When it comes to starships, bigger is better–or so sci-fi would lead us to believe, anyway. This is most evident when it comes to movies, which often use the spectacle of a massive ship to help convey the true scale of the danger our heroes face. And these massive starships in movies are almost always under the command of the bad guys–Star Wars has The Death Star, Star Trek had the Narada, Independence Day and its alien mothership… It’s rare to see the good guys with anything that can compare.
This tends to show up less for TV series than movies; budget is a big reason why, but that doesn’t mean it never happens, and it tends to have a lot of impact when it does. After all, if you’re used to the Enterprise-D being the big ship on the block, seeing it completely dwarfed by a Borg cube for the first time is appropriately awe-inspiring. It also tends to be a result of the series running for a long time; SG-1‘s Goa’uld Hatak-class motherships are pretty big, but the Ori motherships are significantly bigger, and the Wraith Super-Hive ship from Stargate Atlantis is bigger still.
Regardless of their origins, the real reason for having enormous starships is obvious: they’re just so cool! So here are 4 of the biggest starships I’ve been able to find on TV. And keep in mind–it’s starships, so they gotta be able to move. Deep Space 9, Babylon 5, etc. are stations and thus not applicable to this list.
I’m not a huge fan of LEXX, but you can’t deny the sheer size of the ship is impressive. At 10 kilometers, the LEXX is absolutely massive compared to your average starship; most of the ships belonging to sci-fi heroes are around 1 km or less. Now, I’m not sure anyone would be willing to argue that the crew of the LEXX are heroes, but they are an astonishingly small group, with just four characters aboard this gargantuan dragonfly-like vessel (one of whom is a robot’s head and another spends most of his time cryogenically frozen). LEXX was designed as the ultimate Weapon of Mass Destruction, needing to consume entire planets to power itself, something that is shockingly easy for the ship’s AI to talk the characters into allowing. The destruction throughout the series just continually escalates, which reaches absurd levels since the starting point is planetary-scale.
3. Voth city ship–Star Trek Voyager
The Voth are an ancient and immeasurably powerful race, having originally evolved on Earth from the dinosaurs over 65 million years ago. They’ve roamed the Star Trek galaxy without a home ever since, having long ago forgotten their origins and ended up in the Delta Quadrant. When Voyager encounters them, the Voth city ship is able to transport THE ENTIRE SHIP into a huge cargo bay, just one of many cavernous expanses within this over 10 km long vessel. The name is no exaggeration: this thing is actually the size of a small city. They had the capability to shut down all electronic devices aboard Voyager from afar, possessed personal phase cloaks like the one that went catastrophically wrong in TNG “Pegasus,” and traveled at transwarp speeds that put even the Borg to shame. For comparison, the aforementioned Borg cubes are generally portrayed as being 3 km along each side, making this thing more than 3 times as long as a cube!
2. Command Carrier Zelbinion—Farscape
The normal Peacekeeper Command Carriers were fairly sizable, but there was an even larger class of Command Carriers used as flagships, like the one commanded by Grayza during Peacekeeper Wars. The Zelbinion was another of these, captained by Durka and a prison for Rygel for many cycles. The pride of the Peacekeeper fleet from a century past, it was lost in battle to unknown forces–eventually discovered to be Chiana’s people, the Nebari. While we don’t see the Zelbinion in its heyday, its reputation extends throughout the galaxy and was believed to be invincible by the Luxans. And yet even after lying unused and plundered for a hundred years, it was able to power up the shields and run off the Sheyang. While there are no official measurements as to the Zelbinion‘s size, it is almost certainly bigger than Grayza’s, which is roughly 10 km, and my own guesses would put it at approximately 12 km. How awesome could the ship that destroyed it have been? Too bad we never got to find out…
1. The Magog Worldship–Andromeda
So, you know how the city ship was the size of a city? Guess how big the Worldship is.
If you guessed “planet-sized,” you’re off by at least a factor of 20. The Magog Worldship is basically an entire solar system bound together, with 20 planets hollowed out and connected in a complex web, all surrounding an artificial star, which is used as a power source. While we sometimes see Dyson Spheres in sci-fi, this is, as far as I know, the only instance of a Dyson-like structure that is capable of movement, however slowly it might travel. The Worldship traversed the void between galaxies for hundreds of years (their home galaxy having apparently been 66 million lightyears away) trying to reach the realm of the Commonwealth, and housed trillions of Magog for the duration of the trip. Even setting off a Nova bomb (exactly what it sounds like) only delayed the ship by a few years. And yeah, it is from the same episode as Tyr’s badass scene from last week’s list.
You see starship size comparison charts and infographics floating around the web sometimes; you will never, ever see the Worldship on there, because it would make every other ship ever shown on screen or in a movie invisible. Yes, that includes the Death Star (remember, it’s no moon). Even video game structures, which tend to be the only things to outsize movies, can’t measure up; the eponymous Halos from Halo are approximately 10,000 km, but that’s only about as big as the Earth. This thing is TWENTY Earths, plus the connecting matter. it’s just that damn incomprehensibly big.
Any TV starships you can think of that ought to be on this list? There were quite a lot of ships in the 10km range; special mention goes to Red Dwarf (10-ish km itself), the TARDIS (which has no known size but is way, way, way bigger than we’ve ever been shown) and Planet Zanak from Doctor Who (which could teleport itself around other planets), the Vorlon Planet Killers from Babylon 5 (6.5km), the rogue Moon from Space:1999, the Wraith super-hive ship mentioned above (9.8 km), and the Varro generation ship (not particularly spacious, but several km long, at least) from Voyager. You can let me know your ideas in the comments, or on Twitter @RetroPhaseShift. And if you enjoy the article, consider sharing it! “What Could Have Been” is back for real on Monday, so look forward to that. Plus Defiance and Dark Matter finales tonight.