October 4, 2012 1:33 AM   Subscribe

What's the best SF series broadcasting right now?

I missed Firefly by ten years, Serenity by 7, BSG by 8.

What am I missing now? What have I missed? CATCH ME UP PLEASE OMFG.
posted by roboton666 to Media & Arts (25 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
Doctor Who
posted by Aliera at 1:48 AM on October 4, 2012 [7 favorites]

The nominees for Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation are probably a fair representation of popular opinion on this.

This year, the answers are Game of Thrones (filed under Long Form, I guess because the whole season was nominated--deservedly), lots of Doctor Who, and one really amazing episode of Community.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 1:51 AM on October 4, 2012

Fringe. It started kooky but got better and better and there is more to come.
posted by Ness at 2:15 AM on October 4, 2012 [6 favorites]

They've revived Red Dwarf and the new series starts tonight, if funny UK sci-fi is your thing.
posted by comealongpole at 2:21 AM on October 4, 2012 [4 favorites]

Fringe and Dr Who.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 2:24 AM on October 4, 2012

Doctor Who has it's 50th Birthday next year, there's a reason for that ;)
posted by krisb1701d at 2:51 AM on October 4, 2012

How SF are you looking for?

Fringe, Alphas and Person of Interest are SF, but more 'twenty minutes in the future' stuff.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 2:52 AM on October 4, 2012

Adventure Time.

Ok, it's a cartoon, and each episode is only ten minutes long, but it is set in a post-apocalyptic America where magical things have come back. Also, it's been going for four seasons, there is a real sense of world-building and story, and it doesn't have annoying guest stars that make no sense.
posted by The River Ivel at 4:54 AM on October 4, 2012 [7 favorites]

Real space-travel scifi is pretty rare these days. I'd say the closest thing is Falling Skies, a post alien invasion drama.
posted by MinusCelsius at 4:57 AM on October 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

Fringe (which apparently started their new season last week and no one told me) and Doctor Who, definitely. After that, at least in the US, things get thin real fast.

One might include Warehouse 13 and Alphas on a second tier. They're entertaining enough, but also pretty predictable.

If you have BBC America, you can catch the occasional Torchwood episode, but they're mighty rare.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:58 AM on October 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

Unless I've missed something there aren't any sci-fi shows in the vein of Firefly and BSG on right now: that is, futuristic with a realistic/gritty approach.

Doctor Who is my favorite sci-fi-ish show at the moment, but I'd call it more science fantasy -- spacetime opera, if you will. It's often dark but not very gritty, and as you would expect from a show about an alien dilettante-tourist-revolutionary who travels through time in a spaceship disguised like a London police box, it's not very realistic either. It's just gone on hiatus until Christmas, which gives you some time to catch up: I would start with either season 1 (2005, not 1963!) or series 5. Alternately, the Christmas episodes are usually newbie-friendly, and with two long time cast members just left and another about to start, I'm betting this one will be designed as a good jumping-on point.

There's a lot of near-future stuff as pointed out above. I'm not watching any of those shows right now, but I've heard excellent things about Fringe and Person of Interest.

If you like cartoons/superheroes, you have a few more options. I've never been able to get into Star Wars: The Clone Wars, but it has a sizeable adult following and I know a lot of people like it who hated the prequels. Young Justice started as a nicely-executed but straightforward kid's show about teenage superheroes and has metamorphosed into an action-adventure espionage thriller with superpowers and aliens that just happens to be animated and star mostly teenage characters. Green Lantern is about space cop superheroes; I've heard good things about it but never watched it myself, so I don't know how adult-friendly it is.

Last Resort is a new, non-sf show which I've heard being compared to BSG a lot in tone: it's about a renegade US nuclear submarine which goes rogue after receiving orders to fire on Pakistan.
posted by bettafish at 5:11 AM on October 4, 2012

Much to my great sadness, after Stargate got cancelled and BSG ended that was pretty much it for live action scifi with spaceships. There's a discernible gap.

I actually came in to do the left-field suggestions of Adventure Time and Young Justice, as well as to add Gravity Falls to the list. They're cartoon shows with a primarily child-aged audience, but they're much much more than that, particularly Adventure Time. If you watch it in a row there's a totally surprising, extremely deep sense of worldbuilding and underlying plot.

I think a lot of the adventurey fun of previous-decade sci-fi shows has taken up residence in these newer cartoons that are sophisticated enough for a wider audience, similar to Star Trek or Farscape.

You... you did watch Farscape, didn't you?
posted by Mizu at 5:33 AM on October 4, 2012

So, Breaking Bad isn't exactly Science Fiction in the pure sense, but it is fiction about science and it's really good.
posted by Jon_Evil at 5:57 AM on October 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

Your options are limited. For SF that's very SF it's pretty much Who and Fringe, mentioned above, and Fringe is coming to an end. There's the odd lightly SF show starting here and there but none of them are super interesting or likely to last.

For shows with actual spaceships in you're pretty much limited to the suprisingly good Clone Wars animated series.
posted by Artw at 6:06 AM on October 4, 2012

No love for Revolution? I'm enjoying it so far, at any rate.
posted by Rock Steady at 6:30 AM on October 4, 2012 [2 favorites]

I also would put Walking Dead up there, if just for the series high points and season 3's potential. And damn, call me crazy but I think Nickelodeon's Avatar the Last Airbender/Legend of Korra are better than all these live action shows, what a fully realized world and character arcs (ignore the movie). For non-USian stuff not called Dr. Who, the Canadian show Continuum and the Channel 4 show Misfits are definitely worth checking out.
posted by yeahyeahyeahwhoo at 6:51 AM on October 4, 2012 [4 favorites]

I'm really obsessed with Supernatural. Does it count?
posted by mibo at 7:11 AM on October 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

Revolution is only a couple shows in but seems kinda good. Alphas is OK. I love Torchwood, hate Dr Who. Misfits is excellent and the entire series is on hulu. Haven is interesting.
posted by shoesietart at 7:14 AM on October 4, 2012

Gravity Falls on the Disney Channel is way better than it has any reason to be.
posted by 1970s Antihero at 7:46 AM on October 4, 2012

I get my TV fix via Netflix Instant, so I'm a bit behind the times, but I'd consider Primeval, Warehouse 13, Eureka, and Alphas worth checking out, although I'd file 'em under "light entertainment."
posted by soundguy99 at 8:49 AM on October 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

Another shout out for Fringe and Doctor Who. I was resistant to both series initially, but I was wrong, and here's why:
  • Doctor Who is, as bettafish notes, science fantasy. Conceptually, it's pretty silly (I refused to watch it after seeing how, in one episode, a cat-like humanoid and a human had children who were a litter of kittens). Its closest analog is probably Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (and Douglas Adams actually started out as a Who writer) in that both have an underlying sense of humor and whimsy and don't let SF "rules" get in the way of that. However, both also feature occasional flashes of absolute SF brilliance. An episode from last season, The Girl Who Waited is a good example--it's set on a quarantine planet where all the inhabitants are isolated from the outside world in a different timestream until they can be cured, tended to by robots. That's a great SF concept any way you cut it. There are two things notable about the current run of Doctor Who. The first is the Doctor as a character--a perfectly iconic, recognizable male lead who has nevertheless been played by eleven different actors. Change is constant on Doctor Who, but it also leads to a sense of palpable history. The show's still got legs, because of, not in spite of, it's very long run and the widely different talents of the many men who played him. The second is that the current show runner, Steven Moffat, is currently engaged in some incredibly ambitious serial storytelling. This starts with the excellent two-parter, "Silence in the Library"/"Forest of the Dead." I would actually recommend starting there; they were what hooked me into the show, as a lover of serialized science fiction. The current run of Doctor Who is, for better or for worse, the saga of River Song, an iconic female character whose story runs roughly backwards to the Doctor's. There are flaws--Moffat isn't a perfect writer in terms of gender, particularly, and sometimes he engages in melodrama--but what he's trying to do with his show--what he's been doing with his show for several years--constitutes nothing less than incredibly ambitious writing. It's the type of storytelling that should be encouraged, particularly in SF.
  • I would say the same about Fringe, actually. The series starts off as something akin to a police procedural, seemingly identical to The X-Files in concept, except for the addition of Walter Bishop, mad scientist, acted amazingly well by John Noble. But the genre changes significantly as the show goes on. There are hints throughout the first season that the universe and the characters here aren't all that they seem. The current season has none of the procedural hallmarks that were featured in the first. It's closer to post-apocalyptic invasion SF (and I'm being deliberately vague there; you'll see). The writers here are also very ambitious. There are episodes that take place in our protagonists' pasts (with theme songs that reflect this). There are opportunities for the very-talented actors to play multiple characters--with humor and nuance. And there's a very human story at the heart, the story of Walter Bishop, a brilliant man who was in danger of losing his son. The story is, in essence, about the choices he made to save him and all of the ramifications of that choice. It's not perfect, either--some plotlines and episodes are a little hammy--but it's incredibly well-thought through, will good humor, talented acting (won't someone please give John Noble an Emmy?), and a commitment to its core premise. It's what I thought Lost would be, before the storytelling went off the rails. Lost writers liked to tell us they had a plan; if that was true, it wasn't a very good plan. But you can see how the story behind Fringe has deliberately and consciously been developed in a way that's both true to its initial premise and pushes the boundaries of it. And you can watch most of the previous run in a few weeks. It's very addictive, and watchable.
Because I'm a SF nut, I watch most SF shows that come on TV. I've watched Falling Skies and The Walking Dead and Revolution (and suffered through V and Terra Nova, when they were on), but what they lack is both compelling acting and writing that challenges the writers or the viewers. They're okay, but they're not revolutionary. Fringe and Who, though, they're where it's at. I'm glad to be watching these stories as they unfold.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:53 AM on October 4, 2012 [4 favorites]

Thanks everyone!

I've watched Doctor Who, but I guess I considered that more fantasy, but it is good.

I'll check all the rec's out!
posted by roboton666 at 10:13 AM on October 4, 2012

Nthing Alphas, which is like X Men with consequences.

Misfits is great too, but a bit depressing.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 5:28 PM on October 4, 2012

Light threadjacking: Will I understand Red Dwarf X without having watched the first 9 seasons? It's a new season, not a reboot so I'm not sure how the continuity works...
posted by Strass at 7:00 PM on October 4, 2012

There's not a whole lot of continuity to Red Dwarf, plots rarely last longer than 1 episode. On a related note, the first 2-3 seasons are generally considered to be the best and it slowly gets worse from there (I watched one of the new episodes the other day and it was pretty rubbish).
posted by EndsOfInvention at 5:58 AM on October 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

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