Last Updated: January 4th
In the world established by Joss Whedon’s famously canceled Firefly television series (which is sadly no longer available on Netflix), 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 10 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.
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.
Ascension (1 season)
With its tangible basis in the historical reality of President John F. Kennedy’s space-driven administration, the six-part Syfy miniseries Ascension imagines a scenario in which a secret mission was launched by the United States during the ’60s to colonize another planet. This narrative conceit allows for a story that is both retro and futuristic, a pseudo “Mad Men in space” in which a murder sends the ship into a tailspin just over 50 years into its 100-year mission. Of course, like any well-written science fiction television show, Ascension offers a few good twists to tease its viewers along until the very end. Some, like the reality (or lack thereof) of the ship itself as easy to foretell, while others remain hidden.
Shiniest Episode: Because of the ’60s throwbacks, Ascension‘s futurity isn’t all that weird until you reach the fourth episode. That’s when the true nature of Christa Valis (Ellie O’Brien), a child born on board the ship, is revealed — both to the audience, and to the other inhabitants on the USS Ascension.