File these fictional spacecraft under Earth's "DO NOT WANT" list, because these 10 ships are nothing short of planet-bulldozing, flesh-gorging, humanity-enslaving harbingers of extraterrestrial doom.
Doom, I say!
I know what you're thinking. You're glancing over at that Death Star picture and you're wondering, "What could possibly be worse than having your home world exploded by a planet-sized space vessel?"
As it turns out, quite a bit. Each of these malevolent starships threatens the people of Earth with a fate worse than death. The captains at the helm range from soulless machines and frosty bureaucrats to hedonistic monsters and demons from the depths of hell.
So brace yourself for some horrors -- and thank your lucky stars they're all mere figments of the cosmic imagination.
While the ineptitude of one Invader Zim is somewhat legendary in the Irken Empire, the people of Earth are fortunate to avoid the full attention of these insectile galactic conquerors.
The Irken armada plows its way through space, bringing system after system under the yoke of its egocentric rulers, the Almighty Tallest. The Irken Massive serves as the flagship for this invasion force. The warship boasts a devastating laser arsenal, numerous support vessels and a vast treasure trove of junk food.
In many cases, the Irken Massive launches an orbital bombardment to cleanse a conquered world of life. This clears the way for proper Irken colonization. Other planets, however, are far less fortunate.
The Conveyor Belt Planet, for instance, was once a lush and independent world. Now it serves as the Irken Empire's galactic shipping center, staffed by its former population. Other worlds, such as Foodcourtia, Parkinghereia and Excreto 5 suffered similar fates.
The Irken Massive itself is a product of a conquered species, the Vortians, whose home world of Vort was once the galaxy's leading center of science and engineering. Now the Vortians provide weapons technology for the endless Irken offensive.
Never trust a Cylon.
Oh sure, it all starts out well enough -- full of lusty glances and hot human-on-toaster sex, but then the Twelve Colonies of Kobol go up in flames and you're either running for your life or slaving away on a Cylon-occupied mud planet.
Then guess who starts messing with your emotions again? That's right. Typical Cylon wishy-washiness. If you've watched Syfy channel's "Battlestar Galactica," you know what I mean.
Given this dynamic, the deadly Cylon Basestar is the last vessel you want to glimpse in Earth's orbit. Resembling a gigantic caltrop, this galactic death machine boasts a brutal arsenal of 220 missile turrets and several hundred Raider attack ships just waiting to zip out and kill all humans. It can nuke a planet back into the Stone Age, or send a Centurion boarding party right into the heart of your precious Earth ship.
Best-case scenario? Fiery death courtesy of your robotic overlords. But if the Cylons truly want to punish earthlings, they'll unleash the full force of their crazy ex-girlfriend/boyfriend ways on their human frenemies.
The relative terror of this entry really depends on your leanings toward collective thinking and tubes in your skull. But should this imposing vessel show up in your skies, expect automated assimilation into a hivelike world of ghastly, soulless cyborgs.
The Borg spread terror throughout the Star Trek universe, consuming whole species and massacring anyone who dared to resist their way of life. Their enormous, cubical spacecraft typically outclass anything else on the galactic highway.
In addition to a bevy of deadly energy and projectile weapons, the Borg Cube also features a cutting beam to carve up enemy ships like a Thanksgiving turkey. Its decentralized layout makes it highly resistant to a decapitation strike, and the vessel actually regenerates damaged sectors.
Resistance has never been this futile.
Military conquest may work well for the Borg, but other extraterrestrial ne'er-do-wells favor a more deceptive path to victory. Yes, some aliens favor the long con.
Just consider "The Claws of Axos," a classic "Doctor Who" adventure and nasty confidence trick that plays out as follows:
- Disguise your true hideous form and appear as golden humanoids in form-revealing leotards. Talk British.
- Crash your organic spacecraft on Earth and claim to be out of gas.
- Inform the earthlings that you're short on cash but will barter for fuel.
- In exchange for a fresh tank of petrol, offer the humans a miracle substance called Axonite, a thinking molecule that can replicate any substance -- such as gold, helium-3 or Thai Red Bull.
- Drain the energy of all life forms on Earth.
See, the Axons are not a species of individuals. The ship, its crew and the precious Axonite itself are all part of a single parasitic organism -- which should have been expected since the Axon ship looks like a leech of some sort.
In the 1971 "Doctor Who" adventure, the titular time lord naturally thwarts the ravenous aliens, but it serves as a great reminder: Whether you're dealing with Zerg, Tyranids or just a good old invasion of Bugs, never trust a ship that poops.
Ridley Scott's "Alien" taught us the perils of poking around derelict alien spacecraft. As much as the ships tempt us with tantalizing arcane secrets, the technology is usually unfathomable and -- oh yeah -- the cargo bay usually contains rape monsters. Live and learn.
The 1985 film "Lifeforce" presents a much more difficult conundrum. What at first seems to be just another crumbly old tomb ship full of dead aliens turns out to contain an endlessly alluring payload for the investigating astronauts.
And they're not only naked; they're also attractive -- arguably the best variety of naked person possible. These extrasolar nudists turn up in a series of crystal, suspended animation chambers, and from there it's just a slippery slope to planetary invasion by a race of seductive space vampires. The vamps spend the remainder of the film sexing up British actors, draining their lifeblood and transforming into ravenous bat monsters.
From the walls of ancient Troy to the heart of a tawdry political scandal, lust has always been something of a problem for us humans. So when evil spaceships bring sexy back to Earth, you know we're doomed.
The starship Event Horizon takes an interesting approach to faster-than-light space travel. The ship's gravity drive brews up an artificial black hole, and the singularity's intense mass bends time and space.
What could possibly go wrong, right?
Well, the ship's maiden voyage sends the crew down a wormhole on a seven-year tour of hell -- and not a charming Disney version either, but a Clive Barkery version complete with eye-gouging, barbed wire and overwrought dialogue.
Having consumed its first crew in an orgy of violence, the now-possessed Event Horizon then aims to snare new humans for its "Love Boat" excursion through the waters of extra-dimensional suffering.
The moral of the story is simple: Beware of any spaceship that depends on gateways to hell for interstellar propulsion, no matter how fuel-efficient it happens to be.
What's worse than a derelict starship emerging from a gateway to hell? What about multiple starships, all of them mangled and bound together in a cosmic GooGoo Cluster of chaotic awfulness?
In the Warhammer 40K universe, they call this monstrosity a space hulk. See, shortcuts though an alternate dimension of pure chaos are the standard means of faster-than-light travel for the humans of the tabletop gaming world. However, the lost vessels in those waters never stay lost for long. They clump together and drift randomly in and out of the Milky Way galaxy.
The Judgment of Carrion is one of several space hulks documented by the Imperium of Man, none of which you want drifting into Earth's orbit. Not only are their twisted corridors haunted by demonic warp beings, they're also frequently infested by alien tyranids and marauding orks.
So just one of these could result in the arrival of up to three invasion forces -- roughly $300 worth of miniatures if it all plays out on your kitchen table.
The Black Fortress from the film "Krull" complicates our fear of evil, invading spacecraft. For starters, the ship isn't just hanging out in orbit -- it's here on the planet's surface, looming like a dark mountain on the horizon. And if that weren't bad enough, it teleports to a new location every morning and wants to marry your girlfriend.
That's the problem faced by the film's hero Prince Colwyn, who has to somehow divine the Black Fortress' next location and trek there in time to slay the Beast who rules over it. In the midst of this logistical nightmare, Colwyn also has to contend with the Beast's army of laser-blasting slayers, a shape-shifting assassin and a giant spider.
The protagonists in "Independence Day" and "War of the Worlds" had it easy. Everyone in those films knew where to find the enemy; it was only a matter of figuring out how to defeat them. But thanks to his Black Fortress spacecraft, the Beast is an alien on the run, secretly ruling over his domain and kidnapping princesses without so much as a permanent mailing address.
The Black Fortress of "Krull" is a mere childish nuisance compared to the threat posed by this spacecraft-turned-evil-stronghold.
Yes, behold the Incû-Holoinas, the Ark of the Skies. This golden vessel crash-landed in R. Scott Bakker's saga "The Second Apocalypse," inflicting a vile and hedonistic race known as the Inchoroi on an unsuspecting fantasy world.
Though partially buried in its own impact crater, the ship survived its descent to the surface. The ark's twin "horns" became the towers of Golgotterath, which serves as a darker vision of Tolkien's Mordor. From its haunted depths, the Inchoroi launch everything from sinister deceptions to open wars of extermination against the planet's human population. More than 4,000 years of horror ensue.
What do the Inchoroi want, other than to have a good time and spread suffering? Oh, they just aim to cleanse the planet of souls, seal the world and hide their sins from divine judgment. That sort of thing. The interior of the Incû-Holoinas is best described as a maze of obscenities, where the remaining crew work alongside twisted and once-human sorcerers to spawn monstrous armies.
All attempts to destroy the Incû-Holoinas have failed.
We've discussed some exceptionally evil spacecraft on this list, but at least the captains at their helms are invested in what Earth has to offer: energy, princesses, sex, suffering, political power, spiritual refuge and good old-fashioned settlement territory.
Our final entry isn't interested in any of that stuff. The Vogon Constructor Fleet turns up in "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" not to conquer the Earth, but to bulldoze it and make way for a hyperspace highway.
The Vogons, you see, don't regard the people of Earth with any ill will -- they hardly regard them at all. As author Douglas Adams puts it, the Vogons are "not actually evil, but bad-tempered, bureaucratic, officious and callous."
All the other intergalactic nasties at least respect us enough to call us their enemy. The Vogons simply don't care, which makes their intention to destroy the Earth all the more insulting.
The enormous, bricklike vessels are as boring and destructive as the creatures who pilot them. Keep watching the skies, and hope they don't turn up anytime soon.
The rides in our favorite sci-fi series are often out of this world. Test your knowledge of sci-fi spacecraft with this quiz at HowStuffWorks.
Author's Note: 10 Crazy Evil Spacecraft
I apologize in advance for leaving off your favorite evil spaceships. I even had to leave a few of my own choices off the list. The returning Nazi space capsule in "Hellboy: Conqueror Worm" has always been a favorite of mine, as has the Discovery One from "2001: A Space Odyssey" and the savage Reaver ships from "Firefly." But hey, there's no denying a place on the list to such cosmic bad boys as the Vogons and the Borg. Resistance, as they say, is futile.
- Adams, Douglas. "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy." Pan Books. 1979.
- Bakker, Scott. "The Thousandfold Thought." Overlook Hardcover. Feb. 2, 2006.
- "Battlestar Galactica." 2003. SyFy
- "Borg." StarTrek.com. 2010. (March 1, 2012)
- "The Claws of Axos." Doctor Who: The Classic Series. BBC. 2003. (March 1, 2012) http://www.bbc.co.uk/doctorwho/classic/episodeguide/clawsofaxos/detail.shtml
- "Event Horizon." Paramount Pictures. 1997.
- Games Workshop. 2012 (Feb. 22, 2012) http://www.games-workshop.com
- "Invader Zim." Nickelodeon. 2002.
- "Krull." Columbia Pictures. 1983.
- "Lifeforce." Tri-Star Pictures. 1985.