It's a miracle our pitiful spaceflights so far haven't been attacked by pirates. Pirates are everywhere, ruthlessly plundering and seizing everything in their path. Space isn't empty, because it's crammed with pirates in every direction. And because space is infinite, it offers limitless hiding places for a ruthless band of buccaneers. Everything you take into space already belongs to pirates — you just don't know it yet. Here's our round-up of the greatest pirates in space.
You can't make a treaty with pirates, nor can you go to war against them. It's all just booty to them. And pirates rule science fiction — just look at this list of 288 science fiction books with pirate themes, including the awesomely titled Pirates Of Cyber Island, from 1977. Come on, how could a book called Pirates Of Cyber Island not rule? Anywhere, here's a very partial list of space pirates:
Space Pirate Captain Harlock is an anime series by Leiji Matsumoto starring Harlock, a character who's appeared in Matsumoto's anime since 1953. He totally lives up to the pirate image, with the eyepatch and the scar and the giant black cape. But he's really more of a freedom fighter, carrying out raids on the ships of all-female aliens who are oppressing Earth, the Mazone. He's sort of a Sir Francis Drake with way better hair, in space.
Jim Henson's puppets-and-Ben Browder show Farscape included a gang of pirates that trap unwary space travelers inside a region of space called the Flax. Browder and Claudia Black get trapped in the Flax, and the rest of the Moya's crew has to find a way to keep the pirates from claiming their booty.
Comics have included a number of space pirates, including the Starjammers in Marvel's X-Men comics and Starslayer from Mike Grell's series of the same name. The Starjammers are led by Cyclops' dad Christopher Summers, who took the name Corsair and led a group of freaks and aliens on a career of piracy across the galaxy. And they fought the Shi'ar Emperor D'Ken, who wanted to sacrifice his sister Lilandra and gain ultimate power. Meanwhile, Starslayer was an ancient Celtic warrior, who gets zapped forward in time to join the crew of a spaceship called the Jolly Roger, and fight against an evil alien empire.
Star Trek featured a number of pirate races, including the Nausicaans, one of whom stabbed Captain Picard when he was just a brash cadet. But the awesomest pirates in Trek are the Orions, who are big bald scary green/blue guys and super seductive green women. (In an Enterprise episode, it's revealed that the green "slavegirls" are actually in charge, and the men are really their slaves, thanks to feminine wiles 'n' stuff. Irony FTW.) In one episode of the animated series, the Orion pirates raid a Starfleet ship and steal some precious dilithium crystals plus some medicine the Enterprise needs to cure Spock. These pirates are tricky bastards, setting up a meeting with Kirk which turns out to be a trap, courtesy of a dilithium bomb. There's also a whole Orion Pirates space battle game:
The Tranquility Wars by Gentry Lee features a gang of pirates who call themselves the Utopians, who are fighting for their freedom against a totalitarian regime (are we noticing a theme here yet?). They even have the required cybernetic parrots, and go around raiding other spaceships and keeping people for ransom. And the leader of the pirates is named Lance! Lance the space pirate!
Mike Resnick's novel Starship: Pirate includes an evil space pirate named Hammerhead Shark, which is actually a better name for a space pirate than Lance. Actually, the good guy, Wilson Cole, is a space pirate too — but he's a nice pirate, who just steals people's stuff and then sells it back to them. Who turns out to be the better pirate, the friendly Wilson or the toothy Hammerhead?
Space Pirate is the name of an online strategy game, in which the space pirates are traders who don't pay taxes to the Intergalactic Revenue Service. Really. It's all about tax-dodging. Oh, and you get to raid other ships as well.
Time-traveling TV serial Doctor Who actually featured a story called "The Space Pirates," which sadly is neither swash nor buckling. It's the distant future, and there are pirates, but they're a bit pants. They're pants pirates. But even that makes them sound more awesome than they really were. They go around looting ore freighters in deep space, and mostly uncrewed robot freighters.
Doctor Who's failure to bring the Yo-ho-ho was a terrible stain that followed the program for almost a decade — until it finally redressed the balance with another story, "The Pirate Planet." This story has EVERYTHING — including a pirate captain with a cyber eye patch and hook-hand, plus a robot parrot. The "PIrate Planet" zooms around, appearing around other planets and crushing the life out of them. The planet Xanak then strips the precious metals and jewels out of the dead planets, and then... Actually I'm not sure what happens after that. Do they sell the minerals and jewels? To whom? It's never really explained.
The Metroid video game series features the Space Pirates, sometimes called Zebesian Space Pirates, among the main adversaries. They're not just pirates, they're aliens, who sort of look like dragons sometimes. They have three fingered hands or sometimes lobstery claws. They go around the galaxy stealing scientific innovations at the behest of ruthless leaders like Mother Brain, whose name is pretty self explanatory — she's got a brain, and it's a mother: