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Find out more about the history of the science fiction genre. Check out our top 10 sci-fi TV shows and vote for the best one. Share your own top 10 ranking and the most memorable episodes. Which of these series do you think should be back or expanded?
Best sci-fi TV series
Science fiction, usually shortened to sci-fi, is becoming increasingly popular in pop culture. This genre of speculative fiction captures and combines a variety of styles and topics including futuristic technology, space exploration, alternative realities, time travel, extraterrestrial life, and supernatural abilities. Alongside horror and fantasy, sci-fi has been considered traditionally a genre for geeks and nerds. However, the great success of books such as The War of Worlds, Dune, and Foundation; movies such as 2001: a Space Odyssey, Blade Runner and Star Wars, and video games such as Doom, Halo, and Mass Effect, have turned this genre into a mainstream phenomenon.
The origins of sci-fi are contested, but many attribute to the classic science/rfantasy books written in the 17th and 18th century, such as Johannes Kepler's Somnium, Francis Bacon´s New Atlantis, Cyrano de Bergerac's Comical History of the States and Empires of the Moon, the inspiration for the first sci-fi authors. In the 19th century authors such as Mary Shelley, Jules Verne and H.G. Wells created very notorious stories based on fictional new technologies. The fascination of the technological revolution the world was undergoing made many people dream of the potential uses and powers of inventions to come. In the early 20th century, thanks to the pulp magazines, the genre grew considerably in the United States. Authors such as Hugo Gernsback, Edgar Rice Burrows, John Carter and Philip Francis Nowlan contributed to the dynamism and popularization of this literature. Later, excellent sci-fi authors such as, Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, Arthur C. Clarke, Ray Bradbury, Philip K. Dick and Frank Herbert transformed the genre and achieved prestige among the public and critics. Many sub-genres such as cyberpunk, space opera, post-apocaliptic fiction, and alternate history appeared. Sci-fi expanded gradually to other cultural products, such as comic-books, cinema and, finally, TV.
Although science fiction first appeared on TV in the late 1930s, it became much more popular in the late 1950s thanks to the evolution of special effects and the advent of series such as Tales of Tomorrow and The Twilight Zone. In the 1960s sci-fi TV shows such as the Doctor Who and Star Trek helped to consolidate it. Ever since many other series have emerged and disappeared. Here we want to discuss the best sci-fi TV series ever created. We have shortlisted 10 of the most popular ones and would like you to vote and tell us which of them do you prefer and what are their major contributions to the genre.
Watch these interesting videos on the history of science fiction on why our world needs science fiction:
Top 10 sci-fi TV shows
To make decide which is the best sci-fi TV series, we have created a top 10 with the most popular series.
- The Twilight Zone: The Twilight Zone original series was broadcast from 1959 to 1964. This American series shot in black and white created by Rod Serling included episodes of a variety of genres, including suspense, horror, thriller and science fiction. The success of the series inspired a film, a comic-book, a magazine and two follow up series. The first revival TV series run from 1985 to 1989 and the second revival from 2002 to 2003. It has been reported than a third revival is in the making and could be with us soon.
- Doctor Who: The iconic British Doctor Who series has been produced by BBC since 1963. The show narrates the adventures of an extraterrestrial Time Lord, called "The Doctor" who uses a space ship, disguised in a British police box, called Tardis to travel through time, space and different dimensions of reality. On netivist we have already debated who is the best doctor who actor.
- Star Trek: Star Trek is without any doubt one of the most influential sci-fi universes ever created. The original television series, created by Gene Roddenberry, ran from 1966 to 1969. Star Trek depicts the adventures of the crew of the USS Enterprise through the galaxy. The shows offered an innovative political and social dimension to the genre. Exploration, diplomacy and action were combined. The original show was so successful that 13 movies, 3 sequel TV series (The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine and Voyager), two prequel series (Enterprise and Discovery), an animated series and have followed it. On netivist we have a debate: Star Wars vs Star Trek.
- Babylon 5: This space opera drama was broadcast from 1994 to 1998. Babylon 5 is set between the years 2257 and 2262, when Earth is unified under a single government. The series adopts the name of the space station the Earth Alliance uses for diplomatic and trade purposes with other civilizations. As in Star Trek, Bablylon 5 deals extrapolate real political and social conflicts to its fictional universe. Topics such as authoritarianism, pacifism, religion, xenophobia, and drug addiction are recurrent in the show.
- Stargate: this military science fiction series is based on the film Stargate (1994) by Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin. The premise of the show is that a "Stargate" portal, found in Egypt in the early 20th century, allows teleportation through the cosmos. The US military take control of it and use it to interact and prevent threats from alien races. Three real action series, Stargate SG1 (1997-2007), Stargate Atlantis (2004-2009) and Stargate Universe (2009-2011), and an animated series, Stargate Infinity have been released so far.
- Firefly: Firefly narrates the adventures of the crew members of the Firefly-class spaceship Serenity, travelling across the 'verse, smuggling, robbing banks, transporting goods and escaping from the Alliance central government. Although this space western TV show created by Joss Whedon, was cancelled soon after its release in 2002, its 14 episodes had a great impact and generated a very loyal base of fans, the "brown coats". A film and a comic-book series called Serenity helped in closing some of the plots initiated in the series.
- Battlestar Galactica: Battlestar Galactica depicts the story a human civilzation which has expanded to a series of planets, known as the Twelve Colonies but which sees its existence threatened by the Cylons, a race of cyborgs which want to exterminate humankind. The original series run between 1978 and 1979, followed by a short series in 1980. However, it was the series re-make, first with a mini-series in 2003 and then with a regular series from 2004 to 2009, which really turned this franchise in one of the most popular and critically acclaimed in the history of sci-fi TV. Battlestar Galactica provides an interesting angle to the political and civil-military conflics in the context of human extinction with some doses of action and mystery. Some webisodes, a television film, Razor (2007), and prequel series, Caprica (2010) were also released in the same universe.
- Black Mirror: Black Mirror is a British sci-fi TV series with standalone episodes dealing with dark aspects of today's society and how technology may exacerbate some of them. The series follows the inspiration of the American show The Twilight Zone and provide similar twist to the stories and shocking endings. Most episodes are set in an alternative present or in a near future. The series originally run from 2011 to 2014, since 2016, Netflix is releasing new episodes.
- The Expanse: this American sci-fi TV series created by Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby is based on James S. A. Corey's series of novels, The Expanse. This show released in 2015 is often compared with Battlestar Galactica because it also focuses on political infighting and on a new menace to human survival. Humans have colonized the Solar System, and there is a cold war between Earth and Mars. The advent of an alien technology and a mysterious political conspiracy threaten to destabilize the delicate balance in the galaxy.
- Westworld: this show, inspired on the 1973 film Westworld, combines science fiction with thriller and western elements. The extraordinary cast and the high budget of this HBO production have contributed to turn in into an instant success among the public and the critics. The series revolves around a futuristic Wild West-themed amusement park in which rich tourists can experience extreme adventures, thanks to the robotic "hosts", androids of human appearance. The topic of artificial intelligence and human consciousness gives a deeper philosophical twist to this sci-fi drama.
What do you think of our top 10 sci-fi TV shows? Is there any other memorable series that should have been shortlisted here? Star Trek vs Babylon 5 vs Battlestar Galactica vs The Expanse vs The Twilight Zone vs Black Mirror vs Firefly vs Westworld vs Doctor Who vs Stargate.
If you change your mind, you can change your vote simply by clicking on another option.
Top 10 science fiction shows - Best sci-fi TV series poll and debate
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