In honor of Sci-Fi November, I have decided to take a look at the current Sci-Fi shows on TV. Genre shows are some of my favorites and sci-fi is near the top of the list. Even if I don’t check out all new TV shows, I place sci-fi at the top of my try list.
It is easy for sci-fi to lose its way (The Event, Revolution, Heroes…the list goes on), but when they get it right, they can be truly fantastic (Battlestar Galactica, the first season of Heroes, Lost except the finale, Fringe). So which current sci-fi shows are topping my list? In no particular order…
The 100 (CW)–
I plan to write a post in the near future comparing the show to the book because the differences are very interesting, but this show constantly surprises me. The premise does not make a ton of sense–the only known survivors of a great cataclysm caused by nuclear war have been living in space for decades. Because resources are limited, rules are extremely strict (seriously, just about every infraction comes with a death sentence). But despite being careful, the ship is still failing. To determine if Earth is safe and survivable, the decision is made to send 100 under 18-year-olds to the surface to check it out. Why them? Because they are all incarcerated criminals (though not all crimes are created equal here and most are hardly crimes at all). None of the twists have ever been mind-blowingly shocking and I don’t think anything has been groundbreaking as far as visuals, acting, etc. But what this show does really well is build the stakes and build the characters. Every storyline has high stakes involved, relatable or at least complex interesting characters, and a quick pace that doesn’t let us languish in boredom. (The CW is really learning from the popular and fast-paced The Vampire Diaries on this front.) Is this the best sci-fi show out there? No. Will I be incredibly upset if it gets canceled? Definitely.
Doctor Who (BBC)–
How many love letters can I write to this Wibbly-Wobbly Timey-Whimey time- and space-traveling adventure? A quick search of Common Room tells you perhaps too many, but recently, my post To Be Perfect is to Change Often details why this season looked promising. Sure enough, this season has been fantastic, filled with head twisting surprises, strong character growth, and some devastating moments. Clara is a plot device no more. The Doctor is still gruff and grim, but he’s also multi-dimensional. (And maybe just has Aspergers?* Should he just hang out with Max Braverman and Hank Rizzoli? I’d love to see that.) The series also established something that had only been speculated about (SPOILERS!): time lord regenerations can cross genders. So BBC, next regeneration (and one way or another there will be another eventually) there’s no excuse not to let a female take the lead. (Worst case scenario, you cast someone, it does not work, you regenerate her off and try again, right?) So keep changing, keep surprising. I can’t believe the season is over. Upsetting!
*note that I make this comment in regards to specific social issues he has exhibited over the course of the season which are very similar to the types of issues Hank and Max have displayed on Parenthood, specifically an inability to understand social cues, express appropriate empathy, obsessive behavior such as in the monster under the bed episode, difficulty making friendships (who besides Clara has he truly befriended this season?), etc.
Falling Skies (TNT)–
This show is a lot like The 100. Sometimes it is so strong and so compelling. Other times the characters are a bit whiny (never as bad as Revolution‘s Charlie, but that would be tough to do). To get an in depth look at my thoughts on this series (which is sadly ending after a final season), check out Squid Babies! a.k.a. Why the Alien Baby? The strength of this series, much like many genre shows, is family, whether that be blood like the Mason family here or a self-constructed family as can be seen in some of the other shows on the list. Sometimes it feels like it isn’t so much that the world was attacked but that the aliens had a personal vendetta against the Masons and Earth was just collateral damage, but the family handles the weight of the world well. Mostly well. As well as can be considering the aliens harnessed Ben, turned Hank into a killer, genetically altered and brainwashed Lexi, kidnapped and tried to brainwash Matt, and just generally tortured and terrorized the family.
Orphan Black (BBC America)–
Can we all agree on one thing? Clone Club is the best club. It is a travesty that after two seasons Tatiana Maslany has not only not been given an Emmy, but hasn’t even been nominated for one. (Seriously Tatiana, take all the Emmys!) I can think of few clearer indications that the voting system is broken than this. If a young woman who can convincingly play at least 9 unique characters (not to mention having those characters pretend to be other characters) does not deserve an Emmy, then no one does. Down with the Emmys! Okay, mini-rant over. I don’t really watch award shows anyway, so there are worse things…like not watching this show! If you haven’t checked it out yet, do it. Do it now. Stop reading this article and go watch it. You think I’m joking, but I’m not. If you takeaway nothing else from this post, take away that Orphan Black deserves your time more than just about anything else on TV. If only to marvel at the way Maslany manages British, Russian, American, and German accents, to name a few.
Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD (ABC)–
There is no question that this show really faltered in the first half of its first season. It wasn’t the show’s fault. It was hindered by the fact that, as a deeply connected part of the greater Marvel Cinematic Universe, it had to fit in with the storytelling of that universe. So what viewers didn’t know was that those first batch of episodes were the equivalent of playing the waiting game. Specifically, we were waiting for Captain America 2 to come out and change everything. Post movie, I wrote about How SHIELD Finally Found its Mojo, but even I did not foresee just how strong this show would get once the show was no longer tethered to the big HYDRA secret. Gone is the slow burn time waster cases and mysterious mysteries that never seemed to progress. Now we get to go big picture and big stakes. We have traitors, death, brain damage, aliens, and so much more happening. There is nothing slow about it. The cast is showing some of its strongest performances yet and bigger is on the way.
The Flash (CW)–
This is a tricky one because its sort of sci-fi, sort of superhero. It was introduced in the world of Arrow, where heroes and villains fight with guns, drugs, and bows and arrows. There are no magical or sci-fi elements about it. (Well, there was that Mirakuru thing, but the rest seems to be grounded in reality.) But where Starling City just has a lot of corruption, Central City has a lot of people with mutant abilities, caused by a lab explosion. This show is so much lighter and happier than its Arrow counterpart, though it needs to stop trying to make Barry and Iris a thing. There’s zero chemistry there, time to move on. (Plus, Balicity all the way! ) The series only just started to explore its supporting cast more, but I am excited to see more of this. STRAY THEORY: Could Barry have somehow used his superspeed to travel back in time trying to save his mother but accidentally kills her instead? (Some might say, this causes a chicken before the egg issue, I say, talk to the Doctor.)
A quick note about the shows on this list. I left out The Walking Dead, Z Nation, Helix, The Strain,and The Last Ship – deadly viruses with nothing else tech or futuristic falls into a different category in my mind than the sci-fi of this list. I also left out Under the Dome and Person of Interest because I don’t watch these shows and so have little to say about them.
So hit the comments and let me know,
what sci-fi shows are you watching?
Don’t forget to check Part 2 of Sci-Fi TV Today now.