One of the most successful genres in television is science fiction, but there are just as many forgotten sci-fi tv shows as there are beloved groundbreaking hits. For years, fans anxiously awaited the different versions of Star Trek, and to this day, there are still shows in that world still entertaining fans. At the same time, other hit sci-fi shows have ridden the road to success at the top of the Nielsen ratings, from alien conspiracies in The X-Files to mythical adventures on the deserted island of Lost. With superhero shows now more popular than ever, sci-fi remains a huge hit on the small screen.
However, for every successful sci-fi TV show like Picard or The Mandalorian, there are a handful of shows that people have forgotten about. These include shows that had all the potential in the world but ended before their time. It also includes shows that could be huge success stories in today’s television and streaming world but happened to be ahead of their time, unable to catch the attention of an audience that was yet ready for such groundbreaking entertainment. Of course, in today’s television world, reboots and remakes are always popular, and there are plenty of forgotten sci-fi TV shows that could be huge hits today.
13 Almost Human (2013-2014)
Almost Human had a lot going for it, but it never got more than one season on Fox. J.J. Abrams Bad Robot Productions and Warner Bros. co-produced the series with Karl Urban and Michael Ealy in the lead roles. While an original story idea, some fans might be forgiven for thinking this was a Philip K. Dick idea. The idea was that a human cop (Urban) partnered with a robot partner (Ealy) in one of the forgotten sci-fi TV shows that asked what it really meant to be alive. It picked up an Emmy nomination, positive reviews, and a nice audience, but it ended up being too expensive to continue producing. It could be perfect for streaming services like Netflix.
12 Dollhouse (2009-2010)
When people talk about Joss Whedon and his TV work, shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, and Firefly immediately come to mind. However, when it comes to forgotten sci-fi tv shows, Whedon had one that hit in 2010 that few people talk about anymore. This was Dollhouse, with Buffy star Eliza Dushku in the lead role. The show lasted longer than Firefly, yet no one talks about it at all anymore. In the show, the Dollhouse hires out humans to wealthy clients and then wipes their minds when their missions end. It is a show that questioned autonomy and consciousness, but it failed to really catch on at the time.
11 Alphas (2011-2012)
It seems almost hard to believe that the series Alphas was not more popular than it was, but when it comes to forgotten sci-fi tv shows, it is all about when they are released. This show came out four years after Heroes went from mega-popular to mostly ignored, and there might have been too much of a similarity. It also didn’t help that it was a SyFy original series, and those are mostly lower-budget affairs. However, Alphas had a great actor in the lead with David Strathairn as a doctor who studied people with supernatural abilities. It was similar to The X-Men and might have been a bigger hit if not ahead of its time.
10 Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles (2008-2009)
A follow-up to Terminator 2: Judgment Day, this Terminator TV series deals with the mother-son duo of Sarah and John Connor as they strive to avoid a delayed Judgment Day while dealing with enemies from the future. Despite not flaunting the highest production value, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles adds to the techno-nightmarish realities and amazing action sequences of the Terminator franchise. Further, a significant leading turn by a pre-Game of Thrones fame Lena Headey serves as another reason to revive the show that met an inconclusive end after just two seasons.
9 Aeon Flux (1991-1995)
Marketed as an avant-garde sci-fi series, Aeon Flux is arguably one of the best forgotten sci-fi tv shows ever. The biopunk storyline was riddled with satirical jabs at a technocratic society along with stylistic anime-style action sequences. Unfortunately, the show’s reputation was tarnished in the 2000s with a critically-panned film adaptation starring Charlize Theron. With streaming giants like Amazon Prime and Netflix actively investing in adult animated shows, Aeon Flux deserves a revival with more postmodern visuals and psychedelic imagery.
8 Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency (2016-2017)
Elijah Wood’s post-Lord of the Rings career included this bizarrely funny sci-fi adaptation of Douglas Adams’ novel series of the same name. With Samuel Barnett starring as the titular detective and Wood as his reluctant sidekick, the show deals with their supernatural adventures across the universe. Given the fact that the forgotten sci-fi tv shows draw upon the works of the same man who authored a book like The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency can be continued to incorporate more of Adams’ surrealist space humor.
7 Alexander Senki (1996-1997)
Alexander Senki AKA Reign: The Conqueror is another stylish brainchild by Aeon Flux creator Peter Chung. The Korean-Japanese anime series is a retro-futuristic retelling of the conquests of Alexander the Great. So, there are enough thrills in the 13-episode series for both history buffs as well as sci-fi fans. Today, Alexander Senki is one of the forgotten sci-fi tv shows known only by a select few within the anime community. The unique fictionalized history deserves to gain more viewers in modern times, as the animation has also aged quite well. A revival of the series can follow an anthology format, reinterpreting the lives of many more historical figures.
6 Legion (2017-2019)
Legion deals with the surreal adventures of a telepathic mutant, as well as his inner demons. The FX series is filled with aesthetically psychedelic imagery and meta-narratives that challenge the viewer’s intellect. Clearly not an easy watch, Legion was subjected to overwhelmingly positive reviews, but it surprisingly missed out on the Emmy race. Even among audiences, it has not gained as much popularity as other comic-book shows in recent times. Even though it has ended with its third season, Legion still carries the potential to continue its protagonist’s other-worldly journeys.
5 Future Man (2017-2020)
Starring Josh Hutcherson in the lead role, Future Man is a fascinating underdog story with undertones of 80s sci-fi comedies. The protagonist is a gamer called upon by time travelers to save humanity from extinction. The show deliberately ticks off the boxes of sci-fi clichés for a heartwarming comedy that relies on self-aware humor and pop culture references. Future Man never took off in its three-year run, and maybe, a continuation of the Seth Rogen-produced Hulu original could work. What sets Future Man apart is its reliance on just pure mindless fun instead of sophisticated interdimensional rules.
4 Powerless (2017)
Set within the sprawling world of DC superheroes and villains, Powerless deals with the lives of normal people who have to deal with large-scale collateral damage every day. The lead characters of this workplace sitcom are researchers for a security agency that specializes in various gadgets to protect the laity from villainous attacks. Unfortunately, low ratings compelled the TV show to be canceled in the middle of production. With the comic book genre more varied these days, Powerless could work better in the future.
3 M.A.N.T.I.S. (1994-1995)
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M.A.N.T.I.S. might seem campy by today’s standards of superhero TV, but its over-the-top nature carries a charm that can be recreated with a modern adaptation. The show starts off with a paralyzed scientist who creates a superpowered exoskeleton to dispense justice. Even though it relies on familiar superhero tropes, M.A.N.T.I.S. still serves as a good break from the usual Marvel and DC shows. Addressing socio-political themes around racism and capitalism, this is one of the forgotten sci-fi tv shows featuring the first black superhero, a legacy carried on in Static Shock and Black Lightning.
2 Counterpart (2017-2019)
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Counterpart finds JK Simmons playing a mild-mannered spy in a covert agency. As he struggles with the death of his wife, he finds a mysterious portal to another dimension. The desperate wish to revive his spouse drives him to explore the alternate dimension only to encounter an evil version of himself. The ensuing chaos makes for some classic sci-fi drama as the portals kick off an interdimensional war. Counterpart‘s two-season run received a lukewarm response from audiences. Portals and time travel are still marketable tropes for the genre. With the right timing, Counterpart could aim for a bigger audience in future seasons.
1 Dark Skies (1996-1997)
While The X-Files explored UFO theories in great detail, one of the forgotten sci-fi tv shows of the 90s attempted to do the same. Dark Skies is rooted in the theory that aliens have been controlling human society since the 1940s and that history is a lie. A couple investigates the inner workings of a secret government organization, Dark Skies follows their findings that lead them to personalities like The Beatles and J. Edgar Hoover aiding the alien invaders. Despite its tonal similarities with The X-Files, Dark Skies was canceled after 20 episodes. With the fascination with alien theories still on the rise, a Dark Skies revival might be just as relevant even now.
This story originally appeared on Screenrant