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10 of the Best Science Fiction TV Shows of the 1990s and 2000s
A subjective view
This is a subjective list of 10 of the best science fiction tv shows of modern times - I've selected 1990s and 2000s so I don't need to weigh up between the classic shows and the modern stuff. There's a few very good remakes recently, and this allows them to stand on their own merits. As I've said, this list is very subjective, as any list of this type is likely to be. I've only included sci-fi TV shows that I've watched and loved, though at the end of the article I'll mention some of the shows which I haven't watched or liked, but are very popular.
It should also be noted that these are not in any particular order - this would be an impossible task, not be particularly helpful to the reader, and would change on a regular basis.
The Top 10
- Star Trek: The Next Generation. For many fans, this is the definitive Star Trek series. It ran from 1987 to 1994, and had 178 episodes in all - plus 4 films subsequently. The series has everything - action, humour, moral dilemmas, and introduced many science fiction concepts to TV. The early seasons are a bit cheesy, the latter ones a bit more serious. Star Trek TNG, as it is abbreviated to, was also the first science fiction show I remember watching, in the early 1990s at 6pm on a Wednesday night. It paved the way for my love of science fiction.
- Babylon 5 - This was epic space fare, a novel written for television, with a 5 year plot arc. A lot of the episodes, particularly in seasons 1, 2 and 5 could be watched on their own, but to get the most out of it you have to watch it from the beginning. This was the defining sci-fi tv show for me, and is still my favourite.
- Red Dwarf - The classic British sci-fi sitcom, about a huge starship the size of a city drifting in deep space after the human race has apparently died out. The only people on board are Dave Lister, a well meaning slob, a hologram of nerdy, uptight and repressed Arnold Rimmer, and Cat, a selfish and vain main who evolved from Lister's cat (long story). They are joined later by Kryten, a smart and fussy android with a head shaped like a toilet brush. Truly, this is laugh a minute stuff wrapped up in a sci-fi package.
- Smallville - The story of Clark Kent as a teenager growing up in Smallville, before he became Superman. This lasted for a whopping 10 seasons, and developed a great arc, ending up with him donning the famous blue and red cape in the very final episode. This is smart, funny and compelling, better than any previous incarnation of Superman (it even guest stars a number of actors & actresses from previous incarnations, including 2 former Superman actors - Dean Cain and Christopher Reeve).
- Stargate SG-1 - This is the original spin-off from the film Stargate. It follows on from the film, a year after the US government discovers a stargate connecting Earth to potentially thousands of planets throughout the galaxy, built by an ancient race of aliens.The show stars the irascible Richard Dean Anderson, and while primarily a sci-fi drama is also very witty indeed. The series was incredibly successful, lasting for 10 seasons and was followed by two spin off series (not bad being a spin-off itself).
- The X-Files - I remember first getting into the X-Files part way through series two as it aired on tv. The show featured FBI agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully, who investigated strange phenomena from their basement office in the FBI headquarters. The show quickly became mainstream and turned its stars David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson into Hollywood stars. It had a plot arc throughout its 9 seasons which centred around aliens visiting Earth and being in cahoots with the US government, but the majority of episodes are standalone stories about various strange paranormal phenomena, and these are what it is all about. If you are sighing thinking paranormal investigative tv shows are so last year, just bear in mind this is the series that started it all off (or made it popular anyway), and in my opinion hasn't been beaten since.
- Doctor Who - this isn't just a TV show from the 1990s and 2000s, it has been going for last 6 decades, and is as strong as ever. It helps that built into the mythos of the show is the fact that the eponymous 'Doctor' can regenerate into new bodies, hence whenever one actor has had enough, another takes his place. The series took a hiatus in the 90s but came back in 2005 and has been a popular fixture in the TV schedules ever since. It has a deep, deep backstory to it, but many people, particularly the younger fans, enjoy it for the action, for the scary baddies and the witty interaction of the characters. The basic concept, for anyone who doesn't know, is that the Doctor is a Time Lord who travels round with a companion or two in his Tardis, which can go to any time and place, the future or any point in history. Plenty of scope then!
- Star Trek Deep Space Nine - Star Trek TNG + Babylon 5 = Star Trek DS 9. Or that is what it seems like. Lasting for the standard seven seasons following the Star Trek TNG model, this was Star Trek with an ongoing story arc (or several). The first three seasons feature mostly standalone episodes, but seasons 4-7 have a deep interwoven plot. Not as grand and epic in scope as Babylon 5 perhaps, but still quite big. Star Trek DS9 is about a Federation Space Station featuring a mix of many alien races, and eventually becomes the front line of an intergalactic war.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer - The teen drama about a hot, ass-kicking teenage girl as a vampire slayer in modern day Sunnydale, USA quickly became a huge hit. It grew up with the characters from a teen drama into something darker and more serious. But all the time it was very witty and funny.
- Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman - This was brilliant Saturday night fayre when I was a teenager. It modernised the Superman franchise and made it cool. The series concentrated on the relationship between Lois & Clark as much as it was about Superman. It became very mainstream, averaging 15 million viewers in its 3rd series (there were four in total).
And the others...
There are a number of series which readers may want to consider, or are screaming out asking why I haven't included. This is probably because I didn't get in to them, or didn't really hook me as those in my top 10 did. These include:
Farscape - muppets in space
Sliders - Exploring alternate dimensions
Star Trek Voyager - Lost in Space but Star Trek. Good, but not as good as DS9 or TNG.
Lost - a plane crash lands on a desert island - weirdness ensues.
Battlestar Galactica - classy remake of the 1970s original
Heroes - A bunch of people discover they have unique special powers...
Agree? Disagree? Let me know!
You can comment on this article below. Let me know what you think, whether you agree or disagree, or have any suggestions of your own.