A still photograph of "2001: A Space Odyssey"'s Space Station V. (Image: NASA)
From "Babylon 5" to "Elysium," some of the best science fiction on screen has involved a space station.
Some space stations play integral roles in their films or shows while others merely appear and disappear as needed. But no matter how big or small of a role they play, all of the stations elevate their particular piece of fiction to new heights.
For our purposes, space stations are defined as any large structure that can support a colony in orbit around a planetary body or are large enough to stand on their own in deep space. Despite the fact that some ships in science fiction act as stations, they were not included in this list. [See SPACE.com's full countdown of the 10 best sci-fi space stations ever]
For example, although the Battlestar Galactica ship and the American Airlines space freighters in the movie "Silent Running" were in the pool of contenders, they fall into the category of "spaceship" and not station. Bases built on the moon, Mars or other cosmic bodies were also left off the list (sorry "Space: 1999" and "Outland").
So without further ado, here are SPACE.com's picks for the top sci-fi space stations on TV and in the movies. Did your favorite make the list?
The Death Star (and Death Star II), "Star Wars"
The giant space weapon so nice, they made it twice, the Death Star is one of the most iconic space stations in history. Used to destroy Princess Leia's home planet of Alderaan in "Episode IV: A New Hope," the Death Star was later destroyed by the rebels. By "Episode VI: Return of the Jedi," however, the Empire is already building a second Death Star. And never be fooled. It may be big, but "that's no moon."
Babylon 5, "Babylon 5"
Image: Babylon 5
This station is home to 250,000 people in orbit around the fictional planet Epsilon III. It exists in a neutral part of space and was constructed to allow humans and aliens a chance to work together in peace within the universe of the "Babylon 5" TV show.
Deep Space 9, "Deep Space Nine"
This outpost near a strangely stable wormhole plays host to Captain Benjamin Sisko, his Starfleet crew and many civilians. The 24th century group of space explorers uses the wormhole to travel to the far reaches of the universe in hour-long adventures. One of the best things about Deep Space Nine: It didn't always work right. The station was built by the Cardassians, a militaristic alien race, as a mining refinery and outpost over the planet Bajor, but was handed over to the Federation after Bajor won its independence. The DS9 crew had to battle with clunky computers, unwieldy Cardassian station design and, of course, pesky vole infestations.
Armistice Station, "Battlestar Galactica"
Despite the fact that the Battlestar Galactica didn't make the list, a space station from the eponymous TV show certainly qualifies. The Armistice Station is a remote space outpost set up as a place for diplomatic talks between the people of the Twelve Colonies and the Cylons — a sentient race of robots. At the beginning of the "Battlestar Galactica" miniseries, the Cylons visit the station for the first time in 40 years. They kill the colonial officer on duty and destroy the station, effectively kicking off the entire series.
Space Station V, "2001: A Space Odyssey"
Perhaps one of the most impressive space stations on screen, the rotating Space Station V from "2001: A Space Odyssey" houses a Hilton hotel and artificially created gravity. The large station is used as a place for ships to transfer from Earth to deep space destinations. Because of its iconic status and the sheer spectacle of director Stanley Kubrick's space exploration vision, Space Station V still tops our list of fictional space stations. (We love you DS9, but Space Station V beat you by decades.)
Set for released in the United States on Aug. 9, "Elysium" is the story of a dystopic Earth and the oasis of the space station (called Elysium) above it. Only the rich and powerful are allowed to live onboard the space station, leaving those less fortunate to fight for their lives on the surface of the planet. Elysium is a newcomer to the sci-fi space station crowd, but it makes up for its youth with spectacular beauty. If humanity ever does begin building giant wheels in space, we hope they look like Elysium (sans the political and social elitism). [See photos from the new sci-fi film "Elysium"]
Battle School, "Ender's Game"
"Ender's Game" won't be released until Nov. 1, but the movie's trailers tease Battle School as an amazing-looking station ready for the big screen in this adaptation of a beloved book. Based on the book of the same title by veteran science fiction writer Orson Scott Card, much of "Ender's Game" is set on the space station Battle School where Ender Wiggin learns the ropes of space warfare. The space station featured dorms, classrooms and a cafeteria, just like any school. But it also has vast zero-gravity battle rooms for space war simlations. We can't wait to finally see Ender in action in the battle room on the big screen.
Related on SPACE.com and MNN: