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Top 10 Best Space Operas on Television

VO: Adrian Sousa WRITTEN BY: Thomas O'Connor
Top 10 Space Opera TV Series This may be the small screen, but it’s telling some big stories. Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’re counting down the Top 10 Space Opera TV Series. For this cosmic list, we’re looking at the very best live action tv shows that set drama and action against the always epic backdrop of outer space. Written by Thomas O'Connor
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This may be the small screen, but it’s telling some big stories. Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’re counting down the Top 10 Space Opera TV Series.

For this cosmic list, we’re looking at the very best live action tv shows that set drama and action against the always epic backdrop of outer space.

#10: “Lost in Space” (1965-68)

A classic of TV science fiction, this landmark series takes the basic premise of Johann David Wyss’s novel “The Swiss Family Robinson” and throws in twist: rather than the East Indies, the family of colonists that make up the cast find themselves stranded on alien planets. The series sees the Robinson family first stranded on an alien planet when a saboteur named Doctor Smith causes their ship to crash. Since first airing and subsequently entering syndication, the show has become an icon of TV sci-fi, even getting a Netflix revival in 2018.

#9: “Farscape” (1999-2003)

Like our previous entry, this recent entry begins when astronaut John Crichton finds himself stranded on the other side of the universe after falling through a wormhole. Targeted by an oppressive regime, Crichton joins up with a crew of alien prisoners, including political dissidents and outcasts, aboard a living spaceship. The series is best remembered for the dazzling puppets and animatronics brought to life by the Jim Henson company, but the show’s richly developed characters and world have also helped ensure its place as a fan-favorite since its untimely cancellation. In a TV landscape more and more saturated by CGI, this series reminds us what practical effects can do.

#8: “Red Dwarf” (1988-)

Who says being stranded in space has to be all doom and gloom? This British comedy begins when Dave, a janitor aboard a deep-space mining vessel, awakes from cryosleep to discover that he’s the only human onboard left alive. We say “human”, because he has some company: a holographic recreation of his uptight bunkmate, the ship’s computer, and last but not least a being evolved from Dave’s cat. In the 30 years since the show began, it’s added new cast members, but retained the character-driven comedy that made it a smash hit upon release. If you’re looking for high-concept sci-fi that isn’t short on laughs, look no further.

#7: “The Expanse” (2015-)

The newest entry on our list is also one of our favorites. A remarkably polished and gripping Syfy Channel original series, the first season stars Thomas Jane as a police detective two hundred years in the future, when mankind has colonized the other planets of the solar system. But unlike the idyllic futures of some other sci-fi shows, this vision of the future is fraught with strife and intrigue, as the inhabitants of the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter fight back against oppression and marginalization. Sci-fi television is alive and well and this show proves it with its sharp writing, impressive production values and a top-notch cast.

#6: “Stargate SG-1” (1997-2007)

Who would have guessed that the TV continuation of Roland Emmerich’s 1994 sci-fi adventure film would go on to become one of the longest running shows in TV science fiction? The series stars a group of explorers and soldiers who use an ancient portal device to visit far-off planets and worlds. Naturally this draws them into an ongoing conflict with an ancient alien race in possession of superior technology, because that’s usually how these sorts of things go. Praised for its longform storytelling, engrossing characters and epic adventure and excitement, the show spawned numerous spin offs and sequels, including fan-favorite “Stargate Atlantis”.

#5: “Babylon 5” (1993-98)

We swear, we didn’t put this one at number 5 on purpose. While space may be a great backdrop for adventure and excitement, this series from creator J. Michael Straczynski takes a different approach by presenting deep, complex narratives full of political intrigue and heavy themes like race, religion and diplomacy. It isn’t alone in this ambition, but the series remains a favorite for fans of sci-fi that isn’t just about action and fun. In addition to its writing, the show was also hailed upon release for its production design and cutting-edge effects, which surpassed that of anything TV audiences had seen before.

#4: “Firefly” (2002-03)

The first of several entries that need no introduction, this series takes the term “fan favorite” to a new level. With as much influence from Westerns as traditional sci-fi, Joss Whedon’s series follows a band of space outlaws scratching out a living on the fringes of colonized space. Famously cancelled after airing just a handful of episodes, the show has become a massive sensation since finding its true audience on DVD, with many calling its cancellation one of the greatest crimes in TV history. With whip-smart writing and Whedon’s trademark wit so spare, it’s frankly hard to believe that this show was cancelled so soon.

#3: “Doctor Who” (1963-89; 2005-)

Do we really need to tell you about this one? A British sci-fi icon that spans decades, this beloved series follows the continuing adventures of The Doctor, a being able to traverse time and space in a continuing search for adventure. The series has been and remains one of the titans of television in any genre, a show with more history behind it than almost any show we can think of. From every historical period you can imagine to countless alien worlds and alternate timelines, the series has taken viewers to more places than any other series on our list, and picked up a hugely devoted fan following along the way.

#2: “Battlestar Galactica” (2004-09)

A grim and gritty reboot of a 70s series of the same name, this epic series follows the last survivors of a distant solar system as they try to escape the Cylons, a mechanical race of their own creation. Far from the clunky automatons of the original series, the new show focuses on Cylons made in perfect human form and dispatched to infiltrate human society, and occasionally human bedrooms. Taking the core ideas of the original series and infusing massive doses of politics, intrigue and philosophy, the show was a game changer for TV sci-fi when it debuted and remains one of the most influential shows on our list.

Before we reveal our top pick, here are a couple of honorable mentions:

“Andromeda” (2000-05)

“Buck Rogers in the 25th Century” (1979-81)

#1: “Star Trek: The Original Series” (1966-69)


What else could be at our number one spot? Without Gene Roddenberry’s landmark series, sci-fi and television as we know it would probably be completely different. Following the five-year mission of the starship Enterprise as it boldly goes where no one has gone before, the series revolutionized the way science fiction is used to address social issues, as well as cementing the status of William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy as towering icons of the genre. Some may prefer the show’s successor, “The Next Generation”, but we have to give it up for the series that started it all, spawning a franchise that continues to this day and changing the face of pop culture forever.
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