Last Updated: November 8th
In the world established by Joss Whedon’s famously canceled Firefly television series, the word “shiny” shares a connotation with the word “cool.” So whenever Captain Malcolm “Mal” Reynolds or ship’s mechanic Kaylee Frye utters it in conversation, they’re commending a particular person, place or thing for its awesomeness. That, or they’re being sarcastic — a necessary human trait thankfully not forgotten in the massive fictional future Whedon created. Either way, the co-opted adjective is all too perfect for assessing the 11 best sci-fi shows on Netflix streaming right now.
Anything ascribed to the genre of science fiction typically includes elements like imagined futures, advanced technologies, and life on faraway planets whose constellations are unrecognizable to our own. Despite these pertinent characteristics, however, sci-fi is often cobbled together with fantasy — both for the ease of categorization, and for shows whose plots benefit from their hybridity. Hence why Netflix combines them into the TV Sci-Fi & Fantasy subgenre. Not everything there is straight sci-fi, but after a little digging, a hearty helping of beloved programs and unknown nuggets will come to the fore for you to watch.
So here are the “shiniest” shows that are must watch viewings on Netflix.
Farscape (4 seasons)
While more and more good sci-fi television and film properties were streamlining their special effects via the magic of computer graphics, Rockne S. O’Bannon’s Farscape was a puppeteer’s paradise due to its production ties to The Jim Henson Company. The Australian-based program found an American home on what was then called the Sci-Fi Channel, and it was the best place for it to be. Astronaut John Crichton (Ben Browder) serves as the audience’s only human connection throughout much of the entire series. Everyone and everything else — be they puppets, persons or living ships — was alien. As a result, O’Bannon was able to build a world (and a universe) that was unlike anything else around.
Shiniest Episode: By the time “Thank God It’s Friday, Again,” the sixth episode of the first season, rolled around, O’Bannon and the writers decided to spice things up with a Dune-like scenario. So they stranded the crew on a planet whose main export a) drugged the local inhabitants into an apathetic stupor, and b) supplied the totalitarian Peacekeepers with ammunition and fuel. It also rendered Rygel’s piss explosive, which makes for an interesting visual.
The Twilight Zone (4 seasons)
Unlike Farscape, the Rod Serling classic didn’t always adhere stringently to the genre boundaries of sci-fi. Elements of fantasy and horror were also thrown into the mix on The Twilight Zone, which made for a rather complex and difficult-to-categorize show. Depending on the episode and its writer, however, the program’s best and most memorable entries almost always featured at least some significant amount of recognizable genre components. Be they miniature aliens terrorizing a single human victim or imagined aliens whose supposed invasion sends the town into a violent panic, The Twilight Zone resides appropriately at the top of Netflix’s sci-fi offerings.
Shiniest Episode: One of the series’ most famous episodes, “Eye of the Beholder” delivers one of Serling’s trademark bits of social commentaries with a significant twist at its conclusion.