Here goes (in no particular order except that this is the order they came to me in my head):
- Battlestar Galactica (the new one)
I've been playing catchup on this show for a while now. I never watched it when it was on the Sci Fi channel and that's mostly because I've been disappointed in the direction of that station and have found many of their shows to be of poor quality both in visuals and writing. BSG is one of the big exceptions and it's probably a good thing that it's on Sci Fi instead of Fox, because it wouldn't have survived past its first season with anyone else (especially not Fox, who would have shoved it in the "sci fi death slot" all so they can tell us that sci fi doesn't sell...). This isn't to say that BSG isn't a good show, it's simply a reflection on how the major networks treat science fiction. It's entirely possible that if BSG had been on NBC or ABC, or even Fox, and was given an excellent time slot with adequate advertising and support, this show would have become the best science fiction show on a network in a long time. Moving on...
What makes BSG a great show isn't that it's packed full of action or that it's bringing back all the original BSG geeks who have clung to their old time love like a bacterial infection clings to a dirty child. No. What makes BSG a great show is that it's not afraid to tackle all the issues of humanity. It is the sci fi equivalent of today, only with spaceships and evil robots. This show has touched on abortion, discrimination, humanity, deviant sexual perverts, and much more. And it never ceases to amaze. I've been watching the show from start to finish the last few weeks (minus a few episodes I had seen some months back) and, like Firefly, I am hooked. It's gripping in every way and throughout the first three-and-a-half seasons, including the miniseries that preceded them, there has rarely been a dull moment. It is, in my opinion, one of the greatest sci fi shows to ever grace the small screen. Disagree if you want, but you're wrong and should probably have your right to vote taken away from you. BSG is everything a sci fi epic should be and more.
Campy? Sure. Completely ridiculous at times? Absolutely. Totally awesome? Yes, well, mostly. Sliders was an awesome network show that had a good thing going for it before the Sci Fi channel killed it. But, for Sliders purists, we can at least ignore the non-network seasons (4 and 5 I believe) and take the first three for what they were. What I particularly like about Sliders is that it gave us a great view into all those "what if" scenarios crazy people have been coming up with and writing about in sci fi books for so long (and no doubt what equally crazy historical people such as Nostradamus came up with too). You know, truly cool alternate history stuff. And not just alternate history in the sense of, say, Hitler winning the war or the Soviets beating us in the Cold War, but dinosaurs as extinct species, but still very much alive, or humanity put on the brink of destruction in a universe where rogue pulsars are within striking distance of the Earth. And we all remember that episode where some mean country released a virus that nearly sterilized males all across the globe and Quinn and his male pals turn out to be the next best thing to Elvis, right? There's a gold mine here and it's too bad the show was killed with crappy writing and the loss of much of the original cast. It was bad enough when the Professor died, but as soon as you got rid of Quinn and his lady friend, it was over. You can't do the damned show without them (and don't get me started about the relatively unresolved love fest between them...we all wanted to have Quinn/Wade babies).
And yes, I'm aware that they had Quinn get put into someone else's body or some crap, but were any of us even slightly fooled by that bit of nonsense? It was just a nice way of dropping Jerry O'Connell from the show so he could finally do real shows, since his one good show got murdered by a station that claimed to know sci fi. Thankfully, it wasn't nearly as bad as what Fox has done to the world of sci fi.
- Earth 2
This is one of those shows that makes me wonder what the hell they were thinking when they cancelled it. Not only is it visually stunning, but it's got decent writing and music. None of that crappy electronic nonsense that was so annoyingly prevalent within television for so long. Real instruments were put in this show.
And then add to the fact that frakking Tim Curry is in this and you should be wondering what the hell is wrong with people too. Earth 2 was truly an amazing piece of work. It had its flaws, sure--such as the annoying repetitive cry of "TRUE!" whenever that annoying, selfish girl went off on her own--but it never had a chance to soar. The show was killed without resolution after the first season, which is unfortunate. Most of us realize that any good show usually takes more than a season to really bloom. Even BSG had a lot of growing to do in its first season. But Earth 2 never got the chance to see itself grow into a fully developed sci fi wonder. It was killed and that was that. But what remains is a damn good show with some minor flaws and a lot of interesting stuff going on.
I know. This is a crappy rip off of Star Wars and Star Trek and Hercules and everything else. I don't care. As campy as this show was, I loved it. I can't even explain it. I know it's a crappy show by most people's standards, but when I started watching the first season I just couldn't stop myself. It's just a cool show. Plus, the Magog are crazy...and it's frakking Hercules. Who wouldn't want to see Hercules in space?
In any case, I hope to delve into this one more in the future. The second season sounds cool. Yes, I've only seen season one, but so what? It's got frakking Hercules, man! And he runs around beating people up with his force lance or whatever, and he has a super religious nutty furball companion, some weird chick with a tail who is a complete mystery, and a really buff guy from some soap opera who runs around mispronouncing "where" and "who" and "what" and anything else with a "wh". Oh, and it has cool emotional music that always plays whenever the Captain Dylan Hunt makes a speech or does something honorable. Cheesy, obviously, but come on, you know you love it!
- 3rd Rock From the Sun
John Lithgow. I rest my case.
There has to be at least one Whedon on this list. Firefly was, unfortunately, cancelled before its time and all we got out of it was a really good movie that tied up a bunch of the nagging loose ends, but made us all cry out in terror to know that the show could never come back. Book was dead and so was Wash. There's pretty much no going back after that. Whedon is quite the storyteller though, and Firefly had all the right characters and the right kind of action for a space western. Too bad it was killed by that infamous network that is all too well known for its murderous ways. Now I will always wonder what the show could have been, but wasn't...
- American Dad
You're probably wondering why this is in here. It's a comedy show and probably never gets labeled as an animated sci fi sitcom. But it has an alien, a goldfish with a German skier's mind implanted into it, the CIA as we dreamed it would be (nifty gadgets, mind-swapping technology, etc.), and Patrick Stewart (further proving that Captain Jean Luc Picard is, in fact, the superior officer). Do you really need anything else in a cartoon sitcom?
I remember loving this show when I was a kid and having come back to it recently on the Sci Fi Channel has brought back some exciting memories--mostly of this show scaring the crap out of me from time to time. This show wasn't perfect, and it's certainly gone a little south with the movie adaptations, but it did give those of us who believe in aliens or conspiracies something to watch that satisfied our true-gobbling thirst.
Plus, there were mutant weirdos, mythological creatures, and crazy time travel stuff. I think one of the better parts of this show was how it managed to be so sci fi without actually going into the future.
- The Outer Limits
I grew up on this show and loved it. I'm particularly fond of that episode that adapted one of George R. R. Martin's short stories ("Sandkings" to be specific). Every episode was its own beast. It was sort of like The Twilight Zone meets Tales From the Crypt, only with less horror. Think of it as the updated version of The Twilight Zone, only sort of different. Either way, a classic show from my youth!
- Alien Nation or Stargate SG-1
Either one deserves to be in a top ten, but it's hard for me to choose which belongs in the honorable mention area. Alien Nation was a fantastic show that I felt really pushed at the boundaries of our understanding of human response to the unknown. SG-1 was an amazing re-imagining, or perhaps re-hash of a semi-entertaining science fiction film that ran with a rather muddled concept and succeeded. Both are excellent shows. What do you think?
- The Twilight Zone
I haven't seen enough of this show to make a judgment. The movie is one of my favorite flicks, though, but unfortunately I can't base the greatness of an entire show on a movie adaptation.
Loved most of the first season, but haven't seen all of it so I couldn't put it higher on the list. Good show, though.
- Quantum Leap
Because my grandmother loves this show.