A little over three years ago, I made this post, ranking some of my top/favorite science fiction, fantasy, and speculative fiction TV Shows. Because we’ve had some great new shows since then, and my opinion has changed on some as well, I thought I would update the list. Just the top ten, though. A handful of new shows would make the overall list, but don’t quite make the top ten, like Lost Girl, Haven, Once Upon a Time, and Defiance. Three new shows have jumped right into the top ten, though:
10. Stargate Universe (was #8)
I still feel annoyed when I think about how short this show’s run was. By the end of the second season, it was no longer a viable show for SyFy, and MGM was having enough financial difficulty at the time that they put everything in the Stargate franchise on the shelf indefinitely. SGU’s low ratings were, I believe, in part due to a real smear campaign by fans of Stargate Atlantis who were ticked off about that show being cancelled, blamed SGU taking its spot, and didn’t appreciate the attempts to do some new things with the franchise. Things I appreciated like aliens that don’t breathe air or speak English, a cast of characters woefully unprepared for their situation, and many highly flawed characters among that cast.
New on my list, its second season just finished on SyFy. A Vancouver production actually set there, it follows a woman from 2077 who comes back in time to our present with a group of terrorists and, being the equivalent of a cop in 2077, has to track them down and find a way back to her own time and her family. It gets much more complicated, and I love that the show fully embraces the gray and gray morality trope, and will not reveal which time travel conventions are in place. We don’t know if Kira is changing the past (for her) and by extension the world from which she came, or is actually creating the one she knows.
8. Game of Thrones
HBO’s adaptation of George R.R. Martin’s epic fantasy series, A Song of Ice and Fire, taking its name from the first book in the series, this is something I never expected to see adapted to the screen. Three seasons in the bag so far, with at least a fourth on the way. Yes, there are many changes from the books, but considering the scope of the story, they actually do an excellent job. The look and feel of the show and the cast are outstanding. I am concerned they may catch up with GRRM’s glacial writing pace, but I understand they have been given major directions in the story by GRRM in case that happens.
7. Eureka (was #5)
Another show that ended prematurely, IMHO, after Comcast acquired NBC-Universal, including SyFy. They turned the show on its head at the start of their fourth season which breathed new life into it, giving the characters better roles in the town and more interesting challenges. The writing and acting were at the top of their game, so it was upsetting to learn the fifth season would be the last. They at least got an extra (fairly satisfying) episode to wrap things up, but I still miss the little town.
6. Fringe (was #9)
Another show that only made it through four full and a shortened fifth season, and on a major network. Considering the ratings it had before and after it moved to Fridays, I think we’re lucky we got what we did. The final half season had a different feel, but wrapped up some of the major questions and it was a nice sendoff for Olivia, Peter, Walter, and Astrid.
5. Doctor Who (was #3)
I love Matt Smith’s portrayal of the eleventh Doctor. Some of the most recent episodes have felt subpar on first viewing, but seem better on repeats. I will miss Matt’s doc when he leaves at the end of the year, but I’m also very much looking forward to Peter Capaldi taking over.
4. Orphan Black
I gushed about this show in my most recent blog post before this one. I love the story, the style, and Tatiana Maslany, who seemed to come out of nowhere to become, in a span of ten episodes, one of my favorite actors ever. She plays at least 7 characters quite distinctly, and they interact and sometimes impersonate one another. I have accepted Tatiana Maslany as my lord and master (lady and mistress?) and am an unabashed member of the CloneClub. Can’t wait for the second season, which is slated to air in April, 2014. The show has a brisk pace, doesn’t spoon feed viewers, doesn’t hold back on answering questions, yet still has plenty unanswered, and the characters, particularly all of Tatiana’s, are compelling to watch. It can be disturbing at times, but is rarely gory, and the sci-fi aspect doesn’t dominate – it feels more like a suspense thriller to watch, and also has a lot of comedy. The last episode of the first season has a death scene that is probably the most disturbing I’ve ever seen, but it is not gory in the slightest and is actually darkly hilarious. The show is definitely female-led, passes the Bechdel test, and takes an interesting look at feminism and identity. It also acknowledges sexual attraction as a continuum, with at least one bisexual character. I also appreciate that the police detective characters in the show, for a show that is not a “cop show,” are intelligent and are figuring things out.
3. Warehouse 13 (was #7)
This one is about to end, as well. After four seasons, they’re coming back next spring with six final episodes. It really pisses me off, because they have years of story material available – artifacts can come from all of history, and the cast and writers are at the top of their game. They’ve done some very original things with some tired tropes. Lightning in a bottle. That Pete and Myka, Claudia and Steve, Artie, and Helena won’t be snagging, bagging, and tagging on my television anymore after next spring is very sad-making.
2. Battlestar Galactica (2003 version)
It will probably take a lot to move this show from its spot on my list (Orphan Black may have the best chance). BSG was consistently great whenever they were moving the major story arcs along – their only missteps came when trying to make stand-alone episodes late in their run, but even those are not unwatchable. There’s probably not a lot more I can say that I didn’t say in my original favorites post. It still holds up on rewatching, and often finds its way into our Blu-ray player.
Still on top, its last (probably) episode airs this coming Wednesday. After getting new life on DVD and Comedy Central, it’s still simultaneously hilarious and touching. A couple of episodes since the show returned on Comedy Central were definitely misses (the one with the push-me-pull-you vomiting goat and the one where Zapp manipulates Leela into thinking they’re starting a new human population as an Adam and Eve on another planet, but some of the episodes since the return are among my favorites in the whole run of the show. The mind-swapping one, the divergent series of reproducing Benders, and “The Late Philip J. Fry” are among them. I will miss the show greatly, but we often rewatch it on disc, and 140 episodes is a good run, especially for a show that almost disappeared into obscurity after less than four full seasons during its initial life.