Why just one ship?

Why do most all Sci-Fi shows involving space travel focus on one ship? To my knowledge, you would never see just one military ship sailing the seas; they are always accompanied by support ships and such. This seems to be a wise decision as you have safety in numbers. So why, in the sci-fi future, do humans send only one ship at a time alone into space to fend for itself?

I understand that at the beginning of space travel, it is more cost effective to send just one, but even when humanity has hundreds or thousands of war vessels, they still seem content with separating them all into one ship teams.

This question is primarily focused on war ships and the like. It's more understandable for civilian and cargo ships to go alone. But it is very, very rare for military vessels to be alone.

So I was wondering if there was an actual scientific or militaristic explanation behind this or it was merely for story line purpose (it would make things more complicated following five ships instead of just one).

Also, my knowledge of sci-fi shows is a bit limited so I may be wrong in this conclusion, but from what I've seen, this is definitely a pattern.


Code Monkey
Staff member
Battlestar Galactica would be a big exception to that (both the original & re-imagined series) but the short answer is simple: costs. By concentrating on a single ship it reduces the production cost of a TV show.
Battlestar Galactica actually came to mind while I was thinking of the question, but militarily speaking, the Battlestars themselves I believe traveled alone. It wasn't until the war that a bunch of civilian ships tagged along to one war ship.


Code Monkey
Staff member
Battlestar Galactica actually came to mind while I was thinking of the question, but militarily speaking, the Battlestars themselves I believe traveled alone. It wasn't until the war that a bunch of civilian ships tagged along to one war ship.
I think with BSG it is a contradiction. They have been described as being able to destroy a planet by themselves but, as far as I can recall, in the shots were they showed them in battle in the 'glory days' they traveled in fleets.
Because if the movies did more than just one ship, the movie would take way to long to understand the full story behind each one. For example Star treks latest movie (which i watched again just recently) only does the story of the USS Enterprise. Now i know it follows the episodes but imagen how long that movie would go for if they did the whole fleet!


As far as sci-fi movies with todays CGI the cost would not be to great to do sceans with fleets in them as far as the way modern navies work it is usally only capital ships that have support/escort ships with the ie: battleships and aircraft carriers my dad spent over 20 years in the navy and while he was on surface ships (destroyers) they mainly were alone.

With BSG if you read the history info the battlestars ran with support ships only in the movies they are alone I guess if they ran with all the support ships that a capital ship would have with them times that with 12 battlestars the cylons would be toast.

There have been a few show/movies in the past that had fleets in them some I remember are starship troopers, silent running, star wars trilogy, serenity, just to name a few.
Thanks arohk. I remember now many sea faring military vessels do travel alone; I just forgot. I guess modern propaganda just chooses to only show the most decked out fleets of ships we have to offer. But now I do remember that many ships and submarines do go at it alone.

So it's starting to make more sense why it's so common in space sci-fi.
It doesn't make sense storyline-wise but production-wise it does. That's why I'd always make the story involve the ship being the only to escape a big explosion or it's the maiden voyage (meaning it's the first of it's kind) or something along those lines.
I don't think it would cost much more production-wise as long as all of the ships were the same make- they could use the same sets, and just change a few things (posters and movable props)

I think it's more for story reasons- to have a focal setting. And, particularly, not having backup can make it more interesting. If the Enterprise was with a fleet, there might be less dramatic tension.


Writing Fool
The thing is, you'd have to follow the crews on all those ships, if you were to bring the plot together...and that's something you can't just mask over with CGI...


Rocket Babe
Good points so far. I would add that BSG pointed out from a practical level that a fleet is only as fast as it's slowest vessel and would frequently be more restrictive that supportive; even a liability. I thought it was inferred that Galactica was one of few ships capable of light speed therefore support vessels would need to be as fast but it was also presented that a battlestar is self sufficient and in effect, the Vipers, shuttles, Raptors etc. were the defense and support.

In DS9 at times there were hundreds of ships during the war episodes but the story stayed focused on the main characters for the most part for all the reasons already listed and at some point the story line just becomes saturated and too convoluted to follow.

I'm a big fan of Downton Abbey and it had dozens of characters over the 5 year life of the series but it did take the entire series to have even a basic understanding of them all beyond the main 7-8 characters. You just can't be intimate with 50 characters simultaneously... unless you're Data.