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

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17. The Prisoner

Though it only ran for 17 episodes, The Prisoner remains a classic of science fiction television, not to mention plain strange TV. Like many other shows on this list, this 1967 British series has become a cult favorite and remains available to view even today. It’s even been remade a couple of times, with a 2009 miniseries and an audio play in 2015. Still, it’s hard to beat the original for sheer innovation and sci-fi weirdness.

The Prisoner concerns an unnamed man who suddenly quits his job and makes preparations to leave the U.K. as quickly as possible. He doesn’t make it, though, as someone pipes gas into his apartment and knocks him unconscious. The man then wakes up in a replica of the same apartment, only now it is situated within a mysterious “village” by the ocean.

It seems fine at first, but it soon becomes clear that the isolated village is a prison; no one is allowed to leave. Furthermore, no one actually has a name. They are all assigned numbers, which would bother them if they weren’t so busy being peaceful. The man — dubbed “Number Six” — can’t help but feel that there is something terribly wrong. The intense and sometimes deadly security measures around the village do little to ease his fears.

The village administrator, called “Number Two,” repeatedly interrogates the man using techniques such as hallucinogens, mind control, dream manipulation, and more to extract answers. When the man refuses to spill the beans — whatever the beans may be — Number Two is replaced again and again. Eventually, the unseen Number One and even higher powers are forced to take drastic measures. It all comes out in an especially strange and dramatic final episode.