Television has not always been good for genre shows. Horror and science fiction stories are often way too “thinky” for the masses of prime time tv, or not nearly thoughtful enough, leaving hardcore fans irritated. While shows like Star Trek in all its iterations captured just the right mix of camp, political intrigue, and social commentary, others miss the mark on everything. There is a lot of content for sci-fi fans, but you don’t want to wade through all the muck to find the gold. This list won’t include the obvious choices like Battlestar Galactica, Dark, Black Mirror, Westworld, Lost, or of course, Dr. Who, but it will include some lesser-known series and some from the past you may not have seen. All of them are available for streaming right now, and all of them have at least two seasons.
The only comedy/sci-fi series on this list comes from the creators of Pineapple Express, and Superbad is hilarious. A regular guy who works as a janitor by day and a gamer by night gets recruited by a group to time travel and prevent the collapse of humanity. The second season got a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, so it came as a shock when Hulu canceled the series after the third season. It is a ton of fun that largely gets ignored which is a shame. All three seasons are available on Hulu right now.
For some reason, this incredible series didn’t resonate with a larger audience. It has its loyal fanbase but fewer viewers watched than should have. The British series based on a Swedish one about robots who are more humane than the humans they serve is meticulously scripted and beautifully acted. The uncanny valley created by a world parallel to ours with Synths who are almost indistinguishable from the humans they serve is deeply unsettling and profoundly thoughtful. Considering how close we are to biological robots right now, this series hits very close to home. It is available to stream on Amazon Prime and Britbox.
The Netflix thriller is set in a post-apocalyptic Brazil where only the privileged 3% get to live in a utopian society of peace and excess. Everyone else must scrap for their survival. To become one of the lucky few, a group of young people undergoes a brutal selection process designed to reveal their darkest secrets and baser instincts. This series has a similar vibe to Squid Games, and the socio-political message is thought-provoking. There are four seasons, and each one is better than the first. There are twists, turns, and sudden beats of shocking violence. It’s a banger that shouldn’t be missed.
This series from USA was criminally underappreciated. Three strangers realize they are dreaming parts of a sinister coverup and mysterious crime. Intermingled with each of the three’s personal mysteries is the larger conspiracy. The collective dreaming story is smart and engrossing. Will Yun Lee(Altered Carbon) and Lizzie Brocheré(The Strain) are standouts. You will be sucked in right away by the engaging cast and the arresting imagery. So many of the elements have been seen before but never in this way. For lovers of The Twilight Zone, it feels like an extended modern version that would fit right in with the classics. Both seasons are available to stream on Amazon Prime Video.
There has never been a more emotional sci-fi series than Sense8. It is also the most abashedly lusty. I laughed, I cried, I fist-pumped, and I got very horny. A group of unrelated people scattered across the globe finds themselves suddenly mentally linked. They must work together to avoid a dangerous group that is hunting them. The characters are easy to become invested in, and the villain is almost as good as David Tennant’s Kilgrave from Jessica Jones. This is a can’t miss series from the Wachowski’s who resurrected our beloved Neo for Matrix 4, coming out in a few short weeks. You can stream both seasons and a two-hour movie on Netflix.
Stitchers is a little bit police procedural and a little bit sci-fi weirdness. A young woman gets recruited by a secret government group that uses the memories of the dead to investigate crimes. They “stitch” their agent’s consciousness into the dead person’s mind to get at the memories. It sounds wacky, and sometimes it is, but it is unapologetically quirky. The ABC Family series has well-drawn characters and decent weekly mysteries bolstered by an overarching puzzle that deserved more time. All three seasons are available to stream on Hulu right now.
This sexy and emotional series is more fantasy than sci-fi. Still, it has one of the most gorgeous casts ever created for television and marked a fundamental change to better storytelling on SYFY. Bo is a succubus who is just now finding she has deadly powers and an extended magical family she knew nothing about. There is no end to the supernatural creatures and the cast has electric chemistry. The surprisingly heartfelt series packs an emotional wallop. Orphan Black’s Ksenia Solo is the best sidekick of any series to date. You can stream all five seasons on CW Seed and Apple TV for free.
Honorable mentions go to Terra Nova, The OA, Devs, and Orphan Black. Terra Nova only had one season, but if you are a fan of NBC’s latest La Brea, it shouldn’t be missed. It’s available on IMDb.com. The OA is easily the weirdest series ever to reach a mainstream audience. Zal Batmanglij and Brit Marling’s surreal interdimensional mindbender is the real deal. It has a rabid fan base devastated when it was canceled after only two seasons. While Devs is a limited series, it doesn’t quite meet the criteria, but it is amazingly haunting and delivers an impactful punch at the end. Finally, I’m assuming everyone who loves sci-fi knows Orphan Black but if you don’t, stream it now on Amazon Prime Video.
Lastly, HBO Max’s Raised By Wolves season 2 will premiere in early 2022. The trippy series is an exciting mix of religion, mythology, interplanetary intrigue, politics, and romance. The fanbase has steadily grown, so odds are you’ve already discovered it, but if you haven’t, there is still time to catch up on all the part political, part space, part religious oddness of the bonkers series.
With the winter months knocking on the door and all of us forced to stay indoors, these series will give you something to look forward to. Best yet, several of them are entirely free.
As the Managing Editor for Signal Horizon, I love watching and writing about genre entertainment. I grew up with old-school slashers, but my real passion is television and all things weird and ambiguous. My work can be found here and Travel Weird, where I am the Editor in Chief.