4 Things Wrong With Science Fiction Spaceships

Proud Mammal is working on a game that deals with some of the physics of space travel, and it’s lead me down a path of thinking about the space ships we see in movies and television. Most of my favorite ships from those sources are utterly bonkers. The Viper (Battlestar Galactica) has terrible maneuverability. The Enterprise (Star Trek) has literally zero true visibility, they rely 100% on computer read-outs. The TARDIS (Dr. Who) is… well it’s a police box, or… a gateway or something, but regardless they show that thing flying through space.

Image by Locozee

No problem.

Those ships don’t work in any situation but fantasy… but that’s not really what I wanted to point out. There are 4 things that I think could improve any space ship design with only tiny changes, and here they are.

1. Add Windows – So many designs in science fiction do away with windows because they have sensors and view screens and emergency back up generators that will protect them from every needing to see anything. Star Trek (at least The Original Series) has the crew receiving all of their information from powered screens. I know for a fact that there is at least one instance of them losing power and becoming totally helpless (Star Trek: The Motion Picture). Maybe if they had a window and some manual propulsion vents (to give them a way to propel themselves without power), they wouldn’t get caught up in so many issues where they just have to talk themselves out of trouble (I know what you’re doing Gene Roddenberry, save a lot of money on those FX, yeah?). And maybe they didn’t think layering of screens would be possible either, but we’re already living in a world of Google Glass, so maybe we can just stick those same sensors and screens right on the window, solve everyone’s problem. Worst case scenario, just swing your view screen in front of the window when you don’t need to see.

from scifi.blogoverflow.com

Sooo, which direction is this thing looking?

2. Add Rear View Mirrors – Even the ships with windows generally don’t have any means of seeing behind themselves. Point to any number of space fighter and they have these cockpits that can see (at best, and not counting blind spots) 180 degrees around their ship. The X-wing, the Viper, and Starfox’s ship, none of them can see behind themselves and none of them can turn on a dime (for some reason, their versions of space don’t let you spin while maintaining momentum). The most egregious violator of this and the one with the most prominent problem? Firefly’s Serenity. There is an entire episode dedicated to what happens when they don’t look behind them (1 whole episode of their short 14 episode run – I.E. that’s a problem for them 7% of the time: which is huge compared to most of my other fixes on these other ships). They’re followed into deep space by a bounty hunter trying to catch them off guard… and they don’t know he’s there despite the fact that he’s been following them at close range for hours! Just mount a mirror on the outside of that ship and they would never have had a problem.

From Dash Z

A quick look backwards once in a while… not too difficult.

3. Reduce Ship Size – There are so many enormous ships in science fiction that it’s basically a trope at this point. But I’m going to point to the absolute biggest of them all, The Death Star. Clocking in at 160 Kilometers in diameter it’s easily one of the biggest ships in science fiction history. But what is that space used for? It’s not all power and laser workings, I can tell you that. There’s a standing army aboard, but why? It’s a blatant misuse of manpower and materials… because instead of building the extra 80 miles (diameter) of crew quarters, mess halls, cinemas, shopping plazas, family barracks, pre-schools, roads and breweries – they could have just made it smaller. They need probably 3 teams of 20 to pilot the ship, 3 teams of 20 to shoot the gun. 20 kilometers would probably have been plenty big enough to house the gun, have enough power and STILL have room for homespun niceties for the crew. Plus, with all that extra metal and crew, they could have manned additional ships to help protect the giant mega weapon. And it’s not just Star Wars that gets this wrong. Almost every giant ship in science fiction is absolutely too big for what it’s designed to do. Oh man… and don’t even get me started on the logistics of keeping these ships supplied. Unless they’re essentially magic like Star Trek’s replicator… only then is it possible.

from  Cartuse Imprimanta Refill Profesionist

Never get between a Klingon and his magic whiskey.

4. Add More Engines or Thrusters – The thing about space craft is that they need more than one thruster to get motion in more than one direction, and a lot of space craft in movies and television do have more than one… but, and it’s a huge but, they’re so often asymmetrical that it’s a wonder these ships don’t go spinning out of control immediately. Take Battle Star Galactic’s Viper, its 3 main engines aren’t directly behind the center of mass, and they are not symmetrical. That ship is going to go into some wicked spins. The X-wing design on the other hand is a bit better, it has 4 engines, directly at center of mass and they’re symmetrical. Good. But something we never see in the movies are nose-cone thrusters, something to give it a good dog fighting maneuver. Getting followed? No problem, just swing your ship 180 degrees and blast away while you move backwards.

from Gizmodo

Great luck for the Cylons that whoever designed this ship was drunk.

There’s my nitpicks, and they’re all valid. These ships just aren’t as good as they could be. They can’t see, they’re wasteful and (in a real situation) they would probably just spin out of control forever. With my proposed changes, the Empire would have won the war, the crew of Serenity wouldn’t have to deal with uninvited madmen on board, and the Enterprise would certainly get to decrease the number of red shirts it orders.

from couples costumes

“Thanks buddy!”

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