Thursday, May 26, 2016

The Sci-Fi Fanatic BIG 10: Cancelled Sci-Fi TV Series

"Good shows are cancelled every year, smart shows, worthy shows."
-Josh Friedman, SciFiNow #46, p.101-
Oh cancelled series, where for art thou? Friedman's line is sobering when it comes to the plethora of cancelled series. His point warranted a wistful look back at the best.

What qualifies for a cancelled show that was worthy and smart? I suppose the variables in play make it relative to a degree. But there are obvious important factors like writing, performance and direction. We aim to highlight the best of cancelled science fiction television.

Obviously a single season can be tragic.

Two seasons feels downright cold and not much better.

Three seasons, while certainly respectable, will cause some eyebrows to wince that it may have received the short-shrift.

Four seasons seems a mighty success, but there have been plenty out there whereby fans thought they had the potential to endure a bit more. Farscape or Enterprise anyone? As it stands those recipients of four seasons will not be considered here. Oh, put your crying towels away.

And five seasons plus, well, that's likely for the spoiled fans of The X-Files, Stargate SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis. That's kind of a special category. Do they really have any right to bemoan the loss at all? Well, sure, but who's really listening at that point.

But for the sake of common sense it would seem to me that a series that reaches four seasons or more, relatively speaking, would be considered an unmitigated success story given how difficult it is to bring a pilot to order at all.

Enterprise, The 4400, Farscape, Stargate Atlantis, Falling Skies, Fringe, Battlestar Galactica, Lexx, Sanctuary, Continuum. I mean, you've done good kid. It was nice knowing you.

And without further adieu here are some of TVs cancelled science fiction series and their respective cancellation dates and episode numbers. This is clearly not a complete list. Series highlighted in blue note The Sci-Fi Fanatic BIG 10 Cancelled Sci-Fi TV Series for those series we wish endured longer TV histories.


Firefly (2002; 14 episodes).

Strange World (1999-2002; 13 episodes).

Battlestar Galactica (1978-1979; 24 episodes).

Defying Gravity (2009; 13 episodes).

Flashforward (2009-1010; 22 episodes).

Life On Mars (2008-2009; 17 episodes).

Invasion (2005-2006; 22 episodes).

Threshold (2005-2006; 13 episodes).

Surface (2005-2006; 15 episodes).

Alien Nation (1989-1990; 22 episodes).

Caprica (2010; 19 episodes).

Eleventh Hour (2008-2009; 18 episodes).

Dark Skies (1996-1997; 20 episodes).

Earth 2 (1994-1995; 22 episodes).

The Event (2010-2011; 22 episodes).

Harsh Realm (2009-2010; 9 episodes).

Odyssey 5 (2002; 19 episodes).

Starman (1986-1987; 22 episodes).

Planet Of The Apes (1974; 14 episodes).

UFO (1970-1971; 26 episodes).

Space: Above And Beyond (1995-1996; 23 episodes).

Terra Nova (2011; 13 episodes).

The Lone Gunmen (2001; 13 episodes).

Almost Human (2013-2014; 13 episodes).

Minority Report (2015; 10 episodes).

Charlie Jade (2005; 20 episodes).


Space:1999 (1975-1977; 48 episodes).

Stargate Universe (2009-2011; 40 episodes).

Helix (2014-2015; 26 episodes).

Jericho (2006-2008; 29 episodes).

Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles (2008-2009; 31 episodes).

Dollhouse (2009-2010; 26 episodes).

Thunderbirds (1965-1966; 32 episodes).

V (2009-2011; 22 episodes).


Star Trek: The Original Series (1966-1968; 79 episodes).

Defiance (2013-2015; 38 episodes).

Land Of The Lost (1974-1976; 43 episodes).

The Bionic Woman (1976-1978; 58 episodes).

Lost In Space (1965-1968; 83 episodes).

Seaquest DSV (1993-1996; 59 episodes).

Wonder Woman (1975-1979; 60 episodes).

Millennium (1996-1999; 67 episodes).

You might be wondering why this writer chose not to select ST:TOS. But, as it exists, that classic series attained perfection for me. It was also created at a time when broadcasting provided a very generous episode count. And hasn't Star Trek endured just fine as it exists? Lost In Space kind of had its chance too and it made more than enough mistakes. One could even argue it was fortunate to go three years.

Equally, one could argue a few others did just fine for their era. Lost In Space, Wonder Woman and The Bionic Woman did fine. But I could never get enough of Land Of The Lost. Maybe one more would have been nice.

Though I've provided ten highlighted in blue, there are a few others that might have proved interesting like Threshold, SurfaceDefiance (though the third season gave me mixed emotions) and Life On Mars. Oh well.

The series selected in blue are in keeping with this science fiction fan's desire to see the universe in play explored to a greater degree. This writer would have enjoyed seeing where the story, characters or mythology would have taken us. Those are essentially the variables in play for me regarding my choices.

And boy, is this writer ever so pleased that The 100 (2014-present), with its fourth season renewal does not make this hit list. The Superhero-dominant CW continues to have faith in The 100, its one, true, solid, shining, science fiction property and entertainment. Good, smart, worthy series can get picked up. It does happen.

My hope is that the same holds true for Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan's The Strain (2014-present) now in its third season, but planned for five, and The Expanse (2015-present) set to arrive with Season Two. Only time, and viewership, will tell.
Whoa Nelly!
Not exactly the most lethal or accurate of weapons now that I think about it. I'm not sure that's going to cut the mustard. We're going to have to do better. But hey, as a kid, you had my attention and the stories are still good!
Me want more Chaka too!


El Vox said...

One question worth asking would be which of these series was and still is worthwhile, and which ones are not. Granted that a subjective call, and if you put that up on a forum somewhere you get hundreds of different answers. Some of these series that only lasted one season also might not have been as good had they have made it to season two and beyond due to a falling off of the stories, scripts, and so forth.

I will give it to Star Trek: TOS for, generally speaking, have a pretty good run, and still holds up today as a great series. I still watch then, and now that they've remastered them, look all the better and probably appeal to a younger audience. On the other hand, you have Star Trek: Voyager, which went on for seven seasons. I was never a huge fan, though I watched a few seasons, but having achieved seven season doesn't necessarily make it "good" or at least to "my" taste.

I never really watched the original Battlestar Galactica back in the day, but I eventually bought the DVD set. They are a lot of fun, and fairly consistent. I feel the same way about Space: 1999 (though some SF fans hate the franchise), and definitely UFO. Babylon 5 was pretty consistent, though started out a bit slow. You'd have to hand it to The Twilight Zone and the original The Outer Limits for being pretty consistent SF shows. Even the old show The Invaders was handled fairly well, though I haven't seen all of the episodes, and though the BBC Prisoner was rather short lived, I think it said about all it was meaning to say, and still worthwhile. The same is true for Blake's 7.

I have others I enjoy, but others would harshly dismiss them, I'm sure, but that's personal taste for you. I was surprised that Alien Nation wasn't longer than what it was. I guess I just never realized it, though it was a good show as was the movie. I remember watching some of the older series, The War of the Worlds. It was inconsistent, but at times fairly watchable.

J.D. Lafrance said...

DARK SKIES, ALPHAS and INVASION are probably the ones I miss the most. Those really hurt and I've been burned so many times in the past that I've gotten into the habit recently of getting into show after its had its day in the sun. Of course, I went back on that oath with WAREHOUSE 13 but at least it had a decent run.

Roman J. Martel said...

Wow a really great list. Some of these shows I've never even heard of. The one I almost got on board with was "Defiance". It seemed like a really interesting concept, but I just never got around to giving it a shot. Do you know if they were able to give it a proper ending?

Francisco Gonzalez said...

Some of these shows are so Iconic, that one would think they'd last more than two seasons. Wonder Woman for example, or Battlestar Galactica. And Star Trek lasted only three? I thought that show lasted forever! Saw the first episode of Star Trek the other day, didn't know it didn't star Shatner! What a shocker for me!

Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

I liked your thoughts here El Vox. While there are some standout series those that might be deemed middling or fair might be seen otherwise by some as great. So very subjective generally speaking.

I agree that we will never know if some series would have been better or worse had they continued. And that's always an interesting speculation. We can only submit based on the evidence of what exists, the facts, and where the series might have been going for better or worse.

I think ST: TOS is a great series and could arguably have continued despite a great run of episodes. Imagine if you will a series like ST: Voyager and a shorter seasonal run of the very best writers that is so often applied to television series today. I suspect such a model would have benefitted Voyager and others immensely. Though the sheer number of episodes gives fans of that material a lot to chew on and many fans appreciate that to be sure.

Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

Dark Skies and Invasion. These are intriguing series truly cut short. They are high on my list as well.

Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

I think Defiance had a lot of potential to go in new directions with its season three ending, but it was also a nice bit of closure to a generally solid series. There was a kind of reflective tone regarding some of the relationship dynamics at the end of season three. It works generally well for what it is coupled with a great version of David Bowie's Everyone Says Hi.

Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

Imagine Star Trek without Shatner. It would have been different.