by Paul Waldowski

Please welcome our guest author Paplikaplik, who will be featured here occasionally writing about sci-fi movies and tv shows.

So this is going to be a list of my top five favorite sci-fi shows of all-time. Now before we begin, let me say something right now to all those people who are really into a show that lasted about a dozen episodes, but left such an impression on its fans that they went forth unto the internet to continually berate everyone else for not including their favorite show on various "Best of" lists: I don't care about Automan. It sucked. Get over it. Go drown your sorrows with the Manimal contingent in room 322 at the next convention. If you really want to debate me on this, I only have one thing to say:

Knock, Knock.

Who's there?

Fuck off.

#5 - Star Trek
What can you say about Trek that hasn't been said already? Not much, really, but I'm going to say something about it, anyway. The heart of this show is Captain Kirk and there are only two things you need to know about Kirk to figure out the plot of almost every episode:

1. He doesn't like gods, computers, or anything that threatens his ride
2. He's a big proponent of panspermia

Kirk isn't afraid to tell people what he thinks about them, nor is he wary of destroying a society's entire way of life, especially if it's run by a computer. He also beds a woman in these various ports of call, and then leaves them to deal with the consequences.

I've always wanted to see a TV show where the crew of a ship had to go and deal with the havoc Kirk wrought throughout the galaxy, from the inevitable bloodbaths borne of a society struggling to emerge from a Dark Age of barbarism, to women petitioning the Federation for help and assistance because they've been outcast amongst their people for having a baby fathered by an Earthman.

Perhaps they could go on the Trelane Show and have their babies genetically tested to see if Kirk is the babydaddy. Trelane would milk the whole thing out and at the end declare, "Kirk, you are not the father!" Kirk would jump from his chair,
pumping his fist in the air and telling the audience to "suck it!" while talking shit to the camera. The woman, holding the pointy-eared baby, would be crying while Trelane asks her if she knows if anyone else could be the father. "I don't know, I don't know."

#4 - Farscape
In my line of work, I can't do drugs, so watching Farscape is the next best thing. natira1sm.jpg I just happened to catch it on TV one night after work, and my first question upon seeing the odd sets, muppets, and weird colors was, "What the fuck is this shit?" I probably would've written it off as Lexx-type shit and turned the channel, but the characters really caught me. It had a pop-culture spouting astronaut, Squidbeard the Warrior, and hot chicks ready to hump or kill just about anything. I was hooked.

Farscape was a groundbreaking show. Most televised sci-fi tends to be safe and formulaic. There are established conventions in the genre, especially when it comes to set design, story structure, and camerawork. Farscape ignored most of those and presented something completely new. Sure, the basic plot is a well-worn cliché: plucky crew of a spaceship flees an evil galactic empire, but the writing and characterizations busted the limited confines of the genre to give us something more than just the same moral dilemmas that are the mainstay of sci-fi. No one on this show was asking what it means to be human, nor did anyone really debate the morality of their actions. They just did what they needed to do to survive.

This was a show about friendship and loyalty and what both of those mean in a universe that severely tests those traits. Most of us find ourselves randomly thrown together with other people. We share the same circumstances and face the same situations. We call each other "friends", but are we really just friends of convenience, willing to sell each other out if we think we can save our own ass? That was one of the initial questions on a show that basically chronicled the adventures of a man's descent into madness amongst a ship full of criminals and outcasts.

#3 - Deep Space Nine
DS9 isn't very popular amongst the Treknorati, even though it was the best Trek show to air and represented the greatest fulfillment of what Trek could be. It wrung every last bit of potential from the Star Trek universe, so that everything that came after it was pointless.

It didn't start out too great, though. It featured Avery Brooks, better known to badasses everywhere as "Hawk" from Spenser: For Hire, but they made him a Commander instead of a Captain. They also stuck to the hard and fast Trek rule that everything at the end of the episode had to be as it was at the beginning of the episode, which meant that no matter what apparent peril the crew faced, you knew that no one would die and it would all be reset before the final credits rolled. Here's an example:

Villain: "And now, I shall kill you all! Die! Hahahahahaha!"
Heroic Character 1: "How are we going to get out of this mess?"
Heroic Character 2: "I don't know, but I think our goose is cooked!"
Commercial Break
Heroic Character 1, lounging in his chair, "Well, I'm glad we got out
of that one!"
Heroic Character 2: "If I hadn't remembered to reverse the polarity on
the magnetic grease couplers and released the tachyon cascade, we
wouldn't have been able to reroute power through the EPS conduits and
make our escape through the transannular corridor and back to the
Roll Credits

Things changed at the beginning of DS9's fourth season, though. Hawk shaved his head, grew a goatee, and became a Captain. The stories became darker. The writers also started serializing the show, which meant that events that happened in one episode would have repercussions throughout the rest of the series, which made the show extremely character-driven, as the characters could now grow and change throughout the series, rather than remaining stock archetypes. If you look at any other Star Trek series, the characters are pretty much the same at the end of the series as they were at the beginning. The same can't be said for DS9. Some died, some were maimed, but all were scarred by the war they had fought.

If you doubt the quality of DS9 or its impact, just look at the creative output of its writers after the series ended: The Dead Zone, The 4400, the first season of Andromeda, and Battlestar Galactica.

#2 - Stargate SG-1
I never imagined that anyone would be able to make a show out of a mediocre, but fun movie that was basically a one-shot idea: Aliens posing gods enslave humanity and move some of them to another planet via a Stargate.

Modern Earth people find the gate, activate it and liberate the enslaved populace on the other planet while destroying the tyrant Ra. The former slaves then break into different sects and start killing each other while a small Earth contingent tries to establish order and promote democracy.

SG-1 is the rare show that exceeds the movie it was based upon, mostly because they dropped most of the Dean Devlin crap and decided to take the show in an entirely different direction than the movie. The result is the best executions of the Trek motif to date: a team of explorers travel to different planets, encounter a problem, and solve it in the fifth act. Instead of a horny Captain, the team is lead by a wise-cracking and irreverent Air Force Colonel. sg1.jpg If they had made SG-1 a Marine or Army team, it just wouldn't have been the same. There sure as hell wouldn't have been any dramatic tension, nor any wise-cracking.

General: "Colonel, I know we fucked-up and alerted the Goa'uld to the villager's location, but them's the breaks. Get out of there."
Marine Colonel: "Yes, sir!"
Daniel Jackson: "Colonel, you just can't abandon these people! We have a moral obligation to help them."
The Colonel clocks Daniel Jackson with his rifle butt and has one of the men zip-tie his hands. They had back through the Stargate and detonate a nuke on the planet as they leave.

You just can't make an enjoyable 42-minute action-adventure show from that.

#1 - Battlestar Galactica
What would happen if robots exterminated humanity and only a few thousand Russians survived? That's the premise of Battlestar Galactica, the dark, moody tale of a bunch of fatalistic, alcoholic Russians passing the time until they inevitably die. The show is unique in its relentless brutality. There is no joy, no happiness, and no humor -- only death, pain, loss, and suffering.

But for all that, BSG is essentially the world's first science fiction soap opera. It's Dynasty in space. It's the tale of a dysfunctional group of people trying to fuck each other over with twists, turns and surprises around every corner. Will Sharon learn that her baby isn't really dead and is being secretly suckled by the former President? Will Adama and his son finally reconcile their differences or will Lee Adama rebel against his father and try to takeover the family business once again? Will the maniacal and arrogant Gaius Baltar finally get what's coming to him, or will he emerge from defeat to reclaim the oil company fleet as his own? Tune in next week and find out!

kodos.jpgFor all the muted colors, shaky-cam action and tribal music, it's still a primetime soap opera, albeit a very good one.

Now I know there will be people who'll say, "But what about Babylon 5 or the X-Files or that obscure show from the 80's with that kid who was an alien prince hiding out on Earth with Louis Gossett, Jr.?"

Well, first off this is my list, not yours. Amazingly enough, people have different opinions about these things. Go figure. Second, while I'm a huge fan of Babylon 5 and I loved the X-Files when it first aired, I just can't watch repeats of episodes from those shows. They were outstanding series, but if I happen to see a re-run of one of them on TV, I can't stop and watch it. I've already seen it, and I just don't feel like watching it again. With the shows I listed, I can watch them over and over again. If I'm channel surfing and spot an episode from Farscape, I'm going to stop and watch the rest of it. For me, that's the criteria to be considered one of my all-time favorites.

Your mileage may vary.

Vote Kodos.

Born to a poor sharecropper in Western Kansas, Paplikaplik is a world-reknowned atomic scientist and ace test pilot. He's currently assembling an Interocetor with the help of his manservant, Skippy. He can also be found at Danger West.


Personally I'd put farsvape and Babylon 5 ahead of SG-1, but I know what you mean about the latter show perfecting the planet of the week, at least for those first handful of seasons.
I also know what you mean about re-watch-ability. Changng genres, I love "24" but it loses something terribly on the repeat. OTOH I can rewatch any ep of The Shield.




I would have had Doctor Who at #1 and Farscape at #2, but that's me. Nice list, dude.


I don't know if I'm pushing the limits of Sci-Fi here, but what about Outer Limits and Twilight Zone? Futurama, even?

Also: V and Firefly

And hey, who can forget Small Wonder?


1. He doesn't like gods, computers, or anything that threatens his ride
2. He's a big proponent of panspermia

fuck the world and don't touch my car

I like Kirk


Firefly was a good show with great writing (I have it on DVD), but it just didn't last that long. If this were a list of ten, it would be on there, but probably after The Prisoner, The Twilight Zone, and Dr. Who.

I like to think of Small Wonder as a prequel to Battlestar Galactica, right before the littlest cylon rebelled and wiped out her family. You gotta love that tag line:

"When you're little girl is a robot, you can expect wild and funny things to happen!"

Not so much, it turns out.


I'm actually watching the entire series of Stargate right now. (Happens when you're laid up in bed with a 32" tv in front of you.) I have to say this is one of the best shows that I've ever encountered, purely for the fact that if you watch the Special Featurtes you learn that every "people" they meet throughout their travels is based on a society in human culture. Watching this show you are taking a loosely based history lesson, minus all the sci-fi stuff that gets mixed in. The history of who these "gods" were is amazing.

Maybe I just like it because I'm a geek and the men on there are nice eye candy. ;)


No Red Dwarf?

I love the fact that, when you come out of frozen stasis, find out that the entire ship has died and the ship's computer can ressurrect one of them as a hologram, the guy that gets brought back is your former room-mate. The one person who was detested by everybody on the ship.

Lister (The Surviving Human): Holly, why Rimmer's hologram? Why did you have to bring Rimmer's hologram back? He was the most unpopular man on board this ship. I mean, he even had to organise his own surprise birthday parties.
Holly (Ship's Computer): And who should I have brought back, then?
Lister: Anyone. Chen. Petersen. I mean, Hermann Goering would have been more of a laugh than Rimmer. I mean, OK, he was a drug-crazed transvestite, but at least we could have gone dancing!
Hollie: I brought Rimmer back because he's the best person to keep you sane.
Lister: Rimmer?
Hollie: He's the person you knew best, over 14 million words in all.
Lister: Hollie -- seven million of those were me telling him to 'Smeg Off!' and another seven million of those were him putting me on report for telling him to 'Smeg Off!'...
Holly: Jean-Paul Sartre said, "Hell was being locked forever in a room wiv' your friends."
Lister: Holly, all 'is mates were French.

You don't get that on Star Trek.


"Born to a poor sharecropper in Western Kansas, Paplikaplik is a world-reknowned atomic scientist and ace test pilot. He's currently assembling an Interocetor with the help of his manservant, Skippy."

When did you join the Hong Kong Cavaliers?

See kids, higher education can help more than you know. And remember, no matter where you go, there you are.


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