Over the last couple years, science-fiction has taken off as one of the most in-demand genres in all of film and television. Both studios and networks have doubled down on sci-fi, bringing it to life in its many potential forms. It’s led to a resurgence for the likes of Star Trek and Star Wars, while bringing us a host of brand new stories along the way. Television especially, has seen the genre rise to new heights.
You’d be hard-pressed to find a major network that hasn’t at least tested the waters in the realm of sci-fi. It makes sense too; the genre has been a breeding ground for some of the most iconic franchises, both new and old. Of all the various shows on TV today though, there are a handful that stand above the rest as truly great. So without further ado, here’s what anyone who considers themselves a science-fiction aficionado should be watching right now.
1. The Expanse, SyFy
Of all the sub-categories contained under the larger umbrella of the genre, “hard sci-fi” is by far the most difficult to sell to a large demographic. It often delves into the more technical aspects of its meticulously constructed universe, doing everything it can to adhere to actual science in the midst of its more fantastical elements.
The Expanse is the most successful example of this in a modern context, having debuted on SyFy as a hard sci-fi epic. The story takes place in a distant future where humankind has conquered its solar system, dividing our species into three sects: space-dwelling Belters, warlike Martians, and affluent Earthlings.
2. Orphan Black, BBC America
If you’re looking for a decidedly more Earth-bound story, BBC America’s Orphan Black is a solid direction to go in. The series digs deep into a top secret human cloning project, the group of unsuspecting clones who were born of that project, and the shady corporation chasing them down. And even if it wasn’t an incredibly executed story, Orphan Black would be worth your time solely thanks to the performance of Tatiana Maslany, who’s tasked with playing a variety of different clones, each with their own distinct accent, look, and personality.
3. The 100, The CW
The 100 isn’t just in the pantheon of great sci-fi. It also numbers itself as one of the best shows on television, period. The CW’s breakout hit follows a group of young criminals who’ve spent their lives in a space station orbiting an abandoned, irradiated Earth. The group is sent down by their captors to determine whether or not our planet is inhabitable again. The series has since evolved past that concept though, transforming into a challenging and insightful narrative on war, survival, and the true nature of humanity itself.
4. Killjoys, SyFy
Anyone miss Firefly? Yeah, us too. Thankfully, there’s a series out there that fills at least a small part of that Serenity-sized hole in our collective hearts. Killjoys paints a picture of a four planet solar system where bounty hunters traverse the stars as members of an independent organization called the Reclamation Apprehension Coalition. The show focuses in on a small team of hunters who operate with no allegiances to any government or planet, as they each run from a dark past that chases them all. Geek goes as far as to describe it as “Firefly meets Dark Angel,” and having watched the first season ourselves, we have a hard time disagreeing.
5. Doctor Who, BBC
We’d be remiss if we didn’t include the longest running sci-fi show in the history of the genre. Doctor Who has achieved iconic status in its 50 plus years on the air, running through a collection of talented actors in the lead role of the Doctor. It’s certainly come a long way from its cheesier early days, operating on a much more substantial budget, and bringing in a host of talented British actors as guests each season. And while recent seasons have often missed the mark, there’s no denying Doctor Who‘s place in the world of truly great science-fiction.
6. Black Mirror, Netflix
Starting out as a popular British Channel 4 series, Black Mirror has since evolved into a cultural mainstay. The series operates in a series of lengthy vignettes, each tapping into a different dystopic future involving our society’s dependence on technology and social media. Each story carries a distinct Twilight Zone vibe, set in our own modern society, and often features a horrifying twist in the closing minutes. The next season will air exclusively on Netflix, giving showrunner Charlie Brooker even more creative freedom in an already stellar series.
7. Dark Matter, SyFy
It’s no coincidence that the SyFy network checks in on our list three separate times. Over the last couple years, they’ve slowly but surely been gathering together a cadre of well-made, carefully constructed science-fiction shows, shedding their Sharknado reputation in favor of a decidedly more mature lineup.
That brings us to Dark Matter, a series brought to us from the creative team of Stargate. The basic concept is simple enough: Six people wake up on a spaceship without their memories, and must work together to figure out what happened to them, and who they really are. And while things start a bit slow, the show rewards you for your patience with a stellar run of episodes spanning two full seasons.
8. Stranger Things, Netflix
Stranger Things took us all by surprise in 2016, arriving on the scene as a full-blown sci-fi phenomenon. The Duffer Brothers’ groundbreaking series captured all the nostalgia of a classic Spielberg movie, while still providing us with a fresh take on the genre. Buoyed by incredible performances by its young cast, it’s safe to say Stranger Things was easily one of the year’s best TV shows, period, and we can’t wait to see what it brings to the table for its second season.
9. Rick and Morty, Adult Swim
While the rest of the shows on this list follow at least a loose narrative structure episode-to-episode, Rick and Morty is all about bucking that trend entirely. Most of the series is composed of self-contained adventures, with our titular duo exploring alternate dimensions and galaxies as part of a subversively hilarious narrative. Showrunners Justin Roiland and Dan Harmon have a long history of not adhering to typical storytelling standards, and Rick and Morty provides them with a veritable playground of creative space.
10. Westworld, HBO
None of us quite knew what to expect in the run-up to HBO’s Westworld, a series adapted straight from Michael Crichton’s 1973 film by the same name. What we got was a stunningly realized story from Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy, spawning a level of discussion and intrigue we haven’t seen since Lost was in its prime on ABC. New episodes unfortunately won’t be arriving until 2018, but that just gives you plenty of time to get caught up on all 10 episodes of the spectacular first season.
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