The Quick Report

The Best Sci-Fi TV Shows of All Time

Sci-fi fans had to be content with their tastes being niche for decades, with only a handful of TV shows effectively capturing the ethos of the genre. Good sci-fi holds a mirror up to the present and examines modern-day problems through the lens of the future. Here are the 15 best examples to ever air on TV!

Star Trek: The Original Series

Image Credit: Paramount+

The show that kickstarted many fans’ lifelong obsession with sci-fi, Star Trek, also fundamentally changed television forever. Gene Rodenberry’s optimistic, utopian view of the future cut the menace and dread out of the Cold War-fueled, doom-driven TV of the late 60s and found something beautiful, thoughtful, and timeless.


Image Credit: Fox

The shine is off Firefly a bit in the wake of some troubling accusations leveled at series creator Joss Whedon. The show’s weird insistence on Chinese language and culture being ubiquitous in the future but with few actual Chinese people appearing on screen also sours it a bit on modern re-watches. That all being said, Firefly is still worth a look for fans of genre fare, including some career-defining performances for Nathan Fillion, Gina Torres, and Alyn Tudyk.

Battlestar Galactica

Image Credit: Syfy

Battlestar Galactica is that show you’ve read about a ton but never seen. Well, here’s the latest piece of prose urging you to watch it. Katee Sackhoff, who you might know from The Mandalorian or The Clone Wars, is in it, and she’s great. Like, really, exceptionally great.

The Expanse

Image Credit: Amazon Prime Video

If Star Trek is the optimistic view of the future from the 1960s, The Expanse is the bleaker projection of the 2010s. The show posits a version of humanity that changes little over the centuries and simply carries the modern ills of capitalism and the military industrial complex with us to the stars.

Black Mirror

Image Credit: Netflix

Black Mirror might not be as pinpoint accurate in its satire as it once was, but those early seasons alone are enough of a reason to earn it a spot on this list. Few shows have such an incisive voice on humanity’s fraught relationships with the technology it creates for itself.

The Orville

Image Credit: Hulu

Few shows can out-Trek the original Star Trek, and The Orville actually manages it during a few of its high points. Yes, it’s crass and goofy in some scenes. However, Seth Macfarlane’s earnest homage to The Next Generation hits some genuinely breathtaking highs across its unfairly-short three-season run.

Doctor Who

Image Credit: BBC

There are few shows that have had the honor of staying on the air as long as Doctor Who, and that’s thanks to the show’s ingenious “regeneration” concept. In its early days, Who’s writers had to hastily recast main actor William Hartnell with Patrick Troughton, but needed him to still be the same person. Since The Doctor was already established as a time-traveling alien, the writers decided to simply have a critically-wounded Hartnell “regenerate” into a new body, thus giving the show an excuse to run from now until the end of time.

Sapphire and Steel

Image Credit: ATV/Central

Sapphire and Steel is the coolest sci-fi show you’ve never heard of. In the vein of early Who, it’s a British sci-fi series with a heady concept and a nearly nonexistent budget. The title characters are “Operators,” elemental agents of some unseen authority who arrive to correct fractures in a broken timeline. It’s eerie and straddles the line between sci-fi and horror in a creative and gripping way.


Image Credit: Hulu

Matt Groening’s finest and most enduring work can no longer be said to be The Simpsons, given that show’s golden era has only lasted for roughly one-fifth of the time it’s been on the air. Instead, his most enduring work is Futurama, a vision of the future as seen through the eyes of perpetual slacker Philip J. Fry. It’s flexible, hilarious, and occasionally genuinely emotional.

Aeon Flux

Image Credit: MTV

There’s cool, and then there’s Aeon Flux. This stylish animated sci-fi romp oozes style in every frame. It’s so good that even the abysmal live-action adaptation starring the usually excellent Charlize Theron couldn’t take the shine off the classic TV series. Yes, for the curious, it is far and away the best thing MTV ever aired. It’s maze-like, nonsensical, and defies any attempts to summarize or, indeed, make sense of its plot, such that it even has a plot. And it’s all the better for it!


Image Credit: Fox

Fringe is the only J.J. Abrams creation (barring Felicity, which kind of doesn’t count) to ever end on a satisfying note. Lost ends with nothing short of a shrug, while Abrams’ turn as Star Wars head honcho led to the disastrously uncreative The Rise of Skywalker ruining everything that worked in the Last Jedi. All that notwithstanding, Fringe is excellent and ends in a way that effectively pays off character arcs and the show’s larger themes.

The X-Files

Image Credit: Fox

Some shows make their case with phenomenal performances and others use breathtaking visuals to make an impression. The X-Files trades in similar currency as Twin Peaks and earns it spot as an all-time great series with sheer vibes, as the kids say. It’s eerie, pernicious, and paranoid in a way that seeps into every corner of your mind. Say it with me: “I want to believe.”

Neon Genesis Evangelion

Image Credit: Netflix

No series more fully understands the role of deconstruction better than Neon Genesis Evangelion. The angsty, existential anime is a giant robot series in form but a deep rumination on loneliness and isolation in function. It’s an effective enough action anime that the designs of its protagonists’ robots will stick in your mind, but it so thoroughly demolishes the stock image of the heroic teenager behind the controls of a weapon of mass destruction that you’ll question ever posing an action figure of the EVA-01 on your desk.

Read More: From Fiction to Fact: 10 Weird Sci-Fi Tech That Became Real


Image Credit: Disney+

Star Wars has never been so furious (or so good) as it is with Andor. The prequel to a prequel to a film from 1977 has no business being this current, this vital, or this emotionally stirring, but here we are. The biggest surprise about this genuinely perfect sci-fi series is that it’s a scathing indictment of totalitarian government and cultural hegemony presented by none other than Disney, the ostensibly family-friendly brand that was prophesized to doom Star Wars to kid-friendly fare for eternity.

Read More: 10 Underrated Sci-Fi Movies You Must See

Star Trek: The Next Generation

Image Credit: Paramount+

What else could end this list? There had never been a show like The Next Generation, a sci-fi program that so fundamentally eclipsed The Original Series that it retroactively gave its progenitor that new name. Patrick Stewart, LeVar Burton, Gates McFadden, Brent Spiner, and the rest of the absurdly talented cast took some of the best scripts in television history to new heights with unparalleled performances.

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