Tuesday, February 06, 2007
100 Best (and worst) SF TV shows
- Well, you have to list this one first, don't you? If only because it's such a cultural icon. Plus the characters and stories have (mostly) aged like a good wine. Bonus points for the new remastered version that has given us cleaned-up prints and new (but never intrusive) special effects. Classy job all-around.
2. Battlestar Galactica
- Did you ever think it would be THIS good? Yes, the new BSG still has its detractors, but they are few and almost to a man are fanboys from the old show. This series keeps throwing one twist after another at the viewers. A lot of fans didn't like the sudden shift ahead one year in the narrative, but you can't say you saw it coming. I hear BSG's best-kept secret is the SFX, which are said to be amazing in HD. Unfortunately, SciFi doesn't broadcast in HD yet, so you'll have to catch re-runs on Universal's HD channel.
3. Twilight Zone
- Probably a #1 for many. Rates high because of its iconic status. And for Burgess Meridith and his eyeglasses. Two things keep it from the top slot: it didn't do much to propagate the anthology form on TV, and the later revivals of the show tended to be a little "eh".
4. Star Trek DS9
- A controversial pick, for sure. DS9 ahead of TNG? Yes, because it was the best plotted, best written, most complex of the Trek sequels. When DS9 was firing on all cylinders, it was something to see, with several complex plot threads going at the same time. "In the Pale Moonlight" remains the series high point. And this in spite of Avery Brooks' weird line readings, drab set design and a couple of ineffectual secondary characters. I wasn't crazy about the final episode. It felt rushed and it left the fate of Sisko hanging, which I hate, but you can't have everything.
5. Star Trek TNG
- I didn't think the first two seasons were as bad as everybody says, but I thought the show ran out of steam about midway into Season 6. Parts of Season 7 are almost unwatchable, and, frankly, I don't think the show has aged so well. But when it first premiered, it single-handedly revived science fiction on television.
6. Stargate SG-1
- Oh, come on... you love Stargate. Admit it. Brainless and yet smartly-written. Breezy but intentionally cheesy. This show winks at the audience more than a 70's Burt Reynolds movie. Its appeal is that you can actually SEE the cast having a good time, and on a Friday night, crashed on your couch, that's just right.
7. Life on Mars
- Not really sci-fi, but hey, YOU try coming up with 100 shows. A British cop may have time traveled back to the 1970's... or he may be lying in a coma. Hard to tell, but this is one compelling show. It has absolutely nothing to do with Mars, BTW. The show gets its title from the David Bowie tune, but its certainly appropriate, as John Simm's character, Sam Tyler, might as well be on another planet for all the sense the 1970's make to him. Tense and involving. The final episode of the first season packs an emotional wallop. Only two seasons... the producers decided to quit while they were ahead. This will end up ranking with "The Prisoner" as one of the great imported limited series
8. Doctor Who
- The good Doctor would definitely rank higher except for a couple of things: a) Colin Baker as the Doctor. b) Paul McGann's entire tenure as the Doctor last 90 minutes and leaves us wanting more, and c)"Love and Monsters". Still, it's hard not to love this rollicking British institution and it's good to have him back.
-Weird, freaky, snarky. Farscape broke an awful lot of rules when it first aired. Muppets? Come on, man. You don't put muppets on a science fiction show. But Farscape did, and not only that... you ended up really digging the stupid muppets. Bonus points: it is because of this show that Bonnie Hammer will forever be looking over her shoulder when she goes out in public.
- Look, it's easy to blame the putzes at Fox for screwing up the Next big Franchise, but Joss Whedon did more damage than Fox ever could by saddling the show with an incredibly cool theme song that made 90% of the general viewing public immediately change the channel. Still, every episode was gold, and Serenity was even better and I STILL have a feeling we haven't seen the last of this one.
11. Charlie Jade
- Why hasn't Charlie Jade come to American TV? The show is of a higher quality than a lot of home-grown product. Episodes are a favorite download on the internet. The premise - three parallel universes, one utopian, one dystopian, one somewhere in the middle, with characters crossing over and plotting to plunder - is unique. Charlie Jade pulls it all off with a mean, stripped-down determination. This show rocks. A South African - Canadian co-production, it has a look unlike anything else on TV. The location shots are about as far from Hollywood as you can get... literally and figuratively. Charlie Jade has already wrapped up one season, with hopes for another still up in the air. One of the US cable channels should pick this up. A little commitment and patience and they would have a hit on their hands.
- JMS is the best plotter in the business. No one is better. JMS is also the worst writer of dialogue in the business. No one is worse. For its middle three seasons, B5 was the best SF on television. Season 5 was pretty bad, and Tracy Scoggins was fine, but no one could really replace Claudia Christian. Andreas Katsulas and Peter Jurasik really should have won Emmys.
- The fantastic world of... 1980! Purple wigs, Moonbases, spinning alien spacecraft... and that jazzy theme song. Top-notch model work. Amazing machines. UFO had a look unlike any other TV show... and because it was in a universe so much its own, that look has held up so well that it now approaches mythology. Oh, and Ed Bishop's acting... what was that??
14. Outer Limits (old)
- Always viewed as the poor man's Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits was usually weirder, broader, and funkier. And that episode where an ENTIRE SUBURBAN NEIGHBORHOOD gets transported aboard an alien ship? That episode still rocks.
15. Outer Limits (new)
- Misses as often as it hits, but that's part of the appeal: you never know what you're going to get, with the obvious exception of the certainty that things will NOT go well for Planet Earth. The cheapo Canadian production values have their own sort of charm. Bonus points: Wil Wheaton accidentally nuking humanity.
16. Star Blazers
- One of only two animated shows on this list. As I have said, I'm not an anime fan, but I'll make an exception for the crew of the Argo (Yamato). Nicely written with season-long arcs and epic themes of love and sacrifice. This was the pre-teen geek version of a compelling soap opera. You still remember all the words to the theme song, don't you? Yes you do. Don't deny it. Ready the wave motion gun!
17. Odyssey 5
- A freaky series that could, at times, be truly disturbing. Peter Weller is great as the leader of a team of bewildered future astronauts trying to figure out what force will eventually destroy the earth, but Sebastian Roche steals the show as the burned-out cynical, pot-smoking Kurt Mendel. This series died because of a money dispute between the production company and Showtime. Too bad. It was really going places when it got the axe.
18. Invasion: Earth (mini)
- Wow. This show pulled no punches. This was the only SF show I can think of in which the alien really was totally, completely alien. The nDs are disturbing on an almost primal level. The second race of aliens that figures so prominently in the first episode, is dispatched with a startling cruelty. The feeling of impending doom that spread over four episodes was counterbalanced by the knowledge that a solution is always found in the nick of time in these kinds of shows. Yeah, right. Bonus: Fred Ward is always welcome on my TV screen.
19. Star Trek: Enterprise
- What killed "Enterprise"? That's a topic that's gotten plenty of attention on Usenet and elsewhere. I think a couple of things killed "Enterprise". First and foremost: the design. I've heard all the arguments about why the show doesn't look more primitive, but I think they're bunk. 'Enterprise" needed the right look, and it doesn't have it. This should be a show about the dangerousness of venturing out into space. It should be cramped, dark, sweaty. The ship should creak and hum. The crew should be scared to death. Instead, the Enterprise NX-01 was like a big RV. Once the audience saw that the show runners weren't serious about the concept, they turned off in droves. It didn't help that the first two seasons sucked. They'd already been burned by "Voyager" and they weren't coming back for more. The cast was fine. The Andorians were great. The show found its stride in seasons 3 and 4, but by then it was too late.
- Good stuff. This series is a cross between the X-Files and The Burning Zone. It also has that slightly WASP-y, talky Canadian feel to it. But the scripts are generally excellent, the acting top-notch, if a little subdued. Some nice, upstairs concepts, and enough soap opera accents to keep it all moving along. It takes its subject matter seriously. Oh, and did I mention that it can be really creepy?
- At its best, this show was as good as B5, if not better. Only two seasons were ever done, but this is a series that could easily be revived, and its grittiness would make it a perfect companion to Galactica on Sunday nights. Luke Perry and Malcolm Jamal Warner cruise a post-apocalyptic world in their cool Chevy truck. Some changes for Season 2, including the addition of Sean Astin as "Mister Smith". Well done, and really proficient at establishing the right vibe.
- Remember when you first discovered this show? TV hadn't done creepy in ages, and this show reminded us of what we'd been missing. Three words: Eugene Victor Tooms. The X Files was really something back before it became popular, and then it remained pretty cool for a while after it became popular, but then it all sort of fell apart. I stopped blaming Annabeth Gish when I realized how awesome she is in Showtime's "Brotherhood".
24. The Invaders
- Science Fiction meets the fugitive. If you're a Quinn Martin fan, this show doesn't disappoint, but you have to appreciate his uniquely American style of straight-ahead TV drama. It's a true classic of its time, complete with the requisite Cold War running analogy. A 2-hour sequel followed some 30 years later, a pilot that was never picked up. A shame.
25. Alien Nation
- Actually better than the movie it was based on, which is a nice accomplishment. A season-long commentary on racism in America, couched in scifi trappings, but that's not what made Alien Nation great. It was the interplay between the two leads. Not since Oscar and Felix has bickering been so much fun, and the fact that one of the partners was a spotted-headed alien who ate weasel donuts and drank curdled milk just added to the festivities. Badly handled by Fox (of course). Bonus: the hotness that is Michelle Scarabelli.
-How can "Heroes" possibly sustain this level of excellence? The plotting, the dialogue, the characters... all score A+ grades. And apparently the producers have planted lots of details in the backgrounds that will only become significant later on. I've heard some of the people we've been seeing as extras will later become important figures in the storyline. So far there's only been one false note: City cop Matt Parkman's refusal to tell anyone he can read minds, even though it's an ability that's easy to prove. The effect of Peter falling off the roof was rather poorly done, but these are minor complaints. How can you not love the strange odyssey of Hiro Nakamura and his friend Masahashi in Vegas? Just a cool, cool show. I expect a big let-down any day now.
27. The 4400
-This ranked higher before the cast shuffling and questionable writing that dogged the most recent season. Still, it's a new spin on an old story, and it weaves its mysteries in at a nice pace. I just have to wonder if the show will suffer down the road with the departure of Laura Allen's "Lily" character. Right now viewers concentration is on their dislike of Isabel, and it may not be until the coming season that we feel the full absence of Allen.
28. The Immortal
- This was a great concept, and I thought it was done very well, with some excellent actors on board. The late under-appreciated Christopher George plays Ben Richards, a professional driver (think the writers were setting the show up for a preponderance of car chases?) who discovers he has a singularly unique blood type that makes him immortal. Unfortunately, a ruthless tycoon also finds out and there you have it. Richards is pursued across America by the tycoon's henchman, Fletcher. It's yet another version of "The Fugitive", but it works. It has a subdued but steady rhythm to its scenes that is very early-70's. Great theme music. This is a show that's begging to be rediscovered by the DVD crowd. The SF element is strictly the blood angle, so it's more of a straight-ahead drama.
29. Stargate Atlantis
- More cheese from the folks in Vancouver. Usually entertaining, but this is apparently a show still finding its way, as evidenced by the consistent cast changes. It needs to take more chances and add a little more sense of real danger and dread. Mitch Peleggi is fine, but I think they made a mistake in not making Clayton Landey's "Colonel Dillon Everett" character a permanent addition to the cast.
- I'm not sure why "Threshold" never caught on, but the viewers definitely rejected it. As soon as CBS pulled it and put a courtroom drama in its place, ratings for the slot shot way up. I liked it. I thought it was creepy, with just the right amount of action. Maybe some SF diehards were turned off because Brannon Braga's name was attached to it, but how can you not watch when Carla Cugino is on the screen? Plus, it had Peter Dinklage. Everybody likes Peter Dinklage. Threshold was probably the most involving of the three big SF shows of 2005, but it likely would have been a better fit for UPN, not CBS.
- Ah, what could have been. A great show undone by the inability of two sides to get beyond their bickering. Crusade was just getting going when production was shut down, but JMS was setting up a wild ride that would have been fun to see. Gary Cole did a fine job, and this was the first major role for Daniel Dae Kim, now one of the stars of "Lost". A couple of weird casting choices, though. And frankly, I'm tired of JMS's constant sniping.
32. Blake's 7
- The original. A story arc that spanned several seasons, unforgettable characters. A cast of characters that REALLY didn't like each other. Total dysfunction in space. Suffers from some forgettable secondary characters, but it's hard to find room in the spotlight when you're competing with Avon and Vila. Also, I didn't like the second actor playing Travis. The ending is a classic, whether you love it or hate it.
- Eureka has really grown on me. When I first tuned in, I had a hard time staying interested, but by the end of the first season, it had made my Tivo list. Like BSG, Eureka also has it's own weekly companion podcast, a feature that I see as a wonderful extra for the fans, and an indication that the show is deserving of your loyalty. Eureka has a great cast of eccentric characters. Colin Ferguson is steady in the lead slot, but it's Joe Morton's tragic Henry Deacon and Matt Frewer's Taggart, the town's biggest whackjob, that break this show out of the ordinary. The scripts are reliably clever as well. The whole show's a lark. Very well done.
- I liked "Surface". I liked it a lot. Because it was something different. The producers tried to do an hour of SF that was family-friendly, and they succeeded here. NBC probably should have renewed it, (the ratings were okay) but it was an expensive show in a time of serious cost-cutting. Good pacing here.. the show buzzed along for all of its 15 episodes at a nice clip. Nothing exceptional, but well-done for what it was.
35. Space: Above and Beyond
- This show almost worked. It had a great set-up, and knew where it was going and how to get there. But the premiere episode was just half-a-pace too slow, and a lot of people turned it off. Too bad, because the series quickly found its footing and delivered some real nice episodes. It ended up too expensive and Fox canned it on something of a cliff-hanger. One of the stars went on to bigger things in the role of Bill Buchanen on "24".
- A good, creepy show starring the funny guy from the British version of "Coupling". In this one he plays a priest who investigates the paranormal - evil goings-on that may or may not be happening with the complicity of the C of E. Mostly uneven, but it sets a decent mood. Canceled pretty quickly, as I recall. It can be seen occasionally on Showtime Beyond.
37. Time Trax
- PTEN. Remember PTEN? Babylon 5, Time Trax, Kung Fu: The Legend Continues, and Pointman? This was one of PTEN's debut offerings. I liked it. It was just different enough. The attempts to conceal the Australian locations were a scream. Dale Midkiff was fine as the lead. His sidekick was Elizabeth Alexander as the prim schoolmarm-ish SELMA (a role that would have been filled by a California bikini model if Hollywood has done this show) and Peter Donat was pure cartoony villainy as Mordecai Sahmbi. Lots of fun. And Midkiff spoke all his lines in sort of a grimaced whisper. Awesome.
38. Star Cops
- One of the first attempts to do a real down-to-earth drama in space. So to speak. Shane Rimmer is always enjoyable to watch. Decent enough effects for the time. Good scripts. Only lasted 8 or 9 episodes. Hill Street Blues in space, more or less. Might have worked better as a co-production. The BBC just didn't have the resources to support it.
39. Space: 1999
- A perfect example of fixing something that wasn't broken. Okay, that's not true. Space: 1999 was snakebitten from the start because of its ridiculous premise... so you have to get past that (and for many, that was the deal-breaker), but if you do you'll be rewarded with the most Kubrick-esque SF series ever. The moon is a cold, sterile place... and so was the marriage between Martin Landau and Barbara Bain, apparently. (They were divorcing while shooting this series, and boy, is it ever apparent.) Following the lead of the leads, Space: 199 is a cold, sterile show. I like it like that. Oh, and the special effects are fantastic. Virtually every change they made for the second season was the wrong one.
40. Invasion: America
- You know, I've never been able to warm up to anime. I hate the cheapness of it. You see "Akira" and you expect everything from Japan to be as good, and then you discover 90% of anime sucks. And you grow to hate the static shots and the endless frozen frames and the stupid de rigeur clownish sidekicks. But I loved this show. Anime for an American audience, what a concept. Spielberg was one of the producers. WB decided to burn it off during one summer in the late 90's, but it told a great story and the SciFi Channel would have been smart to make more episodes.
41. The Dead Zone - So The Dead Zone is back for a sixth season. I'm happy about that. There was a lot of talk that Season 5 would be its last, but that would have left a lot of threads hanging. Heck, the entire storyline would have been left in limbo, so I am glad it will all get wrapped up. Of course, there will be a number of changes in the interests of cost-cutting. Anthony Michael Hall will be the only principle cast member. That's too bad, because, while Hall has always done an exemplary job as the haunted psychic Johnny Smith, the real strength of the show has always been its extended cast. John Adams is invaluable as Bruce, the everyman whose point of view is essentially the viewers gateway to the show. I never get tired of looking at Nicole de Boer. Chris Bruno is about the only young actor currently working on TV who can credibly do "laconic", and David Ogden Stiers is the real unsung hero as Gene Purdy. Not since character actor Garwin Sanford played Taylor Shields in the short run of "Hawkeye" has there been such an excellent portrayal muddling good and bad. The only character that occasionally verges on cartoonish is Stillson, but that may be more due to sloppy writing than Sean Patrick Flannery. In fact, I look at Flannery's work sometimes and see both Mitt Romney and John Edwards, so I guess he's doing a good job.
- Boy, you have to hand it to Torchwood. This show likes to make a big mess and then play in it. The original leader of the Torchwood Institute had her head sawed off and brain pulled out even before this became a series. The first few minutes of the very first episode disabues us of any ideas of an afterlife... in the coldest manner possible. John Barrowman is insane. Monsters roam the hallways. The only problem is that about half the episodes suck. A second season has been ordered, though. When Torchwood finally finds its feet... look out.
43. Quantum Leap
- The show that was well-liked by people who don't like SF shows. Everyone liked "Quantum Leap". It had a lot of heart. The effects were never much to write home about, but the show never really needed effects. The acting could be a little over the top, but it was a new, inventive way to do what was essentially an anthology show. I miss Dennis Wolfberg. And the ending was a bit of a cheat.
- I love the apocalypse shows. I was hoping this one would grab me from the start, but I struggled to get through the premier. That's probably because it was burdened with what seemed like more exposition than usual. I've been hoping for less soap opera elements and more of a "Jeremiah" feel, but that hasn't been the case so far. Still, the show is adept as stringing out its mysteries without creating much frustration. Here's my big Bonus, and it isn't about the show, per se. Jericho is a big arc show. If you miss an episode, you have to play catch up. If you miss a couple of episodes, the tendency is to drop the show altogether. CBS (and NBC with "Heroes") manages to fix this problem by posting every episode right on the network's website, so you can catch up easily. I applaud CBS for doing this. ALL the networks should do this with their shows. It seems like an easy decision, but for whatever reason, they haven't done so yet.
45. Total Recall: 2070
- No SF television show ever took itself as seriously as this one. Hands-down the most grim, unsmiling science fiction show ever. There is ONE joke in its entire run. Everyone speaks in a monotone that is just this side of a nervous breakdown. And the show is cool for all that. it goes out of its way to set that tone and it certainly accomplishes it, but probably at the cost of any real audience. Watching this show is like drinking a shot of rye. Great special effects on a limited budget. Good leads.
46. Dark Angel
- The show that made Jessica Alba a household name. Great first season. So-so second season. Fox canned it to make room for "Firefly", then screwed up Firefly. I love dystopia shows, so this one was an easy sale for me. I just wish, like "Jeremiah" this series had shown civilization REALLY in ruins. Instead, it reduces America to 2nd World status (apparently because of a series of EMPs) and it's as if it's THE END. Dark Angel's wreckage looks more like the McGill ghetto after a weekend of partying.
47. Invisible Man (2002)
- The I-man! This show had a style like a funky jazz improv. Darrien Fawkes and his partner Hobbes were the Rockford and Angel Martin of sci-fi. Great banter. Great absurd situations. Not the best pacing at times. But it was sarcastic and sardonic and fans were ripped at the SciFi Channel (not for the first or last time) when they canceled it.
48. Space Precinct
- Yeah... Space Precinct. What can you say about it? I think this show killed Ted Shackleford's career. On paper, maybe it looked okay. Earth Cop and his human partner decide to patrol the mean streets of an alien planet. On video, the results were something else. Bad make-up. Bad animatronics. And bad model effects in an era when even the lowest budget syndicated show was going GCI. Still... after a rocky start, something weird happened. Space Precinct became kind of a cool show. The scripts started getting better. The pacing improved. And the terrible effects became sort of charming. It wasn't enough to save the show though. I think this was the end for Gerry Anderson. And Shackleford should probably get a medal for soldiering through it all.
49. G vs. E
- Now THIS was a great show. 70's style, an orange Volvo AND Deacon Jones? Plus Gavin McLeod's entire career a Faustian bargain? Neither SciFi nor USA knew what to do with this one. It was funny, it's was hip, it could be pretty scary. Maybe it tried to be too many things.
50. Mission Genesis/Deepwater Black
- This was the SciFi Channel's first original production. Co-production actually. It was shot in Canada based on a series of books from New Zealand. The budget was non-existent, but it had a great "Let's put on a show!" vibe to it, and it gave us our first exposure to Gordon Michael Wolvett and Nicole de Boer. Oh, and all the characters were clones who didn't know who they were or why they were on a giant spaceship. Funky-cool results from humble components.
- How on earth did this show end up so high on this list? Well.. there are a couple of reasons for that. First off... it's a great concept. There are no aliens in Starhunter. Just mobsters. Gangs. Pirates. Humanity is scum, and we are alone. That's pretty much it. Oh, and the ship is a former luxury liner so decrepit that most of it is sealed off. What remains has a weird faded art-deco grandeur. All of the series takes place within our own solar system. Bonus points: it was shot in New Brunswick. I mean.. how weird is that. That's like shooting a sci-fi show in Vermont, you know? Starhunter loses points because a) most of the episodes are pretty bad and a few are really awful. b) the special effects don't measure up at all. c) something weird about the editing. Strange pauses during dialogue, people stepping on each other's lines. I've never been able to figure it out, but I think they were doing two different versions of the show for different markets. The second season goes by the name of Starhunter 2300. Michael Pare is out and a new lead actor is in. The show is a little tighter and makes more sense.
52. Earth 2
-Why did nothing ever happen on Earth 2? You'd think *something* would happen when you're trying to settle an alien planet, but events unfolded on this show with an agonizing slowness, exceeded only years later by "Invasion". What I did like about "Earth 2" were the cool vehicles, and the fact that they had a robot that was NEVER the focus of the show. It was always in the background and was strictly a tool. Nice avoidance of temptation by the writers. Tim Curry was
way over the top.
53. The Sentinel
- The series with nine lives. The Sentinel was axed and revived several times. If it had been on any network other than the fledgling UPN, it would have been history after several weeks. That said, this was a pretty good series. There was a nice connection between the two leads, the ever-reliable Richard Burghi and the where-is-he-now Garrett Maggart. The show pioneered the kind of effect that was later used on "The Dead Zone". The final season saw some changes, with the addition of Jeri Ryan to the cast. Those shows aren't as good as the earlier episodes.
54. Star Trek- Voyager
- Voyager is the show that killed "Enterprise". Fans stuck with Voyager for seven long years, waiting for the show to live up to its potential. It never did, and the backlash still lingers. You want to know what Voyager's problem is? Here's the perfect example: "Year of Hell" was supposed to be a season-long arc. The Powers That Be believed it took too many chances, got spooked, and made it a single episode... with, of course, a reset button at the end. This show should have been edgy, uncomfortable, and upsetting. (See: Galactica) Instead it's like a House subcommittee in space.
55. Dresden Files- The Dresden Files has been on the air only a short time. It's based on a series of popular books about a wizard who solves crimes in Chicago and has a ghost for a roommate. I dunno, it seems to drag a bit, but it's also in the process of establishing itself, so I can't really make a judgment about the show. The leads seem pretty likable and the effects don't do any harm. I'll probably amend this entry down the line when I have a better feel for this series. The most recent episode showed more promise, so that's a good sign.
56. Mercy Point
- Mercy Point had a lot of promise, but for some reason, the syphlitic monkeys who ranUPN decided not to put it on in the time slot after Star Trek: Voyager, where it would have found an audience. So they put it on a different night and it promptly sank without a trace. UPN execs even flew to Vancouver to personally shut down production, they were so pissed. Still, an interspecies hospital in deep space is a cool concept, and Joe Spano and Joe Morton worked on this. Nice design. It deserved more of a chance than it got.
57. War of the Worlds
- This show dates from a time when first-run syndication was still finding its way. it was launched as something of a companion piece to TNG, but it fizzled after two seasons. The producers apparently realized the limitations of the initial premise and tried to totally revamp it, killing off several of the most popular characters and essentially ruining the show. Oh, and the effects should have been better.
58. Man From Atlantis
- Victor Buono as the arch-villain. Patrick Duffy as a human fish. Submarines! Computers! Explosions! Belinda Montgomery as the captain in charge, setting the stage for Elizabeth Janeway many years later. Simplistic and silly, but I have a soft-spot in my heart for it. Bonus points: one of the characters was named "Jomo", which is a name you can say over and over and never tire of pronouncing it.
59. The Others
- It seems like NBC always has some sort of spooky-genre series ready to go. Before this it was "Dreamstalkers". After "The Others" died, "Medium" eventually popped up. This show had a folksy likability to it, probably due in large part to having the always-welcome Bill Cobbs in its cast. "The Others" always went for "spooky" rather than "creepy". A nice effort, but how scary can you get on network television? John Billingsly from "Enterprise" was part of the cast.
60. Lost in Space
- Such a great show. Such a terrible show. It's almost unfair to rank "Lost in Space". All people think of is the giant carrot. Oh well. Personally, I'll take the first dozen episodes, along with a couple from season three. Fantastic effects for its day. Snazzy velour outfits. And what kid didn't want to be Will Robinson? There is an internet network of people who are spending thousands of dollars building their own Robots. If that's not a tribute to this show's pop culture impact, I don't know what is. And can somebody explain to me why Kaye Ballard is a gay icon but Jonathan Harris isn't? Yes, I know he was actually straight, but it just seems so unfair. So "Lost in Space" is essentially a kids' show. It had the potential to be something better, but CBS wanted a kids' show and Irwin Allen wanted a quick buck and that's what you end up with.
61. Battlestar Galactica
- I remember the original premier being pretty impressive. It was only after a few episodes that you started to realize something just didn't work here. The stock footage was a big problem. Lorne Greene just never worked for me. And hey, all of humanity has been destroyed and the heroes are playing poker and yukking it up at nightclubs? Even in the 70's, the writing should have been better than that. Glenn Larson is kind of a hack, isn't he?
- MANTIS was a fun show, but it could have been better. Carl Lumbly as an angry, frustrated, reluctant superhero. This series originally wanted to showcase a completely original viewpoint. It wanted to be an African-American SF/action/superhero show. And it started out that way and was kind of fascinating because of it's unique take on the material, but Fox couldn't leave well enough alone, so they scrapped the angle that was the foundation of the whole show and revamped MANTIS. Roger Rees was added as the sidekick. I like Roger Rees. Everyone does. But it just served to dumb down the show. The series became a bit schizophrenic as it progressed. There was some wry social commentary and then that was out the window. It became a straight-ahead action show and then a loony SF show. With ONE vision at the helm, it could have been really good. Instead, all we got were sparks of potential. Still, I used to watch this every week with my oldest son when he was a wee youngster, so it has an honored place on my personal shelf.
63. Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea
- A sentimental favorite. I loved watching this show as a kid. And I always liked the lead actors. I thought there was a nice chemistry between Basehard and Hedison. The special effects were top-notch, and the designs of the Seaview and the Flying Sub hold up well today. The espionage shows are the best, of course. Particularly one that has Captain Crane trapped in Venice, Italy... trying to convey a coded message by whistling a tune to a good samaritan ... who happens to be tone-deaf! The later monster episodes are pretty lame, and Irwin Allen's penchant for frugality leads to a constantly deserted submarine. He didn't want to pay any extras!
64. Star Trek: New Voyages
- Years from now you'll yell your kids you watched this webcast. And your kids will laugh at you because they will consider "New Voyages" silly and primitive, which it is. But that's not the point. "New Voyages" is a real pioneer. The episodes are amiably competent, for what they are. It can be hard to get past the fact that Kirk is portrayed by an Elvis impersonator, but when you think about it, Kirk and Elvis have a lot in common. The effects are top notch. The lighting can be pretty terrible, especially early on, but this improves in later efforts. The new McCoy looks eerily similar to Deforest Kelly. The scripts need work, but hey, this is an amateur production - a total fan film. And now that it has gotten world-wide attention, real pros are donating their talents. If the "New Voyages" people can keep their little group from fracturing as they gain more fame, they could carve out a wholly new niche in media. This is great stuff for so many reasons.
65. Starship Exeter- New Voyages gets all the hype and all the big names, but the Exeter continues to chug along, putting out a couple of nice episodes. The effects and expansive sets are the real show-stopper here. The progress that's been made between the first and second editions of "Starship Exeter" is very impressive. Especially the upgraded effects. The acting has matured as well. This can't be cheap. You're always aware that this is a fan production, but in my mind, that simply makes it all the more watchable. The leads are their own unique characters, but definitely created out of the Star Trek mold. Give the technology another five years and shows like this will be springing up at a startling rate. You'll have a hard time keeping up with all of them.
66. Jake 2.0
- UPN had high hopes for this one. It starred Christoper Gorham, straight off his stint on "Odyssey 5". He plays a young man who accidentally gets infected with nanites which make him programmable with any skill. A decent light adventure. Nice and flashy with good scripts and some real chemistry in the leads, but there are a few too many dead spots in the episodes and this may have been its eventual undoing. Also, it just wasn't the best companion piece for "Enterprise". Too different in tone.
67. Earth: Final Conflict
- Season 1: Great. Seasons 2 - 5: Pretty awful. BUT... it was usually on at some insane hour like 2am on a sunday morning, and at that hour, you're willing to overlook stupidity as long as you have some explosions going on. E:FC gets points for having some good ideas, an interesting look and a GREAT opening theme. In fact, the music throughout this show was some of the best ever. But after a thoughtful first season, they fired the lead actor, added a pretty face replacement and seriously went off the rails on the storyline. One of the really fascinating things about this show is the amazing level of cast turnover. I think just a single actor survived from the first season to the last. A lot of promise undone by meddling from the bean counters at Tribune Entertainment.
68. First Wave
I really liked the first few episodes of this show... but then it started to wander. I had heard that the initial plan for this show was to title the second season "Second Wave", and the third season "Third Wave", with the situation getting more and more dire each year. But they apparently decided against that. Great idea, poor execution.
- Series developer Robert Hewitt Wolfe was cast aside midway through the second season, allegedly after a power struggle with star Kevin Sorbo. It was all downhill from there. I always thought the silent servo robots that wandered around in the background were always the coolest part of this show, though that idea was eventually thrown out too. All in all, a big mess, though occasionally entertaining. Was I the only one who wished Gordon Michael Woolvett had dialed the comic schtick back a bit?
- It's kind of amazing that they got five years out of "Sliders". This was a show that fell victim to upper-level meddling and writer turmoil. I liked the initial alternate history concept. If they'd stayed with that, they would have been okay. But suddenly we had conversant cro-mags and intelligent tornadoes. "Sliders" may best be remembered by the revenge the writers allegedly took on a hated cast member. John Rhys-Davies was reportedly so despised by the writing staff that they abused, lobotomized, tortured and eventually killed his character in a drawn-out season arc.
- I have to think that this idea would be treated better today. Maybe JMS's plan to do a sequel to the show would have been really cool. Anyways, the original mini-series was great. The follow-up TV show... not so much. The show abandoned the WWII themes and became much more cartoony. And the 80's design didn't help matters. Started well... faded out in the stretch.
72. Seven Days
-UPN got a lot of mileage out of "Seven Days". Very simple, high-concept prtemise. The hero can travel back in time, but he's limited to the past... seven days. One of the most notable things about this show - the two leads, Jonathan Lapaglia and Justina Vail, HATED each other. The supporting cast was good. Some nice, odd characters.
73. Planet of the Apes
- Wait a minute. Statue of Liberty? That was our planet!! This wasn't a bad one. Ron Harper from Garrison's Gorillas and James Naughton from just about every TV show you've ever seen probably thought they were in for a long ride on this show. But the early 70's was a tough time for SF on mainstream TV. CBS canceled it after 9 episodes. It still lives on as a series of edited TV movies. And Roddy McDowell was in it and that automatically makes it cool.
74. Invisible Man (1975)
- David McCallum again. This was an attempt by NBC to update the classic Wells story. Two interesting things about it: 1) it pioneered some blue-screen techniques that are still used today, and 2) the co-creators were Star Trek's Harve Bennett and Hill Street Blue's Steven Bochco. Lasted about 10 weeks. Moves along very slowly by today's standards. NBC tried again the very next season with Ben Murphy in "Gemini Man", with similar results.
75. Fantastic Journey
- Here and gone in the wink of an eye. This one was high-concept, but it had a good cast and a lot of promise. Jared Martin, Ike Eisenmann and Roddy McDowell (again) are just some of the people who find themselves castaways on a strange island where time and space cross paths. McDowell plays a 1960's computer expert with the ultimate milquetoast name: Jonathan Willoway.
76. The Tribe
- You more or less have to have a satellite system to get this show. It's a pretty unique New Zealand import. It's a half-hour tween soap opera, set in a post-apocalyptic world where the teenagers are all that's left. The series is about to start it's sixth season, but all previous seasons have been about 50 episodes each, so there are a LOT of episodes out there. Apparently all the previous seasons are available on DVD sets, so if you have a region-free DVD player it's easy to get up to speed on this long-running cult hit.
- Lexx was just freaking WEIRD. That's good, but sometimes Lexx was weird just for the sake of being weird. In the end you just wanted the writers to put down the bong. Bonus points: Zev. Bonus points: Xev.
- The fans of this show are still out there. This series was based on the classic movie starring Jeff Bridges and Karen Allen. This time out it was Robert Hays ("Airplane!") in the Bridges role, and the concept was morphed into yet another take on "The Fugitive", with Hays' character and his son on the run and looking for his wife. It had a little more heart than most movie spin-offs.
79. Sapphire and Steel
-Sapphire and Steel has always had a cult reputation. One of the plums on David McCallum's long resume. This was also Joanna Lumley's stop between "The New Avengers" and "Absolutely Fabulous". They play "interdimensional operatives" in the kind of weird sci-fi stories that only the British seem to be able to do. It's engaging and all, but I've always maintained that the show's cheap look is almost a deal-breaker. I mean, I know it was the 70's, but this show can look really shoddy. Still, you can tell the leads are having a good time, and the weirdness manages to sustain the entire series over the course of its run. There's always been talk of a reunion show or a series sequel, but nothings ever come of it, and McCallum now seems settled in for a long string of easy paydays on "NCIS".
80. The Chronicle
- I enjoy watching Jon Polito bluster on screen. I think the central idea here was a bit limiting: that those crazy Weekly World News stories are actually true. The series was mildly enjoyable, but didn't have any real staying power.
81. Dark Skies
- Great concept, shoddy execution. The first episodes leads you believe the series holds a ton of promise, but the writers, the producers, most of the actors, dropped the ball. The premise... trace the Roswell Conspiracy from its inception, through the decades, up to present day, would seem to practically write itself, but "Dark Skies" never seems to get it right, and a readjustment halfway through its run just makes matters worse. Eric Close and Megan Ward are way too bland. JT Walsh is the only one who really shines, but he stole every single thing he ever appeared in, so its no surprise he does it here as well.
82. The Burning Zone
- "Outbreak" for the small screen, with a hefty dose of weirdness thrown in. This was about a team of CDC-type investigators who deal with a virus that's starting to take over the world. Fair enough, but it gets really weird when the virus develops a collective consciousness and can talk to the investigators through its victims. This concept changed almost immediately as the producers constantly toyed with the premise and cast. Had potential, but UPN, desperate for a hit, couldn't let it develop on its own and the constant fiddling killed it.
83. Century City
-Lawyers in the future. Find me someone who wants to watch that and I will be more impressed than I was with this short-lived series. Still, it was intelligently written, and addressed some interesting contemporary issues from a unique perspective. Nice, subtle effects, too.
85. The Starlost
- A pioneer in its own way. Until The Starlost came along, first-run syndication had been mostly cheap cop shows. The Starlost was cheap too, but it was ambitious. It didn't work, of course. The non-existent budget ruined the show, and it's co-creators took their names off the project. It was also a strange show... the lighting was off, the accents were weird. I loved the central computer, though. It anticipated some of the modern computer help icons used today. "Can I be of... assistance...?"
86. Seaquest DSV
- Which Seaquest should we focus on? The first season, with Scheider and the original crew, where Bob Ballard did the tags for each episode? Or the second season, where the Deluises came aboard, the sets were rebuilt, and half the original crew was tossed? Or the third season, when Scheider pretty much left, Michael Ironside came aboard, and the show actually seemed to find its stride for a few episodes before the ax fell? Seaquest is a series that would have benefited from the vision of a single person, but it ended up with too many people pulling it in too many directions... a fate that has befallen many genre shows.
87. Land of the Giants
- Talk about kickin' it Old School. This series was essentially a raid on all the prop houses in southern California. Loved the giant telephone. Can you imagine what could be done with "Land of the Giants" with today's technology? Nice, square-jawed cast. Great ship. Jazzy theme... sounds like John Williams, but I've never checked. A one-note show, though. Essentially for the kids, but fondly remembered.
88. The Secret Adventures of Jules Verne
- Other than maybe "QED", I can't think of another steampunk TV show. This one was interesting, and had a nice look to it, but something didn't quite click. The pacing was off. And the leads were a little bland, with the exception of Francesca Hunt as Rebecca Fogg, who channels Emma Peel and keeps your attention while doing it.
89. Ark II
- This may be the only Saturday Morning series on the list. It's here because it's so fondly remembered by its fans for many reasons, not the least of which is because of its earnestness. The series comes from an era when there was a mandate that Saturday morning television had to be good for kids. It was arguably a better time, though trends like this had a tendency to make television really preachy. Ark II concerned the adventures of a team of three scientists and a talking monkey who roamed the apocalyptic wasteland in their tricked-out RV looking to reignite the fires of civilization. It is included here because it featured a talking monkey and there is not a decent person on this earth who doesn't understand the pop culture importance of a talking monkey. And longtime TV journeyman Terry Lester headed up the rest of the cast. Lester recently passed away, but he is fondly remembered by his many fans. And the show had a talking monkey.
90. The Collector
- A bit of an obscurity. A Canadian show that invites comparisons to Fox's "Brimstone" (or USA Network's "Matrix", which co-starred Carrie-Ann Moss, but is not to be confused with the Matrix movies.) This is one of those "Devil and Daniel Webster" updatings. One of the nice twists is that the devil appears as a different person in each episode. One day an older man, the next a little girl. Very creative. Some sly humor. There's a cell phone gimmick that's a little chintzy. Look for this one on US TV screens next fall.
91. The Time Tunnel
- The Time Tunnel is a great idea, but it hasn't aged well. The cast is a delight, in that all-American 1960's way that Irwin Allen's casting people always manage to nail so well. And the sets are great. But the stories are stodgy and the effects are cheap. The show tends to drag a lot. The Time Tunnel was updated a few years back with a pilot that really popped and zipped along. Too bad it wasn't picked up for a series. The basic idea still works really well.
92. The Visitor
- For some reason, you just KNEW that "The Visitor" was going to bomb. I can't place my finger on the precise reason why. Was it John Corbett? You know, I think the final season of "Northern Exposure" had convinced many people that they'd been taken for a ride, and not in a good way, so there may have been some backlash. Plus, Corbett just doesn't seem like an alien. He seems like a guy you hire to rebuild your deck. No matter how much he tried to channel Jeff Bridges, it was just off-putting for some reason. And Fox didn't seem to know what to do with the show either. They rarely promoted it, and when they did, they made it seem like the most boring show on the schedule. And it had a season-long arc long before those were in vogue. Even now, I think the TV season can only support a couple of big arc shows. The Visitor wasn't one of them.
93. Kyle XY
- Unless I miss my guess, this is geared toward teenage girls. Still, it seems to be pretty well-written, with a cast that works in that California-bland kind of way. More like a family drama cloaked in SF trappings. I understand that Kyle XY has generated a loyal enough fan base to garner a commitment for more episodes. Frankly, I found the show a little boring, but, as I said, I'm pretty sure I'm not the viewer the producers are aiming at. Professionally-done and very competent, but it doesn't seem to be setting its sights as high as it could.
94. Tripping the Rift
- I know this show had its fans. The comedy was always a bit too broad for my tastes.
95. Mutant X
- I've never been a big fan of series based on comic books. "The Flash" was okay. This show apparently had its fans early on, but it died when Tribune Entertainment collapsed. The effects were marginal. John Shea has an easygoing laconic nature that makes him very watchable. Karen Cliche ended up here after "Adventure, Inc." was canceled.
- Never worked for me. The original movie is a scream. The endless sequels, not so much. The series doesn't work from the first scene. It just sort of drags, which is one thing Tremors should never do. And the characters just aren't that memorable. Still, there aren't many shows set in the middle of nowhere and this was an honest attempt to do something different, so "Tremors" gets points for that.
- Adrian Paul as a bounty hunter alien living with a barmaid in Chicago. About as stupid as it sounds. No budget and it shows. Some funny bits, but pretty disjointed on the whole.
99. Psi Factor
- Sometimes I think this show was actually just a giant joke put over on the syndicators by the Ackroyd brothers. That there were times when the two of them would look at each other and burst out laughing and say things like "Can you believe we're getting away with this?" Psi Factor ran for FOUR seasons. Can YOU believe it? Lost of cast turmoil, and they even changed the format, from two stories per episode to just one. It was a bargain-basement X-Files knockoff, with an occasional spooky story, but mostly it was derivative.
100. Code Name: Eternity
- You know, I watched this show a number of times, and I can't for the life of me remember what it was actually about. I recall several aliens in human form chasing each other around Toronto. That's about it. The lighting scheme for the show favored vivid blues. The acting was sub par. The was on and off the Sci Fi Channel's schedule pretty quickly. It wasn't done well enough to be a competent diversion.
101. Deadly Games
- This wasn't very good, actually. Video games come to life. A better premise for a Saturday morning cartoon. Christopher Lloyd picked up an easy paycheck as the villain. I think Leonard Nimoy was one of the producers. I watched a couple of episodes but wasn't impressed, though I understand the show continues to have its fans.
102. The Immortal
- Lorenzo Lamas tries to make a few bucks off what remains of the Highlander fan base. He plays an immortal creature chasing down the demon who kidnapped his wife, or something like that. I get the feeling this show may have been some kind of tax dodge for all the people involved. The only notable feature: Dominic Keating as the chief demon, right around the time he was dabbling in softcore and several years before he co-starred in Star Trek; Enterprise.
And four that aren't ranked for various reasons:
- Island City was never a television series, and that's a shame. It had a great concept and featured some ideas that would have been fun to explore if the series had ever been greenlit. Set in the last remaining civilized city after a plague has destroyed civilization and reduced much of the population to barbarism, Island City featured another interesting quirk: the vaccine that prevented many people from devolving also prevents them from growing older. Some residents refuse to take the vaccine for ethical reasons, so you have married couples with a 60 year age difference. This never got past the two-hour movie stage, but it certainly would have made a better series than "NightMan", which somehow lasted two seasons. The internet says Eric McCormack was in this one, but I don't remember him. "Island City" hit the air around the same time as another pilot, the shamefully idiotic and painfully fun "Star Command", which featured Morgan Fairchild and Chad Everett in space. Add both of these to your Tivo wish list in case they are ever repeated, which, frankly, is unlikely.
Starhyke - A web series. Great make-up effects. Interesting idea. Humans' emotions are their great failing, so humans learn to control their emotions and eventually become the great tyrants of the galaxy. This, however, is played mostly for comedy. With Danny John Jules as the Admiral, though apparently his is a limited role. "Starhyke" is just getting off the ground, but it looks like it has some serious potential. Nice website design.
- Hasn't even made air yet. This series starring Michael Ironside is set on an... go ahead, guess. It looks like a no-budget show, possibly the spiritual heir to "Starhunter" and it could be interesting just for that fact alone. The show's website (unofficial as far as I can tell) is full of spelling mistakes and design errors. Still, this promises to be the antithesis of slick, so I'll probably give it more than a chance. Headed to your TV screen this Fall.... maybe.
Please note: I omitted Red Dwarf, The Prisoner, Nowhere Man, Buffy, Forever Knight
etc. etc. because they're not exclusively SFTV.
-the Wild Wild West which was Steampunk before the invention of Steampunk.
-My Favorite Martian, Alf, 3rd Rock from the Sun, Quark- what sitcoms can't be SF? Probably it's own list.
JMS worked with TNT initially, making the changes requested (like new uniforms).
Later TNT wanted JMS to (1) Put wrestlers in the ship and (2) Have the captain order his female officer to be raped by the antagonist. That wasn't bickering, but pure stupidity on the part of TNT. (A captain would never, never order his underlings to submit themselves to be raped.)
JMS wanted Crusade to remain inteligent.
TNT wanted to turn Crusade into the next Earth Final Conflict and/or Andromeda and/or Psi Factor. TNT wanted idiotic trash.
Please sign the petition for the official DVD release of THE FANTASTIC JOURNEY 1977 TV series starring Jared Martin and Roddy McDowall:
I just came across your list - truly excellent; many shows whose names I haven't heard of in a while (and others I've *never* heard of).
I'm at item #70 - Sliders.
I thought it was one of the greatest sci-fi shows ever produced for television - up until the time of John Rhys-Davies departure. When he left, the show lost it's soul... you'll note that up until that time he was the center of many of the heroics.
In any case, I don't believe the writers had it in for him. In fact, if you look at the credits - you'll note the John Rhys-Davies wrote the two-parter when he was killed. Also, there was much acrimony between the writers and management (many egos, particularly among management).
John Rhys-Davies didn't like the direction Sliders was headed in (ripoffs of cheesy sci-fi shows) and was very vocal about it. They let Wade leave and brought in Maggie. Maggie represented cheap sexuality to appease, possibly, the teenage audience. These kinds of moves really speak volumes about who finally gained control of the show and why it went downhill.
"This may be the only Saturday Morning series on the list."
How about Land of the Lost? This show truly had everything (advanced tech, time travel, dinosaurs and a number of other far-fetched ideas).
The SCIFI channel had an early series, Welcome to Parallax I think it was called, where they filmed a different famous SF story every week. I liked that.
It would be fun if you did a list of the best episodes. I remember watching the X files ep where Peter Boyle played a psychic, and thinking "Man, that was the best X-files I've ever seen".
Months later I found out he was nominated for an emmy for that episode.
Off the top of my head
The "Wormhole Extreme" ep of stargate sg1
The Enterprise C ep of ST:TNG
The pilot ep of UFO
I didn't really watch Galactica, but the ep where they FTL into the atmosphere, fall, then FTL out before hitting the ground was one of the best fx I've ever seen.
The babylon 5 made for TV movie, the one about the earth mbari war.
ST New Voyages: Definitely 'In Harm's Way'. Like finding a brand new ep of the original series!
SLiders: No fav, but your take explains a lot. Every show ended with them running for the wormhole, with poor John Rhys Davies puffing to keep up...
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