Monday, January 3, 2011

Top 100 Science Fiction TV Series, Part 2: 75-51

(75) Amazing Stories - While they may not have always been amazing, the stories in Steven Spielberg's anthology were always entertaining.  As long as you don't expect every episode to be E.T, it's very enjoyable.

(74) Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends – For me, this was the definitive Spider-Man cartoon.  While it certainly couldn't be considered a 100% faithful take on the Marvel Universe, it did focus on the entire Marvel Universe, including Captain America, S.H.I.E.L.D, and the animation debut of the X-Men.  It also had have fun characterization, great music, and Ms. Lion!

(73) Outer Limits - Okay, I'm going to make a confession here:  I've actually seen more of the 1995 version than the original 1963 version.  I know, shame on me.  The main reason is because The Outer Limits is just so dark.  You can pretty much always count on it to have a ironic, negative ending, which as a kid out-and-out frightened me, and as a teenager and adult just tended to be too much for me after 4 or 5 episodes.  But I can never deny that no matter which version I saw, the stories were strong.  So I have a great respect for both versions of this series, even if I can only watch it in short doses.

(72) Battle of the Planets - I know, I know, not only is Battle of the Planets the most butchered translation of Science Ninja Team Gatchaman of the four translations done, it's also one of the most butchered anime of all time.  But dog-gone it, I still like it.  The theme song still gets me excited to this day.  So what if I never understood why 7-Zark-7 could never go on the Phoenix, or why Mark looked so terrible when he'd stop in to visit Zark at Center Neptune Control?  It just adds to the amusement factor now.  The "G-Force" dub was much more faithful, I loved the episodes that Rhino Home Entertainment subtitled, and I hope to someday watch the complete ADV translation, so consider this an inclusion for all of Gatchaman in general... but you never forget your first love.

(71) Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles - At times I couldn't tell where they were going with this show, but usually once I figured it out I was impressed.  The show was set between Terminator 2 and Terminator 3, with future John Connor sending Terminator Cameron back to prevent his mother's death. There's the usual battles with other Terminators (T-888s, instead of T-800s, so they don't have to look like Arnold Schwarzenegger), a mysterious T-1000 posing as a Scottish business woman with its own agenda, and an FBI agent slowly uncovering it all and being drawn into a world he would have thought impossible.  A worthy part of the Terminator universe.

(70) Mork & Mindy - I have to admit, I always get surprised when I see this on "Top SF" lists.  Even though this was a "must-see" show for me as a child, I always think of this as a Typical American Sitcom first.  But I got to watch a bunch of them when some cable station was having a weekend marathon a year ago, and was surprised how heavily science fiction played into so many episodes.  Other aliens coming to Earth, Mork taking Mindy to Ork, clones, robots, crazed computers, alternate universes, this show has 'em all.  And while ALF may look more like an alien than Mork, Robin Williams is without a doubt funnier.

(69) Knight Rider - No souped-up vehicle, not Airwolf, not the KITT 3000, not a single James Bond car, not NOBODY comes near the one-and-only original KITT.  (Well, okay, maybe the Mach 5.)  Michael Knight and KITT, out on the open road, righting wrongs to an 80's beatbox rhythm!  I always thought for the final season they should have teamed up Michael's evil twin Garth with KITT's evil twin KARR, and had the two of them on a cross-country chase.  But hey, nobody asked me.

(68) Star Trek: Voyager - Star Trek's weakest show was still pretty decent.  Voyager's biggest crime was being a stale rewarming of Next Gen and never truly living up to its potential as its own series, despite a few decent efforts.  But while I rarely ever loved an episode, I also never hated an episode either.  For safe, easy, run-of-the-mill Trekertainment, Voyager did well enough.

Übergeek trivia: 
* The Voyager uniforms have had the most screen time of any Star Trek uniform!
* Tuvok never once successfully landed a shuttle.

(67) Fantasy Island (1998) - I actually prefer this short-lived version to the original.  I don't normally like darker takes on things, but Malcolm McDowell's Mr. Rourke managed to wrap dark, threatening and charming all into one.  If the character of Mr. Rourke was an angel, then this Rourke was a dark angel, sent to help you get what you really needed whether you wanted to or not.  There was even some implication that he was the same Mr. Rourke as Ricardo Montalban's, but now in a different phase of his life, such as with Gandolf in Lord of the Rings.  At any rate, it made this Fantasy Island a must-see for me, instead of just what you watched 'cause it was on right after The Love Boat.

(66) Shadow Raiders: War Planets - Before The Clone Wars there was War Planets, a CGI serial of a interstellar war between vastly different planets and the invading Beast Planet.  Made by Mainframe Entertainment, the outstanding CGI company that made both Transformers: Beast series, this show had a heavy story arc, exotic alien races, and live ammo.

(65) The Bionic Woman - Jamie Summers, a school teacher who can casually rip a phone book in half while introducing herself to her students so they don't give her any grief.  Because she also happens to be a secret agent for OSI, with bionic legs, an bionic arm and a bionic ear!  And as if that wasn't enough, she later got Maxilmillion, the bionic dog!  Fighting evil Fembots, teaming up with her sometimes boyfriend Steve Austin against Bigfoot and his invading alien friends... yeah, I have a lot of good memories of this show.

(64) Robin of Sherwood - Now, I am by no means a big fan of Robin Hood in specific or fantasy in general, but this show was really cool.  It had a lot of mystical elements in it, lots of talk of destiny, and some very cool portrayals of the Merry Men.  In fact, Rich was telling me that this was the first version of Robin Hood to include a Saracen, and now nearly every version includes one, even if it's not specifically Nasir.  So that shows  how big an impact this show has made on the Robin Hood mythos.  If you're going to watch only one version of Robin Hood (and I'll confess that I have), then this is the one to watch.

(63) Quark - Is this the very first science fiction comedy?  I can't think of any that pre-date it.  Adam Quark is in charge of a garbage scow in space, which each week encountered another science fiction parody.  His crew included a man who was a plant named Ficus, a man who was also a woman named Gene/Jean and two girls named Betty I and Betty II, one of which is a clone, but no one's sure which one.  I absolutely loved this show when I was 9... it had spaceships, robots, and it made jokes about Star Trek and Star Wars.

(62) The Six-Million Dollar Man - The one, true original Steve Austin!  Not that goofball wrestler-- I'm talking about the astronaut who crashed on re-entry and was rebuilt to be the world's first human cyborg!  The man who fought lost space probes, Bigfoot, and William Shatner's toupee! Sometimes-boyfriend to and reason for the very existence of the Bionic Woman!  My childhood MUST-SEE every Sunday night!  Heck, I had Six Million Dollar Man SNEAKERS that said the word "BIONIC" on the tread!

The only other thing that even came close was The Bionic Watermelon on The Captain and Tennille Variety Show.

(61) Welcome to Paradox - The Sci-Fi Channel's original series was an anthology series, with each episode loosely set in the town of Betaville.  This series adapted science fiction short stories and touched on some edgy topics that really made me sit up and go "wow, someone's actually talking about that."

(60) Voyagers! - This show has the same thing going for it that the William Hartnell episodes of Doctor Who have-- it shows how there's plenty of drama in actual history without any need for aliens, spaceships or other supernatural things getting in the way!  A Voyager's job was to travel the time stream, setting history right when it jumps off track.  Voyager Phineas Bogg loses his guide book and gains young history buff Jeffrey Jones, and the two of them travel throughout history using Bogg's Omni, the time machine that fits in your pocket!

(59) Battlestar Galactica (2003) - I generally enjoyed this show, but not to the extent that the rest of the world seems to.  For starters, it took them four hours to do what the original did in an hour, and four years to do what the original did in a year.  But my comparison with the original stops there.

My main problem with this show is that when characters are faced with a choice of doing the right thing that would lead to everything working out, or doing the wrong thing that would obviously lead to disaster, characters always chose the wrong thing.  People say to me "But that's what makes it so cool!  It's so real, it's what people would really do!"  But I feel no, in most cases it's what stupid people would really do.  People who were actually trying to keep the human race alive would be able to pick the right choice occasionally.  So after a while it just felt to me like these bad choices were being done for drama's sake only, which makes me unable to relate to the characters at best and unable to sympathize with the characters at worst.

But this show also got a lot right. They were masters at the twist ending.  The ending to each season never failed to make me go "Oh, wow!" and come back next season.  There were often turns I never saw coming.  And this show had some of the best battle scenes in SFTV history-- I rewatched the Galactica jump into the atmosphere of New Caprica over and over.  And the entire two-hour finale left me with chills. So all in all, even though I'll probably never watch the entire series again, it was well worth having watched the first time.

(58) Captain Harlock and the Queen of a Thousand Years - Harmony Gold's dub of Captain Harlock certainly can't be called faithful per se, but it was fun.  It's also the only Captain Harlock TV series I've actually seen all of.  (I've seen movies and OVAs, but they don't qualify for this list.)  Hearing all the old Robotech voices and a bit of the old Robotech music doesn't hurt, either.

(57) Sarah Jane Adventures - I have to admit, I was very afraid after seeing the pilot episode of this Doctor Who spin-off, but this quickly improved with its first regular episode, and kept getting better and better from there.  Each season has improved on than the last, fleshing Sarah Jane Smith out as her own person and making her companions more interesting.  Bringing back K9 and guest appearances from the Doctor and the Brigadier doesn't hurt, but Sarah Jane has proven she can carry the show all on her own.

(56) Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman - This show probably did the best job of capturing what I like best about Superman: showing the man behind the Super.  Clark sums it up perfectly when he tells Lois, "Clark Kent is who I am.  Superman is what I can do."  Sadly, it also had way, way too many fake outs and false starts, and massively fumbled the ball with their wedding, which kept this show from getting any higher in the countdown.

(55) ExoSquad- Exo-Squad was the turning point in American cartoons.  Before Exo-Squad, if you wanted ongoing story arcs and gritty story telling, you had to watch Japanese anime, which was only starting to get its foot in the door itself  at the time.  The first 13-episode season was a heavy serial, telling the tale of how Earth's race of biogenetic workers turned on their masters and conquered Earth and its colonies, and humanity's attempts to take it back.  When it went to a weekly series the continuity was a little less strong, but it still had a story arc to it and was still willing to point out that humanity had brought this problem on itself.  Nowadays storytelling that can be enjoyed by adults and kids is pretty common, but it took Exo-Squad to show that America could do it too.

(54) The Real Ghostbusters - The writing on the first 65 episodes of this show was so good, this series could have been a live-action follow-up to the movie.  It was totally easy to imagine Bill Murray saying a lot of Peter Venkman's dialogue.  Even when the writing started to dip in the later seasons, the animation improved greatly.  Janine's character also grew, as she helped the team out more and more and even got her own uniform and proton pack.  And the best part is, it completely holds up 20 years later.

(53) Quantum Leap - This show is the perfect counterbalance to Voyagers!Voyagers! was all about the big changes in the time stream.  And sometimes I'd think of that show and think, what if what's wrong with the time stream isn't something huge, like making sure Spartacus leads his slave rebellion, but was something small, like making sure Jimmy stayed friends with Bobby?  And that's exactly what Quantum Leap is.  Sam Beckett is leaping from body to body, changing the time stream to make small, personal changes, and improve the average person's life, one person at a time.  It gives the message that no matter how big or how small, we're all important in the web of time.

It's also unique in that I never once said to myself, "Oh, Quantum Leap is on, I need to get myself to a TV!" ...but if I happened to flip past it I was immediately sucked in.  Every.  Single.  Time.  Sam and Al were just such great characters, and you couldn't help but want to see what situation Sam had landed in this time and find out how it would work out.

(52) Transformers: Beast Machines - While not as good as its predecessor Beast Wars, Beast Machines still told a great ongoing story of a Cybertron that was rediscovering itself.  Old characters came back in new ways and there were quite a few twists and turns along the way.  The ending may have ticked off a lot of Transformers fans, but I felt it was a bold step to take and made for a strong story.

(51) Macross Frontier - The most recent Macross TV series may have a bit more flash than substance, but it still warms this old Macross fan's heart.  Macross Frontier parallels the original Macross in a lot of ways, and delights in taking the classic Macross conventions and situations and twisting the outcomes.  To someone who is watching this as their first Macross series there's still a lot to enjoy, but I can't help but feel they'd be missing out on the point of a lot of the show if they didn't know the original and understand the divergences.  It's a little heavy on the fanservice and the gore, and sometimes the bad guys completely confused me, but the characters, music and mecha were all enjoyable, and the animation was often breathtaking.

We're half way through!  Coming up next: 50-26!

No comments: