Best Science Fiction Shows on TV
Time travel is all the rage on TV these days, nearly taking over from post-apocalypse scenarios. From a silly sitcom (Making History) to two unnecessary remakes of two of my favorite movies (Frequency and Time After Time) to a slightly entertaining light adventure series (Timeless), the space/time continuum has never been in more danger.
And, of course, Dr. Who and DC’s Legends of Tomorrow just skip all over time willy nilly. And Outlander is a bosom-busting romantic fantasy take on the old Edgar Rice Burroughs device where John Carter of Mars can travel between worlds by some unexplained ancient mystery, it’s just she goes back 200 years, not to another planet.
But there actually is a terrific time-travel show (that also has a post-apocalypse angle) based on a classic movie, along with some other very good science fiction offerings currently going on TV right now.
What is not included in this list: fantasies, however good, like Dr. Who, Outlander, or Game of Thrones. Superheroes and anything magical or supernatural will also have to wait for another list.
8. The Walking Dead (AMC) and The Strain (FX)
Okay, fine, The Walking Dead and The Strain are merely contemporary takes on the old zombie movie, but they do attempt a scientific explanation for the Zombie Apocalypse—a virus. That’s not original, of course, but both attempt to keep their shows within the real world and include reactions by real world humans.
The Walking Dead is at its best when it keeps the focus on the choices humans must make to remain humane and still survive, while The Strain, with its setting of New York City and a hero who is a top doc at the CDC, paints on a much broader canvas of the political, military and law enforcement response to the plague.
Nor does The Strain openly defy the laws of physics and anatomy like The Walking Dead does with its mushy skulls.
I guess the best comparison between the two shows would be the first two Alien movies. Alien was Dawn Patrol terror as protagonists are picked off one by one, while Aliens was about war against the Aliens (with a few stupidly ambitious humans trying to harness rather than kill them).
Lately, fans have rightly complained that the new villain, Negan, played by the estimable Jeffrey Dean Morgan, has the show wallowing in sadism. I agree, but just about the time I decide to give up, there is a brilliant episode that reminds me why I’ve stuck with the show for all these years.