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Standard Alien Spaceship

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Because a race of Cthulhumanoids aren't going to be content flying around in giant grey bricks.

"The human ships need to be angular and grounded and sensible, so by extension we must make the alien ships curved and sloping and colorful and strange."

In science fiction, especially Space Opera, it is common for alien-built spacecraft to have a flowing, smooth, organic-looking appearance, painted in one or two eye-catching colors. The main reasons for this are to set the ship apart from the far more utilitarian-looking Standard Human Spaceship and to reflect the fact that its builders evolved under different circumstances and have their own unique history and culture, influencing their general aesthetic.

Some common traits of this look are:

  • The ship has a flowing and curved geometry, sometimes peppered with tendril-like protrusions. At first glance the ship will look like an ocean-themed Living Ship, despite it being made of the same stuff as human vessels.
  • The hull will be smooth and streamlined, with few to none obvious functional components and/or greebles.
  • Much of the ship's exterior will have a single dominant color, usually not a shade of grey. Green, purple, and tan seem to be the most common.

Also: note that for this trope to come into play, the ship and the aliens who made it must be on a roughly similar Technology Level to their human counterparts. If the ship in question is packed full of super-advanced technologies that are as alien to the outside observer as the ship's design and aesthetic, it means we're dealing an Eldritch Starship instead.

See also Flying Saucer and Shiny-Looking Spaceships, which sometimes overlap with this trope. Contrast Standard Human Spaceship: this trope's opposite. Also contrast with Flying Cutlery Spaceship, for alien ships that are instead outrageously complicated in design.


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    Comic Books 
  • Wonder Woman Vol 1: The villain Uvo's empire uses large mostly sleek ships that are painted a solid purple on the outside.
  • In Marvel Comics, the Shi'ar's spaceships tend to look like giant insects. Ironically, the Shi'ar themselves are a race of bird people.

    Film - Live-Action 
  • In Battle Beyond the Stars, Sador commands a dark, boxy warship with a hammer-like bow. He's opposed chiefly by The Hero Shad from Akir, piloting the Sapient Ship Nell that resembles a flying uterus, and the other mercenaries' ships includes Nestor's (a glowing Flying Saucer), Space Cowboy's (which roughly resembles an overgrown Lunar Landing Module), Gelt's (which resembles a flying manta ray), and Cayman's (which has a design that makes it look like a flying mouth).
  • Independence Day: The invaders' ships all look like they were carved out of black stone, and look very smooth (from a distance, at least). Their city-destroying Flying Saucers and their planetoid-sized mothership have greebles in a few spots, but otherwise they fit the bill.
  • Man of Steel: The Kryptonian spacecrafts are darkly colored but have a very distinct look to them, with the ancient scout ship having very organic, clam shell-like details, and Zod's dropship resembling a metallic beetle of sorts.
  • Predator: The Yatuja ships squarely fit the bill, looking more shapely, decorated and composed of separate parts unlike any Standard Human Spaceship, very alien looking, but without stepping into the Eldritch Starship zone of the Engineer ships.
  • Star Trek (2009): Ambassador Spock's ship, the Jellyfish, is one of the most unusual looking vessels of the franchise, with an organic looking semi-circle main body that seems to be propelled by spinning gyroscope-like appendages. It was purposefully designed to contrast the bigger and badder Narada.
  • Star Wars:
    • While most of the ships used by the human-dominated Rebel Alliance are scrappy, blocky, cobbled-together and utilitarian vessels reflecting the Rebellion's lack of resources to devote to aesthetics over functionality — and most of the human-centric Empire's warships are wedge-shaped slabs of grey metal with the subtlety and grace of a brick to the teeth — the star cruisers built by the Rebellion's Mon Calamari allies are sleek, smooth-edged vessels with gracefully tapering outlines, globular outer details instead of the human ships' hard-edged greebling and similarly elegant internal designs. They are still, however, solid grey or grey-blue in color.
    • Ships in the "civilized age" of the prequels are closer to this trope than the examples above; the Republic's ships had lots of curvy segments with red and white coloration, while Trade Federation ships are round and organic-looking with grey and blue coloration. The Naboo N-1 fighters in The Phantom Menace are probably the best example of the trope in Star Wars, being solid yellow except for a silver bow and completely smooth throughout. By Revenge of the Sith, most of these ships have been phased out in favor of hard-edged designs more closely resembling the Used Future of the original trilogy.
  • The Nerdlucks from Space Jam come to Earth in a spacecraft that's very sculpted and colorful, modeled roughly after a 1949 Buick Roadmaster in front and a 1959 Cadillac Eldorado in back, replete with rolled edges and chrome galore. Since it came from Moron Mountain, this craft is the space-going equivalent of an Edsel.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Babylon 5: Zig-zagged with the alien designs, depending on the race. While some such as the Centauri and the Narn follow a design closer to the humans' own Standard Human Spaceship fleets, others such as the Minbari (and ships made of adapted Minbari tech, such as the White Stars) resemble flying pieces of modern art made of purple-white coral and the ships of the Shadows and the Vorlons dip straight into Eldritch Starship territory. In Legend of the Rangers, Dulann criticizes humans for their penchant for dull-gray featureless ship designs.
  • Battlestar Galactica: The Cylon Basestars in the 2003 reboot feature sweeping curves tapering into several huge spike-like projections. The overall effect is something like a giant alien starfish.
  • Star Trek:
    • The Romulan Star Empire uses a raptor as its emblem, and its starships ("warbirds") tend to resemble giant avians as well. They're usually green in color, but teal and brown are also seen on occasion.
    • Star Trek: Discovery: During the first season, and into the second season, Klingon ships sport a Gothic look with lots of curves and protrusions. Starting with the second season, the Klingons begin developing the cleaner avian-inspired ships they (and the Romulans) would be known for in the original series and onward.
    • The Tholians, Silicon-Based Inscrutable Aliens whose hat is precision in all things, have blue or red ships shaped like tetrahedrons.
    • Dominion ships in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine are blue-grey and vaguely resemble beetles, with glowing purple highlights on their bellies and nacelles.
    • Vulcan ships in Star Trek: Enterprise are red in color and ditch conventional warp nacelles in favor of a giant ring that does the same job. The same design style continues well into the late 24th century, as shown in Star Trek: Lower Decks and Star Trek: Prodigy.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Warhammer 40,000: Two of the major alien factions in the game, the T'au and the Craftworld Eldar/Asuryani, both favor these sorts of ship designs. T'au vessels tend towards smoothly curved, flattened and elegant designs reminiscent of sea life, while the Asuryani favor fusiform, streamlined hulls and prominently displayed, almost wing-like triangular solar sails. Both stand in sharp contrast to the blocky, angular, ruthlessly utilitarian masses of metal the Imperium uses; the cobbled-together junkers flown by the Orks; and the Eldritch Starships used by Chaos. Necron ships are much less angular than the Imperium's as well, tending to follow geometric curves and shapes, although they're not as colorful.

    Video Games 
  • While Command & Conquer: Tiberium Wars doesn't take place in space, it nonetheless features the extraterrestrial Scrin as a playable faction, summoned to planet Earth by a premature Liquid Tiberium Explosion orchestrated by Kane. All their 'aircraft', including their MCV-equivalent 'Drone Ship', are thus spaceships, and they are all more sleek and curved than even the most aerodynamic designs of the two human factions of the Global Defense Initiative and Brotherhood of NOD can provide. The closest humanity gets within the series is the Brotherhood's Banshee aircraft from the previous game, and that was explicitly engineered using alien schematics.
  • Grey Goo (2015): Inverted with the Beta and their ultimate unit, "The Hand of Ruk", which is explicitly mentioned to be a repurposed starship and looks like a Diesel Punk Flying Saucer with a donut-like arrangement. In comparison, the aerial units deployed by the Humans and the titular Grey Goo are all very smooth, super-tech, and in the humans' case packing Tron Lines.
  • Halo: Covenant ships fit this trope to a T, being purple, smooth, and curved everywhere, more like beetles or sea animals than hardware. This is meant to reflect the Covenant's technological and economic superiority over humanity: they're so powerful, they can afford to be Cool, but Inefficient.
  • Mass Effect usually averts this; standard starship design philosophy favors long and angular ships armed with mass drivers that run the entire length of the vessel. But there are exceptions:
    • The asari are considered the most advanced race in the galaxy, and their ships are clearly built to impress. On top of being huge and blue-grey in color, their hulls are smooth and covered in blue lights, making them instantly-identifiable among a fleet of Citadel ships.
    • Ironically, the geth, despite being a sentient machine species, construct their ships to look organic and insect-like. The standard geth ship looks like nothing so much as a giant wasp-cockroach hybrid.
    • The Collectors, keeping with their own appearance as insectoid aliens, travel in a ship that's covered in asymmetrical bulges, giving it an appearance like a flying termite colony.
      • When the Collectors were being conceptualized, their ship was actually intended to avert this. The earliest concept art involved a lot of stark, metallic architecture and sterile lighting, but ultimately the Collectors felt too out of place in such an environment, and so the Collector Ship was reworked into the “insect hive” appearance it had in the final game.
        I think they were fighting too much against the clichés that aliens should have organic looking structures that look like them. We are trying to fight that but we had to go back and base this level off of what the Collector’s bodies actually look like. […] It's like us humans going into houses that look like heads and arms and bodies. Our buildings and structures don't look anything like us, but when we do aliens we usually have to match the design; it sort of avoids the problem. So we had to throw all these out.
    • The kett from Mass Effect: Andromeda use beige-colored ships that appear to be composed of numerous large spheres and organic-looking green protrusions. Probably justified by the fact that they evolved in the Andromeda galaxy and therefore weren't influenced by the Reapers' mass relay technology like the Milky Way races.
  • Starcraft: Protoss ships are much sleeker and more rounded than the big boxy designs used by Terrans (who apply the same philosophy to their guns), their main fighter even falling squarely into the Space Plane category. The Zerg are also more bulbous than the other two, but they fall under another trope entirely.
  • Stellaris: The Molluscoid ships (pictured above) play this completely straight, as do the regal-looking Fallen Empire ships. Avian and Fungoid ships combine it with Shiny-Looking Spaceships, while the spaceships from the Humanoid DLC find a medium between this and Raygun Gothic. The Reptilian, Plantoid, and Arthropod ships are less drastic examples, as they have colorful highlights but otherwise fall closer to Standard Human Spaceships in shape.
    • The Mammalian shipset follows the Standard Human Spaceship design to a point, but is used by a variety of alien species. In the base game both the human preset empires use the Mammalian ships but if the Humanoids DLC is installed they use the smoother Humanoid shipset mentioned above.
  • X: Boron ships resemble sea creatures, with flowing organic shapes and a mottled green exterior. Paranid ships are streamlined and aerodynamic-looking, again with flowing curvature. This contrasts with all four human factions, which tend to build blocky: Argon and OTAS ships resemble Diesel Punk aircraft or large blocky slabs, while Terran and Aldrin ships are bright white slabs and saucers. Averted with the Teladi and Split, though, whose ships are if anything even blockier and more irregular than the Argons'.
  • In Endless Space:
    • The Sophons go for smooth, white ships devoid of any angular edges or visual intimidation.
    • Riftborn ships have a similar design to the Sophons, but more angular lines and also floating, geometric modules. The Riftborn are sentiment mathematical concepts from another world, so of course their ships will look bizarre.
    • The Hissho, an avian Proud Warrior Race, go for ships with elegant wing-like fins and jagged beak-like protrusions at the front, with beautiful and intricate engravings commemorating past acts of valour and significant events in their racial history. The Hissho kill and they look good while they do it.
    • The Unfallen, a race of beautiful and peaceful tree aliens, use ships crafted of an organic wood-like material and leafy solar sails.
  • In Conquest: Frontier Wars, the Mantis design their ships to have an insectoid appearance, while Celareon ships look like majestic sea creatures (except for their scout which looks like a Flying Saucer).
  • In Sword of the Stars, Liir ships look like sea creatures with flowing protrusions and curving shapes. Hiver ships have a bug-like appearance. Tarka ships look like they're covered in scales. Zuul ships look like a mish-mash of parts cobbled together at a junkyard with menacing spikes (because that's exactly what they are). Morrigi ships have a distinct avian appearance. This is all in contrast to human ships, which largely look like shipping containers welded together, except for a giant ring at the back, which is a part of the human FTL drive.

  • Homestuck:
    • Troll spaceships are streamlined vessels adorned with numerous smooth, forward-pointing spines and painted bright red. The overall impression is one of a swift, sleek, aggressive predator... which suits the troll empire's culture quite well.
    • The "spaceships" used by the Prospitians and Dersites in their eternal war are a bit of an odd case — they're for all intents and purposes world wars-era warship designs capable of flight, but they nonetheless use tapered, slender designs (as a consequence of their real-life bases) and are painted bright gold or purple, respectively.
  • In The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob!, the insectoid Princess Voluptua's spaceships often look vaguely like, well, insects.

    Western Animation 
  • In Steven Universe, Gem ships are bright, smooth, colorful, geometric, and full of incredibly advanced technology. For instance, Yellow and Blue Diamond both have ships shaped like giant hands that are the same colors are their respective owners.