It will come as no surprise to regular PoP visitors that I am a huge scifi fan. I always look out for new scifi film and TV series to check out. While it’s not often that I come across absolute winners, it does happen. So here are ten of the best scifi TV series I have enjoyed in the last 30 years or so. In alphabetical order, as usual.
Babylon 5 (1994 – 1998)
When I was a teenager in the 70s, I remember watching a space opera TV series called Phoenix Five (it was produced in Australia). So initially I was confused by Babylon 5 but realised quickly that the two series were unrelated. Babylon 5 revolved around a space station that aspired to bring peace to the galaxy amongst various warring alien races. The series had a 5-year plan which it executed well and stands up well to this day, especially seasons 2 to 4.
Battlestar Galactica (2004 – 2009)
A re-imagining of the TV series that was launched in 1978 in the wake of Star Wars. Lasting 4 seasons, this remake took the original premise – a space opera where a human civilisation were threatened by cyborgs of its own creation – and turned it into an analogy of the post-911 milieu, with sleeper agents, terrorism and occupation on the narrative agenda.
Counterpart (2017 – 2019)
Only 2 seasons long but so much packed into this series speculating on the existence of two parallel worlds and the characters that inhabit them. J.K. Simmons is spectacular as two versions of Howard Silk, the lead characters who have to navigate a cold war between both worlds. Essential.
Dark (2018 – 2020)
The best time travel TV series ever? This tightly scripted German series may well be exactly that. The narrative not only explores time travel but also alternate realities as well in one of the most detailed plot lines I have ever come across. All three seasons are available on Netflix. Perfection!
Fringe (2008 – 2013)
This JJ Abrams produced series began as an X-Files clone, as FBI’s Fringe Division investigates strange phenomena. However, at the end of season 2, it did something unexpected, it introduced an alternate world into the mix. From Season 3, onwards the series became something else altogether, turning everything we had previously understood on its head. Anna Torv shines in her role as agent Olivia Dunham.
Lost (2004 – 2010)
Ah yes, Lost. Detractors will no doubt dismiss the series for failing to stick the landing with its final season. All that is true but for a time, it raised the stakes of what a serial scifi drama could be. Sadly, JJ Abrams’ penchant for mystery boxes backfired in a big way at the very end. Still deserves to be on this list, though.
Star Trek : The Next Generation (1987 – 1994)
Probably still the best of the Star Trek TV series out there, though it’s episodic nature was a product of its times and dates it somewhat. ST : TNG gave us Captain Jean Luc Picard, one of the most enduring scifi characters of them all. All the Star Trek series are worth watching, I might add. You either get it or you don’t!
Rick and Morty (2013 —)
Probably one of the most inventive and imaginative scifi TV series out there right now. Don’t be fooled by the fact that it’s a cartoon, Rick and Morty contains highly intelligent scifi writing, underpinned by scatological humour and a geek sensibility that is unique. The fact that many of its writers are also working with Marvel Studios for the next phases of the MCU says it all really.
The Expanse (2015 —)
Probably a series that is under the radar compared to the inferior Stranger Things or Westworld but The Expanse is an interstellar space opera that has a strong basis due to it being adapted from a series of science fiction novels by James S. A. Corey. Tightly plotted with strong characterisations, its four seasons (so far) deserve more attention than it has received. Now streaming on Amazon Prime.
X-Files (1993 – 2018)
“I Want to Believe” went the promotional copy for Chris Carter’s X-Files, as Fox Muldar (David Duchovny) and Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) investigated unsolved cases involving paranormal phenomena. The chemistry between the leads and the underlying alien conspiracy drew viewers’ attentions though it ran out of steam towards the end. Groundbreaking for its time.
What did I miss out? Let me know at the Power of Pop Facebook page.
… still there’s more …