While we still get a fair amount of big-budget sci-fi tales in movie theaters, these days most sci-fi stories seem designed for television. The episodic long-form nature of TV storytelling allows sci-fi creators the space to truly explore the ideas behind their characters and their adventures.
Television also seems more open to a variety of concepts, so we can have a retro family sci-fi series like Stranger Things on one end of the spectrum and a dark sci-fi anthology like Black Mirror on the opposite end. And in between both of those great shows? Plenty more, each with their own personality and high concepts.
Here’s a sample of sci-fi TV series worth your time. Enjoy!
Star Trek: Discovery
Let’s start with a big gun (or a big phaser, if you prefer). Discovery’s journey started as a prequel to most Star Trek stories, set years before the original series. Three seasons into its run and on its way to a fourth one, the crew of the Discovery now finds itself in the farthest future, where no Trek show has gone before. It’s been quite the unpredictable trip, with the ship having a new captain every season and all.
Star Trek: Discovery has all the references to Trek lore an old sci-fi fan would want, while also keeping things accessible and fresh to newcomers to the mythos. You can stream the show on Paramount+.
Based on the 2013 movie of the same name and the 1982 French graphic novel The Transperceneige, TNT’s Snowpiecer is where sci-fi fans & Broadway fans meet. The show stars Daveed Diggs, widely known around the world as Thomas Jefferson & Lafayette in the hit musical Hamilton.
Like the movie and the graphic novel, Snowpiercer is set in a post-apocalyptic world where the remains of humanity live in a gigantic train that circles the globe endlessly. Also like its source material, the show explores class warfare, social injustice, and the politics of survival – all within the segregated confines of its titular train. You can stream Snowpiercer on TNT.
Raised by Wolves
“Produced by Ridley Scott” should be enough of an incentive for sci-fi fans to check out a new sci-fi show (unless they hated Prometheus & Alien: Covenant). And Raised by Wolves isn’t just produced by the legendary filmmaker – Scott also directed the first two episodes of the series.
Raised by Wolves features a classic sci-fi premise: in a grim future where Earth was destroyed by a great war, two androids are tasked with raising human children on a different planet. To say that the droids have a hard time fulfilling their duties would be an understatement. The show premiered last year on HBO Max and has already been renewed for a second season.
You can’t make one of these sci-fi lists without having at least one cyberpunk pick. Altered Carbon may have died an early death on Netflix, but at least it left us eighteen episodes (and an anime prequel movie) to remember it by. Should be enough to inspire people to check out the 2002 novel the show’s based on.
Set hundreds of years in the future, Altered Carbon offers its characters a path to immortality – if they can afford it. In the show, a person’s consciousness can be downloaded into a special device and transferred to a new body. Our protagonist is a political operative trying to solve a murder, with the promise of a new body as his reward. Both seasons of Altered Carbon (and the prequel film) are still on Netflix.
This sci-fi thriller miniseries comes to us courtesy of Alex Garland, the writer & director behind the sci-fi movies Ex-Machina & Annihilation. Throughout its eight episodes, the show explores the idea of free will versus determinism, something Garland has certainly touched upon in some of his past work.
Devs is also an exploration of Silicon Valley and its culture. The show follows a software engineer who becomes entangled in the mysterious death of her boyfriend – a tragedy that takes place on said boyfriend’s first day as part of a secretive quantum computing team. The story’s a slow burn, but one well worth your time. You can stream Devs on Hulu.
J.K. Simmons as the protagonist in a sci-fi show about parallel Earths? How did this series only last two seasons? Simmons even gets to play two versions of the same character!
Oh, well. The title says it all, in a way. Counterpart is a sci-fi thriller about the Cold-War-like tension between our reality and a parallel version of it. Simmons plays a gentle, quiet office worker in one Earth, and a ruthless intelligence operative in the other. Espionage hijinks ensue! You can stream Counterpart on Amazon Prime.
Do you have any favorite sci-fi shows you’d like to add to the list? Let us know in the comments!
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