Time Enough at Last

The 10 Best Written Speculative Fiction TV Series

The Writer’s Guild of America (WGA) has released their list of the 101 Best Written TV Series.

So what I’ve done is taken the entire list and separated the wheat from the chaff . . . meaning I’ve extracted the rankings of those shows with a science fiction, fantastical, and/or horror slant to them.  That being said, there were only ten on the list.  In some respects I agree wholeheartedly with the WGA with inclusion and ranking.  In other cases I disagree vehemently.  The longevity of a show is almost an indicator in itself.  Shows that are masterfully written do not get cancelled after one or two seasons (I’m looking at you Twin Peaks and The Prisoner).

The number shown is where the show ranks relative to the entire list.  When I make a comment concerning a show’s ranked position it’s relative to the other nine on this list, not the 101 total.  I’m not going to open that can of worms.  But for reference the two shows that topped the entire list were The Sopranos and Seinfeld.  I can’t comment on The Sopranos as I’ve never watched it, but I love Seinfeld and it’s still a hilarious show.

So let’s break down the list.

But before I do . . . where’s my beloved Babylon 5!!!!!


#3 – The Twilight Zone

The Twilight Zone

Inclusion:  Strongly Agree

Rank:  Agree

Blah Blah:  Ah, The Twilight Zone . . .  how I love thee!  Good to see it getting the respect it deserves, as it’s just ahead of some heavy hitters on the list like M*A*S*H and Cheers.  I spent much of my childhood, teenage years, hell adulthood watching The Twilight Zone.  No other show on television has had more influence on shows that followed it, or the writers who followed in the footsteps of the brilliant Rod Serling.  Even today I watch episodes and marvel at the simple and wonderous stories produced and shot on a shoestring budget.  As a bonus each story was a self contained lesson in life.  If only Hollywood would look back and let some of that past influence wash over and cleanse them again!!


#26 – The X-Files

The X-Files

Inclusion:  Agree

Rank:  Agree

Blah Blah:  Wow, that’s a big drop from #3 to #26, wacking through 25% of the entire list before hitting the next show. Position #26 feels about right to me, beating out E.R. sitting just below it at #28.  Not too shabby.  The X-Files sprang up on the young Fox network in 1993.  And thankfully the suits at Fox gave it a chance (unlike that other show that nerds rage about).  The ratings started out slow, but by the 4th season it was chugging along nicely getting critical reviews due to great writing and production thanks to Chris Carter.  Starting with the 7th season things started to decline with critics and ratings.  Even so The X-Files had an amazing nine year run.


#27 – Lost


Inclusion:  Mildly Agree

Rank:  Disagree (should be lower)

Blah Blah:  Lost, the show that people loved to hate . . . or hated to love.  It’s a frustrating show, thanks to the now much maligned head writer Damon Lindelof.  Here’s the thing with Lost:  We all watched it for the characters.  The actual plot of the show was, how shall I say it . . . all over the place and confusing as hell!  Lindelof loved to dangle the carrot of confusion in front of fans to entice them to keep watching in hopes that they would get answers to questions raised.  The problem is we, the fans, NEVER get to taste that carrot.  Almost nothing in the show is resolved or answered, even with the (again, much maligned) finale.  Lost is about characters, not story.  And because of these reasons I mildly agree with it’s inclusion in the Top 101, but disagree with it’s #27 ranking.  I would have placed it in the 70s, probably below Star Trek: The Next Generation.


#33 – Star Trek

Star Trek

Inclusion:  Agree

Rank:  Mildly Disagree (should be higher)

Blah Blah:  Another show I spent my childhood with, and another show that influenced an entire genre and as well as television itself.  Star Trek was written and produced just after the peak of the Cold War.  Almost every episode was an allegory relating to some societal issue, and Roddenberry tried to introduce and educate American culture to a society where race, color and creed were transparent.  It introduced us to the “everyman hero” Captain James Tiberius Kirk!  It introduced young kids to the concept of communicators, tri-corders, computers, memory chips, and a myriad of other fantastical tech!  These kids would later grow up and invent the smartphones and tablets and internet that we all use today.  I absolutely agree with inclusion on this list, but believe it should be higher . . . certainly above Lost, and even possibly above The X-Files.


#35 – Twin Peaks

Twin Peaks

Inclusion:  Strongly Disagree (should not be listed)

Rank:  Strongly Disagree (should not be listed)

Blah Blah:  Uh oh.  Here’s where things go south.  I’m sorry, but this show was shit . . . to put it bluntly.  It’s bizarre, trippy, weird, utterly confusing, and nothing happens, ever.   Yes, David Lynch has created some great movies (The Elephant Man), but in my opinion he also created one of the worst movies ever made in the history of cinema.  Eraserhead.  He also completely butchered the masterpiece book Dune.  Handing Lynch the reins to anything is like going to a roulette table and dropping your wad on a random number and just giving it a good spin.  You might hit it rich, but it’s pretty much guaranteed you’re going to lose the wad.  I remember watching Twin Peaks when it was broadcast.  It started out okay, kind of a quirky whodunnit set in a Pacific Northwest logging town.  But the longer the show ran the more bizarre it became . . . like Eraserhead bizarre.  That’s not a good thing.  Twin Peaks should not be anywhere near this list, let alone on it.


#38 – Battlestar Galactica (reboot)

Cylon Battlestar Galactica

Inclusion:  Mildly Disagree

Rank:  Disagree (should be lower)

Blah Blah:  There’s no denying that the Battlestar Galactica was a great show full of action, suspense and some decent cliffhangers.  But where Lost was populated with likable characterization, Battlestar Galactica was populated with characters who I (mostly) wished would be pushed out an airlock.  Years of watching them grumble their lines, get drunk, fight, scowl, and deliver their dialogue like they hated every fiber of their existence began to affect me as a viewer.  I didn’t particularly like the characters, thus I wasn’t invested in them, thus I didn’t really care what happened to them. So when something tragic did happen it elicited little emotional response from me.  Then the writers started interjecting mystical mumbo-jumbo in to the story and it lost some of its appeal.  Still, BSG was one of the best science fiction shows on television in the past couple of decades.


#40 – Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones

Inclusion:  Mildy Agree

Rank:  Disagree (should be lower)

Blah Blah:  Game of Thrones has two things going for it:  excellent source material and T & A.  To be honest I’ve only seen a couple episodes because I don’t subscribe to HBO, so my opinion here is a bit foggy.  I’ll just say this.  Game of Thrones gets writing praise because of the source material.  It gets viewers (especially the young male demographic) because it’s borderline soft porn.  Remove that aspect of the show and it would get half the viewers it does.  So that begs the question:  Is the writing really that good?


#49 – Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Inclusion:  Abstain

Rank:  Abstain

Blah Blah:  This is a show I fully admit I don’t get.  I’ve tried to watch it from the beginning and couldn’t get in to it.  I’ve sat in a fully packed ComicCon panel surrounded by rabid fans just gushing about the show.  I must have looked out of place, with eyes wild with fear that I’d be discovered as a Buffy virgin who was just in the panel so I could get a seat for George Takei’s panel that would follow in the same auditorium.  But I survived.  I still have plans to watch the show some day as it’s available on most streaming services.  Until then I have to abstain from judging it lest the Whedonites track me down and make me disappear.


#79 – Star Trek: The Next Generation

Star Trek: The Next Generation

Inclusion:  Agree

Rank:  Mildly Disagree (should be higher)

Blah Blah:  When TNG aired in 1987 it ended a 20 year drought of Trek on television and began a run that would see Trek on television for almost another 20.  It spawned 3 more series, two of which were broadcast at the same time (TNG and DS9, and then DS9 and Voyager).  It’s briliance actually lead to a glut of Trek on television that burned out its popularity, and there hasn’t been a Star Trek show on television for eight years now.  But Star Trek:  The Next Generation had a very rocky start.  Seasons one and two were really quite bad as far as stories and production went.  But starting with season 3 TNG began firing on all cylinders and ran strong for the next five years, giving us such episodes as:  The Best of Both Worlds, The Inner Light, The Measure of a Man, Unification, All Good Things…, Yesterday’s Enterprise, Darmok, Relics, Time’s Arrow . . . and the list goes on.


#90 – The Prisoner

The Prisoner

Inclusion:  Disagree (should not be listed)

Rank:  Disagree (should not be listed)

Blah Blah:  The Prisoner was a British show produced in the 1960s and it only lasted 17 episodes . . . and boy was it 17 episodes of pure, unadulterated trippyness.  I first learned of The Prisoner when I was a teenager listening to the Iron Maiden song of the same name.  It intrigued me.  Later I was able to watch the entire series.  It confused me.  The show plays on themes of paranoia, big brother, mind control, as well as the concepts of freedom & individualism.  Most people are familiar with the the following lines “I am not a number; I am a free man!”  and ” I will not make any deals with you. I’ve resigned. I will not be pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed or numbered. My life is my own. I resign.”  These originated form this show.  But the problem with The Prisoner is that nothing really happens.  It’s a show in a bubble (The Village), with an ongoing grudge between Number 6 and his former employer.  Truly good writing moves stories forward and offers resolution.  In that respect The Prisoner was basically a precursor to Lost.

Words © 2013-2021, Neal Ulen. All rights reserved.
Images/videos cited © to their respective owner(s).

1 Comment

  1. I agree, ST:TNG should be much higher relative to the ones listed above and probably on the greater list as a whole. great show!

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