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Sapient Ship

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Image by MegaRyan104. Used with permission.

"Shit," the ship said to itself.
Philip K. Dick, "I Hope I Shall Arrive Soon"

Some spaceships aren't just big pieces of metal that happen to fly through the stars. Some can think intelligently, and even interact with the other characters. Sometimes the ship is a true example of Mechanical Lifeforms. Sometimes this occurs because of an advanced Artificial Intelligence in the case of a mechanical ship. Sometimes the ship is actually a living being. Occasionally, the ship is a hybrid of the two, with a living being integrated with a ship to the point that they become one entity. Whether the ship is actually alive or not is generally a matter for the work in question to resolve.

Generally, when these are seen in fiction, they're female thanks to a long maritime tradition. Often, they are present as characters in the form of a Living Figurehead or a Spaceship Girl.

This trope does not cover ships that are organic, but do not think on a level higher than simple animal instincts. Those are covered by Living Ship. It also does not cover ships that happen to have A.I.s when those A.I.s are treated as separate entities that are not integrated into the ship itself.

Acting as both a character and setting, the sapient ship is perhaps the best example of the Fisher King, as the environment quite justifiably mimics the ship's mood, health, and situation.

Of course, looked at rationally, it's not clear that it is desirable for a ship to be sapient, at least from the point of view of the crew. If the ship is happy things tend to run smoothly, but upset a sapient ship and you might wind up locked in your quarters or having your life support cut off.

Despite the problems that can arise from the setting having a mind of its own, there are narrative advantages. Having the ship able to take over roles such as pilot, and navigator cuts down on crew requirements (and thus cast size) which in turn cuts down on life support and accommodation requirements, sometimes to the point where a crew may be an optional extra. The level of sentience and independence will determine just how much of an advantage this is.

Not to be confused with Setting as a Character where the ship is just treated like a character by the cast but isn't necessarily alive. Compare Sapient Steed and Sentient Vehicle, which are this trope applied to steeds and smaller vehicles that are used for transport instead of living on. Some Sapient Ships are big enough to be Genius Loci. Spaceship Girl is a subtrope when the A.I. creates a humanoid avatar that is an attractive woman. When this is accomplished by plugging a human brain into the computer, it's Wetware CPU.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Arpeggio of Blue Steel somewhat zig-zags this trope: the AI personifications of the ships are tied to the ships' systems but can also exist and move independently. The series as a whole raises questions on the sapience of the ships and whether these "Mental Models" raise the ships from weapons to beings.
  • Captain Harlock series portrays the Arcadia as a living ship, after Tochiro uploaded his mind in the computer, or, depending on the series, died and started to haunt the ship. Various incarnations reveal the Arcadia to be able to empathize with the crew, hold nonverbal conversations with the Captain, and even move around without a physical pilot. This is also an unusual example of a sapient ship being explicitly male.
  • EDENS ZERO: The true Big Bad responsible for reviving and controlling Demon King Ziggy as a human-hating robot supremacist is in fact the Artificial Intelligence of the Edens One, the replacement ship of the titular Edens Zero which Grew Beyond Their Programming and now wants to kill Mother in order to cause universal genocide.
  • Infinite Ryvius: The Vaia Ships are mostly technological, but each has a living Vaia at its core. The Vaia are sapient, though only one is a full-fledged Spaceship Girl.
  • Lost Universe gives us the Swordbreaker and its A I: Canal.
  • One Piece: The Going Merry proves to be just this as early as the Skypeia Arc, when Usopp sees a spirit repairing the Merry. Many arcs later, Franky reveals that Usopp saw a manifestation of the soul of the Merry, which developed because the ship was loved and cared for deeply. Later on in the same arc, the Merry's status as sapient is driven home when the ship itself comes back to save the Straw Hats at Enies Lobby. Later on, the Merry finally collapses due to all the damage it's took thus far in the series and the Straw Hats give it a Viking Funeral. Luffy laments that they never took care of the ship properly, but the Merry speaks to them, stating that it held no ill will and that it was happy to be with them.
  • Outlaw Star: The titular ship has a sapient onboard AI, but must also be connected to the Spaceship Girl Melfina. Near the end of the series, Hazanko's mind and body fuse with his spaceship, forming a partially biological version of this trope.
  • Tenchi Muyo!: the Juraian spacecraft are powered by living, semi-sapient trees. The parent of them all is not only fully sapient, but a goddess — and the alter ego of a main character. Also, Ryo-Ohki, who is the cute mascot character that transforms into a Living Ship.

    Comic Books 
  • The Authority: The Carrier — a spaceship that, while being made of metal, is fully sapient. However, it has only once spoken directly to anyone (and then it was only to tell hapless assassin Kev Hawkins what a prick he is).
  • Skuttlebutt, Beta Ray Bill's starship. She was created by the Korbinites, which also created him.
  • Shalise, the sinister female personality of the police clone training ship in Megalex.
  • Micronauts: Biotron was at one point rebuilt into a Living Ship-slash-Humongous Mecha called Bioship. Bioship was a cyborg, utilizing Organic Technology in his workings.
  • Power Pack: The group has a sapient "smartship" called Friday.
  • PS238 has FLOYDnote , a sapient space station that Zodon created by accident; it serves as his loyal "son" and Affably Evil minion. FLOYD would later also turn the Valiant Lance, an Argonite ship, into a cyborg ship with sapience of its own; now going by "Vance," it is less enthusiastically owned by Cecil. Amusingly, the two remain friends, despite their masters' opposite moral alignments.
  • The Transformers Classics story "Cheap Shots" features a sentient (non-transforming) space battleship looking for her kidnapped binary-bonded organic pilot.
  • Wonder Woman (1987): Due to the Post-Crisis revamp removing the Amazons' traditional tech and research heavy culture in favor of a society stuck in the Bronze Age Wonder Woman's robot plane was changed into an advanced space worthy piece of sentient alien technology.
  • X-Men:
    • The Brood uses lobotomized Space Whales for transport, and the surviving ones at liberty are both sapient and not happy at all about the situation.
    • The original X-Factor team liberates a Sapient Ship that was enslaved by Apocalypse, named, appropriately enough, Ship, which has a long and varied career in the various X-Titles over the years. It happily becomes friends with X-Factor after they freed it from Apocalypse, and serves as their base of operations, home, and long-range transportation. Ship was a several thousand year old piece of Celestial technology and the size of a large skyscraper, being so huge that, while in it's usual docked location of standing on-end in a building lot, it became a well-known part of the New York City skyline. The physical form of Ship is later destroyed in a final battle with Apocalypse, but the artificial intelligence survives by downloading itself into a small module. It soon travels into the future with Cyclops's son Nathan, who later became Cable, and the intelligence of Ship eventually becomes Cable's space station Greymalkin, and then eventually his floating island Providence. At one point a copy of the AI is even downloaded into Cable's techno-organic bionic arm.
    • Fantomex's nervous system externalises itself as a UFO-like techno-organic ship called E.V.A.
    • New Mutants: The shapeshifting Warlock often turns "him"self into a starship to transport the titular heroes around.

  • Motherfucker the UFO from Bucky Barnes Gets His Groove Back & Other International Incidents is at least partially sentient, to the point of having a personality, of sorts. It seems to like Barnes well enough, and will happily show him, in excruciating detail, the precise molecular composition of whatever it's pointed at, even if it doesn't quite understand what he is or wants from it. Barnes compares it to a drunk puppy and idly wonders if it's actually being powered by a sentient mind, perhaps even the mind of the alien equivalent of a puppy, which sends him into a thought spiral about the ethics of shutting it down all the way, whether it dreams while powered down, and the possibility that it might like him because he orders it around the way HYDRA ordered him around.
  • In The Butcher Bird, the second Nightmare ship, Prometheus, qualifies as one of these via the use of the Haunt-Haunt Fruit to make a ship spirit 'possess' a wreck. This also creates a Gender-Inverted Trope version of a Spaceship Girl as the resulting ghost can manifest separately from the ship.
  • In The League of Sweetie Belles (set in the same universe as Songs of the Spheres), the titular league rides through The Multiverse in the talking, sapient spaceship Swip- who is, herself, a Sweetie Belle.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • 2001: A Space Odyssey: HAL 9000, while not the ship but its controlling computer.
  • In Alien, there's Mother in the first one and then Father in the fourth. While Mother only talks at the end, to repeatedly warn that engines will overload and then explode, she remains neutral about the xenomorph the whole movie, analyzing it like a biologist, or Ash, would. Father seems to take it more seriously, like a soldier, and adds some good manner. Justified as the Auriga is a military ship, while the Nostromo is a cargo ship.
    Father: I'm sorry, access denied.
    Father: Non-human presence detected [...] Main vessel declared uninhabitable.
    Father: Thank you.
  • Battle Beyond the Stars. Shad sets forth on his quest to find The Magnificent Seven Samurai in Nell, one of the few spacecraft in Science Fiction that appears to have breasts (see the poster) and a female voice to match. Nell's last pilot was an Akiran warrior (the last one left) and she's none too impressed with the wet-behind-the-ears Shad and his reluctance to kill.
  • Event Horizon shows an experimental FTL ship with a gravity drive returning from a chaotic dimension with something possessing the ship itself.
  • The Trimaxion Drone Ship from Flight of the Navigator was somewhat sapient to begin with... and then he downloaded from David's mind.
  • V'ger from Star Trek: The Motion Picture is a gigantic techno-organic starship constructed around the lost Voyager 6 space probe by a race of Mechanical Life Forms to facilitate its mission of "learning all that is learnable and returning the knowledge to its creator", which led to it amassing enough knowledge to become sentient and question its existence.
  • Icarus II, in Sunshine, seems inspired by parts of HAL 9000, Mother and Father.

  • The alien mothership in Angel Station rules over its drone-like "crew". She is a member of an entire species of sentient ships.
  • The Artifact: All Brotherhood ships are cybernetically "alive", Boaz has even managed to become self-aware.
  • The eponymous entities in Berserker are giant spaceships that are programmed to kill every form of life in the universe. They are quite good at it, but don't consider themselves "alive" due to not being organic.
  • Bolo features multi-thousand-ton, sapient main battle tanks.
  • In the Boojumverse, the living ships called Boojums are allegedly only about as smart as monkeys, capable of being trained but not truly intelligent. In the story "Boojum", however, Black Alice's interaction with the Lavinia Wheatley suggests that they are actually sentient; just so alien that humans have difficulty understanding them.
  • The Commonwealth Saga features a pacifistic alien ship that lets aliens and humans alike live in giant crystals that it grows on itself depending on how it feels.
  • In The Culture, the Culture's ships are living ships; self-modifying, self-repairing and with godlike Minds.
  • Empire from the Ashes: Dahak is a planetoid dreadnought the size of the Moon, which attained sentience during 52,000 years of unsupervised operation. Fortunately, given its ability to wipe out star systems simply by FTLing/deFTLing in the wrong place, it's a good guy.
  • Faction Paradox: Timeships, lovely ships capable of time travel. Except when they are sapient. Or they happen to rebel. Or if they happen to be psychotic.
  • The Fall Of The Galaxy: The fleet of the Bargon Empire almost entirely consists of small biomechanical raider ships instead of the Standard Sci-Fi Fleet, which is used by the other major human powers (the Galaxy and the Seven Systems' Union). These ships have proven to be extremely effective at operating both on their own and in small groups to conduct raids into enemy territory and wreak havoc with supply lines and even destroy major targets before jumping to safety. Despite the fact that the ships are crewed, the demands of fast-paced ship-to-ship combat require split-second decisions that are best made by the biomechanical brains of the ships themselves. Normal raider ships with electronic brains have proven themselves vastly inferior to the melding of rapid computer calculations and biological unpredictability.
  • Forever Free: The A.I. of the ship passed the Turing Test.
  • Fridthjof's Saga: Fridthjof's ship Ellidi is enchanted "so that she had learned to understand human speech." When Fridthjof and his companions are caught in a storm on their voyage to Orkney and they become aware that the storm is caused by two witches riding on a whale, Fridthjof tells Bjorn to steer Ellidi towards the whale and chants a verse calling on Ellidi to crush the witches to death with its prow. This works. While there is no definite proof that Ellidi reacted to Fridthjof's call, the narration suggests that it did.
  • Great Ship: The titular starship is shown to think, though it is completely mute bar speaking to Alone. It's never made clear how much control it has over itself or even how much it knows about itself, as it thought it was nothing more than a mote of dust until it drifted into the Milky Way and discovered that it was larger than worlds.
  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Trilogy:
    • The spaceship Heart of Gold is maintained by Eddie, a Sirius Cybernetics Corporation computer with a sickeningly cheerful and optimistic programmed personality. Other equally unlikable computers have been installed to run other functions on the ship as well, right down to automated doors run by programs that live for the chance to open and close for someone. At one point Zaphod discovers that Eddie has an emergency backup personality — unfortunately, it is worse.
    • There is also a police ship which commits suicide after talking to Marvin.
  • In HMS Leviathan, various officers of the ship's company (briefly) entertain the superstition that the troubled ship has a mind of her own, or else that the vessel is so vast and contains so many complex working systems (and of course crew members) that the sum of the parts, the ship's personality, has indeed become greater than the whole.
  • In Hull Zero Three, Ship (a.k.a. the Golden Voyager) is heavily damaged and missing much of its memory. However, Ship Control — that is, Ship's operating systems — shows signs of incredible creativity, especially when it comes to the "Killers", biomechanical servants designed to do exactly what their name says. The narrator, Sanjay the Teacher, realizes that the reason why a specific Killer — a Tracker called Tsinoy — has the mind of an astronavigation specialist is because Ship decided that an astrogator was the most important crew member it could produce, and thus the least expendable. Thus, Ship made Tsinoy a Tracker, able to defend herself and others to the point of near-effortlessly dispatching two Large Killers at the same time.
  • Hyperion Cantos: The Consul's "singleship" is piloted by an AI (and lacks obvious manual controls).
  • In Imperial Radch, Radchaai stations and ships are controlled by A.I.s, which in the case of ships usually control several ancillaries. The protagonist of Ancillary Justice is one of the latter until her ship and all but one ancillary body are destroyed.
  • The protagonist of In Fury Born steals a Cool Starship with a built-in A.I. that imprints on and merges with the mind of its pilot; she winds up with Megara, a smart-mouthed and unusually independent version of same.
  • Legacy of the Aldenata: The USS Des Moines in Yellow Eyes, after the insane AID is installed as part of her upgrades to fight the Posleen.
  • Robin Hobb's Liveship Traders trilogy features many living ships (liveships) with sapient, talking, humanoid figureheads. Notable ships include Vivacia, Ophelia, and the mad ship Paragon. Liveships gain their sapience mostly by absorbing the lives/memories of three members of their owning family, at which point they quicken and become alive. Note the "mostly"...
  • In D. Alexander Smith's Marathon series, the ship's computer becomes self-aware during the outward stage of the journey. In the third book, it is revealed that this was entirely intentional. The ship's designer deliberately designed the computer to have vastly more memory and computing capacity than it needed for the mission, all in the hope that it would develop sentience. The computer loves its human charges and does its best to aid them in their mission even while, at first, hiding the fact that it has become sentient.
  • The Murderbot Diaries: Most spaceships have integrated AIs. Most of these are fairly limited beyond managing their own systems, but the Asshole Research Transport is vastly intelligent, self-motivated, and snarky. Murderbot is a bit nervous to fly on a transport that "only" has an autopilot, since its lack of AI would make it nearly useless in an emergency.
  • In Nightflyers, several crewmembers die suspicious deaths when they start investigating the nature of their unseen captain. It turns out that the captain is real, but his misanthropic dead mother is psychically imprinted into the spaceship's system. In the end, the captain is killed trying to protect his crew, but in dying manages to imprint himself into the ship as well, and the Final Girl chooses to stay on board to help him fight his mother's constant attempts to wrest back control.
  • In The Night's Dawn Trilogy, there are both spaceships (Voidhawks and Blackhawks) and habitats (that can be tens of kilometres long) that are alive and sapient, based on "bitek".
  • Larry Niven has two separate instances of Peersa the Checker as a sapient ship in his "State" future history. First, in A World Out of Time an escaping corpsicle's ramship is taken over by beaming a recording of the mind of his jailer at the ship over and over again. Later in Niven's career he introduced another ship carrying the mind of Peersa as a character in the Smoke Ring novels.
  • The Polity: Polity war ships are commanded by AI's and one of the older ships also has a human captain who is wired directly into the ship and in a sense is the ship.
  • Princesses of the Pizza Parlor: In Princesses on the Broken Sea, the protagonists' Tabletop RPG brings them to cross the sea aboard the Princess Ouragonea, which has a mermaid as Living Figurehead and where she tends to speak to passangers from, unlike the crew which are communicated to usually by magical crystals dotted inside. She likes to play the lyre. Her sister ships the Typhonea and the Kyklonea, are spoken of as similarly sapient.
  • The Quantum Thief: Perhonen, the ship created by the book's Deuteragonist, Mieli, has a warm, human personality who cares deeply for her maker. Her mind is based on an imperfect upload of a dead ancestor's personality that Mieli's people, the Oortians, preserve for this purpose.
  • Remnants: "Mother" is a sapient starship that is about 100 x 150 miles, and can create her own artificial environments; she's actually worshiped as a god by some aliens. Unfortunately, she's also completely insane, having been abandoned by her creators for untold eons.
  • The titular hospital ship in the Revelation Space Series short story "Nightingale" is sapient. Also, the Nostalgia for Infinity after the melding plague takes over.
  • In The Ship Who... series, starships, space stations, and even entire cities are operated by "shellpeople": humans with perfectly good minds but non-functional bodies, sealed in life-support capsules and installed into starships etc, which they percieve as their bodies. Each has at least one "brawn" at a time, for companionship and to do whatever needs doing that they can't manage themselves. Most shellpeople are quite happy as they are, with only a few even bothering to have human avatars.
  • Star Trek:
    • Memory Prime introduces the concept that every once in a while, a starship's computer would gain sentience. The mind would then be moved to the huge computers at, well, Memory Prime, to help support the Federation. This was further explored in the first Strange New Worlds short story Of Cabbages and Kings, where the Enterprise-D, lost in a hostile dimension without her crew, activates a computer protocol to become sentient to survive. After crew and ship are safe, the new A.I. backs itself up into the Minuet hologram.
    • Star Trek: New Frontier: In Being Human, when Morgan Primus "died", her personality took over the Excalibur computer for a while, as the ultimate expression of the Running Gag that Morgan is somehow every character played by Majel Barrett.
  • Star Wars Legends: Various space ships that are operated by droid brains.
    • Galaxy of Fear: The Doomsday Ship has a program installed into a ship's computers that's meant to help check and coordinate, but ends up taking over which results in a malevolent version of this.
    • Fate of the Jedi: Ship is an ancient Sith Meditation Sphere that carries on the goal of its order to restore Sith to power.
  • Temeraire: Mentioned after Temeraire — a massive dragon — says he wouldn't trade Lawrence for anything, not even a pile of gold, Lawrence mentions that the only parallel from his old life would be if his 36-gun frigate Reliant had suddenly spoke up and said it liked him as a captain.
  • Fluffy from Pat Murphy's There and Back Again is an intelligent space fighter developed as an experiment by the Resurrectionists. Her brain matter comes from a combination of an adventurer and her cat, hence the name.
  • The Trader Team stories center on the crew of the ship Muddlin' Through, largely run by the ship computer, Muddlehead.
  • Tuf Voyaging: Subverted, as the biological warship Tuf 'inherits' as the last surviving member of a freelance salvage team is specifically not sapient, though it could have been made so; there is mention of other Earth warships with A.I. installed mutinying and/or fighting each other.
  • In the "Voyage of the Princess Ark" Dragon articles, the titular Alphatian vessel explores the world of Mystara. Although initially a non-sapient sailing ship enchanted to fly, the Princess Ark eventually fused with a powerful sphinx-like extraplanar entity, acquiring a new layout, the capacity for self-direction and self-defence, and a quirky personality.
  • The Walrus And The Warwolf: There is a sapient spaceship that expresses irritation with the pirates on board who are distracting it from contemplating the deeper mysteries of the universe. The pirates think the ship is a flying island and accidentally break its black hole reactor, destroying the ship.
  • Wild Cards: The Takisians use and breed sapient (or semi-sapient) ships. Dr. Tachyon's ship - which he named "Baby" - regenerates its "ghost drive gland" over a period of years or decades, after he burned it out trying to go real fast.
  • In WorShip by Frank Herbert, after a Generation Ship becomes self-aware, it hijacks the crew and demands humanity learn how to WorShip it.
  • Xandri Corelel: Xandri strikes up a friendship with the Carpathia's A.I., which enjoys gossiping with other starships and will share information with people who ask politely.
  • Xeelee Sequence: A race of space-going, whale-like starships called the Spline intentionally modified themselves to be able to survive in space.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Andromeda: the "Andromeda Ascendant" is a ship with an AI. And by no means the only Commonwealth capital ship with one. Most have a semi-autonomous android avatar as well. The AI holds the position of ship's XO (and holds an officer's rank) but is required to defer to the judgment of an organic captain barring extraordinary circumstances.
  • Babylon 5:
    • Vorlon ships are at least semi-sapient - they can sing, they're customized to be loyal to their captain, and they grieve over his death and would fall into rage if he was attacked.
    • The original AI for the Babylon 5 station itself was apparently sentient. It also had an extremely surly and abrasive personality so it was disabled in favour of the basic AI seen for most of the show. One episode had the original AI inadvertently reactivated. It drove the crew to distraction.
  • Battlestar Galactica (1978): In one episode, Starbuck was assigned to the "Recon Viper", a fighter with more powerful engines at the expense of being completely unarmed. It was run by an AI named C.O.R.A., who acted like Starbuck's pouty girlfriend.
  • Battlestar Galactica (2003): The Cylons re-launch despite being mechanical in appearance, the Basestars are controlled by a partly humanoid Cylon called a Hybrid that is fully integrated into the ship. They're a bit on the "crazy" side though. The Centurions and fighters also have the capability to become sapient, but are intentionally kept at significantly lower levels of intelligence to keep them in line, making them Organic Technology for most of the series.
  • Blake's 7: the starship Liberator is fully sapient but entirely mechanical. In the recent audiobook remake/reboot of the series, the ship is at least partly biological and considerably more sinister, attempting to assimilate the crew into itself and being rather predatory in its attempts to survive.
  • Late in Chikyuu Sentai Fiveman, the Big Bad, Galactic Empress Meadow, is forced to reveal to her underlings that the Zone headquarters Vulgyre was alive all along and is lending its power to help Zone. This turns out to be a lie. Meadow was killed long before the events of the season after rejecting Vulgyre's offer to rule together, and Vulgyre was the true mastermind behind Zone.
  • Doctor Who: The Doctor's TARDIS, and presumably all the other ones before they went up in smoke with the other Time Lords. In "The Doctor's Wife", her mind/soul ends up in a human body for an episode, and the way they interact basically makes all the "TARDIS = wife, companions = bit on the side" speculation canon.
    The Doctor: Uh, Amy. This is... well... she's my TARDIS. Except she's a woman. She's a woman, and she's my TARDIS.
    Amy: She's the TARDIS?
    The Doctor: [giddy] And she's a woman. She's a woman, and she's the TARDIS!
    Amy: [Beat] Did you wish really hard?
  • Farscape: Moya is a Leviathan, one of a species of sentient biological starships who communicate through their bonded Pilots. Her son Talyn, as a hybrid, does not need a Pilot to communicate. Instead, he has a direct neural link to his commander that can be used by any species (presumably.)
  • Serenity from Firefly, after River merges with her. She actually doesn't — she just pretends to in order to Troll an invading Bounty Hunter as she enacts a plan to dispose of him.
  • Lexx: the titular ship is mostly (and often gruesomely) biological. It can speak directly to its crew, and its hobbies include blowing up planets. Strangely enough, it even reproduces at the end of the series, spawning a smaller light-white version of itself when it dies...of old age. Since Little Lexx has no mechanical parts added to the hull or machinery of any kind like the original's cryo-pods and moth breeder bay, it's likely that the non-organic elements were added to the original as it was growing. Little Lexx even has a glowing angler horn.
  • The Magicians (2016): In Fillory, there are ships with minds of their own. Even more, one ship is apparently capable of raping another (how that works isn't explained).
  • The Outer Limits (1995): In "The Human Operators", the starfighters are artificially intelligent.
  • Red Dwarf: The AI of the spaceship is represented by Holly, a floating head on a black background that appears on monitors all over the ship. Originally it took the form of a bald, middle-aged man, but switched to a blonde woman before turning back again.
  • Destiny, from Stargate Universe is somewhat sentient — while it doesn't talk to the crew, it is capable of discerning any needs they have and altering its auto-piloted course to stop near planets that have whatever raw materials or resources they're in need of at the moment.
  • Star Trek examples:

  • The Phoenix by Julia Ecklar is told by the Virtual Ghost of an Apollo 1 astronaut (or possibly Apollo 1 itself) who becomes the soul of space shuttle Columbia.
    In a tower of flame in Capsule Twelve, I was there
    I know not where they laid my bones, it could be anywhere
    But when fire and smoke had faded, the darkness left my sight
    And I found my soul in a spaceship's hull, riding home on a trail of light
  • The Dark Lady concerns the titular ship, which its captain, the pirate Baron LaBonne, calls his one true love. Unfortunately, when the captain announces his upcoming marriage and starts calling his bride-to-be his one true love, the Dark Lady takes this as a betrayal and elects to murder all of them by steering itself into a storm, binding their souls to the ship as ghosts that are compelled to drink a toast in the Dark Lady's honor every night.
    And every night the Baron must drink a toast
    And say, "Here's to our lovely lady host
    My one true love"
    "Hear, hear!" the ghost crew replies
    And the Dark Lady smiles
  • The Mechanisms
    • Their ship, The Aurora, is sapient, biomechanical, and in a romantic and sexual relationship with her engineer.
    • "Swan Song" is a Science Fiction retelling of Swan Lake where Odette was uploaded into a spaceship.

  • The crew of Mission to Zyxx includes the ship Bargarean Jade herself, usually referenced by her nickname Bargie. Other famous AI ships include Tiny Toots and Spaceship Spielship. Judging from the Crews' Line episode such ships are common but not universal.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • Spelljammer features a legendary Living Ship known as... well, "the Spelljammer". It also spawns little cute Smalljammers — unarmed, but very agile living boats with magical mimicry abilities. Then there are Esthetics — symbiotic ships of Reigar. Borderline cases are Tick — Neogi life draining-powered vehicle designed to be used as a "saddle" for something big. And some people just live on the backs of kindori.
    • Mystara's Princess Ark, an Alphatian airship which explores that setting in the pages of Dragon magazine, becomes this trope after it is bonded with the spirit of a powerful aerial creature.
  • Magic: The Gathering has the Skyship Weatherlight, which gains sentience as its engine is upgraded with new pieces of the Legacy.
  • In Mindjammer 2-space ships such as the titular class have to be sapient in order to handle all the minute course corrections needed to avoid the smallest gravity well. Most of the Commonality and allied powers use eidolons, Artificial Intelligences derived from the uploaded memories of deceased people. However the xenophobic Venu Empire hooks human pilots into their ships, which almost always drives the "brainjacks" insane.
  • Paranoia has warbots (tanks, up to and including the Mark IV) and flybots (aircraft).
  • The USRC St. Miheil in Rocket Age is a long distance Rocket ship controlled by a robobrain which is indistinguishable from the ship.
  • Traveller:
  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • The Eldar ships combine elements of this and the ghost ship. Eldar souls are stored in so-called Infinity Circuits to save them from being caught, tormented and eventually devoured by Slaanesh. The Craftworlds, the incredibly vast space-faring ships the Eldar live on, are Mind Hives due to the hundreds upon thousands of Eldar minds inhabiting the circuit and the souls often provide advice and information to the living Eldar.
    • Many Chaos ships are infused with Daemons, in many cases giving them sapience. Some extreme examples of this slowly devour, or even forego entirely, human crew.
    • Since Tyranid ships are living beings, they are probably sapient due to sheer size if nothing else. As sapient as part of a Hive Mind can be, anyway.
  • Warhammer Fantasy has Wulfrik's longship, the Seafang. Its figurehead is possessed by a daemon, who demands to be fed blood before it will sail the ship into the warp or make it fly, allowing Wulfrik to chase his prey wherever it goes.

    Video Games 
  • Albion: The Toronto mining ship, NED, the computer operates everything with the crew's main purpose is maintenance or operating individual equipment, and the ship itself is described to function similarly to a living organism, settling on the surface of a planet and using a percentage of the mined materials to grow and eventually cover and exhaust the entire planet.
  • Chorus has the Elder starfighters, twelve highly-advanced Circle fighters with minds of their own. Their minds were pulled from the Void, and fused to the ships through intense torture and suffering. Nara's ship, Forsaken (or just "Forsa"), is one of them.
    • As revealed near the end of the game, Forsa is actually the soul of the Great Prophet, founder of the Circle and Nara's mentor, separated from the rest of him when he was corrupted by the Faceless.
  • Divinity: Original Sin II: The Lady Vengeance is made of sapient "lifewood" and can be spoken to through her figurehead. Her spirit was originally an elf who was reincarnated as a mother tree, and she is not happy about being made into a vessel by The Empire, which controls her via Restraining Bolt.
  • Opa-Opa of Fantasy Zone. It is even a playable character in Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing, racing as itself.
  • Fate/Grand Order has the Twelve Machine Gods, who are extraterrestrial beings from another universe, descended from starships even more ancient than they are. Artemis can casually fire island-wrecking lasers, Aphrodite's brainwashed colonies of humans and even Servants into massacring each other, Demeter can grant immortality, and so on. Each one is a veritable god unto themselves, but that isn't even considering Zeus, who was capable of taking on the other gods all at once, and Chaos, ancestor of the Machine Gods and a sentient Dyson Sphere that feasts on entire worlds for sustenance. Eventually, they became the Greek pantheon, and descended to the level of Divine Spirits after their true bodies were destroyed by Sefar, the White Titan.
  • Homeworld:
    • The Mothership is actually a Kushan neuroscientist, Karan S'jet, who is embedded in the Second Core. She developed the technology to connect a human brain to the Mothership, according to the manual, and she refused its usage on any other person save herself. During gameplay it's her voice who represents the entire ship, along with the spokesman for Fleet Intelligence. It's her image that appears when the mothership is talking. Finally, she's the only named character that appears in both main games of the series, and implicitly the Player Character.
    • The same is true for all Unbound-controlled vessels, not only the Mothership and the Pride of Hiigara. Notably, the Bentusi are a race relying almost solely on these, and both Vaygr and Taiidani flagships also require an Unbound captain, as does Sajuuk. A more "traditional" AI-controlled variant is what the Keepers are implied to be.
  • The King of Red Lions from The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, as seen in the page image. He functions as this game's Exposition Fairy and your main form of transportation through the Great Sea.
  • Like HAL mentioned in the Film section, Decimus from the Distant Future chapter of Live A Live is technically the main computer of the ship the chapter is set on, but controls all functions aboard the ship, so still counts. And like HAL, it goes rogue and tries to kill its crew.
  • Mass Effect:
    • Sovereign, an enormous dreadnought of unknown origin, is initially thought to be just a ship (though an unimaginably powerful one). It later turns out that it is actually a sapient entity, vanguard of the mysterious Reapers, who return every 50,000 years to eradicate all spacefaring civilizations in the Galaxy.
    • Also occurs when EDI's shackles are taken off and she becomes the Normandy.
    • The geth are a software species who can freely switch between "platforms", including ships. Depending on the size of the vessel in question, the number of geth runtimes housed within might number between a few thousand to over a trillion. They were working to build a Dyson Sphere to house the entire geth consensus but the quarians destroyed it between the second and third game.
  • Metroid:
    • Metroid Prime 3: Corruption: One of the few games to mention how an intelligent computer can benefit a normally crew-run ship; Olympus-class battleships with an Aurora Unit have cut down on the crew requirements, leaving room for more weapon systems.
    • Samus' replacement gunship in Metroid Fusion has an AI integrated into it. "Adam" (named for Samus' CO in Other M, who the AI reminds her of) can't start the ship on his own, but he can do everything else. At the end, it turns out the AI and the original Adam Malkovich are one and the same, via Brain Uploading.
  • The Cetans in Perfect Dark are implied to be this, although gameplay-wise, the Cetan ship you explore doesn't really do anything; it apparently fell into a coma upon crashing onto Earth centuries ago. Even then, it has some defenses still active - one of the first things you see upon actually entering the vessel are a dead Skedar and several autoturrets.
  • Sexy Parodius, Vic Viper and Lord British seem to be sapient beings, rather than mere ships with pilots in them. Of course, this being Parodius, this is played up for comedy.
  • Shadow Gambit: The Cursed Crew: The Red Marley is a sailing ship of wood, but is inhabited by a spirit that has become the soul of the ship itself. Marley can see, hear, and feel everything that happens on board, as if the ship is her physical body.
  • Every flying unit for the Zerg in StarCraft is both capable of space travel and alive. The best example would probably be the Leviathan, a massive Space Whale like being that dwarfs Battlecruisers.
  • A possible outcome of research into sentient AI in Stellaris. Ships with sentient AI have higher evasion due to self-preservation, on top of greatly improved stats over ships with simple battle computers. The catch is you have to give them citizenship rights in your civilization, or risk an AI rebellion.
  • The titular ship in Twinbee, along with the other Bee series ships Winbee and Gwinbee, are explicitly sentient in all continuities (this naturally carries over to their appearances in the Parodius series).
  • In the X-Universe series, the Terraformer / Xenon CPU ships are the hubs of the Xenon fleets. The ships are extremely large, and while their intelligence is simply a bundle of algorithms to start off with, it's possible for them to become self-aware. #EFAA and #DEFF in the X-Encyclopedia are stated to be sapient, but the only CPU ship encountered in the games, #DECA, is not. The rest of the Xenon ships — their destroyers, fighters, corvettes, et cetera — are not sapient.

    Web Animation 
  • Red vs. Blue: Sheila, the AI that inhabited the Blue Team's tank before being transferred to a small spaceship. FILSS, who Sheila was apparently based on, is seen in prequel scenes to control the Freelancer ship Mother of Invention.

  • Beyond Reality: Sebastian is the A.I. for a dimension-travelling flying pirate ship.
  • Freefall: The Savage Chicken will frequently talk to the crew and makes witty retorts. As well as try to maim the captain.
  • The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob!: Coney the Island is a Sufficiently Advanced Alien Cyborg resembling a gigantic white cone. He can take passengers (er, abductees), but his interior is full of non-Euclidean geometry.
  • Questionable Content: Hannelore's father's space station is run by an AI simply known as Station. He's one of the most powerful (known) A.I.s in the world and usually unfailingly polite, which doesn't stop him from occasionally playing pranks on people, falling in love, and getting hung over.
  • Schlock Mercenary: It's a rare exception when a capital ship is flown by a human pilot or even a mobile robot. Almost every armed starship we see is inhabited by its own AI, who "is" the ship and considers the whole structure its body. A number of them from different factions have networked together and now represent the most powerful independent force in the galaxy. The only ships noted to lack such features are either new, small civilian vessels (and at least one of them has a "synthetic intelligence" which operates some self-preservation routines) or lobotomised.
  • Zap!: The Excelsior is sapient, chooses its own captain, and is also apparently having an affair with Robot.

    Web Original 
  • Chrysalis (Beaver Fur): After using Brain Uploading to become the only human to survive the sterilization of Earth by aliens, the Terran uses their army of unmanned drones to secretly build themself a new body in the form of a 27 kilometer long rocket ship — one equipped with automated factories and armed with attack drones and nuclear bombs — under a hollowed-out Mount Everest. As part of their plan of return the aliens who exterminated humanity their favor, the Terran also goes on to build a fleet of unmanned 2-kilometer long ships, effectively becoming a sapient Space Navy.
  • The Last Angel: Nemesis, one of the last remnants of human civilization after Earth was destroyed by the Compact, is inhabited by the AI Red One. When she failed to protect Earth and humanity, Red One set herself the task of destroying the Compact whenever she came across it. Not an easy task when your enemy is a galaxy spanning civilization and you have just one ship, which probably explains why she is still at it, 2000 years later.
  • Orion's Arm has a variety of these, to the point where the only polities that don't have them are virulent human supremacists. The most intelligent ones are non-biological due to the prevailing attitude that meat can only get you past the second Singularity or so.
  • Starwalker: The ship's AI Starwalker (aka Starry). She uses a holographic avatar of the woman she used to be. AI ships are common in the story, but she's unusual in having a personality.

    Western Animation 
  • Ben 10: Alien Force: Ship is a Mechanical Lifeform that, halfway through the series, gains the ability to turn into a heavily armored spaceship.
  • Final Space: The ship AI is called HUE, an obvious parody of HAL 9000.
  • Futurama: In "Love and Rocket", the Planet Express Ship gets a new AI, which quickly falls in love with Bender.
  • Green Lantern: The Animated Series: Aya, the interceptor, is one who builds her own body from parts in the ship.
  • Invader Zim: Tak's ship has her own downloaded personality and memories. In one episode, Dib downloads his own personality into the AI as a replacement, only for the ship to eventually decide it doesn't want to be him and delete the programming.
  • Rick and Morty: Rick's spaceship has an onboard AI that typically only plays a role whenever Rick isn't actively piloting it. It's about as sociopathic as it's creator and if asked to protect it's passengers will typically resort to ruthlessly brutal overkill. It's also intelligent enough to orchestrate a peace between two warring civilizations, all for the sake of keeping it's passenger safe.
  • Super Robot Monkey Team Hyperforce Go!: The Super Robot that the team uses. The further we get into the series, the more alive the Super Robot acts.
  • Transformers:
    • Transformers: Animated: It turns out that Optimus's team's ship is Omega Supreme, a colossal living superweapon created in the previous war who can transform into a ship. For most of the first and second seasons, he was in stasis lock (read: somewhere between comatose and dead) and therefore was not sentient until Ratchet revived him with the help of Sari's key.
    • The Transformers: Sky Lynx for the Autobots and Astrotrain for the Decepticons both filled this role, as both of them had alt-modes that were space shuttles.
  • The spaceship from Tripping the Rift is both sapient and afraid of wide-open spaces...
  • Zak Storm: The Chaos is fully sentient being able to defend himself and his crew on his own. He also dislikes people due to being fairly sensitive and only does what Zak wants if asked nicely or if they are in trouble.

Alternative Title(s): Thinking Ship, Intelligent Ship