The greatest tacticians in space don't just use high-energy beams and force shields, they use psychology. And the best interstellar smack-downs start with the trash talking before a single shot is fired.
Whether it's Kirk mocking Khan's superior intellect or Adama growling into the space-phone, nothing improves a shootout in space like a good calling-you-out speech. Watch our medley of clips, and then read our list of the 10 greatest taunts and shouts of defiance in interstellar combat.
10. Doctor Who, "Bad Wolf."
I love how Christopher Eccleston's Doctor is just like, "No." As if it's not even worth arguing. It mirrors his awesome "No" in "The Long Game" when The Editor asks that long-winded philosophical question about whether a slave is still a slave if he doesn't know he's a a slave. I have to admit, every time I watch this scene I wonder why the Daleks don't just say, "Okay then," and exterminate Rose right then and there.
9. Space Battleship Yamato.
Desslok, leader of the Gamilons, tried to crush the puny humans over and over again, but finally lost his empire. So in season two, he decided to take revenge on the crew of the Yamato, who defeated his ambitions. He finally catches up to them in an episode auspiciously titled "Desslok's Victory," and pounds them with his gunships. Then he surrounds the Yamato with magnetic mines before the humans can fire their famous Wave Motion Gun. And then taunts his adversaries mercilessly. "Go on, take a shot." Ha ha ha ha. (I know it's sacrilege, but I actually prefer this scene in the English dubbed version.)
8. Avengers #96, part of the Kree-Skrull War saga.
The Avengers have defeated an entire Skrull armada in an epic space battle — and then the Skrull emperor appears on a view screen and reveals that he's manipulated the Kree warrior, Mar-Vell, into creating the ultimate weapon, an Omni-Wave Projector. And then when it turns out that Mar-Vell is actually tricking the Skrulls, the emperor launches Plan Delta, which sends an all-consuming fireball spiralling towards Earth.
This one's a bit different. Chiwetel Ejiofor's Operative is mournful and regretful after he slaughters dozens (maybe hundreds) of innocents to get to Mal. But he still needles Mal via the viewscreen, suggesting that all the carnage is Mal's fault. And he's successful in goading Mal to take rash action — just not maybe the action he was hoping for.
6. Halo 3, "The Crow's Nest" level.
The Chief and Johnson reach the Command Center and start making plans to attack Truth's army, but then Truth appears on all screens and says: "You are, all of you, vermin. Cowering in the dirt, thinking...what, I wonder? That you might escape the coming fire? No! Your world will burn until its surface is but glass! And not even your Demon will live to creep, blackened, from its hole to mar the reflection of our passage; the culmination of our Journey. For your destruction is the will of the gods! And I? I AM their instrument!" Okay, so that's not a space battle. But I love that speech.
5. Battlestar Galactica.
It takes less than an episode for things to go South between the Galactica and the newly discovered Battlestar Pegasus. Admiral Cain decides to execute the Chief and Helo, leading to a tense confrontation complete with the whirly cam. Commander Adama shows why you don't mess with Galactica, with his terse "I'm getting my men" speaking volumes. And then the phone comes down, because the space battle is on.
4. Farscape, "Die Me, Dichotomy."
In the second season cliffhanger, Scorpius takes over Crichton's brain via a neural chip, and the mind-controlled Crichton tricks Aeryn into letting him go. She chases after his module in her Prowler, leading to a harsh exchange. Scorpius asks her how the skull fracture is doing, and she threatens to shoot him down. "Make no mistake." Scorpius/John replies: "I believe you'll pull the trigger. I just don't believe - you'll hit anything." And then he goes into a dive. Sadly, this is just a few moments before Aeryn takes her chair-dive into the frozen lake.
3. Galaxy Quest.
Jason and Sarris have many great confrontations over the viewscreen, including the first one, where Jason thinks Sarris is just acting, and the second one, where Jason calls Sarris stupid and ugly because he thinks the sound is off. But the best, by far, is the final jaw-dropping confrontation. Sarris reminds Jason that he's a General, who's seen war and death that Jason can't imagine, and Sarris won't blink no matter what. (This scene is lengthier in the original script, actually.) But Jason retorts that it doesn't take a great actor to recognize a bad one, and Sarris is sweating. And then we get to the classic exchange, "You fool. What you fail to realize is that without your armor my ship will tear through yours like tissue paper." To which Jason responds: "Yeah. Well what you fail to realize is... I'm dragging mines."
2. Babylon 5, "Between The Darkness And The Light.
One of the most quotable speeches in the history of space combat. I am going to start calling myself "the right hand of vengeance" and "the boot up your ass" in the same breath now. Thanks to Michael and BcBeBop for pointing it out to us.
1. Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan.
Star Trek pretty much perfected the art of hailing-frequencies bravado, as early as "The Enterprise Incident"'s Romulan Sub-Commander Tal. "Your ship is surrounded, Captain. You will surrender immediately, or we will destroy you." With Kirk responding, "Save your threats. If you board this ship, I'll blow it up. You'll gain nothing." But Trek's masterpiece of comm-taunting has to be TWoK, where Kirk keeps needling Khan's poor marksmanship, until finally he lures him into a disabling nebula by laughing at his superior intellect. "We tried it once your way, Khan. Are you game for a rematch?" The script says: "Khan's eyes bulge." And they do.
So what classic space talk-downs did we miss? Feel free to let us know in the comments, but only in the most trash-talking, mouth-running, space-taunting way possible. You fools! We're laughing at your superior intellects.
This post originally appeared at io9 in a different form, back in March 2008.