I am a huge fan of science fiction and over the years I have watched numerous series, so many in fact that I have forgotten a lot of them. Modern science fiction series benefit from superior special effects thanks to advances in technology, but I have fond memories of some of those old series with wobbly sets and laughable monsters. As a kid, these things intrigued me, even though they are ridiculous when watched today.
I thought it would be fun to compile a list of my favourite science fiction shows – which is actually much harder than it sounds. I have based the list , of course, on shows that I have watched religiously, which sadly excludes some high-rated shows that I actually missed, shows like Stargate SG-1, which I am told was great. I just never got round to watching it so apologies to any fans of that show and others like it, that I have had to omit.
Also, I have omitted anything to do with super heroes and horror; this list is purely science fiction.
Anyway, without further ado, let’s dive in:
10. Star Trek: The Next Generation
Star Trek: The Next Generation goes down as the most improved series. The first couple of seasons were a major disappointment, which is why this show comes in at a lowly number ten. Some readers may find this controversial. Let me explain. My problem is that the writers seemed to want to sacrifice the ideals of the original series in favour of more diplomatic resolutions to problems. They even had a ship’s counsellor who looked as if she was about to burst into tears all the time. I wanted the Enterprise to attack first and ask questions later. Thankfully, as the show progressed, this started to happen and we were introduced to the best Star Trek bad guys ever: the Borg. The cliffhanger for series 3 which involved this fantastic enemy, is one of my favourites of any Star Trek series and here it is for your enjoyment:
9. Star Trek: The Original Series
Star Trek comes in at number nine simply because it is now quite dated. At the time, it was cutting edge and the idea of a space ship exploring the galaxy was fantastic. However, I found the acting also a bit dated, particularly that of William Shatner as Captain Kirk, whose eccentricities and overacting techniques sometimes left a lot to be desired. That said, I still love the series and will often watch repeats, particularly now that it has been remastered. The planets now actually look like real planets, something that was lacking originally.
My favourite episode is “The Doomsday Machine” where the Enterprise takes on a machine that can destroy planets:
8. The X Files
I loved the idea of the X Files, a tiny department of the FBI that investigated weird phenomena consisting of Agent Fox “Spooky” Mulder and Agent Dana Scully. Mulder was the one who believed in UFO’s and that the supernatural incidents were actually real, as unbelievable as they were. Scully was the sceptic who tried to use science to explain everything they saw.
At times the show was fantastic and quite scary, but my one criticism was the fact that Scully still insisted on rational explanations, despite all of the dreadful things she saw and even the weird events she experienced.
My favourite episode is “Squeeze” which features a weird human who can reshape his body so that he can break into buildings via impossibly tight openings. What made it worse was that this guy would kill a victim, eat their liver and then hibernate for thirty years. It was tense and disturbing.
Like the X Files, Fringe was a series about an FBI division that investigated unnatural phenomena. However, unlike the X Files, we were also introduced to time travel, parallel universes and mad scientists. Some of the incidents they investigated were truly nasty.
One episode in particular inspired Mrs PM to suggest a trip to Boston, where the series was based. It involved a monster in the sewers under the city. I worry about Mrs PM sometimes:
6. Star Trek: Voyager
While not being popular with Trekkies, I actually thought Voyager was quite good, mainly because the Borg appeared quite a few times. The series contained my least favourite Star Trek character (yes even worse than Wesley Crusher). I am talking about Neelix, the self-appointed morale officer. I hoped every week that he would be killed off; sadly he wasn’t.
My favourite episodes are Scorpion (I and II) for introducing a bad guy even worse than the Borg (Species 8472) – and bringing Seven of Nine into the series:
5. Space 1999
At the time of its release, Space 1999 was fantastic. The moon is blown out of the earth’s orbit and the show follows the fortunes of the people living on the moon in Moonbase Alpha as they encounter aliens and monster in the galaxy.
My favourite episode is Space Brain, where the moon is threatened by a huge entity that protects itself by sending out a substance (that looks amazingly like foam) that can crush anything in its path.
4. Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
I fear this is a slightly controversial choice. Of all the Star Trek series, Mrs PM rates Deep Space Nine as the weakest. I disagree. In my opinion it is the strongest, mainly because the series covered the struggle between the Dominion and the Federation with a little mysticism and extremely good villains, most notably, the evil Cardassian Gul Dukat.
It’s difficult to select a favourite episode because the whole storyline of the last couple of series makes that difficult. Instead, here is an excerpt from the very last episode, the showdown between Gul Dukat and Captain Sisko:
3. Red Dwarf
Regular readers will know that Red Dwarf appears at number three in my list of British sitcoms, but from a science fiction perspective, it deserves a similar accolade. Dave Lister is the last surviving human and a complete space bum. If the human race depends on this curry eating, lager swigging slob then we are totally doomed.
There are so many great episodes so it’s difficult to pick a favourite, so I’ll pick one of my favourite scenes.
Meet the Vindaloovians:
2. Babylon 5
Babylon 5 is space opera at its finest. Wars, politics, treason, mutiny, religion and fantastic bad guys (the Shadows) make this my favourite ever American science fiction series. At the time the special effects were also way ahead of anything else I had ever seen on TV. The battle scenes in space were terrific.
The show ran for five series and while series one was good, it really took off in the next three seasons introducing a massive story arc that I loved. There were so many great characters all of whom had flaws making them nowhere near as squeaky clean as their Star Trek equivalents.
If you haven’t seen the show, I urge you to watch it. While it may look a bit dated now, the storyline should more than make up for it.
Here is a battle scene with the evil black Shadow ships:
1. Dr Who
The winner has to be Dr Who, the story of a time travelling alien, known as a time lord, who has a ship that can travel anywhere in time and space. Thankfully, this hero who has lived for hundreds of years, has a real soft spot for Earth and although alien is quintessentially British, with all that such a curse entails. He is eccentric, resourceful funny and highly intelligent. He also has the power to regenerate when fatally wounded, which means that the character has been played by twelve different actors spanning over fifty years.
The show is the longest running science fiction series. In the past, the monsters and sets reflected the meagre budget of the BBC but since its resurrection in 2005, the special effects have improved massively and now the show is worthy of its cult status.
And finally …
Do you agree with my list?
Have I missed anything?
What is your favourite science fiction show?