Best Sci-Fi Shows of the Last 20 Years

Cartoons, Television

Ok, before we get too far in, let’s address what I’m using as my definition of “Sci-Fi”. Sci-Fi, for the purposes of this list, is anything dealing with technology, races, our locations outside out own with the understanding that some of the science involved is going to be…..soft at best. Ok, that should save me from some angry comments about some of my choices. Alright, let’s get started.

Sliders

Sliders

Ah, a young Jerry O’Connell. Still can’t believe he married Rebecca Romijn. Either way, Sliders did a good job of mixing a loose definition of science with adventure and comedy to create an engaging show with interesting characters that didn’t always get along and certainly didn’t have much in common, but that worked well together on their quest to get home.

Futurama

Futurama

Talking, drinking, smoking robots, coupled with aliens, space travel, and crazy inventions has created a hugely popular animated series from the brain behind The Simpsons.

3rd Rock from the Sun

3rd Rock from the Sun

Not your traditional sci-fi series, but thanks to the main characters being aliens, we get to include it on this list. Besides, it was hilarious and gave us a chance to see a young, long-haired Joseph Gordon-Levitt next to John Lithgow and Jane Curtain.

Mystery Science Theater 3000

MST3K

Better known as MST3K, the show featured terrible movies being mocked by a space janitor and his robot sidekicks. While it’s gone now, it was ground breaking in its time and has inspired more than a few of us to loudly mock bad movies at the theater.

Lost

Lost

Another that doesn’t fit the mold of what you think of with sci-fi, but between time travel, mysterious islands, and smoke monsters I think it’s fair to say that it fits the loosest definition of sci-fi. Also…Evangeline Lily.

Dr. Who

Dr. Who

A time traveling hero? How is that anything but sci-fi? I know that this show has been going on for more than 20 years, but it’s also been on during the last 20 years…so we’re going to call it a fair trade. Also, the image above does not in fact represent me picking a favorite Doctor or Assistant…it’s just the image I chose.

Star Trek: Voyager

Star Trek Voyager

I would have been remiss to not include a Star Trek show on here. Voyager was unique in that it featured a female captain and it changed the dynamic of the show by having them explore through the quest to return home. Not having the might of the Federation behind them made the crew of Voyager be more inventive. Oh, and they gave us Jeri Ryan in a catsuit, so there’s also that.

Star Wars: Clone Wars

Star Wars Clone Wars

While Episodes I, II, and III have sullied the good name of Star Wars, the animated series Clone Wars is helping to knock some dirt off. Introducing more characters from the Star Wars Universe and telling stories that were never filmed with live actors has created a series that is ostensibly for children, but certainly appeals to the inner Star Wars geek in all of us.



Heroes

Heroes

Before the end where it got bad, this was a great series featuring ordinary people given extraordinary abilities. Giving us a great villain in Sylar and other characters that could only loosely be called heroes because they weren’t the express villain, it pushed the boundaries of sci-fi while offering up compelling story and character development…at least for the first two seasons.

Dollhouse

Dollhouse

Joss Whedon…he does so many great things for us. Set in the very near future, Dollhouse featured people that gave up their personalities and were turned into “dolls” – persons that could have any skill, personality, or trait imprinted and wiped away. While flirting around the idea of the “self” and the “soul”, it also gave us great characters, none of which were innocent, before meeting the same end that most Whedon shows on FOX get…cancellation.

Firefly

Firefly

Might as well knock both Whedon shows out at the same time. While Dollhouse at least got to have some kind of series finale, Firefly made it only one season before being cancelled by FOX. With a cast that included Summer Glau, Adam Baldwin, and Nathan Fillion, there’s no reason that this space western shouldn’t have been on forever, but sadly it just didn’t make the cut. Loyal fans (known as Browncoats) were happy when the film Serenity was released, but it was still small consolation for a great show being cancelled so soon.

Stargate: SG-1

Stargate SG-1

Based on the successful film, we saw the return of Richard Dean Anderson (MacGyver) to television in one of the longest running sci-fi shows of all time (a record it recently lost to Smallville), thanks to good writing, great actors, and stories that involved aliens, travel between worlds, and plenty of action.

Fringe

Fringe

Taking elements from shows before it such as The X-Files, Fringe takes place in our world…and an alternate version of it. Based in some loose sciences, the series has an over-arcing plot that has yet to be fully revealed but has certainly captivated an audience.

The X-Files

The X-Files

Mulder and Scully. The show that made us think that the truth really was out there. While solving unexplained instances of aliens, monsters, and other things outside the normal realm, the characters typically found reasonable explanations for these occurrences….though not always. The interesting dynamic of Mulder and Scully came after the film when the believer (Mulder) because the skeptic, and the skeptic (Scully) became the believer. David Duchovny leaving the show had a definite impact on it, but it still stands as one of the best sci-fi shows ever.

Battlestar Galactica

Battlestar Galactica

Any show that features Tricia Helfer and Grace Park really can’t be bad, but this show also had compelling characters, great stories, and amazing effects thanks to a sizable budget. Taking from the 1970’s series of the same name, the writers didn’t let themselves be beholden to the past and changed characters to fit their world as opposed to what had been, leading to a new and compelling series with a huge fanbase and recognition as arguably the best sci-fi series of the last 20 years.

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