1977: The modified YT-1300 light freighter known as the Millennium Falcon
S. Preston: Every sci-fi fan knows the Falcon, so using anything with the physical shape was too obvious. With this, I had the liberty of choosing a more obscure approach to my design.
Franich: The Millennium Falcon is the polar opposite of the Discovery. Where the earlier spaceship was designed to emphasize the impossible realities of space travel, the Falcon is a hot-rodding fantasy: a suped-up junker that appears to be assembled from a couple million spare parts. The asymmetrical design gives Han’s baby more character than the usual spaceship, with the jutting cockpit on the starboard side.
1977: The Falcon’s in-universe adversary: TIE Fighters, the preferred method of transport for expendable Imperials
S. Preston: Sometimes, a good minimalist design is not about how the image is cropped or that it’s a shape we recognize. It may simply be that a pattern is all you need—a pattern you just can’t quite put your finger on.
Franich: Perfectly designed enemy shiplets, TIE Fighters don’t make much sense on a scientific level but work perfectly as fantasy. They’re like giant technological bats, flying through the emptiness of space making a monstrous roar. Part of the running joke about the TIE Fighters is that they’re so cheap that the worst X-Wing pilot in the galaxy could take down three of them by accident.
1982: The SDF-1 Macross, from classic anime Robotech
S. Preston: I lurve Robotech, so this was pretty exciting. So much to choose from! But one thing I always remember is the choppy animation of the shoulder cannons rising into the sky when it transforms to battle mode. #TeamMiniMe
Franich: The Macross is actually an alien spacecraft designed for giant extraterrestrials. If the Discovery is realistic and the Millennium Falcon is fantastical, then the Macross is a hallucination made barely manifest: an impossibly massive battleship that can transform into a skyscraper-sized attack bot, Transformers-style. It’s one of the great unhinged visions from the sci-fi anime genre.
2014: The Ranger from Interstellar, shown here on Planet Point Break
S. Preston: I saw Interstellar and had to design this right away when I got home. This is the point of the movie when the stakes suddenly got really high.
Franich: Christopher Nolan’s space epic is an explicit 2001 homage, but Nolan’s aesthetic splits the difference between Kubrickian metal-realism and a trimmed-down kineticism that recalls early George Lucas. That’s best demonstrated by the Ranger, the tiny shuttle used by the astronauts for their away missions. Flat and aerodynamic, it’s a stealth plane that moves like a helicopter, and it represents a fine intergalactic marriage of form and function.