With Defiance taking to the airwaves this week, SyFy’s enormous $105 million dollar sci-fi gamble is hoping to find an audience as big as both its scale and its budget. With the show’s enveloping pilot out of the way, it got us thinking as to what are the best sci-fi shows that have graced the small screen.
8) Being Human
While it might be more supernatural than it really is science fiction, the tale of a vampire, a ghost and werewolf sharing a house in Bristol was enveloping, enthralling and interesting right until the end.
A fantastic combination of laughs and scares, Being Human remained the most entertaining show that BBC Three had to offer during its five years and possibly the best thing the digital channel has ever produced.
It might have changed its entire cast throughout it’s time on air, but Being Human remained essential watching.
Its opening episode still sits high on the list of all-time great pilots, and for five seasons Lost presented more questions than a decade of Mastermind and was one of the most entertaining shows to have graced American primetime in years.
The show’s finale might have fallen horribly flat, but the show can never be thought of as anything other than incredibly ambitious and willing to take a risk and not answer every question it raised. In a world when far too often endings are wrapped up in neat little packages, that Lost never felt pressured into answering its own questions is massively to the credit of the show.
6) The X Files
The show that fuelled a whole new generation of conspiracy nuts, The X Files wasn’t afraid to have a poke at every single area of science fiction. Aliens, cover-ups and cannibals were all up for investigation by Mulder and Scully, who became the best double act to have hit sci-fi since Kirk and Spock.
It even managed to convert some of the uninitiated to sci-fi, hiding it’s more fantastical elements in a procedural wrapper that gave it a much more rounded appeal.
Yes, the show suffered when Duchovny left the two film spinoffs were kinda disappointing, but the The X Files still stands up as a true sci-fi great, able to mix the terrifying and fun aspects of the genre in one brilliant package.
5) Star Trek: The Next Generation
While Star Trek hadn’t lived for that long on TV, the impact of the show was still being felt, with the film spinoff’s still the jewel in Paramount’s crown. The astronomical demands of the cast though forced the hand of the executives, who realised that for Star Trek to ever move on from Kirk and Spock, it would need fresh blood and fresh injection of ideas.
The Next Generation achieved this and much, much more, not only breathing fresh life into the franchise but also bringing in a whole new crowd who might once have dismissed the show out of hand. It might been incredibly geeky, but it sure was enjoyable.
4) The Twilight Zone
By far the oldest of our selection, The Twilight Zone somehow manages to get over its complete lack of continuous characters or plot to make it on to our list.
How come a show that was just an anthology series beat so many others out there? Simple, this anthology show was so utterly creative and varied that she show stands as a wonderful reminder of just how to make effective, concise and odd tales that stick in the mind long after the show has stopped airing.
The Twilight Zone managed to something really rather impressive though. It managed to present political allegory on network TV both subtly and cleverly enough that it set the template of what sci-fi would strive to do in the decades following.
3) Doctor Who
Britain’s best sci-fi offering may have been going since 1963, but the massive re-gig the show got in 2005 is what has seen the odd man and his flying blue box make it onto this list. While the original show was cheesy and silly, the new version manages to keep the fun and humour, but mix it with real drama and some moments of real pathos.
While never abandoning or sneering at its legacy, the new Doctor Who is the show at its most refined, now able to bring in magnificent guests and now able to realise it’s ambitions visually.
With the show currently feeling the great effects of having a new member on board the Tardis, Doctor Who is currently the best science fiction that you can find on TV and very much worthy of the worldwide fame the show has attracted since its rebirth.
Perhaps the show that Definace takes the most references from, Joss Whedon’s ill-fated space-western is still beloved by its audience nearly ten years after it was taken off the airwaves for good reason. Still one of the most utterly charming shows to have been made in the last decade, Firefly is an example of a science fiction show keeping its feet on the ground and letting the characters make the universe.
With some of the best writing Whedon has done in his illustrious career, it’s one of the great crimes of TV over the last decade that we weren’t able to spend more time in the company of the crew of the good ship Serenity.
1) Battlestar Galactica
When it was announced that the then titled Sci-Fi Channel was going to reimagine the camp late seventies show, to say expectations were low was an understatement. Even when the show got the mind behind Star Trek’s rebirth Ronald D. Moore in to pilot the ship, it was hard to anticipate that what he would create a show so utterly fantastic.
Pitching what was once just a Star Wars rip off into a tooth and nail fight for survival, the new Battlestar Galactica was dark, moody, twisting and utterly phenomenal from beginning to end. All brought together by some fantastic performances and great special effects and action, Battlestar is the benchmark that all science fiction will unfortunately be held up to.
What are you favourite sci-fi shows? Let us know in the comments section below.