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
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
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
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.