There have been a lot of amazing starship designs throughout the nearly 60 years that Star Trek has been around. Last time, I ranked my Top 10 Starfleet Ships (aka Erik’s Top 10 ‘Sexiest’ Nacelles), so this time I figured I’d tackle my personal favorite alien ships! And in case you’re wondering about my qualifications, I’m the co-host on Too Young For This Trek: A Star Trek Podcast… so yes, I’m that much of a nerd.
10. Sh’Raan: Vulcan Suurok-Class Combat Cruiser (ENT)
One of the most unique and “alien” looking ships in Star Trek history, the Sh’Raan was first introduced in the prequel series, Enterprise. It’s a Vulcan combat cruiser, years before the official formation of the Federation, when there was still an uneasy tension between Starfleet and the Vulcan High Command. It’s all function over form, which totally fits with the Vulcans and their logical approach to *everything*. The thing I like about this one is that the ring design is actually pretty similar to what NASA scientists have since proposed for what a theoretical warp engine might actually look like!
9. The Whale Probe? (STIV)
While we’re not completely sure whether this was a ship, or an alien entity, I still feel like it deserves a spot on this list, just for the sheer otherworldly design. It’s one and only appearance was in “Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home” (aka – the one with the whales), but it absolutely left an impression. Evocative of “The Doomsday Machine” from TOS, the “whale probe” was a simple, but effective design, and honestly a lot of credit has to go to the sound design team for that eerie, unsettling song that it emits as it calls out for the only species that can understand it: humpback whales from the 20th century?!
8. Romulan War Bird, D’deridex-Class (TNG)
Star Trek: The Next Generation introduced updated 24th Century designs for a lot of the aliens, ships, and tech that we’d come to know and love from the original series. One of the most radical overhauls was the look of the Romulans. The Romulans had always been a mysterious race up to that point, but TNG was really where they started to get fleshed out as a paranoid and ambitious empire, while the Federation/Romulan Cold War heated up.
The Romulan War Bird was a pretty intimidating presence when it first showed up against the Enterprise-D, often dwarfing the large Galaxy-Class ship, especially when there was more than one! The D’deridex-Class is a unique design, with a hollow interior, that really leans into the whole ‘bird of prey’ design aesthetic, especially with that beak-like bridge. And the sickly green glow emanating from the darkness somehow just feels very… Romulan.
7. The Sarcophagus: Klingon Ship of the Dead (DISCO)
Here’s a design that most fans either love, or hate – much like Star Trek: Discovery itself. I personally loved the first two seasons of Discovery, because of the bold, darker, edgier take on the Federation’s history, partially because it really explained the origins of the ongoing conflict with the Klingons throughout the original series and movies. The Klingon culture has always been an interesting one, but Discovery took their development a step further, and really leaned into the whole ‘space Vikings’ thing.
In the two-part premier, we’re introduced to T’Kuvma, who ultimately unites the Klingon Empire by declaring war against the Federation. (We also get one of the best “shooty, shooty, space battles” in the series with the Battle of the Binary Stars!) T’Kuvma’s flagship is perhaps one of the most badass and terrifying designs in the entire franchise: The Sarcophagus! Also known as the Klingon ship of the dead, the Sarcophagus has a very ceremonial design, somewhat reminiscent of an ancient gothic cathedral. It’s massive, bulky, and decked out with armaments and weaponry, but that’s not all: it’s covered in coffins!? That’s metal AF!
6. Klingon Vor’cha-Class Attack Cruiser (TNG/DS9)
First introduced in TNG, but more prominently featured in Deep Space Nine, the Klingon Vor’cha-Class Attack Cruiser is without a doubt one of the coolest starship designs in the history of the series. It honestly feels more like something you’d see in Star Wars, than Star Trek, but it definitely looks like an upgrade from the previous Klingon ships we’d seen to that point. This thing looks like it’s ready to kick some ass.
5. Klingon D7 Battleship, K’t’inga-Class (TOS)
One of the most iconic and recognizable enemy ships in all of Star Trek is without a doubt the Klingon D7. First introduced in TOS, they’ve actually shown up quite a few times throughout the franchise since. I guess, if it ain’t broke, and all that. One of the coolest appearances of this design was actually in one of the worst movies in the series, the first one. While “Star Trek: The Motion Picture” is not a great movie, it does give us the first appearance of those trademark Klingon forehead ridges, a banger of an epic battle theme by Jerry Goldsmith, and one of the most impressive and detailed looks at the K’t’inga-Class battleship – all in the first scene!
4. Romulan Bird of Prey (TOS)
Even though this one didn’t make it into the Top 3, I just have to say, I absolutely love this freaking ship! Sure, it’s kinda cheesy, it’s very 60’s, the original model was kinda cheap-looking, and the only thing noteworthy is the giant random bird painted on it’s hull, but still, I have so much nostalgia for this little ship. First appearing in the classic TOS episode “Balance of Terror” (and more recently in the Season 1 finale of “Strange New Worlds”), this mysterious Romulan stealth ship certainly left an impression on both the cannon, and those of us who grew up watching Star Trek re-runs…
3. The Narada (Star Trek 2009)
In 2009, the franchise was resurrected thanks to J.J. Abrams’s “Star Trek” reboot. Regardless of how you feel about the Kelvin-timeline in general, it’s hard to argue that this is easily one of the most entertaining Trek movies, and it’s the main reason Star Trek is alive and well today. This one opens with one of the most intense action scenes in the franchise – between the USS Kelvin (RIP) and a mysterious Romulan ship from the future, simply referred to as “The Narada”.
The Narada is a modified Romulan mining ship from the 24th century, that was commandeered by Nero, and his crew of renegade Romulans. Made to look like a malevolent giant squid from the darkest depths of the ocean, it’s absolutely one of the coolest, and most unsettling designs ever, but it totally works. According to the IDW comic, “Star Trek: Countdown”, the Narada was enhanced with reverse-engineered Borg nano-tech stolen from the Tal Shiar!? No wonder it made quick work of 23rd Century Starfleet!
2. Klingon Bird of Prey (STIII-VII)
Of course this list wouldn’t be complete without a shout out to one of ILM’s best designs: the Klingon Bird of Prey! As great as the D7 was, this ship meant business. First appearing in “Star Trek III: The Search for Spock”, and showing back up in pretty much every movie and series since, the Bird of Prey is arguably one of the most recognizable ships in all of Star Trek.
The unique thing about this one though was that the wings of the ship moved, depending on whether it was landing, going to warp, or attacking! Like the Romulan Bird of Prey from TOS, this was a ship with the ability to cloak, making it a cunning adversary for the crew of the USS Enterprise. In a great twist, Kirk and co actually hijacked the ship, and use it to go back in time in “Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home”!
Interesting side note: according to the behind-the-scenes lore, this was originally intended to be a Romulan ship, which kinda makes since design-wise, but it also makes sense in-universe too since the Romulans and Klingons actually traded technology in their (temporary) alliance against the Federation. The Klingon Bird of Prey must have been a reliable old ship, because it’s still shown in use as late as DS9, during the Dominion War!
1. Borg Cube (TNG/VOY)
That’s right, it’s the one you’ve all been waiting for – the Borg Cube!
Star Trek: The Next Generation gave us one of the most terrifying villains in the history of science fiction: The Borg! The Borg were a great concept right from their first short appearance in “Q Who”, giving us one of the best TNG two-parters with “The Best of Both Worlds”, and one of the best movies in the series with “Star Trek: First Contact”! And nearly every Borg episode from TNG to Voyager features one of the biggest and baddest alien ships ever put to film: The Borg Cube.
It’s a simple yet effective design, and it says a lot about the Borg Collective as a species: it’s an efficient brutalist design, cobbled together from random tech. Not only that, but every time we see one, you know shit’s about to hit the fan. The first time we see it, the Enterprise-D looks tiny compared to it, and is woefully outgunned!
The next time the Borg show up in the Alpha Quadrant, a single cube wipes out half the fleet! Later on, when the USS Voyager is making it’s way through Borg territory in the Delta Quadrant, we get a glimpse of bigger, and beefier varieties! However, that opening battle in “First Contact”, where we see several Starfleet ships (including the Defiant and the Enterprise-E!) take on a Borg cube heading for Earth, is *still* one of my favorite sequences in all of Star Trek, and absolutely cements this one at the top of the list!
Do you agree with my rankings? Feel free to argue in the comments below!
In the meantime, you can listen to my friends and I talk about Star Trek on the 2 Young 4 This Trek podcast, check out my rankings of the ‘Sexiest Starfleet Nacelles’ here, read about Every Star Destroyer Ever here, and you can help support me by buying my sci-fi / noir novella, “2299” on Amazon!