Five Favorite Science-Fiction TV Shows

Growing up, I was always more a lover of fantasy than science-fiction.  Although I liked science-fiction in theory, and wrote it, I never watched or read science-fiction movies or books (with the exception of a long Star Wars phase in my childhood).  However, since Christopher and I have been married – almost two years now! – I’ve found my taste for the genre has grown.  In fact, it’s probably my favorite genre these days!

Christopher doesn’t like most fantasy, so his taste for science-fiction TV shows and movies nudged me in that direction, and now one of our favorite things to do is watch a good science-fiction series together.  We don’t have cable, so we’re limited to what we can get online via Hulu, Syfy.com, or Netflix (which starts at $7.99 a month for instant streaming only – this is a great resource to see lots of movies and shows on the cheap).  Our lack of cable hasn’t yet stopped us from finding plenty of great shows to follow!

Here are some of our favorite science-fiction series.  If you like the genre, you might enjoy these…

I should note briefly that these series are mainly targeted at adult viewers, not children, and any of them sometimes show content that is sexual or otherwise inappropriate in nature.  Most also include science-fiction violence and some bad language.  So please watch with wisdom and discernment!

5.  Warehouse 13

Artie: “And that is exactly what we do here. We take the unexplained…and we just safely tuck it away in this super-sized Pandora’s Box.”
Pete: “Metaphorically speaking.”
Artie: “Well, actually, Pandora’s box is over in Aisle 989-B. Empty, of course.”

After encountering something they were not supposed to see, secret service agents Myka Bering and Pete Latimer are transferred to work at a giant warehouse in the middle of nowhere – a warehouse that houses a mammoth collection of mysterious and dangerous artifacts with special powers.  This show has more of a magical feel than scientific, but the idea is that “magic is science we don’t understand yet”.  Myka and Pete spend their days keeping tabs on the artifacts already in the Warehouse, and tracking down others all over the world that are causing trouble.

So far we have watched the first two seasons of Warehouse 13, and are waiting for the next one to come on Netflix with the others so we can continue following the show.  It’s a good one to watch when you want something light and entertaining, not too serious, and if you enjoy the fantasy or paranormal genres as well as science-fiction.

4.  Eureka

“I hate to interrupt, but we have bigger issues at hand. Time is unraveling. The laws of physics are breaking down. Correct me if I’m wrong but that’s the kind of thing that’s not gonna stop at the city limits, is it?” – Henry Deacon

This show follows the adventures (and misadventures) of a U.S. Marshall, Jack Carter, who becomes the sheriff of an unusual small town – Eureka, where all the citizens are geniuses developing new technology for the government.  Every scientific achievement of the past 30 years originated there, he finds, and every day of work he must fix hilarious problems and prevent new catastrophes.  Most of the science is “Hollywood science”, as they say, but it makes for a rollicking good time, especially with the quirky cast of characters.  This is another “light” show, but a bit more addicting than Warehouse 13, and some of the episodes are considerably more serious than others.

We’re completely up to date on this show because the older seasons are on Netflix and Syfy.com generously posts their new episodes online every week – hurray!  (Older episodes are available from Netflix, the first three on instant streaming and Season 4 by mail.)

From here on it gets much harder to number my favorites in order!  These final three are probably tied for my affections…

3.  Doctor Who

“He’s like fire and ice and rage. He’s like the night, and the storm in the heart of the sun. He’s ancient and forever. He burns at the center of time and he can see the turn of the universe. And…he’s wonderful.” – Tim Latimer

“Doctor Who has never pretended to be hard science fiction … At best Doctor Who is a fairytale, with fairytale logic about this wonderful man in this big blue box who at the beginning of every story lands somewhere where there is a problem.” – Neil Gaiman

As the image and quotes might suggest, this show has a bit less science – and a lot more EPIC! – than the previous two in my list.  Doctor Who is the longest-running science-fiction TV series in history.  (The Doctor is capable of regenerating into a new man instead of dying, so the story can continue almost indefinitely.)  This is an unusual show, and it’s fairly safe to say that you will either adore it or hate it with a passion.  I thought I hated it – Christopher used to watch it while I was making dinner, and I’d stand there chopping vegetables and listening to all the cheesy special effects, and the tinny robot voices, and the electronic main theme, and think to myself, “Ugh.”  Then…along came the 11th incarnation of the Doctor (along with the better sound and special effects of the newer seasons).  I started hovering by the television.  Soon, I was sitting down to watch some of it.  It only took a few episodes, and I was hooked.

The Doctor, a Time Lord from the planet Gallifrey, spends his time traveling through all of time and space in a time machine disguised as a British police box.  In almost every episode, he saves the world (or the universe!), usually with the help of a human companion or two he’s picked up on the way.  If that sounds boring, IT’S NOT.  It’s amazing.  But you really have to watch it to understand what makes it so awesome!  Even people who don’t normally like science-fiction might find Doctor Who appealing, as it’s almost more fantasy than anything else.

I must offer a disclaimer – I’ve only seen the newer series that have aired since the show was resurrected in 2005.  If you are completely unfamiliar with the Doctor (and especially if you are like me and hate cheesy special effects!) I’d personally recommend doing a little background research and then starting with the Eleventh Doctor, beginning at Series 5.  (Alternately, you can start at Series 1 of the newer shows; many would recommend this instead.)  Chances are, you’ll love what you see, and then you can go back and watch any older series you wish.  All of the recent seasons are currently available on Netflix’s instant streaming, although I don’t know how long that will last.

 2.  Firefly (and Serenity)

Take my love, take my land
Take me where I cannot stand
I don’t care – I’m still free
You can’t take the sky from me
— the opening theme

How do I describe this show?  Sort of like Robin Hood meets the Old West meets space travel?  Something like that.  Firefly is a true Space Western, and it takes awhile to get used to the eclectic blend of bluegrass-style music and deep space escapades.  The show’s title comes from the name of a space vessel, and the story follows her crew as they evade the totalitarian government, help the helpless, and make money any way they can – often by smuggling or other petty crime.  In the beginning of the season they pick up a pair of passengers, who turn out to be fugitives on the run, and it makes their lives a lot more interesting and dangerous.

The best thing about this show?  The characters.  The wonderful characters and their wonderful, hilarious banter.  It has plenty of dark and gruesome moments, but it’s also laugh-out-loud funny!  Tragically, the show was abruptly cancelled after just one season, but there is a follow-up movie, Serenity, which sort of ties together the story’s end, although the feel is a bit different than that of the show because it was targeted to movie audiences who hadn’t watched Firefly.  Note: if you don’t want to deal with avoiding the sexual content in the show (as there is quite a bit, unfortunately) watching Serenity is a good way to encounter the story and characters without any scene-skipping.  You can watch the full show and the movie on Netflix streaming.

1.  Battlestar Galactica (2003)

“We decided to play God, create life. When that life turned against us, we comforted ourselves in the knowledge that it really wasn’t our fault, not really. You cannot play God then wash your hands of the things that you’ve created. Sooner or later, the day comes when you can’t hide from the things that you’ve done anymore.” – Admiral William Adama

Of all the shows I am listing, this is probably the most “classic” science-fiction represented.  Most descriptions of this show will say, simply, that it’s about a fleet of humans looking for a new world after cybernetic Cylons wipe out their home planet.  Booooring!  Fortunately, that’s not an entire description of the show.  It’s also an amazing saga of courage, determination, hope, leadership, love, justice and mercy, obedience and disobedience, betrayal and loyalty, and real people making real, tough, life-or-death decisions every day, all across a background of distant space and barren planets.  What I love most about this show is that the characters are all so human.  They all have their good qualities and bad.  Sometimes you root for them; sometimes you gape in astonishment at their actions.  The story is fast-paced as well, especially the earlier seasons, and the makers are constantly throwing in new mysteries to keep the viewers hooked.  As soon as one story starts to close up, another interesting one opens!  I’d like to review this show in full someday, but it seems like a mammoth task, as there is so much to analyze: the characters, the religious aspect, the plot…it’d be a big task to take on!

With this show, perhaps more than all the others, I have to warn that it is definitely an adult program, and there is a lot of brief sexual content (sometimes as often as every episode).  As Christopher and I often mourn, this is the only big downside to an otherwise amazing story.  We highly recommend it, but with a remote handy!

This is a long-running but completed series, all of which is available on Netflix Instant.  We have only 3 episodes left – the 3-part finale – and we are waiting very impatiently until Friday evening, when we can have a finale marathon.  Eeek!  We can’t wait!

Have you watched any of these shows?  Did you love them, hate them?  Do you have any other favorite science-fiction TV series to recommend?

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18 Comments

  1. Greytawnyowl

     /  May 3, 2012

    I haven’t heard of Warehouse 13 or Eureka, but I have heard of/watched the others.

    Firefly and Battlestar Galactica I’ve watched bits of when it’s on tv, but not actually watched yet. Firefly has been deemed inappropriate for me to watch with my preteen sister (we watch most science fiction tv shows together. It’s fun. 🙂 ).

    And Doctor Who! Isn’t it awesome? 🙂 We have watched the first season and the first two of the second season of the new, after recommendations from several friends. It’s pretty good. And I’m told it will get better. 🙂

    Recommendations: Babylon 5. It’s really, really, good. At least in my opinion. 🙂 It’s very character driven, for the most part written well, and usually pretty clean. And the aliens are really good, when you find out more about them. It also was one of the first shows to use CGI extensively (it was made in the nineties). It ran for five seasons, though there are several movies, including the pilot, as well as books and so on. It also has a cancelled-after-the-first season spinoff, Crusade. It’s *probably* the most like Battlestar Galactica, but I haven’t seen it so can’t judge. It’s extremely epic, though. But it’s not space opera-y like Star Wars and even Doctor Who.
    It used to be available through Netflix instant, but they cancelled it and have not brought it back to my knowledge. Through Hulu, there’s a site (www.thewb.com) to watch whole episodes free, though they only have the first season and five rotating episodes of the second, and the quality isn’t very good. Also, they’re missing an episode of the first season and do not have the episodes in order.
    Skip the pilot. It’s not very good, most of the characters changed, and it spoils a surprise. The first season isn’t terribly good, though I was hooked on the fifth episode. 🙂 If you can give it through the third season, it starts to get really good. However, I do not advocate skipping too many episodes because even chance lines are important later. (However, there is one you can skip, right away. Season one, episode four, “Infection.” The worst episode.) Oh. It’s about a space station designed to create peace among the aliens. Then they are provoked into war. What it’s *really* about is choices, consequences, and responsibility. It’s kind of hard to pin down a good description because it’s about so many things. It was created and most of it was written by the same person who wrote Thor (the movie. I haven’t seen it yet, though). Sorry, that was probably too much information. 🙂

    And Terra Nova, which was much more recent, through the beginning of this year. It’s set in the year 2149, about people who have found a way (using a particle accelerator) to travel to early Earth because global warming has gotten so terrible (meh. But actually at Terra Nova, it’s a lot better). It’s mostly about one family, though there a lot of other characters you see just as much. There are other “pilgrimages” including the sixth, which broke away from them and they fight. And there are dinosaurs. It had me hooked at the (sixth?) episode with the line “I killed my mentor,” mostly because it turned the usual (mentor dying) into something completely different. One the producers (I think…) was Steven Spielberg (Jaws, Indiana Jones, and a whole lot of other movies). It was just cancelled recently by Fox, so there won’t be more than the short first season and pilot unless someone else picks it up. I have not watched all of it. I started watching at about the sixth episode, and liked it a lot. There were some plot issues, but I tend to give things at least through the second season to get good. Usually the first season is never good as the middle seasons. It does have more language, used more often (PG-14 rating–I say it’s for the language and “dinosaur violence [which really wasn’t there in what I saw]). Apparently Netflix instant turned down even getting it. (Hulu used to have it, though they don’t any more. Here is a possible site–I haven’t used it yet so I can’t vouch if it even works. It seems to be their official site, so it should be safe, though. http://www.terranovastreaming.com/

    I hear that Once Upon a Time is good, too, though I haven’t seen it. Same with Farscape (a science fiction show) Haven’t seen that one either.

    And for lack of cable–there’s also Amazon Prime videos. You can get a free one month trial, then it’s $79 dollars a year. A fair amount, especially since the selection’s rather small. They do have Doctor Who (how we’re watching). Prime also gives you free shipping on everything through Amazon, and a book per month to check out free on you Kindle for a month. I don’t know how much you use Amazon, so it may or may not be worth it. And no, I don’t work for them or anything. Just use it a lot, and like the convenience. 🙂

    And I was very much a fantasy person when I was little and grew into science fiction as well. With a long Star Wars phase. 🙂

    I apologize for the long comment. 🙂 I enjoy this topic. 🙂

    Reply
    • Hi, Greytawnyowl! I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to comment back to you! Here goes… 🙂

      We love Doctor Who! And yes, if you’re only in the second season, it DOES get better. It gets so much better. 😀

      Hmm…a couple of the shows you recommend wouldn’t appeal to us very much, mainly because we can’t stand most aliens unless they’re small side characters like in Doctor Who, or the special effects or costumes are really good. 😀 Babylon 5 and FarScape both have a lot of aliens, even as main characters, and Christopher and I discovered we both dislike that. For me, I think it’s mostly because I have to be able to suspend my disbelief when I’m watching science-fiction. Fantasy can get a little less realistic without losing me, but aliens who are obviously humans in costumes or make-up really throw me off; they make it hard for me to get into the story since I can tell that it’s fake. I’m a stickler for good special effects, I guess, which is why I don’t dare watch the older Who seasons, and only like the new Star Trek movie, not the old show.

      I’ve seen some Terra Nova, but wasn’t a big fan. I guess it was kind of slow…also, I was really intrigued by the future Earth that they were living in – heavily polluted, with population police and all that creepy, futuristic stuff – and then they go back in time and it all goes away! I think I would have been more interested in a show about people living in the future than I was about time-travelers in prehistoric times. 🙂 If there were more dinosaurs maybe I’d be more interested… 😉

      I should check out “Once Upon a Time”, although I doubt Christopher would watch it with me…

      We actually have Amazon Prime! We get it through Christopher’s grandfather, though (you can share the free shipping benefits with multiple family members) so we don’t have the free video feature, which is only for the original subscriber. Maybe someday we’ll subscribe to it ourselves, so we can get that benefit, since I do have a Kindle and I could use the rented books too. 🙂 We use Amazon CONSTANTLY so it would definitely be a good investment!

      Reply
      • Greytawnyowl

         /  May 17, 2012

        😀 Friends are telling me it gets better. I like it already, so I’m not too worried. Have you ever seen the Sarah Jane Adventures? (Doctor Who spinoff).

        Yes…I see what you’re saying. I suppose I really didn’t think about it because I enjoy the Babylon 5 aliens. The costumes do get better, and the five-ish main aliens species are very well thought through, which I enjoyed. Even the minor aliens are portrayed well, occasionally humorously (there are the carrion eaters, the ones that split into halves every five years and find a leader based on scarf colors…) They were just alien enough to be aliens, but so human they were hard to think of as aliens in a way. The effects were good for the time, if not so much now. Some of the fourth season CGI still blows me away.

        I think most of what I love about it is the depth of characterization and the fact that it is told as five year story from the beginning. The story is very layered, as well (very much as you describe Battlestar Galactica), and there are a lot of hard choices for the characters (I’m not sure why I like those so much… 😀 ). I think it was my first experience with grey characters, too, at least portrayed so well–they are flawed, sometimes a lot, but they have the goodness of a God-creation. Oh, and it was the first show to make me cry…Through it I started writing seriously and was introduced to science fiction.

        Reading back through, it sounds like a commercial testimonial or something. Really, I’m not obsessed. 😀 I just enjoy it and like other people to enjoy the same things so we can enjoy them together.

        Yes, more dinosaurs would have been cool. I was enjoying what we got–pictures of how life was on a colony in the past. The pace did seem to pick up toward the finale, and the set up for the next season was intriguing, with the boat. I wish there had been at least one more season, because I hope they would have straightened things out and it would have gotten good. It seems almost like it was trying to cater to too many people, instead of a specific niche. Dinosaurs AND dystopias AND frontier life AND military AND romance…not that they couldn’t be combined, but there seemed to be too much skipping around and no focus.

        Yes…they give you a free one month trial, that could be helpful for a show or book at some point.

        Thank you for replying to my long comment. 😀

        Reply
        • No, I don’t think either of us have watched the Sarah Jane Adventures. Christopher has watched Torchwood, though, another spinoff (which I wouldn’t recommend – it’s gritty and depressing, and sometimes inappropriate).

          Regarding Terra Nova – Yes, that is a lot of topics to squeeze into one show! Wow.

          Reply
          • Greytawnyowl

             /  May 19, 2012

            I’m not planning to watch Torchwood–you’re the third or fourth person I’ve had tell me “Don’t watch it!” 😀

            I did like the characters on Terra Nova, though, which makes me sad it’s cancelled. I’ve heard people complaining that they were very stereotypical, but it didn’t seem that way to me. I suppose they were, a bit, but all together it had a good effect…

  2. Greytawnyowl

     /  May 3, 2012

    It seems to have swallowed my rather long comment. Is there anything you can do from your end to fix that? I did put in a link; I don’t know if that makes it think I’m spam or something.

    Thanks!

    Reply
  3. Interesting topic, Bethany! My husband and I love Dr. Who, but we haven’t seen the other ones you mentioned (except for one episode of Eureka). We don’t watch a lot of TV, although we have a few favorites. 🙂

    As far as shows I’d recommend, my biggest suggestion would be Once Upon a Time. It falls into the fantasy category, not science fiction, but it’s so fun to see new twists on old fairy tales.

    Reply
    • I’d probably be interested in “Once Upon a Time”, but Christopher wouldn’t, and I never watch TV alone…I do it for the social interaction, because we’re the kind of people who talk during movies. 😀

      Doctor Who is the best! (I just decided this after finishing the post…I would put the final three in basically reverse order from how I listed them. I think DW is my favorite.) What are your other favorites? In addition to science-fiction shows, we tend to watch a lot of “investigation”-type dramas with an element of comedy, like “Monk”, “Psych”, and “White Collar”. We also watched “Flash Forward”, which was a really cool science-fiction show – up until the LAME ending!

      Reply
      • Greytawnyowl

         /  May 7, 2012

        What about Lost? I haven’t watched it, but I hear it’s really good.

        And I agree that its’ just not as fun watching tv alone… I always discuss episodes/movies in depth, too. 🙂

        Reply
        • We have watched a portion of LOST (second time around for my husband) but we never got into it enough to finish. I think it was mainly because you have to watch it semi-continuously to keep on top of the story. It’s also a very convoluted and weird story, and I’m not the quickest mind when it comes to these things, so I was a little clueless most of the time. 😀

          Reply
  4. Bethany, I enjoyed this. We watched the entire first season of Battlestar, found it engrossing but unnerving. We were SeaQuest and Star Gate fans (that really dates us).

    This was fun. Since we’re on limited cable, we’ll have to check out Netflix and Syfy.com. Thank you for the lead to watching some things at the latter!

    Reply
    • I’m glad to recommend some shows I enjoy, Maria! Why did you find Battlestar unnerving, out of curiosity? Was it the tension of the show (that first season is SO intense), or the content, or perhaps the violence?

      Star Gate…hehe. We did try Star Gate, and found it “palatable”, but after multiple episodes I started feeling like every episode had the same story, just told in a different world. Maybe we just didn’t watch it long enough to get to the good stuff, but we gave up on it awhile back.

      Reply
  5. New show recommendation, everyone!! “Heroes”. 😀 It’s a science-fiction show about emerging superheroes, and so far it’s super good (oops…haha…pun not intended!). There are 4 seasons, it’s completed, and it’s all on Netflix and available for streaming. We’ve gotten through most of the first season so far and it’s riveting! There is less objectionable content than some of the other science-fiction shows, too, which is lovely.

    Reply
    • Greytawnyowl

       /  May 17, 2012

      Sounds interesting! I’ll look into it. 😀

      Reply

I love to hear your thoughts!