Boston Globe's 50 best SF TV series

In honor of Shatner’s birthday, no less.

A seriously screwed-up list. Outer Limits , Twilight Zone and Firefly are way too far down the list (and the newer incarnations of TZ and OL aren’t even on the list), and it’s full of fantasy and horror, which apparently they think are the same as science fiction.

Well, yeah, if you are going to do a list of top SF shows then their science fiction-ness should definitely be an important issue. A lot of superhero shows strike me as marginal SF at best. And Xena: Warrior Princess? SF? And near the top of the list? REALLY? And Futurama … so low? A puzzler, for sure. And I dont buy the rationale for the number one pick, either.

Serious question: If you ruled out horror and fantasy, would you even be able to come up with 50 sci-fi TV series? I’m thinking they included the other genres because otherwise they wouldn’t have been able to fill out the list.

You complain that it’s overloaded on fantasy and horror and also that The Twilight Zone is too low on the list?

There no walls separating sf from fantasy and horror. They’re all one genre. (Actually, they’re all a form of fantasy.)

Wait, they ranked Firefly below SLIDERS? Fucking Sliders?

I don’t know why I even look at these lists they just make me mad. Futurama being at the bottom of the list is all kinds of messed up as well.

Forget what’s on the actual list - the Globe made it a FIFTY-PAGE slideshow?
Screw that. And them.

They left off a buttload of actual SF TV series. Just offhand,* Time Tunnel, UFO, The Invaders, Land of the Lost, Sliders, Adventures of Jules Verne, The Lost World, Cleopatra 2525* … here’s a Wiki list … I’d say no problem:

And … The Avengers? Really? I’d say if you wanted to nominate an aSF-themed spy series do the obvious thing and go with The Prisoner.

Come on – we’ve both been on this Board long enough to know what I’m saying. Putting Xena in the top ten and Twilight Zone much farther down is seriously screwed up, and not just because of the difference in quality. TZ did a lot of solid SF, besides the fantasy.

And plenty of much better stuff is missing – Man Into Space, the rest of the *Star Trek franchise. And if you’re going to include humor and marginal SF, why aren’t things like The Tick and Middleman on the list?

I disagree. There may not be a wall, but there is a reasonable test: the cheese of horror is frightening people, if the primary purpose of a story or series is to frighten people, it’s horror, not SF, whatever the trappings. That’s why I avoided “Alien” for so long … the ads seem to portray it as horror with SF trappings when in fact there was a solid SF framework and the horror existed WITHIN that framework … it was in fact SF.

In the case of fantasy/SF it’s a little tougher, but not all that much. SF is all about depicting worlds that are by some measure realistic, based on new technology, new ideas about reality (alternate worlds, etc.) and so forth. Fantasy tends to be based on unrealistic elements: fairies, dragons, elves, genies, etc. There’s no WALL, you can certainly come up with a SF framework for stock fantasy creatures (dragons that exist on other planets that can support them, such as Pern) though the solidity of that framework can be precarious at best, but generally, you can tell em apart.

Does anyone feel that some of the better animated SF series: Clone Wars or the Star Trek animated series, got short shrift here?

I don’t agree that Buffy should be on this list.

But if it’s going to be on this list, it sure as hell better be ranked above Logan’s Run.

Wait… it isn’t?


And the 50-page slideshow format has got to go. WTFx2?

The only thing I can assume is that they’re not ranked, just listed. Otherwise, this list makes no sense.

This. And the ones I took the trouble to see were disappointing at best.

Sliders is crazy overrated, as is Star Trek Voyager (and DS9 only merited a passing mention in the Babylon 5 listing - even as a B5 partisan during flame wars past, I can’t support that). Futurama is vastly underrated. And if you’re going to include Buffy on the list at all, it should be way higher. Oh, and Logan’s Run: crazy overrated.

Basically it looks like whoever did it had a top 5 and then just threw shit at the wall to fill out the other 45.

Also also: no Red Dwarf. No Hitchhiker’s Guide TV series (which wasn’t great, but surely better than Andromeda or Space: 1999).

Alternate top 12 (offa the top of my head) - roughly equal weight given to quality and historic importance:

1 - Star Trek
2 - The Twilight Zone
3 - Battlestar Galactica (new)
4 - Star Trek: TNG
5 - Dr. Who
6 - Babylon 5
7 - Lost
8 - ST: DS9
9 - Quantum Leap
10 - The Outer Limits
11 - Firefly
12 - Futurama

12 cause I forgot Dr. Who and STTNG in my initial pass.

ST : DS9 didn’t make the top fifty?! Whoever made this list needs to lay off whatever he’s been smoking.

Eureka! Damn!* Eureka!* Top ten maybe! Top 20 for sure! FINE SF series.

What does Boston know about SF?
Load of rubbish, the whole list. Except maybe the Top 5, and even then they used a still from Crusade rather than one from B5.

But plenty of science fiction has horror elements. Alien was ripped off from A. E. Van Vogt’s “Black Destroyer,” for instance. “The Color Out of Space” was a science fiction story in all respects.

Ah, the old Damon Knight definition: “Science fiction is what I’m pointing to when I say, ‘that’s science fiction.’” Other than that, though, there is no definition that can include all the things you think are SF without including things that are fantasy (and vice versa).

Very little science fiction is based upon realistic science. Asimov’s robot stories and psychohistory have no science behind them (and Asimov admitted that there was no science in science fiction). The Ringworld is unstable. Riverworld is about the resurrection of the dead. There is also Clarke’s law, which works in both directions.

And there is plenty of fantasy that is based upon realistic elements. Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell shows a realistic world where magic exists; and Asimov pointed out that magic is just the ability to get unlimited energy. Replay, a time travel book, won a World Fantasy Award. Gene Wolfe’s The Shadow of the Torturer also won. Stephen King’s It was nominated. The City and the City – about parallel worlds like Murray Leinster’s “Sideways in Time” – won last year. Perfume was another winner.

And none of these books had “fairies, dragons, elves, genies, etc.” Yet they were all considered fantasy.

There is no difference between the genres, other than the minor fact is that SF assumes there’s a “scientific” explanation. But functionally and thematically they are the same thing.

Third Rock from the Sun? Sci-Fi? Really? Sigh. OK, I guess…maybe…but come on…it was a sit-com.

I pronounce this list, both in content and execution, bullshit.

is Lost In Space on the list, if it isn’t, fuck 'em.