Top Ten: Sci-Fi Shows (Part Two)

Welcome to the second part of our Top Ten: Sci-Fi Shows list. Has your favourite made it on here so far? If not, don't worry — there's always a chance it'll be with the final four tomorrow. But if you really want to make sure something is on here, drop us a comment below.

Editor's Note: Apologies for the previous mistake in the Red Dwarf section — and thank you to all those in the forums for pointing it out to us!

imageDean Love
: Farscape is the most intelligent stupid show ever made. Or maybe it's the stupidest intelligent show ever made. I'm not entirely sure. This is a show that manages to do a Loony-Toons style animated episode, while also demanding that you wrap your head around alternate universes, time travel, neural clones and sentient ships.

While it starts off a fairly pedestrian sci-fi show with some neat concepts and some clever cultural references, it quickly goes, for want of a better term, utterly mental. It's the most over-the-top, ridiculous, crazy science fiction show you will ever see. And yet it's all tied together with solid, consistent scientific concepts and some truly brilliant ideas.

It's also the first show I ever watched purely on DVD, buying the boxes of 4-5 episodes each as they were released. Each box contained two DVDs, each in an individual case, which means I have about 40 cases worth of Farscape episodes packed away in a box somewhere, ten times the size of the latest "complete series" release. It also means I've never seen the first four episodes, as I started watching it when the DVD set 1.2 were mis-priced really cheaply on Amazon - the most expensive bargain I've even found.

For Crichton what starts as the age-old "one man's mission to return home" becomes a galaxy-spanning epic of political intrigue, fantastical characters and a ship whose best-and-only move in battle is to teleport away really quickly. While for me a simple bargain became a 5-year-long costly obsession.

One of the most downright fun shows you'll ever see, but it always stays true to itself, never cheating the viewer or condescending to them, which is something so rare in television.

Red Dwarf
imageLuciano Howard
: Starting life in 1988 as a BBC Two sitcom, Red Dwarf is a jewel in the crown of British televisual entertainment. I struggle to think of many/any other space-based situation comedies, but if any do exist I can’t imagine it was pre-Dwarf.

It has a fairly simple premise. Dave Lister is the last human alive in the universe thanks to his spending 3 million years in stasis after he was sentenced to a (much) shorter period in said stasis because he smuggled an illegal pet cat onboard after planet leave. Of course, said cat saved Lister's life effectively when, whilst Lister is in stasis, Rimmer makes a mistake that leads to all human life on Red Dwarf being extinguished. Then, it evolved into a humanoid creature called ‘Cat’, who met Dave on his reintegration to ‘society’ led by Holly, the ship’s (genius - allegedly) computer. Society consisted of holographic companionship for Lister in the form of Arnold J. Rimmer (BSC - bronze swimming certificate). Soon after they find Kryten, a robotic life-form.

Together, over nine TV series, multiple books, failed American pilots and most other forms of media, the group travelled through space and time experiencing all sorts of stupendously varied adventures. Some were fabulously hilarious - anything involving Ace Rimmer (What a guy - the best person in the universe and an alternative version of Rimmer from another dimension) or the fight against polymorphs (and the formation of The Committee for the Liberation and Integration of Terrifying Organisms and their Rehabilitation Into Society...check out the acronym).

Some were really rather good narrative-driven science fiction. Arguably the best example was Back to Reality, where the crew lost their lives and found out they had been a in total immersion video game for many years. They weren’t really Dave Lister et al., rather Duane Dibbley, traffic police, tramps or fascist dictators. Enough to make anyone, the crew included, commit suicide. Or not - you’ll just have to check out what really happened. I could go on. But it would mean changing the light bulb.

Nearly every episode of every series has something of memory. For sure season 1 was slow to ramp up and series 7 onwards less than stellar quality (due to departure of one of the writers), but everything in-between is a classic of its time. If anybody were to suggest otherwise, I’d have to remind them Mr Flibble said they couldn’t possibly do that. After all, who’d clear up the mess?

Battlestar Galactica (the new one)
image Dean Love
: When it was announced that 1970s Star Wars knock-off Battlestar Galtactica was being "re-envisioned" for a new series, with the likes of human-looking Cylons and a new darker tone, the internet was upset. Richard Hatch, star of the original show whose own attempts at bringing it back had failed, wanted nothing to do with it. And in many ways, those fears were all realised. The new BSG had nothing to do with the fun, schlocky, silly, action-packed BSG of yore. It was so much better. And by the second season Richard Hatch had a recurring guest-star role.

The show opens with the annihilation of the human race, and things just go downhill from there. The few survivors flee with the protection of just one out-dated military vessel against an entire race determined to hunt them down. It's a gritty battle for survival against the odds, tough conditions and even tougher decisions.

It's hard to fault that side of the show, so it's unfortunate that later series start to increasingly play-up the slightly clumsy and heavy-handed religious aspects of the show, and hanging the crux of the series finale on them robbed many viewers of a truly satisfying conclusion. But it deserves a spot here for doing so many things right, and demonstrating that there's still room for a bleakly serious show about spaceships.

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