Westworld, The X-Files, Battlestar Galactica, Stranger Things (John P. Johnson/HBO; Frank Ockenfels/FOX; SyFy; Netflix)

(Photo by John P. Johnson/HBO; Frank Ockenfels/FOX; SyFy; Netflix)


Science fiction is often celebrated as a forward-thinking genre that promotes peace among all life forms. But deciding which sci-fi TV series is the best? That debate could start an intergalactic war.

To determine which series is the supreme ruler of the sci-fi genre, we took into consideration Tomatometer data culled from critics’ reviews, plus a number of reputable “best of” lists, and sprinkled the effort with some editorial discretion, asking ourselves which shows have stood the test of time, inspired spin-offs and copycats, and even made their influence known on the big screen.

Some usual suspects naturally came out on top: Doctor Who, Fringe, Firefly, Orphan Black, and creator Ronald D. Moore’s mid-2000s re-imagining of Battlestar Galactica received high marks across the board — not surprising, since they all also have high Tomatometer scores, as do relative newcomers like Westworld, The Expanse, and Black Mirror.

One of the toughest calls we had to make was what exactly constitutes science fiction. Fantasy, mystery, horror, and postapocalyptic genres can appear to enter the sci-fi realm, but we had to create some boundaries. David Lynch and Mark Frost’s Twin Peaks, which famously popularized the dead-girl murder-mystery trope before dovetailing into something more complicated, was deemed horror-fantasy (so don’t bother “Where’s Twin Peaks?!”–ing us in the comments). What about shows in the Marvel Cinematic Universe like Jessica Jones and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.? Superhero shows were deemed a separate category.

Ranking each of these shows is a Gorn wrestling match all its own – especially when it comes to now-classic titles whose scores are so Rotten, they threaten to stink up the whole list. Have fond memories of 1979’s Buck Rogers in the 25th Century? Hate to ruin any childhood reverie, but it stands at a ripe 33% with 15 reviews on season 1. It still makes the list because of its nostalgia value and the relatively low number of reviews available.

Disagree with our ranking of the best sci-fi TV series? Tell us about your favorites in the comments!

Best Sci-Fi Series
100-81 | 80-61 | 60-4140-21 | 20-1

The Orville (2017)

Synopsis: THE ORVILLE is a live-action, one-hour, ensemble comedic drama set 400 years in the future that follows the adventures of... [More]

Under the Dome (2013)

Synopsis: A small New England town is sealed off from the world by an enormous transparent dome that inexplicably appears and... [More]

The Jetsons (1962)

Synopsis: Hanna-Barbera's space-age counterpoint to their `Flintstones,' featuring George Jetson, wife Jane and their kids, Elroy and Judy. `The Jetsons' was... [More]
Directed By: Joseph Barbera

Astro Boy (1963)

Synopsis: Animated tales of a robotic boy in the 21st century.... [More]

Thunderbirds (0)

Synopsis: An eccentric millionaire and his five sons make up an international rescue team who use a Thunderbird spacecraft to come... [More]
Directed By: David Lane, Brian Burgess

Synopsis: The eerie anthology series (1959-1964) created by Rod Serling returns with new episodes.... [More]

Mork & Mindy (1978)

Synopsis: The smash spin-off from a `Happy Days' episode about a wacky alien from the planet Ork and the sweet-natured woman... [More]

ALF (1986)

Synopsis: A popular sitcom about a furry Alien Life Form from the planet Melmac who crash-lands on Earth and finds a... [More]

Synopsis: Two astronauts land 2000 years in the future and find that Earth is ruled by apes. It had the same... [More]

Synopsis: Tales of the fantastic and supernatural are the focus of this sci-fi anthology, a remake of the 1960s series.... [More]

Killjoys (2015)

Synopsis: Warrants are served by a fun-loving, hard-living trio of interplanetary bounty hunters.... [More]

Roswell (1999)

Synopsis: Aliens lived secretly among humans in this sci-fi and soap hybrid set in Roswell, N.M. (the site of a fabled... [More]

Synopsis: Aliens have landed on earth in this follow up to the 1984 miniseries.... [More]
Directed By: Richard T. Heffron

Millennium (1996)

Synopsis: A dark, graphic saga focusing on a former FBI agent who moves to Seattle with his family and who can... [More]

Logan's Run (1977)

Synopsis: A 29-year-old flees a 24th-century city where citizens are mandatorily killed when they reach 30. Based on a 1976 movie,... [More]

seaQuest DSV (1993)

Synopsis: Steven Spielberg took an expensive plunge with tales of a 1000-foot research submarine (Deep Submergence Vehicle) helmed by a crusty... [More]

Almost Human (2013)

Synopsis: In the year 2048, a veteran cop with mental and physical baggage returns to the force, but struggles to adjust... [More]

Terra Nova (2011)

Synopsis: A group of people travel back to Earth's prehistoric past to start a new civilization as the planet is dying... [More]

Sanctuary (2008)

Synopsis: A doctor provides a haven for mysterious creatures with the help of a team that includes a forensic psychiatrist and... [More]

Dark Angel (2000)

Synopsis: James Cameron produced this hip, visually arresting tale of a genetically designed teen fatale who escapes from a shadowy breeding... [More]

Best Sci-Fi Series
100-81 | 80-61 | 60-4140-21 | 20-1

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