With the recent culmination of "Lost," some have proclaimed that series to be one of the best sci-fi shows of all time. While we’re all big fans of "Lost," I have to take issue with classifying it as "sci-fi."
The term "science fiction" has become wildly overused to include several shows that feature supernatural or adventure elements that aren’t that far away from traditional genre television. For the purposes of this list, we’re exploring ten of the best sci-fi TV series that explored the concepts of space travel and aliens on other worlds. These are the shows that made the impossible seem possible and offered us a speculative glimpse of what might await us in the vast reaches of outer space.
10. Stargate SG-1
A lot of people tend to forget that the original "Stargate" movie wasn’t really that good. It was a forgettable mix of "Star Wars" and "Indiana Jones" that failed to catch on with the public… until it was adapted into a TV series three years later. Over the course of ten seasons, two spinoff series and two direct-to-DVD movies, "Stargate SG-1" has become the longest running American sci-fi TV series of all time.
And while "Stargate SG-1" was sometimes criticized for its light tone and occasional mystical overtones, the series fulfilled the promise of adventure and sci-fi that the original film failed to live up to.
9. Blake’s 7
If there was ever a series overdue for a comeback, it’s "Blake’s 7."
Created by popular "Doctor Who" writer Terry Nation, "Blake’s 7" followed a group of renegades attempting to take down a corupt Terran Federation. While the sets and special effects weren’t impressive by today’s standards, the series was one of the first sci-fi shows to feature morally ambiguous characters and a space-based society that was nowhere near Utopian.
"Blake’s 7" is also vividly remembered for concluding with the dramatic deaths of almost all of the main characters, with the fate of the lone survivor left ambiguously unclear. That cliffhanger has been on the minds of fans for almost thirty years.
While Joss Whedon is better known for creating "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and "Angel," his short-lived sci-fi series may have been his greatest creation.
"Firefly" aired for a single season on Fox and followed an eclectic group of characters roaming the galaxy after being on the losing side of a civil war. The show also featured a unique mix of sci-fi and western themes that was unlike any other series before it. While the series was canceled long before its time — and received a feature film adaptation called "Serenity" — the writing and performances from every episode were incredibly compelling.
If the series had lasted longer, it would probably have ranked much higher on this list.
7. Star Trek: The Next Generation
No list of the best sci-fi TV shows would be complete without "Star Trek: The Next Generation."
As the "Star Trek" movie series began to wind down, "The Next Generation" introduced audiences to an entirely new set of characters and new alien species — especially the Borg — that captured the imaginations of fans everywhere.
While not every episode of the series is a classic, "Star Trek: The Next Generation" ran for seven seasons and paved the way for three additional "Star Trek" TV series as well as four feature films with the "Next Generation" cast.
6. Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
"Star Trek: The Next Generation" may have paved the way, but "Deep Space" redefined the boundaries of what a "Star Trek" series could be. "DS9" was set on a space station near one of the only stable wormholes in the galaxy. While the show took a few years to establish its identity, the producers began to experiment with ongoing storylines that built towards an inevitable war, which was ultimately realized within the final seasons of the show.
But the series was more than just an expanded canvas for "Star Trek." The characters of "DS9" were darker and made more interesting moral choices. A particular highlight was the episode "In the Pale Moonlight," which found Captain Sisko (Avery Brooks) willing to do anything to ensure the Federation’s victory and survival — even at the cost of his own soul.
5. Battlestar Galactica
The original "Battlestar Galactica" series from the late ’70s was fondly remembered by fans but failed to finish its story or lead to a larger franchise. However, the 2004 "Battlestar Galactica" reboot not only managed to complete its tale, it also produced one of the sharpest sci-fi shows ever created.
"Star Trek: Deep Space Nine" veteran Ronald D. Moore teamed up with David Eick to re-envision "Battlestar" with a stronger military feel and used the framework of the series to explore political allegory — just as the original "Star Trek" had decades before. The "BSG" cast offered uniformly strong performances of deeply flawed characters and the effects were truly special.
The series captured critical acclaim and a devoted fan following before wrapping up last year. While reaction to the finale has divided the fan base, "Battlestar Galactica" has earned its place among the all-time greats.
4. Babylon 5
"’Babylon 5′ was our last, best hope for peace." It was also one of the first sci-fi TV series to feature a sustained narrative throughout the entire series. "Babylon 5" creator J. Michael Straczynski described it as a "novel for television," and the series lived up to that promise.
Deputing in 1993 at the height of "Trek" popularity, "Babylon 5" achieved an epic scope rarely ever attempted on television, with the fate of humanity and the galaxy itself decided upon by the end of its five-season story.
This series paved the way for the storytelling found in "Battlestar Galactica" and "Lost." The only real drawback to "Babylon 5" is that it took nearly the entire first season to really find its footing. Once Bruce Boxleitner joined the cast at the beginning of the second season, the show never looked back.
3. Star Trek
Without "Star Trek," there probably wouldn’t be sci-fi on television. There would be no "Battlestar Galactica," no "Babylon 5" or even "Star Wars" in movie theaters.
Gene Roddenberry’s so called "Wagon Train to the Stars" had a strong core of actors and a resonance far beyond his wildest dreams. Some of the best sci-fi writers of the era including Harlan Ellison and D. C. Fontana contributed unforgettable episodes that deftly portrayed several social issues of the era, including racial inequality and imperialism.
The core characters of Kirk, Spock and McCoy have become synonymous with sci-fi. There is no underestimating the impact of this show. It is the foundation of nearly every sci-fi series that has followed it.
"Farscape" is the true successor to the original "Star Trek" series. No other series since the original "Trek" has demonstrated half of the vision or imagination shown within "Farscape."
The series owes its unique look to The Jim Henson Company’s creature shop, which allowed the producers to create aliens… who actually looked like aliens! Instead of humanoids with slightly different bumps on their heads, the combination of prosthetics and puppetry offered a convincingly otherworldly effect.
I know this is going to be the controversial pick on this list. "How could "Farscape" be better than "Star Trek," "Babylon 5" or "BSG"?
The answer is simple: It’s more human.
"Farscape" is ultimately the story of an astronaut named John Crichton (Ben Browder), who was accidentally transported across the universe and quickly found himself on the run with several escaped prisoners. For nearly three years, Crichton was obsessed with question of how to return to Earth, before he was forced to wonder if he should return and potentially endanger his home world or stay with his lover, Aeryn Sun (Claudia Black).
Despite being prematurely cancelled after four seasons, "Farscape" got a chance to end its story in a four-hour miniseries, which successfully wrapped up the series and demonstrated just how much of an impact one man was able to make on the entire universe.
1. Doctor Who
A few years ago, this list would have come out differently. If the original 27 year run of "Doctor Who" was under consideration by itself, it still would have made the top ten. But not at number one.
It’s the current series that puts "Doctor Who" over the top.
Back in 2005, the BBC finally brought back everyone’s favorite Time Lord for new adventures that continued from the original series and has now featured three new Doctors, Christopher Eccleston, David Tennant and Matt Smith.
Combined, "Doctor Who" has run for nearly 31 seasons with well over 700 episodes. In terms of success, only "Star Trek" comes close. However, this is the only series on this list that is still continuing. By it’s nature, "Doctor Who" can tell nearly any kind of story from the destruction of Pompeii to the end of the universe.
The current season of "Doctor Who" has continued to hit creative highs under the pen of showrunner, Steven Moffat along with strong performances by Smith and new companion, Karen Gillan.
And the series will likely go on for a long time to come.