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August 01 2015

15 TV shows that reinvented science fiction in the past decade. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is featured on this retrospective list via io9.

I am surprised this wasn't already posted.

I personally would have gone with Dollhouse. For me the entire run of Dollhouse as a whole is better than the runs of Buffy and Angel individually, partially because Dollhouse had the experience of Buffyband Angel to lean on.

Dollhouse was the combination of the early 00's most influential science fiction films for me "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" and "The Matrix"
Tausif, I also loved Dollhouse (which made me think, in ways that most TV doesn't). Despite its exclusion from this list, I really enjoyed reading this. I also loved Eternal Sunshine.

I hadn't heard anything about the last 10 years being bad for SciFy on TV! And this list is a great example of why. Hooray for Tatiana! S1 of Heros! Etc. And it reminded me that I need to watch Person of Interest, and to keep checking for when Sense8 is available.
This is a terrific list, and assessment of each show, though it seems a little too much emphasis was put on AoS's rocky beginning.

I, too, would have included Dollhouse on the list. Like AoS, it had a rough beginning, but Joss got it back on track with 'Man On the Street.' I marathoned this (again) recently, and wished there were more seasons.

Also note that most of these series have strong (but not masculinized) female characters, and many of them are the leads.

We're living in a time where we have a lot of great sci-fi(ish) choices.

I have become a couch potato.
'Sci-Fi' is a debatable term as well. Influential shows like Supernatural, Game of Thrones, Grimm, etc. are often considered sci-fi (depending on who you ask), but none of those shows appear on this list. I get why- they fall more into the supernatural and fantasy genres, but it does bring up the topic of what constitutes as being truly 'sci-fi'.
@libradude: I think these are fairly obvious examples of things that are not sci-fi. Game of Thrones, Supernatural, Grimm - none of these shows have anything to do with science or typical genre tropes such as a futuristic setting. They all deal with classic fantasy things like folklore monsters, dragons, knights, castles, demons, etc. Not sure what's debatable here.
'Sci-Fi' is a debatable term as well.

Science fiction: Scientifically reasoned fiction (ie. fiction that goes out of its way to establish that there are plausible explanations for how and why it breaks from reality.)

fantasy: Fiction where the hows and whys of its divergences from reality are beside the point (and usually omitted entirely.)

Seems straightforward to me.

[ edited by brinderwalt on 2015-08-02 22:22 ]
I understand and appreciate the distinction, but many people still consider those shows to be sci-fi. An argument can be made that 'magic' is just science that is not precisely understood (yet). Many scientific concepts that we know to be true today were once thought of as 'magic' by many folks. The line between science and magic has always been a dubious one. Even Buffy is frequently labeled as a sci-fi show despite primarily being supernatural/fantasy-based (with some elements from the sci-fi and superhero genres thrown in, among others).

[ edited by libradude on 2015-08-02 23:10 ]
Also, if you look at the cases that The Winchesters take on in 'Supernatural' vs the cases that the 'Fringe' team takes (or Mulder and Scully for that matter), they aren't all that different much of the time. What differs is how the protagonists HANDLE the cases. Sam and Dean are inclined to consult folk tales and mythology whereas the Fringe team turns to 'science'. This just shows that people often try to explain paranormal instances in many different ways, and this can lead to blurring of lines between 'supernatural' and 'sci-fi'.

[ edited by libradude on 2015-08-02 23:51 ]
I could write a novel about the arguments people get into over what's sci-fi and what's fantasy. For example, using the definition above, Star Wars is clearly not sci-fi. Yeah, that's a fun one.
"Humans" could be on the list, though it is classic (rather than "reinvented") sci-fi. One of the other aspects of sci-fi people forget is that it is a literary genre created for making social commentary. If we are to consider this in defining sci-fi, at least half the shows on the list (including AoS) would not qualify as sci-fi. On the other hand, many of the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies (e.g., Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Ant-Man, Thor) would. Agent Carter might, because at the core of that series is the sexism that was especially prevalent post-WWII).

So, while Star Wars may take place in a galaxy far, far away, it is fantasy, rather than sci-fi.

[ edited by Nebula1400 on 2015-08-03 05:17 ]
For example, using the definition above, Star Wars is clearly not sci-fi. Yeah, that's a fun one.

You admitted it, not I. ;)
'Social commentary' is also a dubious topic. There are always going to be academic-minded individuals out there who can find 'social commentary' in ANY work of fiction (whether it was intended by the author/creator or not). Another reason genre labels like sci-fi, supernatural, fantasy, etc. sometimes falter is because they are just that, labels. Labels provide guidelines for us to work with (i.e. sexuality), but they are far from perfect. 'Rules are meant to be broken', as some say, and that is exactly what Joss does with many of his shows (Buffy especially- which blends multiple genre tropes and breaks multiple genre rules).
I was going to get all huffy about Firefly being left off this list... then I realized Firefly isn't from the past decade.

1) SciFy is reference to channels name change?

2) Maggie Thomson, comics writer, noted Sci Fi is oddly pronounced because the full version isn't Science Fike-Shun.

3a) Thor saying science and magic are one and same fits with understand of societies being so advanced from ours that their science is magic to us.

3b) Now that Dr. Strange is entering the picture is debatable whether the MCZu and Agents of SHIElD will be considered Sci Fi.
A lot of the "golden age" science fiction certainly didn't qualify for social commentary; they were just ripping good space opera. A lot of the social commentary that did grow out of science fiction has its roots in that era, too.

I think it was a lot more useful and interesting than what passes for social commentary in modern work. "Politically correct" and "social commentary" really don't work well together. Social commentary should challenge your world-view, not affirm it.

There's an old distinction between SF and fantasy that works well enough for me. If it's made of steel and plastic, it's science fiction; if it's made of wood and stone, it's fantasy. It's a bit outdated, but the concept still works.

[ edited by MissKittysMom on 2015-08-03 16:25 ]
'Wayward Pines' was far better than Person of Interest.

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