The imaginative blank slate of potential that is the science fiction genre and the expansive, open-ended episodic medium of television go together like peanut butter and chocolate. Where movies, regardless of their budgets, are forced to limit their action to a few hours at most, television gives sci-fi writers a unique opportunity to realize their visions more immediately than literature and with more depth than cinema’s brief runtime can fit.
As a result, sci-fi has been a small screen staple for decades, and everything from Gene Roddenberry’s iconic, utopian franchise Star Trek to Netflix’s bleak, byzantine crime thriller Altered Carbon have worked out their own ways of using the medium to create all time classics of the genre. With that in mind, here is a mega-list of no less than the fifteen finest sci fi tv titles from the last two decades, the cream of the genre’s televisual crop in the twenty years since the new millennium.
Here’s hoping your favourite made the cut, but don’t worry if it wasn’t quite able to—this was one of the most hotly contested lists in a long time thanks to the genre’s embarrassment of riches in recent years.
from Buffy the Vampire Slayer creator and future Marvel hero Joss Whedon, the
short-lived Firefly is mostly known for ruthlessly killing off its cast and
earning a fandom as intense as Rick and Morty’s and as persistent as DC defenders.
But before it was best known as a movement to bring back Firefly, the show itself was an inventive and often dark, funny space opera which more than earns a spot on any self-respecting sci-fi fan’s best of list.
With a loveable cast and a clever, mature approach to its familiar genre, this space exploration series skewed away from Star Trek’s utopia and took tv’s depictions of interstellar travel into edgier, more morally ambiguous territory for good.