Thursday, May 24, 2001

Best Sci-Fi TV Series

All the best sci-fi tv shows are flawed in some way ... some went on too long, some had great episodes but were uneven, some with great potential never got a chance to develop. I don't think there's yet been a consistently great sci-fi show yet and some of the best cross-genres and hard to label "sci-fi". Among the best sci-fi shows, I don't think The X-Files rates better than middle of the pack. So what's better?

  • Doctor Who. Sure, it's a show for kids, but like the best children's shows it gives adults something to watch for too, and I'm not just talking about Leela, Sarah Jane Smith, Tegan, and Peri. It's sense of humor, particularly during the Tom Baker years, made it more than just a sci-fi/adventure series. The X-Files occasionally showed flashes of brilliant humor, but only Duchovny could pull it off and he doesn't have half the range of a Tom Baker as an actor.

  • Star Trek: TNG. On the whole, this series was far too anemic and pasteurized to be called great, but it's static, unimaginative camera work, half-hearted character development, generally poor writing are every bit the equals of The X-Files' unimaginitively filmed "suspense" sequences, half-baked conspiracy plots/story-arcs, and generally poor writing. On the surface, the primary colors and overlit sets of TNG are nothing like the murky greys and blacks and underlit sets of The X-Files, but it all equals out in the end. I can think of more purely enjoyable episodes of TNG than I can of The X-Files.

  • The Prisoner. Is it aliens, or the work of a powerful cabal? This series blows away The X-Files on every level. McGoohan looks like a bit of a pansy in his fight scenes and his run across the beach in the opening sequence, but it wasn't until Connery played Bond that anyone mistook a Brit on tv or film for a real atheletic tough guy. Think Patrick MacNee. (Oop, I almost forgot about The Avengers -- also better than X-Files, Gillian Anderson doesn't hold a candle to Mrs. Peel.) Chris Carter isn't fit to scrape dog doo off Patrick McGoohan's shoes.

  • Nowhere Man. It only lasted one season, virtually unwatched, on UPN, but it was a bit like an Americanized update of The Prisoner and had promise ... it's a shame it was cancelled before anyone noticed it.

  • Buffy, The Vampire Slayer. Maybe it's a stretch to call it sci-fi when it might be more about magic, but they put a chip in Spike's head and that sounds sci-fi to me, so here it is. Buffy is the best. This is the closest thing to a week in, week out sure thing great tv show going. It's funny, well-written, and the action is decent. Gellar leaves something to be desired in the acting department, but it's really an ensemble show and nothing else on tv now even comes close.
I'll leave the case for Babylon 5 to those that actually watched it. Farscape did more for me in the five or episodes I saw than the entire run to date of The X-Files.

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