Ten Deep 1.17.13: Top 10 Sci Fi Shows
Posted by Mike Gorman on 01.17.2013
From Star Trek, Fringe and The X-Files to Doctor Who, Quantum Leap and more, 411's Mike Gorman counts down the top 10 sci-fi TV shows of all time!
"Top Ten Sci Fi Shows"
This week one of the best sci fi shows ever to exist, Fringe, sadly will air its final episode ever. The show has struggled to find an audience regardless of how imaginative and exciting it has been. This seems to be a pattern with great sci fi shows, take the original Star Trek and its pretty short original run. Obviously Trek lived on and I have hopes Fringe will too.
That said, in honor of this series finale I thought it was finally time for me to take a look at the Top Ten Sci Fi Shows of all time. Might even be a few surprises on this list…
10. Quantum Leap
A hero lost in time at the hands of his own machine, trying desperately to set things right and finally leap home; this premise was simple but the story possibilities were endless. Throughout its run Quantum Leap's lead Sam leapt into every situation you could imagine including some very precarious moments. The show played to everyone's secret desire to live someone else's life for just a few days and introduced a major network audience to the idea of a talking hologram. The show's true success was not from its sci fi notions but from the heart it exuded.
In this clip you get to see a montage of Sam's trademark tagline, "Oh boy!"
9. Twilight Zone
Rod Serling's anthology series from the 60s still stands up today against other Sci Fi series. Each episode was filled with drama and a twist that kept you guessing. The fact that this series inspired so many others speaks to its lasting impact on the landscape of television. Heck, it even inspired a pretty sweet ride at several of the Disney parks.
Here we have the end of one of the original series' most famous episodes. Burgess Meredith plays a man who just wants some time alone to read a book. This episode, as many of the Zone's classics, reminds us to be careful of what we wish for.
8. The 4400
Another series that I feel was overlooked by too many people, The 4400 was about, well, 4400 people who disappeared and then reappeared many years later. The series took a relatively realistic approach to this incredible happening trying to portray the distrust and challenges these abducted individuals would face, especially from the government. The show alternated between "monster of the week" type stories and more series mythology focused arcs. It was a show cut short long before its time. I feel like that had really just gotten into the meat of the real story when the series was ended.
Here is the series opening credits with its haunting theme song.
7. The Tomorrow People
I discovered this British series when it was broadcast on Nickelodeon when I was a kid, and was instantly hooked. The show's budget may have hampered its effects but its story of super powered adolescents with peaceful tendencies and outrageous adventures was well ahead of its time. Below is a short documentary on the original series (which was remade once or twice actually!) that seems to imply that the show is better in our memories that it really was, and I have to disagree. I have revisited several of the original series arcs and have found them just as enjoyable.
We come to the series that inspired this week's countdown and as I have said I am quite sad to see it go. Fringe did definitely walk on the fringe edge of safe television today giving audiences an in-depth mythology the likes of which we haven't seen since Lost and the X-Files. It might have been how detailed this fascinating tale of two alternate Earths became that led to its undoing. People were not ready for another series you had to watch weekly to keep up with. Fringe explored many different aspects of the sci fi genre during its run including alternate earths, future evolution, wild technology and even the powers of the mind.
The show did have a quite serious tone throughout its run so I am glad to leave you with this gag reel to remember it by.
5. Star Trek
I am kind of cheating on this win because I am including Star Trek as an umbrella to include most of the series that exist within its "universe." The shows were just too good to try and pick just one for the list, and if I tried to separate them I would probably have ended up clogging this countdown. I will however rank the shows for you in my perspective. At the top for me is Star Trek: The Next Generation followed closely by the original Star Trek series. Up next would be Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. I will also admit that I am a fan of Captain Janeway and Star Trek: Voyager. At the very bottom for me would be Star Trek: Enterprise, a show I feel never really found its voice but had some great moments.
Below you have a relative recent Wizard World Philadelphia panel featuring all five Trek captains in one place. It is an interesting look at them now.
If this list were my absolute favorite television shows of all time, V would have probably finished in the top three. From the mini-series that introduced us to the reptilian Visitors and showed us how humanity would resist invasion, to the on-going series that kept this struggle going, V brought new adventures every week and to the keen observer raised questions about how easy it could be to fool humanity into submission. The series quality definitely suffered in its later days but the original tenure definitely earned it a place here.
In this clip you get to see one of the most popular clips of the Visitor's leader Diana as she reveals just what she enjoys most for a snack.
3. Battlestar Galactica
The original Battlestar Galactica was a fun, if not overly campy, series that pales in comparison next to the remake. The new Battlestar Galactica took the original's core concepts and modernized them, deepened them, and made them uniquely interesting. The story of humanity's survivors was intertwined with the struggle of the Cylons. This time around the series placed a big emphasis on human rights issues involving the robotic Cylons. They took a relatively black and white "villain" and created one of the more interesting sci fi debates.
The series also introduced us to the future curse word, "Frak!" If you have not heard it, check out the clip below. The word is quite versatile.
The X-Files promised us that the truth was out there and it certainly took them a long time to get around to delivering answers, and that was ok. The series wove an intricate mythology of alien visitation within an endless myriad of "monster of the week" variants that never seemed to get old. I think it was due to the interactions between the believer, Mulder, and the skeptic, Scully. Series creators captured a truly special relationship between these characters and when they realized that they did their best to keep them at the front of the action. Another series that may have stayed around longer than necessary, The X-Files suffered from some muddy storytelling and the absence of one of the leads towards the end but it's bright moments of brilliant television made those not so awesome ones worth the ride in my opinion.
This clip is an anthology of fans' favorite Mulderisms and Scullyisms: Those sayings that succinctly and classically sum up their characters.
1. Doctor Who
From its humble beginnings in the 60s to its recent flourish on BBC America, Doctor Who stands alone atop the heap when it comes to sci fi shows. It has seamlessly woven together fascinating characters, wry humor, stellar action, and some of the wildest sci fi around. To date there have been 11 Doctors and it would seem that this number will continue to grow for decades to come. In the video below, two well read fans take you through the entire series from its inception to the current incarnation of the Time Lord played by Matt Smith, and they do it in around 6 minutes. It is a great primer for those of you who may not be aware that the series existed before its revival in the mid-2000s.
I've said this before, but I truly mean it when I say that this week was almost impossible to pare down to just 10 selections. I think that there could probably be a Top Thirty when it comes to great Sci Fi shows but I had to play by the rules of the column. I will however leave you with my next five, just in case you were curious which shows almost made the cut!
And in no real particular order, here they are:
Firefly Lost in Space Stargate SG-1 Torchwood Sliders
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