This year, we’ve got two brand, spanking new science fiction shows on the four bigger noncable networks (ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC).  The Orville premiered about a month ago on Fox and Star Trek: Discovery showed up last weekend on CBS.  That’s unusual.  I can’t remember the last time we’ve had two prime time major network sci fi shows on the air at the same time.  In fact, I can’t remember the last time CBS had any science fiction series.  Perhaps that’s why I’ve been thinking about the sci fi shows I’ve really enjoyed over the years.  I’ve been reading science fiction since almost the time I learned to read (“See Dick run. See Jane determine that Dick is an android cylon and blast him with her phaser.”)  I’ve been watching science fiction on television since I was old enough to sneak past my parents to watch Star Trek.  For reasons that I can’t remember, it was prohibited in our household.

Based on what I’ve seen so far with the new shows, I’d say The Orville is pretty good, albeit a little disappointing, and I still haven’t watched Star Trek: Discovery.  The early reviews are scary bad so I might miss it.  This confluence of events got me reminiscing about all the other sci fi series I’ve seen over the years, and you know I love to put together a list, so I put together a list.  This is the top five list of the sci fi shows I’ve enjoyed the most over the years.

But as with all of my lists, we have to establish some ground rules.  First, it’s got to be a show I’ve seen.  I’ve heard some great things (and some bad things) about Westworld, but I haven’t seen it, so it’s off. That rule is a bit of a hindrance since I cut the cable on the SciFi channel about four years ago.  Second, no superheroes, so no Supergirl or Agents of Shield or a host of other shows of that genre, whatever it is.  Also, no shows that would fit more comfortably into the fantasy genre.  Finally, if there was much doubt about whether it qualified for science fiction, I left it off the list.  I don’t know what genre category Mr. Robot falls into, but I don’t think it’s sci fi.  The Twilight Zone was the hardest one to decide on, since many, if not most, of it’s shows had strong science fiction elements.  I couldn’t really decide, so I flipped a coin and it lost.

So, without further ado and in no real order, since the order would change depending on which day of the week you asked, here we go.

Babylon 5 – Yeah, the first season was a little weak, and the last season was undecipherable.  But those three seasons in between, oh boy!  Some of the best stuff on television, regardless of genre.  Some of the writing was almost Shakespearean in quality.  I recently saw a video on YouTube that listed the video creator’s top 10 best episodes of Babylon 5.  The list was good and I don’t think I’d change much on it, but it was interesting that it didn’t include the episode Z’ha’dum from season three.  I wouldn’t have included it either, but the episode did have one of the most dramatic moments in any science fiction series ever (“Jump! Jump now!”) and also had one of the most memorable soliloquies in science fiction history coming from the character G’Kar (the best quote: “There is a greater darkness than the one we fight. It is the darkness of a soul that has lost its way.”).

Firefly – I don’t know what happened either, although I’ve read a lot of theories.  Fox apparently opened up the bank vault to convince Joss Whedon, fresh off of his success with “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Angel,” to do this series on their network and then did everything they could to sabotage the series once they got it.  Still, for its only season, the show had great writing and the cast really had some special chemistry.  The movie Serenity acted as a nice unofficial second season.  I guess there are still rumors it could come back, although I doubt that they could ever recapture what made it enjoyable in the first place.

Star Trek: Deep Space 9 – I struggled with how to handle the whole Star Trek thing.  Each series has its fans except, possibly, the new series on CBS.  What I finally decided to do was pick what I thought was the best series of the bunch (TOS, TNG, DS9, STV, and Enterprise) and rate it and leave the rest of them off.  That’s unfair to the rest of them, especially The Next Generation, which really should be on the list somewhere, but I wanted to keep the list to five.  Otherwise, I’d be writing this post for weeks.

I opted for DS9, because I thought it had the best captain and the characters were all well developed and really interesting.  Odo and Quark have possibly the best respect/hate relationship in science fiction history.

The Expanse – My wife and I binge-watched this series a few weeks ago.  There is always a temptation to overvalue the things you’ve seen most recently, but I don’t think I’m doing that here.  It’s just really good.  It’s based on a series of novels and stories by James S. A. Corey (yeah, I know it’s a pseudonym, but if the writers want to hide their identities, who am I to argue) and it’s a gritty, interesting show.  It also has the distinction of being the most plausible series on the list.

Doctor Who – Probably not as good as some of the shows I left off the list, but you can’t argue with longevity.

I left off some shows that I really wanted to include, but I had to draw a line somewhere.  Probably the show that came closest to making the list was The X-Files, which barely made it over that sci fi/not sci fi line I was talking about earlier.  I also thought about Stargate: SG1, which was the most amusing show I considered and Farscape, which gets credit for being an interesting, fairly original idea.  Battlestar Galactica (the 2004 version, not the 1980 version, which I’m pretty sure won’t be on anyone’s good list) would have made the list, if it had stayed anywhere near as good as it was in the first season.  It didn’t.