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Best Sci Fi Currently On Television? 489

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the what-do-you-think-kids? dept.
A few months ago a friend recommended Farscape, and I started watching. The first season was flat, but the current season is absolutely amazing. So I started watching Lexx just because I had hope in TV sci fi. (I blame Voyager) I'll run a poll on this later, but I'd like to just throw this out: what is the best sci fi on TV? What do people like? Why? I like Farscape because the plot this season has been really interesting (and I even dig the device where the split the main char so they could have silly episodes interspersed with serious ones) and Lexx... well Lexx is just seriously bizarre: I love the wacky humor and terrible B effects. (thanks to everyone in Germany that recommended it. Wow! You werent kidding). Are there any other nuggets of joy out there that I'm missing? The scary thing is that the Sci-Fi channel has finally edged out Comedy Central and Cartoon Network on my Tivo for disk space.
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Best Sci Fi Currently On Television?

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  • by B'Trey (111263)
    There IS no science fiction currently on televisions that I'm aware of. There's lots of fantasy with a scientific bent, but no real sci-fi.
  • Reality check, folks; the following are not science fiction:
    • The West Wing -- Two angles were mentioned. On the alternate-universe angle, it's not. It's just fiction. There's no substantial, "what if" premise related to a historical event (what if the president were a human being who could think for himself doesn't quite count). On the science angle, there's science in the show (good science), but very little speculation. Speculation is a key to science fiction, and the dividing line between Law and Order (which had a whole lot of science) and Viper (a bad show, but clearly science fiction for its speculation).
    • Buffy, Angel, et al. -- Nope. These shows are fantasy pure and simple. The line gets muddy (is The Lathe of Heaven science fiction or fantasy?), but vampires and their respective hunters don't even get a smudge on their wardrobes
    I will say that, as an SF snob, I find the fawning over Lexx to be distasteful, but I'm pleased with the recent Farscape for actually getting the plot moving again. Best SF on TV is still B5 re-runs and the Iron Chef (which is clearly about the mandroid who plays Chairman Kaga ;-)
  • by MrEfficient (82395) on Sunday August 05, 2001 @03:05PM (#2110909)
    The most important reason to watch Lexx is Xenia Seeburg. She is absolutely amazing. Shame on you for not mentioning her.

  • by Kostya (1146)
    Scifi Channel, Friday's at 9:00p and 12:00a.
  • Futurama (Score:5, Interesting)

    by floppy ears (470810) on Sunday August 05, 2001 @03:11PM (#2121295) Homepage
    Futurama is the best SF on tv today. Since it's a cartoon, they can do absolutely anything. Plus, aside from The Simpsons, it's probably the funniest show on the air. Sure, it's not pure SF, but they routinely address topics that the lamer SF shows are afraid to touch.
    • aside from The Simpsons, it's probably the funniest show on the air.

      If you like the simpsons, and funny shows, do yourself a favor and watch The Family Guy [fox.com]. I mean, damn, how can a show be this funny every week? The dad and the baby have pretty much stolen the whole show, but you can run a show off those two characters alone. You can catch most of the third season so far on newsgroups too.

      I don't know how many people are fans of the show, but I fear not enough people for Fox to keep it on the air...
      • I watched FG a couple of time and found it to be painfully unfunny. The dad is pretty good, sure, but he's a shameless Homer-ripoff. The baby is just annoying... that character's entire schtick seems to be that he says/thinks things that are too sophisticated for a baby. Big deal. Nothing he says is actually funny to me, just odd (and tiresome) coming from a baby.

        Blech!

  • by IvyMike (178408) on Sunday August 05, 2001 @03:09PM (#2122774)

    As a science fiction snob, I should never ever watch this show, let alone admit it, but the only episodic television show I watch is Andromeda [andromedatv.com]. Even worse, it's pretty much just because Lexa Doig [lexaonline.com] is so hot. (For those who don't know, she plays the avatar of a massively powerful warship, so she's not even playing someone real, and yet that's part of the appeal. Psychoanalyze me now!)

    I'm going to science fiction hell for sure.

    For non-episodic science fiction shorts, I try to check out Exposure [scifi.com] . It's a mixed bag, but usually has something worth watching every show.

    • As a science fiction snob, I should never ever watch this show, let alone admit it, but the only episodic television show I watch is Andromeda. Even worse, it's pretty much just because Lexa Doig is so hot. (For those who don't know, she plays the avatar of a massively powerful warship, so she's not even playing someone real, and yet that's part of the appeal. Psychoanalyze me now!)


      I really like the show. Lexa's character is great, not just because Lexa is gorgeous. But in spite of some initial misgivings, the character I enjoy the most these days is Tyr. At first, the Nietzscheans just looked like a strawman for bashing several facets of individualism. Yet, I have watched Tyr's opinion of the Commonwealth change, while Tyr himself has changed little. His motivations and his identity have not altered. Sometimes the best perspective from which to understand a thing is that of someone to whom it is either completely foreign or totally anathema. SF as a genre is one of the best for doing this.

      As for the psychoanalysis, I have two thoughts. First, when my computer develops a personality, Romy is a pretty good one. Second, after years of being the voice of Star Trek's computers, Majel Roddenberry has stepped aside. The torch has been passed to Lexa Doig. I don't believe that Majel had any hand in the casting herself, but she is the show's executive producer. Arranging an indisputably competent successor is itself an act of considerable competence.

      I'm going to science fiction hell for sure.


      Not even close. Science fiction hell would be all of the best series of the past few decades with an endless stream of new episodes written by incompetent hacks. It would be abandoning all continuity. It would be lines spoken by the wrong characters.

      Good SF requires all of the same things that all good fiction requires. The mix is different, and the science has to be right. But bad characters and sloppy writing ruin anything.

  • by rde (17364) on Sunday August 05, 2001 @03:04PM (#2123162)
    Since B5 ended (am I the only one worried about the Rangers?) there've been three series that are not just good; they're great.
    Lexx is great. Stargate has gone from okay to excellent. But far away ahead of them all is Farscape.
    I don't know how much you Americans have seen, but I've been watching it on DVD and I'v seen up to about half way through the second series. It's taken a fairly old plot (old before Voyager used it) and the traditional format (individual episodes, occasionally two- or three-parters, the rare reference to previous plots), but managed to be truly excellent.
    The reason it's so good? IMO, it's because it avoids cliches. On several occasions (I still haven't learnt), I've groaned as ten minutes into an episode it looks like it's going to be one of those ridiculous Trek episodes that make us all cringe. But I've invariably had to apologise (mentally, anyway) to the producers by the end of the episode.

    It may not have all the strongest plot lines, but it avoids cliche. And that's a rare and wonderful thing.
    • by hawk (1151)
      This has to be the most bizarre thing I've ever seen on television. No, not the contents itself, but the very concept: A parody of bad british sf? ???


      for crying out loud, that stuff is its *own* parody . . .


      :)
      hawk

      • I have only watched one complete episode of Lexx. It was bad. Very bad.

        The only scene I liked: the gorgeous chick was having dinner with a guy. She liked him and thought he was good looking, but he was only interested in her because she was holding the key to Lexx. He wanted her to give control of Lexx over to him, since it is such an amazing powerful yada yada whatever.

        Guy: Together we can conquer the universe! Whole star systems will tremble before us! Absolute power!

        Chick: Can't we just have sex instead?

        steveha

        • At least that sounds better than the quite literal computer sex on the one I forced myself to watch to the end . . . :)


          hawk

    • It's taken a fairly old plot (old before Voyager used it) and the traditional format (individual episodes, occasionally two- or three-parters, the rare reference to previous plots), but managed to be truly excellent.

      Actually, Farscape is a novel for television but doesn't hit you over the head with it. Many times I have seen a "one-off" episode only later to realize how much it contributed to the overall arc. The current (US) season is a perfect example. Plenty of references to earlier seasons, explanations and thread interweaving has made for an outstanding experience!

      You are right about its avoidance of cliches. The writing on the show is just great. I wish B5 had done as well. JMS is a great storyteller, but an episodic writer he is not. Some of the B5 dialogue was horrendous, not to mention the often tedious amount of explication. That's not to say that I didn't love B5. It remains one of my all-time favorites. Doesn't mean it couldn't be better, though.

      Farscape's homage/satire of all of SciFi is incredibly fun. DRD Pike, for goodness sake! :)

      The thing that I find most endearing, though, are the characters. They grow, change, form bonds, deceive, cheat, make up and generally act like real people. I'm very interested to see where the current character threads go at this point in the series. This is what makes a show great.


      • I love sci fi, but Farscape just looks like the Muppet Show. I can't take it seriously enough to give it a chance.

        Stargate SG-1 is currently my favorite show. I'm addicted.

          • I love sci fi, but Farscape just looks like the Muppet Show. I can't take it seriously enough to give it a chance

          I made that mistake too. I prejudged Farscape based on the trailers and the first episode (shown on a mainstream BBC channel) and point blank refused to watch the damn puppet show.

          What a mistake that turned out to be. Like CmdrTaco, I only "discovered" it in season 2 after much persuasion, and it's a real treat, and the best antidote to Voyager that I've yet seen ("Spare me the techno babble, gadget girl.").

          Seems to me that the savings on FX have all been spent on the actors and the writing. Farcape is an absolute joy, beautifully written, flawlessly acted, consistent, wry and very knowing. Also, the cast seem to have real chemistry and are obviously having a hoot filming it. The protagonist, Crighton, has taken to calling a couple of other characters "Pip" and "Sparky". That's not a cute scriptism, it's what the actor, Ben Browder, started calling them, and it sounded so natural that they decided to just roll with it. That shows a level of confidence and non-control freakery on a par with Stargate.

          Do yourself a favour, grit your teeth, ignore the muppets, and sit through an episode. Unlike B5, it's easy to pick up in the middle, and you might be pleasantly surprised.

  • Maybe I missed the meeting where everybody decided that only serious llamas like Dark Angel, but I think it's a great show. Jessica Alba is seriously luscious and the stories are well written. I like the neo-dystopian post-pulse rotting Seattle she lives in. I like the hard-core Russian/South African gangs that are chasing her. I like the bad-asses at Manticore who won't stop until she's reprogrammed. I really like the fact that they're not afraid to kill off characters that have appeared in more than one episode.

    All in all, it's one of the few shows I make a point to watch every week--along with Futurama, South Park and The Sopranos.

    • I'm with you, pal. Dark Angel rocks, period. Every other science fiction show on TV has their little sets and representative characters to show off a species or group - Max gets on her cycle and just goes by pile after pile of garbage, fires in barrels, and little knots of people. The depiction of a true world where people live is almost overwhelming. Also, the characters change with time - true development, not stereotypes. Logan gets embarrassed and depressed over his handicap, comtemplating sucicide, then overcoming it, only to start losing his fortune - Lydecker's alcoholism and turncoat nature - Nana Visitor's new character - all superb. The continuing storyline also greatly contributes to the sense of development. The attitude towards guns is refreshing - Max won't touch them, Logan realizes the power of one bullet instead of clip after clip, and in the "out of town" episode a gun is potrayed as a hidden threat instead of just raw power that blasts away. The occasional focus on religion and "why am I here" is refreshing as well, particularly the Lady of the Heart episode. Most of all, Dark Angel can occasionally come up with a few moments that just plain stun the viewer and make you say - wow. "You just bought yourself a whole lot of birthdays" followed by "What was so hard about that, soldier?" and most of all Zack's final speech in the season finale. I can hardly wait to see what Max & Co. come up with next season. This has got to be the SF show that did the best job of staying on focus to a single unified vision its freshman year. I hope it only gets better. Viva Max!
      • By the way, your comments reminded me of one of the things I absolutely love about most Cameron stories: The characters see all the same obvious shit we do.

        In Aliens [imdb.com], the characters don't do the typical moron horror-movie character stuff (i.e., "Hey, let's stay here on this horrible planet and let the nasty monsters plant larvae in our chests!"). They decide the smart thing to do is get the hell off the planet and nuke it from orbit. Cameron's genius is in preventing them from doing so in a believable way.

        Likewise, the characters in Dark Angel see the same obvious shit we do and actually try to take the easy way out whenever possible. Cameron finds credible ways to keep them from doing so. He also complicates their lives in creative ways that seem to flow naturally from the characters' motivations, rather than from the demands of this week's "A very special Dark Angel" or whatever.

        The characters are as simultaneously cynical and idealistic as most of us. I like that a lot.

        Oh, and have I mentioned that Jessica Alba's luscious?

  • I don't know what kind of futuristic world it is where all the babes look like that, but I wanna go there =)
  • by Faizdog (243703)
    The unfortunate problem with Sci Fi is that rarely anyone besides us "geeks and/or nerds" seem to like it. If I'm sitting around with a buncha friends, and we are channel surfing, if I see a cool show like say Star Trek TNG (in my opinion the best Star Trek), they won't even consider watching it.

    There is some sort of stigma attached with Sci Fi that mainstream people just don't seem to like it. Sure there are exceptions (most prominent one being X-Files when it was good), but many people just don't want anything to do with Sci Fi.

    That being said, I really love Sci Fi. Some of my favs are Star Trek, and old stuff like Quantum Leap, that rocked. Maybe that's why I'm actually looking forward to the new Star Trek with Scott Bakula. It's got a really interesting premise, and if they can just do it right, it has the potential to be awesome.
    • by uptownguy (215934) <UptownGuyEmail@gmail.com> on Sunday August 05, 2001 @03:47PM (#2156332)
      There is some sort of stigma attached with Sci Fi that mainstream people just don't seem to like it. Sure there are exceptions (most prominent one being X-Files when it was good), but many people just don't want anything to do with Sci Fi.

      Did you read what you just wrote? "Sure there are exceptions like X files when it was good" Its not like the US is a hotbed of high culture, but even mainstream viewers have some taste and, frankly, most Sci Fi sucks!

      "...well, it was nice to see another installment in the Star Trek universe, but Voyager's writing sucked..."
      "...Dr. Who was ahead of its time, but, gee, the special effects were painful to watch..."
      "...Sliders was a great idea, but each new universe was riddled with logical holes..."
      "...Lexx... well... Lexx..."

      The unfortunate problem with Sci Fi is that rarely anyone besides us "geeks and/or nerds" seem to like it.

      The problem (IMHO) with most SciFi is that it is almost never well executed.. Geeks seem have the intelligence to see past the (rather substantial sometimes) flaws and keep watching, but most people are honest enough to just keep channel surfing.

      Geeks, for whatever reason, get off on preferring intelligent crap over stylish crap. They would rather see a TV show with the latest uber-gadget/newest buzzwords in physics/hot chicks with the biggest breasts who never seem to have to wear a standard uniform...

      But, its not like mainstream people hate SciFi... mainstream people are embarassed to watch bad SciFi, that's all...
  • Easy. Babylon 5. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Goldberg's Pants (139800) on Sunday August 05, 2001 @03:25PM (#2127667) Journal
    Babylon 5 re-runs have just come to an end in Canada, except for a 5 hour "viewers choice" marathon tomorrow starting at 1pm est.

    B5 was by far the best sci-fi on TV for several reasons.

    The effects: The budget per episode for B5 was a tenth of what ST:TNG cost, and by the time B5 reached the 5th season the effects were just stunning. Quite possibly the best space battles ever in a sci-fi show.

    The story: While you could watch most B5 episodes as a seperate entity, the dedicated viewer was rewarded by one of the best stories I've seen in any medium. I won't even try and encapsulate it here, but it ranged from great comedy (some of the Londo/G'Kar scenes, plus various comments from other characters, particularly Ivanova.) to tragedy (no spoilers here. Suffice to say the show has it's fair share of tragedy.) Unlike shows like Voyager or Next Gen, B5 started a story, and ran it to it's conclusion. There were changes from the creators vision along the way (JMS is a genius!) for various reasons, but the description "a novel for television" was used, and fairly so.

    Characters: No annoying robots or cute kids. Every character was believeable. Every character had flaws. The characters evolved. B5 could and should be used as a teaching piece on character development. Another thing I liked was the fact that you never felt any character was indispensible. In TNG, you know damn well Picard, Riker etc... aren't going to snuff it. In B5 I always felt like no character had a free pass. That added immeasurably to the show.

    Realism: Unlike the shiny happy universe of Star Trek, B5 had real problems. Homeless people aboard the station for example. JMS (I won't even attempt to spell his surname) made a believable universe by including such elements.

    The music: The show was great, but Christopher Franke's (ex of Tangerine Dream) music moved the show up a level. There are scenes which just rip your heart out, the music is so poignant. (Again, no spoilers.)

    The alien races: While most were humanoid (not all) I think the aliens designed for B5 were FAR better than the blindingly obvious "human under makeup" aliens of Trek. The Pak'Mara for example looked amazing, and while the main players are the standard "human under makeup", the diversity of the portrayed alien cultures was amazing. Oh, and not all of them breathed oxygen. The station has section for non oxygen breathers.

    For all your B5 needs, go check out The Lurkers Guide [midwinter.com].

    In closing, Babylon 5 is the best sci-fi there has ever been on TV. I look forward to the new "Legends of the Rangers" but I can't see, in all honesty, how it can possibly live up to Babylon 5 itself.

    Besides, you have to love a show that blasts a teddy bear into space:)

    • Re:Easy. Babylon 5. (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 05, 2001 @03:53PM (#2138198)
      Thank you for the amazing breakdown. I myself am a Huge Fan of this series, and was watching since GROPOS. It's a must-see. Infact, the only series to actually come close to its glory has been Farscape, but still has not beat it just yet.

      Some good sites to go to for Babylon 5 information and discussion:
      The Lurker's Guide to Babylon 5 [midwinter.com]. A great reference source. It has THE most comprehensive episode guide for the series, it's movies, and its spinoff, Crusade. They Include a Synopsis, Notes, Comments from JMS, and other related information. The site also includes a B5 term encyclopedia, which can be beneficial for those who don't understand a term.
      B5 Tech Reference. [b5tech.com] This site, while containing large amounts of fictional information, is a decent reference for anyone seeking information on the spacecraft of Babylon 5.
      FirstOnes.com. [firstones.com] While this is a shameless plug, If you want to talk with other babylon 5 fans, go there and visit the forums. You'll meet some interesting people from around the world. While it's primary mission has been abandoned (to raise the Babylon 5 Space Combat Simulator, Into the Fire, from the dead), it is being transformed into a source for everything Babylon 5. (well, that's the plan, at least =) )
      Hyperspace Ship Guide. [nbci.com] Another great reference page for the spacecraft of babylon 5. This has less fanfiction than Babylon 5 Tech, but less information as a whole. It has some great images, though.
      The Down Below Sound Archive. [uwyo.edu] This Page has a sound bite of just about anything you could want from this show. It's a great place to go if you want something along those lines.
      Babylon 5: The place to be. [tp2b.de] This is another great site, loaded with 3D art and the models to make your own! Check it out sometime.
      The Music of Babylon 5. [musicofb5.com]. This is another great Babylon 5 Resource. It's webmaster posts various soundtracks from Babylon 5 on a regular basis. Most recently, the site had put up Battle Sequences A-F, the Sampler tracks for the music in Babylon 5: Into the Fire. Take a few minutes and listen to it.
      The Shadow Information Office. [demon.co.uk] A great page dedicated to correcting the popular belief that shadows are evil monsters. Rather, it shows that they have a very incolved culture, and exist for the sole purpose of assisting the other races. Check it out.

      I hope these links are put to good use. There is a lot of information on the web. most of it bad. This should clear up some of that. Sanfam Out.
      • Thanks for the compliment. It's nice to be able to praise possibly my favourite TV show (closely followed by Twin Peaks incidentally), particularly given it's re-runs have just ended in Canada.

        GROPOS was a great episode. Good example of the poignancy I mentioned I think.

        The best episodes IMO are around the middle of the 3rd season. The three episode arc Messages from Earth - Point of No Return - Severed Dreams and the two parter War Without End are some of the finest TV you can see, particularly Severed Dreams. That episode was so good, when I saw it initially, I had taped it due to being out. I watched it. Sat there with jaw on the floor at what I had just seen, rewound the tape, and watched it again.

        I didn't like the fifth season much. Due to the cancellation woes that the show faced, the fifth season felt tacked on somehow, but having just watched it all again, I was unfair. It was actually a very good season. For those fans of Neil Gaiman, he scripted the fifth season episode "Day of the Dead". A very good episode, but one, like the others I mentioned, that really need to be seen in the context of the rest of the show to fully enjoy them.

        As for Farscape, Space up here in Canada is airing that this fall, and having heard so many good things about it, I will check it out, despite my initial observation that it looks like little more than Muppets in Space:)

        • IMHO, GROPOS, despite being scripted by David Gerrold, was a weak episode. The scene of the dead soldiers at the end looked like a staged tableau. Nevertheless, with the possible exception of "Infection," even a weak B5 episode was hands down better than what's been churned out lately by the Trek franchise. Pity, too. I just watched a bit of Voyager this afternoon. Fantastic opening, beautiful heroic music, and then the letdown of a silly plot. (Does anyone else think that the Voyager spaceship looks like Douglas Adams' description of the Heart of Gold, "a sleek running shoe?")

          "Never send me something cute." -- JMS, about the "Bear-ba-lon 5" teddie bear

    • Re:Easy. Babylon 5. (Score:2, Informative)

      by Buran (150348)
      Here's another vote for Babylon 5.

      Interestingly, the effects on the show were done with the off-the-shelf Lightwave 3D software, which I've been playing with off and on along with some ship models downloaded from the Net.

      The series is still shown, in letterboxed form, on the Sci-Fi Channel -- and I'm eagerly awaiting the Rangers film. Hopefully, the series will continue through to a theatrical film as some say it will.

      Just because a show isn't in production any longer doesn't mean that it's not worthy of contention. By the way... I think the new Trek series' re-use of the Akira-class ship design was a cop-out. I wanted to see something fresh and new along the lines of Earth Alliance vessels with a Trek touch...

  • by SirSlud (67381)
    I like Lexx. Why?

    - It happens to so stupidly far in the future
    - the sexual innendoes .. man, the show should be required viewing for middle school kids in order to bolster social tolerance!
    - its funny

    just my two cents .. btw, I believe Lexx was created by Canadians. Can anyone confirm this?
    • Re:Lexx (Score:2, Informative)

      by Ozwald (83516)
      I think the credits mention a joint venture between Canada and Germany. Not sure where it is filmed but I believe I heard it was done in Nova Scotia. Since the last episode ended on a beach and Nova Scotia is surrounded by beach,...

      But I love this show for three reasons:
      - Eva Habermann is hot. Too bad she was only on for half/dozen shows.
      - It isn't politically correct. It isn't afraid to affend anyone. Compare this to Voyager which was I think was annoyingly politically correct. But then again, I wouldn't recommend it to my parents...
      - It's by far got the most original concepts and ideas out there. I don't know of any other show where the humans fly around in a giant bug in one of two universes. Compare this to Roddenberry shows which all seem the same.

      Ozwald
    • Re:Lexx (Score:2, Informative)

      by Pope (17780)
      Lexx is a co-production between Canada and Germany. A lot of the FX for the show are done right here in Toronto by CORE Digital. I got to see a Lexx on their internal reel 3 months before it hit the air. :)
    • Re:Lexx (Score:3, Informative)

      by anticypher (48312)
      Even though I don't own a tele, I've seen a large number of Lexx shows. A friend works on the German side of things, and they fly him to Toronto and some studio in the wilds of Nova Scotia (his words) from time to time. Much of the talent in front of the camera is Canadian, with the exception of Eva & Xenia. Behind the camera is a mix of Germans and Canucks. Most of the young, sexy bit-part actresses are German.

      Since I spend wayyyyy too much time in hotel rooms, I do get to see Lexx on both sides of the atlantic. There are two different versions, the European/Canadian shows tend to be more sexy and edgy, the U.S. gets a very edited down version so the Sci-Fi channel doesn't get kicked from too many cable stations as pr0n.

      When my friend first told me of Lexx, it was being sold to various investment groups and production support companies as a way to attract a large number of hard-core geeks. By analyzing the only successful elements of recent trek shows [7of9], the first season working title was Sexx. The mini-capsule was "Trek meets Xena in a Blue Velvet universe". With a tag like that, its not hard to see why CmdrTaco likes Lexx, as well as Farscape.

      I like Lexx, but I wish all four seasons would come out on DVD or tape, or some fan would digitize every episode into mpeg and share them on gnutella.

      the AC
  • Stargate SG-1 (Score:5, Informative)

    by coyote-san (38515) on Sunday August 05, 2001 @03:19PM (#2127779)
    Stargate SG-1, based on the movie Stargate is original programming on Showtime [stargatesg1.com], and syndicated [stargate-sg1.com] a year later. The new Outer Limits followed the same approach.

    The movie and early episodes were occasionally painful to watch as a writer tried to include some pseudoscientific nonsense, but they seem to have put that past them.

    The benefits of Stargate SG-1?

    • Excellent continuity, but with a good mix of new material. A welcome change from Star Trek, which alternates between total amnesia and years-long story arcs.
    • Solid backstory. They have a USAF advisor to make sure the military procedures make sense - and even had a brief appearance by an USAF general on active duty. They do enough research into ancient cultures that watching the History Channel is surreal - all of the names are familiar.
    • Sane technology. A lot of bad SF lets the technology dominate the story. Stargate SG-1 generally uses standard (or near standard) contemporary technology. Alien tech is rarely used by the SG teams, and aliens generally only use a handful of devices. No sudden solution to the problem by generating an inverse tachyon pulse or other crap like that.
    • Strong characters. There's only a half-dozen major characters, each with well-defined roles (the four members of the team, General Hammond, and the doctor.) There's maybe a dozen recurring minor characters, each well-defined. There's no sense of having seen the same character a dozen times before, only with a slightly different forehead.
    • Most importantly, a good sense of humor. Some of the episodes are deliberately over the top (Urgo), but there are also a lot of serious episodes with extremely funny, but totally natural, sequences. (E.g., the alien who constructed a new stargate in Sam's basement with hundreds of pounds of titanium(?), 7 100kW lamps,... and her toaster.)

    • I also think the special effects and/or props are done really well. Maybe I don't see the holes in them, but they always seem to be "just right". They never seem to have a "cheap" feel to them and aren't overdone. I think their subtlety adds a quality feel to the show that the other hollywood heavy-handed sci-fi shows overshoot.

      Other shows seem to lose their engrossing quality to me because things always are overdone. When it comes to alien beings, do they always have to look the Zergs in StarCraft? It seems easier to view an alien planet that has trees to me than an alien planet with cheap props. (unless the trees are from "just outside L.A." locations - they won't cut it)

      Maybe better effects are really well done to the point of being invisible. I heard that forest gump had more digital effect footage than jurassic park. You get more engrossed.

      By the way, it comes in great on Dish Network. But I'll bet it looks really good on their showtime HDT channel, but they don't have a PVR for that yet... :-(
    • I agree completely. I've never missed a stargate episode, thanks to the SG1-Archive [sg1archive.com] (Please though be a showtime subscriber if you download any of the episodes there.. I am, But it's saved me from times before I had a TiVo)

      It's gone into differant director's hands over the past few seasons, so it's also interesting to see the differances between the seasons. I like the way It's going.

      However, I've heard that this may be their last season! It will be very sad if that's the case. I would love to see it live on, but if not, let's hope the ending is good.

  • The Invisible Man (Score:5, Informative)

    by tentac1e (62936) on Sunday August 05, 2001 @03:22PM (#2130371) Journal
    The people behind the Sci-Fi channel are quite brilliant. It isn't just because of their original programming, but the fact that they understand most people would rather watch first run episodes of network television rather than original Sci-Fi programming.

    As part of Sci-Fi's strategy, they run the "Summer of SciFi." Sci-Fi waits until summer to roll out the new season of its original programming. My favorite night of TV programming has to be the Friday Sci-fi lineup.

    A lot has already been said about Farscape, which I must admit is probably one of the most creative shows on television (and probably my favorite), probably one of the most underrated shows is The Invisible Man. A lot of people seem to be put off by the gimmicky concept of the show, but they don't realize the great writing that they're missing.

    In case you haven't heard about the show, the premise is that the main character is a thief who exchanged a life in jail for a government experiment. Now he has a gland in his head that lets him go invisible, but if he goes invisible too long without a shot, he goes nuts. It seems pretty cliche, and has already had episodes with the typical "main character gets amnesia" and "same story from 3 points of view." It's not really the stories, which do sometimes shine, that make it great.

    The people behind the Invisible Man know how to write funny, entertaining characters. The two main characters, the wisecracking Darrian Fox and his happless partner Hobbes, have a great charisma. There have been times that the characters have played off each other so well I couldn't help but laugh.

    Particularly witty about the show is the fact the main character has trouble suspending disbelief. In one episode, he told a recurring villian just how contrived his schemes really are. Sure, other shows could try the same device and come off as trying to be too hip for their own good, but the dialogue combined with the comic delivery was just perfect.

    Speaking of the deliverly, all the actors on the show are quite convincing for their character. Ben Paul Victor's portrayal of Bobby Hobbes has turned a potentially annoying sidekick into an impressive supporting actor.

    The Invisible Man isn't going to win awards anytime soon, but the effort the people behind the show put into it is commendable. The show doesn't require a whole lot of brainpower, but that really works in its favor. It is the perfect carefree show to kick off a weekend.

    • ...probably one of the most underrated shows is The Invisible Man...
      I avoided this one for a while, but I've seen it a few times lately and have been very pleasantly surprised. If you haven't seen it, check it out.
  • Best Sci-Fi (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Fixer (35500)
    I haven't seen television since Feburary, but last I checked, they had re-runs of Babylon-5 on. I'd say, in order, Babylon-5, Farscape, original Star Trek re-runs and StarGate SG-1 are the best scifi on American televsion today.
  • Andromeda (Score:2, Funny)

    by Octal (310)
    I'm personally a big fan of Andromeda, although I do also enjoy Earth: Final Conflict and Stargate SG-1. I'm not holding out much hope for Star Trek: Continuity Error, though.

    (<sarcasm>Cable? What the hell is cable?</sarcasm>)
  • I'd have to vote for Doctor Who. Doctor Who is the greatest Sci-Fi series in the history of Sci-Fi.

    Just find a PBS station that shows re-runs, or see if BBC America is still airing their early morning episodes, and kick back and enjoy.
  • Ahead of its time then... a little lamish on the effects by todays standards, but it was great. As I have no cable I have no idea what is on now... Does anyone really watch Cable?? I thought all these /. people were DVDers...
  • The scary thing is that the Sci-Fi channel has finally edged out Comedy Central and Cartoon Network on my Tivo for disk space.

    You have limited disk space on your TiVo?

    Some weak hacker you are!
  • I have no idea if this is showing on any channels right now, but I liked it.

    Was probably because I started watching it after playing some of the Wing Commander games; there's a lot of similarities, but anyway it's a nice bit of fun sci-fi in its own right.
    • SciFi channel shows repeats Wednesday during the day. I already saw all 23 episodes or so when it was first airing on whatever network that was back in 1995. Still worth watching when sitting around at home unemployed and you want to avoid writing the next cover letter for an hour, though.
    • by DanMcS (68838)
      Most days of the week SciFi does several hours of 'scifi-world, ____ land", like fantasy land or horror land or whatever, they'll show 4 hours of a particular series from about noon to 4 or 1 to 5, I forget. I just happened to catch S:A&B on wednesday of this week (I think), but the schedule appears to be random, on thursday they showed Fantasy Island. An excellent show, I agree, and I watched it when it was first on several years ago.
    • S:AaB was, for me, one of the few SF shows it *never* felt painful to watch. Everything from Star Trek TNG to the X-files to (especially) the Outer Limits had at least a few episodes I was embarrassed to admit to have shared a planet with let alone watched. But S:AaB never slipped. There were a few points in some episodes which were shaky, or budget-constrained in terms of effects, but in general it was rock-solid. It had Babylon 5 (another great show) style semi-"realistic" space dogfighting, an enemy who was vicious but not completely dehumanized, and three-dimensional characters in all facets of the show. SPOILER: the final episode was wrenching - Wang's death and the probable deaths of Vansen and Damphousse were shocking and possibly the most honestly handled character deaths I've ever seen on TV.
  • Ahem.. Blake's 7? (Score:2, Informative)

    by Kayax (448395)
    Somebody else has already brought up the other shows I was going to talk about (Andromeda, Dr. Who, Red Dwarf)... but where's Blake's 7? [horizon.org.uk]

    Unfortunately it wasn't particuarly popular, but it did run for 4 seasons on the BBC. I think that the character development was quite good, especially in the first half of the show. The characters were usually out for themselves first and for the group sort-of when it was convienent. Plus no ridiculous pseudo-philosophical problems.

    The overall story line was very believable too -- a group of unlikely outlaws rebelling against an tyrannical Federation -- and not any of the silly utopian nonsense you get with ST: The Marxist Generation. And major characters would often die, making it more realistic.

    Of course the series did have its downfalls. Towards the end it seemed they ran out of stories and the episodes got pretty silly. Plus they suffered from the typical BBC attention to special effects. On most occaisons you couldn't see the strings on their models..
    • Re:Ahem.. Blake's 7? (Score:2, Informative)

      by KI0PX (266692)
      Amen! Considering how it was such a low-budget production, Blake's 7 was really good. It had some similarities to Star Trek, I thought. The Federation symbol was much like a sideways communicator, teleporter==transporter, etc. I think a lot of the episode names were the same too.

      And major characters would often die, making it more realistic.

      Not to mention the last episode, where they simply killed off all the remaining characters (excepting Blake himself... they just faded out right after he had been captured). Not many shows have the guts to do that.

      • Not to mention the last episode, where they simply killed off all the remaining characters (excepting Blake himself... they just faded out right after he had been captured). Not many shows have the guts to do that.

        I think you mean Avon. We got to see Blake killed.

      • There have been some quite strong rumours about a coming Blake's 7 movie [horizon.org.uk]. (google rocks :)

        //rdj
  • by GGardner (97375) on Sunday August 05, 2001 @03:45PM (#2156320)
    Right now, a copy of Interzone magazine ( http://www.sfsite.com/interzone ) is sitting atop my television, making it far and away the best SF on my television.

    Most SF fans know that many of the most interesting genre movies are derived from short stories (i.e Blade Runner, The Minority Report, even A.I.). What a lot of people don't know is that these short stories often first appeared in SF magazines. Magazines such as Interzone, Asimov's, and F&SF aren't in good financial health right now, even though they are the nursery for a lot of SF writers.

    A yearly subscription to most of these costs less than on month's cable bill, but gives a lot more entertainment, and helps to ensure the future of SF writers.

    End of pledge break -- now back to our regularly scheduled Microsoft bashing

  • Some of these have been mentioned already, a couple not, or maybe they've been modded way down.

    • Dark Angel. No, not because Jessica Alba is a hottie. It has wonderful continuity, good interplay between the major characters, a truly despicable villain who nonetheless isn't just a one-dimensional cliche, and a visual style that isn't like anything else on TV right now (even if it's maybe not entirely original). It also makes a decent attempt to be plausible in the science department, most of the time anyway.
    • Futurama. Continues to do a hilarious job of skewering sci-fi cliches.
    • Andromeda. Again, good continuity with a sense of a larger story being told (as a B5 nut [midwinter.com] this scores lots of points with me), interesting characters, good effects, and story concepts we haven't seen done a million times before.
    • Lexx. This brings me back to my college days of watching videotapes of awful old sci-fi movies on Saturday nights. Last season kind of dragged on but this year is a hoot so far.

    Stargate is just below my threshold -- not bad and I catch it pretty often, but I feel like I watch enough TV as it is so I don't follow it religiously.

  • Ok, this may be vaguely off the topic of currently running shows, though it's one to watch out for if they re-run it, or bother to get round to series 2..
    That's "Ultraviolet". It's well worth watching out for, although it's (in current form) just a 6 episode mini series.
    Keep the eyes peeled,

    Malk
  • Some SciFi... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Falsch Freiheit (7780) <freiheit@gEULERmail.com minus math_god> on Sunday August 05, 2001 @03:17PM (#2156486) Homepage
    • Farscape; already mentioned by CmdrTaco, but this one is probably the best out there right now; and the muppets are done quite well.
    • Lexx; sucks, but seems to have improved a bit this season
    • Outer Limits; SciFi carries this, but it used to also show on CBS and Showtime. I think SciFi's run is ending. Individual 1-hour long stories that aren't connected. (okay, sometimes they're connected, and references to other episodes sometimes pop up) Quite good, sort of a "Twilight Zone" feel.
    • Earth: Final Conflict; been watching this on our local FOX affiliate. Quite good, actually. SciFi is starting a run of this from the beginning on Monday; I'll be watching, as I missed the beginning of the series.
    • Andromeda; this and EFC above are both based on ideas from Gene Roddenberry. Think "300 years after the Federation from Star Trek has fallen", except with enough things changed that it doesn't quite look like Star Trek and with a single ship that survived from that era (trapped next to a black hole) and her crew trying to rebuild the "Commonwealth". If only it didn't involve Kevin Sorbo...
    • Exposure; on SciFi, it's just independent short films; some are *very* well done.
    • Stargate SG-1; also playing on my local FOX affiliate, but originally from Showtime (new episodes are on Showtime, year later or so they end up on FOX); haven't been new episodes this summer, but this show is surprisingly good. *Far* better than the movie it's based on, except the special effects budget is smaller. Looking at the Showtime listing, they're still doing new ones, so I fully expect to see new-to-me ones on FOX starting again in the fall.
    • The Chronicle; just started on SciFi on Saturday nights; basic premise is they're the National Enquirer and all the stories (Zombie Maggots from Outer Space eat dog-girl's brain!) are real. Worth programming the VCR for; not worth staying home on Saturday night for.

    In fact, there's so much SciFi on TV these days that I can't keep up. There's also a "Witchblade" show on TNT (more Fantasy than SciFi) that's not bad. "Now and Again" is starting on SciFi on Monday; cancelled show from one of the major networks that I never saw, but I'm sure I'll check out a few episodes.
    • The syndicated [stargate-sg1.com] Stargate season starts on September 11th. This is the fourth season, the fifth season started on Showtime over a month ago.

      No final decision has been made yet whether Showtime will pick up a 6th season.

      • I heard a rumor that there are quite a number of people who subscribe to Showtime primarily, if not exclusively, because of Stargate: SG-1. I thought I was the only one who did that. I'd get Cinemax or HBO instead, if Showtime didn't have original sci-fi on it, and I think that's true of a lot of people. The great thing is that my TiVo allows me to get much more out of Showtime, because I don't have to worry about schedules.
  • Red Dwarf (Score:5, Interesting)

    by D_Gr8_BoB (136268) on Sunday August 05, 2001 @03:18PM (#2156488)
    In my opinion, the best sci-fi show still in production is Red Dwarf [reddwarf.co.uk]. It's easily one of the funniest shows I've ever seen, and while the recent seasons (7-8) haven't been nearly as good as the show was at its peak (seasons 1-4), it's still very much worth watching.

    Those of you in the UK can look forward to a new season soon, and most of us in the US can catch reruns of the first 8 seasons on our local PBS station [pbs.org].

  • by TheHaas (13095) on Sunday August 05, 2001 @03:26PM (#2156502)

    I've waxed and waned on the SciFi channel - they have series that start good, but I just can't get into them. I do agree that Farscape is a lot better now than in the first seaon.

    And, though it technically isn't SciFi (more horror) what about "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and it's spin-of "Angel". Though I'm worred what UPN will do to it, Buffy has been the best written and the best acted show on TV, and Angel isn't far behind. The characters in those shows laugh, cry, and hurt. And, though it gets silly once in a while, it knows it's silly and just laughs at itself.

    Buffy is definitely the most "junvenile" of the two, though the themes it has discussed (sexuality, loss of a loved one) are biggies and they give it the weight that those themes deserve. Angel is more of an adult-oriented, with more of a Batman: The Animated Serie feel to it.

    Try it - you may like it!

  • I loved P4X, the 3rd episode of the 4th season of LEXX. Craig Charles and Hattie Hayridge, Lister and the female Holly of Red Dwarf, starred as a married couple who where the wardens of the prison that Xev was taken to.

    The Official Red Dwarf site [reddwarf.co.uk] has a good interview with them about staring on LEXX - Prison Wardens [reddwarf.co.uk].

  • Well, they are aiming for a different demographic in farscape, and personally I can not stand an idiot muscle brain frat boy portrayed as a scientist. The rest of the crew is all right, and the special effects are pretty good, but man that guy sucks as an actor and as a charachter. Lexx is pretty good, and odd, but a little shallow. The chronical shows some excellent camp humor potential. The invisible man is ok, but nothing special.

    As for non sci-fi channel sci-fi, witchblade is alright, but shows signs of degrading into the monotony of the highlander siries. Buffy was good for a while, but I think that it is past the haighpoint and is going down hill. The star treks have been washed up for me for a while. Of course my all time favorite is blakes 7, with doctor who as a second.
    -CrackElf
  • West Wing (Score:4, Interesting)

    by DanMcS (68838) on Sunday August 05, 2001 @04:55PM (#2162092)
    OK, not strictly sci fi, but this is the best-written show, ever. It does occur in an alternate universe where the president is a different person, so that might sneak it in to the very border of SciFi-ness. Ok, probably not, but don't limit yourself to scifi, there is some excellent television floating around. Not much, but it's there.
    • It does occur in an alternate universe where the president is a different person, so that might sneak it in to the very border of SciFi-ness. Ok, probably not, but don't limit yourself to scifi,

      Nope. It counts, and not just for the alternate universe-ness.

      They've shows have featured meteorology, cartography, air-traffic control, security technology, e-mail instability, crude-oil transport, and ichthyology (goldfish).

      There was supposed to be a scene in the finale this year of some of them standing in front of the Einstein statue at NIST, but it got cut for time.

      The West Wing is science fiction.

      --Blair
    • Nope. Doesn't count. Sure the writing is good, but it's not Sci-Fi. Fantasy, sure, especially with the political leanings. But they're talking about Sci-Fi. Why was this modded up again? Come on, Urkel is probably sci-fi since no-one that annoying could exist naturally. Sorry, he's in an "alternate universe" where he's annoying (and no bringing up the "Alternate Urkel episodes. or that I know about them). Doesn't make it sci-fi.

      Good Sci-Fi
      • Farscape (awesome)
      • Invisible Man(great and hilarious)
      • New Adventures of Jules Verne (not great, just good, but has potential)
      • The Chronicle(I hope it stays this good)
      • Dark Angel (love that cliffhanger ending, especially since no-one knew if it was getting renewed or not)
      • Buffy (like I need to say anything?)


      And of course, this fall, the new B5 show. Which, unlike the new Star Trek, will definitely not suck. (I hope the new Star Trek doesn't suck, but I'm not getting that vibe. Someone fire Berman)
    • Re:West Wing (Score:3, Insightful)

      by dsplat (73054)
      My VCR current records Farscape, Andromeda, Witchblade, and West Wing. As I have said in other comments, I really like good characters. The characters on West Wing are some of the best I've ever seen. At their high points, all of the best SF series hit the intensity and wit that these guys hit nearly every week.

      I don't watch or read much fiction other than SF. There's so much good SF, and so little time. But there are exceptions. ER and West Wing jump to mind immediately. I wouldn't call, West Wing SF, but I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it.
  • A&E started running a mystery series based on books by Rex Stout called "Nero Wolfe". No, it's not sci-fi, but it stars an 'genius that's just a little excentric', dated a few decades back when more people had class and men wore hats.

    You've got to love a guy who takes "Webster's New International Dictionary, Unabridged, Third Edition", rips out each page of it one at a time, and tosses them into the fireplace because the book threatens the integrity of the english language.

    Anyways, A&E is currently shifting around the show right now and it doesn't have a solid time slot (they overplayed the first batch of episodes), but it's been playing and probably will continue it's run on Saturday nights. But of course, there's also the original books in a library near you.
  • IN THE YEAR 2525
    THERE ARE WOMEN WITH THE WILL TO SURVIVE
    FIGHTING FOR A BRAND NEW DAY
    NOTHING'S GONNA GET IN THEIR WAY

    ...

    Christ, I'm so sorry. I don't know what overcame me. Oh yeah, the character Sarge gives me wood. that's what it was. Bad TV show, bad acting, nice abs. Now it's cancelled. I hope. It disappeared off local TV like an indicted infomercial king.
  • Nickelodeon has a (relatively) new cartoon called "Invader Zim". It's definitely a hoot.

    Two downsides, though:

    1. It's on at the same time as Farscape (but that's why God invented VCRs & Tivo)
    2. So far, there's only 6 half-hour episodes
    Mrs Bitters: Zim, the machine says the only job you're suited for is --
    Zim: Yes, yes -- LORD OF HUMANS!! I will rule you all with an iron fist!
  • I like Farscape. Apart from the damn good writing and story lines that address moral issues that Star Trek wouldn't touch with a 10 foot pole, they have that white chick. Woah... That white chick... drool... She makes that Voyager borgette look like Rosanne Barr.

    I don't find a whole lot of character in any of the characters in Lexx. The only main character who doesn't seem completely flat is Kai (And he's DEAD!) I do derive a fair amount of sadistic pleasure in watching the writers torment Stanley and any show that has two freaking seasons of Nigel Bennett as the bad guy has got to be good.

  • I agress, I love farscape, but I find Lexx very confusing and annoying. I think my difficulty is that I don't watch a lot of tv and when I catch Lexx ocassionally the story is just so different from what I recall of the last episode that it is very hard to follow.

If I have not seen so far it is because I stood in giant's footsteps.

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