The Writers Guild of America (WGA) listed the top 101 best-written shows of all time this week, and as far as sci-fi shows go, they m ostly got them right. In fact, listing the top five best-written sci-fi shows will yield the same top four shows, in the same order. But there or some glaring omissions, and one show that does not belong on the list at all.
What the WGA got right
"The Twilight Zone," listed at No. 3, definitely deserves the title of at least the third best-written show of all time. For sci-fi fanatics, it deserves to be at No. 1, but let's not get too greedy. The show was absolutely groundbreaking at the time and can still be inspiring today. This show was the first to present many ideas that have been rehashed in sci-fi over the years and, in most cases, represented those ideas best.
"The X-Files" at No. 26, "Star Trek" at No. 33, and "Battlestar Galactica" (2005) at No. 38 are all fantastic choices, as well. Some sci-fi fans may want to reverse the order of "The X-Files" and "Star Trek," but the order on the list may represent the fact that "The X-Files" could appeal to a wider audience.
The one sci-fi show that does not belong
"Star Trek: The Next Generation" (ST: TNG) was tied at No. 79 with several other shows. While "ST: TNG" was a wonderful sci-fi series, it really doesn't deserve a spot on this list when you consider all the other sci-fi shows that could have been in its place. The best-written sci-fi programs of all time have to include groundbreaking ideas. "ST: TNG" was not a groundbreaking show. In fact, some of the episodes merely rehashed the ideas presented in the original "Star Trek" series.
Shows that were missing
Now, most sci-fi fans could probably create their very own list of 101 best-written sci-fi shows, but there are definitely a few that seemed to be missing from the all-series list.
The first two that come to mind are "Stargate Universe" and "Farscape." The basic premise of "Stargate" was groundbreaking, but that idea was created long ago in a movie. The thing that makes "Stargate Universe" groundbreaking on its own is the idea that a group of people with disparate personalities from present-day Earth could be stuck on an alien spaceship with technology that they do not know how to use and no way to get back home.
Similarly, "Farscape" was a sci-fi/fantasy about one man stuck on a ship with aliens and technology he did not understand. His learning curve was even greater, being stuck all alone in a completely foreign universe.
It's also surprising not to see "Fringe" on the list. Talk about groundbreaking. This was the first show to take a look at real concepts in fringe science and present them in a way that made the most bizarre occurrences seem possible in real life. Each concept was pushed to the "fringe" so the viewer could dangle on the precipice of reality with a fair dose of comic relief thrown in for good measure.
Two other groundbreaking shows come from across the pond. "Doctor Who" and "Torchwood" (before it devolved into a Hollywood offering) exist within the same universe and have even had a number of crossover episodes. Even so, they each present off-the-wall ideas and circumstances that only the most twisted mind could think up.
Two more examples of truly exceptional writing in sci-fi include "The 4400" and "Heroes," where a set of regular people wind up with powers and have to live among regular folks. "The 4400" was actually a precursor to "Heroes" and is what put the USA Network on the map. "Heroes" changed it up a little by making those with powers more like superheroes, thereby creating a sci-fi/fantasy crossover.
Finally, no list of best-written shows would be complete without "Quantum Leap." That series was an amazing way to look through the eyes of people from all walks of life from the perspective of an ordinary guy who has the ability to not only travel back in time, but inhabit the bodies of other people.
A quick note about fantasy shows
The list of fantasy programs that deserve to be on the list is much longer than can be listed here. Shows such as "Lost" at No. 27 and "The Prisoner" at No. 90 definitely deserve their places on the list, but there are many others. "Merlin," "Being Human" (UK), "Supernatural," "Once Upon a Time," "Pushing Daisies," "Primeval," and "Stargate SG-1" are just a few of the many fantasies that have served up mind-bending worlds that allowed (and allow) viewers to take a break from reality.
Here's hoping we will have many more of these fantasy and sci-fi universes to visit in the future.
- Arts & Entertainment