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

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stufftowatch logo   10+ Brilliant Sci Fi TV Shows That Arent Star Trek [Stuff to Watch]The 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.

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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.

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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56 Comments - Write a Comment

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Panji Hitam

Stargate the one i love to watch…

Tim Brookes

My girlfriend and I are currently marathoning the entirety of SG-1, which I’ve already seen before (it retains its charm with age after multiple viewings, what can I say?) and we’re moving on to Atlantis and Universe next. Personally I think it’s the best sci-fi show of all time. It doesn’t take itself too seriously while at the same time retaining a sense of believability that leaves you thinking “what if…” :)

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Ray

With the “Stargate” one, they didn’t just replace Kurt Russell with RDA, they also replaced James Spader with Michael Shanks as Daniel Jackson.

Last i heard, they also sold off the entire set of SG1, SGA and SGU, which means it is very doubtful we will ever see anymore of it, makes me really sad that, i wanted to see SGA continue, and SGU was getting really good towards the end there.

ishan

I agree.. SGU was about to reveal the origins of the universe or something.. too bad they had to end it there.. loved the whole franchise.. RDA was something else.. i just hope one day SG will return.. there’s just no limit to what it’ll lead.

Tim Brookes

I was pretty disappointed when I heard that Universe had been cancelled because it looked pretty good from what I’ve seen. Such a show needs at least a couple of seasons to establish itself. The Stargate world is so diverse and full of potential, it’s such a shame nothing (at the moment) is being done with it.

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Fritz Goebel

Glad to see Babylon 5 on the list. I used to wake up early on Sunday mornings to watch and record the commercial free feed of this show on my large satellite dish in the ’90’s.

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Jack_in_Homestead,FL

Farscape was absolutely fantastic. When it was cancelled it was a shame that Ben Browder and Claudia Black went to SG-1 . It was even more painful having to watch Black dumb-down her acting to play a trivial empty character as opposed to her as Peacekeeper Eryn Suhn on Farscape.

Tim Brookes

Farscape was an interesting one, and I’m inclined to agree that the character she played on SG-1 wasn’t particularly great. I wouldn’t use the words “empty” and “trivial”, more “annoying” and “hot-headed”.

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JayF

What about “Space:1999″? Had all the aliens like a shape-shifter, etc.

Tim Brookes

Thanks for reminding me! That was a good one.

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tarzan2001

Falling Skies is another good sci-fi worth watching! :)

Tim Brookes

Thanks for the recommendation :)

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rhoslug

I’m very happy to see Doctor Who made it on the list. While it might not have been as influential with American audiences, it certainly brings together the best of British acting, neat plots, dubiously dressed aliens, and dry wit. Even more so with Red Dwarf. A whole generation of PBS viewers have it to thank for the usage of the word ‘smeg’. :)

Tim Brookes

You’re totally smegging right!

Scott Hedrick

As I understand it, the show Leverage, which has absolutely nothing to do with science fiction, often drops in Doctor Who references, just because they can.

Stargate gave us the magnificent “The Other Guys”, and often had Star Trek references (they seldom actually said it, but worked around it in such a way that it was clearly a Star Trek reference; witness Oneill wanting to name the new battleship Enterprise and Carter slapping it down). Stargate:Atlantis gave us Ronin, who Shepard kept calling “Chewy” for good reason. Every day, there’s just less and less science *fiction*, and only a smeghead has a problem with that. If they do, they can call Quark (no, not THAT one) and his galactic trash collector.

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Jim

I loved Surface before the network killed it. The season finale was a cliffhanger, to make it even worse.

Krishnapriya

I loved Surface too! Just too bad.

Tim Brookes

That’s exactly what happened to The 4400. It’s such a shame fans of these series will (probably) never get any closure, despite their fans organising petitions and fighting the network’s decision.

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Shawn Ashree Baba

Fringe is a definite must see!

Traci Wood

I LOVE Fringe!!!

Tim Brookes

I’m looking forward to working my way through it after I’m done with every Stargate episode ever!

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Mark G

Loved all these, Lexx anyone? Dark Skies was great too, unless that was just the UK name for Falling Skies.

Bumferry

No, they are two different shows. Falling skies is showing season 2 on FX in the UK at the mo. Its getting better and more involved with each episode.

Bumferry

Oh yes, and LEXX was awesome. If memory serves the final season had a really good ending that was quite scary for what was essentially a tongue in cheek space pantomime. Its a shame its overpriced on amazon otherwise I’d buy it and rewatch it from start to finish.

Bumferry

Nobody seems to have mentioned the X-files yet. Another great long running sci-fi show. had its faults but the early shows were really cool and got the attention of conspiracy theorists everywhere…. makes me wonder if we would have crop circles and the like today if it wasn’t for Mulder and Scully.

Tim Brookes

The X-Files ok, but I feel its more of a conspiracy/paranormal show than a full-on sci-fi. Thanks for adding your thoughts though!

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Thomas Moffat

red dwarf is amazing. if you haven’t watched it watch season 3, episode 1. It’s called ‘Backwards’

Bumferry

Loved Red Dwarf. It was a shame that the later series were a bit of a let down. It seemed to loose its appeal once the sets were and SFX were upgraded. Won’t stop me watching the new series when it comes out on Dave later this year though.

Tim Brookes

I just hope that Dave don’t turn it into a string of cheap nob gags. Even when the sets and costumes were cheap, the writing was tight and still side-splitting in places even today.

Scott Hedrick

Writing is crucial. I remember the one and only time ABC broadcast it’s “Theater for Television”, and it was The Elephant Man. No prosthetics, virtually no makeup or sets, pretty much just acting. The guy playing the Elephant Man had to *act*, because only the acting, the way he walked, his speech, the way he held his arm out like the real Elephant Man had to, told us he was the Elephant Man, because there was no makeup effects. This was raw acting, and it’s a terrible shame we didn’t see more of it. Sharp writing and competent actors overcome cheap sets and effects. Stargate set the standard too high- it was sharp for 10 seasons, and that’s really asking a lot. Money, particularly effects money, won’t overcome crappy writing or acting.

Tim Brookes

Red Dwarf is amazing indeed, though it gets worse as the writers begin to run out of ideas. I didn’t feature higher up the list because it’s arguably more comedy than it is sci-fi, and I know a lot of die-hard sci-fi fans aren’t fond of splicing their genres.

Wholeheartedly agree though, it’s fantastic. Just avoid the US remake that was cancelled almost immediately.

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John Hauxwell

Blake’s 7 is missing from the list

Tim Brookes

It is, sorry about that. Thanks for recommending it though!

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Greg Howells

How about Warehouse 13? Chuck?

Tim Brookes

Thanks for your recommendations, hey – I was never going to get them all, right? :)

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Dan Mullane

Warehouse 13 is a lot of fun, and let’s not forget Eureka.

Tim Brookes

Thanks for your thoughts, I will look into both!

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Richard Steven Hack

Best sci-fi on right now is Alphas on SyFy. Great writing, excellent plausible plots, plausible abilities, good engaging actors, good directing, good character development, lots of action. Ratings are relatively low so catch season two now because season three will be iffy.

Oh, and sci-fi goddess Summer Glau is on three episodes this season – 6, 12 and 13. :-)

Tim Brookes

Thanks for your recommendation, I will be checking it out. I hope they don’t go cancelling it on a cliffhanger like so many of the shows listed here!

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Ales Mole

Nowadays, Fringe definitely THE Best…But Stargate series – BEST of all times…it’s a shame they stopped with it.

Tim Brookes

Fringe is what I’ll be watching once I’ve made my way through Atlantis and Universe. Totally agree, Stargate really is the best sci-fi show ever!

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David King

We can’t forget Andromeda with Kevin Sorbo……………started airing in the fall of 2000. I think it had 110 episodes ending in 2005.

Tim Brookes

Another great recommendation, thanks for sharing!

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Brent

Don’t forget these great sci-fi classics:

Salvage 1 (can’t beat Andy Griffith building a spaceship from his junkyard)
Quark (Richard Benjamin at his finest)

But seriously, there were some other good sci-fi shows back in the day:

Logan’s Run
Lost in Space (very campy, but still fun)
Space:1999

Tim Brookes

Logan’s Run! Yes! All excellent suggestions, thanks for your thoughts. I could probably do another article with all these suggestions… make that two more articles!

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Jon Smith

Big fan of Fringe-too bad Hulu took off all the early seasons

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Doc

Buck Rogers only ran for TWO years, and the second season was shorter than the first (thirteen episodes, compared to twenty-four, counting two-part/double-length episodes as two).

Tim Brookes

According to IMDB it ran over three years for two seasons, 1979-1981.

Regardless of how old it is it’s still a classic, with a cracking theme tune that is still very much watchable (and often referenced) today.

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Ernie

SG-U was the best of Stargate franchises and needed at least one more season. Fringe has been really good but I htink I am ready for it to be over. Loved Firefly and will still watch many of the reruns and the movie. Life on Mars was awesome and at least got to end the story with what was really going on but the acting, plot and story writing were top notch. The 70’s were just like I remembered, the music and everything, even the dull video reminded me of watching 70’s TV. Like Dr. Who but the seasons are way to far apart. Like Game of Thrones but it is more Fantasy. Alphas seems to have lost a little of its momentum with the extended hiatus due to fear of cancellation but I am glad it’s back to fill in. Liked where The River was goin and Terra Nova needed at least one more season. The Walking Dead has become one of my favorite shows after AMC killed Rubicon, I was mad at tht thought that a zombie show could do better than the smart conspiracy drama, but the writing on Walking Dead is solid. Warehouse 13 is getting too corny and maybe dropped form my DVR schedule. Continuum is a good show from Canadian TV. I expect Sci-Fy to pick it up in the near future for reruns but right now it has to be online but it is good filler with an decent story, writing and acting.

Scott Hedrick

The first season of SG: Universe was “eh”. I watched it more out of devotion to the idea of Stargate than because it was worth watching. The second season, particularly the back half, was almost a new show. It really clicked, and I really really looked forward to it.

This is the danger of episodic television; the fourth season of Star Trek: Enterprise finally got it right, but too late. “In A Mirror, Darkly” let us see more of a Constitution-class starship than we had seen in the entire original series, and those two episodes made suffering through the first three seasons worth it.

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Paul S

Alien nation – 1989… remember this one as a kid

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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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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/

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5th

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

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Dano

How about Heroes? Ever seen it?:)

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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.

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