So, inspired by my last post here-
I am not answering a questions that will not, in any way, be controversial. What are the top 10 SCIENCE FICTION shows of all time? Why? Why not? Procrastination is a helluva drug.
Before starting, the rules:
1. The show must be complete, and have lasted at least one full season. In other words, no matter how much you like The Expanse, or Legion, or Mr. Robot, they are just not eligible. Given how much great science fiction is currently airing, this is a major restriction. This also means no miniseries (not a full season) and not beloved cancelled shows. This is the Firefly maxim. Please note, however, pace no. 5, below, that if a show has been around forever in multiple incarnations (Doctor Who) or multiple series (Star Trek, with Discovery being the latest), it is eligible.
2. It must be in English. There is, in fact, a surprising amount of good, non-English science fiction TV out there. But you have to narrow the field somewhat. This is the El Ministerio del Tiempo corollary.
3. It must be a drama, or a dramedy (mainly a drama). This is not because you can’t have a science fiction comedy- I just don’t want to cross the streams. This is the Futurama/MST3k paradox.
5. The show will be judged from all episodes holistically, but sticking the landing matters. Most importantly, if a sci-fi show constitutes a whole “canon,” then the various sci-shows will get lumped together as one. If, on the other hand, a show has been rebooted (BSG, Lost in Space), then the reboots count separately. Call this the Star Trek Rule.
6. Unlike the other top 10 list, science fiction is about ideas and the mind. Which means that shows will be given a slight nudge for being ahead of their time- or, if you prefer, they will not be docked because the special effect could not keep pace with the ideas. This is the Inviolable Law of the BBC Using a Telephone as a Spaceship.
7. If the show is on my other top 10 list, then it is ineligible. No Buffy, No Prisoner.
9. I have to have watched the show. Are the entirety of the Stargate shows good? Perhaps! I may never know.
10. No animation. Everything from Futurama to Cowboy Bebop could be on this list, but including animation (and anime) would make this too unwieldy.
Now, without any further warning, and remembering that this is not an ordered list, here are the top 10.
1. Star Trek (collected series). One of two absolute inclusions. By the way, while making absolute determinations, be aware that TOS is the greatest of all Star Treks. You’re welcome.
2. Doctor Who (incl. Torchwood). Whether you only love the old stuff, or are an unabashed nu-Who fan, this is the other absolute must inclusion on this list.
3. Blake’s 7. Long before anti-hero and grimdark was even a glimmer in modern discourse, a show taught us that character death, losing, and rooting for a slimeball like Avon could be a winning formula. That ending, though. I still hear the blaster fire.
4. Twilight Zone (1959 original). On the plus side, so very many good stories. On the minus side ... probably at least 75% responsible for the career of M. Night Shyamalan.
5. Battle Star Galactica (2004 reboot). People can endlessly debate whether or not the ending of BSG “stuck the landing.” What no one can reasonably disagree with is that for many years, BSG was a shining example of how to do Science Fiction right.
6. Babylon 5 (incl. tv movies and Crusader). Sure, the issues with some of the CGI remain. Some of the scripts haven’t aged well (JMS earnestness). And the earlier seasons, needing to balance the “monster of the week” with the overall arc, can be a struggle for people that are more used to modern TV to get through. But this was the series that was clearly ahead of its time, even if it is dated now. If you can get on its wavelength, it is more rewarding than almost any other show on this list.
7. Fringe. The first season looked to be a run-of-the mill scifi procedural. But then it got weird ... and good.
8. Dollhouse. So very good. So very unappreciated.
9. Continuum. Perhaps the weakest entry on this list. Um, actually, no perhaps about it. There were other shows I have considered- X Files, to name one. Farscape would certainly be another. But I put this on the list as the best example of the “Canadian sensibility” that we have in modern sci fi. You know what I’m talking about.
10. Orphan Black. Yeah, it got a little stupid in the last few seasons. But this was still a criminally underwatched show.
That’s it. So ... thoughts?