10+ Brilliant Sci-Fi TV Shows That Aren’t Star Trek [Stuff to Watch]

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sci-fi showsThe best sci-fi movies are often cherished by fans and placed up high upon the mantle, but it’s TV shows that make up the bread and butter of any geek’s media diet. A good TV show gives the dedicated fan a chance to get to intimately know the characters, rules and setting that make up the universe.

It could be argued that no show has explored more worlds, concepts, story arks and technologies than Star Trek. I would also argue that just about anyone with a vague interest in sci-fi knows about it, and that it’s pretty touch-and-go in places. That’s why this list is looking beyond the Enterprise and exploring some other sci-fi greats of years gone by.

Don’t forget to opine, correct me and suggest your personal favourites in the comments at the end of the article.

Buck Rogers in the 25th Century

Inspired by Star Wars, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century was produced by Universal for TV and based on the original character created by Philip Francis Nowlan in 1928. When the show’s namesake awakes from suspended animation after 500 years, he learns that civilisation has since been rebuilt after a devastating war and he is now faced with the task of integrating into 25th century society.

The pilot was a two-part episode of the same name initially released as a film (which you can watch on YouTube) and quickly followed by a cult hit series that ran for three years. Since then Buck Rogers has been referenced in everything from pop music to a two-part South Park episode.

Stargate SG1, Atlantis & Universe

In 1994 Kurt Russell starred in a film called Stargate which fused the concepts of exploration, scientific advancement and archaeology together into one sweet but ultimately flawed package. Three years later Stargate SG1 arrived to tell the full story, having replaced Russell with ex-MacGyver star Richard Dean Anderson and kept the best of the rest. The show ran for 10 seasons, providing a perfect blend of humour, epic storylines, futuristic weapons and terrifying enemies and even now fans of the series are hungry for more.

Stargate Atlantis was born from the (then burning) fires of SG1, and once the series had run its course along came Universe with big name Robert Carlyle, though unfortunately this has too now been cancelled. As a massive Stargate fan myself, I sincerely hope there’s more to come.

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Max Headroom

If you’re a fan of dystopian, slightly unsettling TV shows featuring early 3D modelling and concepts that are well and truly ahead of their time then it might be worth your while to check out Max Headroom, a British-produced sci-fi show based on a character of the same name for the American network ABC in 1987.

In the future it is illegal to turn off your TV. Network 23 runs a successful news show with a star reporter called Edison Carter. Carter becomes involved in an experiment to create a virtual personality called Max Headroom, who becomes an intrinsic part of the network’s daily grind.

The 4400

Running for four seasons between 2004 and 2007, The 4400 tells the story of 4,400 missing persons who suddenly turn up overnight with no clue as to where they have been or why there are there. None of the missing persons have aged at all between their disappearance (the first occurring in 1946) and the present day, and initial evidence suggests that a comet was the vehicle on which they arrived.

Already you’ve got a very interesting concept, with more revealed about the affected group as the story progresses. Unfortunately the show was cancelled in 2007 due to low ratings, the ongoing writers’ strike and budget constraints which led fans to petition for the completion of the series to no avail. It’s still worth a watch, though you’ll get no closure from this one.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ePVCGIYFt7A

Firefly

Joss Whedon’s oft talked about but short-lived sci-fi show, Firefly is a space western set 500 years in the future following a renegade crew of a ship called Serenity. The show quickly gained cult status, though reviewers weren’t so sure with the Boston Globe summing it up as a “wonderful, imaginative mess brimming with possibility”. No positivity could prevent it being cancelled by Fox after the first season.

Despite pleas from fans never received a second season, though it did gain a cult following which led to the 2005 film Serenity. There are a lot of references to Firefly in other sci-fi shows, among them Stargate SG1 and Battlestar Galactica. Some might find the transition from horseback to spaceship a little disconcerting, but there’s no ignoring the huge impact Firefly had on a generation of sci-fi fans.

Battlestar Galactica

There’s a lot of Battlestar Galactica to sink your teeth into if you’ve not seen it before, and where else to start but with the 1978 original series. The story follows the last remaining fleet of human refugees in search of the legendary planet Earth while being pursued by an evil enemy known as the Cylons. It ran from 1978 to 1979, before being re-made as a mini-series in 2003 and eventually spawning a successful mainstay from 2004-2009.

The success of BSG has been huge, with movies, board games, computer games and TV spin offs like Caprica enjoying success alongside the continuation of the original story.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wOEgjKZAsUk

Babylon 5

Babylon 5 takes place in the year 2258 aboard a five-mile long cylindrical space station of the same name from which much of the galaxy’s diplomacy must be carefully curated. Commander Sinclair must try to placate and diffuse in a bid to avoid interstellar conflict all the while fighting problems from within the Earth Alliance.

Babylon 5 is a highly regarded series which ran from 1994 to 1998 during a time many felt that sci-fi had began to stagnate. It’s definitely a show where you won’t want to miss an episode or you might run the risk of losing track of the on-going plot which sucked you in in the first place.

The Twilight Zone

Last but certainly not least is The Twilight Zone, a show that has seen numerous iterations since the 1959 original. While not typically sci-fi as we know it today, there is often a cosmic or supernatural twist to Rod Serling’s cult show which cast ordinary people in not so ordinary situations and often finished each episode with a twist or revelation that would force the viewer to think about what they had just seen.

The original 1959 show is must-watch material, but there was another three-series run from 1985 till 1989 and another (weaker, less sci-fi) series produced in 2002 which will appeal to fans of the formula. There’s no mainstay cast or rules to follow, just eerie happenings and a sense of “what if it happened to you?” to contemplate as you watch with wonder from behind the sofa.

Don’t Forget:

The following are also notable for their sci-fi content, with some requiring no introduction and others pushing the boundaries of sci-fi altogether. They’re all worth a watch, I just couldn’t fit them into this article.

V

Fringe

Red Dwarf

Farscape

The Prisoner

Doctor Who

What other sci-fi shows do you watch which haven’t been mentioned here?

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Comments (56)
  • Charles Yost

    I miss Star Gate. Why did they end Star Gate Universe like they did. Those poor people stuck in those pods and that brave geek all alone. I bet they get found and blown up anyway. They never seemed to have much luck on that ship.

  • Dano

    How about Heroes? Ever seen it?:)

  • 5th

    Where is Heroes, Reaper or Dead like me? Just to add a few to the list…

  • kenneth krabat

    Sorry, didn’t know that the text would collapse. Here is my blog entry link
    http://krabat.menneske.dk/kkblog/2010/09/10/science-fiction-tv-series-ho-kay/

  • kenneth krabat

    Much happiness due to the growth in character driven plots. Great pain, when studio heads have no understanding of story arcs unfolding over several years, needing interesting characters and not just great CGI/SFX.

    Alphas (another super-ability series. Let’s see if they can find the story (July 2011).)(Cancelled due to lack of direction or stupidity)
    Being Human (stay away from US version!)
    Black Mirror (Brilliant mini-series 3 eps)
    Blackout
    BSG (Battlestar Galactica) (2000s) (minus the last episode!!!)
    Caprica (will it continue, will it be cancelled due to stupidity?) (Cancelled due to lack of courage)
    Carnivale (a stretch to call it science fiction, but still…) (cancelled due to stupidity)
    Crime Traveller (a bit dated, even in 1998, but good time travel concept)
    Dead Set (The Ultimate in no-hope zombie land! Mini-series) (Brilliant!)
    Defying Gravity (loved the slow buildup, and hated the feeling that the writers were being pushed to speed it up, thus signing their own death certificate)
    Doll House (cancelled, due to boredom, I guess)
    Dr. Who (the ressurrected Doctor, seasons 1, 5 and 6 are excellent in my eyes, David Tennant playing the Doctor in s.2,3 og 4 I find less interesting)
    Eureka (contrived and without emotional substance, but they really work at making it balance between far out silly and good fun)(Ended)
    Farscape (A looong way from home, and Sci-fi TV’s greatest villean!) (Cancelled due to stupidity, then rounded off with a miniseries)
    Firefly (Cowboys in space – probably the greatest loss to Science Fiction TV, apart from Stargate Universe. Infectious good spirits!) (14 eps, ended with a movie, Serenity, worthy and decent, but still sad. Cancelled due to Incompetence and Stupidity!)
    Flash Forward (cancelled due to stupidity)
    Fringe (how it suddenly picked up in S03 and now is running with the Torch of relevant scifi!)
    Game of Thrones (Good soap violence. Good scripts. Good Arc! Strictly speaking Medieval Fantasy))
    Invasion (Cancelled due to stupidity)
    Jekyll (a moderne Jekyll/Hyde. Brilliantly dark, amazing acting!) (6 eps.)
    Jericho (because of the mood) (cancelled due to stupidity)
    Journeyman (Cancelled due to stupidity)
    Life on Mars (the UK-version)(US-version sucks big time!)(A stretch to call its time travel trope relevant)
    LOST (A model for how to round off a TV-series, even if there were more plotholes than plotpoints.)
    Mork & Mindy (not that much sci-fi comedy around and Robin Williams was fresh from the creativity vat!)
    My favorite martian (it worked a lot of the time – seeing US with outside eyes)
    My own worst enemy (cancelled due to stupidity)(Really!)
    Persons of Interest (Almost not scifi – pending)
    Persons Unknown (kind of LOST/Prisoner-like, but evolving)(Cancelled due to lack of direction)
    Quantum Leap (No real story arc, but thumbs up for its social conscience)(Like Sundays in the rain with ice cream)
    Sliders (Bit boring, but I did love the alternate world concept)
    Stargate Universe (My all-time favorite universe-dreamer series. I mean: A Stargate and a Starship travelling to the beginning of time, all in one! What more could you want?!)(Now cancelled due to GREAT GREAT STUPIDITY)
    Surface (Cancelled due to stupidity, I mean: That LAST image paved the way to a whole new world!)
    Survivors (British Post Apocalyptic series from the 70’s – remember it as Very BLEAK and hopeless)
    Terminator, The Sarah Connor Chronicles (Not bad, actually. A bit formulaic, but… there was something there.)
    The Bleak Old Shop Of Stuff (Strictly speaking not science fiction, but reminiscent of Neil Gaiman and Terry Gilliam! Promising (jan. 2012))
    The Event (When will the event take place…!?)(Cancelled due to lack of direction).
    The Invisible man (2000s) (Fun, because of the infectious mood)
    The Lost Room (great premise for a mini-series)
    The Middleman (fun stuff! – cancelled due to stupidity)
    The Prisoner (orig. 17 ep. series – elegant, British, mysterious, philosophical!)(Avoid the 2009 remake).
    The Walking Dead (incredibly violent, not better than the comic, just more explicit)(Man, where’s the dialogue?!)
    Three Moons over Milford (they were just finding their feet, and then it was cancelled!)
    Threshold (Cancelled due to stupidity)
    Torchwood (spin-off of Doctor Who. 1st TV-series with explicitly gay immortal, Captain Jack Harkness and Welsh super(sensitive)female :-D – seasons 2-4 are captivating).
    Touch (Do the writers know, what it is about?)
    True Blood (Could be more serious – they avoid exploiting the potential)
    Voyagers (A bit dated, and for youngster, but fun) (time travel)
    Warehouse 13 (They are obviously having fun, and everyone love the Pandora’s Box trope)
    V (2010) (For every episode it struggled back to a promise of something new in the coming episode)
    Wild Palms (Mini-series. Brilliant for its day.)
    Wizards and Aliens ?(kid’s scifi filling a hole below doctor Who, which has turned more bleak, thank god)(late 2012)
    7 Days (Mini-series. Decent)
    What did I miss? That clerk-thing-secret-stuff-in-my-head-v2? Boring. What else?

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Affiliate Disclamer

This review may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.