Ridley Scott’s new movie Prometheus takes its name from the film’s starship, which carries the story’s doomed crew out into space on a mission of discovery. That mission of discovery turns into a disaster and what the crew of the Prometheus finds may be humanity’s end. Prometheus isn’t a name Ridley Scott uses lightly.
It is of course a reference to the Prometheus story in Greek mythology in which a god named Prometheus gives man fire, and ends up spending the rest of his existence bound in eternal torture while man misuses his gift to bring about his own destruction. But the name Prometheus has an equally doomed legacy in the world of science fiction. Ridley Scott’s starship isn’t the first named Prometheus and that name, in every case, has been applied to a ship on a mission of death, destruction, doom, mistakes, and needless death.
Here are four other fictional starships named Prometheus. All of them found failure out amongst the stars.
EAS Prometheus (Babylon 5)
The Babylon project was the galaxy’s last best hope for peace, created in the shadow of an Earth/Minbari war which never would have happened at all if not for an Earth starship named Prometheus. In the year 2245 an Earthforce Hyperion-class heavy cruiser, named the EAS Prometheus, was the first to encounter a Minbari cruiser. The Minbari approached the Earth ship with their gunports open, which in their culture was meant as a sign of respect. The Prometheus’ captain, one Michael Jankowski, misinterpreted their actions as a threat. He ordered his crew to open fire on the Minbari cruiser, killing their leader Dukhat, and plunging humanity into a war which would bring it to the brink of extinction.
USS Prometheus NCC-71201 (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine)
In the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode “Second Sight” a ship named the Prometheus is used to carry a brilliant scientist to his doom. In theory her mission is one of discovery, Professor Seyetick plans to use his discoveries to re-ignite a dead star. But Seyetik’s personal life is unhappy and his wife Nidell, a mysterious alien, longs to be free of him. Nidell is stuck, her species mates for life and there is no way out. Seyetik, who still loves his wife, becomes determined to free her from the prison he’s made of her life. In a final desperate act Seyetik launches a shuttle from the Prometheus and flies it into the dead star. As his life ends Seyetik shouts “let there be light!” and the once dead sun blazes with fire, consuming him in its rebirth.
USS Prometheus NX-59650 (Star Trek: Voyager)
In the Star Trek: Voyager episode “Message in a Bottle” the Voyager’s holographic doctor is transferred to a ship named the Prometheus, in an attempt to contact the Federation from their stranded location in the Delta quadrant. Instead of their savior what The Doctor finds is an experimental Federation starship which has been successfully hijacked by the Romulans. Using the ship’s new weapons against her creators, the Romulans are able to escape with the vessel and are only prevented from returning to the Romulan Star Empire through the efforts of the Doctor in concert with the ship’s native EMH.
Prometheus (Stargate: SG-1)
Of all the ships named Prometheus to have made their way through science fiction, this one had the most successful career. Built by humans and enhanced with alien technology, the Prometheus served for years as a permanent part of Earth’s defenses against all aggressors. After years of successfully surviving conflicts though, this Prometheus would too meet its doom. The ship was destroyed in early 2006, a casualty of battle over the alien planet Tegalus. After taking multiple hits the ship split at the neck and exploded, taking 39 members of her crew with her to the grave.