Top 10 American Science Fiction TV Shows
To commemorate American Independence Day (2011) we created a poll on the SciFi Ideas Facebook page. The poll asked “what’s your favourite American scifi TV show?” The votes have been counted and verified – here are the results.
These are the top 10 American science fiction shows, as voted for by you:
10. The X-Files
The truth is out there, but you’ll have to sit through 9 seasons and 202 episodes before you find out what it is. Of course, interspersed with the ridiculously drawn out main story arcs were some real gems. Horror, mystery and suspense, all bundled together in a neat science fiction package and shelved between the Ark of the Covenant and Hitler’s left testicle in a secret government warehouse.
9. Babylon 5
Babylon 5 is easily the best space opera to come out of the 90′s, and one of its characters, Ambassador Londo Mollari, is my favourite scifi character of all time. The show was the brainchild and personal project of writer/director/producer J. Michael Straczynski, who is arguably both the best and worst writer in the industry. The show is full to the brim with clichés and melodramatic dialogue, but somehow manages to strike just the right note and always inspires me to write. When I was about 15 years of age I remember watching the episode ’The Fall of Centauri Prime’, the grim resolution of Ambassador Mollari’s story arc, and I knew right there and then that I wanted to be a science fiction writer when I grew up.
From the creative genius behind Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Firefly was a new breed of scifi-western. Cancelled after only one season, it has since developed a huge cult following and is one of the most highly regarded science fiction shows of the century so far. Proof if any were needed that the fox network have no idea what they’re doing.
If you’re one of the many people who missed Firefly as it quickly zoomed by, here’s the only explanation it requires: Outlaws with six-shooters on a spaceship. Stealin’, shootin’, up to no good and runnin’ from the law. Oh, and there’s a priest for some reason.
7. Battlestar Galactica (Reimagined Series)
With the original series of Battlestar Galactica being such an iconic show, the remake had some pretty big boots to fill when it launched in the form of a mini-series back in 2003. Boy did it fill them. Those boots were overflowing with science fiction juice. They gave off a pretty pungent aroma too; the show’s gritty, unwashed look is a universe away from the clean-cut appearance of most other science fiction, but that’s one of the many reasons we love it so much.
The success of ‘Galactica is a complex formula of style, realism and incredible special effects, mixed with a certain sensitivity to the themes of personal tragedy and faith, a team of excellent writers, and an incredibly talented cast. The characters in this show are so incredibly real, they really get under your skin. Thanks to Katee Sackhoff (Starbuck), I now know what it feels like to want to punch a woman – and that’s a good thing!
6. Stargate SG-1
It’s hard to imagine a show like Stargate SG-1 being made in any other country than the good old U.S of A. Although I will admit that the idea of a British spin-off series does tickle the imagination somewhat, especially considering that the Stargate itself probably belongs to the British Museum.
With 10 seasons and 214 episodes, SG-1 is the longest running American science fiction series, and together with its spin-offs (Stargate Atlantis, Stargate Universe, the animated series Stargate Infinity and the three Stargate films) is part of one of the most successful science fiction franchises in history.
5. Lost in Space
Originally broadcast in 1965 through 1968, Lost in Space is a true American classic. It follows the adventures of the Robinson family, who set out from earth in the Jupiter 2 spacecraft with the intention of colonizing a planet in the Alpha Centauri star system. When the Jupiter 2 is sabotage by the malevolent Dr. Zachary Smith, it becomes Lost in Space.
A film remake was released in 1998 and was greeted with generally negative reviews. Later attempts to reboot the show resulted in a pilot episode being produced in 2003, but it went unaired and the project was cancelled. Interestingly, the producers of the Battlestar Galactica remake bought the sets from the unaired pilot. They were adapted to create various scenes aboard the Battlestar Pegasus.
The series has landed. Futurama crashes into fourth place as America’s favourite science fiction comedy show (disregarding Shatner’s laughable performances).
“Futurama is brought to you by Thompson’s Teeth – the only teeth strong enough to eat other teeth.”
If you’ve never seen Futurama before, here’s a quick summary: Pizza delivery boy Phillip J. Fry is cryogenically frozen on New Years Eve, 1999. He is revived 1000 years later in a world very different (and yet somehow very similar) from his own. A world in which the disembodied heads of dead celebrities are kept alive in jars. A world populated by horrible gelatinous blobs, robot hookers and talking lobsters with phony medical degrees.
3. The Twilight Zone
The Twilight Zone was an on-again, off-again series spanning five decades of American TV history. It used an anthology format to tell stand-alone stories in the genres of science fiction, fantasy, horror and mystery, and became famous for ending episodes with a dramatic twist.
The original series ran from 1959 to 1968. It was later revived for two seasons between 1985 and 1989, and a further season in 2002.
Perhaps the most famous episode of The Twilight Zone is ‘Nightmare at 20,000 Feet’, which stars William Shatner as a tormented airline passenger and introduced the phrase “there’s something on the wing!” into popular culture.
2. Star Trek (The Original Series)
Ok, so opinion varies as to whether William Shatner’s performance as a sexually aggressive man-beast added to or detracted from the show. But there’s no denying that Star Trek deserves to be ranked as the second best American science fiction show. It is quite literally the most influential science fiction series ever produced, and possibly the most influential TV show of all time. The sets may have been a little wobbly, the writing lazy and the direction poor, but we love it all the same. Let’s not forget that people expected much less from TV shows back then, and this was by far the best thing on the box.
It’s really no surprise that Star Trek: The Next Generation made it to the top of the list. Star Trek is the most popular science fiction franchise in history and, at the risk of offending fans of the original series, The Next Generation is where it really started to get interesting. The show featured some of Star Trek’s most loved characters, and introduced many of its most popular and enduring alien species - the Ferengi, the Cardassians, the Borg, the Bajorans – and was the first to fully explore Klingon culture (post facial scarring).
Star Trek: The Next Generation is also where my personal love affair with the science fiction genre began – as I’m sure is the case with many generations of scifi fans.
It’s hard to imagine a world in which this show was never made. It would be a world without hollodecks, Sung-type androids and Bat’leths. A world in which the phrase “make it so” carries no special meaning.