10 Best Sci-Fi TV Shows
I started this blog with a list of the 10 Best Sit-coms since 1980, but in light of last week's season finale of Battlestar Galactica, it's time to unleash my inner geek and look at the best sci-fi TV series of all-time:
10. Mystery Science Theater 3000
Certainly the funniest sci-fi show of all time (apologies to both Futurama and Red Dwarf), MST3K was as good as the movies it parodied were bad—meaning it was very, very good. The movie theater on the Satellite of Love was more ruthless than a cage of Klingons when it came to savaging B-movies.
9. Dr. Who
Originally launched in 1963, The Doctor has once-again returned to the TV screen, traveling through time and space in the TARDIS, an antiquated and surprisingly spacious blue police box. The special effects may have gotten marginally better, but the camp has stayed the same. Two spin-offs are currently running, including the highly addictive (though strangely both campy and serious) Torchwood.
8. Stargate SG-1
Based on a mediocre movie with a good premise—that all of our mythology was the result of alien contact with our ancestors—the 10 seasons of SG-1 brought back good clean star trekking fun, complete with its own Spock (Teal'c) and a team leader played by MacGyver. Stargate:Atlantis has kept the spirit of its predecessor alive and well.
"My name is John Crichton, an astronaut. A radiation wave hit and I got shot through a wormhole. Now I'm lost in some distant part of the universe on a ship, a living ship, full of strange alien life forms. Help me. Listen, please. Is anybody out there who can hear me? I'm being hunted... by an insane military commander. I'm doing everything I can. I'm just looking for a way home." So begins the adventures of a modern man from earth, where some of the creatures look a lot like muppets (it's a Jim Henson production, after all). Like Lexx without all the sexual innuendo, a group of refugees are forced to coexist aboard a living ship. It's dark without being dreary.
Leave it to Joss Whedon to dream up a space show without aliens. The smart writing he brought to Buffy turned the universe into one big frontier, where those who didn't conform to authoritarian rule were forced to eke out their livings among outlying planets where the long arm of the law can't follow. Watch the way-too-short lived series in full before finishing with Serenity.
5. The X-Files
Pairing Scully the skeptic and Mulder the believer as they investigated the paranormal, The X-Files at its best was as good as any other TV show in history. Its greatness waned in the later years, but the early seasons did more than investigate the implausible; it accomplished it by taking aliens and conspiracy theories to the mainstream.
4. Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Based on a terrible movie with a mediocre premise—that a high school was built on the hellmouth where vampires, demons and other various devil-spawn would creep into California—Buffy became a surprising hit, even among academia ("Buffy studies" classes became popular after the series concluded). The show tackled teen issue as well as My So Called Life, metaphysical questions as well as The X-Files, all while a female protagonist fought like Bruce Lee.
J.J. Abrams convinced viewers to watch his sci-fi show by taking his sweet time to reveal that it was a sci-fi show. Filled with exceptional characters (man, I miss Mr. Eko), clever structures (flash forwards?), moral conundrums and more plot twists and hidden clues than 1200 websites can keep straight, it's kept the water cooler interesting the last four years.
2. Star Trek: The Next Generation
The original series was pioneering. Deep Space Nine and Voyager had their moments. But TNG was head-and-shoulders the greatest Star Trek franchise. Jean Luc Picard. Data. Worf. The holodeck. The Borg. Gene Roddenbury must not have had a cynical bone in his body, and watching his characters explore strange new worlds, seek out new life and new civilizations, and boldly go where no one has gone before, I didn't either.
1. Battlestar Galactica
Based on a mediocre TV show with a great premise—robots annihilate most of humanity; the remnant search for earth—Ronald D. Moore's reimagined version has become the greatest sci-fi show in history. With gritty realism, the last remaining military ship feels like it's in a constant state of repair, like humanity is being held together with duct tape. The show explores major themes—politics, religion, terror, marriage, humanity, sacrifice, pragmatism, personal failure, free press, free speech, loyalty—while keeping the plot moving forward with every episode. Long live Commander Adama.