the pilot episode and shows up in various other episodes. It is a radially symmetrical, green and black object that looks more like an abstract metal sculpture than a spaceship. Its occupants, if there are any, never show up, and their motivations are just as mysterious.
    • The other one is the small asymmetrical, oddly-shaped slab that grows to massive proportions and attempts to experiment on the ship and crew in "The Siege". Whatever it was that boarded and assaulted the Deepwater looked like a vaguely humanoid figure cloaked in a radiant energy field, and was impervious to laser weapons fire. It's not clear if this was what the aliens actually looked like, if this was some specialized probe or containment suit used in alien environments. This "probe" was notable for apparently changing its shape as it rotated.
  • The Seeker's weird semi-invisible ship from Odyssey 5. Seen from the outside, it looks like a shimmering semi-invisible distortion. The interior is a White Void Room. Its pilot is a synthetic life form from a post-singularity civilization.
  • An episode of Red Dwarf called Holo Ship, had just that: an entire ship and crew made of holograms.
  • Space: Above and Beyond: The Chig bomber was alive, and probably sentient. The Wildcards had to learn how to pilot it using an organic control interface, working together in the same way that a team of alien pilots would to fly the small warship. Chig cruisers and destroyers resemble large abstract polygonal structures with hexagonal patterns on their surfaces. Their smaller fighters were also similar, but more Starfighter-like.
  • Star Trek
    • Star Trek: The Original Series:
      • In an example of an Evolving Trope, the original Starship Enterprise was an unprecedented design when it first debuted, being neither a Flying Saucer nor a Retro Rocket, as most spaceships in fiction had been up until that point. It also makes no sense from an engineering standpoint, but that is true of most spaceships in anything but diamond-hard sci-fi.
      • The Thasians' ship in "Charlie X" resembles a nebulous mobile cloud of glowing green gas (in the original version); in the Remastered episode, it is similar looking, but with some kind of lighted tubes inside the gas cloud. The Thasians themselves are noncorporeal aliens who appeared to the Enterprise crew as floating, ghostly green humanoid heads.
      • Balok's starship Fesarius from "The Corbomite Maneuver" was a gigantic starship the size of a small moon, composed of a sphere made up of smaller spheres of various sizes and colors. At least one part of this ship could break off as a smaller command vessel. It's possible that the ship was composed entirely of smaller vessels to the aforementioned one, clustered together and sharing power.
      • The Planet Killer from "The Doomsday Machine"; a giant, robotic, planet-consuming starship; it eats planets for fuel, is armored with solid neutronium and fires a pure anti-proton beam. It looks like an enormous metallic cone with a burning maw where it pulls in the rubble of planets it destroys with its weapon.
    • Star Trek: The Next Generation:
      • Q's energy grid from the pilot episode, which folds up into a warp-capable energy sphere for the purpose of chasing the Enterprise.
      • The Edo "God" orbiting Rubicun III in the episode "Justice" appeared like a strange, ghostly space-station that was only partially materialized in normal space, and was always referred to as a dimensionally transcendent entity. At one point it sent a probe or scout (its exact nature uncertain) which resembled a ball of light that shook the entire Enterprise when it "spoke."
      • The Tarellian Plague Ship from "Haven" looks like a conventional Trek guest spaceship of the week, except that in its middle is a ring filled by a giant marble-like glowing ball of energy that is actually the ship's power source contained in a force field.
      • In its first appearance, the Borg Cube is definitely one of these. It is said to be completely decentralized with no distinct command areas or engineering section. When scanned, they don't even register as possessing weapons (although this is untrue, they are quite well-armed). And when their crew of drones is all linked, the cube functions with something like a will, and sensors can't pick up the drones' individual life signs. The Borg Alcove is an Unusual User Interface.
      • Later Cubes and other Borg ships in Star Trek: First Contact and Star Trek: Voyager display a more centralized internal appearance and distribution of functions, with talk of "central plexes" and other terms that contradicted the ships' original on-screen depiction. Whether this is a Retcon or an in-universe example of Science Marches On is unclear. Although even with the retcon/in-universe marching on, the Borg cubes still look really weird from the in-universe perspective, with nothing even resembling the relatively rounded shapes and nacelles of "normal" ships. And they still seam to be highly decentralized even if they have areas with specific functions, similar to a tree.
    • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine:
      • Founders, or at least Laas (a "lost" Changeling like Odo, who grew up among an obscure humanoid race), can shapeshift into living starships capable of warp speeds.
      • Breen Warships sport a rather imposing and very distinctive asymmetrical design that readily sets them apart from the more conventional starships in the setting.
    • Star Trek: Voyager:
      • The crew encountered a "photonic lattice" in one episode which was theorized to be the equivalent of a spacecraft for photonic life forms.
      • Another Voyager episode featured a species called the Swarm, who were humanoid but with a Starfish Language that proved extremely difficult to translate. They were very mysterious, and got their name from the ships they used- swarms of thousands of tiny, networked shuttle-sized vessels that worked together to drain energy from ships that invaded their space. Each little ship looked like a cross between a trilobite and a Horseshoe crab.
    • Star Trek: Enterprise:
      • Time travel pods discovered by the NX-01 crew in were bigger on the inside than on the outside. Word of God is that Paramount contacted BBC, suggesting a possible crossover with Doctor Who. When BBC flatly refused, they decided to implement a part of the concept of a TARDIS but without risking a lawsuit.
      • The Xyrillians piloted an ambiguous case of a Living Ship (it looked organic but it was never made clear if the exterior was bio-engineered or just designed to look that way), however, its interior was... something else, of a surreal quality never seen before in a Trek Verse spaceship. It had grass-covered floors, food growing from the walls, and the ship was filled with aquarium-like chambers containing edible aquatic creatures. The aliens don't appear to consume water and don't really know what it is. When they synthesize some for Trip, they get the temperature wrong and give him a bowl full of ice cubes. The episode focused on some of the details of First Contact usually ignored by the franchise, and featured a human character having to adjust to a slightly different atmosphere and pressure than he was used to while he worked aboard the alien ship to help the aliens fix their warp drive. To emphasize the alien nature of the environment, the lighting and camera angles used to film the interior were also quite unusual.
    • Star Trek: Picard: The synths on Coppelius remotely control giant flowers called Orchids which attach themselves to enemy vessels and drain them of power, then let them fall out of orbit and crash to the planet's surface.
      • And the Borg cube is back to this trope with a vengeance. The outer appearance of the "Relic" cube is faithful to its TNG and Voyager representation but the inside is shown to be capable of reconfiguring itself on-demand which looks gloriously creepy thanks to modern visual effects.
  • Threshold: Fourth-dimensional probes programmed to bioform humans into a new type of alien with a triple-helix genetic structure.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • The insides of many Chaos ships, especially ones that are possessed by Daemons, tend to have Alien Geometries and other disturbing things (bleeding walls, shadows moving in unnatural ways, etc).
    • Jokaero-made vessels tend to resemble polyhedral, open-frame lattices of metal that move as a result of their shape directly interacting with galaxy-spanning currents of energy that only the jokaero seem able to perceive. Their jokaero crews steer them by making physical alterations to the vessel's shape.
    • Rogue Trader:
      • One of the ship upgrades is the Tenebro Maze, which turns the interior of the ship into a complex maze of hidden trap doors and secret passages, which not only hinders any would-be boarders, but also makes targeting specific systems of the ship very difficult as the components aren't where they should be in a typical ship.
      • There's an extinct Chaos-worshipping Xeno race known as Yu'vath, whose ships were/are (although the Yu'vah themselves are dead, their drone-ships are still occasionally encountered) made out of dark crystals held together by beams of energy and powered by gravity sails.
      • The titular ship of the adventure The Soul Reaver is powered by the souls of the dead and a murdered Dark Eldar lord is raised as a vengeful spectre there.
    • Space Hulks are technically "ships" in the sense that they can still move and are used as transport by several factions but as Warp-created fusions of numerous ships of varying origin and design they are certainly Eldritch. Normally they hold Orks, daemons of Chaos, worshipers of Chaos, Chaos Space Marines, Tyranids, Genestealers, Tyranids and Genestealers, and anyone forced to go in there to clear it out/find whatever Archeotech is left/can't go anywhere else. Some Hulks are so massive that they even have their own gravity and atmosphere.
  • The alternate "Heaven's Reach" setting in Shards of the Exalted Dream has the ghost ship Lost Corona, originally designed to investigate a Tomb-Star - basically a cross between a black hole and a portal to the netherworld. The results resembled Event Horizon, with the ship becoming alive and hungry. It's full of ghosts, and feeds on a mixture of fear and wreckage.
  • GURPS 4th Edition provides rules of creating undead spaceships by means of techno-magic. Such a ship looks and registers on scanners as a crippled wreck, but its engines magically provide acceleration with unlimited fuel (though no faster than this ship could go when it was "alive"). The systems aboard the ship malfunction creepily: the radio distorts voices to sound like from the grave, the life support has a mind of its own and turns off when you least expect it, and anyone foolish enough to use the auto-doc is tortured, flayed and ultimately zombified by the malevolent robotic limbs. Not to mention that the ship usually obeys the necromancer who created it, and the necromancer can activate any of these vile tricks at will. It is not specified whether Percussive Maintenance can destroy these ships or not.

    Video Games 
  • The Access Ark from Kirby: Planet Robobot is a gigantic sphere the size of a planet, and it serves as the corporate headquarters for the Haltmann Works Company. At first, it seems like that's all there is to it, but when Kirby infiltrates the Ark in the final sequence of the game, he'll find a bizarre, colorful virtual reality that's infested with minibosses and plays some rather creepy music in the background. Come the Final Battle against Star Dream, the Access Ark's mother computer, it turns out that beyond merely "eldritch", the Access Ark is actually the repurposed body of a Galactic Nova, the clockwork comets from Kirby Super Star with enough power to grant any wish.
  • In Vega Strike, Rlaan ships all look like eerie tailless fish with big fins. They differ mostly in sizes, stretching more along some or other axis and external equipment. The reasons for this design are that Organic Technology defines Rlaan construction and aesthetics, even in cases where their technology isn't 100% organic (generally only hermetic and high-power parts are made of metals, so although their ships contain organic components, they are not technically Living Ships). The choices they make with regard to technology are reflective their "Starfish-y" psychology and sensory-motor system. The colors are "off" because their vision is different from that of humans, and they use gravitics instead of thrusters. They don't vary their design approach much because it works for them and they have very conservative mindsets.
  • In The Dig there's one of these as it turns out, it's the asteroid itself. Once it's activated the asteroid procedes to turn into a translucent dodecahedron that transports our heroes to the location were we spend the rest of the game
    • It also vanishes when it arrives. Not in the novelization, though.
  • The Nomad ships in Freelancer are apparently organically grown, with lots of curving spines and smooth flowing shapes, semitransparent and glowing blue. This is a good picture of one of their fighters.
  • The ships of Sansha's Nation in EVE Online are specifically designed to evoke this, using bizarre shapes and lots of spiky structures. The decription of the "Phantasm," a craft the player can pilot, specifically mentions that the weird geometries of the ship show preternatural understanding of physics and starship design.
  • The Star Forge in Knights of the Old Republic is this in spades. On top of its infinite production capabilities, it also feeds on the dark side impulses of its user, first corrupting its Rakata creators and then Darth Revan and Darth Malak after they found it on the orders of the Sith Emperor Vitiate. It doesn't help that the station is partially sentient as a result of its feeding. Its capacity for corruption was so strong that Revan chose to limit his/her contact with the station to prevent it from driving him/her insane.
  • The Suul'ka ships are finally shown in Sword of the Stars II and look like enormous (dwarfing anything the other races have) Space Whales with tentacles that can smash and eat starships. They're also more advanced than anything the others have. It turns out that the starships are containment suits for the enormous and crazy Liir Elders who chose to live in space instead of dying from the Square-Cube Law.
  • Grineer Warships in Warframe have a bizarre exterior aesthetic - part whale, part insect, part crustacean, part submarine. The interior is made of bulging designs and organic colors clashing with cramped submarine-like sensibilities. However, in reality they're still just as mundane, albeit freaky-looking as the Grineer themselves. For really eldritch spaceships, look no further than the Sentients, whose Murex troop ships are like floating biomechanical cathedrals, and infiltrating one is like entering its own pocket dimension.
  • In Genesis Rising, pretty much all ship designs except for the Cy-Breed are this in one way or another. Humans use Living Ships with LEGO Genetics, the Defiance stole human tech to make their own ships, the Cold Ones make their shiny transparent ships with ice and the Lapis carve their ships out of space asteroids.
  • Reapers in the Mass Effect trilogy. They are far, far more advanced than the ships of the Citadel races, such as not needing any fuel, or their FTL drives not suffering from the same restrictions as Citadel ships. Their shapes are reminiscent of cuttlefish; large mass of claw-like appentages on their underside function as both legs on planets and as mounting points for their Wave Motion Guns.
    • They also have the ability to effect More than Mind Control on other sentient beings near them, or foolish enough to go aboard them for extended periods of time. This even applies to disabled Reapers, as even a dead god may dream.
    • Mass Effect 2 reveals that the Reapers are constructed from the processed bodies of millions of sentient beings, with each Reaper being created from a different species.
    • While functioning more like regular starships in most respects, the Collector cruiser and home base appear to be made of random clusters of asteroids being held together by a metal frame and a giant engine stuck to it, and contain a giant beehive inside their cavelike interiors.
  • The Ravager in Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords. It's essentially a falling apart corpse of a ship held together only by the Dark Side powers of Darth Nihilius.
  • Shivan ships in FreeSpace tend to take the "Lobster Ship" route, much moreso in the second game. The SD Lucifer itself bears a rather close resemblance to a giant space lobster, in fact.
    • The Freespace fan-made expansion Blue Planet, specifically War in Heaven, ups the Eldritch factor for the Shivans. It's hard to describe what they are, exactly. Something like the physical extensions of an "algorithm" naturally emergent from the structure of spacetime, serving as a solution to dangerously warlike civilizations who threaten the diversity of intelligent life in the universe, i.e. destroy them before they destroy everything. Their ships are infinitely mutable: attacking with random designs, weapons, and strategies, remembering and propagating successful permutations, and ultimately adapting themselves into the perfect weapon against the enemy they face, however long that might take — as a natural function of the universe, the Shivans are as eternal as gravity or magnetism. Their "crews" are a myriad of creatures engaged in bizarre, periodic outbursts of violence which somehow act as a neural network that drives the ship as a whole, in reflection of the very nature of the Shivans themselves:
    We hypothesize, as clinically as we can, that in its basal state Shivan metacognition — the system that produces their behavior and decisions — must be understood as constructively destructive, a form of thought that emerges from the constant, ruthless, self-perpetuating principle of annihilation. Whatever selective pressure, system design, or runaway process created the Shivans predicated their fundamental quiddity on the devastation of organized information in every state from the atom to the genome to the encryption of a secure combat computer to language itself.
  • The X-Universe's Kha'ak capital ships have a whirling mass of tentacles/arms/spires for a prow, a thorax-like engine section, and no apparent thrusters, turrets, or windows anywhere. Their fighters are all combinations of dodecahedrons which warp into known space in huge, interconnected clusters of ships which break up and swarm anything that approaches. Xenon capital ships are a bit more orthodox with their visible engines and turrets, but everything else about them is odd; they have no bridges as they're ran by computers, and their hulls are made of massive segments of black metal twinkling with blood red lights that are haphazardly connected with thin sections, and across the entire hull, hundred meter tall spires jut out ready to impale fighter craft.
  • V'rix spaceships from Earth & Beyond may have been this; it's really a toss up. They tended to drop organic type components and the game did make liberal use of Space Whale, but we did know there were humanoid V'rix. Weather they were actually in the ships as pilots or if the ships were living vessels (maybe even another form of the humanoids) is another question entirely. Design documents released after the servers were shut down did reveal that neither the ships nor the humanoid form were the true form of The V'rix, but rather a form chosen to play on human's deepest fears; and their technology was a perversion of human tech. Oh, and there was 1 V'rix vessel that proved they could change their form becoming more powerful by incorporating human DNA.
  • The Pfhor ships in the Marathon series fit into the "Lobster" category, being mostly made of Organic Technology including pulsating walls and vats of strange green or pink damaging goo of unknown purpose, and occasionally exhibiting Alien Geometries.
  • The Krynn ship at the end of The Journeyman Project 2: Buried In Time, also fits into the "Lobster" category. It's filled with water or some other aqueous fluid due to the creatures there requiring that habitat, and they travel throughout it via tunnels that squish and warp in peristaltic motion to push them along. It's also devoid of visible light, as the Krynn only see in Klegmar Radiation.
  • One of the sample ship aesthetics in Space Empires 4 consists of a collection of disconnected bubbles.
  • In Galactic Civilizations, it is possible to create some very strange ship appearances given enough time in the design menu. One famous Let's Play of it, after a few particularly bad turns, sat down for a while in the best possible mood to design new ships (namely, furious), and came up with a spike-encrusted hell-crab battleship that was too large to easily fit on the design screen, a process that took half an hour and didn't actually help.
  • In Stellaris:
    • The Avian, Molluscoid, Fungoid, and Arthropoid ships fall under the "Lobster" category. Avian ships are sleek with pointed edges and spikes, Arthropoid ships are harsh, rough-looking brownish floating hives, Fungoid ships are sinister-looking, smooth black things with bright highlights, and Molluscoid ships get smooth, squid shapes and tentacle-like decorations, but all four are still pretty recognizable as spaceships.
    • Under "Starfish" ships, we have the gigantic, asymmetrical, and crystaline lithoid ships, as well as end game crisis ships: the Sinister Geometry of the Machine Consciousness, the Living Ships of the Prethyon Scourge, and utterly bizarre transparent energy-ships of the Extradimensional Invaders.
    • If a civilization opts to Become the Crisis, they gain access to the most eldritch ship design of all: the Star Eater. It's an enormous, black, perfect cube glowing with purplish light from inside. As its name suggests, it can cause any star to instantly collapse into a black hole, annihilating everything else in the stellar system. Also, they're made entirely of dark matter, an exotic substance that can only be extracted from black holes. These Star Eaters are key to the Crisis Civilization's ultimate goal: collapsing enough stars into massive quantities of dark matter to fuel the Aetherophasic Engine, which will annihilate the entire galaxy if completed.
  • Oryx's Dreadnaught from Destiny. Aside from being a borderline Planet Spaceship, its backstory reveals that its hull is a single scrimshawed segment of a sort-of dead Worm God, and its interior is filled by Oryx's throneworld, which he's forcibly everted into normal space. Furthermore, it moves in physics-violating ways, emits a boatload of particles related to dark matter (correlating to its reality-warping abilities), and induces a Brown Note reaction in anyone trying to analyze it telepathically. Since Oryx himself is a major Humanoid Abomination, the ship fits him.
    • Hive Tomb Ships, floating mausoleums for the thralls inside. They can manifest just about anywhere, even indoors, thanks to their Magitek warp drives.
  • The ships in Star Control are in general, rather normal but a few examples qualify as 'Lobster'. Mycon Podships are rounded things with BFG that shoots homing Plasmoids. Spathi Eluders may use standard fare technology, but they are shaped like a molecular model. And to top it all off, there's the Sa-Matra, a Precursor battleship which is downright eldritch, in contrast with their more standard fare Flagship.
    • In Origins, most ships are likewise fairly normal, but two stand out. The Mu'Kay Grasper looks like a giant squid with metal tentacles. In fact, its primary attack is to grab onto the enemy ship and squeeze it, dealing damage. Its secondary attack is to expel an ink cloud that damages any enemy that enters it. The Pinthi Contagion looks like a chunk of space rock with some sickly green masses growing on it.
  • In Infinite Space The Phage encountered at the endgame are possibly from the the Flux and are also possibly alive. They are more of the "lobster" category. The smaller ships are black, sleek, and appear to be adorned with sculptures resembling tomb effigies. The carrier type ships are massive, likewise black, and in a bizarre, almost organic shape. The final boss is a massive tower-ship with sharp angles.
  • The Daystar in Jak 3: Wastelander. The personal ship of Dark Makers. On the outside, it looks like a giant bacteria with flagella. The interior is mostly Meat Moss mixed with metal. The legends say it will bring the end of the world should it reach the surface, and considering that its cargo includes multiple Terra Formers and just one of these things is considered as a major problem, they likely aren't kidding.
  • In Fate/Grand Order, the fifth Lostbelt storyline reveals that the Greek Pantheon are actually alien starships who arrived on Earth and ended up being worshiped as Gods by humans, interacting with them via humanoid avatars. In "Proper Human History", their starship bodies were eventually destroyed by another alien entity who would eventually become Altera, but in their unique Lostbelt (timelines that have severely diverged from the main one and resulted in human progress being halted) Zeus managed to defeat said entity and the Pantheons proceeded to further upgrade their starship bodies. The Progenitorial Chaos is revealed to be their creator as a massive sentient Dyson Sphere that sent them to Earth to harvest the planet, and when the protagonists kill off Zeus who was meant to lead this directive, it simply tears open a dimensional wormhole to start absorbing every possible physical and abstract resource on Earth to fuel their fleet. It takes Miyamoto Musashi sacrificing herself to slice its link with Earth to stop its wanton destruction. Notably, unlike the Olympians, Chaos doesn't even perceive that there are people living there who would be killed from its actions because of how insignificant they are in comparison to its being and only attacks Ares out of reflex.

    Web Original 
  • Orion's Arm features some curious artifacts.
    • Black Angels are probably the strangest ship in the universe. These fully sentient vessels look like a black sphere surrounded by a enormous cloud of particles. The cloud can shapeshift to form weapons or even arms. The function of the sphere is known only to the Archai.
    • Void Ships, which appear as a distortion of the background. This is due to their propulsion system, and they may look like ordinary ships when fully powered down, for all anyone but the Archai know.
    • Linelayer vessels are massive craft that move wormhole endpoints. Many seem to consist of multiple sections that don't seem to be connected to each other, yet they move as one.
    • The MPA's Leviathan Class Dreadnought, which morphs from a thin cylinder into an ovoid.
  • The superhappy ship from Three Worlds Collide, described as a "fractal of ugliness" that can survive a nova unprotected. In one of the two endings, the ships are reconfigured to appeal to human and baby-eater aesthetics, as part of the superhappies' compromise agreement.

    Western Animation 
  • Shadow Raiders the spaceships used by the Beasts are made entirely of null matter.
  • Star Trek: The Animated Series: The ancient Pod Ship that the USS Enterprise encounters in the first episode. An expanded universe novel even specifically refers to this ship in mention as an "eldritch" ship.
  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars: The Umbaran starfighters seen in "The General" are very different from the airplane-like configurations of typical fighters, consisting of a loose, open framework and of a pilot seat that sits exposed to the elements when the ship is inactive and, on activation, becomes enveloped in a free-floating energy sphere whose controls manifest as holograms on its internal surface.


Video Example(s):



A nautiloid ship commander by a mind flayer attacks a town, kidnapping many people with its tentacles and eldritch magic.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (8 votes)

Example of:

Main / EldritchStarship

Media sources: