25 Underrated Sci-Fi TV Shows That Deserve Your Attention

By Richard Chachowski · September 22, 2023, 7:41 AM EDT
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Like the kaleidoscopic worlds they're frequently set in, the sci-fi genre is an almost bottomless ocean of books, comics, movies, and TV shows — many of which are worth seeing or reading for one reason or another.

With how many sci-fi TV shows exist, it seems inevitable that dozens of great series fail to capture mainstream audience attention on par with Battlestar Galactica or Star Trek.

From cult space operas to overlooked gems from the UK, here are 25 of the best, most underrated sci-fi TV series ever made.

Heroes

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Image Credit: NBC/Universal.

Across the globe, ordinary people begin to discover that they have superhuman abilities. These individuals include an indestructible Texas cheerleader (Hayden Panettiere), a Japanese office worker who can teleport (Masi Oka), and a serial killer able to absorb other people's powers (Zachary Quinto).

Ordinary People Discover They Have Superhuman Abilities

Heroes

Image Credit: NBCUniversal Television Distribution.

Ignoring the disastrous final two and a half seasons, you're left with a taut, realistic superhero show that nearly dethroned Lost in its exceptional first two seasons.

V

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Image Credit: Warner Bros TV.

Shortly after the events of V: The Final Battle, the hostile alien race known as the Visitors have returned to Earth, planning to conquer the planet with the help of several traitorous humans.

Hostile Alien Race

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Image Credit: Warner Bros TV.

A continuation of the 1983 miniseries and its follow-up, V: The Final Battle, V is a bold and imaginative space opera start-up in the same overly stylized mold as Star Wars (in the best way imaginable, of course).

Almost Human

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Image Credit: Warner Bros.

In the near future, a depressed human detective (Karl Urban) is assigned an android partner (Michael Ealy), their professional relationship slowly blossoming into friendship.

A Friendship Between a Human Detective and His Android Partner

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Image Credit: Warner Bros.

Before Karl Urban was fouling up superheroes on The Boys, he was a sci-fi sensation with vastly underrated works like Dredd and this AI-focused study of man and machine.

Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog

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Image Credit: Mutant Enemy Productions.

Aspiring to one day join the prestigious Evil League of Evil, up-and-coming supervillain Dr. Horrible's (Neil Patrick Harris) plans are complicated when he falls for a kind-hearted woman who begins dating his nemesis (Nathan Fillion).

Twisting the Script

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Image Credit: Mutant Enemy Productions.

A wonderfully written musical comedy, Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog skewers the superhero genre in two, coming across a more adult version of Megamind.

Maniac

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Image Credit: Netflix.

Annie (Emma Stone) and Owen (Jonah Hill) are strangers drawn into a strange pharmaceutical company's test program for an experimental new drug.

Experimental New Drug

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Image Credit: Netflix.

Led by solid performances from Stone and Hill — along with a memorably odd Justin Theroux — Maniac is a hallucinatory trip where, like the characters, you're never entirely sure of what you're seeing.

Red Dwarf

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Image Credit: Paul Jackson Productions.

Dave Lister (Craig Charles) is a low-ranking technician aboard the mining spaceship Red Dwarf. Awaking from a 3 million-year-long cryogenic hibernation, Lister is shocked to find himself the last human in the universe.

Alone in the Universe

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Image Credit: Paul Jackson Productions.

This little-known British export may not have much of a fanbase in the States, but its success speaks for itself: 12 seasons, four novels, and even a magazine that ran from '92 to '94.

Planetes

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Image Credit: Madman Entertainment.

In 2075, galactic travel has become an average part of life. However, debris from spacecraft has become commonplace, requiring specialists to collect the waste and ensure smoother trips for passing ships.

Ensuring Smoother Galactic Travel

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Image Credit: Madman Entertainment.

Though that premise may sound comedic, the joy of Planetes is its basis in hard science and its heavy focus on existential themes.

Space Battleship Yamato 2199

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Image Credit: Voyager Entertainment.

In 2199, Earth has been turned into a radioactive wasteland by an invasive alien race. In desperate need of an environment to sustain them, the spaceship Yamato travels to the planet Iscandar, believing the planet has the means to make their home hospitable again.

In Search of a Hospitable Planet

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In Search of a Hospitable Planet

Released in 1974, Space Battleship Yamato 2199 has regularly been one of the most influential anime series there is, inspiring everything from Mobile Suit Gundam and Neon Genesis Evangelion to the iconic video game sensation, Space Invaders.

Lost in Space

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Image Credit: Netflix.

Three decades into the future, Earth begins establishing colonies on distant planets across the stars. Crash-landing on a habitable world, the Robinson family defend themselves against their hostile environment and try to return to their expeditionary party.

Swiss Family Robinson in Space

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Image Credit: Netflix.

Whenever a remake of a beloved '60s show premieres, there's bound to be a comparison between the original and the remake. Hinging heavily on its emotional undertones, though, Lost in Space does much to set itself apart from its earlier counterpart.

The Wild Wild West

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Image Credit: CBS Television Network.

In a steampunk version of the Wild West, two government agents ( Robert Conrad and Ross Martin) travel the frontier, ridding the land of any dangerous threats they come across.

Government Agents Facing Dangerous Threats

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Image Credit: CBS Productions.

Designed to be a Western version of James Bond (complete with wacky gadgets, physically imposing henchmen, and dastardly villains), it's one thousand times better than that godawful Will Smith movie.

Final Space

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Image Credit: Warner Bros.

While working off his prison sentence, astronaut Gary finds companionship in a mysterious yet adorable alien — who also happens to be one of the most dangerous creatures in the universe.

Companionship in a Mysterious Yet Adorable Alien

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Image Credit: Warner Bros.

Brimming with an all-star cast (David Tennant, Steven Yeun, Fred Armisen, Conan O'Brien, Jane Lynch, and Keith David), Final Space starts off as your typical Adult Swim comedy before slowly morphing into an out-and-out space opera of epic proportions.

The 100

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Image Credit: Warner Bros.

Nearly a century after a nuclear war has ended civilization on Earth, the remnants of humanity send 100 troubled youths to the world's surface in the hopes of reestablishing humankind’s presence on the planet.

Troubled Youths To Reestablish Humankind

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Image Credit: Warner Bros.

A post-apocalyptic version of Lord of the Flies, The 100 is an acquired taste for some, but those who love a good, teen-driven drama won't be disappointed.

The OA

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Image Credit: Netflix.

Having gone missing seven years ago, a blind young woman named Prairie (Brit Marling) returns home, her eyesight somehow completely restored.

A Blind Woman's Eyesight Mysteriously Restored

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Image Credit: Netflix.

Canceled at the worst time imaginable, leaving infuriated fans with an unresolved cliffhanger, The OA has regularly been called one of the best sci-fi shows of all time by publications like Empire, Wired, and BBC.

Resident Alien

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Image Credit: NBCUniversal.

Tasked with destroying Earth, an alien disguised as a friendly Colorado doctor (Alan Tudyk) wrestles with the morality of his mission, made even more complicated by all the kind-hearted humans he meets along the way.

An Alien Disguised as a Friendly Colorado Doctor

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Image Credit: NBCUniversal.

Resident Alien‘s greatest strength is always entertaining Alan Tudyk, but more than that, it's an unexpectedly emotional look at a very different kind of alien invasion.

Orphan Black

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Image Credit: BBC Worldwide.

After witnessing the suicide of a woman who looks exactly like her, the street-savvy Sarah (Tatiana Maslany) decides to take the woman's place, pulling her into a world of sinister conspiracies around every corner.

Cloneliness is Next to Godliness?

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Image Credit: BBC Worldwide.

In her transformative performance as Sarah, Maslany propels Orphan Black to sci-fi heights, the show existing an intense and intelligent meditation on cloning and the ethics (or lack thereof) involved in the process.

The Venture Bros.

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Image Credit: Warner Bros.

Once a famous boy inventor, Dr. Rusty Venture has since grown up to be a depressed, crotchety middle-aged mad scientist. Together with his two less-than-intelligent sons and their burly bodyguard, the four embark on numerous adventures the world over.

Jonny Quested

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Image Credit: Warner Bros.

A spoof of classic '60s Hanna-Barbera cartoons like Jonny Quest, The Venture Bros has amassed a significant following since its 2003 debut. However, even the most dedicated of fans can't deny it tends to be overshadowed by more recent Adult Swim series like Rick and Morty.

Babylon 5

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Image Credit: Warner Bros.

In the 23rd century, the galaxy is once again beginning to stabilize after a massive war between the Earth Alliance and the Minbari. Stationed at a strategic neutral zone is the station Babylon 5, a site of political intrigue and maneuvering by both sides of the conflict.

Last Outpost for Peace

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Image Credit: Warner Bros.

If ever you were looking for a more political space opera, this is it. Tackling such themes as political factions, cold war power struggles, and racism, Babylon 5‘s reputation among sci-fi enthusiasts has only improved with time.

Future Boy Conan

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Image Credit: Nippon Animation.

Twenty years after World War 3, the remnants of mankind live on a chain of islands as they slowly try to rebuild society. In the middle of it all is Conan, a 12-year-old boy with superhuman strength trying to find an 11-year-old girl who's been kidnapped by the insidious forces of Industria.

Living on a Chain of Islands

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Image Credit: Nippon Animation.

A very early work from anime giant and Studio Ghibli founder, Hayao Miyazaki, Future Boy Conan bears all the charm and imagination of Miyazaki's later work, serving as a direct precursor to his breakthrough Castle in the Sky.

Legion

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Image Credit: 20th Television.

David Haller (Dan Stevens) is a powerful telepathic mutant diagnosed with acute schizophrenia. After he's contacted by a fellow patient (Rachel Keller) in a psychiatric facility, David starts to suspect that there's more to his mental illness than he originally believed.

XMen Adjacent

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Image Credit: 20th Television.

From Noah Hawley (creator of the similarly underrated FX series, Fargo), Legion is about as heady and psychedelic a superhero show you can get.

The Outer Limits

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Image Credit: Daystar Productions.

The immediate competitor to The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits is a '60s anthology series exploring tales of sci-fi and cosmic horror.

Tales of Sci-Fi and Cosmic Horror

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Image Credit: Warner Bros.

In the 23rd century, the galaxy is once again beginning to stabilize after a massive war between the Earth Alliance and the Minbari. Stationed at a strategic neutral zone is the station Babylon 5, a site of political intrigue and maneuvering by both sides of the conflict.

The Expanse

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Image Credit: Amazon Prime Video.

In the 24th century, a weary police detective (Thomas Jane) and a hardened freighter captain (Steven Strait) search for a missing young woman, threatening the balance of power amongst the colonized planets of the galaxy.

The Search for a Missing Young Woman

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Image Credit: Amazon Prime Video.

A deft blend between space opera and neo-noir, The Expanse is a rich mystery series wrapped around an audacious sci-fi war story — one that may rival the likes of Stargate SG-1 or Babylon 5.

The Prisoner

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Image Credit: Everyman Films.

After he abruptly resigns from his post for an unknown reason, a British secret agent (Patrick McGoohan) wakes up at a bizarre, idyllic coastal village policed by an unknown group. As his jailors routinely question him regarding his decision to retire, the agent continuously searches for ways to escape and find out who the mysterious Number One is.

A Bizarre, Idyllic Coastal Village

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Image Credit: Everyman Films.

A marvel of British television and a hallmark of mainstream surrealism, what begins as a James Bond pastiche soon turns into an avant-garde exploration of individualism and conformity.

Fringe

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Image Credit: Warner Bros. Television Distribution.

With mounting cases of unexplained, possibly supernatural phenomena spreading throughout the country, the FBI establishes a small team of investigators (Anna Torv, Joshua Jackson, and John Noble) to research and solve any mysteries they deem paranormal in nature.

A Team of Investigators

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Image Credit: Warner Bros.

What The X-Files did for government conspiracy theories, Fringe does for fringe science. Delving into an expansive mythology as rich as Supernatural's, it's the best monster-of-the-week show you've never seen.

Utopia

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Image Credit: Channel 4 Television Corporation.

Discovering a strange comic book that holds predictions for future events, a group of people are hunted down by an enigmatic organization known as The Network who wish to keep the comic a secret.

A Strange Comic Book Predicts The Future

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Image Credit: Channel 4 Television Corporation.

Forget the horrendous American remake, the original British series is an ambitious and affecting piece of storyline, despite its heavy dose of extreme, often off-putting violence.

Firefly

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Image Credit: 20th Century Fox..

Five hundred years into the future, a ragtag crew aboard the transport ship Serenity do their best to find their place in the galaxy, running from authoritarian government regimes, bounty hunters, and a horrendous subhuman race known as Reavers.

A Ragtag Crew

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Image Credit: 20th Century Fox.

Nowadays, it seems almost a given that any list of underrated sci-fi shows ends with Firefly. Unjustly canceled after a single season, it's continued to live on in the form of numerous comics, board games, and a feature film continuation.

Article syndicated with permission from WealthofGeeks.