My list of the greatest science fiction television of all time is, as is the nature of such things, rather subjective. Others will argue for different selections. Here are the arguments for mine.
Though all the various spin off series has their virtues and faults, there was nothing quite like seeing the very first, classic Star Trek series for the first time, back in the 1960s, before even the Apollo moon landing. Admittedly Shatner’s acting was over the top and the special effects look a bit cheesy to the modern eye (though some of those who have updated with modern CGI.) But just imagine yourself in the 1960s, with Vietnam, race riots, and drug abuse as a lifestyle choice, and being told that there would be something wonderful on the other side.
Star Trek Deep Space Nine
My choice for the best of the Trek spin offs was a tough one, as I do have a soft part of my heart for Enterprise. But I had to do with DS9, not only for its collection of interesting characters, but for the sheer scope of the series that progressed to an interstellar war that spanned the galaxy and went into the hearts of alien cultures more so than any other Trek series did before or since.
Babylon Five was one of those great gems that one wondered how it actually got made for television, a medium which seems to encourage the mediocre over the great. Babylon Five had a sweep that spanned both time and space far beyond the space settlement that was “the last best hope for peace” and then “the last best hope for victory.” Babylon Five has mystery, a sense of wonder, sly social commentary, and characters that actually changed and grew in unexpected directions as the series progressed.
Alien Nation lasted for one season, though there were a number of made for TV movies that followed. The idea of an alien race living among us as the latest group of immigrants was a fascinating one, especially since the differences between human and alien were often as much biological as cultural. It allowed for some sly social commentary too, such as the scene outside the school where the two main characters, Sykes and Francisco, have to break up a riot of irate parents who don’t want “their kind” mixing with their kids. Sykes, the human racist cop he gets better, had a classic line when he gives one of the parents, and African American, a withering look and tells him, “And you, sir, should be ashamed of yourself.” And he was.
Battlestar Galactica (21st Century)
While I still have fond memories of the 1970s Battlestar, the rebooted version far exceeded the original material. The new Battlestar Galactica actually explored the implications of having ones entire race, save for about forty or so thousand people, obliterated and having that last remains of humanity hunted down across the stars. The tension and the fear oozed from the television every week the series was on. Throw in the idea that the evil Cylons were not just clunky tin men, but could look just like humans, and that the humans were pagans and the Cylons monotheistic, and there aired a jewel without price.