In a world of Stranger Things, Doctor Who, and Firefly I find that some of the really great science fiction tv shows slip through the cracks.
This list of shows includes science fiction tropes ranging from time travel and parallel universes to aliens and dinosaurs. So no matter which niche of sci-fi tickles your fancy, you’re guaranteed to find a new show to watch this summer. (Unless you’re like me and you have no life outside of watching sci-fi shows).
I have only included series that have been completed or canceled. This means you will be able to binge watch any one of these TV shows in its entirety once you finish reading this article.
Primeval follows a team of scientists led by Professor Nick Cutter (Douglas Henshall), who are tasked with investigating rips in time and space and the appearance of pre-historic creatures across the UK… All while trying to stop the end of the world! After the first series, Cutter returns from an ill-fated trip to the past only to discover that the timeline had changed — their rag-tag team of scientists is now part of the military, friends have been erased from history, and the threat to Earth is even greater than before.
Primeval attempted to answer the question, “what if dinosaurs could time travel?”, and created a wonderful narrative about pre-historic creatures and humankind’s destructive deposition.
The cast is wonderfully balanced and effortlessly draws you into each character. Hilariously, the show also attempts to explain historical myths — for example, dragons and other mythological beasts are actually dinosaurs that travel through Temporal Anomalies into the present. This is all done with great seriousness while poking fun of its own ridiculous plots with meta-pop culture references.
12/10 would recommend.
Air dates: 2007 – 2011
Available on: Hulu, Amazon Prime
Almost Human is literally RoboCop and Blade Runner on steroids.
To combat the rise of crime in 2048, the police force requires every human police officer to pair with a lifelike combat-model android. John Kennex (Karl Urban), a troubled detective, hates working with androids since an android officer abandoned him during a raid which left his partner dead and John with a cybernetic prosthetic leg. (How very I, Robot of him.) In the first episode we see Detective Kennex partnered with an older DRN android unit — more “emotional” than their logic-based MX counterparts.
The main story arc follows the growth and development of Kennex and his DRN andriod’s relationship while they solve crimes. Almost Human takes the buddy-cop show to the next level with its dry wit and sarcastic humor while the setting and technology effortlessly transports you to the future.
It’s too bad FOX cancelled this show before it could really take off.
Air dates: 2013 – 2014
Available on: —
The story of Stargate SG-1 begins about a year after the events of the original feature film (Stargate, 1994), when the United States government learns that an ancient alien device called the Stargate can create a self-contained wormhole that can be used to visit different planets throughout the Milky-Way galaxy. SG-1’s mission is to explore the galaxy and search for alien technology and allies to defend Earth against the numerous extraterrestrial threats.
The show humorously plays off the premise that the Great Pyramids — and several earth mythologies (Greek, Norse, Arthurian legend) — are actually alien in origin. All the characters are lovable and the individual episode plots remind you of every crazy Star Trek episode you’ve ever watched. Stargate SG-1, however, does look at more subtle themes like human nature, slavery, ancient religion, and teamwork.
EDIT: This show almost didn’t make it to my list because it starting airing in the ’90s but I kept it on because a majority of its seasons were in the 2000s and the show didn’t gain popularity in the United States until the third season.
Air dates: 1997 – 2007
Episodes: 210 (+ 3 DVD films)
Available on: Hulu, Amazon Prime (film only)
Stargate: Atlantis is a spin-off of SG-1.
With a new cast of characters and an even greater threat to humanity (literally space-vampires), the SGA team travels to the Pegasus galaxy in search of more advanced technology and to learn more about the ancient alien race who built the Stargate. Their new home? Why the Lost City of Atlantis, of course!
Just as entertaining and ridiculous as SG-1, Stargate: Atlantis offers complex characterizations and analysis of human nature. The cast hosted several science-fiction veterans like Jewel Staite (Firefly), as well as some new faces like pre-Game of Thrones star Jason Momoa who plays a warrior alien with dreadlocks.
While Stargate: Atlantis could be watched as a stand-alone show, there are several crossover episodes and quite a few lead characters from Stargate SG-1 make appearances throughout the five seasons. Both shows also never make any attempt to hide their genre roots. Both tackle every possible sci-fi trope: parallel universes, time travel, body-swapping, courtroom dramas, memory wiping, resurrection from death, and Groundhog Day-based plotlines.
Air dates: 2004 – 2009
Available on: Hulu
Misfits follows five juvenile delinquents on community service who are caught outside during a supernatural thunder storm. Each gains a superpower which mirrors their personality: telepathy, the able to rewind time, clairvoyance, invisibility, etc… Throughout the first series, the delinquents work together to cover up the murder of their their probation officer while meeting other people who also gained special abilities from the thunderstorm.
Misfits is sharp, funny and, in places, quite disturbing. The writing and the performances ensure that anyone watching can realize the ridiculous nature of the show’s premise while also remaining entirely within the realm of the believable. Most importantly, Misfits successfully portrays the real people who hide behind basic millennial stereotypes.
If you’re a fan of dark humor, Misfits is definitely for you.
Air dates: 2009 – 2013
Available on: Hulu
Tin Man is a tv mini-series (featuring 3 episodes, each an hour and a half long) co-produced by RHI Entertainment and Sci Fi Channel Original Pictures.
Tin Man is the story of DG (Zooey Deschanel), a small-town waitress who feels that she does not fit into her Kansas farm life. She dreams of a mysterious lavender-eyed woman who warns her that a storm is coming. DG’s dreams become reality when the sorceress Azkadellia, the tyrannical ruler of the O.Z. (Outer Zone), sends her soldiers through a “travel storm” to kill DG.
What follows is an adventure to find the Mystic Man of Central City and defeat Azkadellia to free the O.Z. from her evil rule. A wonderful sci-fi twist of the children’s story The Wizard of OZ, Tin Man introduces you to nostalgic, yet refreshed versions of beloved characters; like Glitch, a scientist missing half of his brain; Wyatt Cain, a former “Tin Man” law enforcer who was locked in an iron suit for years as punishment; and Raw, a clairvoyant whose people have been enslaved.
With an amazing cast and interesting plotline, this mini-series is a must-see for any science fiction lover.
Air dates: 2007
Seasons: tv mini-series
Available on: Netflix