I grew up watching a lot of SciFi on TV and I don’t think I’ve ever talked about my top favorite series cuz I got favorites y’all , and this time I’m actually going to rank them fromleast to most in the order I’m supposed to instead of just tossing them up in any kind of order like I normally do.
This isn’t a list of best and worst SciFi because I don’t normally think of the media I consume in terms of best and worst. What most matters to me is how I felt when I watched it, how long it sticks in my memory, and if the show had any personal relevance for me, not whether or not other people (who I decided are not me) liked it. Don’t get me wrong, I love it when people like the things I like, but that doesn’t often factor into whether or not I like it.
10. The Bionic Woman (1976)/Wonder Woman (1975)
And right off the bat, you can see where some of my little baby feminism is leading. I had to do a twofer on this one because I watched both of these shows around the same time. Like a lot of little girls I’ve known I wanted to see women and girls onscreen, having adventures, kicking booty, etc., and in the 70s and 80s, this is what I got! I count these two shows because I had the TV all to myself at the time of day these shows aired. I don’t know where my brothers were, but they never bothered me during these shows. I remember they used to air on Saturdays, usually around 11AM or Noon.
The Bionic Woman was a spinoff series from The Six Million Dollar Man and I thought of both them as superhero shows. I didn’t learn about The Bionic Woman until some time after The Six Million Dollar Man left the air in 1978. My brothers had Steve Austin (which I also watched) but I had Jamie Somers, and I have a very distinct memory of all of us doing that slow-motion running thing that the main characters did in the series. Yes, it was silly, but this was the 70s and we were like 7, 8 and 9 years old. The series was about a woman who had had various body parts, like her legs and arms replaced by machinery which gave her the ability to run really fast and super strength. Needless to say, this was not depicted very well on network TV, but it was good for what it was. There was a one-season remix of the idea in 2007, which had an engaging lead character and better special effects but couldn’t overcome the nostalgia factor of the original I guess, because It didn’t last long.
The Bionic Woman first aired in 1976, and Wonder Woman aired in 1975. I was five and six years old and I watched them in syndication around nine or ten. The lead character in WW was Lynda Carter who has had a bit of a resurgence in her popularity since the release of the WW movies. I’m sorry guys but Gal Godot is pretty and all but she is, at best, a whispy presence next to the truly Amazonian frame of Lynda Carter, who will always be my favorite Wonder Woman, with her sunny smile, twinkling eyes, and truly impressive bosoms. I also remember the themes songs from both series and yeah, and I and every other girl my age definitely did that twirling around shit that turned Lynda into Wonder Woman.
9. The Incredible Hulk (1977)
This was one of my favorite shows and I have the memory of watching it with my Mom. I’m often surprised by how laid back and relaxed a lot of the shows we watched were from that time period. I watched a retrospective of this series a few years back and I was struck by its wholesomeness, Bill Bixby’s gentleness, and intelligence, and the series’s complete lack of urgency, something of which was captured in Mark Ruffalo’s version in The Avengers, which is probably why I like him so much.
Another reason these shows are favorites is because of the theme songs. The song for The Incredible Hulk was a treacly piano number titled The Lonely Man and it just perfectly captured the tragic vibe of the series, where Bixby’s Banner had to keep moving on from place to place, getting involved in various adventures while dodging the authorities and a nosy news reporter who was determined to out him to the rest of the world.
The Incredible Hulk was one of the few SciFi shows introduced to me by my mom, even though she wasn’t into superheroes and didn’t watch many SciFi shows. I know she approved of Bill Bixby and knew that I liked him from shows like My Favorite Martian (which she did watch), and The Courtship of Eddie’s Father. When The Avengers came out The Hulk was one of the few characters we could talk about, and I think it was because of her grounding in this series that she was able to smoothly glide into a discussion of superhero movies.
8. Space 1999 (1975)
This is one of my favorite shows right now. I remember that a lot of my relatives thought the show was pretty boring because they didn’t think much happened on it, but I also have the distinct memory of watching this show in my grandmother’s living room, and my other relatives indulging my love of this show because it aired around the same time as Star Trek and Lost in Space. I think the reason they indulged me most of the time is because the theme song for the show just slapped, but there were times we would groove to the title song, and then turn the channel.
I was only a kid but I remember Martin Landau from other shows I watched, and I grew to like Barbara Bain, but my favorite character was the shapeshifting Maya, played by Catherine Schell, but she didn’t show up until about season two or three. I thought she was beautiful and exotic at the time but I saw this series before I watched Star Trek so I didn’t know she was a kind of Spock ripoff. Admittedly the show and the characters were slow-moving and very non-dramatic in their behavior, which prompted quite a few people to say the show was boring. It’s true that it was not an especially dynamic cast and the show was a lot more cerebral than most of my family was willing to sit through, but part of the reason I liked it was for its Horror elements. The show was genuinely scary in its first season.
The show was ind of built on a Horror premise about a group of scientists on Moonbase Alpha who get lost in space when the moon gets knocked out of Earth orbit. Yeah, the basic premise is silly, but I watched a retrospective of the show on Youtube a few months ago and the episodes not only still hold up, but fit right in today’s shows from a plot point of view, and involved things like portal aliens that swallowed people alive, a man who was turned into a vampire like creature and had to be stopped, and creatures that were like ghosts. Every episode had a mystery that needed to be solved, the outcome wasn’t always predictable, and people died in some fairly gruesome ways.
There were also a number of toys associated with this show and I remember I had a large replica of the spaceship from this show. I don’t remember if my Mom bought it or I stole it from one of my brothers but I cherished this toy and played with it with my Legos! I was not a Star Wars fan. I was a Space 1999 fan.
7. Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone (1959)
Watching this first iteration of the Twilight Zone is one of my earliest memories of watching TV shows with my Mom. She was a huge fan of Rod Serling, probably because of the social messages in his work. I remember having discussions with her about the meanings of some of the episodes we watched or just hearing her talk about some of her favorites.
One of our top favorite episodes was It’s a Good Life, with Billy Mumy from Lost in Space as a kid with reality-bending superpowers, which was genuinely terrifying to me at that age, and one of my Mom’s favorites was Nightmare at 20,000 Feet which starred William Shatner before I knew him as Captain Kirk. I thought that episode was a bit overdone but some of the scarier episodes for me were Time Enough At Last, about a man who manages to get time to read all he wants except for one little hiccup, the Living Doll episode which might have something to do with why I find inanimate objects that move so terrifying, and The Monsters are Due on Maple Street spoke to both of us. I think the saddest episode was Five Characters in Search of an Exit, about five characters trying to escape some kind of prison, but with a horrible twist.
The Twilight Zone aired after Primetime and was one of the few shows she would let me stay up late on a weeknight to watch, which was a big deal when I was ten, sitting in my Mom’s bed while I drank milk and she had soda, and my brothers were already asleep. She and I didn’t have a lot of favorite shows that we watched together (although she carefully monitored what I watched sometimes) but whenever the original series aired we’d be right there for it, so you can imagine there is a huge nostalgia factor for me here. I was very young and until my own tastes started to diverge I simply watched whatever she watched and she had some fairly wide-ranging tastes. I did however draw the line at soap operas. She absolutely loved her “Stories” while I found them uninteresting.
6. Aeon Flux (1991)
When I was in college MTV and the Syfy networks used to air a program called Liquid Television very late in the evening, and this was where I first saw Aeon Flux. I loved the animation style but otherwise was kind of puzzled. I didn’t know what to make of the plots or stories and I wasn’t sure if they were supposed to be funny or not. Later, I decided that only some of the episodes were meant to be funny. Aeon herself was something of a sad sack. She never accomplished her goals and almost always died either because she was simply unlucky, or just through her own clumsiness.
When the series began the episodes were just one-offs that were not entirely connected to one another, although some had recurring characters, like her arch-nemesis Trevor Goodchild, who was the leader of some kind of authoritarian state that Aeon was in opposition to. Later, the single shorts became an entire series which was every bit as bizarre and puzzling but at least Aeon lived to the end of the episodes, sometimes.
The very first episode I saw, I thought was pretty groundbreaking. In it, Aeon is fighting a running battle between two different hordes of soldiers, and all of the viewer’s focus is on her until she gets taken out about halfway through it. I wasn’t expecting that! There’s another one where she’s doing some spy stuff on a train with Goodchild and she accomplishes her goal but is unlucky enough to get strangled by her own rope as she escapes. In another episode she just gets shot in the head by her enemy before she can finish the job. As an artist (who studied animation in school), the animation style was very exciting to me and unlike any other style I’d seen on TV, although it looks kind of jerky today, and I still don’t get why everyone was wearing BDSM gear, which I thought was pretty funny.
5. Star Trek Discovery (2017)
Before the show aired, I’d been watching Sonequa Martin Green’s character on The Walking Dead. I was pretty upset that she was killed off that series but later found out that she asked to be written out of the show because of her newest project. And then I heard about this show, and I was very excited since I really liked her. When I heard that she was starring in the series as an Ensign I was a little put out by that because I was led to believe the entire series would be based around her and it couldn’t be that way if she wasn’t a Captain. See, up to this point, all the Star Trek shows revolved around Captains and their crews.
But the show had something a little more subtle in mind because it turned out to be a psychological study of the effects of trauma, and a chronicle of Michael Burnham’s fall, redemption, healing, and eventual rise to Captaincy. I saw this pattern by the second season, but I don’t think a lot of people understood what the show was trying to do. I also had to explain to several people that weren’t used to seeing this kind of thing that this Black woman was basically getting the Full Hero Treatment that is usually given to straight white dudes in these types of stories, and that in itself was groundbreaking for Star Trek!
I have to admit, I couldn’t contain my excitement for this angle of the series, and I had (and still today) no patience for other people’s criticism of this show. To Hell with all of them! This was what I wanted to see and I don’t give a damn if people call it pandering because I want to be pandered to as much as every other demographic! This was what I’d been asking for for years. This was the representation I always wanted to see of women who looked like me. I waited forty years of my life for this, and to have Star Trek do the thing was enormous to me, and celebrating this kind of story was the reason I started this blog. The top four genres of film and TV (Action, SciFi, Horror, and the Western) had almost entirely erased the existence of Black women. We showed up from time to time and said a few lines, or supported some other character’s journey, and there’s nothing inherently wrong with any of that, but when that is the only type of character you infrequently get…
Michael wasn’t just a sidekick or a token. She is the hero. She is the star around which all the other characters and the plot orbited, just like what happened on shows with white lead characters. She is passionate, smart, brave, reckless, and foolish, and I watched this character grow and learn and become everything she is to today and I am here for it. And she wasn’t the only great character on this show. I grew to like all of the top characters, (Tilly, Saru, Stametz), the tech was unique, and there were also all my old friends, the Klingons, the Romulans, and the Terran Empire. And I am fortunate to have gotten four whole seasons of this series.
Don’t get me wrong. I liked the other Star Treks well enough (at least the ones I watched), and consider at least one of the spinoffs some of the finest hours of television ever made, but you can’t tell me nothing about Discovery. Straight white guys have had umpteen bajillion SciFi series where characters who look like them were the center of attention, and there’s nothing inherently wrong with that but…
This one is mine!
4. The X Files (1993)
I’m not sure what I can say about this series. it was my first introduction to conspiracy TV via Chris Carter. I was initially attracted to the show because when it first began it used a monster of the week model, and it was the monsters that kept me addicted to it. Along the way, I got a heaping helping of alien conspiracy theories, and a will they/won’t they love affair between the two lead characters, Mulder and Scully, which I only halfheartedly rooted for. I have never cared too deeply for romance in the shows I liked.
I remember when the show first aired I kind of hated Mulder who I thought was like every mansplaining, arrogant, know-it-all nerdy white guy I’d met in college, but over the years I grew to like him and his better qualities (one of which is that he turned out to be more or less right in his theories.) I liked Scully right away, although later in the series watching her get damseled always irritated me, and eventually, her skepticism became rather annoying, but I never stopped liking the show, not even after both lead actors left, and I continued to watch it even when it was briefly rebooted a few years ago.
I don’t always know why I like certain shows and The X-Files falls into that category. I can’t exactly pinpoint why I loved it so much, which is something I can do for other shows like Buffy and Supernatural. The X-Files just happened to show up at the right time for me to like it, I guess.
3. Farscape (1999)
This is another show I don’t have a whole lot to say about other than it was one of my all-time favorite SCIFI series, back when the SYFY network was firing on all thrusters. I loved it purely for the aesthetics, and there has really never been anything like it since. I watched all five seasons multiple times. I just liked spending time with these characters, and it had puppets, and it was funny, and actually, it was a very sexy show without being too upfront about it, with lots of black leather and high heels.
Not pictured above is the actress Virginia Hey who played the elegant, blue-skinned, Pa’u Zotoh Zhaan. This was an actress I remember from The Road Warrior. My favorite character wasn’t Crichton though, it was Gigi Edgly’s Chiana, who was just weird, and I really liked the weird. The aesthetics for this show were just crazy. I can say it was one of the prettiest and most imaginative SciFi shows on TV. The fashion, the colors, the special effects, and no bumpy-headed humans. Since the show was created by the same company that created The Muppets, they had the ability to make aliens that really looked (and in many cases acted) truly alien.
Storywise, the show wasn’t a rival for Star Trek but it made up for that by being hella sexy, about an American astronaut who flies through a wormhole, ends up on a living ship with a bunch of galactic prisoners, and gets chased around this new universe by various baddies while trying to find his way back home. I’ve never seen that much black leather in another SciFi series. Yes, I had favorites, but all the characters were engaging, which made the stories terrifying, funny, or sad just because you cared about what happened to them. Speaking of which, I kinda miss these guys. It’s probably time for a re-watch.
2. Mork and Mindy (1978)
I don’t think there are enough words to express how much of an effect this show had on me in my formative years and just how much I miss Robin Williams. He was a strange guy and Mork was a weirdo and this series taught me that it was okay to be like that, no matter what anyone said. This show taught me to love and accept myself, and through that love, accept the eccentricities of others. I was a strange little girl. I didn’t get picked on too much or teased a lot when I was little but I did get raised eyebrows from a lot of my teachers and my family, and most kids my age were disinterested in me or just generally avoided me. My mother however never batted a single eyelash at her strange daughter, who dressed funny, had odd but very focused interests, read everything that wasn’t nailed down, was a picky eater, watched entirely too much TV and liked the weird shows, and talked like the books she read. My Mom just rolled with all of it, loving me no matter how weird I was, never asking why, and indulging every one of my odd artistic interests, like weaving!
I remember watching this show when it first aired because I was in the fourth grade. I remember this because I went to a school in my neighborhood and I remember wearing those exact suspenders to school every day. No one and I mean absolutely no one, recognized those suspenders, but I loved them and wore them with everything. I guess that was my eight-year-old version of cosplaying. Other little girls had tutus. I had Mork Suspenders. I memorized Mork’s catchphrases and hand gestures (the sideways split hand greeting) that I later recognized from Spock, sitting in chairs on his face, how each and every episode was Mork discovering some new thing to report back to his people. This show went a long way towards explaining other human beings to me and as Mork discovered these things, so did I.
I loved this show so much, and if that’s how I felt about Mork and Mindy, then you can imagine how I must have felt about Star Trek!
1. Star Trek: The Original Series (1963)
What can I say about how great this series is that hasn’t already been said:
From Forbes Magazine:
Star Trek stories are humanistic; they are founded in Gene Roddenberry’s belief in the perfectible human. They provide an optimistic vision of our future. Star Trek tells us that no matter how crazy the world may look today, it will get better. We will get better. There will be a time in which doing great things will be the norm.
Star Trek depicts a meritocracy. The characters were cool not because of looks, wealth, or social position, but because they were very good at their jobs. It is a rare television show that sends the message that it is cool to be smart.
Star Trek’s optimistic view of the future stands as a contrast to the bulk of science fiction. Most television and cinematic science fiction depicts varying dystopian futures. Dystopia provides writers with shortcuts to conflict; it’s easier. When just making it through the day provides conflict, writers don’t have to generate as many new ideas. Star Trek thrives on those new ideas.
Star Trek showed blacks, Asians, and women in roles of respect in a time when that was not the norm. Whoopi Goldberg has talked about freaking out when, as a child, she tuned into Star Trek and saw that black women were part of the future. Nichelle Nichols has told the story of how when she was contemplating leaving the show, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. told her not to, because her character was a symbol of hope for equality.
Oh, and we not gonna talk about how I wanted to grow up to be Spock when I was a kid, or how I used to pretend I was visiting a new planet whenever we moved into a new house, or how eventually my goal in life became being as elegant and beautiful as Lt. Uhura. The ideology of the series became something to aspire to. It was okay to be smart in this universe. The focus was on solving problems, not infighting, or shooting things (although there was some of that too). The show was pretty imaginative for the sixties, and I liked the aesthetics, the uniforms, the bright colors, and the fashions.
Star Trek was the show to which I compared all the other shows, tbh.