4 Underrated Sci-Fi Shows To Watch While You're Waiting For More Westworld
Has anyone else noticed that sci-fi seems to have fallen out of fashion when it comes to TV shows? Only a few years ago there were endless seasons of long-running sci-fi shows like Stargate on the air, and everyone was talking about Battlestar: Galactica. Now the tide of popular interest seems to have turned away from spaceships and more towards superhero movies or high-end TV dramas like The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones.
Don't get me wrong, there are still exciting sci-fi shows being made: I can't wait for more of the smart, beautifully produced Westworld, and I've talked before about how excited I am for Star Trek: Discovery. But while we're wiling away the time between seasons of Doctor Who, what's a sci-fi fan to do?
Here are my suggestions for four fantastic and underrated sci-fi shows that are worth tuning in to.
This show from SyFy opens when a crew of six people and one android wake up on a spaceship with no memory of who they are or how they got there. Although this sounds like the setup for a mystery-thriller show, Dark Matter quickly finds its focus as a light-hearted, sweet, found-family adventure in the vein of Firefly. The Robin Hood-esque adventures of this crew of misfit outlaws with hearts of gold covers surprisingly deep territory, examining issues of identity, free will, and the relationship between personhood, memory, and morality. The main crew is a diverse bunch, including two men of color, a teenage girl, and a kickass queer woman of color captain. In addition, sci-fi fans will get a kick out of cameos by familiar faces like Wil Wheaton, David Hewlett, and Ruby Rose.
Another sleeper hit from the SyFy channel is Killjoys. More action-oriented than Dark Matter, Killjoys took a while to find its feet in the first season but gained confidence in seasons 2 and 3. It really hit its stride when it figured out its core crew of Dutch, badass mercenary and leader of the group, John, the nerdy level-headed hacker who's Dutch's BFF, and D'avin, John's brother who is the muscle with surprising depths. These three bounty hunters end up embroiled in an alien invasion and have to pull out all of their resources to keep their sector of space safe. Hannah John-Kamen is the breakout star as the fearless Dutch, who is another great example of a queer woman of color in charge. The actress is poised to become a big name, as she's just been cast into the Marvel Cinematic Universe and she'll be appearing in Ant-Man and the Wasp in 2018.
Legends of Tomorrow
The CW's DC TV universe has been a mixed bag, promising at times but also suffering through indecisive writing and unpopular story points. Unlike its predecessors Arrow and The Flash, Legends of Tomorrow has avoided becoming too dark and tedious, managing to maintain the fun, upbeat tone that the DC universe embodies. A large crew of D-list heroes, small time villains, and assorted losers end up on a time ship and find themselves in charge of protecting history itself from malicious interference. The fun time travel plots and the presence of Arthur Darvill might well remind you of Doctor Who, and the two series share the same optimistic and humanist approach to sci-fi storytelling. In a trend I am absolutely loving, yet another queer woman is in charge on this ship: Sara Lance, the reformed assassin who was shamefully killed off in Arrow but has risen from the grave to become the captain and to lead this show. Cheers for giving Sara the focus she deserves!
This small-scale British drama stars the incomparable Gemma Chan as Mia, a synthetic human who lives in a world in which every family has an android to assist and support them. These 'synths' are seen as the latest evolution of assistive technology, like an iPhone, and are treated like any other inanimate machine. But there is something different about Mia, and it turns out that synthetic beings might be just as complex and deserving of protection as humans. The most impressive aspect of this show is how it manages to cover many complex issues without ever lecturing or becoming overly technical. Concepts like free will, nature versus nurture, the root of evil, and the aspects of a life which make it worth protecting are covered with vivid insights, but in a way that doesn't require the audience to have a philosophy degree to understand. It's a classic British genre show, in that there wasn't a lot of money in the budget so there are very few special effects, but this is more than made up for by outstanding writing that manages to be morally complex but still accessible.
These shows demonstrate how broad sci-fi can be, spanning from humorous time-travel adventures to serious philosophical issues, and have diverse casts representing people of different ethnicities, sexualities, and backgrounds. They're bound to keep you entertained while we wait for the fall season to begin! Now, how long is it until Westworld season 2 comes out?