20 best sci-fi TV shows that aren’t Star Trek

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4. Battlestar Galactica

Frankly, “game changer” is a word that’s thrown around far too often. If you were gullible, you might think that the game, at least in terms of genre and fiction, is changing practically every other week. There are innovations, sure, but how often does the entire tone and execution of a genre like science fiction hinge on a single series?

In this case, though, “game changer” is just about right. The reboot of Battlestar Galactica, which started in 2003 as a two-part miniseries and later continued as a weekly television series lasting until 2009, was a foundation-rattling move.

The original 1978 Battlestar Galactica series was fine, if goofy and very definitely of its era. The 2000s reboot, however, took on a completely different tone. It was much darker and more intense, with equally complex plotting and characterization. Now, it’s not as if showrunners like Ronald D. Moore and David Eick invented dark tones or grim settings in genre fiction.

However, the overall quality of the series was so high that you couldn’t help but feel that something new was happening. If nothing else, you probably have these two to thank for the modern glut of gritty, quasi-realistic science fiction gracing your screens today.

In this series, the human race is in pretty dire straits. Its home system of twelve planets has been decimated by the robotic Cylons, leaving humans to float about in space in a large fleet of ships. From a huge population of billions, only about 50,000 humans now survive. Most escaped the devastation because they were already off planet, either on civilian vessels or official ships.

Of all the military fleet, only the Galactica remains. Now, Commander William “Bill” Adama and President Laura Roslin must gather up their remaining people and lead them to a nigh-mythical thirteenth planet.

Humans being humans, the journey is far from sedate. There are more than a few instances of betrayal, along with double agents and, of course, the Cylons. For viewers, there’s a little bit of everything, from religious debate, the political intrigue, to psychodrama. It’s all done beautifully.