This is the peak TV era. Everywhere from the video streaming services to cable, there is plethora of great TV shows to watch. So much choice can be overwhelming, especially with the weird navigation on pretty much all streaming services, including Netflix. To make it easier for you, I have compiled a list of the currently available best science-fiction TV shows on Netflix in the United States.
I have intentionally left out the comic book-based and fantasy TV shows and will be curating separate ‘best comic book TV shows’ and ‘best fantasy TV series’ lists in the coming weeks.
Given the licensing restrictions, many of the genre greats are missing from Netflix right now, but there is still plenty for you to watch. Also, the streaming service’s Originals catalog has a couple of science-fiction gems that you might have missed.
Note: This is not a ranked list.
Top science-fiction TV series on Netflix
1. The Twilight Zone
Pretty much every great modern science-fiction show has taken some sort of inspiration from The Twilight Zone, including Black Mirror, which is a part of this list.
This sci-fi classic from Rod Serling originally ran for five seasons from 1959 to 1964 on CBS. While Jordan Peele (of Get Out fame) develops a reboot of Twilight Zone for CBS All Access, it is a great time to check out this amazing anthology series.
Each episode of the series offers a self-contained drama in which characters find themselves dealing with paranormal, futuristic or just trippy scenarios. While some episodes stray away from sci-fi genre, Serling always managed to include some recognizable genre components.
The Twilight Zone has been ranked as the third best-written TV series ever by the Writers Guild of America.
Show creator: Rod Serling
Episodes: 156, five seasons
2. Stranger Things
Strangers Things is one of Netflix’s most popular original offerings across genres. Set in 1980s, the Stranger Things tells the story of the investigation in the disappearance of a boy (Noah Schnapp of Bridge of Spies) by his friends, who are aided by a mysterious girl (Millie Bobby Brown of Intruders) with psychokinetic abilities.
Stranger Things is a sci-fi thriller with horror elements and has been praised for its stellar cast, pacing, atmosphere and homages to 1980s genre films. The first season of the show, which was released in 2016, was a runaway hit, turning its young cast into household names. The second season landed on Netflix in 2017 and deals with attempts of the characters to return to normal life and consequences that linger from the first season. A third season is currently in development.
Show Creator: The Duffer Brothers
Episodes: 26, two seasons
3. Star Trek: The Original Series
Frankly, this needs no introduction. Star Trek is a pop culture phenomenon that only get bigger with each passing year. The William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy-starring original series is where it all began. Like The Twilight Zone, Star Trek has had an immense impact on the science-fiction genre on television and movies. If you like science-fiction shows, skipping the Star Trek: The Original Series is a crime.
The Star Trek was originally aired from September 8, 1966, to June 3, 1969, lasting three seasons. Although the show’s first broadcast run was marred by poor ratings, years later, it became a massive syndication hit and achieved a cult classic status. It is considered one of the most influential and popular television shows of all time.
Show creator: Gene Roddenberry
Episodes: 79, three seasons
4. Star Trek: The Next Generation
The original Star Trek series was followed by an animated series (1973–74), but the real follow-up came with Star Trek: The Next Generation. It was the first spin-off of the original series and included new characters and gave rise to the eternal debate among the fans – Kirk or Picard.
The Next Generation (TNG) features a new starship, Enterprise-D, and a new crew led by Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) and Commander William Riker (Jonathan Frakes).
Although the first two seasons of the show aren’t universally praised, the later seasons gave the viewers an amazing Star Trek series.
Show creator: Gene Roddenberry
Episodes: 178, seven seasons.
5. The 100
Loosely based on a young-adult science-fiction book-series of the same name by Kass Morgan, The 100 takes place a century after the life on Earth was destroyed in a nuclear apocalypse. It is a story of the 100 juvenile delinquents, who are sent to Earth from a failing space habitat called “The Ark” to find out whether it is habitable. Although filled with stereotypes and CW’s trademark hot people, it is a genuinely strong show, which only gets better with each new season.
With fifth season of the show set to première on April 24, 2018, it is a great time to get your acquainted with the world of The 100.
Show creator: Jason Rothenberg
Episodes: 71, four seasons, fifth season incoming
6. Altered Carbon
Altered Carbon is the most recent entry in this list. Based on the 2002 novel of the same name by Richard K Morgan, the show is set 350 years in the future. In this world, humanity has ‘conquered’ death. A person’s memories and experiences have been digitised and can be saved into “cortical stacks. Physical bodies (called “sleeves”) are disposable vessels that can accept any “stack”.
The show opens with the protagonist of the series – Takeshi Kovacs (Joel Kinnaman of Suicide Squad) – waking up 250 years after his last “death.” He has been given a new sleeve to help solve the murder of Laurens Bancroft (James Purefoy of The Following).
Altered Carbon is a cyberpunk noir and has been praised for its ambition and spectacular visual style.
Show creator: Laeta Kalogridis (Past credit: Shutter Island, Terminator: Genisys)
Episodes: 10 episodes, one season
7. Dark Matter
Dark Matter is Canadian space-opera, based on a comic book of the same name. Its premise is quite simple, but still the series is engaging, full of action and fun. The plot revolves around the lives of the crew of a starship name Raza. At the start of the show, the crew, consisting of six people, wakes up from stasis to find that they are missing their memories and don’t know who they are or who did this to them.
It may not be the best space-opera around, but it was able to develop an incredibly loyal and passionate fan base.
Show creators: Joseph Mallozzi, Paul Mullie
Episodes: 39, three seasons
Who doesn’t love time-travel stories, especially when you get a female cop, out of her time, trying to stop a terrorist group hellbent on changing history. Well, that’s pretty much the premise of Continuum, a Canadian science-fiction TV series.
The plot of Continuum revolves around Kiera Cameron (Rachel Nichols of The Librarians, Alias and Criminal Minds), a law-enforcement officer from 2077, who accidentally landed in 2012 with with members of the anti-corporate terrorist group Liber8. Kiera teams up with Alec Sadler (Erik Knudsen of Jericho and The Mist), a teenage tech genius, and Carlos Fonnegra (Victor Webster of Lincoln Heights and Charmed), a police officer from 2012, to stop Liber8 and get back to her time.
Show creator: Simon Berry
Episodes: 42, four seasons
9. Black Mirror
Black Mirror is a sci-fi anthology series, inspired from The Twilight Zone. The main premise of the show revolves around the impact of new technologies on modern society. The Black Mirror episodes often take dark and satirical tone, though some are more experimental and lighter.
The series has been critically acclaimed for its shocking and audacious treatment, but it may not be everyone’s cup of tea.
Show creator: Charlie Brooker
Episodes: 19, four seasons.
Other sci-fi TV shows worth checking out on Netflix: Sense8 and The OA. Both kind of start slow, but then find their groove. The OA is especially interesting, and very different from your usual science-fiction drama.
In related news, I will soon be publishing a best science-fiction TV shows on Prime Video list. So, be sure to keep an eye out on The Geek Life.