Sunday, January 2, 2011

Top 100 Science Fiction TV Series, Part 1: 100-76

(100) Benji, Zax and the Alien Prince - Alien Prince Yubi and his robot protector Zax are in exile on Earth, hiding from the evil regime that has taken over Yubi's home planet.  They befriend the dog Benji, who helps them evade evil alien bounty hunters.  This show is something of a guilty pleasure, and I'll confess it's mostly for nostalgia reasons.  Benji's cute.  Zax is a humorous robot in the vein of V.I.N.CENT. from The Black Hole.  The writing is generally pretty weak, but I never failed to tune in every Saturday morning.  This series is currently streaming on Netflix, so I got to see it again-- good thing too, because if I had just gone by my memory, I would have ranked it a lot higher than it deserved.

(99) V: The Series - Quite possibly the most disappointing series of my life.  After two outstanding mini-series full of social commentary, NBC decided to reduce V to a mindless action series of interchangeable battles, causing series creator Kenneth Johnson to wash his hands of the series completely.  I read in Starlog once that NBC came to him later and said "You were right, we should have done it your way."  The first three episodes are decent, the episodes where Martin's twin brother Philip changes sides is pretty good, but the rest of it is pretty bad.  Those 4 good episodes are the only thing that help the series even crack the Top 100.

(98) Lost in Space - Before it devolved into total camp, Lost in Space had a strong first season that was full of 1960's science fiction adventure and drama.  Every time I try to open my mind to the campy later seasons, I just can't do it; but I always enjoy those black and white, first season episodes.

(97) The Incredible Hulk - I've never been a big fan of the Hulk, but even as a kid I always hated the fact that the Hulk was not Bruce Banner, he was David Pick-a-new-last-name-that-starts-with-a-B-each-week.  And the show was very formulaic;  David B wanders into a new town, meets someone down on their luck being treated unjustly, the bad guys beat him up, toss him in a dumpster, out comes the Hulk to beat them up, bad guys are caught, David B. walks down the road to a lonely piano.  But there are quite a few gems in there, most notably "Prometheus," where the Hulk is actually captured by the military.

(96) Project UFO - Another childhood favorite that I'd love to see again.  This series followed two Air Force officers who investigated UFO sightings for Project Blue Book.  Some were debunked, some were unexplained, and some were shown to be real to the audience, if not the officers. I'd love to see how it holds up.

(95) Ultraman -  The classic monster-fighter of my childhood.  I saw an episode or two again in the 80's (Thanks, AJ) and it held up pretty well.  It's a shame it's never been re... wait a minute, OMG, it's out on DVD!  I need to see this again!  (But I don't feel the need to own.  I guess that's why it's so low.)

(94) Adventures of Superman - The original George Reeves classic. Granted, as a kid I always wondered why he didn't have more hair.  And I always thought it was funny how crooks would shoot him until they ran out of bullets, and Superman would ask "Now what are you going to do with the empty gun?" and they'd throw it at him!  It's a more charming Superman from a more innocent time. 

  (93) ALF - This is one of those shows I think of as a sitcom first, a Muppet-style show that makes me smile second, and an SF show last.  But ALF is an alien, and he looks more alien than Robin Williams.
(92) Dr. Shrinker - "Doc-tor Shrinker!  Dr. Shrinker!  He's a madman with an evil mind!"  My wife and I can (and occasionally do) still sing the entire theme song!!  The entire Kroft Super Show was always some great Saturday morning fun.  In this one, three friends are shipwrecked on an island with a mad scientist who shrinks them.  They escape, and now have to find a way to avoid being recaptured, get back to normal size, and somehow escape the island. Which of course they never do or thy wouldn't have a show, but it was always fun to watch them try.

(91) Wonder Woman - Ahh, Linda Carter.  While my friends were all playing that they were Superman and Batman, she made me want to be Wonder Boy.  Anyone remember the episode with the robot dog?

(90) Airwolf - The best of the Knight Rider rip offs, this one ripped off both Knight Rider and Blue Thunder.  A cool super helicopter and an even cooler theme song.

(89) Space Academy - Another cool Saturday morning live action show, this time by Filmation.  This one had an academy built into an asteroid, a nifty little robot,cool spaceships and Jonathan Harris.  I also seem to recall an officer guy who was blue.

 (88) ElectraWoman and DynaGirl - By far, my favorite of the Kroft Super Show series.  Electra Woman and Dyna Girl got their powers from Electracomps, which were super-computer wrist-bands.  I wanted one of those so bad!  Each story was a two-parter, with Part 1 always ending on a cliff-hanger where their lives were in danger.  I remember that the last episode ABC aired on Saturday morning was a rerun of a "Part 1", ending with the two of them being stretched to death.  Even though I knew it was a rerun and had seen Part 2 before, I was so scared that this meant they were going to die this time that I could have sworn the voice over was changed to say "But for ElectraWoman and DynaGirl, it is too late!"  The end.

(87) Andromeda - A great first season places this show in the Top 100.  DS9's Robert Hewitt Wolfe took Gene Roddenberry's "Genesis II" concept and wrapped it in a Star Trek style universe, and the result was a show that I thought it was better than the actual Star Trek show currently on the air.

Then it started going downhill in the second season and I bailed.  Rich kept watching and said it never got better, only worse.  I caught a fifth season episode and hated it.  So because of one excellent season, it makes the top 100; for four lousy ones, this is as high as it gets.

 (86) Sliders - Another series that started out with an excellent premise and then lost its way.  I LOVE the concept of parallel worlds and alternate histories, and this show got off to a great start exploring them in its first two seasons.  Then it devolved into a rip-off-the-hot-movie-of-the-week series and I started losing interest.  Then they broke the laws of physics on a world where time ran backwards, causing the world to most likely destroy itself, but they were able to slide out in time so ho-hum, all's well and good, bummer about your Earth dying.  Maybe it'll be all right now that we're gone.  That was the final straw with me and I bailed. Rich stuck with it and says it had some good episodes and some amazing twists left in it, but from what he told me, a lot of it sounded like a mess.

(85) Space: 1999 -
If I had been making this list when I was 10, this show would have been at #2.  (Then again, the list probably wouldn't have been able to stretch much longer than 10 shows at that age, either.) Jerry Anderson's epic space adventure of Moonbase Alpha, built on Earth's Moon and blown out of Earth's orbit, sent traveling across the Universe encountering all kinds of strange aliens.  Getting to rewatch it as an adult, the science really doesn't hold up very well, but the designs of Alpha and all their hardware do.

 (84) Seven Days - The 2-hour premiere of this series is quite possibly the best time-travel story I have ever seen.  It addressed nearly everything I felt other time travel movies ignored.  The rest of the series was generally just ho-hum "go back and time and prevent this bad thing from happening" premise, but the original set-up places this show firmly in the Top 100.

(83) Land of the Lost - I know, I know, this is the show that is usually held up as one of the worst science fiction shows of all time, but you know what... I really like the first season.  I think it's got some fantastic writing and some great concepts.

(82) Earth: Final Conflict - The first season of this show was fantastic.  The Taelons have come to Earth, claiming to be our Companions, their only desire being to help guide us.  During the first season we find out their true agenda-- they're a dying race, and need to merge with the human race to survive.  Battle lines are drawn, and in a shocking move the lead is actually killed at the end of season one, creating a series where no one is safe...

...And then Season Two premiered and they threw all that out the window to turn it into a mindless action show.

The fact that any character could (and often did) die at any time would have provided great drama... had any of the characters died for the point of advancing the story.  Instead, it seemed that every death was only done to get an actor off the show.

 (81) Logan's Run -  In a world where no one is allowed to live over 30, former "Sandman" Logan goes on the run with a woman named Jessica and their android sidekick REM in search of a place called "Sanctuary" where people are allowed to live to old age.  Again, this is a show I only remember from my childhood, and if I had the chance to see it again I might feel differently about it, but all my memories are good ones.

(80) Buck Rogers in the 25th Century - Battlestar Galactica's little brother, Glen Larson's take on Buck Rogers is wonderful late-70's sci-fi in all its cheesy glory.  This is one of those shows I thought went on forever, and I was shocked to learn it only ran two seasons.  And I don't care what anyone says, I like Twiki.  Biddi-biddi-biddi-Buck!

 (79) seaQuest DSV - Poor seaQuest.  It never could find its place.  In its first season it tried to be hard SF; and it often lacked excitement.  In its second season it tried to be adventure SF; and the science became so terrible it often became painful to watch.  In its third season it tried to be Star Trek; but at that point, NBC was no longer bound by their contract with Amblin Entertainment to keep it on the air, so it was promptly canceled.  There were episodes I enjoyed in all three of its incarnations, even though they never really did find their sea legs.

(78) Knight Rider (2008) - This got off to a great start with a TV movie that tied it directly to the original Knight Rider, making the hero the son of the original Michael Knight.  However when it went to series they decided to treat it as a reboot, which was a real shame.  But it had some pretty cool episodes, especially dealing with K.A.R.R.

 (77) Defying Gravity - A recent short lived show about a ship in the near future taking a tour of the Solar System, with a crew who should never have been made astronauts.  At first I thought that was a failing on the show's part, but it turned out to be an intentional part of the overall story arc.  Definitely worth a look.

(76) Automan - Automan is to Tron what Battlestar Galactica is to Star Wars... Tron for TV!  Automan himself is a computer program, brought from the computer world into our world, along with his flying helper Cursor, and they both help police detective Walter Nebicher solve crimes.  We get fun social mixups of Automan trying to learn about our world (the episode where he starts imitating Dirty Harry is hilarious) and fun video game references as he talks about his world.

Coming tomorrow-- Part 2: Shows 75 - 51!


Amy :) said...

The ones I've seen I agree with. I was a little surprised there were that many I'd never even heard of. I've seen Lost in Space, but never heard of Ultraman or Dr. Shrinker? Maybe that's why they are so low on the list. . .

Fer said...

I can totally understand not hearing of Dr. Shrinker. That one was definitely a product of the 70's and it pretty much stayed there. But I'm amazed you never heard of Ultraman! He's still huge in Japan. (Pun intended... see, he was the size of Godzilla so he could fight the monsters.) Every few years a new Ultraman show still comes out in Japan, and about once a decade someone tries to bring an Ultraman show over here.

Thanks for checking out the list, hope you're enjoying it!!