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September 09 2008

Firefly is one of EW.com's '20 Greatest Sci-Fi TV Shows'. It came in at number seven, beating the likes of Doctor Who and Babylon 5.

Oh yeah, I am so ready to jump on this. First, yay for EW, for always being there with the Joss love. But otherwise?

Firefly only number seven?? Behind .... OK, to avoid specifically insulting anyone's beloved show that I personally think sucks, let me put it this way: I don't think Firefly should be second to anything, except BSG, which I quite passionately believe belongs in the number one spot (hey, any of these other shows got a Peabody?) ;)

And major issues with The Twilight Zone and (original) Star Trek as numbers 1 & 2. Come on guys, nostalga only goes so far. And the original ST is as cheesy as Dr. Who (see, I made a point to be an equal opportunity, international insulter).

And no DS9 love? I actually don't have much myself, but it's surely more deserving than Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. (I gave up long ago on any recognition for Voyager, the ST franchise is just too much of a boys club).
It took B5 to bring women into roles of genuine strength and power in the genre. And so, on to my next gripe .... B5 at #13, behind such enduring works as The Jetsons and Six Million Dollar Man??? SO not right.

And of course I believe Torchwood should be on the list, since this is a list that obviously knows that the UK exists.

OK, that felt great. I really needed a good rant. ;-)
Torchwood? I have only seen season 1, but basing it on that it certainly doesn't merit any place on this list. It was mediocre at best and the season finale was definitely the worst piece of TV I have ever endured, hence not watching season 2.

Having said that though, many of my friends thought season 2 was all kinds of awesome, so who am I to judge?
Torchwood? I have only seen season 1, but basing it on that it certainly doesn't merit any place on this list. It was mediocre at best and the season finale was definitely the worst piece of TV I have ever endured, hence not watching season 2.


As much as I love Torchwood (one of my favorite shows ever), even I was underwhelmed by the season 1 finale. The only worse season 1 ep is the much (and for the most part deservedly), maligned Cyberwoman, an episode so bad it could only be considered halfway decent in comparison to it's source material, IMO.
(Note the polite IMO, a nice thing to add when making statements as extreme as "the worst piece of TV I have ever endured).

On the other hand, the season 2 TW finale was one of the best finales ever, IMO. Even though they killed off my favorite character, an act for which I may never forgive them (withholding final judgment until i see what season 3 looks like, but I will be sulking for a very long time, over that particular loss).
Half the "modern" concepts that show up in current sci-fi can be found in The Twilight Zone". It's the vanguard of good writing as far as TV genre goes. Good pick for #1, IMO. Our BDH coulda stood to be a bit higher, but that a "failed" TV show got on the list at all.... Shiny!
I don't think Firefly should be second to anything, except BSG, which I quite passionately believe belongs in the number one spot (hey, any of these other shows got a Peabody?) ;)

And major issues with The Twilight Zone and (original) Star Trek as numbers 1 & 2


'Our Mrs. Reynolds' was Firefly's 'To Serve Mal' episode ;).
Not a terrible list as these things go, quite eclectic. I'd juggle the order a bit as usual (i'd have 'Babylon 5' and 'The Prisoner' higher and 'Buck Rogers' not at all, cheesy fun though it may have been when you're 10, DS9 deserves to be on there much more) but 'Twilight Zone' still stands up today IMO (better than ST:TOS anyway - a few truly classic episodes aside) and it's clearly the foundation of a lot of TV sci-fi.

Quite interesting comment about 'Doctor Who' being "a post-empire fantasy" because I think The Doctor himself is straight out of an Empire mentality, very Victorian in his implication of the (supposedly) unerring superiority of what is, basically, an authoritarian British male (he's kind of the tail-end of the whole stiff-upper lip, "playing fields of Eton" mentality, like Giles in fiction and maybe Stephen Fry in real life). One of the things i've loved about the new series is how they question that assumed superiority and cast his arrogance as a double edged sword, sometimes appealing and sometimes disturbing in different contexts (whereas previously it was only really The Doctor that could question his own actions). The rest of their remarks show they really "get" it too.

I'd also add "Blake's 7" as a sort of proto-Firefly, like Who it also had crappy effects but with a refreshingly gritty take on sci-fi in general and the whole "ragtag criminal band" trope in particular.

It was mediocre at best and the season finale was definitely the worst piece of TV I have ever endured, hence not watching season 2.

C'mon, 'Cyberwoman' (episode 4) was the worst piece of TV you'd ever seen, surely ? ;) Series 2 gets much better IMO Vortigun, the comedic timing and dialogue works much better, the characters are better rounded, stories more interesting, swearing and sex placed in a more realistic context (and all the better for it) - worth checking out if you can scrub (most of) series 1 from your mind. I've said before that it's very probably the most improved second series of a show i've seen, still true I reckon.
Well I thought Cyberman was better since there were actual consequences to the episode, there was an impact on the rest of the season, whereas the finale was just a classic sci-fi reset, with no consequences and no character development at all.

Also, sorry Shey! I thought it was clear that I was only stating my opinion, didn't mean any offense.
True I guess, even if the consequences either weren't followed through on (much as i'dve missed Ianto in series 2, if Jack had actually shot him for dereliction of duty as he'd threatened to the episode could maybe have been rescued and the series given a much edgier tone) or amounted to Ianto moaning and sulking like a child despite the fact that he'd placed the entire world in jeopardy.

(and there are consequences to the finale in series 2 from a character perspective in that the others are kind of pissed off that Jack just, y'know, pissed off ;)
Shey, you may think the original Star Trek and Twilight Zone are in there for nostalgia, but if you take your Whedon blinkers off for a couple of seconds you will realise that both those shows completely changed the face of their genres, and their influence echos through the decades, all the way through to - yes - Firefly. These guys wrote the book, and just because their scant budgets (even for the 60's) don't hold up to the hi-def age, doesn't mean their impact should be forgotten. Think of the Trek episodes that dealt with racsim, sexism IN THE SIXTIES. This was a show that talked about what you couldn't talk about and it did a run around the censors by dressing it up in fun, action adventure. Martin Luther King told Nichelle Nichols it was the only show he could let his children watch. It was great fun. thought provoking and socially relevant. It deserves it's place on the list, and if you can't see where the Twilight Zone has contributed to your viweing pleasure you're just not paying attention.

In 20 years, someone will do a list like this, and put Buffy The Vampire Slayer in a high position and someone else is going to accuse the list-makers of putting it on there only for nosalgia. You are going to tear your hair out trying to explain that just because acting styles, effects and story lines have evolved here in 2028, it doesn't diminish the influence of that mighty series. Not to mention the fact that it all still holds up
Yeah, I don't think Firefly deserves to be higher then any of the shows after it on the list. Don't get me wrong, I love, love, love Firefly but it's just a blink of the greatness it could have been. Because it's so short it has less impact than the others. It's right where it should be, on the edge, just teetering outside of greatness range. Some people will argue Lost and they may have their points but I think it's better then Firefly. Of course, had Firefly lasted I have no doubt in my mind that it would be at least my second favorite show. It would have usurped Buffy. I doubt it would have taken The X-Files down for my top spot but it would have had the best shot that's how good and promising those fourteen episodes were.

But overall, pretty good list. I would have left out Heroes since I don't think it deserves much but otherwise, solid enough. I'd have thought Farscape would have made it though. And it's hard for me to see BSG as anything but number one. In my book it is the best sci-fi show ever but then I always forget about The Twilight Zone and how much it did for the genre, as much as I love it. I'm just young and naive is all.

And Stargate. Sure, it was nothing new but it has to count for something.

And Futurama should probably have been on there too.
I'll probably lose my Browncoat for this, but I have to say that Firefly shouldn't have beaten out Doctor Who. It would be one thing if it were a more recent show, but we're talking something that has 40+ years of history. I love my BDH's as much as anyone, but one must have a little perspective.

Glad Firefly made the list though, as well as Torchwood (and while I agree there were moments in season one that weren't up to snuff, we also have to remember have to remember episodes like "Random Shoes" and "Captain Jack Harkness", which IMO, was some of the best TV I'd watched that year).
Torchwood didn't make the list.

And yeah, I'd say Who is probably the only thing that should be higher just because. It's as influential as both Star Trek and The Twilight Zone combined.
That's a terrible list. Farscape needs to be on it--preferably in the top five, definitely in the top 10. I would not put Heroes on the list. It's an ok show and I certainly enjoy watching it, but I don't think it qualifies as "best." And Quantum Leap? Both my husband and I thought Quantum Leap was one of the best shows ever (he's 32 and I'm 28), so we decided to rewatch the whole series together. Turns out, there are like three good episodes and the rest are rather bad.
I'd better not re-watch 'Quantum Leap' then cos I really liked it when it was first on ;).

And yeah, I'd say Who is probably the only thing that should be higher just because. It's as influential as both Star Trek and The Twilight Zone combined.

Only in the UK though i'd say, elsewhere - especially in the US - Trek/Zone is a much bigger influence (and in fairness, it's a list of '20 Greatest ...' not '20 Most Influential ...'). I'd still probably put Who above Firefly but only because, as others have said, 'Firefly' was, sadly, all too short.

As a Brit i'd question how much (if any) influence UK sci-fi TV has had in the US. In books yes, the whole "new-wave" in sci-fi was, if not led, then at least heavily promoted by Michael Moorcock but in TV i'm doubtful - even the tone is quite different usually with US sci-fi TV generally being grander and more optimistic and British stuff being smaller and grimmer. Might be way off base of course, maybe one of the cousins can shed some light ;).
I think it's fantastic that a show that counts only 14 episodes can make the top 10 of a "greatest ever" list at all. I mean, really: it's AMAZING.

As for the list itself, it's just a list. I happen to like most of those shows but I don't need EW or others to tell me they're good, you know? It just tells me I could have a very nice and geeky conversation with the person who compiled it :)
Shey, you may think the original Star Trek and Twilight Zone are in there for nostalgia, but if you take your Whedon blinkers off for a couple of seconds you will realise that both those shows completely changed the face of their genres, and their influence echos through the decades, all the way through to - yes - Firefly. These guys wrote the book, and just because their scant budgets (even for the 60's) don't hold up to the hi-def age, doesn't mean their impact should be forgotten.
Andy Dufresne | September 09, 12:45 CET


Whoa ... no "Whedon blinkers" involved, I seriously believe that Firefly is better than any show on the list, except BSG, which is in a class by itself.
I do understand the incalculable influence of The Twilight Zone and the original Star Trek, although I believe that the influence of the ST franchise has much more to do with popularizing the genre .... making it somewhat more acceptable to the mainstream .... than with actual quality.
As for TTZ, certainly the quality was there, for the time period. But it's just so dated. I do admit to a bias for contemporary shows (but believe me, it has nothing to do with age, because I'm actually ancient (trust me on this) ;)

I just always have to throw in my two cents on these "list" debates, because I have this strong feeling that really dated shows should be in a separate category. Certainly recognized for being "ground breaking", but just not in the same ballpark as the shows they broke ground for.
As in, how can you really justify rating TTZ a "better" show than BSG? Nothing to do with special effects, everything to do with TV maturing and tackling deeper issues, with more subtlety.

But then I'm one who has long believed it's high time Citizen Kane got knocked off the top of every "best movie of all time" list, and used to create a new category of something along the lines of, best examples of "ground breaking film technique".

Back to the genre, you'd have to tie me up and force me to keep my eyes open, to get me through Metropolis. So yeah, I do have a bias for the contemporary. But not in a manner that takes anything away from the "ground breakers", I just think it's time to look at the idea of creating different categories.
And yes, I realize it's just a pop culture list, this just happens to be a subject that fascinates me.

Not picking on you, BTW (I only pick on people who hate Torchwood, and then, only when I think I can get away with it). ;)
Just the opposite, I found your post really interesting and thought provoking. So much so that I'll save this for another post (if i can find time):
Dr. King aside and taking into consideration the fact that late twentieth century feminism was barely a gleam in Gloria Steinem's eye in the sixties, I think the originial Star Trek was blatantly sexist. :)
Also, sorry Shey! I thought it was clear that I was only stating my opinion, didn't mean any offense.
Vortigun | September 09, 11:02 CET

None taken. I'm just knee-jerk defensive at the moment (dysfunctional family-from-hell issues). :)


'Our Mrs. Reynolds' was Firefly's 'To Serve Mal' episode ;).
Simon | September 09, 10:42 CET

Damn your twisted sense of humor, Simon, I know there's a reference there that I can't quite get hold of & I'm gonna have a great big "duuh" moment, when I finally catch it.
Either that, or you're just fucking with my head. ;-)
Shey,

Yeah it was sexist. Roddenberry, like Jim Gordon, had to work with what he could. His first Trek pilot was canned for - among other reasons - putting a woman in the number 2 spot. Go through the original series, for every short skirt you'll see Kirk with his shirt off. Roddenberry evened the score whenever he could. But there's only so much you can do with one hand tied behined your back.

Treasure the snowflake that is Uhura. She outranks 97% of the ship, and Roddenberry deflects the bigots from that fact by giving her the Receptionist role. You see how clever that is? To play to the male prejudice and at the same time put a BLACK, woman officer on the bridge? When restaurants were seperating black from white, Roddenberry had a commisioned black woman whose name means "Freedom" in Swahili.
Ah yes, that is a different perspective. And I didn't know that, about the name Uhura. Sneaky bugger, that Roddenberry. :)
To Serve Man

And yay to everything Andy Dufresne said. Star Trek is just plain good. It's not nostalgia that makes it so. The Kirk-Spock dynamic is magic, add McCoy and it's even better.

Seriously. I occasionally catch one of those remastered episodes and realize I've forgotten how good it was.
Could they have picked a more awkward cast photo for that list? I cant quite figure out what River is wearing, and are those cornrows??
Thanks for the link jam2, I never would have gotten that one, Twilight Zone eps not being exactly on the tip of my brain.

*Grumbles at Simon for discriminating against the uninformed.* ;)
I have always considered Twilight Zone the greatest science fiction show, and have no quibbles with it and Star Trek being top of the list. I would have rated Doctor Who much higher, but I wouldn't have expected that in an American list anyway.

I think seventh for a thirteen episode series is pretty darn respectable.
I say that Firefly should be much closer to the top... had it been finished. The show was only just coming into its own. And yes, original Trek and Twilight Zone belong quite high on that list, if not necessarily at the top.

Then again, if I'd written that list, I think I'd have five or six shows tied for number 2 and nothing in the #1 spot. I don't know of any flawless SF shows (Firefly's chief flaw being there just isn't that much of it.)
True, no show is perfect but surely, as with any ranked list, whatever's at number 1 is just the least flawed (in the list compiler's opinion) not necessarily perfect ?
To echo what others have said above...
* Farscape deserves a spot. Somewhere. I think it did the best job of giving us truly alien aliens.
* Quantum Leap doesn't deserve to beat The Prisoner *or* Babylon5. Frankly, I doubt that Lost does, either, but I haven't watched a single episode and don't WANT to know. If I ever watch it, it will be after it's cancelled and I can Netflix it as fast as I can watch it. To quote my favorite Spanish swordsmen, I hate waiting.
* Does MST3K belong on the list? Given the other shows that were left off, I'd drop it without prejudice--not that it wasn't good, but simply because there isn't room for it.
* Should "Space 1999" be on the list? I'm curious--I haven't watched it yet.
* It would have been nice to get some Space: Above and Beyond love, but it's fundamentally not a sci-fi show. It's a war show set in the future.
Should "Space 1999" be on the list?


Only because they have a planet called Luton.
If LOST and Heroes gets to play in the list, where's BtVS and Angel?
Love that Firefly got on there but not feeling the love for Joss' other shows.
I agree with the list up to Lost. I love Lost a lot, but I would probably put Doctor Who in that slot, and put Lost right after Firefly.

I really think that the list is pretty good for the top 10, but the other 10, I don't know. Babylon 5 is a brilliant show and probably deserves to be in the #9 slot. Farscape really NEEDS to be on there as well, since not only is it a true cult series, but it's one of the most consistently imaginative TV shows I've ever followed. Deep Space Nine, while not as widely loved as TNG or TOS, is also terrific television.

As for Firefly deserving to be higher on the list.. I don't know. The shortlived nature of the show is a major sticking point, and on top of that, as great as it is, it really is tremendously cult, more so than anything before it. The top three are just about perfect, but I think putting X-Files, and The Next Generation in front of Firefly makes sense considering how mainstream they managed to be despite their genre nature.

I'm not saying that "mainstream" or "long runs" make the shows objectively better. Rather, any sci-fi show that manages to find such a broad core audience probably deserves recognition.
Original Star Trek and TNG but no DS9?! Seriously?! Buck Rogers?! Yeah, I liked it when it was originally on - and I was five. But honestly, original BSG holds up far better to adult viewing than this thing, and, Pamela Hensley's hotness aside ;), more deserves to be on this list than Buck freakin' Rogers.

Love the Firefly love, of course, but some of these choices are, IMO, ludicrous.
Farscape ++
Lost --
Jetsons --
I'd compress all of the Star Treks into one entry.
This is obviously a 'fun' list as opposed to a 'serious' list, or we wouldn't be seeing either Buck Rogers or The Jetsons (even the Boston Globe only rated Buck #47). I wouldn't include Lost either because they haven't yet proved to me that it's not fantasy instead of SF. Other than that, I don't have too much of a problem with it, as long as those are replaced with Farscape and either Now and Again or Stargate SG-1 or maybe Space: Above and Beyond or possibly Lost in Space or less likely The Time Tunnel or not really It's About Time ;-).
In regards to Buffy and Angel, I don't think they're sci-fi so much as fantasy. They really wouldn't fit. I guess you could argue Lost if you didn't know much about the show. Sure, everyone knows that it's mysterious but how many that just toss it aside know about how much the sci-fi elements of the show have evolved. I don't want to spoil things here so I won't go into it but if you want to research lostpedia.com is the best resource. It deserves it's spot if only because it's so subtle in it's ways. It manages to be so many things at once without feeling forced. Plus, it's just darn fun to watch and don't even get me started on analyzing it. Character studies and theme analysis. Wonderful.

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