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It might be shiny, or a little more gritty, or just plain cool, but however it's built, it obviously looks very important. And it's got a lot of Mooks in tow. It's the commanding flagship of a large alien army, keeping tabs over its soldiers and scouts, and thus is one of a kind in its army.

Blowing it up can render the multitudes of the once superior invaders leaderless and rid the universe of the MacGuffin kept inside it. There's no mistaking that taking it down will win an automatic victory for the good guys. But if the mothership is also a big fat battleship, the normal arsenal of weapons won't break its superior Deflector Shields (and will only prompt a response with its own Wave Motion Gun), so our heroes are probably going to have to resort to some Zany Scheme to topple it.

The fact that bringing it down might cause problems of its own is usually Handwaved.

A variant has a mothership in charge of a bunch of exploration scouts, one of which will inevitably get left on Earth and needs one Earthling's help to rendezvous with it.

See also: Standard Sci-Fi Fleet, Flying Saucer. Might overlap with The Battlestar if it doesn't already harbor dozens of Battlestars inside it. Not to be confused with the other kind of ship.

Also not to be confused with The Mothership.

Examples of The Mothership include:

Anime and Manga

  • Mobile Suit Gundam 00 has the Trinity Mothership.
    • The Ptolemaios and its successor, the Ptolemaios Kai, function as this for the heroes, and the Innovators have the Celestial Being, a 15-kilometer-long armed-to-the-teeth asteroid-ship. In The Movie, the ELS have their moon-sized planetoid which had been hiding in Jupiter for a while.
  • The Harvester ships in Vandread.
  • Bodolza's flagship in Super Dimension Fortress Macross. The Movie not only has an even bigger version, but TWO of them; although Bodolza quickly Wave Motion Guns the other one on the grounds that it has Meltran crew, blowing away a chunk of his own fleet too who couldn't get away from the line of fire quickly enough.

Comic Books

  • In Calvin's imagination, when Susie is a hostile alien out of a mothership, said mothership will be impersonated by... his mother.


  • Disney's The Cat from Outer Space creatively calls its mothership "Mother."
  • Close Encounters of the Third Kind
  • District 9
  • The big ship in Independence Day
    • Emphasis on the big. It was supposed to be 1/4th the mass of the Moon. Most asteroids are smaller. Justified if you consider the hull to be some superdense degenerate matter for radiation shielding.
  • Super Star Destroyer Executor from Star Wars, a nineteen kilometre long command ship.
    • The prequels' droid control ships are a literal example of the "blow it up and the (Mecha)Mooks will likely give up" aspect of this trope, as the droid armies can't function without them.
    • And, of course, the Death Stars.
  • The Ko-Dan Command Ship in The Last Starfighter. (Since it controlled several fighter squadrons, it may also qualify as The Battlestar.)


  • Dune's Guild Heighliners might count as a variation. They're designed to transport hundreds of smaller ships over interstellar distances, but the smaller ships don't belong to the Heighliners as such.
  • 'Ship' of the less-read WorShip series is a straighter example; after generations of housing the genetic stock of humanity en route to and around the planet Pandora, the AI considers itself the population's progenitor.
  • Ender's Game has at least one mothership that is hidden among the other ships, but destroying it severs the Hive Mind.
  • The Star Trek novel Final Frontier showcases the Romulan "swarm," a military unit of six ships, each carrying a full crew. Eventually, after the as-yet-unnamed Enterprise manages to defeat these, a much larger ship comes, bearing hundreds of these little ships.
    • Fortunately for the ship and crew, including Robert April, Sarah Poole (later April), and George Samuel Kirk (father of everyone's favorite Large Ham Captain and family), the Romulans have never heard of Transporter technology. 1 bomb + 1 power core = Oh Crap moment for the Romulans.
  • The Lighthuggers from Revelation Space are four-kilometer-long spacecraft capable of reaching near-light speed. They contain numerous smaller craft and can use their onboard factories to produce more as needed, and can carry up to one hundred thousand frozen people.
  • In Mikhail Akhmanov's Invasion, the Faata starship definitely fits the trope. It is massive in size and, while not possessing powerful weapons itself, is able to launch numerous "battle modules" armed with Antimatter weapons. The ship's Deflector Shield can easily shrug off a nuclear barrage with a combined strength in the gigaton range. It also carries a huge army of Super Soldiers ready to invade. The second novel Retaliation shows that it is just one of many Faata ships. In fact, three more are being constructed not to far from Earth.
  • A gigantic disc-shaped automated mothership is encountered in one of The History of the Galaxy novels. It was created long ago by one of the Precursor races as an exploration and terraforming craft. Due to most of the galaxy being unknown to the race, they equipped the ship with powerful weapons and defenses, as well as the capability to manufacture and launch fighter drones. When the ship returned centuries later, it discovered many other ships in the systems occupied by the race. These were later models that were not designed for combat. Treating them as hostile, the ship started a war and eventually wiped them out by using its built-in ability to replicate itself given enough resources. When first encountered, the humans have trouble defeating the ship. Understandably, they're horrified to learn that there are hundreds more just like that.
  • In Animorphs, the Yeerk pool ships.

Live Action TV

  • Every evil race ever in the Stargate Verse.
    • The Ha'tak vessels and their larger counterparts in Stargate SG-1, followed by the Ori motherships.
    • The Hive ships in Stargate Atlantis.
    • The catfish aliens in Stargate Universe also have motherships, though they're rather puny by comparison to Destiny (more like carriers, really).
  • V features multiple alien Motherships throughout the show. The reboot continues this trend and heavily featured them in the show's advertising.

Western Animation


Video Games

  • The Xenon/AGI CPU-ship #deca in X3: Terran Conflict.
    • A later patch added a mission featuring #efaa, and #cafe, One sentient, the other having a glitch in it's attempt to gain sentience, helped along by the already sentient one.
  • High Charity in the Halo series is actually more of a mobile space station and serves as the Covenants "Homeworld". But as the goal of the Great Journey gets very close, and the Covenant is starting to break apart at the edges, the Prophet of Truth also uses it as his flagship.
  • Colony Wars introduced a ~2000 metre-long titan-class ship, and then later the final boss, a ~4000M Super Titan.
  • Destroy All Humans!.
  • Earth Defense Force 2017.
  • Mothership Zeta in Fallout 3.
  • One of the finest videogame examples is Homeworld, in which the only real entity that can be called a character is the Mothership.
    • The Mothership can also build carriers that function like mini-motherships in their own right.
  • The Titan ships, again, from Eve Online. All in excess of 15km, and all ridiculously costly to build.
  • Sovereign, from Mass Effect which is actually sentient, and one of the frighteningly powerful Reapers.
    • As well as Sovereign, each race in Mass Effect has dreadnoughts that are extremely few in number compared to other ships in the various fleets. They're similar in size to a human carrier, but otherwise are much bigger than the ships around them. They also carry kinetic weapons capable of impacting in the multiple-dozen-kiloton range, which is what makes them so special.
  • The Protoss Mothership in Starcraft II comes with quite a bit of special abilities.
    • However, the name is a bit misleading since it doesn't harbor any other spacecraft. The Carrier does that instead.
  • Star Fox has a hero's example, the Great Fox.
    • The Katina stage in Star Fox 64 has an enemy version as well, explicitly called a mothership and acting very much like one.
      • Then again, that ship was just an expy of the Independence Day city-killer ships: it launched countless fighter craft, and was capable of shooting a giant laser beam levelling anything on the ground beneath it.
  • The Skaarj Mothership from Unreal Tournament 2004.
  • Scrin Motherships from Command and Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars, which are armed with catalyst cannons similar to the city-killer ships from Independence Day.
  • Free Space has the SD Lucifer. Killing it wasn't an instant-win for the good guys; the war lasted several more months as they had to clean up the remaining Shivan fleet, but background information says that the Shivans became disorganized and confused after the Lucifer's destruction. The SJ Sathanas in the sequel is set up to look like a mothership as well, but it is just one of nearly one hundred the Shivans possess, in that one fleet alone.
  • UFO: Aftershock has the Laputa, a flying city built by the Reticulans which has been converted into a mobile headquarters by the Commonwealth of Earth.
  • The giant enemy space ship in the final wave of the 1980 Phoenix Arcade Game. This may also qualify as the first instance of a "boss level" in a video game.