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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."
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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 Standard Human Spaceship (which usually looks more like a World War II battleship) and 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 lot of curves and soft edges, and often what look like tendrils or tentacles. One could be forgiven for mistaking them for Living Ships at first glance, although usually they're made of the same kind of materials as their human contemporaries.
  • The hull itself will be fairly smooth overall, with few greebles if any.
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  • 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.
  • The ship is on a similar Technology Level to those of their contemporaries. If it's packed full of super-advanced technologies that other races can't understand, it's probably 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) and Eldritch Starship (vessels so strange they boggle the mind).


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Examples:

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    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.
  • 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 Television 
  • 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.
  • 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 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.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Warhammer 40,000: Two of the major alien factions in the game, the T'au and the Craftworld Aeldari, both favor these sorts of ship designs. T'au vessels tend towards smoothly curved, flattened and elegant designs reminiscent of sea life, while the Craftworlders 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 3: 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 two 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.
    • 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.

    Webcomics 
  • 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.

    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.


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