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Sassy Starships: Why I love the trend of Sci-Fi ships with personality!

"Lucy" Syfy

“Lucy” Syfy

It’s funny that as forward thinking as science fiction can be, sometimes the writers just can’t push past the modern limits of the technology of their time.

Case in point, starship computers with their own unique personas. Let’s face it, as much as we all love Majel Barrett, the Enterprise’s computer wasn’t all that dynamic.  Sure she could look up history, cross reference data and translate all forms of communication, but the computer was just a tool, not a character.

In order for a computer to have a personality, it had to be housed in a humanoid or other appealing form.  For some reason a robot could be smart, silly or sassy, but starships, not so much.  Sure you had smatterings of attempts at artificial intelligence, but it was generally short lived and an episodic plot, not a tenant for an entire show.

Really not until the late 90’s, early 2000’s did we even get close. Those days brought us the “Organic Ship.” Ambassador Kosh on Babylon 5 had a ship that was somehow “alive” that he could communicate with in a way that the humans could never completely understand.  After that you had Moya on Farscape.  Now she was most definitely alive.  She could communicate with Pilot, had feelings, and even gave birth to a baby ship!  But even then it was Pilot with the personality not Moya herself.


Ambassador Kosh's ship communicating with Kosh

Ambassador Kosh’s ship communicating with Kosh

Moya - Farscape

Moya – Farscape


In between those two shows, we have perhaps the first ship AI with real personality in Gene Roddenberry’s Andromeda. The ship and title character, Andromeda Ascendant didn’t just have one personality; she kind of had three. The ship’s voice that the crew routinely interacted with was slightly different from the hologram version, and neither was as dynamic as the ship’s android avatar, known as Rommie. All three aspects of the ship were performed by Lexa Doig, but even in this example, it can be argued that Rommie was the one who had that emotional connection with the crew, not the ship’s AI itself.

Andromeda was one of the first series to have an AI with personality

Andromeda and Rommie by Queenie on andromeda-web

It was ten more years before we got the fantastic Neal-Gaimen-penned Doctor Who episode “The Doctor’s Wife” in which the “soul” of the TARDIS is downloaded into human body and she can finally tell the Doctor all the things she’s been wishing she could for all these years. But once again the ship had to be given a voice, she didn’t have one of her own.

Now in this time technology had been changing, by now we were carrying small computers in our pockets and not only can they look up random bits of data for us they can do it with style and showmanship. Yes, we were given Siri and Cortona, and starships were never the same again.

My favorite sassy starship is Lucy, home to three bounty hunters on Killjoys {Syfy}. If you aren’t watching Killjoys, well you should be.  It’s streaming, go watch it…now!  It just closed its second season and I LOVE it. But I digress. Where was I? Oh, yes, Lucy, Lucy is definitely the fourth main character on that show.  What makes her different, well for starters, let’s begin with her name, Lucy is not a ship’s name, it’s a person’s name, she’s not “The Lucy” she’s just Lucy.  She looks out for her crew and they talk to her like a regular person.  John is her buddy, and they like to kid each other.  She’s a kick and probably one of my favorite parts of the show.

Gideon CW

Gideon CW

And in a close second is Gideon of DC’s Legends of Tomorrow.  She was introduced on The Flash but really came into her own on Legends.  She is more smart and less sass, but that’s ok, not everyone needs to be snarky. She’s very helpful and knows what you need to look up before you do, Rip Hunter and his band of misfits would be lost without her.  While she is technically more of a multi-platform user interface she functions as the wave rider’s main computer, close enough.

All in all I’m really enjoying seeing how the newest waves of technology is effecting modern sci-fi storytelling. I also think it fits well in the more fun science fiction era that is on it’s way in After all what’s more fun than your ship giving you a hard time about your lousy repair job?



  1. I would also like to mention the computer/ship/robots from Interstellar. They never took a human form, but interacted with the crew constantly. Sure they could have their percentages of sarcasm altered, but I loved the wise cracks most of them had.

  2. Rebecca Miller

    One show, which I doubt you’ve heard of and I’ve yet to get Geek Girl Allie to the second episode on, though I have totally hooked Geek Girl Jenn, is Blake’s 7. It’s a Brit show by Terry Nation (Yes, the creator of the Daleks Terry Nation) that ran from 1978 and 1981. In that show, they had a lovely benevolent, though slightly snarky ship computer, Zen, and the very, very sassy and snarky computer Orac. Zen had his own agenda as to when and how he would help the heroes of the show, but always towards a benevolent goal, but Orac would only work with them, if it fit his agenda. Both computers were just enough in control, you really wondered about sentience!

    Zen with Blake, Jenna, and Avon:×03/vlcsnap-2012-08-05-00h51m34s12.jpg

    and Orac with Avon, Soolin, Dayna, Villa, and Tarrant

  3. Jonelle :)

    I’ll have to check those out, Thanks all!

  4. When I get to completing this lot, the central characters are all ships :P.


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