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: Set 400 years in the future, Seth MacFarlane's hit space adventure series follows the U.S.S. Orville, a mid-level exploratory spaceship.... [More]

Under the Dome (2013)

Synopsis: Based on the best-selling Stephen King novel of the same name, "Under the Dome" follows the residents of Chester's Mill,... [More]

The Jetsons (1962)

Synopsis: "Meet George Jetson." Just those words will prompt viewers of a certain age to join in singing the show's catchy... [More]

Astro Boy (1963)

Synopsis: Astro Boy battles evil.... [More]

Thunderbirds (1965)

Synopsis: The trials and tribulations of International Rescue.... [More]

Synopsis: This 1980s revival of the classic sci-fi series features a similar style to the original anthology series. Each episode tells... [More]

Mork & Mindy (1978)

Synopsis: Mork, an alien from the planet Ork on a mission to Earth to study human behavior, travels to 1970s Boulder,... [More]

ALF (1986)

Synopsis: A smart-mouthed creature, ALF (aka Alien Life Form), crash-lands in a suburban garage. His spaceship is beyond repair, he's ugly,... [More]

Planet of the Apes (1974)

Synopsis: Hurled 1,100 years into the future, astronauts Alan Virdon and Pete Burke find themselves in a society where humans are... [More]

Synopsis: In the tradition of the 1960s cult show of the same name, this anthology series features different actors, many well-known... [More]
Starring: Kevin Conway

Killjoys (2015)

Synopsis: A trio of bounty hunters, known as Killjoys, chases deadly warrants through the Quad, a distant area that is near... [More]

Roswell (1999)

Synopsis: Bizarre things start happening in the little New Mexico town where UFOs were spotted in 1947. Cut to 1999, when... [More]

Synopsis: ... [More]

Millennium (1996)

Synopsis: Former FBI agent Frank Black tries to stem the tide of violent crime through psychological means. He joins the mysterious... [More]

Logan's Run (1977)

Synopsis: This action series, based on the 1976 film of the same name, features a totalitarian future (23rd-century) society in which... [More]

seaQuest DSV (1993)

Synopsis: The seaQuest, a sophisticated submarine, protects underwater colonies in an age when humankind has nearly exhausted the Earth's natural resources... [More]

Almost Human (2013)

Synopsis: In 2048, police officer John Kennex wakes up from a 17-month coma without his girlfriend, his partner -- and without... [More]

Terra Nova (2011)

Synopsis: In 2149, overdeveloped and polluted Earth is dying. With no way to reverse the damage done to the planet, a... [More]

Sanctuary (2008)

Synopsis: Enigmatic Dr. Helen Magnus and her team -- forensic psychiatrist Dr. Will Zimmerman, tech genius Henry and Helen's daughter, Ashley... [More]

Dark Angel (2000)

Synopsis: A genetically enhanced superhuman prototype, Max, who, as a child, escaped from a covert government military facility along with 11... [More]

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

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