Sunday, February 22, 2015


Let's talk about science fiction television shows. Here's a quick and by no means comprehensive list:

  • Battlestar Galactica (both versions)
  • Doctor Who
  • Revolution
  • Star Trek (TOS, Next Gen, DS9, etc...)
  • Babylon 5
  • Farscape
  • Firefly (and Serenity)
  • Orphan Black
  • Helix
  • X-Files
  • Continuum
  • Twilight Zone
  • LOST
  • The Black Mirror
  • Stargate
  • Six Million Dollar Man
  • Red Dwarf
  • Torchwood
And so, so, so many more. 

For me, the list above isn't in any kind of order and I haven't watched all these shows, some I've only watched parts of. I didn't include the superheroes because they're not always science fiction though they inevitably veer that way. 

Anyway, I'm a fan of Firefly and Continuum and Doctor Who. I've watched the Twilight Zone since I was a kid. I grew up watching the Six Million Dollar Man and other things like Space:1999 and Time Tunnel. 

All my life it's been easy to write off science fiction television as juvenile. That is until Star Trek came along. Social commentary had long existed in SF prose but it reached a new level on TV under Gene Roddenberry's leadership. Roddenberry changed everything. Everything.

In fact you can see the influence in everything on TV from pretty much 1970 on though it becomes more evident in the mid-1990s. When we get to 1999 and the SciFi Channel drops Farscape on us, it's a level up. The Star Wars trilogy in the 70s and early 80s gave us a little taste with special effects going up a dozen notches but not so much in the diversity category or social commentary.

Fast forward to LOST where there's a wide representation of humanity on a tiny island and LOTS of social commentary.

You can see the influences if you look hard enough. Not just in spinoffs like Torchwood from the new Doctor Who but in things like Farscape influencing the relaunch of Doctor Who. Not directly maybe but the production values of Farscape - which as a show would have definitely benefited from attention from the nascent Internet - were so high that Doctor Who had to prove its concept was sound before it could get there but it did.

Storytelling has gotten more complex over the last twenty years too. Seasons/series are entire stories with subplots and that may not payoff until the next series/season. That's the influence of comic books and soap operas.  Continuum is a great example of a mix of character development and complex storytelling. So is Orphan Black.

 Okay, so that's the groundwork. What's your favorite science fiction television show? Why?

1 comment:

Aspen said...

As a Farscape fan back in the day, I can definitely tell you it benefited from a nascent Internet. There was a 3-year perpetual "Save Moya!" campaign. It's just that SciFi didn't know how to *respond* to the Internet.

The fans got it. The production team got it. The network--- not so much.

And then NBC put SciFi in the hands of people who didn't even *like* science fiction.....