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Recommend me some teen sci-fi TV series!
January 19, 2013 3:47 PM   Subscribe

I love serious, obscure TV sci-fi aimed at twelve year olds. Please help me find more of it!

Ever since my tween years, I've loved YA sci-fi works for the small screen. I grew up enjoying series like the rebooted Tomorrow People, the rebooted Land of the Lost, Mission Genesis and Space Cases. I also really love adult sci-fi when it has significant plotlines featuring well-developed teen characters--think Buck and Emily in Alien Nation (the flashback eps of Fringe also made me squee). Over the years, I've discovered and burned through the New Zealand show the Tribe and the Canadian series The Odyssey (which isn't technically sci-fi, but has pretty rigorous worldbuilding for magical realism for kids). I'm okay with heavy soap opera and cheesy, Degrassi-esque plotting, but I really hate puns and corny humor; the "Uranus" jokes from Space Cases were just a bit much for me. I'm also not super into Whedonesque cleverness. What I really want is more good YA sci-fi drama that takes itself (perhaps too) seriously. Obscure and/or old are fine so long as there's some way for me to hunt it down and watch it. Current is dandy, too.

Bonus points for aliens.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi to Media & Arts (44 answers total) 30 users marked this as a favorite
 
Not sure if its specifically YA-oriented, but Farscape ticks much of the buttons.
posted by softlord at 3:51 PM on January 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'd really prefer stuff specifically with teen characters--though I do love me a muppet alien. Farscape is great.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 3:53 PM on January 19, 2013


Deep Space Nine had some pretty good stuff with Jake Sisko and his Ferengi pal Nog. They were only really featured a couple of times per season, but it was good stuff when they showed up. It starts off as them having these cute, kind of Huck and Finn adventures, but it gradually gets a lot more crunchy. The first season or two of DS9 are a little rocky, but it eventually gets really really good.

You might want to take another pass at Buffy, too. It was a funny/clever show, sure, but it wasn't just that. I don't know that dark fantasy teen melodrama is ever gonna get better than that.

As a Doctor Who fanatic, I keep meaning to check out the Sarah Jane Adventures. Anybody wanna recommend that one?
posted by Ursula Hitler at 3:57 PM on January 19, 2013


Misfits of Science!
posted by LobsterMitten at 3:59 PM on January 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


I was debating giving Jake and Nog a shout-out! I loved their plotlines in DS9! I'm a Whovian and a Trekkie so I'm pretty familiar with those franchises before I get a flood of "Watch Who!" stuff. But keep 'em coming--thanks!
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 3:59 PM on January 19, 2013


Also Voyagers, which was aimed even a little younger.
posted by LobsterMitten at 4:01 PM on January 19, 2013


Not 100% SciFi, but mermaids and takes itself pretty seriously, H2O is fun and pulls you in.
posted by dadici at 4:02 PM on January 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


There are a few Doctor Who spinoffs like that - K9 and the Sarah Jane Adventures.

Dog Star is animated but good, and some of the Ben 10 series are decent.

Farscape isn't for kids.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 4:02 PM on January 19, 2013


Not out-in-space scifi, but scifi nonetheless: The 4400. It's a large ensemble cast, with at least 2 teenaged boys in key roles, and season 4 adds a teenaged girl. The official lead duo is a Mulder-Scully couple, but the guy is related to the boys and they are involved in all major plotlines.
posted by MinusCelsius at 4:15 PM on January 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


Eureka has a significant teen female lead - the sheriff's daughter - and her interactions with teens her age. Plus the show is great! May be a bit on the funny side for you, but the humor takes the form of interesting dialog and less straight-up jokes or corny one-liners.
posted by bookdragoness at 4:20 PM on January 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's historical drama rather than SF, but given the subject, Young Indiana Jones might do. Many episodes feature Indy from age 16-21.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 4:29 PM on January 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


A ton of shounen anime has teenage protagonists. Amuro in Mobile Suit Gundam is 15, and Camille in Zeta Gundam is 17; a lot of other Gundam media also features younger protagonists, but personally I'm partial to the first two series. Neon Genesis Evangelion also features protagonists who, as a major plot point, are 14 years old. They are all top notch in the science fiction ("mecha") genre, both taking very serious approaches to giant robots; the humor in Evangelion's early episodes particularly serves only as a counterpoint to the high drama and is mostly character driven. I realize it's probably different from what you're looking at but that is a major source of science fiction TV media with teenage protagonists.
posted by graymouser at 4:30 PM on January 19, 2013


You probably already know them, since you mentioned more obscure stuff...

Under The Mountain - shapeshifting alien walruses invade New Zealand; almost Lovecraftian in its atmosphere. Recently remade as a movie.

The Girl From Tomorrow - great adventure series about a time-displaced girl from the far future, and the struggle to reconstruct her time machine. An exciting plot and great comedy.
posted by Kandarp Von Bontee at 4:31 PM on January 19, 2013 [4 favorites]


I love and highly recommend Chocky and sequels, based on the John Wyndham novel, although the main characters are probably younger than you want.

I also remember really liking a New Zealand show of about the same vintage, Children of the Dog Star. No idea if it holds up, though!
posted by goo at 4:31 PM on January 19, 2013 [4 favorites]


The BBC was great at Sci-Fi for kids back in my day. Probably the most memorable was Chocky (I see goo got there before me) which concerned a young English schoolboy who becomes the vessel for an alien intelligence.

There were 3 series of 6 episode each. Here's the first episode from series one to get you started: 1 2 3.

You'll also notice The Tripods listed in the sidebar there. Also worth a watch, but note that the BBC cancelled the programme in after its second series if you do decide to start watching it.
posted by urbanwhaleshark at 4:43 PM on January 19, 2013


Strange Days at Blake Holsey High is a possibilty. Link to season 1. I can endorse H2O that dadici mentioned above. There's only one season but Tower Prep was not bad.
posted by gudrun at 5:01 PM on January 19, 2013


Also, here's an interesting potted history of British Children's Scifi on TV.
posted by urbanwhaleshark at 5:08 PM on January 19, 2013


It's cheesy 80s-era library-themed education television, but you might like Tomes & Talismans.

Disney had a show similar to Girl From Tomorrow called Phil of the Future, only it's the whole family who are stranded in the Present Day.

Disney also had a couple of cute movies about Zenon, a girl who grows up on a space station and has to scheme to save it.
posted by clerestory at 5:15 PM on January 19, 2013


Tripods was my first thought, though I haven't seen it in eons.

Evangelion is another obvious selection. I'd go farther than graymouser and say that it isn't really a giant robot show; it's a show about depression and betrayal and abandonment using giant robots more as a way to further alienate its characters than as punching machines. It's good, and it takes itself seriously, but if you stop to think about what you're watching it's grindingly dark. Like, Galactica-level grim.

Me, I'd pair that up with FLCL to take the edge off. FLCL is very fucking far from serious, I think... I'm not quite sure what it's about. There's this kid whose brother is playing baseball in the States and a chick appear from nowhere and hits him upside the head with a guitar and raises a welt that sometimes robots pop out of. Also there's a giant factory shaped like a flatiron and alien agents with huge eyebrows. Anyway, like I said, I'm not really sure what it's about. But I'm pretty sure that if I'd seen it when I was 14 it wouldn't just have understood it -- it would have been the most important thing in my life for a year or so, so I'll recommend it anyway.

I'll also suggest Cowboy Bebop because Edward.

Really, a list of good SF anime will likely consist of at least 60% stuff about teenagers or with prominent teenagers.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 5:53 PM on January 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


Thanks, guys! I'm watching Voyagers! as we speak, and it's amazeballs. I hope to work through this list over the next couple weeks. The NZ and BBC shows were exactly what I was looking for. As a kid, I loved Strange Days at Blake Holsey High and this is a good excuse to revisit it. And I don't know how I missed the Tripods series--I'm a huge fan of the books.

On twitter, friends also suggested The Starlost, Jason of Star Command, and Space: 1999 for those looking for similar suggestions. And Misfits. Also Sliders, of which I'm already a fan.

I appreciate the anime suggestions--I think they're very much in the spirit of my question, particularly in tone--but unfortunately subtitles don't work for me as I stream series while writing. But maybe they'll help someone else!

Any other suggestions greatly appreciated! Thanks again.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 6:03 PM on January 19, 2013


You listed The Odyssey, so: Eerie, Indiana.
posted by Iris Gambol at 6:36 PM on January 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


There's always Roswell, perhaps aimed at a tiny bit older target demographic.
posted by Bunglegirl at 6:46 PM on January 19, 2013


Earth Star Voyager!!!
posted by steinsaltz at 6:49 PM on January 19, 2013


Evangelion is another obvious selection. I'd go farther than graymouser and say that it isn't really a giant robot show; it's a show about depression and betrayal and abandonment using giant robots more as a way to further alienate its characters than as punching machines. It's good, and it takes itself seriously, but if you stop to think about what you're watching it's grindingly dark. Like, Galactica-level grim.

Me, I'd pair that up with FLCL to take the edge off. FLCL is very fucking far from serious, I think... I'm not quite sure what it's about. There's this kid whose brother is playing baseball in the States and a chick appear from nowhere and hits him upside the head with a guitar and raises a welt that sometimes robots pop out of. Also there's a giant factory shaped like a flatiron and alien agents with huge eyebrows. Anyway, like I said, I'm not really sure what it's about. But I'm pretty sure that if I'd seen it when I was 14 it wouldn't just have understood it -- it would have been the most important thing in my life for a year or so, so I'll recommend it anyway.

I'll also suggest Cowboy Bebop because Edward.


I almost want to flag this it's so potentially dangerous. Evangelion is likely to cause psychological trauma to a 12 year old. I'm not joking. I enjoyed it at 16, but even at that age it messed me up. The ending is literally the director's filmed nervous breakdown.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 6:52 PM on January 19, 2013


The Changes is a 1975 ten-part BBC series about a teenage girl trying to find her family in a sort of post-catastrophe dystopic Britain (wikipedia) (alternative video link)

Children of the Stones is a 1976 ITV series about a family moving to a village in England, and discovering a bizarre and mysterious pagan-linked conspiracy. Highly praised! (wikipedia)
posted by rollick at 7:38 PM on January 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


Pretty much everything I was going to suggest is here (especially Under The Mountain -- the series and the movie, and the book), but two that are missing are The Tomorrow People (old series probably, but if you can enjoy Voyagers!, the new series could be tolerable) and an Australian-Polish co-production called Spellbinder that I have fond memories of.

If you liked The Tribe, you'll love it too.

Not sure why Australia has always done good kids sci-fi shows.

[A word of caution: Don't rush into The Starlost. It really is as its reputation suggests.]
posted by Mezentian at 8:51 PM on January 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


It may aim a little lower than 12 years old, but Les Aventures de Virulysse is awesome, if you can find it.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 8:53 PM on January 19, 2013


I would also recommend The Girl from Tomorrow and the sequel Tomorrow's End, both of which I loved when I was a teen. I don't know how widely available they are now, though I think I caught some episodes on YouTube.
posted by jb at 9:00 PM on January 19, 2013


CiS: PhoBWan is a grownup.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:08 PM on January 19, 2013


>It starts off as them having these cute, kind of Huck and Finn adventures

Ugh. Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn.

It's certainly not for everybody, but I'm kind of a maniac for the original Land of the Lost. Yes, cheesy sets, yes, campy special effects, etc. But the writing is great fun (with scripts by Theodore Sturgeon and other solid sci-fi scribes of the era) and it's so demented and trippy. It's a kids' show with real respect for the audience and lots of crazy ambition. They try to do a lot of stuff that was simply impossible with their budget, and they pull off this big, epic storyline with a lot of crappy props made out of papier mache. They've got world creation myths, invented languages, 1970-something surreality, rubber dinosaurs, underground cities full of hissing lizard men... Dear god, how I love that show.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 10:22 PM on January 19, 2013


Mezentian: "Not sure why Australia has always done good kids sci-fi shows."

c.f. Thunderstone. Jonathan M. Schiff Productions, in particular, are (or maybe were; it's been a while) good at this stuff.
posted by Pinback at 10:25 PM on January 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


One of the best and yet least-known of the 1970s low-budget British SF series was Timeslip, about two young teens who discover a time-gate near an old WW2 base. It consists of four storylines, each about 6 episodes long, that cover four different visits to the past or future. The stories don't stand alone; they build on each other in thoughtful ways, so you must watch the series through from the beginning. (I say this because the first storyline is kind of slow and tedious -- they improve radically from Part 2 onwards. Part 3 is fantastic.) I would class it with some of the best dystopic YA SF novels of the previous decade, and I think you might enjoy it as much as I did.
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 11:22 PM on January 19, 2013


Ark II.
posted by kindall at 12:17 AM on January 20, 2013


I would also recommend Sapphire & Steel (it was shown as a kids' thing here), and maybe Clifton House Mystery - a ghost story - it only runs six episodes and was as creepy as all get-out when I was younger. If you watch and enjoy Chocky and Children of the Stones, it's got the same vibe.

Into the Labyrinth. Like Ark II it may screw too young and cheesy, but I loved it as a 10-year-old and it should be available.

There are a couple of others I don't know the names of (so no help there) but one I consistently see referenced while searching is Ace of Wands, although I have never seen it myself.

(May as well throw Buck Rogers and UFO into the mix since you mentioned Space 1999 and The Starloft, but they have not aged well and I only made it through thanks to nostalgia.)
posted by Mezentian at 2:05 AM on January 20, 2013


They look a little dated now, but Russell T Davies' pre-Who serials Dark Shadows and Century Falls. Also Deepwater Black, which I remember really enjoying as a teen, but it may have aged badly, and I'm not sure it's available anywhere.

It's not aimed at a YA audience but I was strangely fond of Seaquest DSV, and it does have a Wesley Crusher-like genius teen in the cast.
posted by penguinliz at 5:08 AM on January 20, 2013


penguinliz: Deepwater Black was shown in the US as Mission Genesis (mentioned in the question) and you can find about 3/4 of the episodes on youtube.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:22 AM on January 20, 2013


The Third Eye and more recently, House of Anubis.
posted by jbickers at 6:22 AM on January 21, 2013


I definitely recommend Sapphire and Steel as well. Awesome, spooky, atmospheric, and while only the first story is very definitely aimed at kids it all has that young-adultish type of vibe. It is generally more fantasy than science fiction, as is Ace of Wands, although I still think you might enjoy them. Another spooky 1970s YA British kids' fantasy series is The Owl Service.

I do not recommend Space: 1999. My partner (who is working his way through his extensive DVD collection of TV shows in chronological order) has just finished watching that; it has no teenage characters or humour and is rather Serious Stuff.

What about Lost in Space? The first season was more serious, it only really got campy later.

My partner also suggests Pathfinders in Space, Tightrope, Sky, The Jensen Code and City Beneath the Sea - all 60s and 70s British sci-fi aimed at older kids or young adults.

There's also a very charming British series called The Flipside of Dominick Hyde about a time traveller from the future dropped into 1980 London, which might fit your criteria.

All on DVD, and most of these are put out by Network.

The Sarah Jane Adventures is also pretty good for your purposes - I haven't seen all of them and a few are a bit ordinary, but it ticks the boxes for aliens, teen characters, a bit of cheese and taking itself a bit too seriously.
posted by andraste at 1:19 AM on January 22, 2013


Another spooky 1970s YA British kids' fantasy series is The Owl Service.

Good choice. Hated the book at 14, but a re-read was better.

I do not recommend Space: 1999. it has no teenage characters or humour and is rather Serious Stuff.

I watched it as a kid. It may be serious, but it is also cheesy and dated.

There's also a very charming British series called The Flipside of Dominick Hyde about a time traveller from the future dropped into 1980 London, which might fit your criteria.

I watched this when I was 8? I recall it being a bit more adult than YA. There is also a sequel: The Other Side of Dominick Hyde I have not seen, but they are nice, brisk shows dealing with time travel. A lot like the TV version of Hitchhiker's Guide.

I can nth Sarah Jane Adventures. I really enjoy it. It is cheesy, but fun, and occasionally strong. Probably wouldn't bother if you aren't a Dr Who fan, but if you are there's enough there.
posted by Mezentian at 4:11 AM on January 22, 2013


The question is practically describing Grand Star.
posted by Chuckles at 11:40 PM on January 25, 2013


The Owl Service.
posted by urbanwhaleshark at 9:31 AM on January 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


That The Owl Service is on YouTube makes me happier than I would have thought.
posted by Mezentian at 5:27 PM on January 26, 2013


Mezentian - Clifton House Mystery is the answer to a potential AskMe of my own, thanks!
posted by goo at 7:45 PM on February 2, 2013


Awesome. I love it when a plan comes together.
Joyfully, Clifton House is also on Youtube.
posted by Mezentian at 8:40 PM on February 2, 2013


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