Science fiction has always been one of the most popular genres: in video games, books, movie, and TV. Over the years there have been countless attempts to create a television series which managed to bring sci-fi to a mass audience, and quite a few of them have succeeded reasonably well. But there’s a balance that these programs need to strike: the show needs to be the perfect blend of drama and science fiction. That way, the producers are able to please (almost) everyone. Let’s take a look at ten of the best examples of TV shows that took a sci-fi premise and practically turned it into a global sensation.
10. Babylon Five
This show is one of those cult favourites that had a mixed reception on TV but a huge following on DVD. Babylon 5 is a show that was almost a mix between a soap opera and a sci-fi show. It was quite light-hearted and always had a fairly ‘budget’ look. Costumes were a particular highlight, so if you haven’t seen this show yet do yourself a favour and pick it up.
The mid-late 90s sci-fi show Sliders told the tale of a group of travellers jumping from parallel universe to parallel universe thanks to a faulty wormhole device. Each week saw our heroes in a slightly different version of our world (one populated entirely by females, for example), all the while attempting to ‘slide’ their way home. The show did seem to tire a little by the end, but the early seasons in particular are well worth a watch!
Before Joss Whedon’s Firefly came along, the phrase ‘sci-fi western’ hadn’t really been heard before. Widely considered to have been cut short at its prime, Firefly follows the story of the crew of the ship Serenity, and is set in a steampunk-inspired world with a Wild West sensibility. The series also spawned a movie which is loved by fans across the world. This show is the definition of a cult classic, and will delight sci-fi fans and human drama fans alike.
7. 3rd Rock from the Sun
This may seem an odd choice, but it’s a rather unique show. It’s essentially a sci-fi sitcom, and it took the world by storm. Now that it’s all wrapped up, you can enjoy six seasons of ‘aliens pretending they’re human’ comedy gold.
6. Quantum Leap
Similar thematically to Sliders, Quantum Leap remains one of the most popular sci-fi shows of all time. It follows our hero Sam Beckett in his attempt to ‘jump’ home. Every time he jumps to a parallel universe he awakes inside the body of someone else, and cannot leave until he has fixed some aspect of their life. A very interesting premise with five satisfying seasons to its name.
5. Star Trek: The Next Generation
Do we really need to say much about Star Trek? Sure, there are a lot of different variants to choose from, but The Next Generation is generally heralded as one of the best. Not as camp as the original series, with far more complex characterisation. Plus there are plenty of episodes to really get your teeth into.
4. The X-Files
Here’s a sci-fi show whose legacy is still continuing today. Starting in the mid-90s and taking the world by storm, the X-Files was as creepy as it was well-scripted. Each episode (at least in the original series) followed FBI agents Mulder and Scully and their run-ins with a number of paranormal activity. There were all sorts of sub-plots going on, and the series even brought about two movies. Plus it’s got one heck of a theme tune!
A more recent entry here, Fringe (at time of writing) is just about to enter its fourth season. It’s hard to talk much about the plot without spoiling it, but the core concept is a ragtag group who form the ‘Fringe’ department of the FBI. Each episode can stand alone but there’s a also a great overarching story. Fan favourite Walter Bishop makes this show worth watching all on his own, but the story is also highly compelling and comes highly recommended.
2. Battlestar Galactica
This franchise began in 1978 with a fairly corny but still well-received series, but it recently got a face-lift and subsequently had four seasons and a spin-off. The show follows the crew of the Battlestar Galactica (and humans in general) in their fight against the Cylons – a robot race that they themselves created. With their ability to take human form, there’s a lot to love in this series, and now it’s complete you can enjoy it in its entirety.
Ask anyone which show dominated the first ten years of this century and they’d have to answer with LOST. OK, so it raised more questions than it answered, but for the fans following the plane crash survivors, LOST was an unforgettable journey. The six seasons cover all sorts of topics, from time travel to good vs evil, and it’s hard to do the show justice in one paragraph. Just watch it; you won’t regret it.
This article has been written by Dee Mason.
Dee Mason is a freelancer who devours films by the bucketload, particularly sci-fi and horror. She writes on behalf of her preferred lounge recliner retailer, which make some pretty sweet sofas to kick back in.