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September 03 2010

How to get into 20 classic science fiction shows: The ultimate guide. An inherently controversial guide for the un-initiated.

Well, I happen to love and adore LOST and not think the finale was really all that bad. It's a brilliant show! My second favorite of all time after Buffy. Interesting article, but I'm kind of a purist when it comes to tv shows I watch. I have to watch EVERY single episode of them. Also, I thought BSG began to go downhill after Season 2, though I certainly still really enjoyed parts of Seasons 3 and 4..
"Safe" is one of those weird episodes where taken as a whole it's sort of "what?" but still has some of the greatest moments of the series: River dancing, River pulling a prank on her bro and "you gave up everything you had/everything I have is right here" etc, Shepherd Book secret, Mal's "your on my crew" and Simon's smile, BIG DAMN HEROES, and of course, "Light it".
And I could never get into Star Trek (any of it), which I guess makes me a bad geek :( I really tried though!
Yeah... not going for it. But then, I've found that I much prefer seeing things after they've been canceled and are available on DVD (Which I've done with Buffy, Angel, Firefly, Babylon 5, Veronica Mars, Farscape, SG-1, Atlantis, and The Prisoner so far) instead of watching them week-to-week, like I did with BSG and Dollhouse and am still doing with SGU. I don't *mind* it when a first season takes a bit to take off--I didn't mind Buffy S1, nor Babylon 5 S1 either. What does frustrate me is when something never really gets any good, and/or it's got a few flashes of brilliance and then languishes in mediocrity forever.
"Seriously, what is it about science fiction shows getting really good in their third seasons? If this is actually a general rule of science fiction, I'm a little scared to imagine how good Firefly would have gotten if it had survived another couple of years."

Dammit, dammit, dammit. The wounds haven't healed, so the salt still hurts. *Sulks*

I completely agree about Stargate SG-1 being hard to get into. I've tried, but I never managed to make it out of the first season. I always start at the beginning of a show, but maybe in this case I should just skip the first season like the article suggested, since it's incredibly boring for the most part. Which is sad, as I like the overall Stargate premise. Good ideas, bad show (SG1) least that's what I got from my impressions of the first season.

Also, it's been a while since I watched them, but I enjoyed the first season of Babylon ; I didn't have a big problem with the early Dollhouse episodes; and I thought Angel had some great early episodes, that were really atmospheric and dark. Although I would agree that Angel grew from there. It's been a while, so I can't say how the seasons themselves compare, but what I'm saying is there were some really good individual episodes in Angel season 1.
I disagree with so much of that... On the face of it, I think it's entirely unfair for you to judge a series if you haven't watched the entire series. Start at the beginning and have some patience.

But to my specific disagreements, Shindig was probably one of my favorite episodes in Firefly, and although "Safe" was probably one of the worst, that's like being the "worst" team in the national championship - you're still freaking awesome. (Unless you have a crappy system like the BCS, but that's a different matter)

Anyway, I also think you can't skip any of Dollhouse. I notice new things each time I watch the episodes, and I've watched the series start to finish about three times now.

The same holds true for DS9. No show (That I've watched) has ever been as interconnected and as consistently awesome over such a long period of time. (Sorry, Buffy fans, Buffy is certainly good, but DS9 takes the cake in my book. But I've never been a fan of mystical/supernatural much.) In fact, the reason DS9 failed was almost entirely due to the fact that it was pre-TiVo, and people couldn't watch every single episode, and if you missed one, you were pretty lost.

As for TNG, don't bother watching seasons. They're not interconnected. Just google what everyone thinks the best episodes are, and watch them individually. There were too many terrible episodes mixed in with the incredibly awesome ones.

And really, you should just skip Enterprise entirely. There wasn't a single episode worth watching, but the Temporal Cold War ones were the best ones in the series. (Again: I like long plot arcs.)
Actually, I've been meaning to give "Babylon 5" a watch. Keep hearing so much about it. From what I read, sounds to be a pretty excellent series. Will try to pick it up soon.
it's nice that they make a list, but I don't like to do that. I'd rather watch the full series, the sucky episodes and the awesome ones.
usually because these lists are way too subjective and I see that when they include shows I've watched.
I'd rather make my own mind up.
It's a pretty comprehensive list (the type that will eat your life). How will I ever get to watch the stuff I want to watch in this list, my current tv list, and the sci-fi movies that they recommended and be a productive human being?

Oh, and I remember watching TNG when I was around 5 years old and thinking that it was the most awesome thing ever (I also thought the same way about MacGyver). Glad to see my five-year-old self had awesome taste.
This list is silly and okelay knows it.

"Watch this show! Actually, only watch half of it."

Personally, I appreciated the list. *two thumbs up* There is only so much time in my life to invest in watching tv shows; it's nice to have someone point me towards episodes that will help me decide whether they are worth it or not.

There is always someone who thinks differently than you do.
Interesting list. Kienen it's odd that you say that about season one of SG-1 and Babylon 5. Because honestly, I think they both suffer from the same problem, unestablished voices and as such I tend to regard them the same way. SG1 is a great show, but it is a very specific type of show (and certainly not the type I associate with a majority of the fanbase here.)

Madhatter, I couldn't recommend you watch anything more. Unless you can name other series you haven't watched in which case I might know something else. My recommendation is ignore what the the list says. Just buckle your seatbelts for S1 because it IS bumpy and in some spots quite poor. But I don't think you can really appreciate G'Kar and Londo without knowing them at the beginning because they change so much. Their arc is quite possibly my favorite of the series and I need Season 1 for it to work for me at least.

Also, I do hate that people think you can skip the first 5 episodes of Dollhouse. In some ways I get what they're saying (because they're not spectacularly entertaining), but in others, you're missing quite a lot of charecter meat in them. The Echo/Boyd, Echo/Dominic, and Topher relationships are really built in those episodes. Also the oft forgotten fact that Ballard is obsessed with the Dollhouse before he knows anything about Caroline. Essentially, starting at MOTS still allows you to follow the story, but I'd argue your understanding of the charecters would suffer considerably.

That said, everything they're saying is consistent with the actual premise that those starting points make it easier to get into the show :) So I have no point.

[ edited by azzers on 2010-09-04 04:42 ]
Skip Angel season two, you say? Pfffft, sez I.
*Likes This* Wait... what site am I on now?
That point they made about Firefly season 3 is friggin' BRUTALLY accurate. It would have been the greatest show in the history of history itself! I cry myself to sleep sometimes, knowing it'll never happen. Damn you, FOX!!

I have to disagree, though: "Shindig" was AWESOME!

As for the rest of the list, yeah, I'm of the opinion that you should watch the series from the start, not cut and paste.
Angel Season 2 was one of my favorites! The Darla/Angel dynamic was fantastic, that's what convinced me the show had depth.

BSG - I have to agree with his recommendation to skip "Black Market" and "The Woman King," they were poor episodes. It seems like the creative team took a vacation and let the interns have the reins.

Dollhouse - Don't skip an episode. Topher and Adelle made the show for me and I loved their relationship.
I watch everything I watch - that is, all of it, in order, skipping none. I am a completeist, and the things I like, I like very much. Watching all of a TV show (or reading a series) in order gives you the builds, the dips, the highs, the varying notes of development - without which it would be not so much music as one or two big long notes. So - thankee but no thanks.

And yeah, skip Angel Two? Bugger that for some bad advice. (I'm on a re-watch and in the middle of "Dead End" as we speak.)

Can't imagine missing the whole Darla arc - which is much of the season. Skip some of the best - bar none - episodes of television? - Darla getting re-vamped after her epiphany? and then: "Reunion" and "Redefinition"?!

I don't think so. Among a slew of other reasons, you'd miss the the second instance of:

"And yet, somehow, I just can't seem to care."


ETF: The Usual Typos. Several times.

[ edited by QuoterGal on 2010-09-04 06:20 ]
What QG said. Squared (at least).
I don't really see the point of the article. You want to get into a show, you watch it from the beginning and decide for yourself what the best and worst seasons are. That article is one person's opinion and the idea that the opinion of one person is going to be applicable to everyone is simply ridiculous.

And speaking from my own perspective, I find that person's tastes quite questionable anyway. Angel season 2 is my favorite season and I honestly don't see how you can fully appreciate the story being told over the course of a show if you skip seasons anyway. And did that person really write off Torchwood as worthless except for the Children of Earth mini-series? Really? Seriously?
First, I have to add to the Shindig love - great episode.
(of course if you asked me to pick my least favorite episode, I'd make you watch all of them with me twice before telling you we were going to have watch them again before I could begin to decide ;)

Second, I have to do my shows in order and complete. How can you be a true fan if you can't talk about and compare the brilliant episodes with the ones that come up a little short? With some shows I might agree there is a time to stop watching before the actual end, but usually the curiosity will keep me tuning in.
Yeah, I'm a completist myself (currently working my way through an Untouchables marathon) but I definitely get BreathesStory's point about lack of time/having a life being a major factor. Ideally you'd watch everything - and in the proper order - but in less than ideal circumstances, having something like an established fan perspective on where to go first can be useful (at the very least for giving you a sense of the general dramatic character of the show in question)
"And yet, somehow, I just can't seem to care."

My favorite moment in "Angel" Season 2. Much of the set-up for Season 3 happened in Season 2. You can't just skip it.

As for the list, while there was a lot of mention of "Firefly," it should have been part of the list (in place of "Enterprise" perhaps - because we're talking diamonds vs. dung here.

Also, "Farscape" should have been on the list instead of MST3K or "Voyager."

[ edited by Nebula1400 on 2010-09-04 06:42 ]
While I can understand skipping season one of Angel to some degree (although, not really) I can't for the life of me understand why someone would say to skip season two! That's by far one of the best seasons along with season three! Season four while still good became a slight bit of a mess, but it gave us season five - which while I do enjoy I'm not one who thinks it was the best season.

Maybe it's Cordy. Maybe it's Maybelline.
Wait, when did Angel season two get tossed into this mix? All this time, I was thinking I was nuts, now not so sure. Not so sure I like the compensation. Oh, whatever....

azzers, you've sold me. I'll give it a watch. Oh, don't go anywhere, I'm sure I've a ton of questions. Isn't like I know where you lurk :)

Hey Tim!
I can't understand why they said skip season 2 of Angel, either. It had some of the best arcs and set the tone for the rest of the series, IMO.

Also, I liked Stargate SG-1, up until the 5th season.

[ edited by menomegirl on 2010-09-04 07:32 ]
I agree with Tim! Miss Angel season 2?! Then wouldn't you miss the whole Pylea adventure? And somewhere in season 1 or 2 was when Angel imagined himself dancing...
That was season 1, quacky. But it was wicked funny, wasn't it?
Sorry, but you can't skip Angel season 1 or 2. There are just too many good episodes in there - Rm w/a Vu, Five by Five and Sanctuary in season 1 are not to be missed.
On the subject of Firefly, I often think the same thing about how good it could have gotten. BUT! "Sophomore slumps" do exist. Shows like "Veronica Mars" and "LOST" had spectacular first seasons, but really started falling apart after that IMO. "Dexter" couldn't match the first season until number four.

Just playing devil's advocate here. Realistically, if the cast and crew stayed the same, it probably would have gotten better and better defying laws of television physics, but the world will never know.
Skip Angel Season 2? No freakin' way. Same goes for many of the other seasons the author recommended skipping. I get that some seasons are better than others, and some first seasons are shaky. Completely fair criticism there. But skip them? If one does that, one can't appreciate a complete story, character development, etc.

And long live Shindig and Safe! They weren't my favorite episodes upon first viewing, but I grew to love them after watching Firefly in its entirety several times. For all those zany moments aforementioned upthread.
You know, SG-1 did a better job than any other show I've ever seen in integrating technology upgrades into a long-running sci fi show. I watched "Air" parts 1 and 2, and then decided to go back and watch SG-1, since I'd previously only watched the movie. I remember thinking to myself "How and the heck do they get from here to beaming technology and body-swapping stones?!" and the answer I discovered was: slowly, methodically, one revelation and one season at a time.

Really SG-1 was run like a good RPG: the longer you can avoid the characters becoming too powerful, the more sessions of great stories you can tell. 10 seasons is a PHENOMENALLY long time to run a sci fi show, even a formulaic and campy one, that actually has any growth to it. Atlantis moved and evolved faster, and I liked it better, but it also lacked the longevity that SG-1 kept by keeping the technological advances and alien alliances in check.

Buffy reinvented itself entirely between S3/4 and 5/6, and Angel seemed to beat at an even higher change rate. One can argue that it's better to burn out than fade away (seems I hear that somewhere before) but SG-1 deserves props for its sheer staying-on-the-air power.

Oh, and yes, if you're going to watch it, watch Babylon 5 all the way through, skip nothing, read nothing about it except for the Lurker's Guide to Babylon 5, and believe me that enduring Michael O'Hare's acting in S1 (and "Grey 17 is Missing") is ultimately worth the price.
(Thanks menomegirl--indeed with the funny.)
More things I'd miss from Angel seasons 1 and 2: I Will Remember You, Are You Now or Have You Ever Been, the Faith episodes. And how can you appreciate later Wesley if you never saw Rogue Demon Hunter Wesley?

And most important: Numfar!
Milage really does vary. Lost is, as I've said before here, among my favourite stories ever, and I find seasons 4/5/6 tower over seasons 1/2/3, and my favourite of those is season three by far. 1 and 2 are fine, but only have a handful of true classic episodes IMO.
I'm just bewildered by the Angel advice. Season one had gold in there and season two was one of the strongest. Three and four, on the other hand, became way too self-involved and personally I hated it. (Five, on the other hand, was brilliant.)
Wait a minute, 'Angel' had a season 2 ? I thought it was like the Highlander movies and just jumped from 1 to 3.

If you start with DS9 season 3 you miss the early stages of Bashir/O'Brian, still for my money one of the best and most believably developed "chalk and cheese" friendships in all of sci-fi.

If you skip the first season of 'Enterprise' you miss the novelty of a federation crew that isn't hyper-competent with flawless technological solutions to every problem.

If you skip the first two seasons of Next Gen you're missing a lot of dreck BUT you're also missing "Elementary Dear Data" (holodeck based Holmes pastiche that introduces the Moriarty character), "Q Who" (introduction of the Borg), "Datalore" (intro of Data's evil twin), "The Measure of a Man" (just a great episode, Trek doing what it does best) and a few others.

If you skip the first 5 episodes of 'Dollhouse' you miss shoulder to the wheel, Adelle's initial pitch, "I'm not broken" and some essential character groundwork among lots else.

With SG: Universe, watch it from the start would be my advice although 'Light' was the first episode where I really sat up and took notice (previously i'd worried that the sense of wonder, one of the elements i'd most enjoyed in previous Stargate shows, might've been lost amidst all the - not always successful - attempts to make it dark and complex but 'Light' brings it back with a vengeance).

SG1 is a great show, but it is a very specific type of show (and certainly not the type I associate with a majority of the fanbase here.)

Yep, it's like a light-hearted Star Trek series really, very traditional science-fiction in that there's almost always some sort of "big idea" at the heart of each episode but with an upbeat, can-do action-adventure coating. SG1 (as you'd imagine, running for 10 seasons) used pretty much every sci-fi trope going (body swap, body doubles, consciousness transfer, "Rashomon" episodes, alternate realities, time travel of course, technology as magic, "Is none of this real ?" and on and on) but it almost always gave it a (sometimes slight) spin and played everything with a lack of solemnity that made it endearing even when it wasn't all that great. Maybe apart from the X-Files it also has the best "funny episodes" in all of TV SF&F IMO.

It's a tough one though because I agree with the article, the first season of SG1 is very patchy with character voices all over the place, some fairly dire writing and cast dynamics still developing. But at the same time, with a highly episodic show like that, you really need to be in at the start in order to benefit most from the (subtle, long term) character development and in-jokes that really add to the series for dedicated viewers and it also sets up a lot of the show mythology for at least the first 6 or 7 seasons (added to that 'Tin Man' and 'Solitudes' are good episodes and scattered around earlier ones are the moments where I started to fall in love with the characters and series).

In general though, I can't imagine watching any episodes of any series without having at least seen the pilot/first episode. Not "giving up" even 45-90 minutes of your time to watch the beginning, where everything's setup and the main players introduced just seems odd to me (even though pilots are rarely representative of the quality of a show). Personally, if i'm going to watch a show I watch from the start and I watch all of it but I realise most people out in the world don't do it that way.
Season 2 of Angel is probably my favorite season. And I guess while you theoretically COULD skip it and still follow what's going on, that doesn't mean you should. As Tim Minear and much of the fandom knows, AYNOHYEB is one of my favorite episodes of Angel (but that's a very personal issue, so I could see why maybe other people wouldn't feel so strongly attached). The whole Pylea arc is priceless. And before that, you've got all the stuff with Angel questioning his purpose (thanks Darla!) and the existentialist mission statement for the show, "If nothing we do matters, all that matters is what we do."

I take it back. If you're going to watch Angel, you really need to watch Season 2.
Like... really?


Skip Season two of Angel?

I'm all for people having their opinions, but some things I just can't fathom. S2 of Angel is the most complex, sophisticated, mature, well structured and innovative season of Whedon there is.
Angel season 2 is the reason I got involved in online fandom, pretty much. AYNOHYEB is one of my favourite TV episodes ever. I remember emailing Tim, uhm, a decade ago geeking out over it.

[ edited by gossi on 2010-09-04 11:55 ]
I like Enterprise more than Firefly, even if the first season was pretty bad. There I said it.

The Xindi arc was great television and it was the only Star Trek I've ever enjoyed (except for the new movie). I just wish it had have been like that from the start, maybe it would be a lot more fondly remembered.

I disagree immensely with skipping Angel Season 2 (maybe just the finale), however. That was an amazing season.
Skipping Angel Season 2 would just be ridiculous! It's probably my favourite season. We have AYNOHYEB, Darla and Dru!, DarkAngel, everything that Kiba said and Numfar!
Oh, and Angel destroying Barry Manilow's 'Mandy'. Hilarious and painful.

I'm probably in the minority for liking season 1, but I really loved the detective noir feel of it. It wouldn't have worked had they taken it into S2 but it worked for just that season. And just like with Buffy S1, what holds it up are the interactions between the central characters. The spaz-dancing was one of the highlights of Season 1 along with IWRY, Five by Five/Sanctuary, Lonely Hearts, The Prodigal, City of. Actually,I enjoy almost every episode of Season 1, even if it's just for little things like sensitive-Angel. Without S1, we wouldn't have had Angel established as the Dark Avenger and then being taken the piss out of - Spike's commentary in 'In the Dark' being another priceless moment.

The first two seasons gave us 'bumbling moron'-Wesley, who I just adore (even though Wes' later arc was fantastic) and were also important for Angel's backstory. I loved all those flashbacks. Also, there was a lot more shirtless Angel in the earlier seasons! :)

And hey there, Tim!

[ edited by Shep on 2010-09-04 12:17 ]
gossi, we may have had this conversation before, I don't know, but I also emailed Tim geeking out over AYNOHYEB a goodly while ago. And whenever I mention it on Facebook I make sure to thank (and tag) him.
Skipping Angel season 2 is the most bizarre piece of advice ever.

I wouldn't even skip BtS season 1. For all that it's obviously a work in progress, there's just too much basic set-up going on. (I'm assuming this list is for someone who has never seen a given series, at all).

I'd say the same about B5, don't skip season 1. There's lots to enjoy if you look at it in the same way as BtS season 1 - a work in progress that gets way better starting with season 2, but with lots of background that you don't want to miss (I'm actually doing a re-watch right now, about halfway into S2).

I wouldn't skip any of Dollhouse either. For all the unevenness of the first 5 eps, there are plenty if goodies there, as well.

With BSG, I loved that they picked probably the only two eps of the entire four seasons that are skippable.

And did that person really write off Torchwood as worthless except for the Children of Earth mini-series? Really? Seriously?
Arkham258 | September 04, 06:07 CET

Totally agree, I loved TW from the very beginning. IMO there is only one really weak ep in the entire series (Cyberwoman). I loved it as slam-bang action adventure and also loved the great ensemble dynamic in the cast. In fact I liked CoE a lot less than most everyone else seems to, because they lost so much by breaking up that ensemble. It was like an almost entirely different show. More like some especially dark eps of Dr. Who, which I will be brave and say that I dislike intensely - and then run for cover.

Not really a fan of any of the other series on the list (that's right - not a Star Trek fan, and my love/hate relationship with Lost would fill an entire long essay).

Except for X-Files, and what i would love to do with that show is take out almost every single stand-alone ep (maybe half a dozen exceptions, tops) and watch it as a completely arc-driven series.
Which would leave maybe six seasons and enough room in the final season to tie up all the lose ends, while skipping most everything without Mulder.

Firefly .... goes without saying, there's nothing to skip.
Hmm. What a strange way of watching TV, I can't imagine just picking up S3 of a show and watching from there, I'm a completist. I get it when people rec good episodes to start people off on because a taster is good, especially when you're not sure whether you want to commit to hundreds of episodes, but I think I'd get three or four episodes into S3 and then just have to stop and go back to the beginning to find out what these characters are all about. I love shows with rich backstory and continuity and it greatly enjoys my watching of a show when something from the past is referenced (alternately it really bugs when I pick up those references in a show I've not seen all of, I know I'm missing out but I don't know what on!).

(now I'm going to completely contradict myself and say that in my original watch of Buffy I started on S5 after failing to get hooked by previous episodes, and on Angel I started at Five-By-Five because those were the episodes airing at the time on TV. But I scrambled to catch up. That was a good year.)

To the specific mention in this article, I can't imagine Angel without Angel S2 which is my favourite season. No AYNOHYEB or Darla?! No The Trial, Reunion, Reprise, Epiphany?! Crazy talk. I can kinda see the point for some of season one... but then there is The Prodigal, Five By Five & To Shanshu in LA. No, can't do it.
I think most of this list is under the assumption you couldn't get into the show on the first run, which I get quite a bit, unless it hits the ground running. You tried the first four or five episodes and simply wasn't that invested. That said, I don't understand why anyone wouldn't love Angel Season 2. I understand people not liking the early Dollhouse episodes though, but I enjoyed them nonetheless.

I'm going to try MST3K now at some stage, I think.
I'm the same as QuoterGal, the first time I watch any show, it's got to be in it's entirety, you can't rely on someone's opinion of how to watch a series, Especially when it's removing entire Seasons. I can understand skipping a few episodes, ("Instinct" for example: completely unnecessary episode.) but never a whole season! With most sci-fi shows, even the more episodical ones, there is always a mythology that plays throughout. Things revealed in earlier seasons, epidsodes, may not be essential, but they definitely enrich the experience for the later episodes. I love when series include subtle references to earlier quotes/events, it's makes watching more fun as well as interesting and rewarding to those who stick with it.

Also, everything said about Torchwood is BS. I love the series! Plus, if there was anything I Would skip it would be Children of Earth because it Isn't the same dynamic (as Shey noted), and it tarnishes the emotional connection that is built up throughout the series, which I think the sn.2 finale wrapped up so intensely, but so perfectly.

[ edited by lifeinanutshel on 2010-09-04 14:54 ]
Looking back, I'm glad to have viewed most of my favorite shows from the beginning. You get to grow with the cast and creative team as they shape the series into what it will eventually become.
But I had many friends bail on Dollhouse halfway through season one - Stage Fright was the right to the gut, while True Believer was the left hook that put them out for the count.
I find that quite a lot of people discover shows by catching an episode (or a season) in syndication, then going back to the beginning. If you've done that with Buffy and Angel, then the slightly lower quality of Buffy's first season isn't going to drive you away, and the consistently high quality of Angel (WTF? The first 2 great seasons?!?) will just confirm your liking. And I kind of agree about Dollhouse, "Man on the Street" does recap the show and it certainly doesn't drive people away as the worst of the first 5 might. Perhaps best to say, watch the first 5 after seeing "Epitaph One". By then you know what Joss was working toward and it will probably get you through the first 5.

As far as Stargate SG-1, you need the pilot of course. Eps 3 and 4 are dreck, I kind of like "The Broca Divide", Ep 6 is dreck, and then there's a run of three or four episodes that are essential and the quality overall stays pretty high with only a few exceptions for the rest of the season. I understand why they say to skip it, but several characters and/or species are introduced in the first season which are recurring. On the other hand, I thought the producers really did Ben Browder and Claudia Black a disservice by handing them a religiously boring enemy right off the bat and foisting the Ori on us for 2+ seasons. Gods, I hated the Ori, so much so that I still can't bring myself to watch the post-finale movies (and I've watched every single episode of all ten seasons!). There are bright spots, including Morena's recurring role in season 10, but the majority of these two seasons' episodes are not fun. It's like somebody decided SG-1 needed to go darker to compete for BSG fans, but darker does not equal boring.

Edited for typoes.

[ edited by cabri on 2010-09-04 15:34 ]
Heh, whereas to me 'The Broca Divide' is kind of like "Teacher's Pet" in that I might even suggest new viewers skip it for fear they won't get past it ('Emancipation' too maybe). And I actually think the Ori are a pretty good villain, quite edgy by Stargate standards (in that they're Christian extremists) but the quality in general was on the wane by then and it's hard to separate the two. Seasons 9 and 10 had some moments but for the most part they don't match the earlier stuff IMO.

(BTW cabri, "Stargate: Continuum" doesn't have the Ori as villains, it's Baal in that one so you can watch in safety ;). Unless you mean you won't watch as a form of protest ?)
It's been a while since I did an Angel marathon, but unless I'm mis-remembering, the Season 2 Pylea arc is where we get our first glimpse of the darker side of Wesley. He assumes the role of the pragmatic leader. He knows that a whole bunch of people are going to die, but he is going to send them to their deaths.

It's that episode, that for me at least, begins to explain why this seemingly bumbling guy could even be a Watcher.
Besides my total agreement that S2 of Angel is one of the best seasons of the show, I am surprised that no one has commented on the statement that skipping S2 of Buffy and going straight to S3 would be okay.

It would?

Season 2 is the real beginning of the roller coaster ride on Buffy. In all the debates about the show I have seen, people pick all different seasons as their favorites, but S2 is usually in their top 2 or 3 seasons, if not the favorite. Pop in at S3 and Buffy is some waitress in LA who people are looking for but treat like crap when she comes home then you have this weird feral guy showing up from nowhere who seems to have a connection to Buffy. She has to keep him a secret...then he turns really sweet weak puppyish but later he turns mean because of Faith, but not really...and what is this show about again? S3 seems like the worst place to start.

Although I personally like to start from the beginning, I understand skipping seasons in order to see if you like the show. I think this article does the shows a disservice, though, with the idea that that should be your complete viewing experience. (They indicate when to stop viewing some shows.) IMO, if you are going to do this kind of thing, start where they, or even better, someone you trust suggests, and then as soon as you decide it is a show you want to watch, start from the beginning.

I have been lucky in that the people that I have gotten to watch Buffy, were willing to watch from S1. They also watched Angel from S1 because they integrated it into the watching of Buffy.

I don't think they gave Firefly a category because they included it elsewhere with the indication that you should just watch the whole thing. The episodes that they said you could choose not to watch were IMO kind of bizarre. We all have least favorite episodes, mine would be the one with the whorehouse in the desert, but I do not think that anyone should skip it when watching a show that only had 1/2 season.

Dollhouse is the one Whedon show that I wouldn't recommend to anyone, but if they did want to put their toe in, skipping the first 5 episodes could be very helpful. The only people I know who lasted past the first 5 episodes are on-line. Everyone I know hated it immediately. The difference in tone and focus after episode 5 was enough that it could make the show palatable to someone who would be ready to write the show off based on the first 5 episodes. If they get into it, they could then go back.

Dr Who I enjoyed from the beginning of the revamp and don't see the problem of starting from the beginning. There were episodes I didn't like, but that is not what this is about.

Torchwood is a tough one. I really disliked S1, but I don't think skipping to the end is really the answer. S2 was better... I don't know, maybe starting there would work.

ETA: More--because I just can't stop talking.

[ edited by newcj on 2010-09-04 16:42 ]
Seasons 9 and 10 actually worked OK for me because these were the first episodes I saw. That said, in context of the series I now view them not particularly fondly. It's hard for me to place, because I actually ended up liking the new characters (even if Mitchell could be a bit flat and Vala could be a tad annoying) and the Ori/Christianity allusion was especially clumsy and about as nuanced as the Chronicles of Narnia, but I can't say it annoyed me greatly.

I think SG1's problem late was in not trying to deal in the universe that they'd created (a powerful Earth or at least safe Earth) and rather than write that we got the Ori as a massive reset. Because of course the Asgard don't know anything about them, right? And it's hard to keep people interested in a "fun" show, when you have to show your hero's side getting shellacked every week which is actually the polar opposite of the start of the show. Where, although completely outgunned they managed to make progress most weeks.
Znachki, Wesley recommending letting Willow die, and making a brutally effective case for it predates the Pylea stuff.
There's a case to be made for Angel season 2 being the best ever Whedonverse season. I love it.
Well, it's plain to see that I stand (sit?) as one of the vocal few who might like to sample first. *looks around* Heh. No, I guess I ought to change that "few" into "the sole person."

It's really not how I want to watch a series. It's just how I might decide whether to bother at all. Take SG1. It's 200+ episodes. 200! I've needed a good reason to take the SG1 plunge because that's an awful lot of my time. (Found it already btw.) I have way too many books waiting to be read beside the bed (And piled around the sofa, on my desk, on the floor of my studio...I need more shelves.) to waste my time on something that isn't going to do it for me. There has to be some reason for me to persist past uneven, spottily written, identity challenged episodes. Evidence of eventual goodness helps with that.

Of course I would prefer to watch a show from the beginning right off the bat. But unless someone's whose taste I trust vouches for a missed show, how else am I to decide? As the article points out, sometimes it takes a while for a show to gel. Oh and by the way, y'all are the people that I trust the most. There does seem to be this general meeting of tastes here that matches my own--with enough exceptions to prove we are not clones of each other. (As if the um, daily "discourse" wasn't evidence enough. Heh.) My personal exception that proves this is AtS. I just couldn't get into it. However, if enough people here recommend/rave about a show, it will go on my list to at least try. From the beginning. : )
newcj: Besides my total agreement that S2 of Angel is one of the best seasons of the show, I am surprised that no one has commented on the statement that skipping S2 of Buffy and going straight to S3 would be okay.

Ahhh, newcj... because I didn't read the Buffy section past this:

This one is a bit tough, because there's no obvious consensus as to which seasons were the best, and there's even less consensus as to which season is the worst. Still, it's probably safe to say that season 1 can be left for later, and the second season is a good place to start.

and missed this:

If you want to skip ahead to the even stronger third season, I don't have a problem with that.

And I've commented so many times over the years on how much I recommend starting Buffy at the beginning of Season One, I thought I'd spare y'all. (Skipping One would mean - among other significant losses - missing the joy of this and that would be more tragic than Oedipus himself. Oh, gods, and "The Pack", which I adore.)

Skipping Two "okay"? And then stopping, ya know, whenever? Honestly, kids today. Or something. Season Two is the veritable crux of the biscuit. And, btw, contains one of Joss' favorite episodes, "Innocence". It may sometimes be a good idea to heed the creator of a show when they're assessing seven seasons of their show.

I know lots of fellow fan-folks try to pick the best gateway episode of whatever Whedonverse show they're pitching to their loved ones, but I don't do that. I just gotta trust my friends to listen to me when I say work on through to the other side, because recommending otherwise could deprive them of the joy and deepening appreciation I was able to experience when I first watched them all in order originally as they aired.

That'd suck with a Big Suckness.
Interesting read, though I disagree with a lot of it...I do tend to be a stickler for starting with the first episode and continuing through till the end. All seasons of pretty much all shows have their ups and downs, and I don't really get starting at wherever you want in a series, though that might just be me.

Though :(
I shouldn't have read the X-Files description, being only at the fifth season... now I'm all dreading those seasons... /spoilerphobe
Skipping season two of Buffy is pretty much skipping the best television has ever offered, in my eyes. Passion, Surprise/Innocence, Becoming I&II, Lie to Me, Halloween... what a terrible recommendation!

But I am, like many here, a completist. I'm on season five of TNG now, having started with Encounter at Farpoint. Even in the bad seasons, there's a lot of good. And now my reward for sitting through it is the pretty great series the show has become, and never wondering what the hell past event they're occasionally referencing.
The problem with Buffy is that so many people struggle to get through season one. If I was trying to get someone into it again, I'd just tell them to watch Welcome to the Hellmouth, The Harvest, The Pack, Angel, The Puppet Show and Prophecy Girl. That's half the season, but it cuts out the stuff that I think puts people off. Even in season two, I'd cut out Some Assembly Required and Reptile Boy to get to the good stuff sooner.

Skipping over season two to get to season three sooner is crazy though. Just watch it faster! Even if it's not amongst your favourite seasons, it's still essential viewing (ok, well you can skip Go Fish - the placing of that episode is as bad as the episode itself). No skipping in season three though - every single episode is great.

Having said that, I never avoid any episodes myself. Bit of a completist as well, I guess. I only tend to start watching a show on DVD if I've heard really great things about it (most recently The Lost Room and Avatar: The Last Airbender), so it takes a lot to put me off.

And skipping Angel season 2! No way. That's probably my favourite season of the show. Everything with Darla is fantastic.

[ edited by NotaViking on 2010-09-04 21:34 ]
Though :(
I shouldn't have read the X-Files description, being only at the fifth season... now I'm all dreading those seasons... /spoilerphobe

Don't worry, I enjoyed X-Files, all the way through to the end, despite hearing what everyone was saying. Season 8 is actually one of my favourites.
That comment about skipping to s3 in Buffy, as well as the Angel dismissal of S2 made me think this is just a run down of the seasons this person thinks are the best rather than an actual thought out list of gateway seasons.
Have to agree with the completists. I'm not one for skipping episodes, and certainly not seasons. I can't think of a single show that I consider worth watching in the first place that has a whole season undeserving of a repeat watch through.

Using Stargate SG-1 as an example, mainly because it's already been discussed in some depth earlier in the thread, I'd say that even though there is an awful lot of uneven writing in season one, especially in finding the central characters' voices (Hammond and Teal'c, in particular, were all over the place in the early episodes), once you accept that you find some pretty enjoyable episodes (and, okay, a few really dire ones), and a lot of important set up for what comes up in later seasons. Not skippable at all, in my opinion.

As for season two of Angel? Why would I skip the best season of the show?
Because you're a maniac or possibly for cash. And that's just off the top of my head, I bet I can come up with more.


...and the Ori/Christianity allusion was especially clumsy and about as nuanced as the Chronicles of Narnia, but I can't say it annoyed me greatly.

Whereas the treatment of Egyptian or Norse mythology was deft and subtle ? ;). The Ori are, in one sense, just the logical continuation of the show's casting of Earth religions in another - extraterrestrial - light, maybe it just seems clumsy because more people are familiar with Christian mythology (and because, since Christianity is current, it's assumed that it must be making a specific point about that religion rather than just continuing the idea of the abuse of power by false "gods") ? And I liked the name and the (possibly accidental) allusion to Origen and the idea of an off-shoot interpretation of the Bible (as his could've been had it not been suppressed). What made it slightly edgy (as I say, by Stargate standards) is that it would've been easy to carry on pointing to every other mythology as being based on aliens and not magical but technological while carefully stepping around the elephant in Western civilisation's living room.

I mostly agree about the reset aspect though (except I don't mind them coming up against an enemy that just totally kicks their arse - like e.g. the Borg did in Next Gen - it shakes up the status quo a bit). To some extent that was forced on them (season 8 was intended to be the last until quite late on) but they still chose to go back and start from scratch rather than find some way to continue the previous story/mythology and that lead to a fair bit of repetition (Tomin largely retreading Tealc's path for instance).
"...or possibly for cash."

This. ;)

I really enjoyed the story reset and new team members brought in for season 9. I just wish that they had gone about it in a way that would have allowed for a longer run for characters like Cam and Vala.

I seem to remember that to begin with the idea was to end Stargate SG-1 with season 8 and start a brand new show called Stargate Command. This was eventually rejected in favour of continuing with the SG-1 title. The only problem being that a new show would have been a hell of a lot cheaper to produce than the ever increasing costs of the original series. A third season of Stargate Command would have been a lot more likely to go ahead than season 11 of SG-1.
Don't worry, I enjoyed X-Files, all the way through to the end, despite hearing what everyone was saying. Season 8 is actually one of my favourites.

Yeah. I talked with my aunt, who's also a huge fan, and she said s8 holds some of her favorite episodes, so I'm definitely going to give it a shot. Whenever I watch shows I have to go start to finish, I can't do it any other way.
Also, I like that the actor for the new guy is the col. that died the first ep of SGA
Robert Patrick is great. He seems a little genre trapped (not to mention typecast... how many military guys has he played IMDB?!), but I think he's just made his career that way.

I'd like to see someone do something different with him.

Saje Honestly, it was the number of middle ages tropes that they used that bothered me. That it comes off as a allusion to Christian history is just a function of the number that they used and that the mannerisms best fit that religion.

I mean, how Celtic was Camulus? How Egyptian was Apophis (host notwithstanding)? Was Yu really that Chinese? I didn't care because other than using the names, they really weren't retelling history.

But the Ori arc... It just felt too close to the source material if that makes sense. That's why I used Chronicles, that was Tolkien's complaint with it and I tended to agree with that criticism.
I really enjoyed all seasons of X-Files, too.

I second the motion that Robert Patrick is great. :D
Missing out on Angel realizing hell on earth is literally what W&H is all about is to me one of the most important pillars of the show. As is his personal epiphany that he goes through with Kate in that if nothing they do matters than all that matters is what they do. Kind of the shows mission statement in that redemption may not be possible or even a real attainable goal but living like it is is what matters. As others have stated, it's crucial. Plus the bombshell ending of Season 2, Willow standing up wordlessly and Angel just speaks softly "It's Buffy..." nearly kills me every time. Not so great advice.

[ edited by silent knight on 2010-09-05 02:40 ]

[ edited by silent knight on 2010-09-05 05:43 ]
I love Angel, but does it really belong in the Sci-Fi category? Seems like a better fit would be supernatural thriller or somethin'...

So Firefly was referenced a couple of times, given awesome praise, but didn't rate getting entered as one of the 20 shows?! Firefly had actual Sci-Fi bits in it, plus it's classic! Short-lived sure, but The Prisoner only had a handful of episodes, so apparently that situation doesn't exclude a show. Sheesh...

Additionally, since this list of classic Sci Fi shows did not include the original, brilliant Outer Limits series, its claim as the "ultimate guide" is seriously in question.
Yeah but 'The Prisoner' entry basically boiled down to "It's only 17 episodes, you should watch it all you lazy git" ;). I'd imagine any 'Firefly' entry would be the same (only with fewer episodes and so even more laziness). The only thing worth noting would be to make sure you watch it in DVD order but these days it's hard to do anything else.

Robert Patrick is great...

I'd like to see someone do something different with him.

"Storytime with Uncle T-1000". Or he could do a romantic comedy where he plays the male lead and his romantic interest is played by ... the US army ;).

(he is great but he's just got one of those faces/voices/demeanours and between that and his onscreen baggage I think he's destined to play badasses for the rest of his career. Kind of like Michael Ironside)

That it comes off as a allusion to Christian history is just a function of the number that they used and that the mannerisms best fit that religion.

Oh yeah azzers, it's definitely making allusions to Christian history too IMO, the Ori are fairly clearly intended to be a possible off-shoot/corruption of Christianity (the show actually explicitly points out that these aren't the same as "real" Christians a couple of times, IIRC even Carter says something about how their existence doesn't preclude an actual god. Which, you'll remember, no-one ever bothered to do for Apophis or Ra, the show never said "Oh but don't be offended, the real Egyptian gods may well still have existed" which, if Egyptian mythology was still practiced as a religion by getting on for a third of the world's population, they very likely would have. But I think they'd still have used Egyptian mythology in the show, feature film roots not withstanding). My point is, why can't those just be trappings of telling the story (except trappings that we're all familiar with) in the same way that the pyramids, god-head helmets, staff weapons, enslaved peoples etc. were an allusion to Egyptian history/iconography ?

As to the middle ages allusions, well, you've got a point there, some of it was a bit on the nose (in keeping with the loss of quality in general) although it does strike me that that's also a fairly logical place for them to go - they've done earliest recorded history with Egypt and the middle east, they've done late dark ages with the Norse gods, why not continue forwards in time and Westwards in space and allow yourself to use a whole new set of myths and legends in your stories (Arthurian legend etc.) ? And, not coincidentally, a whole new look and feel to the art design (part of my problem with it on a mundane level was that moving into middle ages western Europe took away the variety of backdrops that Egypt etc. allowed so that even more of their "alien" adventures took place in what were very clearly the woods around Vancouver ;).

ETF: a plural. They're the bane of my existencei so they ares.

[ edited by Saje on 2010-09-05 09:00 ]
I would consider only five from that list to be "classic" sci-fi:
Star Trek (TOS),Dr Who,The Prisoner,The Twilight Zone, and The X-Files.
But if you want to introduce someone to the best sci-fi ever, just give them the Firefly dvd's!
Saje: Heh, whereas to me 'The Broca Divide' is kind of like "Teacher's Pet" in that I might even suggest new viewers skip it for fear they won't get past it ('Emancipation' too maybe).

Oh, man, I hated "Emancipation" so much! Luckily for me, I couldn't watch the Showtime seasons so I had to wait for it to hit syndication and by that time I would've watched the whole first season even if it had all been like "Emancipation". I felt the same way about "The Broca Divide" the first time through, but when I started my DVD rewatch I was determined to watch everything (which means I'm still stuck on S9 after 5+ years ;) and it wasn't as bad as I'd remembered.

I was so happy to hear that Baal was the villain of Continuum but now I have to finish my series rewatch first. Hopefully within the next decade. And as far as the Ori, I watched under the assumption that the Ori had had no contact with Terrans until Vala and Daniel stumbled into their world, hence no relation to Christianity. I think the Middle Ages, minus the magic, are a natural end-point of any tyrannical society that penalizes technological evolution.

Edited for doubletalk

[ edited by cabri on 2010-09-05 16:03 ]
I tend to be pretty forgiving of sci-fi TV anyway, give it plenty of time to show me what it can do (I remember the 70s and 80s where, in the UK at least, you pretty much took what you could get if you were a sci-fi fan) but even very early Stargate had some really nice moments and enough good moments combined with a premise that interests me will get me over a lot of drecky early eps. I remember an early one - may even have been the otherwise not great 'Emancipation' actually - where Carter starts to give a full scientific explanation for something and O'Neill just totally cuts her off. Anyway, the camera and focus of the scene moves to him as he starts talking BUT in the background we can still see Carter and she's making a pissed-off face, she's not just standing there waiting for her line, she's still a human being even though the camera isn't on her. Little things like that make a world and the people in it believable, even among the apocalypses and false alien gods. That and the show clearly having a sense of humour kept me watching until we got to eps like 'Solitudes' and later.

I think the Middle Ages, minus the magic, are a natural end-point of any tyrannical society that penalizes technological evolution.

Good point. It's probably significant that it's pre-enlightenment which is surely where everything started to change where religion's concerned (not to mention everything else in the world ;).

[ edited by Saje on 2010-09-05 16:34 ]
Lists are only useful to the extent you buy into that person's(s') aesthetic and mindset. Helpful as a guide perhaps, but not necessarily the bible of watchdom.

Skip Angel season two, you say? Pfffft, sez I.

I agree, Tim - it's blasphemy. In fact that list guide says you can skip the first two seasons of Angel. Oh no, they d'int!!... Miss Doyle completely, miss Wesley's return as the big bad leather-clad rogue demon hunter riding a hog, miss Lindsey and Charles Gunn?
Man, that is harsh.
I'm watching the second season of Angel now and it's pretty fab.
But if you want to introduce someone to the best sci-fi ever, just give them the Firefly dvd's!

Why, do they come with Farscape DVDs in the case now?
...I was scrolling down to comment 'Farscape > Everything'. Now I see there is no need. I salute thee, Gouki.
You know, I've watched all of Farscape, and I think it know why the article didn't include it:

It doesn't matter where in the series you pick up Farscape, because coming in at the N+1th episode never makes it any more comprehensible. It's so radically unlike anything else that there is a huge barrier for people "getting" it, and skipping a season or two is never going to help. The people who will get it, will get it, and the people who don't get it when starting at S1 ep1, won't ever get it.
That was always the complaint from non-fans (and the network). I remember when (after Sci-Fi promised a 5th season then cancelled the show) the "Previously on ..." for the final episode took the piss out of that idea by flashing through a frame from every single previous episode ;).

(great TV and despite using pretty much all the most familiar sci-fi tropes, a genuine original)
Crackers. Don't. Matter.
I agree that there is no specific place in Farscape one can comfortably slide in, but to me the final appreciation (or not, in my case) wasn't a matter of getting it or not. I got, and embraced, the strangeness of it. What killed it for me (in addition to the tail end mini-series being an embarrassment, IMO) was the over the top amount of overwrought melodrama. The fact that I didn't think that the melodrama was particularly well written contributed to my opinion of the show being only slightly above mediocre and not in the league of anything of the Joss-verse, DS-9, or BSG.

As to the article, anybody who suggests skipping Season 2 of Angel - AKA one of the best seasons in the history of TV - is not going to have much credibility with me. Skipping seasons of of Buffy or DS-9 is nonsense as well. I also find BSG brilliant in its entirety. I didn't hate Black Market and I actually liked The Woman King*.

The only time the author's strategy applied to me, my completist nature notwithstanding, was in case of Torchwood. I started watching it on DVD, literally fell asleep twice, gave up around episode 7, and then thought Children of Earth to be absolutely brilliant.

* And I don't even think that I need to apologize for liking The Woman King. I do think I need to apologize for liking Instinct, and I allow my husband and son to mock me for it, but I won't be mocked for liking The Woman King. Also, I know at least one person who likes it too.
Can other people see this person who likes it too ?

(kiddin' ;), personally I don't hate it but though I loved BSG I can't say I didn't notice less consistency as the seasons went on - the brilliant episodes were still brilliant but they were fewer and further apart IMO)
Can other people see this person who likes it too?

You'd have to come to my house. Since he doesn't go to any boards, my husband went into the episode without any prior knowledge about it being considered the worst episode of all times, and he liked it. I, having prior knowledge, dreaded it, but ended up liking it too. Just one example of 'see for yourself' thing.

Another such example for me was The West Wing. I heard so many nasty things about post Sorkin seasons, that I fully expected to hate them, and then ended up greatly preferring them to the Sorkin ones. It was really then that I started loving the show. You never know. Or maybe I am just weird.
Nah, I think it's fairly usual that if you expect something to be really amazing it probably won't live up to expectations and likewise if you expect it to be really bad. And 'see for yourself' indeed.

I mean, you might be weird but it's not cos of that ;-).

(I also watched it without expectations BTW, I usually don't read anything about episodes before watching them. Generally I prefer not to even know the title ahead of time in fact)
I am of the same school of thought of going in without knowing anything if I can help it. In case of The Woman King I couldn't help it, which is why I am glad I had my husband to experiment on in pure form.

But even when I am absolutely clean of any outside influence, later on I often find that my opinion differs from the majority one. Joss-verse examples of that would be me liking Bad Eggs, Kate Lockley, Paul Ballard, Season 6 of Buffy (not convinced it's a majority opinion, but dislike for it was quite vocal), and on most days I think that Dollhouse is Joss' strongest work.

On the other hand, I am bored by The Pack, same with I Will Remember You, Amends would make my bottom ten list (I promise, I have nothing against Buffy/Angel ship), I wasn't that impressed by Dr. Horrible, and was disappointed by Serenity. All of the above I watched completely unspoiled and only read the boards after I was done watching each show/movie.

But then again, even if am not the biggest fan of the above aspects of the verse, there is no way I would be willing to erase them from my memory. They are part of my relationship with the magical world of Joss Whedon, and I am not giving them back. I am not even skipping them on re-watch, so there is no chance I would follow the article's advice to skip seasons of any show.

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