A bioship is a type of spacecraft or starship described in science fiction. Bioships differ from other types of spacecraft in that they are composed, either predominantly or totally, of biological components, rather than being constructed from manufactured materials. Because of this, they nearly always have a distinctively organic look.
Bioships are usually quite powerful, and can often regenerate or heal damaged parts. Some bioships are intelligent or sentient, and some are considered to be lifeforms. Like most organic beings, many bioships contain large amounts of "scaffolding" materials to keep their shape, such as the xylem in trees or bone and chitin in animals.
- In the science fiction short story "Specialist" by Robert Sheckley, published in 1953 in Galaxy magazine, it is revealed that many galactic races are actually capable of symbiotic cooperation to become bioships, with each race forming a different part. Earth, apparently, is one of the planets inhabited by creatures that are supposed to function as FTL drives (Pushers), and, it is stated that all the conflicts and discontent of humanity are due to the fact that, while they have matured, they have nowhere to apply their true purpose. This story is perhaps the first mention of a bioship in science fiction.
- Volume 322 of the German Perry Rhodan magazine series, first published in November 1967, marks another very early appearance of the bioship concept in science fiction. The Dolans are powerful bioengineered combat spaceships that are grown from the same synthetic genetic material as their extraterrestrial commanders. Different types of bioships are a recurrent feature in later stages of the Perry Rhodan universe.
- The comic books of Alejandro Jodorowsky: the sisterhood of the Shabda-Oud use enormous dolphin-like bioships aptly called CetaCyborgs.
- Dirty Pair: Bioships are used for interstellar transport in the parts of the comics series authored by Adam Warren.
- The Night's Dawn Trilogy: the Edenist Voidhawk and Mercenary Blackhawk are both advanced bioships (the latter being a genetic tailoring for combat of the former). Both types employ mental bonding to the captain. In the case of Voidhawks this is done by both the craft and captain gestating together and maintaining mental contact during their formative years. Blackhawks however are purchased as eggs and are bonded to the buyer who will become captain when the Blackhawk matures.
- The Marvel Comics species the Sidri and the Acanti are space-dwelling sentient starship-like species. The Brood also use bioships called Starsharks.
- In the Orion's Arm Universe, bioships are the result of the convergence between biotech and drytech.
- The novels The Genesis Quest and Second Genesis by Donald Moffitt describe a starship called Yggdrasil, made from a semi-sentient Dyson tree combined with a Bussard ramjet.
- The Muir Templars in the Hyperion novels use giant Sequoia trees retrofitted as living spaceships.
- Star Wars: In The New Jedi Order series of novels, the Yuuzhan Vong used bioships made of yorik, a type of coral, because they viewed inorganic technology as immoral and blasphemous. The living planet Zonama Sekot featured first in the book Rogue Planet, also had bioships. Also in the Star Wars series, there was a living ship that was simply called Ship, which had fused with Pilot, the only survivor of a biotoxin attack, to become one being, playing games with itself for amusement during its thousands of years in the Great Void. It had extremely powerful weapons.
- In George R. R. Martin's Wild Card series the character Dr. Tachyon arrives on Earth in a living starship.
- The Xeelee series by Stephen Baxter describe an alien species called Splines, which are sentient, spherical star faring beings which hire themselves out to other aliens as transports without any seeming allegiance to any one race except themselves. They have various sophisticated features including a biological beacon which can be worn as an armband and activated to be picked up from apparently anywhere in space. Entry and exit from Splines are conducted through orifices in them and they can be remodeled by gouging out their body to create room for people, weapon implants, intrasystem flitters etc., Mechanism of propulsion is unknown though.
- In Octavia E. Butler's Lilith's Brood series (also known as Xenogenesis) the alien Oankali have a symbiotic relationship with their ship/s.
On film and television
- In the Star Trek franchise:
- Gomtuu, nicknamed "Tin Man", was the presumed last member of a race of bioships which existed with a symbiotic (and probably telepathic) crew. It contemplated suicide after its crew was killed by radiation caused by a large explosion. Gomtuu was alone until Tam Elbrun, a Betazoid who could not control his telepathic abilities, attempted first contact. Both finding a kindred spirit in the other, Tam and Gomtuu left the area and have not been seen since.
- In a variation on the basic definition of a bioship, the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Emergence", features a story in which the Enterprise-D develops an artificial intelligence from the sum of the ship's experiences, for the sole purpose of creating a biological life form which is released into space.
- Species 8472 pilot bioships capable of destroying Borg cubes and even planets.
- Some species use biological components on their ships, such as the Breen, or Starfleet's bio-neural gel packs, as exemplified on the USS Voyager.
- On Babylon 5:
- Two of the most powerful races, the Vorlons and the Shadows, use biological vessels. Vorlons have mostly green or brown colored ships that have "arms" extending to the front of the ship. These arms generate the lightning bolt-like weapons of the Vorlons. Their ships have force fields and utilize jumppoints. The Shadows, on the other hand, employ black crab-shaped ships capable of phasing in and out of hyperspace without the use of a jumppoint. The larger "Battlecrabs" fire purple beam weapons that can slice enemy vessels. They also employ smaller ships for various purposes like scouting or as fighters. The Shadows also use a titanic machine called the Death Cloud (or Planetkiller) which is capable of engulfing a planet and bombard it with missiles until the planet is torn apart from the inside out. The entire mechanism utilizes Shadow bio-technology as well.
- The Minbari's White Star Fleet uses biological components based on Vorlon technology. The Whitestar employs a hull that can "learn", allowing it to adapt to enemy weapons fire over time.
- The Earth Alliance is able to convert Shadow technology for use on their warships, as seen in the episode "Between the Darkness and the Light." The Advanced Destroyers were able to inflict significant damage to the Whitestar fleet, although the latter's speed and maneuverability (as well as their smaller size) allowed the Whitestar fleet to destroy the Shadow-enhanced battleships.
- Farscape: In the television series Farscape, one of the central characters is a sentient bioship named Moya, whose interior also serves as a backdrop for many of the events in the series.
- Tenchi Muyo!: the Jurai use ships grown from seeds. Their hulls are carved from the wood of giant trees, and protected by forcefields. In addition, it is possible that the cabbits Ryo-Ohki and Fuku could be considered bioships. Although not truly organic, they are certainly alive, and capable of limited reproduction.
- Infinite Ryvius: the Vaea project was designed to be able to leave the solar system using the gravimetric nature of the creatures (space squid) found in the Geould, a highly volatile sea of gas. Four were made in total; Each contains a Vital Guarder of different shape, which have high attack/defense capacity that varied from ship to ship. Each also contained a life core that was bound to a "captain", that would mentally destroy the captain if the core was destroyed. Sometimes, a dead body was used as a bio core, they are the most stable, and affect the captain least.
- Lexx: the ship LEXX is a living ship, shaped like a dragonfly with no wings, capable of destroying whole planets.
- The Guyver: Bio-Booster Armor: the Creators had living ships that were grown. Also, the Guyvers themselves were biotechnological armor suits.
- seaQuest: the large submersible seaQuest DSV has an organic outer skin that can heal itself.
- Alien: The derelict may be a bioship.
- Earth: Final Conflict, The Taelon Mothership was a vast bioship composed of living energy that was partially self-aware. Taelons also possessed organic shuttles, weapons (The wrist-attached skrills), warships, and buildings which grew in less than a day, all of which were subdued by their programming.
- Doctor Who: The TARDIS, The Doctor's time-traveling ship, is telepathic and apparently semi-sentient, and it is alluded several times that TARDISes are grown, not built. Several other bioships have also been seen in the series, including:
- The Axos (in the episode The Claws of Axos) is a bioship.
- The Zygon ship in Terror of the Zygons appears to have an organic interior.
- The Ship from Battlefield also has organic elements.
- The Starship UK was simply a habitable shell constructed around a captured and enslaved Star Whale which provided the actual propulsion, in the episode The Beast Below.
- Stargate Atlantis: the Wraith Hive-Ships are alive, as well as all Wraith vehicles and structures. They are grown from a pathogen that envelopes a host body and grows outward. They can fully heal themselves and grow to enormous sizes, but require power to feed on in order to do so, which limits their size due to the requirements.
- Battlestar Galactica: In the re-imagined series, the newest generation of Cylon Raiders and Basestars are partly organic.
- Robotech: the ships of the Invid are mostly organic, as are most of the Invid mecha.
- In the Wild Cards anthology series, the people of Takis, including Dr. Tachyon, have domesticated a race of living starships.
- Roughnecks: Starship Troopers Chronicles shows the alien Bugs using huge "Transport Bugs" to travel between star systems.
- In G.I. Joe, the citizens of Cobra-la, introduced in G.I. Joe: The Movie, have numerous bioships, plus many vehicles and weapons, more advanced than anything possessed by the Joes but all made entirely of organic, and, indeed, mostly still-living material. The whole Cobra-la civilization was built with this sort of technology.
- In the anime Heroic Age, the Bronze Tribe exists in enormous living nests and warships which are, arguably, members of the tribe itself. Each is controlled by a single, frail individual physically connected to the ship itself and controlling subservient members telepathically.
- Space: Above and Beyond: The alien Chigs possessed ships with partially organic interiors and controls.
- In the Young Justice animated series, the Team uses Miss Martian's bioship for transportation and covert operations. The ship is addressed as a female and has the ability to camouflage and more shapes.
- The Blitzspear: Nemesis the Warlock's symbiotic ship.
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures: Cudley the Cowlick and Maligna's hive.
- Knight Run: All of the Beasts' spacecrafts are actually Beasts themselves. Manan Mothership.
- Age of Wonders: Shadow Magic: the Syrons use a forceship that is made of a carcass of an animal.
- Freelancer: The Nomad ships in-game are made of a light blue organic polymer, and when physically struck produce a strange drum-like reverberating noise.
- R-Type Final: A number of organic or part-organic Bydo-based fighters can be unlocked later in the game.
- Shadow the Hedgehog: the Black Arms mothership, the Black Comet, is a bioship.
- Creatures 3: The Shee starship is actually a living organism with own ecosystems inside.
- Star Wars: Galactic Battlegrounds: the Gungan race uses organic technology. Most buildings are organic and large offensive units, such as their Air Cruisers appear to be organic bioships.
- Perfect Dark: a level is set inside a large sentient Bioship, one of a race called the Cetan. The ship rests on the floor of the Pacific ocean, where it crashed millions of years before. The ship had deliberately crashed itself there to deny anyone access to the powerful weapon it contained.
- Escape Velocity Nova: the Polaran faction of humans developed bioship technology to replace their depleted conventional fleet. Polaran bioships are significantly more powerful than the ships of other human factions, and make use of a variety of laser and particle weapons derived from specialized organs.
- X-COM: Apocalypse: all alien UFO's and buildings are made out of biomatter.
- StarCraft: all the space faring species of the Zerg faction are bioships
- Prey: the Sphere can be considered a giant bioship (the size of a planetoid)
- Far Gate: The Nue-guyen are the living ships race.
- Haegemonia: The Darzoks' ships are the bioships
- Captain Blood: the player travels in a biological ship known as the Ark. Operations such as landing on or destroying a planet are carried out by biological probes known as OORXX.
- Half-Life 2: The Combine use "Synths" such as gunships, dropships, and other biomechanical war machines, created from existing creatures. All examples seen aren't truly spaceships, and are more suited to a planetary atmosphere.
- Genesis Rising: All the ships that you control are bioships.
- Command & Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars: The Scrin Faction's spaceships and ground units are all biomechanical.
- Spaceward Ho!: Biologicals are occasionally produced by researching Radical technology. They are weaker than the player's maximum Speed, Weapons, and Shielding technologies, but have the advantage of consuming no metal when produced. In order to refuel, they eat a number of inhabitants per turn, consuming all available inhabitants but ten on the planet they are in orbit around if they do not get full first. Once full, they do not require more fuel when in orbit.
- Homeworld: Cataclysm: The viral life-form known as the Beast infects starships and renders the passengers and crew into an organic network of bio-circuitry used to control the ship. Often the biocircuitry covers parts of the outer hull and lends the ship a distinctive ghoulish look.
- Kingdom Hearts series: Called 'Heartless ships' and 'Nobody ships', these are not technically bioships, since neither Heartless nor Nobodies are technically alive, but the organic-looking ships are used to transport Heartless and Nobodies between worlds.
- Jak 3: The dark maker ship, at the end of the game, may be a bioship.
- Halo 3: The flood dispersal pod is introduced on the level "Halo".
- Mass Effect: The Leviathan of Dis is a billion-year-old bioship found on the planet Jartar.
- Mass Effect 2: The Collector ship and base; also, the Reapers themselves are revealed to be gigantic sentient organic constructs.
- Bio-ship Paladin: The titular player ship (alternately known as the Gomora) is an alien fighter craft and spaceship that can grow in size and strength after obtaining power-ups. It is suggested that its organic parts are within the ship as the exterior of the Paladin appears very mechanical.
- Darwin 4078: The player controlled a fighter craft that could mutate or evolve into a variety of different shapes and creature-like craft. This was also featured in a similar port Super Real Darwin/Darwin 4081, although it is unclear whether either were suited for space travel: in 4078, the player's ship was inside a time-warped star ship while the battles in Super Real Darwin/4081 took place entirely on an alien planet.
- Sigma Star Saga: The player controlled random types of bioships from an alien race that flew on their own, but could not fire unless piloted; The ships would beam pilots aboard using parasites attached to the pilots bodies once detecting a nearby threat.
- Bio-Hazard Battle: The four different player fighter ships were almost entirely organic, constructed out of genetic tampering to the point of resembling unique life forms.
- Galactic Civilizations II: The titular Dread Lords are a species of bioships. The game's introduction sequence implies that their ancient enemies, the Arnor, are similar.
- Omega Fighter: It is revealed in the final boss fight that the core of the enormous alien starship the player has been fighting the entire time is powered by a living, organic mass controlling all of the ship's functions.
- Warhammer 40,000 and StarCraft: feature organic races, the Tyranids and Zerg respectively, that use fleets and swarms of living ships to travel between worlds.
- Transhuman Space: the supplement Spacecraft of the Solar System describes a very experimental bioship, the Nadezhda.
- Metroid Prime 3: The Phazon Leviathan 'Seed' is an organinc meteor like ship.
- Noel Keyes, editor Contact: Man Faces Extraterrestrial Life New York:1963 Paperback Library, Inc. "Specialist" by Robert Sheckley (1953) Pages 153-166
- Perrypedia vol. 322: Ein Gigant erwacht (A Giant Awakes) (German)
- Schematic of a Dolan Archived
- Hamilton, Peter F. (1996). The Reality Dysfunction. Pan Books (UK).
- Orion's Arm Bioship Article
- "Tin Man". Star Trek: The Next Generation. Season 3. Episode 20. May 6, 1990.
- "Scorpion". Star Trek: Voyager. Season 3. Episode 26. May 21, 1997.
- "Caretaker". Star Trek: Voyager. Season 1. Episode 1. January 16, 1995.
- "Premiere". Farscape. Season 1. Episode 1. March 19, 1999.
- "Hostile Visit". Space: Above and Beyond. Season 1. Episode 9. November 19, 1995.