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My Top Ten Sci-Fi Shows

On conservative estimate, I’ve seen an alarming 1288 episodes of sci-fi TV. To put my time to good use, here’s a list of my ten favourite shows – hopefully you’ll find something on here that interests you.

10. Red Dwarf (1988 – Present)

Four men on a spaceship point at the camera goofily

What it’s About: A mining ship home to the last survivor of mankind and his oddball inhuman crewmates.

Why I Love it: One of the funniest shows I’ve watched – sci-fi or not. Though varying in quality, Red Dwarf succeeds by the chemistry of its leads and the alternatively clever and insanely stupid comedy.

Favourite Episode: Meltdown (S4:E6)

“Mr. Fibble is very cross.”

9. Star Trek: Lower Decks (2020 – Present)

Four Starfleet crewman, with one young woman headlocking a disgruntled crewmate

What it’s About: Low-level crewman on the USS Cerritos bickering, bonding, and complaining as they travel the galaxy.

Why I Love it: One of a few shows (alongside Community) that succeeds at being a parody, loving homage, and a great show all in its own right. Lower Decks overcame its growing pains within the first few episodes and has remained consistently hilarious ever since – while also maintaining strong character arcs. The best Star Trek show since . . . well, more on that later.

Favourite Episode: No Small Parts (S1:E10)

“It’s always weird revisiting planets from the TOS era.”


“It’s what I call the 2260s. Stands for ‘those old scientists’ – You know, Spock, Scotty, those guys. Seems like they were stumbling on crazy new aliens every week back then.”

8. Doctor Who Reboot (2005 – Present)

L-R: Actors Christopher Eccleston, David Tennant, Jodie Whittaker, Matt Smith, Peter Capaldi, all in their costumes as The Doctor

What it’s About: An immortal called ‘The Doctor’ swapping faces and gaining friends in his never-ending adventures in time and space.

Why I Love it: One of the first shows I really got into and loved. From adventure to commentary to comedy, Doctor Who at its best delivers great stories rooted in aspirational characters. I gave up during Chibnall’s tenure and am unbelievably excited to see Davies’ return and subsequent much needed budget infusion.

Favourite Episode: Vincent and the Doctor (S5:E10)

“You want weapons? We’re in a library! Books! The best weapons in the world!”

7. Dark (2017-2020)

A hooded figure gazes into a cave, with darkness all around

What it’s About: Mysterious happenings in the quiet town of Winden bringing its citizens togethers in ways no one could have expected.

Why I Love it: The only show here that I’ve not finished, but undeniably one of the best. Dark expertly manages its large cast and sprawling narrative amid an atmosphere of unceasing dread and tension while delivering some of the most shocking reveals on TV.

Favourite Episode: Endings and Beginnings (S2:E8)

“Sic mundus creates est.”

6. Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987 – 1993)

Cast photo of the crew of the USS Enterprise: Geordie, Guinan, Dr. Crusher, Captain Picard, Worf, Riker, Troi, Wesley Crusher, Data

What it’s About: Captain Jean-Luc Picard and the crew of the USS Enterprise-D encountering the unbelievable and all too real in a galaxy of infinite diversity.

Why I Love it: TNG taught me the true power of science-fiction: to confront the issues of day in the unfamiliar milieus of imagined tomorrows. Despite a saddening number of unwatchable episodes, when TNG was good it was damn excellent; Captain Picard remains one of my favourite fictional characters ever. It inspired my life-long love of Star Trek – and my internet username.

Favourite Episode: Darmok (S5:E2)

“Let’s make sure history never forgets . . . the name . . . Enterprise.”

5. Stranger Things (2016 – Present)

Six teenagers in '80s attire gaze upward in confusion

What it’s About: Small town kids caught in the middle of big-time problems – and monsters?

Why I Love it: Season One of Stranger Things is one of my favourite seasons of TV. Ever. And the rest is pretty good too. Endlessly entertaining and always heartfelt, made even better by the perfect cast and awesome soundtrack.

Favourite Episode: The Upside Down (S1:E8)

“We never woud’ve upset you if we knew you had superpowers.”

4. The X-Files (1993 2002)

Mulder and Scully discuss a problem in a cluttered office, centering a UFO poster captioned 'I Want to Believe'

What it’s About: FBI Agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully encountering just about everything paranormal that you can imagine – and a bunch more stuff you can’t.

Why I Love it: The X-Files never shied away from risk – for better or for worse – pushing television forward and resulting in a plethora of fantastic episodes. The core dynamic between Mulder and Scully is one of the medium’s best – and the overarching narrative is even good sometimes. I’m glad it was never rebooted.

Favourite Episode: Home (S4:E2)

“The truth is out there, but so are lies.”

3.  Babylon 5 (1993 – 1998)

Cast photo from season 1: Garibaldi, Londo, Ivanova, Delen, Sinclair, Winters, G'Kar, Franklin

What it’s About: The space station Babylon 5, all alone in the night against enemies new and old, human and alien.

Why I Love it: Star Trek shows the future we could achieve; B5 shows us the one we’ll actually get. J. Michael Straczynski’s vision – alongside the efforts of his crew – gave TV viewers something they’d never seen before: a serialized story planned from start to finish before the first episode even aired. Near unparalleled in SF in terms of theme, plotting, and character arcs, Babylon 5 holds a special place in the canon of great television.

Favourite Episode: Severed Dreams (S3:E10)

“No one here is exactly what he appears.”

2.  Firefly (2002)

Two men and a woman in Western attire stand outside a rusted gate, guns pointing forward

What it’s About: The Serenity and her ragtag crew travelling the galaxy for fun, freedom, and profit, without ever finding much of anything other than trouble.

Why I Love it: From complex characters to intense action to humour that doesn’t undercut emotion, each episode of Firefly is a complete package. It has a unique passion and soul, as storylines and characters delving deep into heroism and humanity without ever becoming too pessimistic. Really though, I love Firefly because it’s fun.

Favourite Episode: Pilot (S1:E1)

“Curse your subtle inevitable betrayal.”

 1. Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (1993 – 1999)

Cast photo from season 4: Worf, Quark, Odo, Dax, Sisko, Jake, Kira, O'Brien

What it’s About: The diverse crew of the backwater space station Deep Space Nine, which increasingly becomes more important as the series goes on. 

Why I Love it: Deep Space Nine puts its franchise’s tenets through the wringer, showing us how important they truly are. Star Trek is my favourite franchise, and DS9 is the main reason. In many great storylines and standalones, DS9 expertly crafts satisfying character arcs for everyone in its massive cast. Season 6 is my number one season of all Star Trek. More than anything else here, DS9 feels like home – and its a show I’ll be rewatching for the rest of my life.

Favourite Episode: In the Pale Moonlight (S6:E19)

“So, I lied. I cheated. I bribed to cover the crimes of other men. I am an accessory to murder. But the most damning thing of all . . . I think I can live with it.”


So that’s my top ten sci-fi TV shows. What about you?

Film Review: Reign of Fire (2002)

Christian Bale and Matthew McConaughey fight dragons – what could go wrong? Unfortunately, everything. 

What’s It About?

The year is 2020, and dragons reign in England. It all began decades early when London miners uncovered a buried dragon – the first in a species-wide reawakening. No matter how many were killed, the tide could not be stopped. Futilely, governments deployed nuclear weapons, which only devasted population centres as the dragons soared freely above.

In the present, the remaining inhabitants of Northumberland, England live together in a fortified castle, led by Christian Bale’s Quinn, the son of one of the London miners. Life is hard and getting harder, causing many to give up. One day, a corps of Americans arrives, led by Matthew McConaughey’s Denton Van Zan, stirring up both hope and trepidation.

What Did I Think?

On paper, this film has a few things going for it. I like both Bale and McConaughey, and the ridiculous premise suggests just the kind of wacky fantasy I enjoy. On paper.

On the screen . . . it ain’t good. 

At 81 minutes, Reign of Fire is short for a fantasy epic, but somehow even makes that runtime feel too long.

My most general complaint has to do with how inefficiently paced the film was. The overlong opening flashback sequence and subsequent narration from Bale are redundant, and neither offer much more substantial description than I did to begin this review.

Off to kill some dragons!

The opening flashback – following Bale’s traumatic childhood experience in London – does set up his (weak) character arc, but the same could have just as easily been done in a much shorter sequence. For example, as a nightmare he has or replacing the other story he tells the children in his care.

Because of all this, the inciting incident – McConaughey’s arrival – doesn’t happen until thirty minutes in – well past the first third of the film. After that, the film trudges on through its simplistic plot, with a climax enabled by one of the stupidest movie reveals I’ve seen.

“Only one thing worse than a Dragon. Americans.”

As a fan of sci-fi and fantasy, I don’t mind wacky premises – I love them. However, once that premise is established, I expect movies to have some logic and realism within the established framework. Not so for this movie.

To make matters worse, the film suffers from largely boring characters.

This is made worse by the lost potential of starring a bunch of Hollywood leading men before their careers took off.

Bale’s central conflict between hope and despair is both uninteresting and underexplored. Gerald Butler – Bale’s sidekick in the film – was supposed to bring some levity to the film but was too underutilized and at odds with the bleak atmosphere to do much good. The film’s only female character has no defining traits. The only spot of colour in this dark and dreary film was McConaughey. On set, he apparently refused to go by anything other than “Van Zan,” and his over-commitment pays off in his unhinged and campy performance.

The film also suffers in the worldbuilding department. 

There are one or two cool images – such as the tank-like fire trucks Bale’s people use, but overall, the setting is boring, and altogether far too contained (the mere $60 million budget was surely a factor).

It’d be remiss not mention the few positives though. Though we don’t see them very often, the CG dragons hold up reasonably well, and there are a few striking combat scenes. Additionally, there is one scene I genuinely love – where Bale and Butler reenact the conclusion of The Empire Strikes Back as a legendary tale of knights and heroes for the children under their care.

I first became interested in Reign of Fire when it was mentioned on the Intentionally Blank podcast, but unfortunately their brief discussion of it is more interesting than the film itself. I wish the movie had leaned into the crazy premise and zany side of McConaughey’s character, that might have made a more fun film.

I knew it was a bad movie going in, but I was hoping for more of a “Haha, this is so bad” bad movie rather than a “Oh, this is just bad” bad movie. I was disappointed.

★ ★