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A Trek Through TV Sci-Fi Recommended Binges
March 24, 2020  | By TVWW Guest Contributor  | 10 comments

[EDITOR'S NOTE: The director and producer of TVWW's Best TV Tomorrow videos, Larry Siegel, wouldn't be playing in our sandbox unless he were a big, discerning television enthusiast - which he is. And he's offered up a new Guest Contributor blog that recommends some of his favorite, and eerily relatable, TV series in the science fantasy genre. Go forth and binge... -DB]


Sights of empty streets and empty restaurants now conjure the same sorts of remarks: "This is something out of a sci-fi show." (Thank you, The Day After.) "This whole thing is like an episode from Star Trek" (I'm looking at you, Star Trek Deep Space Nine: The Quickening, S4:E25.) "How long will it be before we pick up our lives?" (Thinking of you, Handmaid Offred.)

Whether it's dystopian, optimistic, or just escapist, science fiction television offers us a chance to think larger, experience a moment of insight – from real faith in our race to a leaden moment with a view into our demise.

These views on the news give us pause. How can we be as foolhardy as to ignore the warning signs of a pandemic? Be as selfish as to hoard the very masks and gloves we need to desperately man the front lines?  

And then, as uplifting, we find the kindness of millennials delivering food to the most at-risk among us.

Considering all the best examples of the current courage and empathy around us, we've seen it all on sci-fi TV before:

-- Star Trek's Doctor McCoy injects himself as a trial subject for a cure on "Miri's" planet.

-- Kat/Sasha sacrifices herself by exposure to radiation to ensure the humans of Battlestar Galactica get to a food supply.

-- And the beliefs of the Minbari Religious Caste shared from Babylon 5, "The third principle is the capacity for self-sacrifice, which is defined as the conscious ability to override evolution and self-preservation for a cause, a friend, a or loved one."

With the hope that sci-fi TV can give us in this unsettling time, as well as the introspection for self-improvement, here are five shows that have a full beginning-to-end story and can maybe make a difference in our outlook. They're worth looking at, start to finish.


Star Trek (all of them) 

With an opening monologue on a grandiose, all-inclusive mission to explore strange new worlds, the Trek-verse has given us more lessons, more morality plays than Rod Serling, more hard and soft science fiction, and more ways to reset problems with a transporter buffer pattern than any sci-fi TV show. 

There are over 553 hours of it to watch (trust me; I can show you the math). It's been an incubator for new writers, new directors, new special effects, and new ways of exploring the human condition. No other prime time show had aggressively opened its writing pool to amateur pitches, while, at all times, keeping focus on the show's sense of wonder and optimism deep in its warp core.

For setting a course of hope during these times, let Star Trek – in its many incarnations – be a guiding star. 

And use your Vulcan salutation instead of a handshake.

Binge Data:

Star Trek (1966-1969): Three Seasons
Star Trek: The Animated Series (1973 – 1974): Two Seasons
Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987 – 1994): Seven Seasons
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (1993 – 1999): Seven Seasons
Star Trek: Voyager (1995 – 2001): Seven Seasons
Star Trek: Enterprise (2001 – 2005): Four Seasons
Star Trek: Discovery (2017 – present): Two Seasons (third season just completed production)
Star Trek: Picard (2020): One Season (greenlit for a second)
[CBS All Access has all, Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu have most]


Battlestar Galactica (2004-2009) 

One of the first, and greatest, of all sci-fi reboots, the show was set truly in our post-9/11 reality. Like Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, on the surface, it was a story about the horrors and hubris arising out of the creation of an artificial race. But like all great fiction, that served as merely an artifice to tell the story of our present challenges: paranoia, religious zealotry, and racial, political, and class divisiveness.

Throughout the series, however, were tales of bravery, sacrifice, and hope for a better world. We're living now in a new culture-altering reality, and our need for these inspirations, perhaps, has never been more acute.

Binge Data:
Four Seasons
[Amazon Prime Video]


Fringe (2008-2013) 

What starts as an isolated incident investigated by the FBI becomes a pathway to a larger fracturing of reality.  

Throw in bald men who can't taste flavor, time-traveling typewriter chats, and, most significantly, the aforementioned parallel universe, and you're hooked. If not in this universe, then somewhere.

It's up to the government's Fringe division to piece together the puzzle and protect citizens of Earth from a growing threat to humanity. At its heart, though, is love: a father's love for his son, the love that grows among Fringe agents -- even the unspoken love among the shadowy progenitors who set the fracturing and bridging in motion.

On the fringes of our understanding lie the seeds of our salvation. Step into the portal and see where it leads.

Binge Data:
Five seasons
[Amazon Prime Video]


The Man in the High Castle (2015 – 2019) 

From the novel by prolific and near-Oracle at Delphi master, Philip K. Dick, this four-season alternative history tale presents not just a dystopian America where the axis powers won World War II and carved the U.S. into German, Japanese, and neutral zoned fiefdoms, but also offers more than a glimpse into an alternative reality – our own. This Amazon adaptation was developed for TV by Frank Spotnitz.

How does this knowledge affect our characters? Does the knowledge of a ghostly better existence provide solace, hope, and a call to action? (Dick's short stories also were adapted for television in the 2017 anthology series, Electric Dreams.)

Binge Data:
Four Seasons
[Amazon Prime Video]


Quantum Leap (1989-1993) 

Innovative, broadcast-engineered, and likeable, each episode ends its story with an It's a Wonderful Life redemption, followed by a cliffhanger setting up the next. A lab experiment sends the essence of Scott Bakula's character, Sam Beckett, into the everyday – and in some cases, not everyday (hello, Lee Harvey Oswald) - lives (and bodies) of people who lived during Sam's lifetime. 

Sam is helped by his research benefactor Admiral Al Calavicci (Dean Stockwell). Al remains in the present but communicates with Sam as a hologram. As each episode unfolds, Sam imbues his hosts with the bravery, intelligence, and ethos they need to overcome their obstacles and right the wrong turn they've made. 

Through Sam's eyes and actions, we get a better understanding of life as a woman in the early 1960s car manufacturer white-collar workforce, of the day-to-day struggles of a boy with Down's Syndrome, or even the inhumanity of how we treat Bobo, the space monkey.  By series' end, we've come to witness a greater force of good in the universe and learn that the hand of charity, empathy, and hopefulness is eternal. A valuable lesson, especially now...

Binge Data:
Five seasons

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Whether you're seeking gripping space adventures, thought-provoking social commentary, or mind-bending mysteries, these binges can provide hours of engaging entertainment and perhaps prompt introspection along the way.
Jul 18, 2023   |  Reply
I am disappointed that Serenity and Firefly did not make your list. Both the show and the movie were far above average and deserve a bigger audience
Mar 30, 2020   |  Reply
Jeff Siegel
Thank you for taking the time to create this well written primer on scifi series fit for bingeing and the science fiction genre writ large.
(spelling "binge" as a verb https://www.grammarly.com/blog/bingeing-binging)
Mar 27, 2020   |  Reply
William Oberholtzer
Loved Man in the High Castle. My disappointment in Season Three was more than made up for in Season Four. Rufus Sewell is incredible. At times cruel and calculating alternating with heartbreakingly human in his flaws. I actually think that many of the adaptations of Dick’s works have outdone his original premises. This is one of those.
Mar 25, 2020   |  Reply
Larry Siegel
Agree totally. His works are more thought starters than great narratives -- which perhaps makes them so ripe for screen adaptations. Very similar to how "A Briefcase Full of Blues" made a wonderful source for the movie, "The Blues Brothers."
Mar 25, 2020
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