Top 10 British Science Fiction TV Shows

These are the top 10 British science fiction shows as voted for by you:

10. Misfits

E4’s Misfits is a show about a group of delinquent teenagers who develop superpowers.

Being one of those people who doesn’t consider superhero fiction to be true science fiction I was surprised to see this make the top 10, but I can’t argue with the results of the poll and never having seen the show I really can’t comment.

9. Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons

Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons was a Gerry Anderson classic akin to Thunderbirds, filmed using marionette puppets in a style dubbed “Supermarionation”.

The show was set in the year 2068 and followed the adventures of the indestructible Captain Scarlet, an agent of Spectrum (an international security agency) as he fought to keep the Earth safe from Martian aggressors known as the Mysterons. Made in the 1960s it had a distinct cold war feel and was crammed full of cool scifi vehicles, like the backwards facing SPV (spectrum pursuit vehicle) and the floating aircraft carrier Sky Base.

Spectrum was made up of colourful agents from many world nations and had a progressive “don’t ask don’t tell” policy regarding homosexuality, as evidenced by the gay character Lt. Green.

A computer-animated reboot of Captain Scarlet, dubbed Gerry Anderson’s New Captain Scarlet began airing in the UK in 2005.

8. Stingray

Another Gerry Anderson classic, Stingray centred around the high-tech facility known as Marineville, the home of W.A.S.P (World Aquanaut Security Patrol). W.A.S.P’s ultimate weapon was the super cool submarine Stingray captained by Troy Tempest.

7. The Sarah Jane Adventures

The Sarah Jane Adventures was a spin-off of the massively popular series Doctor Who. It was aimed at squarely children and catapulted into their faces via CBBC (Children’s BBC).

The show featured the character Sarah Jane Smith, who had been The Doctor’s travelling companion in 1973 through 1976 (plus several later cameo appearances). The Doctor’s annoying robotic dog also appears in the show.

Sarah Jane’s adventure was cut short in April 2011 when actress Elisabeth Sladen (Sarah Jane Smith) lost her battle with cancer. Might her death have something to do with this kiddy show being voted onto our list?

6. Space: 1999

Yet more Gerry Anderson goodness. This time, Gerry Anderson chose to leave his puppets in the back of his closet where they belong and instead chose a cast of equally wooden actors.

Space: 1999 was set on Moon Base Alpha, a lunar research base build entirely from Lego. The base is sent hurtling into the depths of space following a nuclear explosion that pushes the moon out of orbit.

5. Thunderbirds

Do I really need to say anything about Thunderbirds? Come on, it’s Thunderbirds – dit dillydee, dilly dee dee dit dillydee dee dee.

Ok, I probably should point out that Thunderbirds, along with all the Gerry Anderson classics, definitely was filmed in the UK –  in Slough of all places. That’s why the characters were so stiff and humourless.

Hands up if you made a model of Tracy Island using only a fairly liquid bottle, tears and your brother’s blood.

4. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy(or h2g2) has the honor of being one of the most popular science fiction books of all time, probably the most popular science fiction radio series of all time and also the fourth most popular British science fiction TV show of all time. There was even a moderately entertaining movie remake – well, I mean it had some good bits and Martin Freeman was ok, but they cut a lot out and, well, yeh it was ok I guess, but not a patch on the original.

The Story so far:

In the beginning the universe was created. This has made a lot of people very angry and has been widely regarded as a bad move.

3. Torchwood

Torchwood was launched in 2006 as an adult partner to the epic series Doctor Who. It was recognized that while Doctor Who was created as a family show it attracted fans of all ages, and so Torchwood was conceived to branch out into the ‘young adult’ demographic.

Running alongside Doctor Who, Torchwood had some pretty big boots to fill and was heavily criticised during its first series. However, it quickly overcame its problems to become the firm favourite of many scifi fans, both in the UK and abroad.

Red Dwarf2. Red Dwarf

Three million years into deep space, the mining ship Red Dwarf. The crew are dead, killed by a radiation leak. The only survivor is Dave Lister, who was in suspended animation at the time. Revived three million years later Lister’s only companions are a life form who evolved from his cat; Arnold Rimmer, a holographic simulation of his dead bunk-mate; Holly, the ship’s computer and Kryten, a deranged service droid with a head shaped like a novelty condom. ‘Nuf said.

“Three million years?! I’ve still got that library book!” – Dave Lister

1. Doctor Who

The multi award-winning Doctor Who first appeared on the BBC on the 23rd of November 1963. Nobody could have imagined that four decades later the show would still be going strong. It was cancelled in 1989 when viewer figures went into decline but The Doctor made a spectacular return in 2005 and is now more popular than ever.

Doctor Who has entered the Guinness World Records as the longest running science fiction TV show in the world and also as the “most successful” science fiction show. Even taking into account the shows disappearance from the airwaves in 1989 it is still also the longest continually running science fiction show (although Stargate SG-1 has also made a claim on this title).

What’s the key to Doctor Who’s success? I think it must be the incredible versatility of the shows format. The Doctor can travel to any place and any time. He also has the ability to travel from genre to genre, combining elements of comedy, horror, fantasy and even steam punk, and folding them into a multi-spacial vortex of a TV show that is now simply impossible to categorize or explain.

If you are some kind of strange cave dwelling ape-man and have not yet seen Doctor Who, I have only one question for you… “Where the hell have you been for the past 40 years?”

I never doubted for an instant that Doctor Who would come out on top of the poll. It’s more than a TV show, it’s a national institution, a national treasure and I would even go so far as to say a part of our national identity. I say screw St George, the foreign git, lets canonize The Doctor and celebrate Doctor Who day instead.

Runners up in the poll included Blake’s 7, Quatermass, UFO, Primeval and Hyperdrive. You can see the full details of the poll by visiting the SciFi Ideas Facebook page.

  • Subat

    I agree with your comments on both Doctor Who and The Sarah Jane Adventures. As much as I like Sarah Jane (and Elizabeth Sladen), the show really wasn’t that good. Blake Seven should have made it to the list instead.

    • Wasn’t Blake’s 7 just as bad? I’ve never seen it but I heard it was pretty awful

  • I’m glad Red Dwarf came second! Almost top, but I don’t mind the awesome Dr Who coming first 🙂

  • JipsiPocahontas

    You should really give Misfits a watch. I watched it before knowing anything about it (save for a plot summary) and I was a bit confused when I later heard people referring to it as a super hero type show. It was a bit more like, some people got some weird abilities from a freak storm and now they’re trying to deal with it. I never felt like the show was headed for super hero… I did think it was pretty wild though.

    • Surely, having superpowers is enough to classify it as a ‘superhero-type show’?

  • JipsiPocahontas

    “Surely, having superpowers is enough to classify it as a ‘superhero-type show’?”

    Not necessarily… superpower doesn’t always equal superhero….
    There was one episode where a guy’s mind had changed to where he’s living a grand theft auto like game… going around shooting people and running people over… They didn’t even use any super powers to save themselves from this guy. Heck, half the time, their powers are quite useless to them. If you’re thinking it’s anything like Heroes… well… compared to Misfits, Heroes is a…. leperist prostitute.

  • Graham Howard

    This is the biggest load of rubbish. Apart form Dr Who, not one decent science fiction tv series is represented here. No 1 A For Andromeda, 2. Quatermass and the Pit, 3, Pathfinders series 4. Day of the Triffids (1980), 5. UFO.

    • The article was the result of a poll conducted on the SciFi Ideas Facebook page a few years ago, and the shows are listed according to the number of votes they received. It’s surprising that Blake’s 7 didn’t make the list (and yet Sarah Jane did!), but I seem to remember it came in at 11th place.
      I wasn’t aware that Quatermass and the Pit was a miniseries, I’ve only ever seen the movie version.
      Personally, I think Hyperdrive deserved to be on the list too, but I guess not enough of the voters had seen it. Maybe it’s time I ran the poll again.

      • Graham Howard

        The readers of ScFi Ideas Facebook page must have been a young lot. However, I am still disappointed by the ignorance and/or dismissal of early classics, while including mediocre more recent shows. They also seem to have a perverse fondness for Gerry Anderson puppets!