The sci-fi equivalent of a guy wearing a black hat and twirling his mustache. Or rather, one thousand razor-sharp metallic mustaches twirling all at once with the energy of a thousand suns glowing beneath its armored plates.
Or, if you prefer, the Badass Longcoat of spaceships.
Obviously if a spaceship is meant for atmospheric maneuvers too, it would make sense for it to be aerodynamic. This is not about that. Nor is it about dagger-shaped Star Destroyers. No. This is about spaceships with way more than any practical numbers of sharp edges.
This trope describes a spaceship that ranges from a dart-like multi-pronged fighter to a gigantic armored Kraken brimming with blades, spikes, antennae, metallic claws and for good measure, a huge glowing maw at the front like some hellspawned sea creature. Unfortunately, this trope has becoming close to generic, and a new design trick when coming up with such vessels is to make them asymmetrical and thus slightly less conventional.
At first, this kind of starship design was a radical departure from what at the time was standard in film and TV, but with advancing technology, especially computer generated imaging, TV and movie spaceships became increasingly complicated as programmers could animate smaller and smaller individual segments. This has caused an explosion in the number of sharp edges and non-functional moving parts assigned to antagonist spaceship designs to the point where most people in fiction powerful enough to threaten a planet are seen flying around in giant metal squids with a hundred vicious claws and blades on every tentacle.
On the inside, these ships are usually just your standard blue-lit control centers, huge docking bays, and very long metal corridors. But the sheer number of metallic blades and tentacles just screams "Look at me, I am so marvelously evil!"
As a general rule, the spaceships become more squid/octopus-like as they grow in size and in the number of spikes and blades they possess. Often they possess a Wave Motion Gun and for extra points, the ship has to radically and slowly transform its shape just to use it, giving the heroes enough time to disarm the superweapon.
While it makes sense for a small ship designed for atmospheric maneuvers to be aerodynamic and sleek, the larger "Kraken" varieties are almost always Awesome, but Impractical.
If a ship has two long, spear-like engine or weapons pods, it's technically not this trope. This is about when enemy spaceships go way overboard on the sharp edges to impractical levels. How does a pilot climb inside such a ship without tearing their pressure suit?
Compare Spikes of Villainy, the costume version of this trope.
Also compare Eldritch Starship, which can really look like anything, but utilizes mind-bending, conceptually alien principles in its design and may or may not look like a giant metallic sea urchin.
- Galaxy Quest: The Big Bad's ship. This was probably intentional parody though. It was really big, and it looked like a sea urchin with engines and a giant ominous maw in front.
- Serenity: The Reaver ships are covered in jagged metal spikes, looking like they were slapped together from scrap metal. The Reavers also enjoy splattering blood like paint on their hulls and stringing half-eaten corpses to their bows. In the film, when Mal has to infiltrate Reaver space, he disguises Serenity in this fashion.
- Star Trek (2009): The Narada, of course, arguably one of the biggest and most physically complicated examples. It used to be a simple mining vessel but getting Borg tech upgrades, an insane captain and a little while getting poked around by the Klingons all resulted in it looking like some kind of mix between a Lovecraftian squid and a whole warehouse's worth of knives.
- Star Trek: The Next Generation: The last two films, Star Trek: Insurrection and Star Trek: Nemesis, had plenty of villainous ships like this. Insurrection featured a number of pointy horseshoe-crab style villain ships plus a giant, spiky weapon-ship that would strip life-supporting particles from the rings of an inhabited planet. Nemesis featured an oversized warbird with an insanely impractical (and very, very spiky) transformation sequence just to fire its main weapon.
- Star Trek III: The Search for Spock: Of course the Klingon Bird of Prey, which debuted as the Villain Kruge's warship. Arguably this is where the trope originated. Compared to the more recent examples on this list, Kruge's Bird of Prey was actually rather tame, but it did have cool moving wings with disruptor cannons on the tips. Also, unlike most of the ships on this list, Kruge's ship was an actual physical model, not a CGI mashup.
- In Singularity Sky, it's mentioned that most real space warships look like "a cubist's vision of a rabies virus crossed with a soft drink can" - as opposed to the New Republic's sleek-looking but inferior fleet.
- Babylon 5 provided many early examples.
- This is a design hallmark of all organic Shadow vessels, which all have prominent spikes/tentacles all over their bodies.
- This is also seen among some Earth vessels operated by elements associated with the Shadow-influenced Clark government in later seasons. A Psi Corp base was a heavily modified civilian ship covered in spiky antennae like a big black sea urchin. There are also the Advanced Omega destroyers, which are definitely described as having Shadow technology incorporated, but obviously not fully effectively, as their hulls are covered with random, unhealthy-looking black spiky outgrowths.
- Some Narn vessels have a milder pronged design.
- Battlestar Galactica (2003):
- The Cylon raiders fit this, being sleek, slim unmanned vessels with two huge blade-like wings containing missiles and cannons. The red eye-stripe on the "cockpit" certainly helps with the image too. Their mother ships, the Basestars, thankfully avert this trope despite simultaneously looking like starfish.
- The Cylon "homeworld" aka The Colony, is an absolutely massive spaceship gradually built around the craft of the original five Cylons. It resembles a giant octopus more than anything, with a spherical center with giant claws jutting out in every which direction. Since it's both spacebound and FTL-capable, aerodynamics presumably isn't much of an issue.
- The jet-black Peacekeeper Prowlers look like a cross between a dart and vicious black hornet, though the most often seen example of one in the series is a stolen fighter operated by the heroes.
- In "The Peacekeeper Wars", the horseshoe crab-like Scarran fighters, Strykers, and especially the Scarran Emperor's flagship, the sleek, silver Decimator, which actually carried multiple nuclear warhead launchers in its forward spines.
- Firefly: The Reaver ships in both the series and the film are covered in jagged metal spikes, looking like they were slapped together from scrap metal. The Reavers also enjoy splattering blood like paint on their hulls and stringing half-eaten corpses to their bows.
- Star Trek series:
- The Jem'hadar ships averted this, being your basic angular fighter type, but the Breen ships from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine were asymetrical (just to be different) flying mashups of sharp edges, blades and spikes with a couple engines strapped on for good measure.
- The Stealth Romulan Holo-Ship from Star Trek: Enterprise was very spiky indeed, although in this context they might have been signal transmitters. Also, several of the Reptilian-Xindi and Insectoid-Xindi warships from the same series.
- FTL: Faster Than Light: The Lanius spaceships look like large silver blades arranged in a vaguely aerodynamic shape and adorned with bright blue lights. The Lanius themselves also have spikes protruding from their bodies.
- Warframe: The Grineer galleons have dozens of prongs protruding from their hulls, giving them an appearance of giant insects.
- Wing Commander series: Kilrathi fighters often have asymmetrical designs which incorporate claw or fang-like curves and points in order to make them more intimidating.