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15 Sci-Fi TV Shows With the Best First Seasons


15 Sci-Fi TV Shows With the Best First Seasons


Ever since televised media became mainstream and accessible, sci-fi TV shows have captured audiences with their creative and imaginative tales. Even before the world had seen the inventions, these shows tried to predict the future of technology and fashioned breathtaking adventures around it. In those early days of the 1950s and 1960s, when black-and-white media were prevalent, sci-fi shows like The Twilight Zone had viewers thinking about dystopian worlds and space travel.

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Now, over half a century later, the genre has only evolved. While still maintaining the wonder and philosophy, modern sci-fi takes things to the next level by using cutting-edge special effects to explore civilizations both alien and artificial. A creative dystopia in Westworld, traveling the stars with Doctor Who, and exploring alternate dimensions in Stranger Things, today’s science fiction shows poke at bigger questions about society and what it means to be human.

While laser guns and spaceships have viewers’ minds blown all the time, the first seasons of these great sci-fi TV shows have the distinct power to churn our imaginations and have us thoroughly invested in a story. This list celebrates 15 sci-fi TV shows with highly entertaining and immediately addictive first seasons that have helped establish an entire franchise as a mainstay in the genre.

15 The Last Ship (2014-2018)

Loosely adapted from a novel written by William Brinkley, The Last Ship is a sci-fi thriller and a post-apocalyptic drama juxtaposed into one. Its premise goes something like this – a global pandemic has destroyed over 80% of the world’s population. While the cause of it is unknown, a US Navy vessel, the fictional USS Nathan James, manages to escape detection. Meaning the 218-member crew inside the shot is unharmed due to isolation. However, with little resources, Dr. Rachel Scott and her team must find a cure.

An Impactful and Gripping Story

With names like Michael Bay and Jack Bender backing the series as executive producers, The Last Ship showed immense promise in the initial season. The series introduced compelling characters, precise storylines, and themes of isolated leadership and sacrifice. Among the best the genre has to offer, the series also created a realistic portrayal of social divide if such an event occurs. The following seasons expanded the scope, but it was the debut that made the outing so impactful and gripping. Stream on Max.

14 Lost in Space (2018-2021)

Lost In Space

Lost In Space

Release Date
April 13, 2018

Main Genre
Sci-Fi

Seasons
3

Lost in Space is a reboot of the classic 1960s series. It takes place in the future, year 2046, where the Robinson family is among the colonists selected to start a new life on the Alpha Centauri planetary system. However, before their ship can land, it is knocked off course and the Robinsons, among other families, find themselves stranded on an unknown planet. They must fight with the strange environment, supernatural forces, and their inner demons to make it out alive.

Offers a Fresh Perspective

The fresh and beloved sci-fi series takes a deep dive into both the emotional depth of the family and the fantastic elements of space. The first season triumphed in fabricating an exciting human story against a glorious outer-space backdrop. The standout direction paired with gripping performances from Molly Parker, Toby Stephens, Taylor Russell, and Maxwell Jenkins created a believable premise. The subsequent runs have maintained the adventure and intrigue, but are as grand as the first season. Stream on Netflix.

13 Westworld (2016-2022)

Westworld poster

Westworld

Release Date
October 2, 2016

Main Genre
Sci-Fi

Seasons
4

Studio
HBO

The titular Westworld is a fictional, technologically enhanced Wild-West-themed amusement park that is designed specifically for rich people on vacations and high-paying guests looking for adventure. The place also has android “hosts,” who act as storytellers and assistants to the guests. However, when certain hosts gain self-awareness, things change. Bernard Lowe, the park’s co-founder, tries to balance the company with the disaster.

Explores the Concept of Artificial Intelligence

Westworld is known to be one of the most intricately-crafted and realistic-looking sci-fi series of recent times. While its depiction of autonomous androids and non-linear storytelling alone is enough to build considerable intrigue, it is the series’ capacity to explore themes of consciousness, ethics, and human nature that makes it stand out among the rest. Evan Rachel Wood delivers a surprising turn as the oldest host, establishing the first season as a potentially great beginning of a series. Buy on Apple TV.

Related: Why Westworld is One of the Best Sci-Fi Dramas of All Time

12 Black Mirror (2011-Present)

Black Mirror Poster

Black Mirror

Release Date
December 4, 2011

Main Genre
Sci-Fi

Seasons
6

Studio
Netflix

Black Mirror is an anthology series that premiered on Netflix in 2011. Created by Charlie Brooke, the series features individual stand-alone episodes that are spread across various genres. They present an alternate dystopia-like future where the latest advancements in technology have consumed people to the point where they’re embracing the unexpected consequences of it. Whether it is society or human behavior, the effect of technology on the new world is what carries the storylines.

Never Ceases to Mesmerize

When Black Mirror first made its way to streaming, it was a thriller. The series sparked discussion among critics and audiences. We started to reassess our digital dependence, our relationship with gadgets and screens. In a way, the series challenged our preconceived notions about change.

The varied worlds and tales crafted in the first season, particularly, altered our brain chemistry in the best possible way. Episodes like “The National Anthem” and “15 Million Merits” left a lasting impression. While later seasons retained all the good elements, it is the nuance, conceptual brilliance, and scientific accuracy that makes the first season the best one. Stream on Netflix.

11 Battlestar Galactica (2004-2009)

Battlestar Galactica poster

Battlestar Galactica

Release Date
December 8, 2003

Main Genre
Sci-Fi

Seasons
4

Creator
Ronald D. Moore, David Eick

Battlestar Galactica is a fantastic re-imagining of the 1978 series of the same name. It takes place after a cybernetic race known as the Cylons acquire help from a human scientist named Gaius Baltar and cause the destruction of the Twelve Colonies. Following the attack, about 50,000 survivors and a lone military capital ship manned by Commander William “Bill” Adama and President Laura Roslin venture into the unknown in search for the fabled colony known as Earth.

Redefines a Cult Classic for the New Generation

Carrying a certain moodiness in tone throughout the first season, this reboot finds itself providing peak entertainment when it dives into character studies, the meaning of Cylons, and mind-blowing space battle scenes. Fans who already adored Battlestar Galactica for its fascinating and contrasting backdrop of human and machine found delight in this hard sci-fi thriller that was unafraid and suspenseful. The seasons that followed were brilliant too, but the first season is still praised for redefining a timeless classic. Buy on Apple TV.

10 Stranger Things (2016-Present)

Stranger Things poster

Stranger Things

Release Date
July 15, 2016

Main Genre
Sci-Fi

Seasons
4

Studio
Netflix

Set in the small town of Hawkins, Indiana in 1983, Stranger Things follows a young boy named Will Byers suddenly disappearing into thin air. As his friends, family, and local police search for answers, they end up uncovering an extraordinary mystery involving top-secret government experiments that lead to two things – a strange little girl named Eleven, and the Upside Down, an alternate dimension ripe with terrifying supernatural forces.

Offers Nostalgia and Thrills

It goes without saying that the latter seasons of Stranger Things wouldn’t be as thrilling if it weren’t for the phenomenal first season, which laid the foundation of a surreal summer adventure. The season leans into nostalgia by making neat ’80s references, without letting them distract the viewers from the ingenious plot and heartwarming performances.

It brought back Winona Ryder and David Harbour, and kick-started the careers of its young cast that includes Finn Wolfhard, Milly Bobby Brown, and more. Overall, Stranger Things became an instant classic by piloting a genre-blending epic. Stream on Netflix.

9 Under the Dome (2013-2015)

A three-season-long sci-fi mystery developed by Brian K. Vaughan, who drew inspiration from Stephen King’s 2009 novel of the same name, Under the Dome centers around the residents of a small fictional town named Chester’s Mill. One fine morning, they wake up to find that their community is suddenly enclosed by an invisible barrier around town that shuts them off from the outside world. Forced to live with dwindling resources and growing fear, the residents form a small group that tries to discover the truth about the dome.

Creates a Palpable Sense of Suspense

Under the Dome relies heavily on occasional predictability and melodrama. In that, the show finds its strength. The edge-of-your-seat tension in the debut as unknown terrors surround the characters is palpable, while the moral and social dilemmas sprout from circumstantial fear.

The pilot episode itself, which was lauded for “its taut script, strong performances and special effects,” draws the viewers in and keeps them hooked with exciting revelations and constant intrigue. Thus, the scope of this atmospheric sci-fi thriller only becomes greater with new seasons. Stream on Paramount+.

8 Sense8 (2015-2018)

sense8

Sense8

Release Date
June 5, 2015

Seasons
3

Studio
Netflix

Co-created by the Wachowskis and J. Michael Straczynski for Netflix, Sense8 fashions a mind-blowing premise. In it, eight strangers from diverse cultures and corners of the globe suddenly find themselves mentally and emotionally connected. Their ability to harness each other’s powers leads them to team up and find the truth about the strange phenomena. Meanwhile, a mysterious organization tries to destroy them collectively.

Diverse and Adventurous

The Wachowskis are best known for blending heart into action, and this inclusive thriller exploits their talent in the best possible ways. From exploring cultural and social identities to experiencing diversity in real-time settings of locales like London, Reykjavik, Nairobi and Mumbai, the series does an outstanding job at being fresh and resonant.

Sense8 also features brilliant performances from Daryl Hannah, Doona Bae, Naveen Andrews and more. In comparison with other seasons, the debut stands out because of the stellar direction, slow-burn narrative, and wild sci-fi concepts. Stream on Netflix.

Related: 10 Sci-Fi TV Series That Are Scientifically Accurate

7 Altered Carbon (2018-2020)

altered carbon

Altered Carbon

Release Date
February 2, 2018

Main Genre
Sci-Fi

Seasons
1

Canceled after two seasons despite receiving widespread acclaim and generally positive reviews, Altered Carbon introduces you to a future where consciousness can be transferred from one body to another. The main character Takeshi Kovacs is a former skilled interstellar warrior whose mind was imprisoned for centuries. But a chance at resurrection comes with an impossible challenge. Kovacs must investigate a murder that occurs in the far future. In the process, he also discovers the potential and consequences of “re-sleeving.”

Holds an Intricate Mystery at its Core

Part love story, part blood-soaked thriller, Altered Carbon creates a bleak and noir atmosphere filled with existential musings. While it would not appeal to a non sci-fi fan, the philosophical depth and graphic action is a true delight in the genre. From the moment he first appears on-screen, you can tell that Joel Kinnaman’s character “has seen things.”

Thus, the first season features an exceptional world-building, which acts as the groundwork for the second season. With a mystery at its core, it is impossible not to admire every eclipsing arc and let the stunning visuals pull you into the strange world. Stream on Netflix.

6 The Mandalorian (2019-Present)

the mandalorian

The Mandalorian

Release Date
November 12, 2019

Main Genre
Sci-Fi

Seasons
3

Studio
Fairview Entertainment, Golem Creations, Lucasfilm

A brilliant addition to the Star Wars universe that benefits greatly because of the use of familiar tropes and new technology, The Mandalorian was a series that brought an unparalleled world back to life and created sci-fi history. Set after the fall of the Empire, the series follows the travels of Din Djarin, the faceless Mando bounty hunter, who is tasked with rescuing and protecting a strange and valuable asset while being hunted by a ruthless foe.

Features Some of the Best Episodes

Each episode of this debut season delivered immaculate thrill and a touch of humor. Some of the most memorable, well-choreographed adventures included the opening bar scene, the iconic line, “I can bring you in warm, or I can bring you in cold,” the jaw-dropping chase with a Jawa Sandcrawler.

The striking cinematography and the emotional stakes had viewers immediately invested in Mando’s story, and the fantastical context, with baby Yoda finally receiving a name, only made the rich lore more perfect than ever. Stream on Disney+.

5 Lost (2004-2010)

lost

Lost

Release Date
September 22, 2004

Seasons
6

Studio
ABC

Without wasting a single minute, Lost plunges viewers into its thick plot, which goes something like this: After a commercial jet crashes on a tropical island in the South Pacific, the survivors begin to question whether or how they are going to be rescued. Appearing to be inhabited initially, the island reveals mysterious truths about itself, including a French woman named Danielle Rousseau; it threatens the survivors’ fates.

Steers the Show into a Compelling Direction

There are several enigmatic elements in the first season of Lost that make it best. Through its complex character backstories, deft use of flashbacks, and non-stop intrigue, the breakout sci-fi saga keeps the audiences questioning and debating over every single clue. Worth mentioning are the Smoke Monster and polar bears, creatures who turn the island into a cosmic garage, as well as the mysterious hatch that has a couple of characters obsessed with it.

Overall, every episode of the first season pivoted it into directions that sustained its scope further. Stream on Hulu.

4 Doom Patrol (2019-2023)

doom patrol

Doom Patrol

Release Date
2019-00-00

Seasons
4

Studio
DC Universe

Based on the widely popular DC Comics series, Doom Patrol is a superhero television series that follows the exploits and adventures of a team of outcast superheroes who gain their peculiar abilities after suffering horrible accidents. Characters like Robotman, Negative Man, Elasti-Woman and Crazy Jane are led by a modern-day mad scientist named Niles Caulder, who gives them a home and a mission. The Doom Patrol comes together to investigate and stop evil.

Ridiculously Entertaining

The first season of Doom Patrol is mainly about the team of offbeat outcasts battling the malevolent Mr. Nobody, who captures their Chief. But it is the unexpected introspection and use of decent humor that lends playfulness to the narrative and makes it a delightful watch. Standout performances from Diane Guerrero, Matt Bomer, April Bowlby, and Brenden Fraser allow the viewers to see the actors in a delicate and mystical light.

The final showdown, specifically, outshone most scenes in the series. Stream on Max.

3 The Outer Limits (1963-1965)

A forgotten classic, The Outer Limits is an anthology series made of distinct episodes surrounding the supernatural. As a piece of speculative fiction, it draws a lot of inspiration from its predecessor, The Twilight Zone, and yet holds its own. Each episode occasionally hints at plot twists that make all the strange events seem connected. From alien invitations to shadowy conspiracies, The Outer Limits explores all.

Relies on Atmospheric Tension

Having the top creators and writers on the team meant the sci-fi brilliance would undoubtedly leave the viewers stunned. The Outer Limits only ran for two seasons, but the premiere was so thought-provoking that it still resonates. Episodes like “The Forms of Things Unknown” and “The Zanti Misfits” were a standout in a season filled with mutants, time loops, moral dilemmas, and existential dread.

By the time the first season ends, you’re used to the unsettling and eerie opening line, “There is nothing wrong with your television set. Do not attempt to adjust the picture.” Stream on Fubo TV.

Related: Underrated Sci-Fi Movies of the ’60s, Ranked

2 Rick and Morty (2013-2023)

A poster for Rick and Morty featuring the main characters including Rick, Morty, Beth, and Summer

Rick and Morty

Release Date
December 2, 2013

Seasons
7

Studio
Cartoon Network

Rick and Morty is an animated science-fiction sitcom created by Justin Roiland and Dan Harmon. It follows the adventures of an alcoholic and perpetually disgruntled scientist Rick Sanchez and his kind-hearted but clumsy grandson Morty Smith. Apart from the domestic drama that ensues, the pair also often embark on interdimensional travel. While exploring the universe, Rick and Morty stumble into the most dangerous situations and are forced to rack their brains and get out of it.

A Binge-Worthy Adult Animation

Back when it debuted on Cartoon Network in 2013, Rick and Morty surprised fans with its outrageous humor and addictive sci-fi storylines. While being grounded in the complex and demented relationship shared by the two main characters, the presence of crude humor and meaningful life lessons made it all the more compulsive to watch.

Every episode of the first season doubled down on creativity and storytelling, allowing the later seasons to use it as a stencil for more adventures. Stream on Hulu.

1 The Twilight Zone (1959-1964)

The Twilight Zone poster

The Twilight Zone (1959)

Release Date
October 2, 1959

Main Genre
Sci-Fi

Seasons
5

Creator
Rod Serling

Network
CBS

A remarkable American anthology series that changed the course of sci-fi laden horror on television, The Twilight Zone presented characters dealing with the most unusual instances of mystery and imagination. Each standalone episode featured mystical tales and sensational thrills as the characters dealt with the core of the problem with the help of their unique traits. In the end, there was always a moral lesson or two.

A Pioneering Sci-Fi Masterpiece

Created and hosted by Rod Serling, The Twilight Zone is where science fiction peaked. The first season, in particular, holds a special place because it perfectly introduced each morally complex and puzzling tale for audiences to reflect on. The installment, “Time Enough at Last,” is etched in our collective memory because of its cruel twists, while Serling’s sharp and uncanny dialogue always proves to be unparalleled.

That said, no series before or since has been able to match the pioneering chills provided by The Twilight Zone. Stream on Paramount+.

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