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Warning: This list of coolest science fiction planets will probably offend someone. Odds are 99-to-1 I left off someone’s favorite fiction world, so sorry ‘bout that but please keep the hate to a minimum. I’m still on my meds from the Reddit Rage about my Greatest Protagonists post.
OPENING SCENE TRICK FOR AUTHORS: Establish a sequence in a sci-fi novel or film to let the audience know they aren’t in Kansas anymore.
Do this by having a giant space bug consuming the head and torso of some poor space grunt on a desolate, pitted rock of a planet in the Schtangi-kro’tchh system (if it’s a movie, you can also write “Planet Schtangi-kro’tchh” in high-tech looking letters which appear in the lower corner of the screen. These should be accompanied by a nerdy “typing” sound and blinking cursor, and perhaps the year as represented in galactic space time).
God, I love a good sci-fi planet, Schtangi-kro’tchh aside! Remember when we were kids watching Star Trek reruns on our old CRT television? Wait, that wasn’t you, it was my brother Darrell.
Well, we’d argue and wrestle (after our parents had gone to bed, leaving him in charge of the station knob) about the merits of space travel versus catching a glimpse of skin on the late night, not suitable for kids channel. My preference, being the younger boy, was always to admire the planets. Darrell, conversely, thought it was wiser to ogle the girls. Fool!
But he isn’t here as I type this, and in the interim I’ve seen many a cool sci-fi planet to geek out about. So let’s fire up the warp engines and get ready to explore some strange yet familiar worlds!
One note: I know with utter certainty I’ll offend someone by excluding an awesome and well-deserving cool sci-fi planets (even though, unintentionally, I learned some of these planets were featured in a similar IGN piece).
My apologies in advance, but in order to make my personal cut I need to 1) know about the fictional existence of said excluded cool sci-fi planet; 2) the planet must have stood the test of time, meaning I will get to include the planet which Vader’s castle was on in Rogue One, because it was on…
Mustafar (Star Wars Universe)
The lava world which hosted the fateful duel between Anakin Skywalker and his master Obi-Wan Kenobi has an extensive history within the Star Wars universe. Speaking strictly in terms of the films, though, it has been featured in only two—Revenge of the Sith and, unexpectedly, Rogue One.
A little mining planet in the Outer Rim, Mustafar was long exploited by those dorks over in the Techno Union for the world’s natural resources, which are hard to mine due to the inhospitable nature of the volcanic climate. Who cares about that, though? In terms of a dramatic visual background for a lightsaber death match upon which the fate of the galaxy rests, rivers of molten lava are impossible to beat.
And it was a tasty treat for fans to see the planet revisited in Rogue One, where we drooled over Vader’s tuning fork-shaped castle, a structure whose very design seemed intended to channel Dark Side energy.
It was within the misty chambers of this fortress that Advanced Weapons Research Director Krennic got schooled by our boy Vader about where real power lies…not in the technological terror of the Death Star (though that was pretty damned powerful), but in the leather-clad cyborg hands of a Sith Lord with a fetish for Force-choking insubordinate peons.
Vader probably needed a vacation after all that Rogue One mess, and I can hook you up with an article about that, too!
"You were the chosen one!"
Earth (Battlestar Galactica Universe)
Let’s talk Battlestar Galactica, the original series. I’m old school, so humor me and respect the roots of the franchise.
Earth was, you know, the thirteenth colony of the citizens of ancient Kobol. The birthplace of humanity, Kobol is where mankind advanced far enough to create space-faring vessels in order to seek out new worlds to inhabit. Since Kobol orbited an “irregular variable” star, I suppose folks were getting jittery about their stellar heat source one day blinking out on them. Thus, they officially set up twelve colonies (loosely named from the astrological signs of the zodiac) to find a better place to set up shop, but “legend has it” that another “lost” colony went to “Earth.”
Since the story arcs of both the original 1978 series and the reimagined 2003 series both revolved around the scraps of humanity fleeing their destroyed worlds to hunt for this elusive, perhaps mythical “Earth,” I’d be a real jerk to tell you how it all turns out. I’m no jerk; don’t listen to my frakkin' wife.
But I will say, the concept of a fleet of harried ships carrying the remnants of mankind racing across the cosmos to find a world that probably doesn’t even really exist, running, sweat-drenched just one step ahead of a gloomy race of chrome-plated nonhumans hellbent on their destruction—WOW! That was some hard-to-beat, pure sci-fi magic.
And BTW, yes I know the photo I picked is NOT from the original series. But it's higher res...
Cybertron (Transformers Universe)
Again, I’m going to the source material for this in-depth analysis of the Transformers’ home world. I have to; there’s no way I’m going to mention those Michael Bay movies (except for the preceding few words). No, we need to take a moment, bow our heads, and remember the first animated series and Marvel comics…not that there’s anything wrong with the subsequent TV shows or the IDW Transformers comics. All are cool.
But there can be only one original “Generation 1” Cybertron, and that’s the shiny metal Death star-lookin’ thing from the show, with its enormous (some might say “unrealistically large”) skyscrapers reaching into space, jagged mountains and seas of who knows what sort of lubricants (it looks like water, but you never know…).
Somewhere along the line, the origin story for Cybertron informed us young pop culture enthusiasts (you’ll note I generally don’t use the term geeks) that the world was in fact the transformed body of Primus, Lord of the light Gods. As the tale goes, Primus imprisoned himself and his nemesis, Unicron, inside asteroids. Out of his asteroid, Unicron crafted his humanoid monster form. Primus, however, decided to be a world brimming with life. Hey, why the hell not?
We’ve even seen that somewhere in the lower levels, one can find soil and rock. And a giant, round, multiverse super computer named Vector Sigma.
For pure Decepticon fans, check my article devoted to the Original Gangster, Soundwave!
Krypton (DC Universe)
Most heroes have a tragic backstory, but some are worse than others.
Having your home planet explode is pretty up there in terms of tragedy, but Kal-El has done a fine job integrating with his adoptive world of Earth, under the twin guise of Superman/Clark Kent. As Clark Kent, he’s a small town do-gooder trying to survive as a big city reporter. As Superman, he’s a nigh invulnerable superhuman who can fly, move faster than a bullet, shoot heat beams from his eyes, and freeze trains with his breath…all thanks to the “yellow rays of Earth’s sun,” which power him up like a battery. Essentially this makes him the ultimate hero, with few vulnerabilities.
But he does have one. A big one, what you might call his “Achilles’ Heel.”
Radioactive chunks of his destroyed planet of Krypton.
For whatever fictional scientific reasons, Kal-El can’t take exposure to his own interstellar world, itself once warmed by a red sun. Kyptonite, as the pieces are called, exist in various “colors,” each of which have different properties and effects on the Big Blue Boy Scout. The most well-known is green, which greatly weakens him. Luckily few shards of the stuff have made it this far out into the galaxy, but unluckily Superman’s antagonists have a bad habit of locating those few shards and using them time and again to try and defeat our Man of Steel. They’re not very successful at it, but villains are an optimistic, pernicious lot...and they never stop trying.
Fans of DC Comics trivia might love my Top Ten Classic Comic Batman Trivia Tidbits!
Krypton, having existed in Golden Age comic stories for over 75 years, was a more advanced version of Earth, with humanoid life and society and science not too unlike our own. Superman actually had no idea about the existence of his world, until issue #61 of Superman (Volume 1). It was after this time that other Kryptonians began showing up, including his heroine-cousin Kara, aka Supergirl.
Qo’noS (“Kronos,” Star Trek Universe)
The longtime nemesis of the Federation of Planets, the Klingon Empire keeps its dingy capital on the homeworld of Qo’noS, where their bumpy-headed High Council passes somewhat ill-conceived judgements on how best to conquer the galaxy or otherwise wreak havoc on neighboring systems. The extreme climate changes of the planet, caused by its “severely tilted axis,” have deeply shaped the rugged psychology of her militant inhabitants.
In 2151, the first humans arrived to check out the planet and see what the wily warriors were up to (as featured in the series Enterprise, “Broken Bow”). Actually the intent was to take back a Klingon who’d crashed landed in Oklahoma. The first contact doesn’t go smoothly, as might have been expected, and Enterprise NX-01’s Captain Archer gets a Klingon dagger held to his throat by the Chancellor before the Federation crew get booted off-world!
Thus began a generations-long feud between the two races.
Trantor (Foundation Universe)
Generally noted as one of sci-fi's greatest authors (if not THE greatest), Sir Isaac Asimov went to astonishing lengths to craft the Foundation novels, a series so far-reaching most people need help figuring out how to read it.
If you are one of those in need of help navigating the complexities of Asimov's sprawling series, head over to Asimov 101 and get schooled!
But let's talk Trantor.
It's a big place, a world-city of 40 billion people and counting (Earth has less than 8 billion, to compare). As a planet overrun by technology, her citizens have gotten to be a bit odd, suffering from a sort of encapsulation syndrome. But Trantor is the seat of power of the galaxy, the headquarters of the First Galactic Empire. Essentially it is Rome projected into space.
Since it could not grow enough food to feed it's own population, Trantor relied on a cluster of agricultural "summer worlds" to stock its grocery stores. It was home to several libraries, which could boost the collectively housed the sum of all human knowledge across the cosmos.
Suffice it to say, such a world so puffed up by its own hyperbole yet so dependent on others was bound to run into problems. Add to that a string of bad administrators and keep in mind the place was based on the Roman Empire, and viola--you can likely predict Trantor's fate is to fall...
Or, as Deniz Oygür contributes, "Trantor seems to be a de-facto and unintended merging point of all Earth-based societies after thousands of years. When Settlers (Earth-based colonists) won over Spacers (First Colonizers whose societies depend heavily on Robots) in the galactic colonization race, they, naturally, extended their own ethnic and/or ideological roots so far as the Galactic Capital (physically) and the Dynasty System with all of its conspiracies and counter-conspiracies to get hold of the throne of the Galactic Empire (sentimentally)."
Oygür is OMNI's go-to guy when it comes to the Foundation, so I "phoned a friend" for the above analysis!
Arakkis (Dune Universe)
Thus spoke one of sci-fi's greatest protagonists, Paul Atreides, in his fever dream.
Arrakis isn't a place anybody wants to live. It's a desert planet devoid of nearly all moisture and filled with gi-normous sand worms who like to eat, well, everything. And it was far from the rest of the populated galaxy, with nothing to attract normal colonists or visitors. So what in the black galaxy would make anyone settle in such a barren, distant place?
For starters, spice. Actually, pretty much just spice, aka "the spice Melange" (in case you thought I meant the garbage sold at your local head shop).
Without spice, the galaxy couldn't travel and trade. And, people being greedy no matter where you go, trade was vital to the Imperium and her inhabitants. Therefore the spice must flow! Just ask Dune's prime villain, Baron Harkonnen of Geidi Prime, one of the sickest yet greatest sci-fi antagonists of all time!
And to get it, you had to go through the tribal Fremen, blue-eyed drug addled warriors who made it their job to brave the perils of "Dune" in order to mine the ultra-valuable spice. Basically no one else wanted to do it, or had the capacity for the work. Indeed the Fremen were so utterly badass they harnessed and rode on the giant sandworms as a means of travel. Most folks aren't willing to do that.
I wouldn't, for example.
To learn more about Frank Herbert's Dune series, check out our article on Greatest Sci-Fi Authors!
Ego the Living Planet (Marvel Universe)
Marvel Comics' Earth-616 Universe is chalk full of our favorite superheroes, but there's plenty of other interstellar critters out there worth a review, and one is about to make its way to the big screen!
Yes, we are talkin' 'bout EGO the LIVING PLANET!!!
So, quick primer on Ego--he's been around since 1966, most likely before you were born, eh? Maybe not. But before me, in any case.
Ego was a character in Thor comics, Thor being a character out there among the stars and thus able to run more easily into such oddballs (no pun intended) as giant living planet-things than, say, Spider-Man or Daredevil.
Interestingly enough, Ego was once a person, a scientist who merged with a planet in order to survive, and who began eating ships and other worlds in order to continue surviving. Thor's not the type to care for such behavior and was promptly dispatched to defeat the massive baddie. Ego, learning the error of his ways, vowed to stop eating worlds. Nice Ego! Good Ego!
But Ego, as you might guess, can be a jerk and indeed he (I guess I really should be saying "it") has a tendency to slide when it comes to keeping vows like, say, not eating worlds. Things like that. In other words, Ego has alternately been portrayed as a malicious or heroic creature who can, at will, form a giant face in the midst of his "body." For when he wants to say something...in space. Somehow.
Now--about that upcoming movie...you probably know, but actor Kurt Russell is signed up to play the big rock in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2!
Absolutely I know I am leaving out a world of worlds, but this article is biased. There, I said it. I already told you my criteria up above!
But guess what, faithful readers? You can (and are highly encouraged to) create your own article here using Vocal.media, and list all the coolest sci-fi planets that I left out.
You should start with Gallifrey, from the Doctor Who Universe! I think it is worth a shout out, at least, and so I give it this humble honorable mention.
And I realize I am likely remiss to exclude Mogo the Living Planet from DC's Green Lantern Corps universe, too. Really, the possibilities, like the multiverse within which these words exist, are endless.
My deadline to turn in this article, however, is not...
To learn more about Vocal.media, and how to submit your own article ideas to this site, and many others, please check out How to Make Money Freelance Writing!
It will tell you everything you need to know to get started...