It’s been a good month for ships. Just this week, one of the most iconic vessels to ever clear the Kessel run in 12 parsecs returned to theaters in a very high-profile manner. But May has also brought news the Rocinante may fly again, Trekkies everywhere can finally (virtually) hop aboard the Enterprise-D, and we’ll all soon host a Starfighter of choice on the nearest desk in our lives. If you want to count the ho-hum Block 5 in all this, too, go right ahead.
Seeing a young Han Solo experience all the feels when first laying eyes upon the beloved Millennium Falcon had everyone around the Orbital HQ thinking. What is the ship that still has me over the moon after all these years? We already know Lee Hutchinson adores the Normandy (among others), so this weekend we let the rest of the Ars staff also launch into a liftoff love letter.
A most excellent (pseudo) ship
Like the title characters, I probably already failed this assignment by not quite following the rules. Technically, my favorite pop culture ship isn’t even a ship. Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventures was a formative experience for many reasons, but chief among them was the everyday nature of their preferred time-traveling vessel. The phonebooth outside the Circle K epitomized function over form and industry over innovation—with a little chewing gum and plenty of their own gumption, even two obvious idiots could recruit the most brilliant and adventurous minds from across history to help them pass a final San Dimas High School history presentation.
I like to imagine the phone booth inspired more than just a breakfast cereal prize. We’ve seen everything from toasters to hot tubs to storage unit boxes take folks across time and space since. But the real lesson of Bill & Ted remains far more analogue: to succeed in life, you don’t need phasers or a true command center—just be excellent to each other.
Heart of Gold’s perfect engineering
The first time the Heart of Gold ever crossed the galaxy, the massive improbability field it generated caused 239,000 lightly-fried eggs to materialize in a large, wobbly heap on the famine-struck land of Poghril in the Pansel system. The whole Poghril tribe had just died out from famine, except for one man who died of cholesterol poisoning some weeks later.
So states the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, in which this ship plays a central role in the absurd adventures of Zaphod Beeblebrox, Ford Prefect, Arthur Dent, and Trillian in the novel by Douglas Adams. The Heart of Gold, of course, was stolen by the president of the galaxy, Beeblebrox, during the occasion of its launch and proved a convenient getaway vehicle.
This is because the Heart of Gold has a unique method of propulsion, which is probably what I love best about the ship. It runs on an Infinite Improbability Drive, which essentially allows it to pass through every place in the universe and effectively go wherever it wants.
For someone who has read a lot of science fiction, finding such a refreshing, non-serious, and side-splittingly hilarious take on the genre was a truly great moment. The Heart of Gold epitomizes this. Every science fiction author who creates galaxy sweeping civilizations must confront the fact that the speed of light is finite, and so the write must conceive of some means for his or her characters to communicate and traverse the cosmos. Adams’ solution is delightfully consistent with his weird, weird galaxy and his master work. I still give the book 42 stars.
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