From ever since I was little lad watching Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and The Empire Strikes Back on Betamax cassettes I have been a lover of science fiction. And so I decided to count down ten of my favourite sci fi TV series in what is likely a completely biased and highly subjective list. Let’s get to the countdown:
#10 The Prisoner
I would not be surprised if most of you reading the list never heard of ‘The Prisoner’ but this short lived 1960s series was fantastic stuff. It tells the story of a former British secret agent (Patrick McGooghan) who is kidnapped, given the name Number 6 and brought to a strange island to extract from him why he resigned. It is stylish, highly cerebral and unforgettable but not as iconic as some others on this list. If you can find it, do check it out.
#9 Babylon 5
Now for this entry many more people would have heard of it but probably not many would have seen it. ‘Babylon 5’ is set on an intergalactic space station in the middle of the 23rd century. For five seasons it featured interesting alien cultures, riveting story arcs and some pretty sweet action as well. The show was serialised and each episode felt like the next chapter in a spectacular page turner. Though very high in quality ‘Babylon 5’ never really gripped me like the other shows on this list.
#8 Doctor Who
Now before you pelt me with fish fingers and custard let me say at the outset that I am a true blue Whovian, and ‘Doctor Who’ is one of my favourite shows of all time. But on a ranking of sci fi TV shows it does not rank higher because it is more science fantasy than hard science fiction. Still, the more than 50 year-old series is infinitely enjoyable with its charming alien lead The Doctor (who switches faces and actors ever so often), his spaceship the TARDIS and features fun, exciting and scary stories throughout time and space. Geronimo indeed!
Everytime I think of Joss Whedon’s space western ‘Firefly’ I feel a little sad. In the history of television it is one of the most unjustly cancelled shows, being axed after just one season because Fox treated it like a bastard stepchild. But in that one season Captain Mal Reynolds and his motley crew of misfits gave us some wild, hilarious and cinematic adventures. At least we got the Serenity movie to continue the story but we are still left to wonder what ive or seven seasons of Firefly would have looked like. #browncoatforlife
‘Farscape’ was not a hugely popular show but it was so good. Like five topping meat pizza good. The show is about a lost astronaut named John Crichton (Ben Browder) and a group of alien fugitives in a living ship called Moya. ‘Farscape’ featured colourful characters, including some brought to life spectacularly by the Jim Henson Company, wacky adventures and great action. After it ended in the fourth season with a cliffhanger the fan protests were so strong it was brought back for a two part TV movie ‘The Peacekeeper Wars’. The rich, wonderful world of ‘Farscape’ really needs to be returned to in a second series. “Farscape: New Horizons” maybe.
#5 Stargate SG-1
Some sci fi TV series last just one or two seasons. ‘Stargate SG-1’ lasted 10! The show, a spin off of the 1994 film Stargate, tells the story of a military unit that travels through the eponymous wormhole to different planets and protects Earth from alien enemies like the parasitic Gou’ald, the robotic Replicators and the cult-like Ori. Led by MacGyver himself Richard Dean Anderson for eight seasons ‘SG-1’ gave us unforgettable and lovable characters, pulse pounding action and imaginative story lines. The show spawned two sequel series of lesser quality – the still fun ‘Stargate Atlantis’ and the overly serious ‘Stargate Universe’.
#4 The X-Files
Just missing out on the podium is one of the most iconic shows on this list – ‘The X-Files’. The show is about two FBI agents, Fox Mulder and Dana Scully, investigating paranormal phenomenon including aliens and monsters. Though there was a significant dip in quality in the later seasons ‘The X-Files’ still gave us some of the most riveting science fiction ever on television and some truly terrifying plots. The show spawned two movies, the first the equivalent of a drawn out decent episode and the second the equivalent a drawn out boring episode, and a revival 10th season this year which sadly failed to recapture that old magic. We wanted to believe but could not. Classic X-Files is still great though.
#3 The Twilight Zone
The only anthology series to make this list ‘The Twilight Zone’ is a classic in every respect. Brilliant plots paired with fantastic acting made for some mind blowing television. There was horror, fantasy and also hard science fiction as well. And there were some twists that would have your jaw rolling around on the floor. Eat your heart out M. Night Shamalamadingdong.
The original 1950s show, which featured the mesmerising voice of narrator Rod Serling, spawned two revivals and decent feature film. The Syfy Channel has an annual New Year’s marathon and I always try to catch a few episodes. They really hold up very well.
#2 Battlestar Galactica
The silver medal goes to ‘Battlestar Galactica’ or BSG. I’m not sure people had very high hopes when they heard that a campy 1970s science fiction series about humans battling robots was being rebooted. But then BSG came out in the early 2000s and it blew everyone away. It was dark, it was gritty, it was visceral and it was unlike anything ever on television. You really expected anything could happen at any time. Brilliant acting, wonderful sets, brutal action and compelling writing combined for one of the best shows on TV. It did spawn a prequel series ‘Caprica’ which was okay but no BSG. And though the show ended in 2009 its legacy of stellar television lives on to this day. So say we all!
#1 Star Trek: The Next Generation
When you think of science fiction and television you automatically think ‘Star Trek’. You don’t? Well you should! Trek is the patriarch of sci fi TV. Many fans from around the world have watched the five different series and boldly gone where no one has gone before. Now my personal favourite is the serialised and dark ‘Star Trek: Deep Space Nine’ and the most iconic is the original ‘Star Trek’, but for a list of the best sci fi shows I have to give it ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’.
Captain Jean-Luc Picard, Data, Worf and the crew had such fantastic, cerebral and interesting adventures across the galaxy over their seven season run. TNG is the standard, the blueprint, the archetype that all science fiction shows are judged by. And for that reason it is our number one sci fi series of all time.
So that is my list. Was I on point with the top pick or wrong as wrong can be? Feel free to praise/chastise me in the comments. And for more cool TV lists you can check out my blog redmangoreviews here or like the MovieVille Facebook page here.