It's just the right time in your life where nothing particularly interesting or noteworthy is happening, and you can safely devote many hours to binge-watching a TV show or ten. You take one last look at the blinking lights of the spaceship outside and close the curtains, asking your robot to bring you the remote and a light snack. Gliding over to your couch using your latest pair of hoverboots, you sit next to the clone of your best friend, wondering what to put on.
Wonder no longer, people, as these are the 14 best science fiction shows currently streaming on Netflix. They're just waiting for you to upload them into your eye sockets and dwell within the frames until the apocalypse comes and wipes us all away. I bet Netflix will still be around, though.
There is no brighter future for mankind than Matt Groening's colorful masterpiece Futurama, a show with a seemingly endless universe of story ideas that helped keep it refreshingly funny for at least as long as The Simpsons' golden era, with the help of being more spread out over the years, thanks to cancellations and direct-to-DVD movies. With writing that felt smart even when it was dumbed down for Fry, and a voice cast as strong as any cast in TV history, Futurama belongs in the annals of Shows That Every Human Being Must Watch, so that we can chain them up in front of the Hypnotoad should they not laugh uproariously. P. S. Hey, Netflix, we're still hoping you'll be the place that finally picks Futurama up for another season.
Available for streaming: All 7 seasons, plus the 4 Direct-To-DVD movies
Fox has housed a lot of great dramas over the years, but none have inspired a fandom nearly as strong and dedicated as The X-Files, a show that made most of the 1990s even creepier and more paranoid than they already were. David Duchovny always made us want to join in his beliefs that things are never what they seem, and Gillian Anderson always made us want to take a step back and bring a level head to the situation. Even with a weak final season that saw Robert Patrick step into the Mulder-sized hole, The X-Files is a cornerstone of the sci-fi on the small screen, with a mix of procedural and serialized narratives that allowed it to dip into other genres quite freely and enjoyably.
Available for streaming: All 9 seasons of the original run, though this year's revival has yet to make it.
The Twilight Zone
Anthology series are part of a TV trend that gives both creative minds and audiences a constant change of pace, and you won't find many who will say there's a better example out there than The Twilight Zone, the imaginative masterwork of macabre logic from Rod Serling. While the later series revivals had their merits, Serling wrote the (alien cook)book on spinning twisty yarns into spine-tingling suspense, and he is perhaps television's answer to Aesop or the Brothers Grimm. Some episodes are more forgettable than others, of course, but the classics are too memorable to list here on this website of sight and sound. You'll never look at an airplane wing the same way again.
Available for streaming: Seasons 1-3, Season 5
For my money, I'd much rather see a baffling sci-fi concept go into development, with either success or failure fated, than so many of the tried-and-true concepts that come up during each TV season. Netflix's own original series Sense8 is just such a complicated project; a globe-spanning and mind-swapping tale that connects a diverse group of interesting people in unexplainable ways to keep a dangerous threat at bay. From the epic-minded imaginations of the Wachowskis and genre icon J. Michael Straczynski, Sense8 utilizes a rich ensemble cast and consistently gorgeous cinematography to anchor its difficult-but-worthy structure, giving viewers something truly unlike anything else on TV while giving the structure a just-right amount of spirituality.
Available for streaming: The one and only current season.
It's not a bird. It's not a plane. It's not the bus from Speed, either. It's Barry Allen, a.k.a. The Flash, and he's got a city to save. Fortunately for those who embrace all things fantastical, The Flash is the best example of sci-fi superhero storytelling on TV, with an almost alarming lack of hesitation to run head-first into all manner of time travel, genetic manipulation, dimensional rifts, etc. Add to that the plethora of metahuman villains and 90-degree plot twists The Flash has to offer, and you've got a fast-paced (what else?) drama that wears its sometimes dark heart on its very bright sleeves. There are few more whole-hearted core ensembles out there, as well.
Available for streaming: Season 1 currently.
Coming at a time when TV and the Internet irreversibly collided, Lost was seemingly the most applauded and most derided thing happening in pop culture for the extent of its six-season run. (Okay, maybe the scales were tipped to naysayers for the last two seasons or so.) But the plethora of jokes, thinkpieces and hindsight-awakenings still can't take away from the plot-scampering majesty that was Lost in its early years. There was something so unique about the unbounded mysteries driven as much by character development as plot at times, and there's no blame to be slammed on those who stuck it out until that shoestring-knot of an ending. Because smoke monsters and hatch countdowns and Desmond Hume are cool, dammit.
Available for streaming: All six seasons, with each differing in binge-ability.
While science fiction can often be too heady, too detailed or too removed from familiar life, Joss Whedon knew that his swagnum opus Firefly could win over viewers by building on its genre premise with the swashbuckling action of old movie serials combined with the mindset of classic westerns. Unfortunately, a huge chunk of those viewers didn't show up until long after the series had already been cancelled. (Not even Serenity taught us a lesson.) But the lack of a second season takes nothing away from this stellar batch of episodes that inspire laughter, tension, awe and the urge to become a hero as soon as possible. In Nathan Fillion, we trust.
Available for streaming: The only season that got made. Thanks, Fox.
Comparisons to The Twilight Zone were inevitable when Charlie Brooker's novel British tech-central thriller Black Mirror shocked audiences upon its premiere. After all, it's a thought-provoking anthology series from a brainy storyteller far ahead of his TV time, and the sordid tales do contain a hint of satirical irony. But Black Mirror pushes every envelope that was deemed unpushable in Rod Serling's days, and these stories offer up a sometimes stunningly haunting reflection of humanity's obsession with technology and the aspects of society that advance as the tech does. Thankfully, Netflix is footing the bill for more episodes in the future that will no doubt have us watching from behind our android-gynous fingers.
Available for streaming: Both current seasons, as well as the Jon Hamm-starring Christmas special.
We should all be so lucky that only a relatively small number of amazing series get cancelled too soon, but when it comes to the gripping post-apocalyptic drama Jericho, that's a pretty dismal brand of luck. The Skeet Ulrich-fronted series is the posterchild of fandom saving a show from cancellation, since the rabidly outspoken online community actually did convince CBS to lend the show a Season 2 olive branch before ending it for good. (Outside of comic books.) Jericho played up the interesting social and governmental side of a country torn apart by a nuclear attack. It had the potential story-wise to go on at least as long as The Walking Dead has, with a completely different take on the sub-genre.
Available for streaming: Those two seasons. Those two lonely seasons.
Star Trek: The Next Generation
No matter what Star Trek TV show I put as the header, a sizeable subsection of the fanbase would take aim with their phasers. Such is the "problem" facing a franchise that has offered up multiple small screen iterations that amassed dedicated viewerships years after the fact. It just so happens Star Trek: The Next Generation was the first "modern" entry, with this cast serving as the next era of the film series as well, so the characters have a wider reach. Should I spend this long defending an arbitrary choice, considering Netflix has all the seasons of all the Star Trek series? Blame it on Frakes.
Available for streaming: All 7 seasons.
After The Hunger Games adorned the cultural zeitgeist with "young adults' heroism in the face of an apocalypse," almost everything else felt like a knockoff. Even The 100, which has surprisingly become The CW's edgiest and most politically charged genre series. It started with the "okay, guys" concept of teenagers dropping down onto a long-ravaged Earth to scope things out for humanity's survival, but has expanded that scope considerably, creating suspense and danger with each new detail that's revealed about this new Earth and those in the ship high above it. It's only getting better as the story and characters get fleshed out, and The CW has been smart enough to recognize how hardcore its (admittedly limited) viewer base is. Join it.
Available for streaming: Seasons 1 and 2
Away from his Lost crew, J.J. Abrams hit the sci-fi genre in a much more direct and less implode-y way with Fox's Fringe, a cult favorite (read: eventually low-rated) drama that lasted five years despite parenthetically referenced low ratings. Taking a cue from The X-Files before it - not just on this list - Fringe enhanced its initial week-to-week stories with more serialized arcs, adding much depth to the characters and mythology. The cast was forever solid in the middle of increasingly warped stories of time travel and alternate universes. And if you're like me, you pictured Joshua Jackson's Peter getting romantic with Katie Holmes' character from Disturbing Behavior, though that particular notebook of fan-fiction isn't streaming.
Available for streaming: All 5 seasons.
The Walking Dead
While network ratings have dropped in recent years, The Walking Dead became (non)living proof that a cable show could draw the kinds of monster ratings, especially in the key demographic, that just about any broadcast network would kill for. And it's because, for the most part, there's a really solid story happening at the heart of this zombie drama, based in large part of Robert Kirkman's comic book source material. The Walking Dead is often blockbuster TV, with expertly crafted special effects and tension-oozing action sequences, many of which end in the death of one major character or another. Plus, the half-seasonal tonal switches provide refreshing new takes on the ever-burgeoning narrative. Come for the gore, stay for the Eugene and Abraham.
Available for streaming: Seasons 1-5
We've talked about awesome sci-fi vehicles we'd love to get all up in - and my personal wish would be for a ride in the phone booth with Bill and Ted - but it's easy to forget in those conversations that Dr. Sam Beckett didn't need any vehicles to go on his journeys. Quantum Leap remains a fairly one-of-a-kind adventure that, while I wouldn't want to jinx things by saying "reboot," should at the very least inspire more of NBC's genre offerings. A fun, funny and sometimes incisive look at one man altering many histories to save his own, Quantum Leap is equally memorable for the timeless lead pairing of Scott Bakula and Dean Stockwell.
Available for streaming: All 5 seasons.