Top 10 SciFi Television Shows, Pt 3

Science/Fantasy Monday: Top 10 SciFi Television Shows, Pt 3

Here we are at last!  The end of my three-Mondays-long countdown of my personal Top 10 SciFi TV Shows.  For those of you who missed the first two parts, or just need a refresher, you can find them here:

“Top 10 SciFi Television Shows, Part 1”

“Top 10 SciFi Television Shows, Part 2”

Back?  Good.  Now, let’s get down to business.  I’m sure that most, if not all, of you can probably guess what shows are coming.  The big question now is what order did I put them in?  Which show got #1 and which got pushed down to #2?

Well, wonder no longer!  We have a tie for First Place!  And it goes to Star Trek and Doctor Who!  (Who’s shocked?  Raise your hand.  No one?  Didn’t think so.)

#1: Star Trek (whole universe) and Doctor Who (original and revival)

I love them both.  They are both amazing and brilliant.  They were both so foundational to science fiction television, and scifi of any medium.  I simply could not find any way to say definitively that either was better than the other, so a tie seemed the best solution.

Star Trek:

Star Trek: Original Series

Star Trek was created by Gene Roddenberry and first aired in 1966 and ran for three seasons before it was canceled due to low ratings.  It wasn’t until it went into syndication that Star Trek: the Original Series (TOS) truly gained the immense popularity that made it the icon it is today.  It was followed by a short-lived Animated Series, and six movies: Star Trek the Motion Picture, The Wrath of Kahn, The Search for Spock, The Voyage Home, The Final Frontier, and The Undiscovered Country.

Star Trek: Next Generation

Star Trek: The Next Generation (TNG) started in 1987 and last seven seasons, during which time it became, I believe, the most popular of all the series.  Even many of those who grew up with TOS are usually willing to admit that TNG is better.  There is a decent-sized group of people who would argue that the third series, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (DS9) is actually the best incarnation of the show.  My brother, a few of my friends would count themselves among that group.  I’m sort-of, kind-of there too, though I’m a little more on the fence.  For a more detailed discussion of my reasoning behind that argument please see: “The Age Old Question: Which Star Trek is Better?”

Still, TNG was an absolutely fantastic show.  And even if I like some parts of DS9 better, Captain Jean-Luc Picard of the Starfleet Enterprise NCC-1701-D will always ALWAYS be MY Captain.  He is one of my favorite characters ever.  Data, the android who wants to be human is definitely near the top of my favorite list also (and TNG’s answer to Spock who is also one of my favorite characters).

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

As for DS9… it was much darker than either of the two series that came before it, which is also cited as a mark against it, but which I really enjoyed.  And it had a large overarching plot that really tied the show together and gave it an amount of tension and suspense that TNG only managed on a few occasions (though it was AWESOME when TNG pulled it off, most especially in “Best of Both Worlds,” Pt 1 and 2).  But again, you can get more of rant about DS9 on my previous post, linked above.

During this time, there were four more movies, focusing on the TNG crew: Generations, First Contact, Insurrection, and NemesisStar Trek: Generations was emotionally-taxing because we all had to watch Kirk die not once, but twice.  But the best of the bunch has to be Star Trek: First Contact, which featured fantastic special effects, the creepy arch-nemesis of the TNG crew The Borg, a cool plot, and Picard at his absolutely most awesome.

Star Trek: Voyager

After DS9, we had Voyager. This was the first Star Trek show to feature a female captain (there have been plenty of woman captains within the universe of Star Trek, of course).  Voyager has been argued about for a number of reasons.  It is very popular with some fans, and hated by others.  It was, admittedly, a little hit-or-miss sometimes, but the first four seasons, at the very least, were consistently good.  Most of the characters were well-written and complex.  But I think many people didn’t like the heavy focus on romance in a number of episodes, especially in the second half of the series.  This is a complaint I understand, and I would admit that some of the relationship stuff definitely got tiring.  But overall, the show was intelligent, well-acted, exciting, and fun.  And Captain Kathryn Janeway was an absolutely KICK-ASS female character.

Star Trek: Enterprise

Last on the list is Star Trek: Enterprise.  I watched most of the first season, and I have seen a few other episodes here or there.  But this series just could not match up to the Star Trek tradition.  The producers/writers tried to change too much, make it more “theirs” instead of Roddenberry’s, and it just didn’t work (though Capt Archer, played by Scott Bakula, was a pretty good character).

What I think makes Star Trek so important, despite its flaws, the occasional hit-or-miss series, the cheesiness, etc… is that it is able to critique society (like much of scifi) and show us ourselves in all our nastiness, but it is ultimately built on a fundamental hope and optimism.  Star Trek: The Original Series featured the first interracial kiss aired on television.  It attempted to show the world that tolerance and peace and prosperity were possible, despite all the problems we face.  And that optimism seems even more important now than it did in the 60s.

I will add, briefly, that the newest movie was very good.  I approached with trepidation, but it seriously impressed me, and I’m looking forward to the next one.  There are also rumors of a new Star Trek series, which would be AWESOME, because it’s just a tragedy that it’s been so long since we had a new Star Trek adventure to enjoy every week.

Doctor Who:

The First Doctor: William Hartnell

Doctor Who premiered in 1963 and run for 26 consecutive seasons until 1989, making it the longest running science fiction television show of all time and one of the longest running tv shows of any genre (even before its revival).  In 1996 a television movie was released in the hopes of reviving the show for an American audience. This failed.  But in 2005, the show was finally revived by BBC and has now run for 6 more seasons.  This revival is not a reboot, but an actual continuation of the same universe and timeline, which means that seasons 6 of the revival can also be called season 32 of Doctor Who.  And the show is still going strong.

Anyone who knows me (and people who have been following this blog for awhile), knows that I am obsessed with Doctor Who.  I could go on about the show for hours if you let me (I don’t suggest you let me if you plan to do anything else for the next few days).  Thankfully, I have already written three blogs about various aspects of Doctor Who. So, rather than ramble for quite as long as I did for Star Trek above (which I haven’t written about as much before), I will now start by referring you to those previous blog posts:

“The Doctor Is In: A Brief History of Doctor Who, Pt 1”

“The Doctor Is In: A Brief History of Doctor Who, Pt 2”

“They’re Never Really Gone: The Top 3 Doctor Who Villains”

These three posts should give you good handle on some of the major elements of Doctor Who.


It always fascinates me that Doctor Who was originally intended as more a history lesson for children disguised as action-adventure television.  But very very quickly the historical episodes (which are still a ton of fun) gave way to the flashier, more dramatic, more iconic Doctor Who-ish space/alien episodes.  Doctor Who is still the most popular television show in England, and whoever is playing the Doctor at the time, is consistently one of the most popular actors of the time.  Every single person in England knows who the Doctor is, what Dalek is, understands the significance of celery and a really long striped scarf, and realizes that the Master is never really dead.  Now, thanks to the revival’s growing popularity in America (which, I think, was actually spurred on by Torchwood: Children of Earth, surprisingly), almost everyone in America is beginning to know these things too.

Doctor Who is smart, crazy, exciting, hilarious, dramatic, intense, and occasionally depressing, all wrapped up into one insane hour-long program.

10th Doctor with companions: Rose, Martha, Donna, and Sarah-Jane

It has featured some fascinating characters as the Doctor’s companions, such as his granddaughter Susan Foreman, The Brigadier, Sarah-Jane Smith, Ace, Rose Tyler, Jack Harkness, Donna Noble, and most recently Amelia Pond and her husband Rory Williams (who is awesome, by the way).  While the Doctor does sometimes travel with a variety of aliens and even robots (such as the robot dog K-9), he has always had a special affinity for human companions (despite the fact that he often looked down on humans as the First Doctor).  And these human companions are US.  They are our entrance into his world, they are our emissaries into the insane, exciting, dark universe of the Doctor.

John Sims as the Master

What I think makes this show so amazing and enduring is that it can take the strangest characters, the strangest places and plots, and make them emotionally important.  We care about alien races destroying each other.  We care about the Companions who die, or get left behind.  We are terrified (and exhilaratingly fascinated by) the Daleks and the Cybermen and the Master.  But really, it’s all about the Doctor.  He is a genius, a pacifist and warrior at the same time, compassionate and, at times, ruthless, always off for an adventure, with a entourage of humans and aliens and robots, and yet ultimately alone.  He is an alien, of course, and in so many ways he is completely non-human.  And yet, he is very human.  And that’s what makes him so amazing.

To end, here is a quote about the Doctor from episode 9 of Season 3 of the revival, “Family of Blood.”  It’s a little melodramatic, but it’s awesome anyway: “He’s like fire and ice and rage. He’s like the night, and the storm in the heart of the sun. He’s ancient and forever. He burns at the centre of time and he can see the turn of the universe. And… he’s wonderful.”

All Eleven Doctors

That concludes my Top 10 SciFi Television Shows list!  Please let me know what you think!  I love to hear from you! See you on Wednesday! (and I’ve got to stop using so many damn exclamation points!)

They’re Never Really Gone: the Top 3 Doctor Who Villains

First, I apologize for the lateness of this post.  In my defense, I’m preparing for a trip and had to deal a few minor crises today.  And THEN, when I finally had time to sit down and finish writing this blog, we got hit by a huge storm and my power went out, taking my internet connection along with it.

BUT, here at last, is the post I promised on friday:  A brief explanation of the top three villains of Doctor Who.  These are villains that come back again and again and again, no matter how many times the Doctor believes he’s finally and completely defeated them.  They are simply NEVER really gone.

3) The Cybermen

The Cybermen were originally a completely organic and humanoid species that lived on a twin planet of Earth’s called Mondas.  As Mondasians began to die out, they slowly modified their bodies, replacing more and more parts with mechanical parts in an struggle for self-preservation.  Eventually, all that was left were their brains in metal bodies, and they had lost all emotion.  They were cold and logical.  They also became conquerors who could only ‘reproduce’ by invading worlds and forcibly converting other organic beings into Cybermen.

The Cybermen were first introduced in “The Tenth Planet” (1966) which was the First Doctor’s last episode and the Second Doctor’s first.  They first attempted to invade Earth in “The Invasion” (1968).  The invasion was stopped by the Doctor, with the help of the newly formed “United Nations Intelligence Taskforce” (UNIT), which would become a recurring group in the series, both original and revival.

In the revival series, the Cybermen first appear in “Rise of the Cybermen” / “Age of Steel,” when the Doctor and his companions accidentally break through the void into a parallel dimension where a corporate mogul has created the Cybermen in a last-ditch effort to save his own life.  This version of the Cybermen eventually find their way across the void to “our” dimension and version Earth.  They haven’t played a major part in the series since the Eleventh Doctor’s arrival, but I suspect they will at some point.  They always come back.

2) The Daleks

Like most things in Doctor Who, the long-running nature of the show has made the history of the Daleks is somewhat fluid.  When first introduced in “The Daleks” (1963), the Daleks’ origin story was that the Dals and Thals were warring races on the planet Skarro, and in the course of the war, the Dals were mutated by nuclear weapons into the Daleks.  However, in the serial “Genesis of the Daleks” (1975) this origin story was changed somewhat, and became the version usually referred to in later stories.  In the newer version, the Daleks were originally the Kaleds, locked into battle with the Thals in a thousand-year war of attrition that used nuclear, biological, and chemical warfare.  All of this slowly mutated the Kaleds.  However, an injured scientist of the Kaleds, called Davros, experimented on his fellow Kaleds and is the one responsible for their final form: small mutated creatures inside tank-like mechanical devices.

Their emotions only pertain to war: anger, revenge, the joy of victory, fear of death, etc.  And they have become hell-bent on destroying all other civilizations, which they see as inferior.  The Daleks became the Doctor’s most dangerous enemy in the very first season, and have returned many times no matter how many times the Doctor believes he has finally destroyed them.  In several stories, some Daleks have been intentionally or accidentally influenced by humans, giving them full human emotions and leading them to either kill themselves or be killed by their fellow Daleks as abominations.

In the revival series, the Daleks have appeared a number of times, and in “Stolen Earth” / “Journey’s End” the season finale of season 4 (2009), the Daleks and Davros who should have been dead, but was brought into the future through the time lock moved 27 planets out of their orbits in order to harness their energy to destroy the universe.  Obviously, they were stopped by the Doctor, and practically the whole cast from the first 3 seasons of the revival.

Since the arrival of the Eleventh Doctor, the Daleks have only shown up twice: once in England during World War II and once in the season 5 finale as part of a whole conglomeration of past villains trying to kill the Doctor.  However, you can rest assured that they will show up again eventually.

1) The Master

6 versions of the Master (left to right, top to bottom): Roger Delgado, Peter Pratt, Anthony Ainley, Eric Roberts, Derek Jacobi, John Simm.

The Master, like the Doctor, is a Time Lord, and has therefore changed faces on several occasions.  He was conceived by the writers to be something like Moriarty to the Doctor’s Sherlock Holmes, being of equal intelligence and power, but evil.  They have been rivals and enemies for a long time, and the Master takes cliché-villian-glee to new and impressive levels.  His ambition, in true villain fashion, is to rule the universe, and to do so he must defeat the Doctor.  While he has tried to kill the Doctor more times than I can count, he also often shows the Doctor a certain amount of respect.  The Doctor, likewise, seems to view the Master with something like pity.  The Master has been captured by the Doctor on a number of occasions, but always managed to escape.

The Master has been played by 8 actors: Roger Delgado, Peter Pratt, Geoffrey Beevers, Anthony Ainley, Gordon Tipple, Eric Roberts, Derek Jacobi, and John Simm.

John Simm, played the Master in the revival series, beginning in “Sound of Drums” through to “The End of Time.”  The Doctor had believed the Master killed during the Time War, however it is revealed in “Sound of Drums” that he managed to escape, by locking his Time Lord identity in a Chameleon Arch ( a device the Doctor once used to disguise himself as a human), during which time he lost his memory of ever been the Master.  The Doctor’s arrival in the place where the Master hid led him to remember who he was.  He then goes back in time a year and makes himself Harold Saxon, the Prime Minister of England and nearly succeeds in defeating the Doctor before, supposedly, being killed once more.

In The End of Time, the last Tennant episode, the Master is brought back to life (one more time).  It is revealed that the Master was driven insane by the leader of the Time Lords, Rassilon, by placing a signal in his head so the Master could pull the Time Lords out of the time-lock placed over the Time War.  (Lot’s of ‘time’ in that sentence… wow.)  He seemed pretty seriously dead at the end of “The End of Time,” but rest assured he will return.  He’s the Master for cryin’ out loud!

A few of my other favorite Doctor Who villains:

The Silurians

The Rani

The Weeping Angels

So, which Doctor Who villain is your favorite?  From the original run?  From the revival?  Which is your LEAST favorite?