The Top-Ten Worst Science Fiction TV Series of All Time

Republibot 3.0
Republibot 3.0's picture

This is an entirely subjective list, but I’ve tried to be fair: I’ve excluded children’s shows such as “Jason of Star Command” and sitcoms such as “Mork and Mindy,” which, though terrible, weren’t even *trying* to reach the bar. Also, I’ve decided to take the series individually, and not take “Star Trek” or “Stargate” as a whole, since the quality frankly differs quite a bit from installment to installment. I’ve also decided to exclude anything pertaining to Superheroes, Fantasy, and any marginal shows that were not primarily SF, but threw in one or two genre episodes simply ‘cuz, ya’ know, “The kids today, they love the star wars stuff…”

Counting down:

10) Galactica: 1980 (1980) The original series (1978/79) was much better than most people remember, and the new series is surprisingly good, but man oh man oh man, this ill-conceived 1980 attempt to keep the franchise alive sans any characters from the original show, and degenerated in the space of just one episode from a time travel series to a show about child care in space for irritating space orphans, many of whom were the producer’s own kids. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Galactica_1980

9) Buck Rogers in the 25th Century (1979-1981) This series was made principally to amortize losses taken on the production of the original Galactica series the year before, this hour-long science-fiction adventure show provided no real adventure, and not much in the way of science fiction. The thinking seemed to be that if they dumbed-down “Galactica” a bit, they’d have more success on their hands and, sadly, they were right: It lasted two years. There was lots and lots of bad acting, an irritating robot, a charmless male lead hampered by embarrassing scripts and lots of chicks in spandex. That part was pretty good actually. Things got even worse in season two when the show became an even-stupider clone of Star Trek, and they added an even-more irritating second robot. Buck Rogers Wikipedia article (And honestly, how can a guy who’s pushing 40 still be only an Air Force captain? Sheesh!)

8) The Powers of Matthew Starr (1982/83) Fresh off his Academy Award for “An Officer and a Gentleman,” Louis Gossett, Jr. Proved he had no freakin’ clue how to have a successful career by signing on to co-star in this ‘heartwarming family adventure series’ about an alien prince hidden in suburban America. Gossett wasn’t even the prince – he was the guy assigned to cook and do laundry for the prince, while the titular Matthew Star used his alien psychic powers to solve crimes and endlessly whine about his human girlfriend. It’s as though someone watched Mork and Mindy and said, “You know what would make this show great? If it were twice as long and not a damn bit funny!” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Powers_of_Matthew_Starr

7) Cleopatra 2525 (2000/01) A syndicated show thought up to keep the Kiwi production team employed after “Hercules” ended, it was essentially a riff on the Gil Gerard Buck Rogers series from twenty years earlier. Only this time, instead of Buck being a wisecracking overweight astronaut, now he was a mid-20s female exotic dancer who was cryogenically frozen following a botched boob job (really!) who wakes up in the year 2525, and immediately gets involved in a war between the last remnants of humanity and the Bailey Robots that have taken over the world. Now, on the surface the idea of playing up the spandex-babe aspect of Buck Rogers, and deleting the paunchy-middle-aged male lead entirely would seem like a good idea. Alas, no, it wasn’t. This was a great show for people who watched the 1980 Buck and thought “Damn, this is too gritty and realistic! I want something faker and less compelling.” 'oh, how bad can it be?' you ask. Well check this heinous crap out: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rwjR7IwmOtc And that was the theme song! It goes downhill from there! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cleopatra_2525

6) Land of the Giants (1968-1970) Unquestionably the worst of Irwin Allen’s quartet of lowbrow science fiction series of the ‘60s (The others being Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Lost in Space, and Time Tunnel), the premise of this fundamentally misguided show was that a commercial space shuttle went off course and landed on a planet that was exactly like earth, but twelve times larger. Our not-at-all heroic cast and crew spent two seasons playing Jerry in an increasingly irritating series of Tom-and-Jerry like adventures. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Land_of_the_Giants on the plus side, however, it did star Deanna Lund, who was all kinds of hot http://www.skylighters.org/larry/deannalundwp1.jpg

5) Logan’s Run (1977/78) Imagine Star Trek with no Enterprise, just a car. Now imagine it with no alien worlds, just random backlot towns. Now imagine the Magnificent Seven of the original Trek replaced by just two wooden actors who were allegedly in love, yet shared no chemistry whatsoever, and an early sort of tumbledown version of Mister Data. There you have Logan’s Run, a show with not a damn thing to recommend it. Allegedly a spinoff of the 1975 movie of the same name (Which itself was pretty crappy, but at least had Michael York and a mostly-naked Jenny Argutter), the series actually changed the ending of the movie so they could justify the lame-ass premise of the show. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Logan%27s_Run#TV

4) Gene Roddenberry’s Andromeda (2000-’05) This show actually had a lot of promise in the first season. Allegedly based on notes Roddenberry jotted down in between orgies in the ‘70s, the show was actually created out of whole cloth by Robert Hewett Wolfe, who evidently approached Majel Barett about slapping Gene’s name on his concept so he could actually sell the damn thing. While low-budget and clearly derivative of the basic concept of Trek, the show had an apocalyptic outlook and was all about trying to rebuild civilization. Furthermore, for the first season and a half, the show managed pretty consistently to be unpredictable: while never great, it was interesting if simply because it never went where you expected it to, and it was clearly building to a huge climax. Alas, halfway through the second season, Kevin Sorbo (the star) got Wolfe jettisoned from the show. From that point on – literally episode 13 of season 2 – the show became an incoherent, unwatchable piece of crap that was so self-righteous as to make Trek itself say, “Damn, but you’re preachy!” Never quite able to decide on a format – one season they were establishing a new government, the next they were on the run from the government, one season they were mostly planetbound, sometimes the ship was mostly empty, sometimes it had a crew of thousands who never seemed to have anything to do – the entire thing collapsed in on itself and ultimately became yet another SF show that no one gives a damn about. Which is maddening because for a little while there, it really looked like it was going to be something great. Inexplicably, the damn thing ran for FIVE years! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gene_Roddenberry%27s_Andromeda After the series ended, Robert Hewett Wolfe wrote a one-act play about where *his* story was headed before it got shanghaied, and it’s actually pretty good. Had he been able to pull it off, it would have made Babylon 5 look like a minor family tiff by comparison. You can read that here http://web.archive.org/web/20060621045350/http://rhwolfe.com/Coda/Androm...

3) Space: Above and Beyond (1995/96) What do you get when a couple hotshot writer/producers from The X-Files decide they want to go solo and make their own show? You get Space: Above and Beyond, a series so ensconced in feculence and yet so expensive that it made people forget all about how Galactica had bled money in the seventies. The budget was between two and three million dollars per episode, and yet the story they chose to tell was about some twenty-first century fightin’ leatherneck infantry who inexplicably were also fighter pilots in a war against the amazingly boring “Chig” aliens. Uncompelling characters uncompellingly told, boasting of a complex backstory that was, nonetheless really dull, the show was all tease and no payoff. For instance, in one episode the Marines are given leave on a “pleasure ship.” Coolio comes in to inform the Marines about the nature of the vessel – that it is beyond the law, that it is beyond morality, that it can sate all their desires both subtle and gross, that they are welcome to avail themselves of all the sins and releases imaginable to man. Sounds pretty wild, right? And yet the inside of the pleasure ship seems to consist only of a country bar and one hooker. The whole damn show was like that. And as usual there’s just something irritating about characters who are ostensibly in the military, and yet behave in no way like anyone in any military ever. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space:_Above_And_Beyond

2 )Sliders (1995-1999) The basic concept was brilliant: a handful of people have traveled to a parallel earth – same time and place, different history – and have gotten lost. They’re trying to find their way back to their own version of Earth, en rout meeting strange variations of themselves and worlds with all kinds of crazy histories. That’s actually pretty amazing, and I’m surprised no one had tried something like that before. Unfortunately, the four main characters were pretty boring, and after the first thirteen episodes or so the producers seem to have completely run out of ‘parallel world’ ideas that were even remotely plausible, and so they started “Sliding” to worlds where, like, it’s 1996, right? And you have to shop all the time, and, like, there’s shopping malls that levitate in the air for no adequately explained reason, and, like, if you stop shopping for more than an hour, you’ll like be killed for adversely impeding the economy, n’shit, right? ‘Cuz we all know capitalism is like bad and stuff, right? Take it to the man! By the third season, the ‘alternate history’ premise had all-but-disappeared, and it became a completely incoherent adventure show (“They slide to a version of earth that has dinosaurs! Now they slide to a version that has constant tornadoes!”). The cast started trickling away from the obviously-sinking ship. In the fourth season it jumped from Fox to Sci-Fi, adding new characters and re-casting the lead (Sort of. It’s complicated, but not particularly interesting). A recurring menace for the series – it’s “Klingons” if you will – were Cro-Magnons from an alternate world where Homo Sapiens never evolved. These Cro-Magnons (Who looked nothing like real Cro-Magnons) were sliding from world to world, taking them over and eating the humans who lived there. On the one hand, the show suffered quite a bit from network interference and cast and budget changes in the later seasons. On the other hand, it suffered quite a bit from it’s inception simply because it felt like the creators of the show never quite fully understood the whole “Alternate World” concept themselves. But mark my words: someday someway someone will do a good show based on this concept. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sliders And the number 1 worst SF series of all time:

1) Earth: Final Conflict (1997-2002) Yet another series ostensibly thought up by Gene Roddenberry and produced posthumously. Unlike “Andromeda,” however, Gene probably really did think up a lot of the basic premise of this show. And, unfortunately, it shows. Premise: In the not-too-distant future, next Sunday A.D., aliens called “Talons” visit earth and bring all kinds of shiny new technological geegaws including teleportation. The world becomes a much better place for everyone, alas, the Talons are…well…it’s never exactly established if the Talons are evil and manipulative, or merely condescending and passive-aggressive. They sort of take over the world, but the world is sort of a better place for it, and they sort of do it without a use of force and their motivations are never quite explained. It’s all pretty squishy. There is a Talon who’s definitely the bad guy for a couple seasons, but it’s established that he’s more or less working on his own, colonel Kurtz-like, with no mandate from above. Then, the Talons are abruptly defeated and evicted from Earth and in the more-or-less completely unrelated fifth and final season, a new alien race, the Atavus, show up. Turns out the Talons were kind of sort of maybe possibly a little bit involved in a war with the Atavus, and once they left that opened up Earth for invasion by aliens who are flat-out evil, rather than merely annoying whiners. What makes this show take the cake for worst-ever is that there was not a reason in the world that anyone would give a damn about the characters or premise of the show in the first place, but this mere boredom and lack of vision quickly gave way to utter incoherence as the show began a nearly-legendary cast turnover. *EVERY SEASON* featured a new lead character who took over when the previous main protagonist was fired or quit in disgust. Entire character arcs were conceived of in seemingly minutes, painstakingly developed for 22 episodes, and then dropped abruptly, never to be mentioned again. This happened a half-dozen times! In fact, the only character to have lasted the entire run of the show was the main human antagonist. Somehow – presumably just because it had the Roddenberry name on it – this show managed to survive for five years.

And there you have it! Any shows I left out? Any agreements or disagreements? Please comment! As a footnote, I’d like to mention that I *really* wanted to put the X-Files on here somewhere, but had to leave it out because it involves the supernatural, and therefore is a fantasy/SF hybrid and doesn’t apply.

Sincerely, Republibot 3.0

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Comments

AARgh!

sysadmin 2.0's picture

The sad thing is, I've seen nearly every episode of most of those series, and I think my brain damage shows...

Really?

Republibot 3.0's picture

You've seen Land of the Giants? I'm surprised - most people have never even heard of it. And if you sat through the entire run of "Earth: Final Conflict" I have to ask - why? What did you hope to get out of it? Clearly not any kind of enjoyment or artistic integrity.

Had you done something really really bad and felt the need to punish yourself?

The Artist Formerly Known As Republibot 3.0

Yeah, really.

sysadmin 2.0's picture

I've seen at least a half dozen eps of Land o' the Giants-- I've actually seen more of it than Voyage to the Bottom of the Barrel.

And I watched Earth: Final Conflict, partially because the political intrigue was interesting and the beginning slate of characters was mildly compelling. And then I watched it, because killing so many main characters was horrifyingly realistic and dramatically challenging. And then it became obvious that nobody knew what they were doing on the show, but by that time I couldn't look away--- like a train wreck in very, very, very slow motion....

Huh.

Republibot 3.0's picture

So it was somewhere between "So bad it's good" and "Cautionary example?" That puts it below "So bad it's good" and in the "So bad it's nothing more than bad" category, or I guess perhaps in "Noteworthily bad" category.

So....we need to get more people talking here than just the two of us, I think. If anyone's lurking, feel free to jump in!

The Artist Formerly Known As Republibot 3.0

Answer: Who knows?

Sam White's picture

Bringing fresh to mind the age/site-old question of, "Why is he allowed on here in the first place?!?" I have to say that the only one of these shows I watched for more than 15 minutes (total) was "Buck Rogers" and I enjoyed it.  Still do.  Just got it on DVD in fact.  It's silly and disco-influenced to the extreme but I still get a chuckle out of it.

If I listed the sci-fi shows I found less interesting than the ones listed here, you'd probably take away my Republibot card.

Take away your republibot card

Republibot 3.0's picture

Nah. We're pretty much the one SF site that admits not everything in the genre is great. Welllllllllll there are some other sites that do that as well, I guess, but only after popular opinion has turned against the show, and it's safe to do so. YOu know the type: "Star Trek Rulzzz and always will! what? No one likes it anymore? Oh, thank God: Star Trek Sucks!"

There was a whole wave of this after the new Galactica crapped out so badly at the end, that even the diehards couldn't hide it from themselves anymore. <G>

The Artist Formerly Known As Republibot 3.0

@R3

neorandomizer's picture

When I was 9 and the show was new I loved Land of the Giants, I even had a model of the ship. Now if I watched it my head would explode but that's because I grew up but being a kid in the 60's was great for TV sci fi Lost in Space, Thunderbirds, Time Tunnel, Invaders all left their mark on my mind.

Deana Lund Will Keep Your Head From Exploding

Republibot 3.0's picture

Nah, I'm sure you could survive an episode or three just by ogling Deanna Lund.

When I was five or six, I saw that Ronnie Howard movie about the tenagers who grew really big - 'valley of the giants' or 'town of the giants' or 'soon to be unemployed actors of the giants' or whatever - and I mentioned it to some of the big kids on my street - nine or twelve, I'd guess - and they got to talking about a "Land of the Giants" TV show that had once existed. I was fascinated by the idea, and it remained in the back of my head for the next decade or two. When I finally actually *saw* the show, you can imagine my disapointment.

I had a reissue of the model, too.

The Artist Formerly Known As Republibot 3.0

I actually enjoyed some of those shows

wolf's picture

Being a little too young for such classics as Land of the Giants and Buck Rogers I did catch bits and pieces of them when the SciFi Channel first started up.  And I have to admit that I felt they fell into that campy so bad they're halfway decent with the right group.  I'd have to admin that I'd still watch Buck Rogers if only for Erin Grey and Pamela Hensley.

As for some of the later shows, I remember watching them as they came out although I either lost interest or lost track of them (kind of like I did when Babylon 5 went to TNT for the fifth season and we had no cable) but I still remember them at least as watchable if not good TV.

The 1970s: a forgotten golden age of crap

Republibot 3.0's picture

One of the nice things about being a kid in the '70s was that there were a lot of UHF channels around - every town had at least one, many had multiple ones - and all of them were desparate to fill up as much airtime as possible, so they were continually strip mining all these shows from the '50s and '60s.

This was an era when Trek was in regular syndication in nearly every city in America - as the Trekies won't shut up about - but it was also the period where Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Lost in Space, The Monkees, Get Smart, Hogan's Heroes, Space: 1999, The Twilight Zone, and The Outer Limits, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., and scads of other shows were in regular syndication as well. There was an awful lot of really cool stuff if you were a 10 year old boy who was afraid of sports, but not gay.

And really, who among us *wasn't* a non-gay 10-year-old boy who feared sports, at least once in their life?

The Artist Formerly Known As Republibot 3.0

Space, the final frontier...

I'm having a serious attack of nostalgia now...and I LOVED Star Trek!! My dad worked on every Apollo mission in Florida and I remember as a kid thinking that Star Trek would soon be a reality. We watched the launches from my house...I met astronauts (and also the cast from I Dream of Jeannie but that's another story) I was going to be James T. Kirk...well, the girl version. Of course, by the time Next Gen came along I had a whole different idea of what my relationship with Jean Luc Picard would be!

And the Planet of the Apes movies...sigh....

Outer Limits and Apes

neorandomizer's picture

I remember how big the Planet of the Apes movies were, the TV show sucked but they tried. The comic was much better but the whole Planet of the Apes craze burned itself out by the late 70’s.

The Outer Limits is a show that the beginning still brings chills to me; I first saw it as a 4 year old in its last year on network TV. I vividly remember one episode the Invisible Enemy about an alien that lives under the sands of Mars.

The original Outer Limits and Twilight Zone are still so of the best science fiction ever shown on American TV.

Who's who

I love watching old Twilight Zone episodes...for the stories and to see the actors before they hit the big time! That show really holds up all these years later. My kids like it as much as I do...but they were raised to appreciate good sci-fi.

Hey now

Church's picture

I have it on good authority that plenty of gay (and the rest of the alphabet soup) people thought that the UHF era was pretty cool, too.

It is weird that there's less of that now that we have a hundred times more channels. Or maybe it's that it's so dilluted that it's hard to find?

Jealous

Republibot 3.0's picture

We watched the launches from my house...I met astronauts (and also the cast from I Dream of Jeannie but that's another story)

 

I'm very envious.

The Artist Formerly Known As Republibot 3.0

UHF

Republibot 3.0's picture

It is weird that there's less of that now that we have a hundred times more channels. Or maybe it's that it's so dilluted that it's hard to find?

I wonder about this myself. A lot of it is that many of the 'current generation' refuse to watch older shows. I know people in their 20s and 30s who've never seen a Black and White movie, much less a TV show. Different culture, differnt time, it just doesn't appeal to 'em the same way we don't really watch silent films, even though a lot of 'em are really great.

Some of it, I think, is that there just aren't any UHF stations anymore. Most of 'em were bought up by Fox, WB and UPN, and with the cableization of America, their role has largely been subsumed anyway.

Some of it, I think, is that the classic shows are mostly available on DVD now, which reduces their appeal in perpetual repeats. Meanwhile, shows like "The Mothers-In-Law" languish in obscurity...

The Artist Formerly Known As Republibot 3.0

Guilty as well

Church's picture

"I wonder about this myself. A lot of it is that many of the 'current generation' refuse to watch older shows. I know people in their 20s and 30s who've never seen a Black and White movie, much less a TV show. Different culture, differnt time, it just doesn't appeal to 'em the same way we don't really watch silent films, even though a lot of 'em are really great." 

Yeah, I was sort of one of them even back in the day. Unless it was obviously a genre pic, I wasn't interested in it. (Creature from the Black Lagoon, fine. The Thin Man, what else is on?)

I realized the errors of my ways in my early twenties, but I can't really fault advertisers/programmers their choices.

Excepting the SyFy original movies. What the frak is that?

 

SyFy and bad original movies

neorandomizer's picture

I know what you mean about SyFy’s original movies I just wasted two hours of my life watching Screamers: The Hunting and I want that time back.

I wish someone would for once make a movie from a PKD story and do it right. The first Screamers movie was OK but not great and sure as hell not good enough for a sequel.

Dick used the idea of robot killers taking over the earth in a few War World Terminus stories one even had a time travel element to it. How did the makers of Terminator not violate his copyrights?

In many ways the UHF era was better for genre movies than it is now. Every town had a Saturday night monster movie series with a goofy host. And every show from the 60's and even some movie serials from the 40's and 50's was shown during the day.

WTFrack?

Republibot 3.0's picture

I realized the errors of my ways in my early twenties, but I can't really fault advertisers/programmers their choices.

Excepting the SyFy original movies. What the frak is that?

Yeah, I don't get it either. I've spoken to someone who used to work for Sci-Fi who totally didn't understand that programming decision, either. It's relatively expensive, and on one really watches them.

The Artist Formerly Known As Republibot 3.0

Copyright

Republibot 3.0's picture

Dick used the idea of robot killers taking over the earth in a few War World Terminus stories one even had a time travel element to it. How did the makers of Terminator not violate his copyrights?

"Time War" isn't an etirely original concept, and off the top of my head, I can't really remember him ever developing it in a logical fashion. It's possible there's something else I'm not remembering. Anywhoo - James Cameron *did* get sued for The Terminator - he ripped off Harlan Ellison's "Demon with a Glass Hand" from The Outer Limits - and he lost. The movie has had a "Based on material by..." credit added to the movies, and I assume a financial judgement as well, but I don't really know about that. I'm guessing. Good for him! It'd be harder to prove Cameron stole from one of PKD's novels or short stories. Cameron never really struck me as much of a reader.

In many ways the UHF era was better for genre movies than it is now. Every town had a Saturday night monster movie series with a goofy host. And every show from the 60's and even some movie serials from the 40's and 50's was shown during the day.

And the 90s version of that was "Mystery Science Theater 3000," the logical extension of it all!

The Artist Formerly Known As Republibot 3.0

The logical extension into

The logical extension into the 21st century seems to be RiffTrax. I think the thing that people hate most about bad or corny movies is that if you're watching them by yourself, they feel like a waste of your time... at least this way you feel less alone.

Rifftrax

Republibot 3.0's picture

Yeah, probably so.

I actually rather enjoy watching bad movies, but then I spent waaaaaaaaaaaaaaay too much time alone growing up.

The Artist Formerly Known As Republibot 3.0

Dishonorable Mentions- 1)

Dishonorable Mentions-

1) Misfits of Science - A series with a name this stupid deserves to be on the list

2) V (1980's version) - Take a great TV movie and turn it into a crap tv series. See "Logan's Run" (which wasn't a good movie).

3) The Starlost - So bad even its creator disowned it.

4) Dollhouse - Whedon obviously got ahold of the brown acid.

5) Star Trek: Enterprise - The less said about this, the better.

Space Precinct.

Republibot 3.0's picture

>>3) The Starlost - So bad even its creator disowned it.<<

Eh. Harlan disowns a lot of stuff. He's made fun of "The Oscar" and his story about the ants to me on at least one occasion.

>>>4) Dollhouse - Whedon obviously got ahold of the brown acid.<<<

I hated the first six episodes of it, but grew to really like it, even if the conclusion was a bit rushed.

>>>5) Star Trek: Enterprise - The less said about this, the better.<<

Never saw it. Never felt the need, though a few people occasionally made half-hearted attempts to get me to do so. I kind of drifted away from Trek in between the 1st and 2nd seasons of Voyager, I think...

I'm gonna' throw "Space Precinct" on here as an honorable mention.

The Artist Formerly Known As Republibot 3.0

Not a TV show, but...

Mama Fisi's picture

I know this discussion was about bad, bad SF TV series, but I just gotta mention that we looked at the "Flash Gordon" movie over the weekend. I say "looked at" because we didn't really watch it, more like leafed through it. It took us three days to get through, because it was so dreadful that we kept switching it off to reset our brains before something started to melt.

My husband said the costumes were nice. I don't know, I kept running out of the room and hiding because my eyes were bleeding. I can't remember ever seeing a worse film. If they were going for comic-book-style campiness, they even missed that. The only good bit was the two skyships at Ming's wedding pulling signs which read "ALL CREATURES WILL MAKE MERRY...UPON PAIN OF DEATH!"

And to think, George Lucas originally wanted to make a "Flash Gordon" movie, and was turned down, so he went on to make "Star Wars" instead...

Masquerading as a normal person day after day is exhausting.
Magpie House Comics
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Space Cops

neorandomizer's picture

>>I'm gonna' throw "Space Precinct" on here as an honorable mention.<<

For something that came out at the same time as B5 Space Precinct was the worst. I'm surprised that Gerry Anderson did such a poor job but maybe trying to combine a space sci-fi with a police show was to much for anyone.