Meetings in Deep Space

Do this thought experiment for me. Pick a science fiction movie or a TV show. You can pick whatever you want, as long as this movie or show has space ships and contains at least one scene where 2 or more ships meet/battle in deep space. Got one? Ok, now recall this deep space scene. I will bet you that no matter what movie you picked you will see the same strange little thing. For some strange reason all the ships are aligned to some invisible plane. In other words, all the ships are situated so that you can define one direction which will mean “down” to all the ships on the screen (sans some fighters zooming around really fast).

There is also something you will never see – a ship situated so that it is perpendicular to one or more of it’s neighbors. If it’s a battle scene, you will always see ships attacking head on, or tailing the enemy – but never attacking from above or below. When a ship rams another ship, they will either ram the enemies prow, or the side. Why the hell is that? Space is 3D, yet most of movie makers treat space battles like sea battles – only with invisible water line.

Sure it makes sense that during battle ships would align to carry out an attack – but then again once they start fighting there should be considerable amount of movement up and down. Actually, the only way a pilot can define “up” is by looking at other ships – once everyone starts rolling and pivoting to get in a good shooting position, you loose that point of reference. It would not make sense to try to align to some pre-defined plane in space during battle.

Same thing goes for peaceful encounters. You always have two ships, traveling to different destinations, taking different routes and etc. Yet, when they meet they always somehow manage to end up in prow to prow position. Similarly, if you are planning to dock, or move allot of cargo from one ship to another it would make sense. Now in battle it might be useful to position yourself this way. But when you are just chattering on the comms or beaming people up and down, or send out swift moving transport pods – why bother? If you can beam someone to the other ship, does it matter if it is upside down, or perpendicular to you?

This is one of my pet peeves. I really think most of the people who make these shows, and movies simply can’t figure out that 3D space thing. I’m not even going to mention the horrible abuse of physics in most of scifi movies. This is a topic for a whole other rant… But is is really that difficult to show two ships in space that are not perfectly aligned?

BTW, if your show/movie (the one you picked at the beginning) did portray the ships perpendicular, upside down and at weird angles to each other – please let me know! I want to see it!


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