With so many fantastic science fiction television shows being released, we’re experiencing a second golden age of sci-fi. But that doesn’t mean we should forget the awesome shows that have come before. And often lost in the noise are those shows that were canceled before their prime, and I mean way before. The programs on this list lasted for only a single season, though they deserved several more.
Though some of these shows are well-known to have been canceled too early (like Firefly), there are many others on this list that have nearly been forgotten. But not by me. I’ve watched all the shows on this list when they first came out, and once or twice since. And these shows span my lifetime, from shows I watched as a kid to shows I watched last year.
So here are the Top 20 Sci-Fi TV shows that only lasted one season organized by release year. And, as a bonus, I’ve thrown in a few fantasy shows at the end as they should be remembered and rewatched as well. And though there were several animated shows that fit the bill, like Johnny Quest which was a favorite of mine as a kid, I’ve limited this list to live-action productions.
I hope you enjoy the list – and the shows!
The Space Giants (1966) – From Japan, this show rode the 1960s wave of Godzilla movies. About a family of robots who could switch from human forms into gigantic rockets, they battle the evil space villain Rodak and his strange monsters to keep him from conquering Earth.
The Lost Saucer (1975) – Produced by Sid and Marty Kroft (of HR Pufnstuf and Land of the Lost fame), the show stars Jim Nabors and Ruth Buzzi as bumbling androids who bring a boy and his babysitter on board then careen through time on various adventures as they try to return the two humans to their rightful time and place.
Ark II (1976) – In matching sparkly suits and with a chimpanzee crewmate, the scientific crew of the Ark II travels a post-apocalyptic Earth solving problems and helping humanity bring back the technology that had been lost. They also have cool cars.
Logan’s Run (1977) – Based on the movie of the same name, the show follows the adventures of Logan5 and Jessica6 after they leave the City of Domes for good in search of Sanctuary yet still on the run from Sandmen.
Battlestar Galactica (1978 / 1980) – This show had so much promise they tried it twice, each attempt lasting but one season though the 1978 version was much better than the 1980 version. Coming out the same time as the original Star Wars, the space battles are epic as the remnants of humanity search for the lost colony called Earth.
Voyagers! (1982) – An explorer of time and history straight out of the Royal Society crash lands in the present, saving a kid from a tragic accident by taking him through time. They solve problems (seems like that happens a lot in these shows) and nudge history back on course.
Firefly (2002) – Everyone knows the space western with a ship crewed by honorable thieves, a priest, an engineering prodigy, and a medical doctor who is on the run from the central government with his weaponized clairvoyant sister. A fantastic mix of adventure, realism, and comedy. Browncoats unite!
John Doe (2002) – Starring Dominic Purcell before Prison Break, John Doe is someone who knows everything about everything, except his own past. As he tries to uncover his identity, he learns nefarious forces are after him.
Flash Gordon (2007) – Not nearly as campy as the movie with Sam Jones, this is a gritty remake focusing on a small group (Flash, Dale, and Dr. Zarkov) who are trying to explain a series of mysterious events resulting from Mongo encroaching into Earth’s universe.
Bionic Woman (2007) – Also not as campy as the original with Lindsay Wagner, this is a more realistic look at a young woman coming to terms with the cybernetic enhancements made to her body as she starts to work for the clandestine organization that saved her.
Journeyman (2007) – A newspaper journalist starts jumping back through time, interacting with various people whose destinies he’s supposed to change without knowing how. He soon finds the jumps are related and encounters another time traveler – his deceased ex-wife! Awkward!
Caprica (2010) – A prequel series to the uber-successful 2004 Battlestar Galactica remake, it follows the initial creation of artificial life (Cylons) and the beginnings of a radical movement that would lead to the downfall of the thirteen colonies.
Terra Nova (2011) – With truly outstanding effects, Earth is only years away from the catastrophic collapse of society and the ecosystem. Humanity finds refuge in the ancient past when dinosaurs roamed the planet, where they build a new city and society. But they manage to bring the same problems with them.
Almost Human (2013) – With one of my favorite actors in Karl Urban, the show occurs in the future where a renegade police detective is partnered with a sentient android who nobody trusts. As they solve crimes, they discover a pattern leading toward a conspiracy within the department.
Tomorrow People (2013) – A group of young people start developing psionic abilities like telepathy, teleportation, and telekinesis and discover they are homo superior, the next step in human evolution. They soon find they are hunted by an evil organization called Ultra which wants to maintain the superiority of homo sapiens.
Brain Dead (2015) – A fantastic blend of political intrigue, comedy, and alien invasion. Mary Elizabeth Winstead is a political analyst who works for her Senator brother. Alien bugs begin an invasion of Earth and take over the opposing party.
Minority Report (2015) – Taking place a decade after the events of the film of the same name, the precrime division has been mothballed for years. One of the precogs returns though nobody recognizes him. He works with police to help prevent crimes without revealing his true identity or ability.
I Am Not Okay with This (2020) – An angsty teenage girl learns she has the ability to affect objects with her thoughts. As if she doesn’t have enough to deal with in high school.
Away (2020) – A woman astronaut (Hillary Swank) leaves her family to lead the first crewed mission to Mars, and her absence affects her family. An early crisis in the mission causes the crew to lose trust in her, and she must continually work to rebuild it during the mission.
Cowboy Bebop (2021) – Blending science-fiction, cyberpunk, samurai, and cool jazz, a pair of bounty hunters search for criminals that pay the highest bounties. Each has a past they’re running from: one a disgraced cop and the other a former hitman with an organized crime syndicate.
And here are the bonus fantasy shows:
Manimal (1983) – A wealthy philanthropist and doctor has researched the darkest corners of Africa to develop the ability to transform into any animal. He uses this ability to help the police solve crimes, and almost always in a tuxedo.
Brimstone (1998) – A dead dirty cop is recruited by Satan to hunt down one hundred demon souls who have escaped hell. With a tattoo of each on his body, he searches for and finds these demons, usually fixing the problems they have caused. Should he succeed in capturing them all, he can return to Earth and live as a mortal.
Dresden Files (2007) – Based on the books by Jim Butcher, Harry Dresden is a modern-day wizard working as a private investigator. As the nether world continually encroaches on the human world, his case load is through the roof.
Did I miss one of your favorites? Let me know in the comments.