What are the best sci-fi TV shows, to you? Are they the ones with the coolest CGI and the best battles or are they the ones with the most incredible stories or thought-provoking themes?
Doesn’t matter, this is the objectively correct guide, which is not negotiable in any way and is in no way subjective.
Just kidding, we love all sci-fi, but these are some of the greats. We’re not here to rank all the best sci-fi TV shows, but we are here to add the best to your list, from the classics to the beloved.
Star Trek (1966 – 1969)
Gene Roddenbury’s space opera originally battled to stay on screen after one season but, thanks to a letter-writing campaign from intervening fans, managed to last for three. Captain Kirk (William Shatner) and the crew of the starship Enterprise set phasers to stun and went on its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilisations, to boldly go where no man has gone before.
The original series has lived long and prospered, spawning a cartoon series, numerous feature films and a multitude of spin-offs (Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Discovery and more).
Actually, you know what? Add the other Star Trek shows to your list, except for maybe Enterprise. Here’s a guide to how to properly watch Star Trek.
- You can watch Star Trek: The Original Series on Netflix.
Doctor Who (1963 – Present)
Originally renowned for its wobbly sets, wobbly plastic monsters and even wobblier acting; Doctor Who had generations of kids hiding behind the sofa before the show went on hiatus in 1986 after 26 years on air. Now, given a new lease of life after Christopher Eccleston took over the role in 2005, the time-travelling exploits of the rogue Time Lord from the planet of Gallifrey are as popular as ever.
This is thanks largely to the Doctor’s powers of regeneration and the incredibly popular incarnation played by David Tennant. If you’re going to watch a Doctor Who era, you should definitely watch the David Tennant years.
Additionally, the Doctor is getting a new series with Ncuti Gatwa stepping into the role and Russell T. Davies returning to the show running position.
- You can watch Doctor Who on Stan.
Black Mirror (2011 – Present)
Before Black Mirror, Charlie Brooker had made a name for himself writing Brasseye and Nathan Barley with Chris Morris and setting loose zombies onto the Big Brother set in Dead Set. Now he is the creator of one of the hottest shows in the world. An acerbic sci-fi anthology show, Brooker focuses on the consequences that future technologies could have in years to come.
Often fusing savage humour with dystopian despair, the first episode featured a UK prime minister blackmailed into having sex with a pig live on television. Once seen, never forgotten. Today, the show is five seasons in (we’ve linked to the trailer of season 3 below, it’s a terrific watch). The good thing about Black Mirror is that there’s no set place to start watching: you just watch the episodes that sound the most interesting to you.
- You can watch Black Mirror on Netflix.
The Twilight Zone (1959 – 1964)
Rod Serling’s hugely influential anthology show mixed its sci-fi with psychological horror, fantasy, suspense and thriller, often concluding with a macabre or unexpected twist.
Running for five seasons from 1959 to 1964, The Twilight Zone boasted the talents of Ray Bradbury and Richard Matheson amongst its writers. Serling and his fellow scribes often used the show as a soapbox for the big issues of the day.
It was recently remade on Paramount+, however, it was also a direct inspiration for Netflix’s Black Mirror.
- You can stream The Twilight Zone on Paramount+.
Short-lived but much-loved, Firefly is a space western following the ragtag crew of the good ship Serenity as they head out to the fringes of society exploring the frontier of space civilisation. The likeable crew included Nathan Fillion (Castle), Allan Tudyk (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story) and Morena Baccarin (Homelands).
Created by Joss Whedon after the huge success of Buffy The Vampire Slayer, the single series was followed by a movie Serenity in 2005 but proved to be a box-office failure. Despite this, the show has built a huge cult following.
- You can stream Firefly on Disney+.
Battlestar Galactica (2004 – 2009)
A gritty, big-budget remake of the classic Glen A. Larson ‘70s production, Battlestar Galactica still pitched the last survivors of the human race against the evil Cylons but got rid of the “robot dog” called Muffit (played by a chimpanzee named Evolution in the original, fact).
Starring Edward James Olmos and Mary McDonnell, the reboot proved to be immensely popular, spinning off three TV movies and a less successful sister series called Caprica.
- You can stream Battlestar Galactica on Stan.
The X-Files (1993-2016)
The truth will always be out there for conspiracy theory enthusiast, alien believer and FBI agent Fox Mulder (David Duchovny). Luckily perennial skeptic Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) is on hand, as his partner, to debunk the supernatural shenanigans the duo witness while fuelling the “will they? won’t they?” sexual tension heating up the screen.
Also, in case you didn’t know, the show got its 10th season in 2016, 14 years after the release of season 9. We love to see a classic come back.
- You can watch The X-Files on Disney+.
The Mandalorian (2019 – present)
The first live-action Star Wars TV show, The Mandalorian presents the famed sci-fi universe in a “monster of the week” format, with an overarching story but a different plot every episode, obviously quite inspired by the earlier mentioned Firefly.
While it’s much newer than the other shows on this list, it’s one of the best modern Star Wars projects, starring a mysterious, shining-armoured bounty hunter (played by Pedro Pascal) as he journeys around the galaxy. It definitely deserves to be among the best sci-fi TV shows.
- You can watch The Mandalorian on Disney+.
Lost (2004 – 2010)
JJ Abrams’ calling card follows the survivors of a commercial jet airliner crash, flying between Sydney and Los Angeles, on a mysterious tropical island somewhere in the South Pacific Ocean. After six seasons the conclusion lost many viewers, the big reveals failing to deliver what audiences wanted. But as a whole, the show was a brilliant drama, full of winning performances, especially Naveen Andrews, Jorge Garcia and Matthew Fox, that kept viewers guessing to the very end. It might not have ended the way everyone wanted, but it’s still a thrilling show.
- You can stream Lost on Disney+.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy (1981)
Last on our list of the best sci-fi TV shows is, of course, from the legendary Douglas Adams.
Forget the big-budget Hollywood fiasco. If you want to see the definitive adaptation of Adams’s seminal tome about Earthling Arthur Dent’s journey to the “Restaurant At The End Of The Universe”, then the BBC show (in turn based on a radio show of the book) is even better than Vogan poetry. Babel fish, Marvin the paranoid android, the importance of towels in space travel; all are here in a delightfully quirky vision that duly does great service to Adams’s delightful source material.
Additionally, if you’re after a modern show with a similar flare, then may I interest you in Netflix’s Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency? It’s one of my favourite shows and is another Adams-based story.
- The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy isn’t available for streaming in Australia, but you can rent or buy it on Google Play.
Why not check out all the other sci-fi, horror and fantasy films coming our way this year.